Archived Posts November 2006 - Page 6 of 7 | Acton PowerBlog

This post sketches out the rough outline of Jerome Zanchi’s understanding of natural law. An interesting difference between Zanchi and Martyr is that Thomistic elements are far more important in Zanchi’s theology than in Martyr’s theology.

The historian John Patrick Donnelly thinks Zanchi is the best example of “Calvinist Thomism,” meaning a theologian who was Reformed in theology and Thomistic in philosophy and methodology. Zanchi was born and raised near Bergamo where he entered the Augustinian Canons and received a Thomistic training. Martyr was his prior at Lucca and was instrumental in his conversion to Protestantism. Zanchi spent ten years as a Nicodemite, or crypto-Calvinist, teaching theology before fleeing north to Geneva in 1552, where he studied for a year under Calvin. Later he served as professor of theology at Strasbourg, Heidelberg, and Neustadt until his death in 1590. After his death his relatives gathered most of his writings into his Opera in eight large tomes, which went through three editions. In all, there were about seventy printings of his writings. (See John Patrick Donnelly, “Calvinist Thomism,” Viator 7 (1976): 444).

Zanchi planned a great Protestant “summa” modeled after Thomas’ Summa theologica. According to Donnelly, the first four volumes of Zanchi’s Opera, which appeared under separate titles as he finished them at Heidelberg, cover the same material at twice the length as the first half of Thomas’s Summa. Even though Zanchi never completed his “summa,” it is unrivaled for thoroughness and synthetic power in sixteenth-century Protestant theology. (See Donnelly, “Calvinist Thomism,” 444).

Zanchi begins his analysis of natural law by noticing that canon lawyers and theologians restrict their idea of natural law to human nature, defining it as “the law common to all nations and that’s obeyed everywhere by natural instinct not by any statue.” Civil lawyers also use this definition for the law of nations because all people employ these laws and are led by them. Examples of such laws include statues concerning God, public worship, religion, obedience to superiors and the state, and defense of oneself, one’s family, and the state. (more…)

Though millions of Americans will go to the polls today to vote, midterm elections generally draw only 30 percent of eligible voters to the polls. (Presidential races draw around 50 percent.) These numbers put the U.S. in 139th place among 194 nations in a ranking of voter turnouts. Numerous reasons are offered for this low number. One may be the partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts that mean most House seats are “safe.” Political scientist Michael McDonald says “Just as sports fans tend to turn off the game when it’s a blowout voters who already know the results of their local races have little reason to tune in. They believe their votes don’t count, and basically they’re right.”

Numerous Christians have argued, for some years now, that it is a sin to not vote in elections. I seriously doubt the logic of this conclusion. On what specific ethical basis do you argue this case? Surely not Romans 13:1-8, which is the most extensive biblical teaching we have on a Christian’s duty to their governing authorities. I suppose you can make a case for responsible citizenship requiring people to vote but then some people are not adequately informed to vote. I actually include myself in this observation.

For example, in Illinois I am asked to vote for judges. I almost never know know if these judges are competent at all. In the past I have simply voted to “retain” the names listed on the ballot unless I knew otherwise. I refuse to do that now since I realize I know nothing about the person or their service. (Yes, there is the rare case where a very bad judge can be removed because word gets out!) I would suggest that you not vote for a person, or proposition, that you know nothing about or on an issue you do not understand. I agree that an uninformed democracy is not generally a healthy democracy. But an electorate that is ignorant of the issues, and/or the candidates, is not obligated to vote just because it is perceived as a Christian duty by some.

John H. Armstrong is founder and director of ACT 3, a ministry aimed at "encouraging the church, through its leadership, to pursue doctrinal and ethical reformation and to foster spiritual awakening."

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

–U.S. Book of Common Prayer, “Of the Reign of Christ,” (1979), p. 254


“My kingdom is not of this world.”

