Category: Bible and Theology

The Holy Monastery of the God-trodden Mount Sinai, Saint Catherine’s Monastery

The Egypt Independent has a fascinating account of the process underway now to digitize the first-millennium manuscripts housed at St. Catherine’s Monastery on the Sinai Peninsula. Writer James Purtill interviewed the librarian, a native Texan named Father Justin, about the task of preserving thousands of priceless books and the new library under construction, which he hopes to write about on the monastery blog when it opens.

Every morning [Fr. Justin] attends the 4:30 am service — which has not changed its liturgy since AD 550 — and then climbs six flights of stairs to his office in the east wing of the three-story administrative building forming the back wall of St. Catherine’s Monastery. He powers up the G5 and passes the morning making digital photographs of scripture written on papyrus, written on animal hide and written with ink made from oak tree galls. “It’s amazing, the juxtaposition,” is how he puts it.

A page that may have taken a bent-backed monk weeks to illuminate is clamped under the bellows of the 48MP CCD camera. Snap. Next page. It takes three or four days to do a whole book. There are about 3,300 manuscripts. (more…)

Does God side with the poor and oppose the rich? Glenn Sunshine looks at what the Bible says about the issue:

So why are the poor described as blessed? The issue isn’t poverty per se, but rather the attitude of humility and reliance on God that it can produce in us, which is why Matthew’s version of the beatitude isn’t just “Blessed are the poor,” but “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Reliance on personal wealth or government help (Ps. 146, esp. vs. 3-4, 7-10) for security is foolish, because they do not last. Rather, we need to place our hope in God alone.

What about the rich? Although Scripture has some very harsh things to say about the wealthy, this does not mean that all of them are evil or under divine judgment. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Job were rich and yet were also approved by God. Just as poverty doesn’t guarantee virtue, wealth does not guarantee vice.

Scripture also tells us that God gives us the power to make wealth, and that he delights in the prosperity of his servants (Ps. 35:27)—which includes material prosperity (Deut. 28:11-13). So it is clear that wealth is not necessarily evil.

Why, then, the condemnations of the rich in Scripture?

Read more . . .

Income inequality has been around as long as humans have had incomes, yet over the past year it has been presented as one of our economy’s greatest injustices. With so much shoddy zero-sum reasoning being presented, it’s refreshing to find an economist who can apply both sound economic and Biblical thinking to the topic.

Anne Bradley, Vice President of Economic Initiatives at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, has a blog series summarizing her research report, “Why Does Income Inequality Exist? An Economic and Biblical Explanation” In her latest post, Bradley explains what the Bible has to say about income inequality: (more…)

Is it “game-over” for so-called cafeteria or dissenting Catholics? In a Crisis Magazine article, Acton’s Samuel Gregg, Director of Research, says it is.

The demographic evidence for impending extinction is striking. The average age of members of female religious orders that are moving “beyond Jesus” into an alternative spiritual universe is over 70. This contrasts with those orders who joyfully embrace Catholic faith in all its fullness. They’re positively flourishing. Similarly, it’s very hard to find dissenters among seminarians – also growing in numbers – and priests below 50.

Gregg points to the internal crisis within “liberal” Catholicism: they’ve raised children who care little or nothing about the Church and therefore have no one to carry forth their banner, and their reliance on “feelings” to guide their efforts to change immutable truths.  They never learned reason, only skepticism.

To evangelize modernity, however, means Catholics not only need to understand but also critique it and convert it to the fullness of the truth of which the modern world is but a pale shadow. Fortunately, in the teachings of Vatican II, Paul VI, Blessed John Paul II, and Benedict XVI, we have a road-map for precisely such an engagement: a path obscured for decades by the dissenting generation’s equivocations and hang-ups. Embracing this way of proceeding is crucial, especially if the Church is to reach those nominal Catholics who are in many ways the victims of three generations of non-catechesis in the faith.

In the meantime, watch for escalating incoherence from dissenting Catholics as they fade from the scene. Judging from the “beyond Jesus” nuns’ reaction to some simple home-truths about just how far they have wandered from the Catholic faith, it won’t be pretty. But that’s all the more reason to pray for them. For no matter how great our intellectual and moral errors, the Truth can set anyone free.

Read more here.

Blog author: jballor
Monday, May 21, 2012
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For the next two weeks I’m privileged to be teaching a course on Christian ethics and contemporary culture at Farel Reformed Theological Seminary in Montreal, Quebec. This morning’s class focused on the issue of calling and the Christian life. We discussed some of the ways in which God’s call to follow Christ comes to different individuals in a variety of circumstances and in a variety of means.

