This past Friday, I attended the Sophia Institute annual conference. I am a fellow of Sophia and presented a short paper there on Orthodox Christian monastic enterprise. The theme of the conference this year was “Monasticism, Asceticism and Holiness in the Eastern Orthodox World.” In addition to my paper, the subjects of the keynote addresses may interest readers of the PowerBlog. (more…)
In a stunning new video, Matt Bieler strings together beautiful images and a few simple words to celebrate the work of three stay-at-home moms from three different regions of the country.
The tasks shown, like those of any mother, are numerous and varied, and those explicitly mentioned follow accordingly: breakfast-maker, sibling caretaker, teacher, cleaner, doctor, angel. “She’s with me all the time,” one child whispers.
In our celebration of work — the dignity it brings, the service it provides, the provision it leads to — how often do we neglect to remember that which is spent outside the confines of the office or the interwebs? Our modern way of thinking about “work-life balance” doesn’t help us in this regard, encouraging us to draw false divides between the punch clock and the playroom, even when, as any parent knows, the work of the latter is often far more consuming and less forgiving. (more…)
Picking up where we left off last time (in verse 9 of I Samuel 8), the prophet Samuel’s sons have given God’s system of judges a black eye with their corrupt behavior. Not wishing to be upstaged in the “Let’s Disappoint God” department, the people of Israel decide they want to up-the-sin-ante by rejecting God’s order and demanding a monarchy.
It’s now time for Samuel to share with the people what is in store for them should they refuse to course-correct.
In verse 9, at the behest of God himself, Samuel offers a “solemn” warning to his people. I note this at the start because I am of the opinion that it is always a worthwhile endeavor to give someone headed off of a cliff a fair warning. Even if you know they won’t listen, it’s always worth a shot. God knew the people had turned their hearts from Him, and He knew they would reject the council of His appointed mediator, but He told that mediator to warn them anyway.
Samuel’s task was to walk rightly with his God and obediently speak truth to his countrymen. The rest was in Yahweh’s hands. (more…)
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.
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…)
Forget Max Weber and his Protestant work ethic, says Greg Forster. We don’t need social science to know that God cares about our work:
Nothing shows the difficulty of understanding the relationship between work and faith more than our continued insistence on framing this issue as a debate over Max Weber’s long-discredited theory of the Protestant work ethic. Weber argued that Protestants value work because they think prosperity is proof that you’re saved; as anyone who knows anything about church history can tell you, this was and is slanderous nonsense. He also argued that teaching people that God values their work created an economic system that thrives on greed and materialism; as anyone who knows economic history can tell you, this is just as preposterous. Weber’s theory has been almost universally dismissed by a century of theologians, historians, and economists.
Nonetheless, Weber’s terms and categories continue to dominate popular discussions, because his approach strictly separates “facts” from “values.” This allows secularists to think about possible cultural connections between faith and work while preserving a comfortable work/spirit dualism in their own lives. That dualism is exactly what the faith and work movement seeks to challenge. As long as Weber dominates the conversation it’s difficult to get people to understand the message.