Archived Posts May 2012 - Page 6 of 14 | Acton PowerBlog

The conditions under which the government transfers wealth are different than the conditions under which the church transfers wealth, says James R. Rodgers. Yet many Christian leaders are tempted to use the power of the state to do what is required of the church:

Ginning up donations, however, is the hard road. Given the imperative that the needy should be fed, how much easier it is to step around the church and the power of the Gospel, and instead to make a friend of violence. It’s all in service of a good cause, after all. With the magisterial sword, no need to change hearts and actions. We only need to threaten. What a temptation it is to call on magisterial violence to accomplish God’s work. I am not a pacifist, and therefore do not object to the sword in principle. But as with war, I think that use of the magisterial sword needs justification.

There is also the impact on the church. Once the move is made to the domain of the civil sword, it’s difficult for the church to go back. If the church has ceded responsibility for the needy to the state, then what’s the point of increasing contributions to the church? To be sure, there will always be interstices in government welfare, but filling in the cracks of the welfare state is hardly a stirring call.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jballor
Monday, May 21, 2012

For the next two weeks I’m privileged to be teaching a course on Christian ethics and contemporary culture at Farel Reformed Theological Seminary in Montreal, Quebec. This morning’s class focused on the issue of calling and the Christian life. We discussed some of the ways in which God’s call to follow Christ comes to different individuals in a variety of circumstances and in a variety of means.

As background, we read Alissa Wilkinson’s short essay, “Vocation Takes Patience.” Discerning God’s call takes patience, a virtue that can be in short supply during the long nights of doubt and worry.

In our discussion, we allowed for the possibility that God might make clear his purpose for someone’s life in dramatic fashion, such as that experienced by Augustine, “Take up and read.” But apart from such miraculous instances, we identified a couple of significant influences for helping us discern the shapes of our callings.

First, we discussed individual experiences, intuitions, and feelings. Very often God gives us a particular desire or disposition as a way of orienting us towards particular ends. Of course these are not infallible, and indeed often manifest the brokenness of sinful humanity. But our personality traits, our interests, and our passions are ways in which God can communicate his will for us.

Similarly God provides us with communities of influence, such as friends, family members, and fellow church members, who can provide perspectives on our own abilities and proclivities in insightful ways that we often cannot see for ourselves. God can work through the encouraging or challenging (or rebuking) word of a friend who sees what we cannot.

The discussion also touched on cultural expectations as significant. We often hear about ways in which business people feel disconnected from the church. But it is equally true, as one of the students observed today, that in the eyes of the world a career in law, business, or medicine or some other praiseworthy endeavor is expected. It is perfectly acceptable on the world’s terms to go to college to maximize earning potential. In such respects it is counter-cultural to pursue a career that might mean a smaller paycheck or lesser social status. The pastoral ministry can all-too-often fall into this category.

The dynamic of the sacred and the secular, and corresponding callings, also was threaded throughout the conversation today, and I expect this dynamic to provide some fruitful discussion over the next two weeks as well.

One of Frederick Buechner’s famous quotes has to do with discerning God’s call: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” What are some ways to discern what makes you glad and what the world needs?

At least forty Catholic dioceses and organizations in the United States have filed suit against the Obama Administration for violation of First Amendment rights.  According to,

The suits filed by the Catholic organizations focus on the regulation that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced last August and finalized in January that requires virtually all health-care plans in the United States to cover sterilizations and all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives, including those that can cause abortions.

The Catholic Church teaches that sterilization, artificial contraception and abortion are morally wrong and that Catholics should not be involved in them. Thus, the regulation would require faithful Catholics and Catholic organizations to act against their consciences and violate the teachings of their faith.

Read the entire article here.

In his new book, Defending the Free Market: the Moral Case for a Free Economy, Fr. Robert Sirico cautions against the encroachment of government regulations and oversight of religiously-based health care institutions:

Because of the vital role of Christianity in the history of health care, we should feel the gravity of what has been happening to religious hospitals and clinics in the past several decades—and in an accelerated fashion in the past few years. Government’s increasing role in health care has tended to secularize these otherwise vibrant civil institutions—altering their meaning, culture, and mission, and compromising their effectiveness. As government reaches ever deeper into the health care sector, it forces these religious institutions to become more and more like secular institutions, until it actually begins to exclude people of conscience from remaining involved with the very institutions they created in the first place! This may strike some as merely a parochially Christian concern, but what’s at stake is relevant to everyone in this country: both religious liberty and the recovery and maintenance of vibrant, loving, and authentic health care in America.

