Category: Christian Social Thought

Blog author: dpahman
posted by on Tuesday, June 25, 2013

AFR_250x125_aThe audio of four lectures from Acton University last week focusing on topics related to the Orthodox Christian Tradition — two by Fr. Michael Butler, one by Fr. Gregory Jensen, and one by Fr. Hans Jacobse — is now available to stream free of charge on Ancient Faith Radio (here).

The lectures are as follows (click to listen):

If you were unable to attend these lectures or simply want to listen again, be sure to visit Ancient Faith Radio and take the time to listen (here).

If you would like to purchase the audio of the four lectures above, you can do so at our audio store (here).

In addition, we would like to thank Ancient Faith Radio again for sharing their audio with us of the Acton-St. Vladimir’s conference on Orthodoxy and Poverty last month (here).

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, June 24, 2013

oil-field-workerIf the PowerBlog has a favorite atheist libertarian economist, it’s probably George Mason professor Don Boudreaux. Although he isn’t a believer, he sometimes stumbles upon what I would consider to be Christian insights. Consider, for instance, his take on the term “natural resources”:

In nearly all contexts, words and phrases inevitably convey not only information (such as, as Deirdre would say, “telephone numbers”), but also ideas – notions – interpretations – perspectives – biases – prejudices – spins -approval or disapproval – informal theories – attitudes and judgments – unconscious conclusions. And much of all this that is conveyed by our words and phrases goes unnoticed. This fact is neither good nor bad; it’s simply part of the human condition.

Take the term “natural resources” … This phrase suggests that some things of value to human beings occur naturally – without any human effort or creativity. But that suggestion is wrong. Nothing is naturally a resource; nature alone invests nothing with resourcefulness; ultimately, resources – all resources – are created by human beings. Nature creates raw materials, but never creates resources. Raw materials and human artifacts are made into resources only if, and only when, and only insofar as, human creativity figures out a way (or ways) to employ those materials and artifacts in ways that satisfy genuine human desires.

The point, here, is that the term “natural resources” can be misleading about the role of nature in creating human bounty. Nature exists, to be sure; but human bounty is created by human creativity; nature in matters economic is not the prime mover. Nature’s role in determining who is and who isn’t materially wealthy is much smaller than we are sometimes led to believe when focusing on “natural resources.”

Here’s why I think this is a biblical insight.
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Last Friday at Acton University, Fr. Gregory Jensen gave an engaging lecture on the dual subject of asceticism and consumerism. The “East Meets West” part might not be what many would expect. Rather than contrast a consumerist West with an ascetic East, Fr. Gregory insists that both consumerism and asceticism transcend cultures and traditions. Inasmuch as all people take part in consumption, an ascetic answer to the challenge of consumerism is (or ought to be) where East meets West. The audio of Fr. Gregory’s lecture will be available on Ancient Faith Radio in the near future, but as a teaser I would like to explore some of the themes briefly here. (more…)

Today at Acton University, Fr. Michael Butler gave an engaging lecture on the subject of Orthodoxy and natural law. Despite the contemporary ambivalence among many Orthodox (if not hostility) toward natural law, Fr. Michael argues that it is present in the Eastern Tradition from the ancient to the medieval and modern periods, focusing especially on the thought of the seventh century Byzantine Saint Maximus the Confessor.

A few months ago, I observed,

While it may be that there are important differences between a Thomist understanding of natural law and an Orthodox understanding of natural law, the historic difference is most assuredly not that Thomists accept it while the Orthodox do not.

Fr. Michael’s research further strengthens this statement and helpfully highlighted some of the similarities and differences between natural law in St. Maximus and that in Aquinas. The audio of his lecture will be available on Ancient Faith Radio in the coming weeks, but in the meantime I will briefly share some of Fr. Michael’s insights here. It’s a little heady, but worth consideration. (more…)

The double-headed eagle is a historical symbol of symphonia.

Today at Acton University, Fr. Michael Butler examined the history of Church-State relations in the Orthodox Tradition with special reference to the modern, Russian context in his lecture “Orthodoxy, Church, and State.” The audio of his lecture will be available via Ancient Faith Radio sometime in the coming weeks. As a teaser, I would like to briefly examine two concepts of Orthodox political theory to which Fr. Butler devoted specific attention: symphonia and sobornost.

Due to the influence of Max Weber, symphonia is often mischaracterized as caesaropapism (a term he coined), the state in which a nation’s sovereign is supreme in all ecclesiastical matters as well as those of state. It would be, then, a complete absorption of the Church by the state. Actual historical instances of this would include (to varying degrees) the Church of England where the monarch is the head and Imperial Russia from Tsar Peter the Great’s Westernizing reforms to the Bolshevik revolution. In the latter case, as Fr. Michael noted, one can see a distortion of symphonia for the elevation of state power, but not its essence or, by far, the complete historical picture. (more…)

This morning at Acton University I attended a fascinating lecture by Dr. Edd Noell, “Origins of Economics: The Scriptures and Early Church Fathers.” I have briefly examined one ancient Christian perspective on wealth in the past (here), but Dr. Noell’s survey today was far more expansive. For the benefit of PowerBlog readers, I would like to reflect on some of the major themes of his talk here as a sort of preview of what one could expect once the audio is available for sale. (more…)

Blog author: mvandermaas
posted by on Wednesday, June 19, 2013

It is no secret that Europe is becoming less and less religious. A 2010 survey stated that only about half of Europe’s citizens believed in God, with some places (such as Sweden and the Czech Republic) registering belief in only about 20 percent of the population. And it’s not just that less people believe; it’s that there is growing hostility to religion in the EU.Slovak coin

Take for example Slovakia. The National Bank of Slovakia has ordered the removal of religious symbolism for a coin minted specifically for that nation’s celebration of the arrival of Christianity in that nation.

The coins, designed by a local artist, were intended to celebrate the 1,150th anniversary of Christianity’s arrival in Slovak lands but have instead become tokens of the faith’s retreat from contemporary Europe. They featured two evangelizing Byzantine monks, Cyril and Methodius, their heads crowned by halos and one’s robe decorated with crosses, which fell foul of European diversity rules that ban any tilt toward a single faith.

Stanislav Zvolensky, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Bratislava, that nation’s capital, is distressed by this move, saying that it shows hostility towards Christianity, which is a significant part of Slovakia’s history. Not only that, the archbishop says that Christianity has been a uniting force in Slovakia, and that should be celebrated. (more…)

A study from Harvard University and the University of Utah purports to show that merely thinking about money makes one unethical and more inclined to immoral acts. The Huffington Post reports:rolling in money

Researchers split up roughly 300 participating undergraduate students into two groups. The first group was asked to perform activities that were associated with money-related words and images, and the second group participated in activities that were unrelated to money altogether.

Afterward, the participants were asked to make a series of illicit business decisions: to act dishonestly but earn more money, for example, or to hire a candidate who would share confidential information. The students who first participated in the money-related activities were more likely to engage in unethical behavior, the researchers found.

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Every day matters. This is the very simple message of what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God and to live one’s life to the glory of God. You don’t need to be “missional.” You don’t even need to be “radical” (especially since radical commonly means “very different from the norm”).

In fact, the Bible does not encourage superlative adjectives to describe following Christ at all. Adjectival superlatives tend to create new forms of legalism whereby the work and person of Christ is no longer sufficient to be in right relationship with God. The norm is not enough. Although those promoting various adjectives have no intention of doing harm, hearers often embrace the adjective as the basis of genuine faith instead of the language of Scripture.

Young Christian adults are torn in a sea of modern adjectives that tend to become shame-filled and often debilitating burdens. Larry Osborne warns about five tribal communities that may be accidentally doing harm: (1) “Radical” Christians, (2) “Crazy” Christians, (3) “Missional” Christians, (4) “Gospel-Centered” Christians and (5) Revolutionary and Organic Christians. According to Osborne, each of these tribes has inadvertently created accidental pharisaism because if one does not live out one’s Christian life according to the norms and codes of their respective tribe one will be looked down upon. Moreover, for those within each tribe, it leaves them vulnerable to the arrogant narcissism that believes “our” tribe gets Christianity “right” while the others are substandard.
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