Category: Christian Social Thought

vineyardworkersThere is an old preachers’ tale of a young man who turned to the Bible for guidance on making decisions. Using the text as a divining rod, he would flip through Scripture and let his finger land on a verse, using the result as a divine insight into how he should decide.

One day while wondering what to do with his life, he flipped his Bible open and pointed to Matthew 27:5. He read, “[Judas] went and hanged himself.” He decided to try again and on the second attempt landed on Luke 10:37, “Go and do likewise.” He tried flipping one more time and arrived at John 13:27, “What you do, do quickly.”

Although we might find the story amusing, most of us Christians have done something similar ourselves. Eventually, though, most of us outgrow the “flip and point” method of guidance. As we mature in our faith we begin to recognize that just because the Bible is the word of God does not make it a sanctified Ouija board that will answer whatever questions we might ask. Unfortunately, we often discard such childish approach only to replace them with more sophisticated, yet equally flawed, hermeneutical methods. Once such approach is what philosopher Roy Clouser calls the encyclopedic assumption:

GPaolo_II_RNAg2Modern Catholic social teaching has been articulated, as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops notes, through a tradition of papal, conciliar, and episcopal documents. These documents developed a number of themes related to economic and social policy, such as the option for the poor and vulnerable and the dignity of work and the rights of workers. Because of this focus, Catholic social teaching on economics is often associated with the political left.

But is that a fair assessment? James Baresel argues that it is not. “Unfortunately, the idea that Catholic teaching on what our inelegant vernacular has dubbed “socio-economic matters” implies a left-wing agenda is an error not limited to outright adherents of the left,” says Baresel. “There have been conservatives—both Catholic and non-Catholic—who have bought into this contention and so opposed what they have wrongly considered to be the teaching of the Church.”

As Baresel points out, several encyclicals endorse the normal functioning of the market and its normal consequences:

animal-humanEarlier this month the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced it is planning to lift its ban on federal funding of some research that creates chimeras by injecting human stem cells into animal embryos. The policy change raises significant ethical concerns, both about the prudence of creating animal-human hybrids and legitimacy of using taxpayer funding for such controversial research.

Unfortunately, while many people are unfamiliar with the research, it is not a new development. Chinese scientists began in 2003 by fusing human cells with rabbit eggs to produce the first human-animal chimeras. And a few years later researchers at the Mayo Clinic created pigs with human blood in their veins and scientists at the University of Nevada created sheep whose livers and hearts are largely human.

Thankfully, some Christians have already helped lay the groundwork for how we should think about this research. Almost exactly a decade ago, Acton senior research fellow Jordan Ballor wrote a five part series presenting a biblical-theological case against the creation of certain kinds of human-animal chimeras: Part I, II, III, IV, V.

Christians can’t afford to ignore this issue for another decade, so take the time today to begin developing an informed opinion about this controversy.


power-over-churchIn theaters this week is a new film about an FBI agent who goes undercover to find and stop white supremacists. While the movie looks like a standard thriller the title is unusual: Imperium.

Imperium isn’t a word we hear very often today. It comes from the Latin for “command” or “empire” and referred to the supreme executive power in the Roman state, involving both military and judicial authority. The word would later be adopted for the term imperator (emperor), a title for the supreme authority within a state.

Today, in Western nations, the state itself is often viewed as the imperium. As Jonathan Leeman points out, the state alone has the power over life and death—the power of the sword.

So if you want to start a business or a school, you need the state’s permission. The same is true for soccer clubs, trade unions, or charity organizations. They exist by permission of the state, and the state regulates them. They don’t regulate the state. They don’t have imperium.

While the state has ultimate power over soccer clubs and trade unions, does it have the same authority over churches? No, it doesn’t. As Leeman explains,

jonathanedwardsAsk most Americans what they know about Jonathan Edwards and they are most likely to mention reading “”Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” in high school. Being known for preaching the most famous sermon in U.S. history is no small accomplishment. But Edwards was one of our country’s foremost intellectuals and (arguably) our greatest Protestant theologian.

He was also, as Greg Forster notes in an article for TGC, a champion of economic justice. As Forster says, Edwards believed that economic justice and gospel proclamation should not be separated:

pro_regeHow do we live in a fallen world under Christ the King?

In partnership with the Acton Institute, Lexham Press has now released Pro Rege: Living Under Christ the King, Volume 1, the first in a three-volume series on the lordship of Christ.

Originally written as a series of articles for readers of De Herault (The Herald), the work was designed for “the rank and file of the Calvinist community in the Netherlands,” not academic theologians, offering a uniquely accessible view into Kuyper’s thinking on the role of the church in the world.

In their introduction, editors John Kok and Nelson Kloosterman describe it as “fundamentally correlative and complementary” to Kuyper’s other seminal volumes on this topic, the Common Grace series and his 1898 Lectures on Calvinism. As with those other works, the Pro Rege series offers evangelicals a robust framework for cultural engagement, including a range of specific teaching and guidance on how to be “in but not of the world.” (more…)

Bill-of-Rights-672x372Our rights as Americans are considered unalienable, says Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint, only because they were inherent in the natural order of life established by the laws of nature and nature’s God.

While musing on the writings of author and philosopher G.K. Chesterton in his personal notebook, a young John F. Kennedy wrote, “Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason why it was put up.” Fences hold things in we want to keep close, and protect us from things we want to keep out. But Chesterton and JFK were not making a point about physical fences. They were speaking of the ideas, principles, and institutions that surround the things that make life worth living, and protect us from threats to those things we value and love.

This is sort of fence we are currently “taking down” in America. Since its inception, America has been surrounded and protected by a unique set of ideas that created the strongest, most prosperous, most secure and compassionate land of opportunity that has ever existed. These ideas were considered by America’s founders to be “self-evident” because they were based on the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” (from the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence).

Read more . . .