Archived Posts June 2012 - Page 5 of 10 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, June 20, 2012

In my Acton Commentary this week, “Good Work Never Ends,” I look at the example of two local personalities, John Izenbaard of Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Fred Carl Hamilton of Wyoming, Michigan, to argue that “the good work of service to others ought never end as long as we live.”

Izenbaard in particular is a striking example of perseverance in serving others. The 90 year-old Izenbaard has been working at Hoekstra’s True Value Hardware for 74 years, and has no plans to retire.

During his conversation with Rev. Sirico at Acton University last week, Michael Novak observed that at the heart of every business is an idea, some new good or service that is produced. In my talk on “The Church and God’s Economy,” I outlined what I call the 4 P’s of God’s economy. The P for the realm of work is that of “production,” precisely in the same sense used by Novak. Work is the realm of productive service of others. When work is defined in this way it causes us to rethink from the ground up the worldly notion of retirement.

In this week’s piece I also refer to the formula “from success to significance.” As I point out, a good way of understanding this formula is not necessarily as a temporal transition from career into retirement, but rather as a shift in perspective. On that score, we might also talk about moving “from success to service,” or even defining success in terms of productive service.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer has a helpful insight into what this might look like in relation to the challenge of being faithful in the midst of the daily grind:

The unity of prayer and work, the unity of the day, is found because finding the You of God behind the It of the day’s work is what Paul means by his admonition to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). The prayer of the Christian reaches, therefore, beyond the time allocated to it and extends into the midst of the work. It surrounds the whole day, and in so doing, it does not hinder the work; it promotes work, affirms work, gives work great significance and joyfulness. Thus every word, every deed, every piece of work of the Christian becomes a prayer, not in the unreal sense of being constantly distracted from the task that must be done, but in a real breakthrough from the hard It to the gracious You.

I also note Lester DeKoster’s fine book on work in the context of this week’s piece, and his argument helps us realize that the dynamic of serving others and serving God is not an either/or proposition. As he writes, work “gives meaning to life because it is the form in which we make ourselves useful to others, and thus to God.”

Blog author: John MacDhubhain
posted by on Wednesday, June 20, 2012

From Reason.com’s blog comes this story about the company Capital Bikeshare, a business which rents bikes to people throughout the D.C. metropolitan area. Sounds like a cool idea, but why is it getting taxpayer support?

Capital Bikeshare, which rents bikes at more than 165 outdoor stations in the Washington D.C. area, serves highly educated and affluent whites.There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, except that the program has received $16 million in government subsidies, including over $1 million specifically earmarked to “address the unique transportation challenges faced by welfare recipients and low-income persons seeking to obtain and maintain employment.”

Well, helping the poor sounds nice. I bet it’s really helped them out, let’s see if that’s the case.

Capital Bikeshare’s latest user survey finds that 95 percent of its regular patrons have college degrees, 53 percent have a Masters or Ph.D., and 80 percent are white. Fully 0 percent have only a high school diploma and just 7 percent make less than $25,000 a year. More than 90 percent were employed and 14 percent reported they were college students, suggesting that very few welfare recipients are using the service.

Well, at least legislators can feel good I guess, even if they haven’t really done any good. This episode points out that government efforts are often poorly targeted in their attempts to help the poor. There’s nothing wrong with running a bike service, but the rationale that such enterprises should receive tax payer support because they help the poor is wrong. This applies to many topics in attempted government aid, many government policies that are ostensibly meant to help the poor are actually very poorly targeted. As Ismael Hernandez said last week during a lecture given at Acton University, we must use not just our hearts and our muscles, but also our minds.

A lecture from Ismael Hernandez on “Subsidiarity and Helping the Poor” and other lectures from Acton University can be found here.

Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Matthew Tuininga, at Christian in America, attended Acton University last week, and came away with a number of insights regarding government, religion and economics. Chief among his insights is this:

Christians should not argue for a free market or capitalist society because Scripture or the Church has given us such a system. Rather, the moral case for a free market and for capitalism depends to a significant degree on the fact that it works. Principle, in that sense, is inseparable from pragmatism. If you want to help the poor, why would you support any system other than that which has done more to create economic growth and has lifted more people out of poverty than any other institution or force in the history of the world? If you value freedom, why not maximize it as much as is possible consistent with general prosperity, peace, and order?

As Tuininga points out, we can easily make our case for free market economics from a moral standpoint,  using logic and sound scholarship to persuade people who may believe that only religion (especially Christianity) makes the case for free market economics.

Read more of Tuininga’s post here.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Tuesday, June 19, 2012

As might be expected, the question of “scientific consensus” and its presumptive role in shaping our public and ecclesial policy was raised in the context of a decision by the Christian Reformed Church to make a formal public statement regarding climate change.

Jason E. Summers notes in an insightful piece addressing the complexities of scientific authority in our modern world that “scientific claims have substantial bearing on many public issues. But unless the nature of these claims and the basis for their authority are better understood, they cannot be meaningfully incorporated within the political process.”

One of the ways of better understanding the public role of science is to understand precisely what consensus does and does not mean. As Summers writes in the context of delineating “scientific consensus,”

science develops confidence in its findings on the basis of evidence accumulated under the methodological norms of the field, but it does not conclude in a final sense. Thus, a product of scientific inquiry may be highly robust—having well explained all available data and made accurate predictions—but it is not a final and absolute truth claim because it is predicated on evidence that continues to accumulate with time.

A related point is that consensus, no matter what kind, whether popular or expert, is an imperfect indicator of truth and not determinative of it. That is, truth is not created by consensus but rather by correspondence with reality.

