Category: Acton Commentary

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
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acton-commentary-blogimage“If the nation-state is passé,” asks Todd Huizinga in this week’s Acton Commentary, “why do “Europeans” cling to it?”

Current events have made it more crucial than ever to understand what makes the European Union tick. What are the ideological roots of the eurozone crisis? Why do so many EU leaders seem willing to risk exposing their people to more jihadist terror and to invite a potentially unmanageable de-Westernization of Europe by opening the floodgates to immigrants from a burning Middle East? To understand why these crises are affecting Europe, we need to look at the unique nature of European Union.

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, January 20, 2016
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The_Odds
In this week’s Acton Commentary, I take a look at “The Moral and Economic Poverty of the Lottery.” I take a look at the main parties involved: the winners, the players, and the government, and conclude, “Far from a force for good, lotteries are a danger to society.”

The problems with lotteries and gambling more generally are various and sundry. But Gerda Reith captures a fundamental aspect when she writes that “the state-sponsored fantasy of the big win turns the ethos of production and accumulation on its head.” This is essentially what Edmund Burke’s problem with a gaming society involves, which I explore in more depth in this week’s piece.

And later today I’ll be on Chris Brooks’ program on Moody Radio, “Equipped,” to discuss lottery winners and losers. Tune in at 1pm Eastern.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
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templarThe new Star Wars film embodies that ancient human striving for virtue and a higher spiritual order, says Dylan Pahman in this week’s Acton Commentary.

The most recent installment in the Star Wars franchise, Episode VII “The Force Awakens” has blasted box-office records like the Death Star destroying Alderan, so far grossing over $1.7 billion. Clearly, the series has massively broad appeal. Much of the draw seems to be the allure of the Jedi, the mystical guardians of the Star Wars galaxy who were based, in part, upon a medieval Christian monastic order: the Knights Templar. While there are surely other reasons for its popularity, my view is that that Star Wars’ focus on the importance of devotion to virtue and a higher spiritual order, embodied in the Jedi and illustrated in ”The Force Awakens” resounds with a universal human hope for people who embody that same vocation in our world today.

The full text of the essay can be found here (Warning: contains spoilers). Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

noun_283226_ccIn today’s Acton Commentary, I have some further reflections on the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The basic thrust of the piece is to encourage institutional thinking. We should expect that humans are going to institutionalize their goals because humans are natural institution builders, or culture makers.

This is one of the animating concerns behind the forthcoming volume The Church’s Social Responsibility as well. Even if younger generations now are more skeptical about “organized religion,” they will necessarily and eventually codify their views in some institutional form. In the context of religion, this means some understanding of “church,” which may look far different than previous incarnations.

As David Brooks puts it, “Most poverty and suffering — whether in a country, a family or a person — flows from disorganization. A stable social order is an artificial accomplishment, the result of an accumulation of habits, hectoring, moral stricture and physical coercion. Once order is dissolved, it takes hard measures to restore it.”

Of course institutions, being created by flawed human beings, have their flaws, and are prone to corruption of various kinds. So scrutiny of institutional structures as well as individual behavior is necessary. But I further argue that the level of public scrutiny should be commensurate with social power, particularly in economic and political forms. So by all means, let’s worry about what Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan are going to do with $50 billion. But let’s worry that much more about what the federal government does with that amount of money in a work week.

Let’s talk about The Force Awakens, which is tracking to smash global revenue records as it passes $1.5 billion. But let’s also not forget that the federal government spends a billion dollars in less time than it takes to sit down for a screening of the latest Star Wars episode!

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
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acton-commentary-blogimage“There can never be a world without work,” says James Bruce in this week’s Acton Commentary. “We are made to work. We flourish when we do, and we suffer when we don’t.”

Now, if we think about work’s purpose or goal, we will realize that work can never end. Philosophically, rational agents have specific conditions for genuine flourishing, one of which is work. The sociological data certainly support the claims that we are made for work, and that we suffer when we don’t. In Jewish and Christian theology, work began in the Garden, not as a result of the Fall. We were made to work.

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

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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