Fr. Sirico’s words echo those of Cardinal Wuerl, who states, “The First Amendment enshrines in our nation’s Constitution the principle that religious organizations must be able to practice their faith free from government interference.”

The suit was filed after the Obama administration failed to agree to requests from the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops to rescind regulations forcing employers to offer artificial contraception and abortion as health care to employees.

On his Koinonia blog, Rev. Gregory Jensen reviews Rev. Robert Sirico’s new book, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy.


“Daring though the argument is, especially for a Catholic priest, it is also essential that it be made since for too many people (including business people), free market economic theory and policies are little more than a justification for greed. While not denying the excesses of capitalism and real sins of capitalists, Fr Sirico wisely doesn’t allow sin to have the last word. Rather, and like St Augustine who inspired his own spiritual journey, the helps us see the goodness hidden beneath the distorting effects of moral failure.

Though irenic in tone, Sirico is unwilling to cede ground to those who imagine—wrongly in his view—that “socialism, liberalism, collectivism, and central planning” (p. 185) are morally superior and more effective in generating wealth. They aren’t and however noble the intention they are come up morally and practically short because they neither anthropological sound nor effective in caring for the material needs of the human person. The latter is especially the case when we turn to the needs of the most vulnerable among us. It is the free market that best fits the truth of the human person. And it is only the free market that has demonstrated the ability not only to lift the human person out of the poverty that was the almost universal lot of humanity even as late as 200 years ago.”

Read “More than Mere Economics” here.

Why is Louisiana the world’s prison capital? Are the residents of the Bayou State more criminal than other people around the world? Is the state’s law enforcement exceptionally skilled at catching bad guys? Or could the inflated prison population be, at least in part, the result of the perverse economic incentives of crony capitalism?

Recently we had an excellent discussion on twitter about the following idea that @JakeBishop8 shared: “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”

In response to this idea we retweeted, another Jake (@JakeBelder) jumped in with: “If Christ is Lord over all, is it right to say there are things that don’t really matter?”

What ensued was a great interaction between two “Jakes” about what matters in God’s Kingdom. We came out with consensus and one of the results was this guest blog post by Jake Belder. We hope it inspires you to see how everything matters when you are On Call in Culture for Christ!

Beginning today, the conference “Religion and Liberty — A Match Made in Heaven?” gets underway in Jerusalem. Sponsored by the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies (JIMS), the Acton Institute and others, the event asks questions such as, “Is capitalism not only efficient but also moral?” In conjunction with this May 20-24 conference, Acton is offering its two Jewish monographs through Amazon Kindle at no charge.

The two titles:

  • Judaism, Law & The Free Market: An Analysis by Joseph Lifshitz. [Kindle link]
  • Judaism, Markets, and Capitalism: Separating Myth from Reality by Corinne Sauer and Robert M. Sauer [Kindle link]

Also see the Sauers’ 2007 Acton commentary, “Jewish Theology and Economic Theory.”

In the conference description, JIMS notes that “several speakers will discuss why Israel — in fact no country — should grant special privileges to religious institutions, nor subsidize religious activities. While few would advocate this approach for our Jewish state, there will be compelling arguments made about why religious communities in Israel would flourish with less government support. On Tuesday we will discuss how free markets enable religious communities to conveniently observe their traditions. There also will several panels which will provide the philosophical foundation for freer markets in Israel. More importantly our speakers will explain why free market policies will break down Israel’s oligarchical institutions that impose high product prices on Israelis and limit economic opportunity.”

In addition to JIMS and Acton, the Jerusalem conference is sponsored by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Atlas Network and Maarah Magazine.

Acton now has a dozen or so eBook offerings on social thought understood through a religious lens. For a listing of titles, please visit this page.