Review Essay: “Was Robert Bellarmine Ahead of His Time?”
John M. Vella, Homiletic & Pastoral Review

Despite his rehabilitation in the last quarter of the 19th century, Bellarmine’s intellectual legacy remains mixed. In one respect, at least, he was a product of his time because his vision of a res publica Christiana depended on a united Christendom that could never be restored. Yet, what is easy to see, in hindsight, was not so clear in the early 17th century. On the other hand, his defiance of royal absolutism, in defense of rule of law and religious truth, is far from outdated.

Conference: “Sister Reformations II: Reformation and Ethics”

The Theological Faculty of the Humboldt University organizes a symposium on Sisterreformations II, Reformations and Ethics, September 13-15, 2012 in Berlin. In the light of the fruitful collaboration between Reformation historians trained in the German and Anglo-Saxon academic traditions during the 2009 Berlin symposium ‘Sister Reformations: The Reformation in Germany and in England’, a second gathering will now take place in 2012 to examine the theme ‘Reformation and Ethics’. For, although all parties in the Sixteenth Century accepted moral renovation as intrinsic to the Christian life, the exact place of ethics in this process, especially in relation to faith, was one of the most disputed points not only between the Reformers and their adversaries but also between the different strands of the Reformation itself. Consequently, this new symposium, jointly planned by the chairs of Reformation History in Berlin and Durham (UK), shall consider the principal ethical and theological questions involved as well as the actual moral decisions and patterns of behaviour associated with the English and German Reformations.

Lecture: “An Occasional Lecture: Capitalism and the Family”
Steven Horwitz, Institute of Economic Affairs

In this talk, Steven Horwitz will argue that the enhanced freedom with respect to family choices that has characterised the modern family and is celebrated by those on the political left, is largely a product of the economic system, market capitalism, which they often reject. At the same time, those on the right who are troubled by these changes in the family, including the demand for same-sex marriage, need to realise that such cultural changes are an inevitable by-product of the economic freedom they claim to celebrate. Steven will argue it is capitalism that is the main driver of the evolution of the western family and the wider array of family structures, which characterises the 21st century, representing an increased cultural freedom brought on by the freedom to engage in capitalist acts between consenting adults and the wealth it brings in its wake.

Book Note: “Theology and Public Philosophy”
Kenneth Grasso and Cecilia Rodriguez Castillo, eds., Theology and Public Philosophy: Four Conversations

This volume brings together eminent theologians, philosophers and political theorists to discuss the relevance of theology and theologically grounded moral reflection to contemporary America’s public life and argument. Avoiding the focus on hot-button issues, shrill polemics, and sloganeering that so often dominate discussions of religion and public life, the contributors address such subjects as how religious understandings have shaped the moral landscape of contemporary culture, the possible contributions of theologically-informed argument to contemporary public life, religious and moral discourse in a pluralistic society, and the proper relationship between religion and culture.

Book Note: “Reckoning With Markets”
James Halteman and Edd S. Noell, Reckoning With Markets: The Role of Moral Reflection in Economics

Undergraduate economics students begin and end their study of economics with the simple claim that economics is value free. Only in a policy role will values and beliefs enter into economic work; there can be little meaningful dialogue by economists about such personal views and opinions. This view, now well over 200 years old, has been challenged by heterodox thinkers in economics, and philosophers and social scientists outside the discipline all along the way. However, much of the debate in modern times has been narrowly focused on philosophical methodological issues on one hand or theological/sectarian concerns on the other. None of this filters down to the typical undergraduate even in advanced courses on the history of economic thought. This book presents the notion that economic thinking cannot escape value judgments at any level and that this understanding has been the dominant view throughout most of history. It shows how, from ancient times, people who thought about economic matters integrated moral reflection into their thinking. Reflecting on the Enlightenment and the birth of economics as a science, Halteman and Noell illustrate the process by which values and beliefs were excluded from economics proper. They also appraise the reader with relevant developments over the last half-century which offer promise of re-integrating moral reflection in economic research.