Abraham Kuyper makes this point in his reflections on common grace in science and art. He observes,

Modern science is dominated by distrust when it comes to our own deepest sense of life, and that distrust is nothing but unbelief. What people lose thereby they attempt to recover by locating their fulcrum in the consciousness of the prevailing majority. Whatever is generally regarded as true in scientific circles people will dare to accept for themselves.

What people generally agree upon in this manner is called the truth, the truth that people profess to honor. Pressed a bit further, they sense that such a general agreement constitutes no proof at all, so they suppose that only what I can make so clear to all persons of sound mind and sufficient education such that they finally understand and agree with it belongs to what is scientifically established.

The role of scientific consensus is absolutely central to determining what ought (or ought not) be done by various institutions (governmental or otherwise) with respect to climate change. As Andy Crouch’s original piece illustrates, the scientific “near-consensus” on climate change is the latest in a long line of scientific determinations (such as evolution) to which the public is bound to accommodate itself.

But if we confuse consensus with absolute truth, and conflate scientific conclusions with ethical imperatives, we are unduly influenced by the “priestly voice” of science and invite the tyranny of scientific consensus.

Blog author: John MacDhubhain
posted by on Tuesday, June 19, 2012

In light of Joe Carter’s post on the meaning of the pursuit of happiness earlier today, I thought it would be interesting to bring up the important distinctions between pleasure and happiness. Over in the New Republic, economic historian, Deirdre N. McCloskey writes about the philosophical and economic differences:

The knock-down argument against the 1-2-3 studies of happiness comes from the philosopher’s (and the physicist’s) toolbox: a thought experiment. “Happiness” viewed as a self-reported mood is surely not the purpose of a fully human life, because, if you were given, in some brave new world, a drug like Aldous Huxley’s imagined “soma,” you would report a happiness of 3.0 to the researcher every time. Dopamine, an aptly named neurotransmitter in the brain, makes one “happy.” Get more of it, right? Something is deeply awry.

Decades ago, I was in Paris alone and decided to indulge myself with a good meal, which, you know, is rather easy to do in Paris. The dessert was something resembling crème brulée, but much, much better. I thought, “I shall give up my professorships at the University of Iowa in economics and history, retire to this neighborhood on whatever scraps of income I can assemble, and devote every waking moment to eating this dessert.” It seemed like a good idea at the time. It deserved a 3.0.

The whole thing is here. It’s certainly a long read, but a very interesting one.  The confusion of happiness and pleasure has far reaching consequences, including for those attempting to use welfare economics as a basis for crafting government interventions into market processes.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Tuesday, June 19, 2012

In his recent post on our greatest modern president, Ray Nothstine notes that Calvin Coolidge has deep relevancy for today given the mammoth federal debt and the centralization of federal power. “Coolidge took limiting federal power and its reach seriously,” says Nothstine.

Nothstine’s post (and his recent Acton Commentary) reminded me of the 1926 essay, “Calvin Coolidge: Puritan De Luxe.” The liberal journalist Walter Lippman  wrote an unintentionally beautiful tribute to the patron saint of small-government conservatism that provides an outline for what is needed today:
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Blog author: dpahman
posted by on Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Holy Ascension Choros
Source: http://www.orthodoxartsjournal.org/the-holy-ascension-choros/

Over at the Holy Protection Hummus and Pizza Parlor (perhaps my favorite name for a website/anything ever), S. Patrick O’Rourke recently announced the Orthodox Arts Journal which “publishes articles and news for the promotion of traditional Orthodox liturgical arts.”

From the journal’s homepage:

The Journal covers visual arts, music, liturgical ceremony and texts, and relevant art history and theory. The Journal presents these topics together to highlight the unified witness of the arts to the beauty of the Kingdom of God and to promulgate an understanding of how the arts work together in the worship of the Church. In the spirit of the revival of traditional Orthodox liturgical arts sparked by Kontoglou and Ouspensky, the Journal will publicize excellence in contemporary liturgical arts, emphasizing fidelity to the Church’s tradition of beauty and craft.

It is always a good thing to see artists and churchmen who are not guilty of ignoring Étienne Gilson‘s pronouncement: “Piety is no substitute for technique.” Indeed, it is refreshing to also see those for whom technique is no substitute for piety and who actively seek to wed their faith in God with the talents He has given them.

For more, be sure to check out the website of the Orthodox Arts Journal here.

A new trailer for Rev. Robert Sirico’s Defending the Free Market has been released. An excerpt of the book focused on 9/11, socialism, and capitalism is read by the author, shown below. Visit the official site for Defending the Free Market to read a free chapter, or order the book from Amazon here.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Tuesday, June 19, 2012

“The right to ‘the pursuit of happiness’ affirmed in the Declaration of Independence is taken these days to affirm a right to chase after whatever makes one subjectively happy,” says James R. Rogers, associate professor of political science at Texas A&M University. “Further, the Declaration doesn’t guarantee the right to happiness, the thought usually goes, but only the right to pursue what makes you happy. This reading of the Declaration’s ‘pursuit of happiness’ is wrong on both scores.”

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Blog author: Mindy Hirst
posted by on Monday, June 18, 2012

This week we feature an interview with Joseph Tenney, an arts pastor at Park Community Church in downtown Chicago. He is passionate about the integration of art and theology and has helped to encourage art in the church by having “Immersion Nights” which is described on the church site as “an evening filled with images of art and discussion around what they mean and how we can learn to look at art through the ‘Lens of Christ.’” You can follow him at his blog and on twitter.
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