Archived Posts June 2005 - Page 6 of 11 | Acton PowerBlog

As noted in an earlier post, this week is marks the 790th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. Five years ago, Religion & Liberty published a series of essays on foundational documents in the history of Western civilization, or, as Edmund Burke called it, "this fierce spirit of liberty." The first of these essays was on the Magna Carta, "In the Meadow That Is Called Runnymede." Here are the others:

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, June 16, 2005
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Recent news about debt relief for poor African nations might give the impression that governmental corruption, inefficiency, and irresponsibility are unique to developing countries. This is simply not so.

Take, for example, the situation of the United States government. As of June 14, 2005, the total outstanding U.S. public debt is $7,804,534,405,437.48. That amounts to a share of debt for each U.S. citizen of just over $26,000.

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, June 16, 2005
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With the G8 countries preparing to cancel $40 billion in debt owed by several African countries, a fresh start is promised. But what has really changed?

Check out Acton commentary related to African aid and debt forgiveness at our “Aid to Africa” special section. Here you can find an interview with the Rt. Rev. Bernard Njoroge, bishop of the diocese of Nairobi in the Episcopal Church of Africa, and a member of the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission, and Chansi Chanda, chairman of the Institute of Freedom for the Study of Human Dignity in Kitwe, Zambia. In this insightful interview, these two African leaders discuss the debt cancellation agreement and the moral nature of business.

Blog author: jcouretas
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
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Reuven Hammer writes about the rabbinic interpretation of the Ten Commandments in a Jerusalem Post article titled, “On Judaism: True Freedom.” He talks about a contemporary understanding of freedom as something that is simply free of all constraint.

We moderns tend to see freedom as the ability to do whatever we want whenever we want and to view any limitations on that as tyranny or slavery. The rabbis seem to be saying exactly the opposite. They see true freedom as residing within self-imposed discipline. Consider the Ten Commandments. They indeed limit our “freedom.” If we observe them, we are not free to rob, murder, commit adultery, abuse or abandon our parents and so forth. The teaching of the rabbis is that only when we accept these limitations have we attained freedom from the urges to do the things that enslave us to our baser selves. By exchanging slavery to our instincts for slavery to the will of God, we attain freedom.

Hammer’s exposition recalls the famous quote of Lord Acton: “Liberty is not the power of doing what we like, but the right of being able to do what we ought.”

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
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The book tag meme has made the rounds of the blogosphere, and here I was sitting, eagerly awaiting someone to tag me. This will have to do. Thanks to Jimmy Akin for tagging “all the bloggers reading this who haven’t already been infected by the meme.”

  • Total number of books I own: In the hundreds. We just moved so many are still in boxes, and I haven’t counted recently. But I tend not to get rid of a book if I paid for it unless I’m sure I’ll never need to reference it again. Although this might make me change that policy.

  • The last book I bought: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Ethics, the new critical translation and edition from the most excellent Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works.
  • The last book I read was: The last book I read and finished (I have many in various stages of progress) was Stanley Hauerwas’ Performing the Faith: Bonhoeffer and the Practice Nonviolence. It was pretty much an odious book, bereft of actual scholarship on Bonhoeffer, making the title very misleading. To get a sense of it, here’s an excerpt from an interview Hauerwas did about the book: Speaking of Bonhoeffer, if he had lived, “people would have been very surprised by his conservative theological position — and by conservative I mean only that he was thoroughly orthodox in his convictions and Barthian all the way down.” I wouldn’t have thought it would be possible to be orthodox and Barthian “all the way down,” but that’s essentially Hauerwas’ read of Bonhoeffer, quickly dismissing or ignoring any counterevidence and reading him as an utter pacifistic disciple of Barth. A review of the book is forthcoming in the next issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality.
  • Five books that mean a lot to me: We’ve mentioned Bonhoeffer enough, so I’ll refrain from mentioning any of his books.
    1. Henderson the Rain King, by Saul Bellow. I first read this in college and it was a revolutionary experience.
    2. Grendel, by John Gardner. A hilariously entertaining and irreverent existentialist romp, from the perspective of Beowulf’s nemesis.
    3. J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. These books were an early and formative foray into moral fantasy.
    4. The Book of Concord. My examination of these texts led me from membership in the Lutheran church to become a confessing member of the CRC and adherent to the Reformed confessions.
    5. Church History: An Introduction to Research, Reference Works, and Methods, by James E. Bradley and Richard A. Muller. An indispensible resource for learning the methods and practice of scholarship, both in general and from an historical theology perspective.

As stated above, everyone is tagged, so we’re all it! You can read some other interesting lists here, here, and here.

The One Campaign, an advocacy group formed by international relief agencies that is promoting greater U.S. spending on foreign aid, has drawn support from prominent evangelical Christians and a pack of celebrities including U2’s Bono. But Anthony Bradley observes that the campaign, with its focus on greater governmental action rather than personal sacrifice, “promotes a depersonalized and sterile form of help characteristic of the secular appeal to radical individualism.”

Read the full text here.

Blog author: jcouretas
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
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For its All-American Council in Toronto next month, the Orthodox Church in America has issued a study paper on its relations with sister Orthodox churches and the wider ecumenical community. While the paper is advertised as nothing more than "fodder for deliberations," it nonetheless makes a strong recommendation for cutting the ties with the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches. Chiefly, the OCA notes that this pull-out makes sense in light of the "liberal advocacy role" of the ecumenists.

The OCA, the former North American mission diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, is merely acknowledging the obvious: The National Council of Churches has become so partisan, so political, that it cannot hope to influence the Christian faithful who haven’t already adopted its left-liberal ideologies. The NCC has become a sort of para-church organization for people who believe the Gospel is a blueprint for big government solutions, pacifism and eat-the-rich economics. It’s the type of thing Howard Dean would have been attracted to had he gone to seminary.

The OCA notes (see p. 13 and following) that "it is not enough to be ‘against’ the distortions we see in the present ecumenical environment. It is important to present a vision of Christian unity we are ‘for.’" Amen. The church goes a step further, noting that "ecumenical Christian relations should be sought with conservative Christian bodies." It will also exercise caution that any ties to conservative groups should not put it into the same predicament it has now with the NCC: identification with a partisan political group.

Let’s hope this is the first of many such reassessments by Orthodox churches in the United States about their disastrous involvement with the NCC. The Orthodox have been used by the NCC as a decorative window dressing, a bit of First Millennium authenticity, which lends its efforts a patina of moral legitimacy. The Roman Catholics, the Pentecostals, and many other Protestant denominations have had the good sense to stay out of this embarrassing mess.

For more insights on the NCC’s shameless political agitation, see OrthodoxyToday.org’s NCC Resource Page.