  • Roger McKinney

    Horwitz says economic freedom has lead to social freedom, which most of us would not characterize as freedom, but immorality. But there is a contradiction Horwitz needs to explain: we have become increasingly less free economically over the past century while abandoning tradition morals. The correlations seems to be the reverse of what Horwitz claims.

    The truth is that as the US has become more pagan we have abandoned free markets for greater socialism while at the same time embracing greater immorality.

  • Luke Daxon

    Hello Roger

    The western world is undoubtedly lapsing into paganism. You are clearly right about that. But I would go further and suggest the last century only experienced the acceleration of trends present in the West for 400 years before that. Arguably since the Renaissance and certainly since the Enlightenment, the Western intellect has been in process of replacing God with Man as the centre of the universe. As Whittaker Chambers put it better than I ever could, Communism was simply “the next logical step which three hundred years of rationalism hesitated to take, and said what millions of modern minds think, but do not care or dare to say: If man’s mind is the decisive force in the world, what need is there for God? Henceforth man’s mind is man’s fate.”

    But the point is surely that Socialism and Liberalism (classical or otherwise) are both products of the Enlightenment worldview that Man is the source of his own redemption. The difference between them may be more about means and less about ends. Socialism places faith in the redemptive powers of the state. Liberalism places faith in the sovereign individual as the agent of redemption. Neither view has necessarily any place for God, although liberals are less likely to oppress those who do see a place for him. However, godlessness can exist just as happily in a classical liberal polity as it does in a socialist one.

    There is, however, a paradox in the connection you make between economic freedom and Christian societies. After all, medieval and Renaissance Europe did not function along the lines of the Austrian school, but are we really to believe these were not Christian societies? When Christian belief was fundamental to whole of society and suffused the minds of those who belonged to it? I know that you argue the late Scholastics were pioneers of the Austrian school. If you are right, they were out of step with prevailing thought in their societies. But are we to believe those societies were unchristian?

    • Roger McKinney

      Well the enlightenment was a French affair carried out by atheists. Socialism clearly came from enlightenment atheists, as Hayek shows in “Counter-revolution in Science.” But the scholars of Salamanca codified the principles of capitalism long before the French “enlightenment”.

      The Dutch implemented them those principle the most completely, as evidenced by Adam Smith using them as the example of his system in “Wealth of Nations”. The Dutch didn’t succumb to the French enlightenment until probably the early 19th century.

      Capitalism spread to England and the US very quickly. The English didn’t succumb to enlightenment philosophy until the latter part of the 19th century. Acton, Burke and others fought against French enlightenment ideas of false individualism. Hayek has a good history of the conflict in his essay “Individualism: True and False”. It’s a chapter in “Individualism and Economic Order” which you can get in pdf at http://mises.org/document/4015/Individualism-and-Economic-Order.

      The US succumbed about the same time as the Brits. As the Dutch, UK and US became less Christian, they bought into the French enlightenment, including its atheism and socialism.

      Renaissance Europe was pre-capitalist, but many of the ideas of Salamanca had their genesis in Northern Italian commerce, especially in Venice. I think there was a revival of traditional Christianity that coincided with the Reformation in both Protestant and Catholic lands. The Dutch were sufficiently Christian to engage in wholesale re-creation of their government and economy along Biblical lines as taught by the school of Salamanca. Of course, later people forgot the origins of those ideas.

      Austrian economists consider themselves the descendants of the School of Salamanca and can trace a fairly consistent line of thought connecting them. The scholars at Salamanca were clearly out of step with Spanish society, but the Dutch radically altered their society to fit in with those ideas. I think the history of capitalist thought shows that the UK and US did the same thing for a century or more.

      That’s why I see the type of freedom that Americans enjoyed in its first two centuries as a flash in the pan of history that may never come back. It requires a consensus opinion among the populace on Biblical ideas regarding the nature of mankind, the rule of law above that of a mere legislature, and the importance of free markets in implementing property. We will probably never see such a consensus again in several generations.