–John 18:36 (New International Version)

In my previous article, Part One, I showed how a conservative political and social movement has evolved over the past fifty years in America and how the evangelical church began to get involved in this movement. This movement led to what has been commonly called the “Christian Right.” This abused, and misused word, is now used to disparage almost everything conservatives attempt to do in the larger culture. The result of this political debate over the past thirty years has been an increased partisanship in America that threatens to derail the church both missionally and culturally. As a result we seem to have reduced the public witness of the church to support for the Republican Party, or at least to a set of a few talking point issues, in some cases. It is time to take a new look at all this and ask, “How do we engage the public square in a more effective way?”

(Continue reading the rest of the article at the ACT 3 website…)

John H. Armstrong is founder and director of ACT 3, a ministry aimed at "encouraging the church, through its leadership, to pursue doctrinal and ethical reformation and to foster spiritual awakening."

On this eve of the mid-term elections in the United States, it’s worthwhile to reflect a bit on the impetus in North American evangelical Christianity to emphasize the importance of politics. Indeed, it is apparent that the term “evangelical” is quickly coming to have primarily political significance, rather than theological or ecclesiastical, such that Time magazine could include two Roman Catholics (Richard John Neuhaus and Rick Santorum) among its list of the 25 most influential “evangelicals” in America.

When the accusations came to light about Ted Haggard, which led to his resignation from the National Association of Evangelicals and eventual dismissal from New Life Church, the first instinct by many was to see this as primarily a political event. Late last week James Dobson said of Haggard, “It appears someone is trying to damage his reputation as a way of influencing the outcome of Tuesday’s election.” Perhaps the timing of the charges did indeed have political motivations, but Haggard’s admission of guilt carries with it implications that reach far beyond mere politics, into the realm of the spiritual.

It should be noted that after Haggard’s guilt came to light, Dobson did say that the scandal had “grave implications for the cause of Christ,” and Pastor Larry Stockstill, head of the oversight board in charge of Haggard’s investigation, said “that politics played ‘zero’ role in the haste of the process that led to Haggard’s removal, and that the oversight board received no political pressure from anyone.” But even so, the fact that Haggard has been portrayed as a political heavyweight (with access to the President) and the National Association of Evangelicals has been called “a powerful lobbying group,” rather than an ecumenical and ecclesiastical organization, speaks volumes. (more…)

Forbes passes along a ranking of the fifty states (plus the District) on the friendliness of fiscal policy toward small business (HT: The Entrepreneurial Mind), provided by the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council (PDF).

Michigan ranked 10th in the list, which examines 29 governmentally-influenced factors such as personal income tax, capital gains tax, corporate income tax, property tax, death tax, electricity costs, and number of bureaucrats. Michigan was in the top half of most categories (it did rank 47th in the state rankings of gasoline taxes, which underscores the question of who profits from gasoline sales).

First Francis Beckwith and now this: Indiana Jones has been denied tenure (HT: Urban Onramps).

This is outrageous. I note especially the committee’s disregard for Jones’ work in discovering the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail. Sounds like his committee was made up of a bunch of secularists who don’t believe in that kind of thing. What does this say about Marshall College?

Let’s hope Indy’s case ends up as well as Dr. Beckwith’s.

Following the recent Medico-Legal Society of Ireland’s Golden Jubilee Conference in Dublin, the Irish Medical Times provides a timeline of the history of genetics, beginning in 1859 with the publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of the Species.

Other more recent highlights include the year 2003, in which “scientists at the University of Shanghai successfully fused human cells with rabbit eggs, reportedly the first human-animal chimeras (a mixture of two or more species in one body) created.”

Earlier this year, “Irving Weissman, director of Stanford University’s Institute of Cancer/Stem Cell Biology and Medicine, helped create the first mouse with an almost completely human immune system. The mouse is used to test drugs to fight AIDS.”

Weissman also directs work with mice and neurobiology,”Prof Weissman has also begun injecting human neural stem cells into mouse foetuses, creating mice whose brains are about 1 per cent human.” He has also “proposed creating mice whose brains are 100 per cent human.”

