Category: Bible and Theology

almsDavid Schelhaas, Professor Emeritus of English at Dordt College, recently published an article titled “What Does Social Democrat Mean?” Schelhaas suggests that “Christians should seriously consider the merits of social democracy.” Schelhaas is quick to point out that he does not advocate socialism, with state control and management of the means of production, coupled with the redistribution of wealth. Instead, he advocates for the lighter “social democracy.”

Schelhaas goes on to outline his vision of social democracy, including the state’s role in “creating a good and just society” and “using taxes to pay for…other social changes they desire.” His chief concern is wealth inequality, and claims it is the underlying cause of “virtually all social problems that plague a society, things like infant mortality, life expectancy, criminality, mental illness, etc.”

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Blog author: CRoberts
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
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Working comprises the bulk of most people’s adult lives. Unfortunately, many people find their work unfulfilling and dread Monday mornings. How can we find meaning and a sense of vocation in even the most mundane work environments?

In a recent article published in The Atlantic, Uri Friedman presents seven helpful pieces of advice given by David Brooks (New York Times columnist) and Arthur Brooks (president of the American Enterprise Institute) in order to shed light on how people can better view their job and find purpose. The difference between attitudes of boredom and laziness versus those of enthusiasm and productivity boils down to one’s motivation to work. Do you work for the paycheck alone? Or do you view your work as contributing to the service of others?

Construction WorkerI found one point especially helpful. Friedman narrates a story:

Arthur Brooks set out on a career as a French horn player. But then he came across Johann Sebastian Bach’s answer to why he’d become a composer: “The aim and final end of all music is nothing less than the glorification of God and the enjoyment of man.” Brooks gradually decided that he could better serve such aims as an economist, with a focus on improving the lives of the poor, than as a musician.

“The happiest people feel like they’re needed,” Brooks said. “The greatest engine of misery in our society is a sense of social and economic superfluousness”—a sense, he added, that is contributing to the anger on display in U.S. politics today.

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There’s been a lot of discussion leading up to the planned Pan-Orthodox Council in Crete this month. As is typical of councils in the history of the Church, so far it’s a mess, and it hasn’t even happened yet.

In what has been described as an act of self-marginalization by Bulgarian Orthodox scholar Smilen Markov, it looks like the Bulgarian Patriarchate has already backed out.

Antioch has a laundry list of grievances.

The OCA, which might not even technically be invited in the first place, has issued a statement.

And further statements from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Georgian Patriarchate, and others can be found.

No need to review the contents as the point is simply to note that, once again, the council is already a mess.

Officially, I should be calling it the “Great and Holy” council, but I’m not holding my breath on that one. That’s not out of cynicism (well, not entirely) but due to the record of history and the science of economics. (more…)

Evangelicals are known for referring to America as a “Christian nation,” sometimes as a nod to its basic demographic disposition, but more often as a deeper theological statement about the country’s founding and spiritual status.

Whether viewed through the mundane misapplications of Old Testament scripture or the more highly entrenched revisionism of Christian “historians” like David Barton, there is a popular view among evangelicals that America has access to a sort of pre-New Testament covenant. Given such a mindset, we shouldn’t be surprised when our political activity aligns accordingly, pursuing the common good far too often from the (political) top down.

In a new video from The Gospel Coalition, Russell Moore explains the theological error that underlies such thinking, pointing the way toward a proper Gospel understanding.

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Blog author: jballor
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
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Post harvest cultivation - geograph.org.uk - 1223870A distinctive of neo-Calvinism, that movement associated with a late-nineteenth century Dutch revival of Reformational Christianity in the Netherlands, is its focus in emphasis if not also in substance not only on individuals but also on institutions. As Richard Mouw puts it, “At the heart of the neo-Calvinist perspective on cultural multiformity is an insistence that the redemption accomplished by Christ is not only about the salvation of individuals—it is the reclaiming of the whole creation.”

This holistic perspective has led to a variety of speculations and opinions about the (dis)continuity between the redemptive-historical transitions from creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. In last week’s Acton Commentary, a section out of Abraham Kuyper’s Common Grace captures one of Kuyper’s key insights that the “fruit of common grace” has significance not only for this world but for the next as well.
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person-pewDespite the widespread complaints about the attitudes, ethics, and attention spans of millennials, it can be easy to forget the failures of generations gone by.

Not unlike the baby boomers of yore, we millennials were raised in a world of unparalleled prosperity and opportunity. This has its blessings, to be sure, but it also brings with it new temptations to view our lives in grandiose terms, punctuated by blinking lights and marked by the vocabulary of “world change” and “social transformation.” Behold, we are the justice seekers, sent to “make the world a better place” and put society to rights.

But how does real transformation actually take place?

In an article for Providence, Walter Russell Mead offers some lessons from the boomers, noting how the next generation might learn from their fruits…or lack thereof:

Most of us [boomers] (at least of that part of the generation that was interested in public service) ended up putting our energy into anti-poverty programs, human rights NGOs, environmental organizations, and so on. All of these are much stronger now than when my generation first got involved with them. The enormous growth of the NGO sector both in the United States and abroad has been one of the hallmarks of the Boomers’ engagement with the world.

Looking back, I think we got it wrong. In our eagerness to change the world, and to embrace the tumult and challenge of our times, we overlooked the most important NGO of all: the Church of Christ.

Alas, for as important as various programs and policies may be, the church provides the spiritual and cultural lifeblood that connects the dots between the individual and society. The church coordinates the contours of man’s efforts and institutions, conducting them toward the mysterious harmony we sometimes call “flourishing.” (more…)

Blog author: jsunde
Friday, January 22, 2016
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OneNationUnderGod_CVRChristians continually struggle to find the right approach, balance, and tone in their political witness, either co-opting the Gospel for the sake of political ends or retreating altogether out of fear of the same.

In their new book, One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics, Bruce Ashford and Chris Pappalardo pave a fresh way forward. Though I haven’t quite finished it, thus far the book offers a refreshingly rich assessment of political ideology as it relates (or doesn’t) to the Gospel and Christian mission.

In a piece for Canon and Culture, Ashford whets our appetites on this same topic, providing a clear overview of how Christianity differs from conservatism and progressivism, as well as where and how we might engage or abandon each.

From my own experience, Christians seem to have an easier time discerning these distinctions with progressivism, most likely due to its overt rejection of or disregard for permanent truths. With conservatism, however, we tend to forget that without a particular focus on transcendence, conservatism languishes in its own shortsightedness and folly. (more…)