As background, we read Alissa Wilkinson’s short essay, “Vocation Takes Patience.” Discerning God’s call takes patience, a virtue that can be in short supply during the long nights of doubt and worry.

In our discussion, we allowed for the possibility that God might make clear his purpose for someone’s life in dramatic fashion, such as that experienced by Augustine, “Take up and read.” But apart from such miraculous instances, we identified a couple of significant influences for helping us discern the shapes of our callings.

First, we discussed individual experiences, intuitions, and feelings. Very often God gives us a particular desire or disposition as a way of orienting us towards particular ends. Of course these are not infallible, and indeed often manifest the brokenness of sinful humanity. But our personality traits, our interests, and our passions are ways in which God can communicate his will for us.

Similarly God provides us with communities of influence, such as friends, family members, and fellow church members, who can provide perspectives on our own abilities and proclivities in insightful ways that we often cannot see for ourselves. God can work through the encouraging or challenging (or rebuking) word of a friend who sees what we cannot.

The discussion also touched on cultural expectations as significant. We often hear about ways in which business people feel disconnected from the church. But it is equally true, as one of the students observed today, that in the eyes of the world a career in law, business, or medicine or some other praiseworthy endeavor is expected. It is perfectly acceptable on the world’s terms to go to college to maximize earning potential. In such respects it is counter-cultural to pursue a career that might mean a smaller paycheck or lesser social status. The pastoral ministry can all-too-often fall into this category.

The dynamic of the sacred and the secular, and corresponding callings, also was threaded throughout the conversation today, and I expect this dynamic to provide some fruitful discussion over the next two weeks as well.

One of Frederick Buechner’s famous quotes has to do with discerning God’s call: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” What are some ways to discern what makes you glad and what the world needs?

Beginning today, the conference “Religion and Liberty — A Match Made in Heaven?” gets underway in Jerusalem. Sponsored by the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies (JIMS), the Acton Institute and others, the event asks questions such as, “Is capitalism not only efficient but also moral?” In conjunction with this May 20-24 conference, Acton is offering its two Jewish monographs through Amazon Kindle at no charge.

The two titles:

  • Judaism, Law & The Free Market: An Analysis by Joseph Lifshitz. [Kindle link]
  • Judaism, Markets, and Capitalism: Separating Myth from Reality by Corinne Sauer and Robert M. Sauer [Kindle link]

Also see the Sauers’ 2007 Acton commentary, “Jewish Theology and Economic Theory.”

In the conference description, JIMS notes that “several speakers will discuss why Israel — in fact no country — should grant special privileges to religious institutions, nor subsidize religious activities. While few would advocate this approach for our Jewish state, there will be compelling arguments made about why religious communities in Israel would flourish with less government support. On Tuesday we will discuss how free markets enable religious communities to conveniently observe their traditions. There also will several panels which will provide the philosophical foundation for freer markets in Israel. More importantly our speakers will explain why free market policies will break down Israel’s oligarchical institutions that impose high product prices on Israelis and limit economic opportunity.”

In addition to JIMS and Acton, the Jerusalem conference is sponsored by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Atlas Network and Maarah Magazine.

Acton now has a dozen or so eBook offerings on social thought understood through a religious lens. For a listing of titles, please visit this page.

Reading as many blogs as I do, I’m always grateful when I stumble on a great blog post that is not only thoughtful, but relates to some aspect of our work here at Acton. Jason Summers over at Q Ideas has written an interesting piece titled Where Angels Cannot Tread: Science in a Fallen World. In his discussion of science, he notes humanity is uniquely equipped by God to engage with science.

I believe that we Christians especially should listen to what wise men say, and proceed thoughtfully and with prudence where angels cannot tread. In our efforts to study and learn from the creation and in our critiques of others’ efforts to do the same, we should seek to reflect and embody a right understanding of the theology of science, the nature of scientific practice in a pluralistic society, and the role and authority of institutions of science within that society.

Summers concludes due to the position we have received from God, a proper understanding of the theology of science along with the nature of scientific practice and the place of scientific institutions is critical. He discusses these areas in the post.

Among other things, a knowledge of the theology of science is needful for a correct hamartiological understanding of man. Due to man’s fallen state, labor is needed to grasp the “true nature of the world”, a task which Adam was able to do more intuitively. Additional, a correct theology of science will help one understand the inherent lack of neutrality extant in science.

Check out the full article here.