Archived Posts October 2006 » Page 4 of 7 | Acton PowerBlog

Yesterday the Detroit News ran an op-ed in which I argue that corporate America should apply the fundamental insight behind President Bush’s faith-based initiative and open up their charitable giving to faith groups, since they “often provide more comprehensive and therefore often more effective assistance than purely secular or governmental counterparts.” A number of large corporate foundations either explicitly rule out donations to faith groups or refuse to contribute matching funds to them.

One of the advantages to liberalizing the corporate playing field is that such an effort would avoid potential church-state and constitutionality issues that have plagued the president’s plan. It could also potentially de-politicize charitable giving, which has become a hot topic especially in light of the recent charges levelled by David Kuo (who now blogs here, conveniently enough).

A brief side note: I had to stifle a laugh when I read Jim Wallis’ reaction to Kuo’s book. Wallis concludes that we must “beware of those who would manipulate genuine faith for partisan political purposes.” Amy Sullivan, a guest blogger on Wallis’ Beliefnet blog, posting at Faithful Democrats, writes that “at some point, being a person of good faith shouldn’t get you off the hook, it should require something of you.” Hello, pot? This is the kettle calling…

In any case, for those that are interested, after the jump I have posted a longer version of my commentary on faith groups and corporate giving, complete with links to relevant external sources. (more…)

Blog author: kschmiesing
posted by on Tuesday, October 17, 2006

I wrote disparagingly of a developing “baby market” in a recent Acton commentary. The phenomenon is described in much fuller detail by Cheryl Miller in The New Atlantis in the course of her review of a recent book by Debora L. Spar, The Baby Business.

Aside from the blasphemy, which ought not be overlooked, one of the biggest problems with an ad like this (HT: Think Progress, which also has a printed transcript of the ad) is that it undermines itself. It’s simply bad rhetorical strategy.

Whatever potential arguments (economic or otherwise) there may be against minimum wage legislation, virtually no one of sympathetic inclinations is going to listen when you mock Judeo-Christian values by reducing something as vitally important as the divine revelation of the Decalogue to a mere political tool.

Meanwhile, Nicole Greenfield at The Revealer, while concerned with “the obvious church-state and anti-working class issues,” hopes that “this isn’t the start of a horrible new trend in political advertising.”

I hope so, too, but probably for different reasons. I don’t think economic laws, insofar as they are truly “laws” in the proper sense, rise to the level of what Zanchi calls “this perfect law,” or the Ten Commandments.

Gary North, who wrote a 450+ page economic exposition of the 10 Commandments, does connect minimum wage laws as a “price floor” under the commandment to honor parents (Exodus 20:12, North commentary pp. 118-19). This is a rather specious connection, however, and offers no justification for the Stop 42 ad.

Almost any Christian I’ve ever heard argue against minimum wage legislation (and there aren’t many) has argued on the basis of prudential judgment rather than appeals to direct divine mandate. North may be an exception, although I don’t think it necessarily follows from his brief mention of minimum wage laws under the fifth commandment that he thinks that opposition to such legislation is mandated by that commandment.

In any case, arguments against minimum wage laws already face an uphill battle for acceptance. Ads like this don’t help the cause.

Update: Having trouble viewing the Moses ad? Check out the YouTube version. Jamie Court at The Huffington Post says that this ad, about California’s Prop 89, is a “remarkable piece of political jujitsu on the practices of political advertising, and has the possiblity to remake them.”

As I mentioned in Part 2, a common stereotype of Protestant ethics is that it is wedded to nominalism. While this may be true for some (particularly modern) Protestant ethicists, it is false for Peter Martyr Vermigli and Jerome Zanchi, two older Reformed moral theologians. Before showing how this is so, and still by way of introduction, I want to point to four doctrines where natural law exerts some influence.

First, it is important to recognize that none of the confessional documents of the magisterial Reformation — whether Lutheran or Reformed — rejected the doctrine of natural law. In fact, those documents universally state that Gentiles — though outsiders to God’s special revelation to Israel in the law and the prophets — remain accountable to the moral law by means of the natural knowledge of God’s will experienced in creation, conscience, and reason. Confessional examples abound to prove this point, but I will mention only what the Second Helvetic Confession (1566) states:

We teach that the will of God is set down unto us in the law of God; to wit, what He would have us to do, or not to do, what is good and just, or what is evil and unjust. We therefore confess that ‘the law is holy . . . and good’; and that this law is, by the finger of God, either written in the hearts of men, and so is called the law of nature, or engraven in the two tables of stone, and more largely expounded in the books of Moses.

This confession, like so many other sixteenth-century confessions, makes an explicit identification of the law written on the heart in Romans 2 with the natural law.

