Category: Bible and Theology

humanumMy favorite psychology professor, when I was an undergrad, had a saying: “We are all more alike than we are different.” While most of us would never know the horror of paranoid psychosis, he said, we all know the fear of walking into a room and thinking, “Why is everyone looking at me? Is something wrong?” It’s in this realization of the common human experiences that we could begin to see even the most ill person in a compassionate manner.

It seems as if Rick Warren, founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church, has come to a similar revelation. After taking part in the Vatican’s Humanum conference, Warren came to this conclusion:

I think the beauty is that we have far more in common than we have what separates us. When you think about it, what is a Christian? They believe in the Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They believe in the Resurrection. They believe in the Bible. They believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins. If you believe those things, we’re on the same team. We may have different disagreements on other issues, but if you love Jesus Christ, you’re my brother, my sister.

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Christianity sets forth that humans are made in the image of God — that we have particular God-like characteristics when it comes to creation, cultivation, compassion, relationship, and so on. Such a remarkable truth tells us something deeply profound about the world we live in, as well as how we ought to respond in any number of situations.

In an excerpted video from the PovertyCure series, John Stonestreet explains how the Christian worldview transforms our approach to poverty:

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It has become a regular occurrence at conservative publications to note the strong correlation between traditional marriage and family and higher income levels. Take, for example, Ari Fleischer, who wrote the following in the Wall Street Journal last June:

If President Obama wants to reduce income inequality, he should focus less on redistributing income and more on fighting a major cause of modern poverty: the breakdown of the family.

He continues, “One of the differences between the haves and the have-nots is that the haves tend to marry and give birth, in that order.”

Despite my traditionalist leanings, I’ve always been a bit skeptical of these sorts of editorials. For example, contrast this with Ben Steverman’s recent article in Bloomberg:

Divorce among 50-somethings has doubled since 1990. One in five adults have never married, up from one in ten 30 years ago. In all, a majority of American adults are now single, government data show, including the mothers of two out of every five newborns.

These trends are often blamed on feminists or gay rights activists or hippies, who’ve somehow found a way to make Americans reject tradition.

But the last several years showed a different powerful force changing families: the economy.

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The Bible teaches wise welcome, not blanket amnesty. Biblical teaching would give first consideration to foreigners applying to come to America as blessing, and lawfully (there are four million who’ve applied and are waiting). I believe blanket amnesty of many millions more is unwise. Amnesty is unkind to nearly 20 million Americans who are currently looking but cannot find a job. Wisdom and kindness would bring millions of jobs to America before more competition for scarce jobs. Biblical wisdom would protect Americans from open borders and the risks associated with amnesty: illegal entry into the country by violent Islamists, narco gangs and those who knowingly enter with dangerous diseases like Ebola. Our goal is not hostility, but hospitality.

Economist Thomas Sowell puts it this way:

Not only the United States, but the Western world in general, has been discovering the hard way that admitting people with incompatible cultures is an irreversible decision with incalculable consequences. If we do not see that after recent terrorist attacks on the streets of Boston and London, when will we see it? ‘Comprehensive immigration reform’ means doing everything all together in a rush, without time to look before we leap, and basing ourselves on abstract notions about abstract people.

God loves us all and yet nowhere in Scripture do we find support in God’s teaching for blanket amnesty. Rather, we see the respect of boundaries, borders and admonitions to remember and to advance the teachings of Godly wisdom for human and cultural thriving. We see welcome of the lawful immigrant who comes as blessing, such as Ruth and the Good Samaritan. And we see Ezra and Nehemiah leading a nation in the rebuilding of walls for cultural healing and renewal. (more…)

In his reflections on art and common grace, Abraham Kuyper affirmed that “the world of beauty that does in fact exist can have originated nowhere else than in the creation of God. The world of beauty was thus conceived by God, determined by his decree, called into being by him, and is maintained by him.” Beauty is, in this deep sense, a creational good, and even though beauty is often pressed into the service of evil, beauty, like all good things, is a creation of God.

During last week’s symposium at Calvin College on common grace and business, Dr. Vahagn Asatryan of Redeemer University College presented on marketing and common grace. To open his paper, Dr. Asatryan used this advertisement. Be sure to watch to the end and pay special attention to the message at the conclusion of the commercial:

Asatryan noted the deep beauty of the story told in this piece, and yet ultimately it depicts a situation that conflicts with God’s will for human social life. In the old days it was referred to as “living in sin.” What might a marketing piece that is more affirming of God’s common grace as reflected in his will for the human institution of marriage look like?
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Kuyper BavinckIn this week’s Acton Commentary, “The Soul of the System,” I examine a number of images and distinctions related to Hunter Baker’s latest book, The System Has a Soul. In describing Herman Bavinck’s images of the kingdom of God as a pearl and a leaven, and a complementary distinction from Abraham Kuyper of the church as an institute and an organism, a question naturally follows about the relationship between each element of the pairings.
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CG 1.3Christian’s Library Press has now released the third part in its series of English translations of Abraham Kuyper’s most famous work, Common Grace, a three-volume work of practical public theology. This release, Abraham-Parousia, is the third and final part of Volume 1: The Historical Section, following Part 1 (Noah-Adam) and Part 2 (Temptation-Babel).

