Archived Posts September 2013 - Page 2 of 14 | Acton PowerBlog

presuppositions-e1361408206416-350x235It is truly amazing to encounter Protestants who believe that their views on theology and justice are objective and neutral — as if the Fall did not happen. In a recent discussion about the sacraments, a leader of an international ministry said to me, “If hermeneutics involves being taught to believe a certain theology, then it is not true hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is absolutely neutral.”

After reading his comment I wondered, what possible world is he talking about where neutrality actually happens? One of the consequences of Adam and Eve’s transgression against God in the Garden of Eden was a human race whose thinking is now impaired. In the book Wisdom and Wonder, Abraham Kuyper makes the point that while we have not ceased to be rational creatures, because of sin we have “lost the gift of grasping the true context, the proper coherence, [and] the systematic integration of all things.” Because of this aspect of the human condition it seems best, as much as possible, to put one’s presuppositions on the table since there is no such thing as an uninterpreted fact. Disclosure builds trust and solidarity.

One of the stumbling blocks in Protestant evangelicalism is that leaders teach their constituents that their respective positions are “the Biblical” positions when, if fact, they are formed and concluded by particular approaches and perspectives. The implication is that each tribe says that they are “truly” Biblical and those who disagree with them are not Biblical. The fact is every tradition believes that their distinctives are “biblical.” Ignoring our presuppositions often leads to useless quarreling and much wasted time (2 Tim 2; Titus 3). This does not mean that all things are up for debate and difference, but it does challenge us to pay closer attention to those things that the Scriptures are more clear about.
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Blog author: jballor
Friday, September 27, 2013
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I’m not an aficionado of the show Extreme Couponing, but I have seen it a couple times, and have been amazed at the industriousness of the people on the show. It shouldn’t be surprising, perhaps, that in the midst of economic downturn more generally the practice of clipping coupons has become more widespread as well as more extreme.

It makes sense that when times are tight and you are looking to scrimp and save every penny in your budget that increased use of coupons can be a way to make each dollar stretch a bit farther. Companies originally offered coupons as incentives to try new products, and so it is appropriate to see coupons as a form of advertising. The first company to offer coupons was Coca-Cola, and here we can see the similarities between coupons and the free samples, which is part of what makes Costco so popular, as product promotion.

coca

But it never really occurred to me until I read this short profile of an extreme couponer that coupons should also really be seen as a kind of private welfare, reaching a high of roughly $4 billion in total savings in the US in 2011.
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In what presumably was a misguided attempt to have Aaron Sorkin pen their newest round of armor-piercing media talking points, the White House sent adviser Dan Pfeiffer to the set of CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper armed to the teeth with explosive political metaphors meant to describe the GOP’s position on debt-ceiling negotiations.

TAPPER: You saw — and this is the final question. You saw today a new Bloomberg News poll indicating that the American people support by a 2-1 margin its right to require spending cuts when negotiating the debt ceiling.

I understand that Keystone and other provisions that the Republicans are talking about attaching to the debt ceiling are not related, but why not cut some spending?

PFEIFFER: The Republicans — we are for cutting spending. We’re for reforming our tax code. We’re for reforming our entitlements.

What we’re not for is negotiating with people with a bomb strapped to their chest. We’re not going to do that. So, if they want to have a discussion about how we reduce our deficits, how we help the middle class, how we give them a better bargain, lift the debt ceiling, take the full faith and credit of the United States off the table and let’s have a discussion. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, September 27, 2013
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The Duties of a Free Citizen
Kevin Gutzman, Intercollegiate Review

I here make a radical proposal:  conservatives must speak of religion more often.  When it comes to art broadly considered—encompassing music, architecture, painting, and sculpture—the only way back is upward.

Interpreting Scripture & the U.S. Constitution
Frank W. Hermann, Crisis Magazine

During the twentieth century, it became vogue to interpret the Constitution the way that some readers interpret a poem: in virtual isolation of its broader historical context.

Nairobi Westgate mall terrorist attack is part of Kenya’s sharp rise in religious hostilities
Brian J. Grim, Pew Research Center

The Somalia-based Islamic group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the Nairobi shopping mall attack that began Saturday and has left at least 62 dead, saying that the assault is in retaliation for Kenyan military operations in Somalia.

Limited Government and Human Nature
Art Lindsley, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

How can a biblical understanding of human nature influence how we think about the size and scope of government?

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, September 26, 2013
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download (1)Christianity can and should be a leading influence in human culture, says Greg Forster. We do this not by seizing control of the institutions of culture but acting as cultural entrepreneurs — like the biblical figure Job:

Before he was stricken, Job was a cultural leader. People looked to him for wisdom. And the word “because” in verse 12 indicates that he’s about to tell us why people looked to him for wisdom. Was it because he was smarter? Was it because he was wealthy and successful? No doubt those factors were important, but Job does not identify them as the main source of his cultural leadership. Instead, he points to something else:

12 because I delivered the poor who cried for help,
and the fatherless who had none to help him.
13 The blessing of him who was about to perish came upon me,
and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy.
14 I put on righteousness, and it clothed me;
my justice was like a robe and a turban.
15 I was eyes to the blind
and feet to the lame.
16 I was a father to the needy,
and I searched out the cause of him whom I did not know.
17 I broke the fangs of the unrighteous
and made him drop his prey from his teeth.

Job was a cultural leader because he served human needs. The connection is reinforced in the following verses, where Job seamlessly transitions back from his deeds of service to his position of cultural leadership. “Men listened to me and waited and kept silence for my counsel…” etc.

Read more . . .