Second, natural law played a significant role in the three uses of law articulated by the Reformers. The first use of law is to convict of sin by taking away all natural presumption of righteousness. The Reformers made frequent appeal to the conscience’s imprinted knowledge of right and wrong in this respect. The second use of law is to maintain order. “Since the devil reigns in the whole world,” states Luther, “God has ordained magistrates, parents, teachers, laws, shackles, and all civic ordinances to at least bind his hands and keep him from raging at will.” The third use of law is to exhort believers to ongoing obedience and gratitude. “The law is to the flesh,” says Calvin, “like a whip to an idle and balky ass, to arouse it to work. Even for a spiritual man not yet free of the weight of the flesh the law remains a constant sting that will not let him stand still.”

Third, while the Reformers famously emphasized Scripture as the ultimate authority for doctrine and Christian living, the modern doctrine of sola scriptura falsely pits the Reformers against the Scholastics on the issue of tradition. Unlike modern Protestants, the Reformers did not pit Scripture and tradition against each other as antithetical sources of authority, even though they did affirm the normative priority of Scripture in theology and ethics. The Reformers also did not play special revelation off against general revelation, as tends to happen today, both were considered legitimate forms of revelation that served distinct roles in theology. This is why the modern Protestant rejection of natural law in favor of supernaturally revealed legal or moral instruction is skewed in relation to the thought of the Reformers.

Fourth, the Reformers felt no tension in affirming a strong doctrine of original sin, on the one hand, and natural law, on the other. While every aspect of reality was affected in the fall, including the rational and social nature of human beings, the Reformers did not believe the divine image was totally annihilated. Instead, only aspects of the image were destroyed while other aspects were permanently disoriented. That disorientation put people in a wrong relationship with God, their neighbors, and the world. However, the implanted knowledge of right and wrong, which survived the fall as a relic of the original image, was now weakened and obscured. The Canons of Dort, a doctrinal standard issued by the Synod of Dort (1618-19), for example, affirms the existence of natural law but also points to its insufficiency:

There remain in man since the fall, the glimmerings of natural light, whereby he retains some knowledge of God, of natural things, and of the difference between good and evil, and shows some regard for virtue and for good outward behavior. But so far is this light of nature from being sufficient to bring him to a saving knowledge of God and to true conversion that he is incapable of using it aright even in things natural and civil.

Without this affirmation of the natural knowledge of God, the result for ethics would be pessimism toward any transcultural, universal moral ontology. The alternative, then, would be to place ethics exclusively within the sphere of redemption and the new creation. If those “glimmerings of natural light” were wiped out, it would be difficult to find a bridge to the public sphere in which Christians and non-Christians could work side by side.

In Part 4 we will begin looking closely at Peter Martyr Vermigli.

This entry has been cross-posted to my blog, Common Notions.

Blog author: dwbosch
posted by on Monday, October 16, 2006

Dr. Joel Hunter, President of the Christian Coalition and Pastor of the 12,000-member Northland Church in Longwood, FL, Dr. Paul De Vries, National Association of Evangelicals board member and President of New York Theological Seminary, and Rev. Gerald Durley, Pastor of Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta and civil rights leader held a teleconference last Thursday to "address the importance of this issue to their communities and will take questions from reporters about the Statement, the Call to Action, and the potential implications of both on the American religious and political landscape."

(more…)

A brief bit of Herman Bavinck, taken from his Beginselen der psychologie, 2d. ed. (Kampen: Kok, 1923); English translation Foundations of Psychology, trans. trans. Jack Vanden Born (M.C.S. Thesis: Calvin College, 1981). p. 92:

The freedom with which imagination brings forward its creation is, however, not a lawlessness. Unbridled fantasy produces only the outrageous. As fantasy is objectively, albeit indirectly, bound to the elements of the visible world, so it must subjectively be under the control of understanding. It must be led by moral ideas especially. But within these limitations fantasy is a splendid capacity.

See also, “The Morality of Narrative Imagination.”

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, October 13, 2006

Dignan’s 75 Year Plan is now Good Will Hinton (after a manner of speaking…details on the change here).

Our blogroll will be updated just as soon as BlogRolling cooperates.

“Rest on the Flight to Egypt,” from the Matthaus Evangelium. From the collection
of Edward and Diane Knippers. By Otto Dix.

Five Talents International, a ministry which aims to “to fight poverty, create jobs and transform lives by empowering the poor in developing countries using innovative savings and microcredit programs, business training and spiritual development,” is sponsoring an art auction beginning this coming Monday, Oct. 16.

