Category: Christian Social Thought

MyWayYourWayI recently had an exchange with a Duke Divinity School student regarding many of things I’ve written at the Acton Institute over the past 12 years. The student said this about me:

When it comes to speaking comfort to power and castigating the most vulnerable in our society, there is perhaps no public theological voice more eager than that of Anthony Bradley’s. His body of work is a textbook in blaming the victim and reducing problems to pathology.

Not only had the student actually not read most of the things that I have written but the comment exposes something that Jonathan Haidt explains well that I’ve talked about before: ideological “tribalism.”
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soil-hands-web“A Christian society is not going to arrive until most of us really want it: and we are not going to want it until we become fully Christian… I cannot learn to love my neighbour as myself till I learn to love God: and I cannot learn to love God except by learning to obey Him.” –C.S. Lewis

In Economic Shalom, John Bolt’s Reformed primer on faith, work, and economics, he includes a chapter on how we might understand flourishing in the social order through “a biblical understanding of the human person, created in God’s image and living in God’s world.”

Bolt reviews a variety of different areas and approaches, providing a firm critique of top-down social planners who, in their attempts to impose utopia, far too often impede, distort, or destroy the positive manifestations of organic and spontaneous order that already exist, whether in churches, schools, businesses, communities, or the family. That’s not to say such planners don’t have some role to play or vocation to fulfill, but it must be constrained accordingly and focused toward that which is productive and possible.

As political theorist Kenneth Minogue explains: “We could never produce a crystal by directly placing [i.e., mechanically] the individual molecules from which it is built up. But we can create the conditions under which such a crystal will form itself. . . . Similarly, we can create the conditions under which a biological organism will grow and develop” (507–8). (more…)

Reading through the German economist Walter Eucken’s work The Foundation of Economics (1951), I came across one of the most helpful charts for economic analysis I have yet to find. In it, Eucken gives every possible form of market in a single table:

Eucken Chart

The Foundation of Economics, p. 158

Eucken adds four qualifications that are important to keep in mind:

  1. “These forms of market are actual forms which have been or are to be found in actual economic life (often blended with one another, and existing alongside the forms of a centrally directed economy). They are not given a priori. They are discovered with their distinguishing characteristics by studying the planning data of those taking part in the market….”
  2. “Under each particular form of market a man can act according to different principles, for example, that of maximum net receipts or that of optimum output….”
  3. “Each of these forms of market can appear in four types: both open, both closed, or closed on either side only.”
  4. “Fixing of prices by the state occupies a special position, since it can follow any form of market and has different effects accordingly…. For example, the significance of coal prices being fixed by the state varies according to whether perfectly competitive, oligopolistic, or monopolistic supply, or some other form of market, exists, or whether both sides of the market are open, or whether the supply side is closed by an investment veto. Governmental price-fixing is to be treated as a variant of the different market forms and not as a special market form of its own.”

So, what does this amount to? (more…)

news4.wideaIf you live or work in a city you likely pass them on the streets and sidewalks every day. Holding a sign reading “Homeless, please help” or an old coffee cup to collect spare change, the itinerant panhandlers and chronic homeless look you in the eye and ask for your money.

What do you do in such situations? What should you do?

Jim Antle recounts some of the experiences he’s had with panhandlers and explains why he gives them money:
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140621-world-iraq-border-file-6a_62087f8de527aaa365a9bd952f19bed7Christians from a broad range of traditions — from Chaldean Catholics to Southern Baptists — are uniting in a call for military action against a common enemy: ISIS. As Mark Tooley notes, the persecution of religious believers by the Islamic extremists has “reanimated talk about Christian Just War teaching.”

Citing the call by Iraq’s Chaldean Patriarch for military intervention, a group of prominent Christian thinkers, with others, has declared that “nothing short of the destruction of ISIS/ISIL as a fighting force will provide long-term protection of victims.” Urging U.S. and international help for local forces against ISIS, they assert that “no options that are consistent with the principles of just war doctrine should be off the table.” They want expanded U.S. air strikes against ISIS and U.S. arms for the Kurds, among others. The most prominent church official on this list is the Southern Baptist Convention’s chief public policy spokesman.

Pope Francis has seemingly agreed, at least obliquely, about the morality of force against ISIS. He said on Monday in flight home from South Korea:“In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor.” Plus, “I underscore the verb ‘stop.’ I’m not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ just ‘stop.’ And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated.” Pope John Paul II is recalled speaking similarly during the 1990s Bosnian genocide. But typically pontiffs speak unequivocally against war.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
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The_Church_is_a_PartyChristians frequently talk about “stewardship,” but what do we mean when we use that term? And more importantly, what should we mean by it?