Common Grace (De gemeene gratie) was originally published in 1901-1905 while Kuyper was prime minister. This new translation offers modern Christians a great resource for understanding the vastness of the gospel message, as well as their proper role in public life. The project is a collaboration between the Acton Institute and Kuyper College.

Whereas the first two parts of Volume 1 focus on “what was common to our entire race”—stretching from Adam and Eve to Babel—in the final part of the Historical Section, Kuyper now sets his sights on the story of Abraham, where “the channel suddenly narrows” and the “world stage shrinks to Palestine and the human race to Israel.”

But although the Bible begins to focus “almost exclusively on Abraham’s seed,” Kuyper is quick to caution against turning this “seeming disproportionality” into some kind of lopsided particularism. For Kuyper, reading the Bible in such a way has led to the false notion that “the fate of the nations and the importance of the world are of lesser concern to us,” and that missions (etc.) “do not rise to a higher vantage point than to save souls from the masses of the nations and to transfer them into the particularist sheep pen.” (more…)

Niels Hemmingsen 2At the conclusion of the English translation of Niels Hemmingsen’s The Way of Life (1578) (Latin: Via Vitae) is a series of short prayers. The selection includes one “for the aid of God in the needful businesses of our vocation.” The (modernized) text reads:

“Give me understanding, O Lord, and assist my endeavors, that I may faithfully and diligently perform the works of my vocation, to the glory of your name, the edification of your church, and the commodity of my neighbor.”

Hemmingsen was a significant Danish theologian in the sixteenth century, and a selection of his work on natural law is scheduled to appear in the forthcoming Fall issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality. Subscribe today to get your copy when it becomes available.

tim-keller-head-shot-2011The Christian life is one filled with risk, driven by active faith in an active God whose ways are higher than our own. In all that we put our hands to, God calls us to turn away from the supposed predictability of our own plans and designs and rely entirely on Him.

Such an orientation transforms each area of our lives, from family and friends to politics to church life and beyond. But for those involved in entrepreneurship and business, the stakes feel particularly high, and amid the rise of modernity and overwhelming economic prosperity, the temptation to rely on our own devices is more alluring than ever before.

Christians are good at talking about “abandoning all” for the sake of the Gospel, to be sure, but what does this look like in day-to-day life? The rich young ruler made a risk calculation when asked to give all of his wealth to the poor, and based on that output, he failed. What similar calculations do we encounter as God prompts our stewardship, whether it means donating to a particular charity or investing in a new idea or enterprise? (more…)

Contrary to current policy, this is not reality.

Last Saturday The Imaginative Conservative published my essay, “Let’s Get Back to Robbing Peter: The Welfare State and Demographic Decline.”

To add to what I say there, it should be a far more pressing concern to conscientious citizens that the US national debt has risen from $13 trillion in 2010 to nearly $18 trillion today. That is an increase of $5 trillion in just four years, or a nearly 40 percent increase. It is becoming more and more clear that, at our current rate, our nation’s entitlement programs represent the injustice that people today feel entitled to spend the tax dollars of tomorrow on benefits that we cannot realistically continue to afford. John Barnes wrote in 2010 that “the total value of all debt and unfunded promises made by the U.S. government is $61.9 trillion over the next 75 years.” I don’t know how much that figure has changed in the last four years, but I doubt it has shrunk, to put it lightly.

As any student of the Old Testament should know, God is very concerned about each generation leaving a proper inheritance to the next (cf. Numbers 27:8-11). No doubt many readers in their private lives have made provisions for their children after they pass. But as a nation, we are doing the reverse: paying for our provision today with the resources of tomorrow.

I write,

The German economist Wilhelm Röpke, commenting on the expansion of European welfare states in 1958, wrote, “To let someone else foot the bill is, in fact, the general characteristic of the welfare state and, on closer inspection, its very essence.” While he did not argue that, therefore, such state assistance should in all cases be stopped, he put the question in sober terms: “[T]he welfare state is an evil the same as each and every restriction of freedom. The only question on which opinions may still differ is whether and to what extent it is a necessary evil.”

In the interest of carrying on that same sobriety of analysis, I believe the picture is far bleaker today. Röpke, in the title to the essay quoted, characterized the welfare state as “robbing Peter to pay Paul.” But Sts. Peter and Paul were contemporaries. If only we would simply rob our peers! Then we could have a lively discussion regarding “whether and to what extent” such robbery is “a necessary evil.” Instead, it is our children and grandchildren who must “foot the bill.” Yet on our current course, when the time comes to pay up there will be much less welfare available to them.

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