Although Ballor’s book is very accessible, the reading is by no means “light.” I would call it “engaging heavy reading.” While the concepts are clear and the analogies riveting, Ballor has a way of putting so much into a sentence that it can take some time to work through his ideas. I found myself time and time again putting the book down for a few minutes to digest a thought, or re-reading a paragraph to make sure I followed the contours of his thought. There is a lot here, and it is thought provoking. Whether one agrees with all of Ballor’s ideas or not, he offers clarifying insights into many aspects of Christian social thought and action. Even where I disagreed with Ballor, I found his writing helpful for articulating my own positions.
A few basic assumptions underlie Ballor’s work, assumptions that would not surprise anyone familiar with Christian tradition. Central to Ballor’s thesis is the fact that human beings are created in the imago dei, the image of God. Like God, we are naturally oriented to love. Like God, we are naturally creative and industrious. Like God, we are naturally inclined to give of ourselves for the sake of others. Of course, because of the fall of humanity into sin, these naturally inclinations and orientations have been corrupted and twisted by evil. Nevertheless, there remains a natural order of things, inherent in creation and revealed in Scripture, towards which we as responsible human persons ought to strive: love for our neighbor, care for creation, industry, community, procreation, responsible use of resources (in all senses), and mutual recognition and respect of one another’s humanity.
One particularly poignant theme that Ballor strikes home again and again in the book is the nature of human beings as social persons in community, and the corresponding responsibility that we have to that community, which always was, but increasingly (and obviously) is global.
While Christians in the West are often faced with moral temptations and dilemmas regarding our faith life, we do not – for the most part – know the persecution faced by our brothers and sisters in places such as Syria, Iran, Pakistan and other countries where Christians are openly persecuted. Archbishop Amel Shamon Nona heads the Chaldean Catholic eparchy of Mosul, Iraq, and knows just this type of persecution. He writes at National Review Online that there is a way for Christians to face these very difficult times: (more…)
Pastor Christopher Brooks, Campus Dean at Moody Theological Seminary in Detroit, Mich., gave the opening remarks and blessing at Acton’s 23rd Annual Dinner on October 24, 2013. As a graduate of Acton University, Pastor Brooks shared the things he has learned from the Acton Institute and how those apply to the people he serves.
This book offers pastors who minister to urban congregations ways to connect the Word of God to the urban experience.
If you are looking for good data to provide a reminder that America has lost the “War On Poverty,” Michael Tanner has compiled helpful information explaining the current state of the union in the study titled, “The American Welfare State: How We Spend Nearly $1 Trillion a Year Fighting Poverty — And Fail.” Tanner begins by noting that we are now at a point where annually,
[T]he federal government will spend more than $668 billion on at least 126 different programs to fight poverty. And that does not even begin to count welfare spending by state and local governments, which adds $284 billion to that figure. In total, the United States spends nearly $1 trillion every year to fight poverty. That amounts to $20,610 for every poor person in America, or $61,830 per poor family of three.
While welfare spending has continued to increase, poverty rates in America have basically remained the same as they were 40 years ago. In fact, though we as a nation have spent nearly $15 trillion in total welfare spending since Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty in 1964, several families in rural and inner-city America continue to be trapped in generational cycles of dependency. Something is not working.
The Bible does not have a detailed plan for how the government of a modern nation of 300 million people should operate. If you’re looking for specifics on what the United States’ tariff policy with Finland ought to be, you’re plum out of luck. If you want canonical guidance as to the precise degree of control the filibuster should have over legislative proceedings in the U.S. Senate, you’re barking up the wrong tree.
With plenty of issues in the socio-political and economic realms left unaddressed, the earnest Believer is building upon the certain, clear-cut revelations in Scripture as he or she constructs a cohesive worldview. We must work to avoid the temptation to let emotional responses dictate what policies and practices we will adopt as individuals, families, and as a nation. (more…)
I had the opportunity today to take part in a discussion on the BBC program World Have Your Say, discussing the recent suspension by the Vatican of the Bishop of Limbu, Germany, Franz-Peter Tebartz-van-Elst, known in the German press as the “bishop of bling.” He is under investigation regarding expenditures of 31 million euros (roughly $41 million) for the renovation of the historic building that served, in part, as his residence. This story (which can be read here) served as a springboard for the broader question: Should religious leaders live a modest life?
One point I wish had been examined a little more (though it is briefly mentioned at the end) is that of redemption. Much was said of how one needs to handle one’s wealth well, but little was said of what hope there may be for someone who has misused their wealth or even who may simply be overly attached to it. While Christ warned, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God,” he continues to condition this statement by saying, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:25, 27). As St. Paul writes, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9) — rich in holiness and virtue, heavenly treasures that do not wear out.
Listen to the interview at BBC World Service here.
Japan is a nation going under, demographically speaking. It is estimated that Japan will lose 10 million people in population over the next ten years. Like many nations, Japan is not having babies fast enough to keep its population stable. One reason: what the Japanese are calling “sekkusu shinai shokogun, or ‘celibacy syndrome.'” Young people don’t want to date, be intimate, get married, have sex. (more…)
When it comes to political policy, Christians in America have a wide-range of opinions about what should be done. Even when we agree on a general principle, we tend to disagree about how that informs our policy choices. We recognize, for instance, that we have an obligation to care for the poor but differ on the type and degree of government involvement.
Such differences can lead us to believe that there is nothing we can agree on. But I don’t believe that is true. There are indeed some issues that all Bible-believing Christians should be able to agree on.
One such area of potential agreement is paying debts. The Bible is clear that believers are to pay what we owe. The Apostle Paul tells us, “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed . . .” (Romans 13:7). Similarly, the Psalmist warns that, “The wicked borrows but does not pay back . . .” (Psalm 37:21). And Proverbs tells us, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.” (Proverbs 3:27-28).
The Bible is clear that when an individual incurs a debt they are required, to the best of their ability, to pay what they owe. But does this same principle apply to governments?
Acton Director of Research Samuel Gregg joined host Raymond Arroyo last Thursday evening on EWTN’s The World Over to discuss his latest book, Tea Party Catholic, and addressed some of the common objections Catholic proponents of limited government often encounter.
In Tea Party Catholic, Samuel Gregg draws upon Catholic teaching, natural law theory, and the thought of the only Catholic Signer of America's Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll of Carrollton—the first “Tea Party Catholic”—to develop a Catholic case for the values and institutions associated with the free economy, limited government, and America's experiment in ordered liberty. Beginning with the nature of freedom and human flourishing, Gregg underscores the moral and economic benefits of business and markets as well as the welfare state's problems. Gregg then addresses several related issues that divide Catholics in America. These include the demands of social justice, the role of unions, immigration, poverty, and the relationship between secularism and big government.
One the best arguments against the growing tentacles of the social assistance welfare state into the lives of people who are suffering is the practice of the Christian practice of adoption and orphan care.
Progressives often charge classical liberals and conservatives as being heartless toward the poor because only progressives are willing to make sacrifices for the poor. Of course, the progressive method is usually to use force to solicit the help. Nevertheless, one of the ways in which Christians have stood out in their respective societies in various countries throughout the world for nearly 2,000 years is by practicing the public virtue of adopting the children that others cannot raise or do not want to raise, and caring for orphans. It is derived from a clear teaching in the book of James: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (1:27, ESV). Adoption is simply an extension of what it means to love God and love neighbor (Matt 22:36-40).
A few days ago, a couple I know told an amazing story of adopting a newborn: