Category: Christian Social Thought

I was reading through Abraham Kuyper’s inaugural speech at the founding of the Free University in Amsterdam, in which he lays out his vision of “sphere sovereignty,” and this passage struck me as particularly noteworthy. It is reminiscent of the appeal that Aslan makes to the “Deeper Magic” wrought at the dawn of creation in Narnia (and by which, incidentally, he overcomes the tyrannical claims to absolute sovereignty made by the White Witch):

Sphere sovereignty defending itself against State sovereignty: that is the course of world history even back before the Messiah’s sovereignty was proclaimed. For though the Royal Child of Bethlehem protects sphere sovereignty with His shield, He did not create it. It existed of old. It lay in the order of creation, in the structure of human life; it was there before State sovereignty arose.

Kuyper goes on to say much more about sphere sovereignty, including the historical form the struggle between sphere and State sovereignty has taken.

Read “Sphere Sovereignty” in Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader, ed. James D. Bratt (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998). There’s also another version of the speech available here.

And check out more details on the ongoing work of the Abraham Kuyper Translation Society.

new-york-cityLarge cities in the northeast like Boston, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, and so on, are often caricatured as wastelands of non-religious, unchurched, overtly secular theaters. Caricatures of this type seem odd given the fact that many of America’s oldest religious institutions are actively operating in those regions. One of my friends is quick to point out that every week people sit on church pews in northeastern churches that older than many states out west. For example, by looking at the Christian presence in the New York City area alone, research shows that the northeast might not be as religiously barren as many believe.

I recently contacted Tony Carnes, editor and publisher of A Journey through NYC Religions, to set the record straight on the New York City area. Since 2010, Carnes and his team have visited thousands of religious houses of worship, from all religious traditions cataloging the religious activity in New York City. In light of what he and his team have seen on the ground, Carnes has come to the conclusion that the best description of New York City is that it is a “post secular” city—a condition somewhere between a secular and sacred.
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What is the best test of the common good? How do you know if you have a society characterized by the flourishing of persons in community? Andy Crouch argues that we should look at the flourishing of the most vulnerable.

“There are all kinds of conditions in which the affluent, privileged, powerful majority can flourish,” notes Crouch in his talk at QIdeas in Nashville. “But the far more demanding test in any society is the fate of the most vulnerable—the youngest, the oldest, the most frail, the most marginalized.”

Crouch contends that “If you care about the flourishing of persons—especially the vulnerable in community—you will care about freedom of religion.”

(Via: Justin Taylor)

JuniusCoverCLP Academic has now released The Mosaic Polity, the first-ever English translation of Franciscus Junius’ De Politiae Mosis Observatione, a treatise on Mosaic law and contemporary political application. The release is part of the growing series from Acton: Sources in Early Modern Economics, Ethics, and Law.

Junius (1545–1602) was a Reformed scholar and theologian at the Universities of Heidelberg and Leiden, and is known for producing a popular Latin translation of the Bible and De theologia vera, which became “a standard textbook in theological prolegomena among Reformed Protestants.”

In their introduction, editor Andrew McGinnis and translator Todd Rester offer more on the historical context and the questions Junius aims to answer, explaining how he was “personally called upon by ‘good men’” to “address the contemporary political implications of the laws of Moses.” (more…)

acton-commentary-blogimage“’Sustainability’ has become big business, especially at universities,” says Kishore Jayabalan in this week’s Acton Commentary. “If there ever was an elitist/populist wedge issue, this is it, with Pope Francis and the Holy See on the wrong side of it.”

So what exactly is meant by “sustainability”? The term originates in 1987 with the World Commission on Environment and Development’s report entitled Our Common Future: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Sounds reasonable enough, but the concept is so broad as to be meaningless. The 2002 UN Summit on Sustainable Development, which I attended as a delegate of the Holy See, came ten years after the Rio Earth Summit and sought to balance social, economic and environmental concerns. The concept today seems to be about fighting poverty while tackling climate change (as in a “new climate economy”). Once again, who can be against it? And what are we supposed to do about it?

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

Blog author: bwalker
Monday, June 1, 2015
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In the spirit of PowerLinks, we’ll be adding a regular roundup on news concerning Pope Francis’ forthcoming encyclical on the environment and, more broadly, religious witness on environmental stewardship outside the Roman Catholic Church. This may be a daily PowerBlog feature, or you may see it less frequently depending on the volume of news and commentary on the subject. If you haven’t got to it yet, make sure you watch Rev. Robert A. Sirico’s excellent commentary on the encyclical, which was posted on Friday. We welcome your comments and please feel free to add links we may have missed. We’re looking for a robust exchange. That means we don’t necessarily need to agree with your position. But please keep the conversation civil and refrain from personal attacks.

Pope’s environmental encyclical to be titled ‘Laudato Sii’ (Praised Be You)
Elise Harris, Catholic News Agency

Taken from St. Francis of Assisi’s “Canticle of the Sun” prayer praising God for creation, the likely name of the Pope’s upcoming encyclical was informally announced just weeks before its anticipated publication.

The upcoming “environment” encyclical, “human ecology”, and the everlasting pains of Hell
Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, Fr. Z’s Blog

Some say that the Pope’s next encyclical – on the “environment” – will be called “Laudato sii“. Some say that that’s Latin. No. It isn’t. It’s the 13th Umbrian which St. Francis of Assisi would have known and in which he penned his Canticle of the Sun.

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Thou-shall-not-steal-600x360When is the last time you broke the eighth commandment? (Depending on how you count them, that usually the one about “Thou shalt not steal.”)

Most of us would say we never (or almost never) break that one rule. We’re not thieves. We’re not swindler. We’re not plunderers. We don’t break that one at all.

Or do we?

As Kevin DeYoung (and the Heidelberg Catechism) point out, the eighth commandment forbids more than outright robbery:
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least_of_theseThere are a lot of phrases that people assume are in the Bible that are not only not in the text but may not even be biblical (cleanliness is next to godliness, God helps those who help themselves, etc.). There are also a number of biblical ideas that are in the Bible but are attributed to the wrong passage.

A common example is use of the biblical phrase “least of these” (Matt. 25:40, 46) to refer to our fellow citizens who are in poverty or in need. The Bible has a lot to say about poverty—but this phrase is not necessarily talking about the poor. As Denny Burk explains, this is a classic case of right doctrine, wrong text:
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Prof. Harry Veryser stars in a new video from ISI that explores some of the lessons about private property, rights, responsibilities, and stewardship that can be gleaned from the thought of Thomas Aquinas.

For a much more in-depth exposition of the connections between and lessons from Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, check out John Mueller’s Redeeming Economics (ISI, 2010). For more, check out a slate of review essays on Mueller’s book published in Research in the History of Economic Thought & Methodology, including a piece by me, “The Economies of Divine and Human Love.”

Blog author: jballor
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
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Madeleine lengle.jpg

This week the University Bookman published an essay in which I reflect on some of the lessons we can learn from Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, especially related to the recent discovery of an excised section. L’Engle, I argue, is part of a longer tradition of classical conservative thought running, in the modern era, from Burke to Kirk.

Although L’Engle’s narrative vision is drenched in Christianity, she is often thought of holding to a rather liberal, rather than traditional or conservative, form of the faith. However, in an intriguing essay published as part of an edited collection by Regnery in 1986, L’Engle describes what the proper role of the church, particularly of her Episcopal church, ought to be with respect to social realities.

I discovered this piece while doing some research for my own small book on the economic teachings of the ecumenical movement. In “What May I Expect from My Church?” the question she raises with respect to the “Anglican establishment” was precisely the one that interested me with respect to the ecumenical movement: “Where and how do I want my establishment to inject itself into secular controversies?”
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