Archived Posts July 2007 - Page 3 of 7 | Acton PowerBlog

This weekend’s Midwest Emergent Gathering, held July 20-21 in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, was an event that I enjoyed participating in immensely. I was invited, by my friend Mike Clawson of up/rooted (Chicago), to answer several questions in a plenary session. I was billed as a friendly “outsider.” We laughed about this designation since many of my critics now assume that I am a “heretical insider” to Emergent. The truth is that neither is totally true. I am not so much a part of this movement, at least not in any recognizable or formal way, as I am a real friend of all things missional that sincerely address the basic questions that I feel very strongly must be faced by Christians within Western culture.

It is a basic fact that the church regularly reduces the gospel, to something less or other than than the gospel, in its various attempts to translate the good news into a faithful witness within any culture. This is true in Asia, Latin America and Africa as well. (Witness the cover story of the current Christianity Today on the impact of the prosperity gospel in Africa, where the greatest church growth is also taking place.) This does not mean the church is no longer the church. It does mean reformation is always necessary, thus the faithful church must be semper reformanda, always reforming. This realization grows out of a sober view of the humanity of the church. (The church is a divine organism with the life of Christ in it but it is also very human at the same time.) But many conservative Christians, especially if they are over forty, tend to think serious criticism of the church, or questioning the ways Christians think and believe (epistemology), is tantamount to arrogance and undermining the faith itself. Because I want to open a wide discussion of epistemology (i.e., the ways that we know what is true and not true) I am routinely questioned about whether I still believe in truth at all. When I say that I clearly and strongly do believe in the truth then I am then called a liar, or given some similar flattering insightful response.

(Continue reading the rest of the article at the John H. Armstrong blog…)

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."

Over at the Becker-Posner blog, the gentlemen consider the question, “Do National Security and Environmental Energy Policies Conflict?” (a topic also discussed here.)

Becker predicts, “Driven by environmental and security concerns, more extensive government intervention in the supply and demand for energy are to be expected during the next few years in all economically important countries. Policies that meet both these concerns are feasible, and clearly would have greater political support than the many approaches that advance one of these goals at the expense of the other.”

Posner observes the difference between a gasoline and a carbon tax, noting that the former would “have a direct effect in reducing demand for oil, thus reducing, as Becker points out, the oil revenues of oil-producing nations.”

But for a policy that addresses both national security and environmental concerns, “a gasoline tax would be inferior to a carbon tax from the standpoint of limiting global warming, because producers of oil, refiners of gasoline, and producers of cars and other products that burn fossil fuels would have no incentive to adopt processes that would reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions per barrel of oil, gallon of gasoline, etc. A carbon tax would create such an incentive and would also have a strong indirect negative effect on the demand for fossil fuels.”

There’s a lot more to these posts worth mulling over.

Senator and Presidential candidate Barack Obama has gained support from some Evangelical Christians. I recall some students and faculty at the Wesleyan Evangelical seminary that I attended supported Obama. Jim Wallis of Sojourners, when on the lecture circuit, constantly compares Obama with famed British Parliamentarian William Wilberforce.

This week, Obama spoke to a Planned Parenthood gathering where he reinforced his support for sexual education for kindergarteners. To be fair, Obama said the education should be age appropriate and that he “does not support teaching explicit sex education to children in kindergarten.”

However, let’s keep in mind the audience to whom Obama was speaking — Planned Parenthood. When I attended public school in the state of Hawaii, I was introduced to Planned Parenthood in my mandatory health class in 7th grade. Planned Parenthood tried to teach us how to use condoms with cucumbers and instructed the class about spermicidal jelly, dental dams, and other birth control devices and methods. I was 13 years old.

I remember taking a survey which Planned Parenthood brought to my class. The group wanted to gauge our sexual knowledge and experience. I remember wondering if I was abnormal because I had not experienced the depth of extensive sexual activity that Planned Parenthood was asking me about. I recall one of the questions was, “How many times are you laid in a week?”

This survey information was taken by Planned Parenthood workers and was never seen by students again. I also specifically recall one Planned Parenthood worker reminding the girls in the class that, if they became pregnant, they could tell or visit them before informing their parents.

The problem that arises from “age appropriate sexual education” is who decides what is appropriate? Is it parents, public school administrators, Senator Obama, or Planned Parenthood? When Planned Parenthood is involved, all of the concerns about social engineering and radical sexual agendas should be taken seriously.

[Ed. note: See also Acton’s Jennifer Roback Morse, “Get the Government Out of Sex Ed.”]

A big tip o’ the hat to Joe Carter over at evangelical outpost for including the Acton PowerBlog in The EO 100, which he describes as “the top 100 blogs that I have found to be the most convicting, enlightening, frustrating, illuminating, maddening, stimulating, right-on and/or wrongheaded by Christians expressing a Christian worldview.”

