Category: Acton Commentary

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
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acton-commentary-blogimageFor this week’s Acton Commentary, we have a Christmas meditation by the Dutch statesman and theologian Abraham Kuyper.

If we should ever be envious, shouldn’t we envy the shepherds out in Bethlehem’s fields? Those men singled out for their exceptionally glorious privilege! The ones awestruck on that holy night by the flood of heavenly glory that no one else had ever seen! Those who saw God’s heavenly hosts swooping and glistening above the fields! The men whose ears were ringing with the resounding angelic anthem “Glory Be to God in the highest!” The shepherds who then made their way to Bethlehem and saw for themselves “the little baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger,” basking in Mary’s motherly gaze! Shouldn’t we envy them?

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
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This week’s Acton Commentary is adapted from an introduction to a forthcoming edited volume, The Church’s Social Responsibility: Reflections on Evangelicalism and Social Justice. The goal of the collection is to bring some wisdom to principled and prudential aspects of addressing the complex questions related to responsible ecclesial word and deed today.

A point of departure for the volume is the distinction between the church conceived institutionally and organically, perspectives formalized and popularized by the Dutch Reformed theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper. A recent article in Themelios by Daniel Strange of Oak Hill College in London critically examines the distinction and ultimately finds it wanting: “I do not think that the institute/organism distinction, as Kuyper understood it, is a safe vehicle in which to carry this agenda forward, for it creates a forced distinction in describing the church, separates the ‘organism’ from the ‘institute’, and then stresses the organism to the detriment of the institute, ironically leading to the withering of what the ‘organism’ is meant to represent and achieve.”
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acton-commentary-blogimage“What might Abraham Kuyper teach us as Americans prepare to go to the polls next year?” asks David T. Koyzis in this week’s Acton Commentary. “I believe that he can help us to vote more intelligently by clarifying the true nature of representation in a democratic political community.”

Kuyper treated representation in Ons Program [Our Program] published in 1879 in the platform of the newly established Anti-Revolutionary Party in the Netherlands. The delegate conception he titled the “imperative mandate,” in which a member of the States General acts “in keeping with what the voters have ordered and mandated him.” By contrast, the “trusted man” governs “without any tie to the voters” and keeps the electorate in a permanent state of immaturity, much as a lord relates paternalistically to the serfs on a feudal estate.

Kuyper believed that neither of these is adequate for understanding the task of representation. Better, he argued, that a member of parliament be a “bearer of a principle” with a “moral bond” to the electorate.

The full text of the essay can be found here. You can purchase a copy of Kuyper’s Our Program from the Acton Book Shop.

Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

In his book Living the Truth, the German Thomist Josef Pieper presents the following thesis:

All obligation is based upon being. Reality is the foundation of ethics. The good is that which is in accord with reality. He who wishes to know and to do the good must turn his gaze upon the objective world of being. Not upon his own “ideas”, not upon his “conscience”, not upon “values”, not upon arbitrarily established “ideals” and “models”. He must turn away from his own act and fix his eyes upon reality.

I can think of no other passage so contrary to the spirit of our age. This spirit has been made evident in the reaction of our political and religious leaders to the November 13 ISIS terrorist attacks and the November 30-December 11 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

That these events took place in the city most representative of Western thought from the time of St. Thomas Aquinas through that of René Descartes and then of Jean-Paul Sartre shows how the West has gone from being a Christian to a modern and finally to a post-modern society. These are characterized by three distinct types of rationalism: one based on the complementarity of the Christian faith and reason, another on the scientific method and empirical observation, and the last of which is a virtual denial of reason and reality as such. It has left society without the resources necessary to defend itself from enemies domestic and foreign. (more…)

acton-commentary-blogimage“The real question is not does morality inform the market,” says Rev. Gregory Jensen in the second entry of this week’s Acton Commentary, “but whose morality informs the market.”

Consumer disapproval of Black Friday has caused a drop in demand. Consequently, retailers have curtailed their investment in these kinds of sale events. If economics is agnostic as to what motivates the change in demand, as a Christian I can’t be. Retailers are responding to the moral cues of shoppers and so changing their marketing strategy to conform to the moral demands of consumers.

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

acton-commentary-blogimage“Nothing in the Constitution has been so judicially perverted from its original intent as the establishment clause,” says Zack Pruitt in the first entry of this week’s Acton Commentary. “The same clause went from protecting the people from a tyrannical state-run church to punishing those who dare to voluntarily pray on government property.”

A football coach in Washington was recently suspended from his duties because he made a habit of praying at midfield following games. Players or students were never asked or required to participate but some did join him voluntarily for a post-game prayer that typically lasted fifteen to twenty seconds. Prior to his suspension, the coach was ordered to stop praying because school officials, citing the Supreme Court, said they did not want to be seen as endorsing religion. The school district said that “students required to be present by virtue of their participation in football or cheerleading will necessarily suffer a degree of coercion to participate in religious activity when their coaches lead or endorse it.” On the matter of religion, we have moved far from the vision of this nation’s founders.

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
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FLOW Lord's PrayerIn this week’s Acton Commentary, “Cheap Grace and Gratitude,” I extend the notion of “cheap grace” beyond the realm of special or saving grace to the more mundane, general gifts of common grace.

One of the long-standing criticisms of common grace is that it actually cheapens or devalues a proper understanding of special grace. That is, by describing the common gifts of God to all people as a form of “grace,” the distinctive work of salvation can be overshadowed or under-emphasized.

This criticism of the doctrine of common grace gets at something important: there is a recurring challenge to rightly order our loves and our appreciation for the diversity of God’s gifts. I take this concern about the relationship between common grace and special grace to be a version of the problem of relating nature and grace.

It is important, as I argue in the commentary, to appreciate the gracious foundation of all of creation. So it is a gift of God that we have the sun, rain, food, and shelter just as it is a gift of God that we have repentance, forgiveness of sins, and freedom in Christ.

But that isn’t to say that all gifts are the same. In the abstract I would much rather have forgiveness of sins than daily bread. As the Puritan John Flavel (c.1630–1691) put it, “God has mercies of all sorts to give, but Christ is the chief, the prime mercy of all mercies; O be not satisfied without that mercy.”

As it turns out, though, forgiveness of sins presupposes our existence, which requires (among other things) daily bread. Thus the Puritan Richard Baxter (1615-1691) observed that

if nature be not supported, men are not capable of other good. We pray for our daily bread before pardon and spiritual blessings; not as if it were better, but that nature is supposed before grace, and we cannot be Christians if we be not men: God hath so placed the soul in the body, that good or evil shall make its entrance by the bodily senses to the Soul.

In this way, special grace presupposes nature or the realities preserved through common grace. The Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck argued that grace restores nature. And Abraham Kuyper, in his writings on common grace in science and art, put it this way:

Scripture does not arrange both of those—the way of salvation and natural life—like two ticket windows next to each other, but continually weaves them together like threads, giving us a view of the world, its origin, its course within history, and its ultimate destiny, within which, as though within an invisible framework, the entire work of salvation occurs.

So today, this Thanksgiving, and every day, let us be thankful for all the good gifts that come from God. Being thankful for our daily bread, how much more thankful should we be for the forgiveness of sins!