Category: Acton Media

Tea-Party-Catholic-196x300Sociologist Max Weber famously associated Protestantism with capitalism. Although widely accepted by many, that claim is theologically dubious, empirically disprovable, and largely incidental, says Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg:

Even when we consider modern capitalism’s emergence, a direct connection between this event and Protestantism is very open to question. The economic historian Jacques Delacroix, for instance, has highlighted many facts about this period that Weber’s theory simply cannot account for. “Amsterdam’s wealth,” Delacroix writes, “was centered on Catholic families; the economically advanced German Rhineland is more Catholic than Protestant; all-Catholic Belgium was the second country to industrialize, ahead of a good half-dozen Protestant entities.”

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At Public Discourse, Nathan Shlueter takes an unusual approach in his review of Acton’s Director of Research Sam Gregg’s Tea Party Catholic — it’s a memo to the faculty of Georgetown University as written by Sen. Paul Ryan:

As Gregg’s book makes clear, defending market economies does not make one a libertarian. And, in fact, no libertarian or Randian egoist would approve of my budget plan, which—whether you agree with it or not—is a sincere attempt to preserve and improve a financially endangered social safety net, not destroy it. Nor should defense of the market be confused with crony capitalism, which is profoundly unjust, and which I have spoken out against strongly and repeatedly. Finally, the market is not a panacea for all our ills, and is even a source of a few of them. There are common goods that can only be secured by good government. And, like government, the market will only be as good as the human beings who act within it.

The fact that we disagree on some matters of policy does not necessarily mean that either of us is outside Catholic social teaching. As Gregg points out, in most cases, Catholic social teaching only provides the correct principles for resolving complex social and economic questions, rather than specific policy requirements. This means that in most cases there is room for legitimate disagreement on the correct application of those principles.

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get-your-hands-dirtyTo avoid the “twin errors of materialism and spiritualism” Christians need to mix it up with the “dirtiness” of this world, Jordan Ballor argues in Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (And Action). The Christian Post recently interviewed Jordan about his new book:

CP: What is “dirt” a metaphor for in the book?

Ballor: It’s a multi-layered metaphor. On one level, it’s just about grit, the things that attend to hard work – sweat, toil and mud – all the things that have to do with what happens when we work hard in this life. On another level, and informed by Christian understandings of sin, it has to do with the fallenness of our natures. The spiritual dirt that comes with original sin and adds up as we actually sin in this world. I use it on at least those two levels in the book to talk about how we can seek to be clean, whether that’s always a good thing, whether we should seek to be dirty in some cases or not.

Obvious from the title, I’m encouraging us to get dirty and that is in the first sense, although understanding that avoiding sin is not always possible. So that is how those two layers of the image of dirt come together.

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Christian's Library PressEarlier this month, Christian’s Library Press co-sponsored a discussion between Ken Myers, Matthew Lee Anderson, and British moral philosopher Oliver O’Donovan. Held a few blocks from the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., the conversation addressed questions and themes of political theology and was loosely centered around O’Donovan’s 1996 book The Desire of the Nations.

Click here to listen to an audio of the conversation on the website of Mars Hill Audio Journal.

JMM_16 1 FRONTThe newest issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality has been published. The issue is available in digital format online and should be arriving in print in the next few weeks for subscribers. Volume 16, no. 1 is a theme issue on the topic of “Integral Human Development,” which was the focus of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate. He writes,

The development We speak of here cannot be restricted to economic growth alone. To be authentic, it must be well rounded; it must foster the development of each man and of the whole man.

In this light, this most recent issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality focuses on the goal of development with the broadest possible conceptions, combining insights from the disciplines of theology, philosophy, ethics, economics, and law, in order to explore the complex goal of lifting people out of all forms of poverty — whether material, spiritual, or otherwise — so that they can better fulfill their God-given potential and vocations. (more…)

GYHD-Jordan-Baillor-e1378924768840Jordan J. Ballor has spent the past decade working for the Acton Institute. At Fieldnotes Magazine he share five lessons he’s learned from working at a think tank focused on the intersection of theology and economics:

1. Treat people like people. The Golden Rule, “do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matt. 7:12), may seem like common sense, but it is much more uncommon to see what it really should look like in practice. I experienced this when I was walking back to my car from the office after work one day when I was approached by someone asking for help. At the time I was caught up in my own thoughts and worries, and the person in front of me was really just a problem, an obstacle. I took the easy way out and missed an opportunity to treat a person as if he was a person, made in God’s image and likeness.