Also check out the 30 Most Influential Religion Blogs at Faith Central by Times (UK) reporter Joanna Sugden. Alas, the PowerBlog did not make the cut for this eclectic ranking. Then again, maybe we simply didn’t have the right stuff, the je ne sais quoi that elevates one’s religion Web blog into the elite flights alongside productions such as The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Hmmmm.

Blog author: jspalink
Friday, July 20, 2007
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Lemonade EntrepreneurActon continues its award winning ad campaign by looking at how the entrepreneurial calling begins at an early age. A child who sets up a lemonade stand outside of his house is an entrepreneur, assuming a certain amount of risk and responsibility and providing a product that will increase the happiness of passers by. Adults often praise the hard work of children, especially children who find ways to earn something through their hard work, but often this attitude changes as the child becomes a successful business person or entrepreneur.

By shouldering the risks, entrepreneurs make the future a little more secure, and a whole lot easier for the rest of us. So, the next time you run into Johnny, don’t resent him. Thank him for a job well done.

Arnold Kling had the opportunity to screen The Call of the Entrepreneur and published his reactions to it on Tech Central Station. In this rave review Mr. Kling, in the first paragraph, calls The Call both the “most subversive film” he has ever seen, and “a threat to tyranny everywhere.” He points out that while the film uses the so-called “G-word,” it avoids the scare-tactics that “An Inconvenient Truth,” also a religious film in his view, makes use of and is based around a much more rational exploration of evidence.

Read Mr. Kling’s review at Tech Central Station. Arnold Kling also blogs at EconLog, and has posted a notice of the review there.

Blog author: kschmiesing
Friday, July 20, 2007
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Bringing to your attention two recent publications by Journal of Markets & Morality contributors:

The first is Less Than Two Dollars a Day: A Christian View of World Poverty aand the Free Market, by Kent Van Til, published by Eerdmans.

The second is Economics in Christian Perspective: Theory, Policy, and Life Choices, by Victor Claar and Robin Klay, published by InterVarsity.

Based on a quick perusal, I guess that the latter entry is a little more sanguine about the achievements and potential of free markets with respect to Christian social obligations. Regardless, both books take seriously both economics and theology, a rare but necessary prerequisite for helpful analysis in this area.

All three authors, by the way, teach at Hope College.

Readings in Social Ethics: John Chrysostom, On Wealth and Poverty, part 3 of 3. There are six sermons in this text, based on the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. This post deals with the third and final pair. The first four sermons dealt directly with Chrysostom’s exegesis of the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. These latter two sermons were given on different occasions. References are to page numbers.

Sermon 6:

  • The sermon comes after an earthquake has hit the community: “Have you seen the mortality of the human race? When the earthquake came, I reflected with myself and said, where is theft? Where is greed? Where is tyranny? Where is arrogance? Where is domination? Where is oppression? Where is the plundering of the poor? Where is the arrogance of the rich? Where is the domination of the powerful? Where is intimidation? Where is fear?” (97)

  • Chrysostom searches out the source and cause of the disaster: “So I was not afraid because of the earthquake, but because of the cause of the earthquake; for the cause of the earthquake was the anger of God, and the cause of His anger was our sins. Never fear punishment, but fear sin, the mother of punishment” (101).
  • Chrysostom reiterates a theme from the previous sermons. We are not to judge someone as fortunate based only on their external condition: “In the same way, imagine two sinners, one being punished, the other not being punished. Do no say, this one is lucky because he is rich, he strips orphans of their property, and he oppresses widows. Apparently he is not ill, he has a good reputation in spite of his thefts, he enjoys honor and authority, he does not endure any of the troubles which afflict mankind—no fever, no paralysis, nor any other disease—a chorus of children surrounds him, his old age is comfortable; but you should grieve most for him, because he is indeed ill and receives no treatment” (102).
  • The varieties of sinners characterized as beasts rather than men: “You see, you should not examine his nature but his character, not his appearance but his disposition; and not his disposition only, but investigate his whole way of life. If he loves the poor, he is a human being; but if he is wholly involved in commerce, he is an oak tree. If he has a savage temper, he is a lion; if he is rapacious, he is a wolf; if he is deceitful, he is a cobra. You should say, ‘I am looking for a human being; why have you shown me a beast instead of a man?’ Learn what really is the virtue of a human being, and do not be confused” (107-8).
  • Chrysostom concludes by examining Abraham’s words that Lazarus received the evil that he was due in this life, and the rich man received the rewards he was due. Chrysostom understands this to mean that the evil man has done at least some good, and therefore is rewarded in this life, while the good man has done at least some evil, and therefore is punished in this life.

