Category: Bible and Theology

golden-2_2386999bFrom the Financial Times:

Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party has penetrated the country’s police force, set up caches of heavy weapons in remote locations and trained its recruits to carry out brutal attacks against immigrants and political opponents, according to the country’s top security official.

Nikos Dendias, minister of public order and civil protection, said in an interview with the Financial Times that Golden Dawn’s cult of extreme violence was “unique” among European far-right groups.

The Ancient Greek leaders stressed things like prudent philosophy, intellectual inquiry, and the importance of reason. Modern Greeks – along with the governments of most European nations – spend money they don’t have on things they don’t need at rates they can’t maintain. The party is over for big-government socialism, but the economic (and political) nightmare of recession, depression and an increasingly unruly citizenry has just begun.

And what type of clientele comprise the membership of a group like the Golden Dawn? What do many of those who join share in common?
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111013_teaparty_occupy_ap_328You may — alright, so you definitely will — need a tab with Google open to be able to look up all the big words he uses in his penetrating prose, but George Gilder is a masterful writer and inspiring advocate for entrepreneurial activity. I’ve been reading through the revised-and-updated edition of Wealth and Poverty this past week and I am astounded all over again at the unrelenting, unapologetic way he articulates the case for free enterprise, limited government, and private-sector solutions.

For Gilder, the entrepreneur is not an unfortunate by-product of a flawed economic system, but the thankless hero of, and catalyst for, the innovation, creativity, and prosperity the rest of us benefit from. Even a vocal proponent for free enterprise like myself — someone who has made a living the past few years writing and speaking about the moral and theological case for economic liberty — can only sit back in silence and marvel at the stirring way Mr. Gilder paints his verbal portraits of the men and women who create something where nothing once stood.
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Christians are frequently accused of conflating politics and religion. And not surprisingly, Christians like me are often frustrated by such claims. Whenever I hear such slurs my first inclination is to push back by asking who exactly can rightfully be accused of such confusion. Can they name even one person who does that?

And then I remember, “Oh yeah, there’s Jim Wallis.”

In the 2004 presidential election season, Wallis’ group, Sojourners, put out a bumper sticker with these words: “God Is Not a Republican, or a Democrat.” Wallis frequently repeats that claim yet he always makes it sound like God is a moderately pro-life Democrat. Take, for instance, his most recent claim that the government shutdown is “unbiblical.”

Wallis claims that those who support the government shutdown are “against government per se. They want to destroy the House.” The most generous thing that can be said about such a claim is that it is idiotic. But I can’t be that generous to Wallis because I know he is an intelligent gentleman. He’s not an idiot, he’s just dishonest. He knows that supporters of a government shutdown (and for the record, that does not include me) are not anarchists. Yet that is exactly what he is claiming. He knows it’s a lie and yet repeats the claim anyway.

His second claims is equally stupid. He says, “Because the government has a Biblical responsibility to care for the poor, they are against poor people. They get hostile to the poor because they are hostile to government. That’s also wrong. It’s unbiblical.”

By Wallis’ logic, opposition to the government of the Soviet Union was unbiblical since hostility toward a government is hostility toward the poor.

(It’s rather telling that Wallis has no problem with the government providing funding for abortions or forcing citizens to pay for abortifacients, yet thinks that laying off non-essential government workers is “unbiblical.”)

I couldn’t to a better job of countering Wallis’ claims than James R. Rogers has done, so I’ll quote from his devastating rebuttal:
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Wilkins Micawber from David Copperfield art by Frank Reynolds (2)

Wilkins Micawber, the namesake for the Micawber Principle.

Joe Carter points to a Lifehacker article that sums up two basic equations that lead to the creation of wealth (with what I consider to be a clarifying correction applied in the first formula):

Income > spending = surplus

Surplus x time = wealth

Likewise, Wilhelm Röpke, in his A Humane Economy, points to two equations arising from classical literature that connect surplus with happiness and deficit to misery (the Micawber Principle).

According to Mr. Micawber from Dickens’ David Copperfield:

Annual income £20, annual expenditure £19.975 = happiness

Annual income £20, annual expenditure £20.025 = misery
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presuppositions-e1361408206416-350x235It is truly amazing to encounter Protestants who believe that their views on theology and justice are objective and neutral — as if the Fall did not happen. In a recent discussion about the sacraments, a leader of an international ministry said to me, “If hermeneutics involves being taught to believe a certain theology, then it is not true hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is absolutely neutral.”

After reading his comment I wondered, what possible world is he talking about where neutrality actually happens? One of the consequences of Adam and Eve’s transgression against God in the Garden of Eden was a human race whose thinking is now impaired. In the book Wisdom and Wonder, Abraham Kuyper makes the point that while we have not ceased to be rational creatures, because of sin we have “lost the gift of grasping the true context, the proper coherence, [and] the systematic integration of all things.” Because of this aspect of the human condition it seems best, as much as possible, to put one’s presuppositions on the table since there is no such thing as an uninterpreted fact. Disclosure builds trust and solidarity.

One of the stumbling blocks in Protestant evangelicalism is that leaders teach their constituents that their respective positions are “the Biblical” positions when, if fact, they are formed and concluded by particular approaches and perspectives. The implication is that each tribe says that they are “truly” Biblical and those who disagree with them are not Biblical. The fact is every tradition believes that their distinctives are “biblical.” Ignoring our presuppositions often leads to useless quarreling and much wasted time (2 Tim 2; Titus 3). This does not mean that all things are up for debate and difference, but it does challenge us to pay closer attention to those things that the Scriptures are more clear about.
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diversity2_0_011American Christians have a tendency to see their own denomination, local church, association of partner churches, and so on, as “the church.” With this reduction comes a number of blind spots about what the church looks like around the world.