I have previously examined some of Weissman’s work, in conjunction with a survey of a panel of the President’s Council on Bioethics, here.

Solzhenitsyn

One word of truth shall outweigh the world. — Russian proverb

ISI Books has released The Solzhenitsyn Reader: New and Essential Writings, 1947-2005 (650 pages; $30). This single volume compilation includes some of the Russian author’s most significant works, including poems, stories and miniatures (prose poems), essays and speeches in their entirety. There are also excerpts from the novels, memoirs and the extensive political and historical writings.

You can order the book online here.

In their introduction to the reader, editors Edward E. Ericson Jr. and Daniel J. Mahoney put forth the claim that “more than any other figure in the twentieth century, (Solzhenitsyn) exposed the ideological ‘lie’ at the heart of Communist totalitarianism.” Although “widely misunderstood” by journalists and academics, the editors assert that Solzhenitsyn “has been a consistent advocate of the rule of law, economic development fueled by human-scale technology, and a revived local self-government in Russia along the lines of the prerevolutionary zemstvos (local and provincial councils).”

“His writings powerfully capture the nature of an ideological regime built upon lies and maintained through the most hyperbolic violence,” the editors say. To the leftist-progressive mindset this was, in many circles, blameworthy. And one of the reasons that Solzhenitsyn has been so “widely misunderstood” by journalists and academics is his insistence on faith as the bedrock of morality, public and private. In an attempt to explain the “widespread hostility” to Solzhenitsyn in Russia and the West, Ericson and Mahoney point out that the writer “is one of a series of conservative-minded thinkers who brings together a measured critique of ‘anthropocentric humanism,’ with an appreciation of the liberty that is the centerpiece of Western civic life.”

This is from Solzhenitsyn’s June 1978 commencement address at Harvard:

… in early democracies, as in American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted on the ground that man is God’s creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility. Such was the heritage of the preceding one thousand years. Two hundred or even fifty years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual be granted boundless freedom with no purpose, simply for the satisfaction of his whims. Subsequently, however, all such limitations were eroded everywhere in the West; a total emancipation occurred from the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their great reserves of mercy and sacrifice.

State systems were becoming ever more materialistic. The West has finally achieved the rights of man, and even to excess, but man’s sense of responsibility to God and society has grown dimmer and dimmer. In the past decades, the legalistic selfishness of the Western approach to the world has reached its peak and the world has found itself in a harsh spiritual crisis and a political impasse. All the celebrated achievements of progress, including the conquest of outer space, do not redeem the twentieth century’s moral poverty, which no one could have imagined even as late as the nineteenth century.

I saw the most fascinating and lively exchange between two political conservatives on C-Span Book TV last weekend. It featured Andrew Sullivan, the homosexual activist who is actually a libertarian politically, and David Brooks, the Jewish columnist for The New York Times. Brooks has an unusually keen insight into evangelicalism, as can be seen in his frequently thoughtful references to it. He is also a wonderfully nuanced political conservative of the very best sort.

The televised event was sponsored by the famous Cato Institute. Brooks critiqued Andrew Sullivan’s reaction to religious conservatives and especially his new book, The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How to Get It Back (HarperCollins, 2006). The book addresses the recovering of the real heart and soul of conservatism, a misnamed book if there ever was one. Brooks did a masterful job of showing Andrew Sullivan why he failed to understand religious conservatism on the whole. He made several important points, especially regarding John R. Stott representing more of the deep and thoughtful evangelicalism of America than Sullivan realized.

There were three things David Brooks noted that will stand out for me for some time.

  1. The conservative movement needs to leave a lot more room for honest doubt.

  2. The core lesson of 9/11 was the deep impact that sin still has on human nature.
  3. Conservatives need to embrace the truth of “epistemological humility” with greater understanding.

John H. Armstrong is founder and director of ACT 3, a ministry aimed at "encouraging the church, through its leadership, to pursue doctrinal and ethical reformation and to foster spiritual awakening."