“A Helping Hand: Artists’ Exhibition and Sale,” is an online silent art auction, with the proceeds devoted toward the creation of the Knippers Eduation Fund. The newly established fund will “provide scholarships for the next generation of church leaders, missionaries and poor entrepreneurs, who are living or working in developing countries, with business and management tools needed to transform their communities and churches.”

The fund is named in memory of Diane Knippers, a Five Talents founding board member who coined the organization’s name and president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. Time magazine named Diane one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in the United States in 2005.
Here’s the agenda for the auction:

Starting Monday, Oct. 16, bids for paintings, sculptures and original prints will be accepted online at www.fivetalents.org. Featured art will include the works of nationally recognized artists such as Sandra Bowden; Tim Botts; Tanja Butler; Bruce Herman; Ed Knippers; Dean Larson; Nathaniel Mather; Dorsey McHugh; Sam Nash; John Olsen; Ted Prescott; Karen Swenholt; and David Zuck, among others. Works by Marc Chagall, Otto Dix, and a page from the Nuremberg Chronicle will also be included.

The online auction will close at 5 p.m. EST on Friday, Nov. 10 and culminate with a silent auction and reception on Saturday, Nov. 11, at the Foxhall Gallery, 3301 New Mexico Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. The auction and reception will be from 5:30 to 9 p.m.

More details are available here.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, October 13, 2006

David Roberts of Grist magazine, responding to his recent read of George Monbiot’s new book Heat, wrote about skeptics of climate change:

When we’ve finally gotten serious about global warming, when the impacts are really hitting us and we’re in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these bastards — some sort of climate Nuremberg.

Following this, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works issued a statement calling Roberts to task and deemed his comments to be part of a broader movement, noting a “new found penchant by environmentalists and some media members to charge skeptics of human caused catastrophic global warming with ‘crimes against humanity’ and urge Nuremberg-style prosecution of them.”

Roberts later responds by saying that he “was, as might be obvious, rather angry,” and that “Too often, this kind of thing is treated like a partisan political squabble, a game of rhetorical sparring between the ‘sides’ of a debate.” Not much rhetorical about calling for Nuremburg-style criminal tribunals, though, eh?

Yesterday the New York Times editorialized and took Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works, to task, “He accuses scientists and the media of hysteria. But if there is such a thing as a hysteria of doubt, then Mr. Inhofe is its master.” Might the Times editorial staff be amenable to the sorts of trials Roberts called for?

If the scientific case is so rock solid and the consensus is so sure, why are climate change believers so worried about criticism? Are they truly that thin-skinned? Or is the evidence perhaps not as airtight as they would have us believe?

Talk about an affront to a free and open public debate.

Over at Jim Wallis’ Beliefnet blog, Ron Sider reflects on his interpretation of the landmark text, “For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility,” issued by the National Association of Evangelicals.

Citing the line, “faithful evangelical civic engagement must champion a biblically balanced agenda,” Sider concludes that of the seven areas the document addresses (religious freedom, family, sanctity of human life, justice for the poor, human rights, peace and creation care), “This document refuses to lift out one area to ‘value most.’ It says they all are on God’s heart and therefore central to faithful evangelical civic engagement.”

If we are to take this to mean that each of these seven areas of moral concern, and presumably more could be added, are of equal weight, we must ask whether or not this assertion coheres with the Bible’s own view. Could the evangelical search for a “biblically balanced agenda” in fact distort the teaching of Scripture?

Maybe so. To say, for example, that it is just as much the State’s role to provide direct assistance to the poor as it is “to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4 NIV) does not adequately reflect the true and primary role of the State in administering retributive justice.

It is equally as wrong-headed to assert that the provision “for the proper care of wildlife and their natural habitats” (as important as doing such is), is equally fundamental and important as legal recognition of the right to life.

Jesus did acknowledge that there are greater and lesser matters of the law. It often calls for prudential wisdom to discern the difference. But every aspect of the moral order is not equally weighty.

We are told that we as human beings “are worth more than many sparrows.” If Ron Sider is right in his interpretation, then despite my evangelical sympathies in many other areas, I would have to side against the NAE document and with John Paul II, who affirmed that the right to life is “the first of the fundamental rights,” the basis and foundation of all other human rights.

…civil law must ensure that all members of society enjoy respect for certain fundamental rights which innately belong to the person, rights which every positive law must recognize and guarantee. First and fundamental among these is the inviolable right to life of every innocent human being.

For more on abortion and Catholic Social Teaching, see this interview with Rev. Thomas D. Williams.

It has become popular for evangelicals like Ron Sider and Jim Wallis to often cull the sources of Catholic Social Teaching for validation of their views. We evangelicals would do well to reckon with the essential insight of the basicality of the right to life.

This truth might well mean that a truly “biblically balanced” agenda is one that is radically weighted toward the protection of the sanctity of human life.