Archived Posts June 2005 - Page 8 of 11 | Acton PowerBlog

The Wall Street Journal editorializes today on the latest thuggish brutality from one of Africa’s saddest stories – Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe (subscription required):

One of Africa’s poorest countries, Zimbabwe, is suffering through a brutal forced relocation reminiscent of the Khmer Rouge’s “ruralization.” Hundreds of thousands of people in and around the capital, Harare, have been evicted from their homes, which are then bulldozed under the order of dictator Robert Mugabe, the poster child for Africa’s governance problem.

The United Nations says that in less than four weeks at least 200,000 people have been displaced; other estimates are closer to one million. On one night alone, May 26, more than 10,000 people in a north Harare community called Hatcliffe Extension reportedly lost their homes.

Zimbabwe is probably the worst example of the type of corruption that keeps African economies from developing and turns well-intentioned foriegn aid into an expensive failure. Robert Mugabe seems to be uniquely gifted in the dark arts of corruption and brutality:

Mr. Mugabe is the same leader whose theft of land from white farmers nearly pushed his once-thriving nation into famine. He calls this latest exercise in social engineering “Operation Murambatsvina,” or “Drive Out the Rubbish.” And it’s not only residents who are being shooed away: Street vendors are also banished, even though most Zimbabweans are out of work.

Cleaning up urban blight is not Mr. Mugabe’s real objective, however. By sub-Saharan African standards, many of the condemned dwellings were more than adequate. The evictees’ crime was living in areas that are increasingly opposed to Mr. Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party, an unacceptable challenge to the man who has misruled Zimbabwe for 25 years. The cash-strapped government also wants to reduce the size of the black market — the only part of the country’s economy that still functions with some efficiency.

If only the barbarism of the Mugabe government could be put aside, Zimbabwe could be the breadbasket of Africa. Unfortunately, the same sort of situation plays itself out on a smaller scale across the heart of Africa. Those who call for vast increases in the amount of government to government aid for Africa need to keep this fact in mind: until a solid foundation of civil society is built and corruption is greatly reduced, increasing aid to African governments will probably not help. Indeed, it will be like building a house on the sand – foolishness.

For more information on the tragedy unfolding in Zimbabwe, be sure to check out the This is Zimbabwe blog.

Update: New link for This is Zimbabwe here.

In an informative interview via Christianity Today’s Money&, Dan Miller gives good guidance for people to become entrepreneurs. He’s a big proponent of the side business, which could take as little as 5 hours per week. He says,

Wealth isn’t earned by the hour. It’s made with ideas. We tend to associate income earned with hours worked in the traditional workplace. The person who’s making $8 an hour wants to make $10. The person who’s making $10 wants to make $15. But if they really want to change their financial situation dramatically, it has nothing to do with how many dollars they make per hour. It has to do with how they develop an idea.

But part of what Miller is talking about is the finding of one’s vocation within these side projects. Many people start out with a side business, which they enjoy so much and are so productive doing that the side business becomes their main work. A good part of what Miller does is ask people the right questions, to make them really think about what they want to be doing in life.

In case Clark Pinnock refuses to take theology lessons from Loretta Lynn, perhaps he might deign to do so from Luther. Here he is on Genesis 6:

But here another question is raised. Moses says: “God saw that all the thoughts of man were evil.” Likewise: “and He was sorry that He had made man.” Now if God foresees everything, why does Moses say that God saw only now? If God is wise, how can it happen that He repents of something He did? Why did He not see this sin or this corrupt nature of man from the beginning of the world? Why does Scripture attribute to God a temporal will, vision, and counsel in this manner? Are not God’s counsels eternal and ἀμετανόητα (Rom. 2:5), so that He cannot repent of them? Similar statements occur in the prophets, where God threatens punishments, as in the case of the Ninevites. Nevertheless, He pardons those who repent.

To this question the scholastics have nothing else to reply than that Scripture is speaking in human fashion, and therefore such actions are attributed to God by some figure of speech. They carry on discussions about a twofold will of God: “the will of His sign” and “the will of His good pleasure.” They maintain that “the will of His good pleasure” is uniform and unchangeable, but that “the will of His sign” is changeable; for He changes the signs when He wishes. Thus He did away with circumcision, instituted Baptism, etc., although the same “will of good pleasure,” which had been predetermined from eternity, continued in force.

I do not condemn this opinion; but it seems to me that there is a less complicated explanation, namely, that Holy Scripture is describing the thinking of those men who are in the ministry. When Moses says that God sees and repents, these actions really occur in the hearts of the men who carry on the ministry of the Word. Similarly, when he said above: “My Spirit will not judge among men,” he is not speaking directly of the Holy Spirit as He is in His own essential nature or of the Divine Majesty but of the Holy Spirit in the heart of Noah, Methuselah, and Lamech, that is, of the Spirit of God as He is carrying on His office and administering the Word through His saints.

It is in this manner that God saw human wickedness and repented. That is, Noah, who had the Holy Spirit and was a minister of the Word, saw the wickedness of men and through the Holy Spirit was moved to grief when he observed this situation. Paul also similarly declares (Eph. 4:30) that the Holy Spirit is grieved in the godly by the ungodliness and wickedness of the ungodly. Because Noah is a faithful minister of the Word and the mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit, Moses correctly states that the Holy Spirit is grieving when Noah grieves and wishes that man would rather not be in existence than be so evil.