At The Gospel Coalition, Stephen J. Grabill, director of programs and international for the Acton Institute, discusses what it means to have a holistic understanding of stewardship and what it means to “make the kingdom of God visible and tangible to the world”:

Although Christians across denominational lines often use stewardship language to describe our calling to live out God’s mission in the world, what we mean theologically by “stewardship” varies greatly across religious traditions. Some think stewardship is tithing; others think it means volunteering or living a simple lifestyle. Still others identify stewardship with environmental conservation, social action of some kind or another, charitable giving, or making disciples through evangelism.

Each of these good and necessary activities points to an essential facet of stewardship, but each—on its own—falls shy of capturing the inspiring vision of biblical stewardship as a form of whole-life discipleship that embraces every legitimate vocation and calling to fulfill God’s mission in the world. In this sense, holistic stewardship, transformational generosity, workplace ministry, business as mission, and the theology of work movement all share a common point of origin in the biblical view of mission as whole-life discipleship. In other words, the essence of stewardship is about finding your place—that is, all the dimensions of your many callings—in God’s economy of all things (oikonomia).

Read more . . .

FLOW-gifOver at Capital Commentary, Byron Borger offers some valuable reflections and rather extensive praise for the Acton Institute’s new educational DVD series, For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a visually enjoyable Christian educational video curriculum,” he writes, “and I know I’ve never seen one so thoughtfully inspiring about a foundational Christian view of creation, culture, social life, and redemption.”

Indeed, FLOW offers a peculiar blend of artistic beauty and educational oomph. FLOW excels and exceeds at both showing and telling, and does so in a way that not only captures the mind, but instills a deeper, meditative longing in the heart for restoration and renewal across all spheres of life.

As Borger aptly captures, the series is unique in the way it unleashes the imagination toward a fuller, more nuanced vision for cultural engagement.

The teaching interviews and bold cinematography are so artfully expressed, though, that the blend of neo-Calvinist and conservative Catholic social theories that form some of the theoretical/theological background of the films are hardly noticeable; they are what Calvin Seerveld would call “suggestion-rich” and allusive. And they are often illustrated, not preached, with curious narratives and fantastic footage in settings as diverse as Makoto Fujimura’s art studio and Dr. Tim Royer’s Neurocore clinic which studies brain-related neurological issues. (more…)

Rembrandt_Jeremiah_lamentingThe barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers, said Alasdair MacIntyre, they have already been governing us for quite some time. About the best we can hope for at this stage of history, he wrote in his influential book After Virtue, is “the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us.”

“We are waiting not for a Godot,” concluded MacIntyre, “but for another—doubtless very different—St. Benedict.”

My friend Rod Dreher has built upon this insight by suggesting Christians consider the “Benedict Option”: communal withdrawal from the mainstream, for the sake of sheltering one’s faith and family from corrosive modernity and cultivating a more traditional way of life.

While the Benedict Option is somewhat appealing, I’ve always found as an evangelical a sufficient reason for rejecting that approach: my people tried it; it didn’t work.
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Photo Credit: Washington Post

In a time when U.S. journalism too often feels dominated by infotainment on television and blog/opinion pseudo-news in print and on the internet, it is sad to see instances of real journalism, seeking to act as a check on corruption in the public sphere, being suppressed by that very corruption. But such has been the case, recently, in Ferguson, Mo.

In the wake of the death of the unarmed teenager Michael Brown, shot by Ferguson police (according to witnesses with his arms raised in the air), protests and riots have erupted in the suburb.

In the midst of this, many reporters gathered to cover the story. On Wednesday, however, two reporters would become the story. Wesley Lowrey of the Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post were arrested while they were taking advantage of the free WiFi at a local McDonald’s. Lowrey tells his story: (more…)

Blog author: ehilton
Thursday, August 7, 2014
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Archbishop Charles J. Chaput

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput

There are days when I almost give into despair. When I read stories like this, I think all is lost. Humanity is not worth a bucket of warm spit.

Thankfully, good men like Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia beg to differ. Today at Public Discourse, Chaput offers his thoughts on how culture can be saved, and the answer is Christianity. (Please read the entire piece; it is worth every moment of your busy day.)

Chaput begins by stating the basic facts of natural law, and how good human law must stand on this. He reminds us that, without natural law, “human rights have no teeth.” Rights separated from natural law become “inhuman.” Chaput recalls another basic of political and legal philosophy: laws are meant to help us be good. They may restrict us, but only in positive ways. They create justice, peace and ultimately freedom. He then discusses the argument that one should not force one’s morality on anyone else. (more…)