In a recent speech, President Obama invoked Scripture to justify his ambitious spending plans. In this week’s Acton Commentary (published May 25), Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg notes that the president said nothing about the role of private communities and associations in helping our brothers and sisters in need. What’s more, “our leader hasn’t noticed that even some European governments, many of whom have been handing out as much pork as possible to politically-connected, politically-correct crony-capitalists over the past 15 years, are concluding many of these projects aren’t likely to be economically-viable either now or in the distant future,” Gregg writes. The full text of his essay follows. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.
One of the issues that arose during last week’s law and religion symposium (in the questions following Wim Decock’s thorough and engaging paper on Leonardus Lessius’ engagement of commercial affairs from the perspective of moral theology and philosophy) had to do with the understanding of the relationship between material pursuits and eternal salvation. In some way you might say that Lessius held to a view of commercial activity as a worthy expression of the stewardship responsibilities of human beings.
At the time I noted that one of the origins of this biblical idea is in a formulation found in Augustine, that temporal goods are given by God “under a most fair condition: that every mortal who makes right use of these goods suited to the peace of mortal men shall receive ampler and better goods, namely, the peace of immortality and the glory and honour appropriate to it, in an eternal life made fit for the enjoyment of God and of one’s neighbor in God.”
There is clearly a sense in which this could be taken in what the Reformed would consider a semi-Pelagian manner associated with Jesuits like Lessius. But I also note this passage from Augustine in my new book on Wolfgang Musculus, observing the continuities with it as understood by a variety of the early Reformers.
“We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise,” wrote C.S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man. “We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”
Even if you’ve read that passage many times (like me) you might have glossed over (as I did) the word “enterprise.” Jacqueline Otto explains why it is significant:
Is it possible then, as Lewis asserts, that by making men without chests, we make men that are not inherently moral—who are not capable of being enterprising? Men who do not understand the moral urgency of freedom?
Of course, the power of the use of the word and is that it suggests the interdependency of virtue and enterprise. If we continue to make men without chests, not only will we end up with amoral men—traitors, even—but we will end up will a society not capable of engaging a free market.
We will end up with a people who, like Brooks rightly points out, claim to love free enterprise but who will do nothing to defend it. They will be a people lacking the capacity for freedom.
While Christianity still holds a fair amount of sway in western parts of Germany, in the eastern areas two thirds of the population—young and old—are declared atheists:
Bad news for all those who’d hoped Christianity might make a comeback now that the Cold War-era German Democratic Republic (DDR) is becoming an ever more distant memory. Atheism, according to a new study, is very much alive and well in the eastern part of Germany.
The statistics are most striking among those under 28 years old: more than 71% of eastern Germans in this age group say they have never believed in the existence of God. That’s nearly as many as in the 38-47 group, of which 72.6% are non-believers.
What the figures mean is that in eastern Germany, very young people are on the same wavelength as people from the middle generation when it comes to belief in God. The political transformation of former East Germany, in other words, hasn’t had much of an effect on people’s ideas about religion. While there are somewhat fewer atheists among young adults aged 28 to 37, where “only” 63.6% say they’ve never been believers, those in the following generation are at least as non-religious as their parents.
The deadline to register for the 2012 Acton University conference is this Friday, May 18! This means that you have less than five days to visit university.acton.org to finish that application you started a few days ago.
If I were going to try to explain Acton University, I could say that attendees and faculty alike are professionals who are among the best in their respective fields. I could also say that the number and variety of resources brought to the event by everyone involved, whether directly or indirectly, is simply astounding. Or, I could explain that both of these elements help us to create an environment that cultivates your ability to articulate your understanding of the Judeo-Christian view of liberty and morality and its application in a free and virtuous society. Try as I might, though, none of this accurately describes the experience you’ll have at Acton University this summer. But remember: You only have until Friday to register so that you can find out for yourself!
Recently we held a blog contest asking people to respond to the following Kuyper quote by sharing how this idea reframes your calling in life, “There can be nothing in the universe that fails to express, to incarnate, the revelation of the thought of God.”
We are excited to share with you the three winners of the contest. Our first prize winner is Travis Thomas and his full entry is below. Our two honorable mentions are James Berry and Katelyn Swiatek. Click on their names to read their entries.
Acton Institute President Rev. Robert Sirico will be reading from the Gospel at the Memorial Service for Charles Colson Wednesday at 10 a.m. EST. The memorial will be streamed live on the Washington National Cathedral website. Tune in for a fitting tribute to our friend and collaborator, Chuck Colson.
Also, visit our Chuck Colson resource page for video, interviews, and other materials highlighting Acton’s relationship with Colson.
While reading a book on the early conservative movement in America, I stumbled across a reference to an article in a magazine that had gone out of print almost 50 years earlier. Since I was living near Washington, D.C. I took a trip to the Library of Congress to see if they had a copy I could read. To my amazement, I merely had to fill out a form, wait about 45 minutes, and I could view the issue in their reading room.
That was in the late 1990s. Today, thanks to Ron Unz, I merely have to click on a URL, wait about 10 seconds, and I can view that same issue from my living room.
Over the weekend, Unz announced he has made available the digitized archives of over 100 periodicals from the last two centuries, “most of which have never before been available outside the dusty shelves of research libraries.”
The archives contain many political magazines from both the right (The American Mercury, Modern Age, Social Justice) and the left (IF Stone’s Weekly, The New Masses, Marxism Today). It even includes literary journals (The Idler) and numerous pulp fiction magazines (Detective Fiction Weekly, Exciting Western, Weird Tales).
The treasure trove of content is a prize in itself, but Unz is also sponsoring a Historical Research Competition with a $10,000 First Prize, for “the most interesting and important research discovery based on these archives.”