Therefore the meaning is not that God from eternity had not seen these conditions; He sees everything from eternity. But since this wickedness of man now manifests itself with the utmost violence, God now discloses this wickedness in the hearts of His ministers and prophets.

Thus God is immutable and unchanging in His counsel from eternity. He sees and knows all things; but He does not reveal them to the godly except at His own fixed time, so that they themselves may see them too. This seems to me to be the simplest meaning of this passage, and Augustine’s interpretation differs little from it.

Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 6-14, vol. 2, Luther’s Works, ed. J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1960), Genesis 6:5-6, p. 43-44.

Blog author: jballor
Friday, June 10, 2005

The American Bar Association (ABA) recently released a report detailing “Principles for Juries and Jury Trials” (PDF). Included in the report are some recommendations that would allow jurors broader rights to discuss and take notes during the trial. The report comes in the wake of grave political controversy about the judicial system in general, with particular rows over judicial appointment and judicial activism.

One case in particular has raised the ire of many, when earlier this year the jury sentence for convicted and confessed murderer Robert Harlan was overturned. The basis of this decision was that the jurors had consulted the Bible during their deliberations (the opinion of the Colorado Supreme Court is available here in PDF form).

Principle 15 of the ABA report is that “COURTS AND PARTIES HAVE A DUTY TO FACILITATE EFFECTIVE AND IMPARTIAL DELIBERATIONS.” But just what does it mean for a jury to be impartial and objective?

This is what Dr. Stephen Grabill, an Acton Institute research fellow, asks in the cover story for the June 2005 issue of BreakPoint WorldView. In “Juries and Judicial Activism: A Case for Natural Law,” Grabill wonders, “Is the standard of impartiality an ideal too high for judges and juries alike to deliver every day in courtrooms all over the country?” He details the rich history of the trial by jury, called by 18th century English jurist William Blackstone, “the grand bulwark of our liberties.” Grabill further examines the Colorado court decision within the context of the mandate for jurors to consult their consciences and arrive at “moral assessments.”

Blog author: jballor
Friday, June 10, 2005

Max Blumenthal has responded to an earlier post of mine, which criticized him for a misunderstanding of the nature of freedom.

He states that my response “basically proves” his point re: clerical authoritarianism. He then goes on to ask what I mean by “theological relatives.”

First I must apologize for using such an opaque phrase. Perhaps I could have said it better by stating that if Blumenthal’s idea of freedom were translated into theological terms, it would be a sort of antinomianism, a heresy with a long historical heritage.

I suppose we must agree to disagree. Blumenthal finds that any sort of external moral check on individual autonomy amounts to “clerical authoritarianism.” And I’ll repeat my previously stated position on the matter: Freedom and morality are not contradictory, as Blumenthal assumes, but rather complementary. And that, contrary to Blumenthal, any explicit attempt to bring “God,” “religion,” or “morality,” explicitly into political discourse is not co-identical with “clerical authoritarianism” or “theocratizing.”

Blumenthal’s juxtaposition of the two ideas amounts to a false dilemma. He sets this logical fallacy up by inflating the the idea of “clerical authoritarianism” to refer not only to political power wielded by the institutional church but also to moral reflection by Christian leaders or laypersons. Perhaps he should have said “biblical authoritarianism” instead.

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, June 9, 2005

A website of some interest has come to me today, Prayer Of Allegiance. Spurred on by the controversy surrounding the inclusion of the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, the author of the prayer states, “While I am proud and privileged to be an American, my allegiance ultimately is to God — and it must run deeper than two symbolic words in a patriotic statement. That epiphany inspired me to write the Prayer of Allegiance.”

This reminds me of the first article of the Barmen Declaration of 1934, confessed in resistance to the German Reich church:

1. “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved.” John 10:1,9

Jesus Christ, as he is attested to us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God whom we have to hear, and whom we have to trust and obey in life and in death.

We reject the false doctrine that the Church could and should recognize as a source of its proclamation, beyond and besides this one Word of God, yet other events, powers, historic figures and truths as God’s revelation.”

Karl Barth, the author of the Barmen Declaration, was forced into exile from Germany after his refusal to sign a pledge of loyalty to Hitler.

Here’s a brief excerpt of what I’ve written in the past, somewhat related to this topic:

Whatever their particular political leanings, Christians must beware not to become beholden to an ideology which supersedes the ultimate claims of Christian loyalty. This wariness is exemplified in the apostolic confession, “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29 NIV). When the claims of secular authority, as they so often do, seek to become the ultimate objects of human activity, Christians are called to consistently reorient themselves to God, the object of their ultimate allegiance.

The church is witness to this higher reality. As theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg writes, “This means ipso facto, by the very existence of the church and in the living of its liturgical life, a challenging of the claims of every political and judicial order, whether monarchical, oligarchical, or democratic, to embody the form of social life that is ultimately in keeping with human destiny.” To this end, individual Christians, and to an even greater extent Christian institutions, should not identify so closely with any secular agenda that they lose their autonomy and abdicate their prophetic responsibility. An extreme and frightening example of such abdication is the German state church’s complicity in Hitler’s grab for power in Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.

Just as a Christian’s pledge of allegiance to any particular nation-state must be “under God,” so too our political allegiances must be subservient to our allegiance to God. This is what Jesus demands of us when he says: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21 NIV).

This post at Davids Medienkritik, “Die Sueddeutsche Zeitung: One-Sided Attack Journalism as News,” gives us a perfect example of what can happen when the media becomes unmoored. And I’ll take it as a piece of concrete evidence supporting the conclusions of my earlier post today.