2. Your work matters to God. It doesn’t matter if you are a preacher, a plumber, or a politician; the work you do is important to God. Most of us are not tasked with leading Fortune 500 companies, passing laws, or proclaiming the gospel from the pulpit. But we are all called to be faithful, to use our various gifts to serve others. The work you do matters to God because you matter to God and he has placed you where you are for a reason. So be a channel of grace in whatever you do. As Peter puts it, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10).

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WIPFSTOCK_TemplateOver at Capital Commentary, Byron Borger has a review of Jordan Ballor’s new book, Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action):

Although his book is not simple, he is a fine popularizer, writing serious material in sometimes playful ways, with the occasional nod to pop culture, drawing on themes from Deadwood or Lost or a contemporary novel. The book is neither introductory nor scholarly. Readers of journals such as First Things, Cardus, or The Journal of Markets & Morality (for which he serves as the executive editor) will most appreciate the four long essays in this volume. Ballor often cites, with unusual insight, the work of Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Bonhoeffer, and Kuyper.

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WWCover-204x300If you haven’t yet bought a copy of Abraham Kuyper’s Wisdom and Wonder, you now have no excuse: You can get the Kindle edition from Amazon for free.

As Jordan Ballor explained at the time of publication, this book consists of 10 chapters that the Dutch theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper had written to be the conclusion of his three-volume study on common grace. But due to a publisher’s oversight, these sections were omitted from the first printing. So they appeared first under separate publication under the title Common Grace in Science and Art, and then were added back in to subsequent printings of the larger set.

These Kindle deals usually don’t last long, so get your free copy today.

2940044212701_p0_v1_s260x420How should Protestant Christians think about faith, work, and economics? To help answer that question, the Acton Institute commissioned a series of primers about political economy and the church from four faith traditions: Baptist, Wesleyan, Pentecostal, and Reformed (forthcoming).

Chad Brand, the author of the Baptist primer, Flourishing Faith, was recently interviewed about the book and asked, “What is a Baptist political economy?”

What political economy describes is the interface between government and whatever economic system prevails in a given nation or culture. The political economy in the Soviet Union in the 1980s was a communist state with a socialist understanding of economics — a controlled-market economy. The United States was basically founded as a republic with a free market economy.

So when we introduce the idea of a Christian, and specifically Baptist, political economy, what we’re asking is, “How does the church rub itself up against a free market republic?” “How does a Baptist understanding of theology and ecclesiology interface with that.”

Because Baptists have long held the idea of religious freedom, political freedom, individual freedom and so on, the place where a Baptist political economy most manifests itself is in a kind of republican or libertarian form of economics. “Laissez faire” isn’t in the Baptist Faith and Message, but if you read and believe its statements on government and anthropology, I think you would come to the same conclusion that the government that governs least, governs best.

The notion of political economy has been around for quite some time — the first professor of political economy was a guy by the name of Thomas Malthus at the University of Oxford in about 1815 — but it hasn’t edged its way into evangelical circles until fairly recently.

Read more of the interview here and a review of Flourishing Faith here.

Back in January, I was interviewed for the podcast Conversations On Orthodoxy. After some wonderful editing, the interview has recently been posted.

In particular, the focus of the interview is mostly on how I went from an American Evangelical upbringing to becoming a convert to the Orthodox Church. However, I wanted to link to it here because it concludes with some thoughts about my work at Acton. In particular, I talk about Acton’s vision for a free and virtuous society, its approach to ecumenism, and where I see my own research as an Orthodox Christian in the context of my work here and elsewhere.

You can listen to the podcast here.

As a small disclaimer, I would like to say that at one point it appears that I attribute dispensational eschatology to my alma mater Kuyper College, a school in the Reformed tradition (and therefore decidedly not dispensationalist). The sound bite in question actually is about my childhood church, but I did not make that clear enough during the interview, contributing to the mix up. Other than that, though, I think it turned out great and extend my thanks to Conversations On Orthodoxy.