The Westminster Confession of Faith makes a distinction between the invisible church, those who have been or will be united to the Triune God by faith throughout the entire history of God’s people, and the visible church which is “catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion: and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.” The 1960 Manual of Church Doctrine according to the Church of Scotland also explains that “we who are alive represent in place and tie the whole which God alone sees in completeness. The great procession of the faithful crosses the world’s stage–and only such part of as is actually crossing that stage is visible; and it passes through the world.” As such, because the visible church is fully international already, American Christians have a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the flourishing of “the church” which is never simply about America nor the West.

While secular humanism continues to dominate the cultures of Western Europe and North America, the visible church is growing and expanding in ways that nicely represent the rich and ancient diversity of the people of God, which Pew Research estimates about 6.9 billion. Pew Research explains,
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In the most recent issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality (16.1), I review The Mystical as Political by Aristotle Papanikolaou. I write,

In The Mystical as Political, Aristotle Papanikolaou seeks to construct a political theology rooted in the Orthodox Christian conviction that all of creation, and humanity in particular, was created for communion with God. He begins by offering a helpful survey of political theory in the Orthodox tradition, focusing especially on Eusebius of Caesarea, Saint John Chrysostom, the Emperor Justinian, Vladimir Soloviev, and Sergius Bulgakov, inter alia (chapter 1). In the following chapters, he addresses the relationship between church and state (chapter 2); personhood and human rights (chapter 3); divine-human communion and the common good (chapter 4); and honesty, forgiveness, and free speech (chapter 5). In the process, and refreshingly for an Orthodox writer, he also engages Western theologians and philosophers — including William Cavanaugh, Jacques Maritain, Stanley Hauerwas, and Nicholas Wolterstorff, to highlight only some of the more prominently featured — acknowledging their genuine insights while, nevertheless, criticizing what he sees to be various shortcomings. The Mystical as Political represents a careful and irenic, though not uncritical, Orthodox Christian approach to political theology, ultimately offering a positive appraisal of liberal democracy and human rights. Although essential reading on the subject with much to commend it, it has several shortcomings of its own.

In particular, I hone in on “an overemphasis on the particular over against the general, the dynamic and the uniqueness of persons over against the static and the common nature of humanity.” As this is a continuing interest of mine and a subject I have explored in the past here on the PowerBlog, as well as elsewhere, my review is offered as open access to anyone who may be interested in the subject here.

I previously explored the subject of Orthodoxy and natural law here.

And Fr. Michael Butler lectured on the subject of “Orthodoxy and Natural Law” and “Orthodoxy, Church, and State” at Acton University this summer, my summaries of which can be found here and here.

_68359979_silibilnbrainsThe BBC reports on a major hoax pulled by Scottish rappers Gavin Bain and Billy Boyd. The college friends pretended to be Americans and lived a lie for three years in order to secure a record deal and tour the UK and eventually the world as rappers. The hoax lasted until the truth caught up with them from the inside out.

Back in 2001, the rappers were laughed out of the room when they met record company executives in London and were told that “real” rappers do not come from Scotland. So they pair lied and re-created themselves as Americans. David Gritten of The Telegraph summarizes those years succinctly:
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Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Cradle

Photo Credit: akatrya via Compfight cc

I share Fr. Robert Barron’s concern about many of the attitudes on display in this Time magazine cover story on “the childfree life.” As Barron writes, much of the problem stems from the basic American attitude toward a life of “having it all.”

Thus, Barron observes, “Whereas in one phase of the feminist movement, ‘having it all’ meant that a woman should be able to both pursue a career and raise a family, now it apparently means a relationship and a career without the crushing encumbrance of annoying, expensive, and demanding children.”
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In a new article at Intercollegiate Review, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg looks at the current state of “idea conservatives” and their place in the broader context of American conservative thought encompassing an amazing diversity of ideological subspecies. But it is ideas and core principles, more than anything else, that informs conservatism and its various movements, despite the many fractures and fissures. Gregg makes a compelling case for rooting “conservatism’s long-term agenda” in the “defense and promotion of what we should unapologetically call Western civilization.” His article is the first contribution to ISI’s symposium, “Conservatism: What’s Wrong with it and How Can We Make it Right?” Excerpt from the Gregg article:

… as the French theologian Jean Daniélou S.J. once observed, there is no true civilization that is not also religious. In the case of Western civilization, that means Judaism and Christianity. The question of religious truth is something with which we must allow every person to wrestle in the depths of their conscience. But if conservatism involves upholding the heritage of the West against those who would tear it down (whether from without and within), then conservatives should follow the lead of European intellectuals such as Rémi Brague and Joseph Ratzinger and invest far more energy in elucidating Christianity’s pivotal role in the West’s development—including the often complicated ways in which it responded to, and continues to interact, with the movements associated with the various Enlightenments.

Such an enterprise goes beyond demonstrating Christianity’s contribution to institutional frameworks such as constitutional government. Conservatives must be more attentive to how Judaism and Christianity—or at least their orthodox versions—helped foster key ideas that underlie the distinctiveness of Western culture. These include: (more…)