Sermon 7:

  • A condemnation of worldliness: “For those who are eager to go to the races and the other satanic spectacles, who have no care for self-control and give no thought for virtue, who wish to behave recklessly, who yield themselves to luxury and gluttony, who spend themselves every day in madness and frenzy for money, who strain after the things of the present life—these people walk by the wide gate and the easy road. But when they go farther along, and gather a great burden of sins for themselves, when they are all spent and come to the end of the road, they are no longer able to go any farther, because they are pressed tightly by the narrowness of the road and burdened by the weight of their sins so that they cannot go through” (129).

  • Riches are a blessing and a temptation: “Do not call these things good without qualification, O man, bearing in mind that they are given by the Master in order that by enjoying them in due proportion we may have sustenance for our life and may overcome the weakness of our bodies; but the truly good things are something else. None of these things is good, not luxury, not wealth, not expensive clothing; they have only the name of goodness. Why do I say that they have only the name? They often indeed cause our destruction, when we use them improperly. Wealth will be good for its possessor if he does not spend it only on luxury, or on strong drink and harmful pleasures; if he enjoys luxury in moderation and distributes the rest to the stomachs of the poor, then wealth is a good thing. But if he is going to give himself up to luxury and other profligacy, not only does it not help him at all, but it even leads him down to the deep pit” (136-37).

Next week: Bonaventure, A Defence of the Mendicants (selections), in From Irenaeus to Grotius: A Sourcebook in Christian Political Thought 100-1625, ed. Oliver O’Donovan and Joan Lockwood O’Donovan, pp. 312-19.

Here’s an interesting report from the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute on the cyclical nature of media coverage on the issue of climate change. We all know about the global cooling craze of the 1970’s, but who knew that the issue goes back more than a century?

It was five years before the turn of the century and major media were warning of disastrous climate change. Page six of The New York Times was headlined with the serious concerns of “geologists.” Only the president at the time wasn’t Bill Clinton; it was Grover Cleveland. And the Times wasn’t warning about global warming – it was telling readers the looming dangers of a new ice age.

The year was 1895, and it was just one of four different time periods in the last 100 years when major print media predicted an impending climate crisis. Each prediction carried its own elements of doom, saying Canada could be “wiped out” or lower crop yields would mean “billions will die.”

Just as the weather has changed over time, so has the reporting – blowing hot or cold with short-term changes in temperature.

It appears that we’re reaching the “outright hysteria” part of the current coverage cycle, considering that Al Gore can get completely credulous coverage for statements like this:

“There’s an African proverb that says, ‘If you want to go quick, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ We have to go far quickly,” former Vice President Al Gore told a packed, rapt house at the Benedict Music Tent Wednesday. With many scientists pointing to a window of less than 10 years to moderate the effects of global warming, he said, meaningful change is still possible, but “It is a race.”

…”What we’re facing worldwide really is a planetary emergency,” Gore said. “I’m optimistic, but we’re losing this battle badly.”

…”The habitability of this planet for human beings really is at risk,” he said.

I don’t know about you, but my BS detector is going crazy at the moment. I’d say that we’re about as likely to be in a 10 year race for survival today as we were to be in a 10 year race to save the oceans back in 1988 (according to the then-popular TV star Ted Danson). Apparently Cristopher Hitchens isn’t the only one prone to wild overstatement these days. And while we’re on the topic of overstatement

Blog author: jcouretas
Thursday, July 19, 2007
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How do you “end poverty” in the developing world? Well, certainly not by promoting a “poverty agenda” that has proven to be a failure again and again. The two items below both appeared yesterday. The first is from a review of “The Elephant and the Dragon,” a book by Robyn Meredith, a Hong Kong-based correspondent for Forbes magazine. The second is from a commentary by the chairman of Microsoft India in the Wall Street Journal (reg. req’d).

As Ms. Meredith shows, comprehensive, market-oriented reforms — China’s began in 1978, India’s in 1991 — have sparked a new dynamism and remarkable economic growth. In the 1990s alone, more than 200 million people escaped poverty in the two countries, lifting the per-capita standard of living beyond the wildest dreams of previous generations. “We got more done for the poor by pursuing the competition agenda for a few years,” says one of India’s former finance ministers, “than we got done by pursuing a poverty agenda for decades.”

“The Boom Beyond Our Borders”. By Matthew Rees. OpinionJournal.com

Lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty cannot happen through “corporate social responsibility.” Important as these initiatives are, they are neither sustainable nor scalable, and therefore achieve limited impact. Nor will poverty be overcome through the “bottom of the pyramid” initiatives that seek to make the poor into bigger consumers of shampoos and televisions by enabling them to pay per use.

We need a new approach driven by innovation. We need to focus less on doing small, nice deeds for the poor, and less on selling them affordable versions of what rich people consume. Instead, we must marshal the best resources of big, innovative corporations to think freshly about the shackles that keep people poor and invent solutions that break these shackles.

“Innovate for India’s Poor”. By Ravi Venkatesan, Wall Street Journal