The Joy of Calvinism: Knowing God's Personal, Unconditional, Irresistible, Unbreakable Love

The Joy of Calvinism: Knowing God's Personal, Unconditional, Irresistible, Unbreakable Love

This book will show you how Calvinism can transform your everyday walk with God by unlocking the purpose of the Christian life

According to a new study by Dick Slikker, “changes in the percentage of Christians within a society exert a measurable correlated influence of the economic well-being of that society” — particularly when those Christians are evangelicals.

Correlations Between Christian Population Changes and Changes in Sovereign Ratings in Countries for the Period Between 2000 to 2012

Kate Tracy summarizes the findings at Christianity Today:

Dutch researcher Dick Slikker wanted to assess the Marxist theory that increases in prosperity lead to decreases in religious practice. So he examined the past decade’s worth of data from countries including the United States, Belgium, China, Germany, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom. His research used Operation World and the World Religion Database for its data on changes in the percentage of Christians in each country, while studies fromMoody’s Analytics and Fitch Ratings provided data on changes in the economic status of each country, particularly its sovereign credit rating…

…”When using total Christian populations per country, statistically significant positive linear correlations were obtained in seven out of eight combinations of data source, rating agency and either five- or ten-year interval.” Slikker notes in his abstract.

Furthermore, within the three subsets of Christianity studied—Protestants, Catholics, and evangelicals—it was evangelicals that proved to have the highest rate of correlation with economic wellbeing. (more…)

We’re continuing to round up appearances by Acton Director of Research Samuel Gregg as he does radio interviews nationwide to promote his latest book, Tea Party Catholic. This past Monday, Sam made an appearance on the Relevant Radio network show A Closer Look with Sheila LiaugminasAs usual, it was a wide-ranging and intelligent discussion, and you can listen to it via the audio player below.

Tea Party Catholic

Tea Party Catholic

In Tea Party Catholic, Samuel Gregg draws upon Catholic teaching, natural law theory, and the thought of the only Catholic Signer of America's Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll of Carrollton—the first “Tea Party Catholic”—to develop a Catholic case for the values and institutions associated with the free economy, limited government, and America's experiment in ordered liberty. Beginning with the nature of freedom and human flourishing, Gregg underscores the moral and economic benefits of business and markets as well as the welfare state's problems. Gregg then addresses several related issues that divide Catholics in America. These include the demands of social justice, the role of unions, immigration, poverty, and the relationship between secularism and big government.

Visit the official website at www.teapartycatholic.com

contraception-253x300John Seager, president of Population Connection, has written an article at the Huffington Post regarding World Contraception Day. Entitled (and I don’t think he meant for this to be a non sequitur), “A World Without Contraception Is No Place For People,” Seager mournfully asks the reader to envision a world where there is no birth control because “right-wing anti-contraception crusaders” have gotten their way. Now, he says, sex is only for procreation. (I’m not sure where he got this assumption; even the Catholic Church, which tends to have the strictest teachings about such things notes that sex is both unitive and procreative, and that it’s meant for a husband and wife to enjoy. “Sexuality is a source of joy and pleasure.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church #2362) Seager dolefully notes: (more…)

cruz controlThere is little doubt that we will see more Sen. Ted Cruz like broadsides against Washington’s power structure. Obamacare might be the straw that broke the camel’s back when it comes to ceding power to Washington. A point that was made Ad nauseum during Cruz’s 20 hour plus talk fest on the Senate floor is that what he did matters little. Nothing would change from a legislative or a procedural standpoint. While I think that’s true for the short term, the credibility of the Republican leadership in the Senate may have taken a fatal blow. To see what that means for those fighting for conservatism and limited government check out Matt Walsh’s excellent post on National Review Online.

It was a definitive moment for the triumph of principle and that imagery matters not just to liberalism or the statist but for conservatism too. Every battle against collectivism doesn’t require an immediate victory but it does require a victory for principle. Most Americans know the federal government is broken. They sense there is something fundamentally wrong with the political leadership and the direction of the country. Despite America’s culture of escapism through entertainment, there are still millions of people paying attention. They don’t want to become what Alexis de Tocqueville warned in Democracy in America, as nothing more than “a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.”

Political infighting and procedure aside, the larger point is an important one. We are increasingly arriving at the point where we will see more and more public show downs against the federal government by those constituencies that know it is broken, out of touch, and corrupt. The result of more and more centralization and federal control over our lives inevitably exacts push back.

Walsh’s point at NRO is that the Republican leadership in the Senate is just the first victim of the grassroots broadside. It will be interesting to see how the battle over power plays out and the biggest obstacle indeed is the secularism of society. Secular cultures demand centralization and planning in their futile attempt to perfect society. And while the federal government continues to expand in its already bloated form, it does so with great risk. More and more people will take notice and the bigger it is, the harder the entrenched power structure could come crashing down.

Democracy In America

Democracy In America

In 1831 Alexis de Tocqueville, a young French aristocrat and ambitious civil servant, made a nine-month journey throughout America. The result was Democracy in America, a monumental study of the life and institutions of the evolving nation.

apple harvestIt is time to pick the apples. Row after row of trees, marked Gala and Honeycrisp and Red Delicious: an abundance of fruit that must be harvested in a relatively short time. And there is more to it than just yanking a piece of fruit off a branch:

[T]he job is more difficult than you may think, so WZZM 13 sent reporter Stacia Kalinoski out into [orchard owner] May’s orchard to show what the work is really life…

Stacia Kalinoski did just that and found out picking apples really is, as May says, “an art form.”

The trick to picking the fruit without the stem or the spurs of the tree is to twist.

“When you yank that apple you will get finger bruises on that apple,” he said.

But the twist takes practice and is what slows new workers down. Stacia also learned you’ll also bruise the apple and others just by lightly tossing it in the bag.

“Lay that apple in that bag,” explained May. “You’re handling eggs right now.”

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