Category: Acton Commentary

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

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

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

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.”

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.