Posts tagged with: Acton University

crane collapse meccaLongtime Acton University lecturer (and author of “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty”) Mustafa Akyol discusses the recent tragic deaths at Mecca in The New York Times. More to the point, Akyol talks about the fatalism which seems inherent in Islamic theology.

More than 100 people died when a crane collapsed in Mecca earlier this month. While Saudi Arabian authorities spoke of negligence on the part of the crane operators, the company itself seemed to be absolved of guilt:

The technicians that operated the crane, the Saudi Binladen Group, had an easy way out. One of them spoke to the press and simply said: ‘What happened was beyond the power of humans. It was an act of God.’


Pope Francis has started an important global discussion on the environment with the release of his encyclical Laudeto Si’, which the Acton Institute has been engaging in with vigor since it’s release, and has been ably covered as well here on the PowerBlog by the likes of Bruce Edward Walker and Joe Carter. But this isn’t the first time that Acton has waded into the debate over protecting the environment; Acton Founder Rev. Robert A. Sirico was debating Matthew Fox, proponent of deep ecology and a so-called “creation spirituality” back in 2000, and we’ve talked extensively about environmental stewardship as part of our Effective Stewardship curriculum and other publications as well.

Another recent example of Acton’s engagement with issues of environmental protection came as part of the 2014 Acton Lecture Series, as The Very Reverend Michael Butler and Andrew Morriss, Dean of the Texas A&M Law School, collaborated on a presentation at the Mark Murray Auditorium in the wake of the release of their monograph, titled Creation and the Heart of Man: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on Environmentalism. As the debate over Laudeto Si’ continues, we’re pleased to present this valuable contribution from the Orthodox Christian perspective.

Back in June, Fr. Michael Butler responded to Laudeto Si’ at Acton University. After the jump, you can hear his thoughts upon the release of the encyclical. (more…)

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Acton University 2015 Participants

After working in the DC area for nearly twenty years, Judi Niedercorn recently moved to the Northern Appalachian area of New York where she founded the Northern Appalachian Socio-Economic Collaborative (NASEC) and is in the midst of transferring her company, SysTactics. Her company, SysTactics provides technical and managerial consulting services to commercial and government clients. NASEC is a non-profit enabling the communities of Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties in New York to improve the economy and fight poverty. NASEC is a collaboration of civic, commercial, and faith based organizations working together towards long lasting economic improvement in the region. As Judi began a new life endeavor with NASEC, she came upon the Acton Institute and thought Acton University would be a good resource for her work. She certainly found that to be true!

Judi was impressed that all the speakers were top notch in their particular field of instruction. The foundational courses did an excellent job of laying the ground work for a common understanding of “the very foundations of faith, life, and flourishing as well as our responses and responsibilities.” She found that Christopher Brook’s session on “Church, City, and Urban Renewal” was a “bonanza of inspiration.” (more…)

470380_368492526508146_880858769_oMichael Matheson Miller, research fellow at the Acton Institute, presented a course at Acton University a few weeks ago titled, “Poverty in the Developing World.”

The purpose of the lecture was to demonstrate the root cause of global poverty and to analyze the impact of attempts to alleviate poverty through economic aid. Miller was able to draw from the insights he gained during his extensive travels across the globe, and his conclusion was that aid often harms local economies because it crowed out small businesses by under-cutting their prices. He also found that aid often encourages dependency on foreign assistance which prevents long term economic development. However, he went on to clarify that “this lecture is not a critique of aid but a critique of a flawed system and its underlying assumptions of which aid is the main symptom.” (more…)


C. S. Lewis

Silence took the place of applause as the room struggled to manifest a question to the finality of Peter Kreeft’s lecture; unfazed, the professor filled with excitement at the chance to quip the crowd quoting Aristotle: “human beings are curious by nature.” A smirk crept across his face as he both laid forth a potential congratulation for our ascension beyond curiosity as gods or the insult of being beasts below curiosity. With that, the air filled with questioning hands.

A few weeks ago at Acton University 2015, professor of philosophy at Boston College and at the King’s College and a prolific writer of Christian philosophy and apologetics, Peter Kreeft, taught the course: “Good, True, and Beautiful: C.S. Lewis.” Focusing on these three virtues known as cardinal or transcendental that are central to philosophical conceptions of God, Kreeft goes on as any philosopher must to define the three virtues and their place in the world. The cardinal “hinge” role of these virtues is because humanity never grows tired of goodness, truth, or beauty because these are the attributes of perfection, of God. Moreover, “everything God creates is imbued with these attributes to some extent” and Kreeft discussed their manifestation of the works of C.S. Lewis. (more…)


Christopher Dawson

On June 17, 2015, Bradley Birzer taught a course at Acton University entitled “Christopher Dawson and the Dynamics of History” in which he outlined the life and thought of the great historian. Describing Dawson as “an academic’s academic,” Birzer explained that although many people have never heard of Dawson, he nevertheless influenced many popular Christian intellectuals, such as C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Flannery O’Connor.

And what was that influence? Christopher Dawson believed his life’s calling was to record the history of the world, but he refused to reduce the task history to the narrow specialization of the archivist. Rather, true history is a poetic endeavor that must take place from within a culture, as opposed to objectifying and deconstructing it from the outside. All cultures contain some aspect of truth that may be missed by others, so the goal of the Church is not to destroy pagan culture but to baptize it and put the truths of that culture in their proper relation to the Truth. Modern ideologies pose such a danger because they single out a truth and pluck it from its broader context in the world over which God reigns. Dawson shows us that we cannot defeat ideology by creating a counter-ideology but only by reconnecting its true foundation to the entirety of truth in a loving manner. (more…)

Acton University 2015 got underway last night with an opening plenary address by Dr. Samuel Gregg on the topic of Truth, Reason and Equality. Gregg emphasized that the pursuit of authentic equality must be rooted in a deep respect for truth, not in “sentimental humanitarianism.” We’re pleased to share his address with you via the video player below.

thornburyPresident of  The King’s College in New York City and one of this year’s Acton University plenaries, Greg Thornbury, gives his top 5 book picks for today’s college students.

1. Plato’s Dialogues

Plato’s dialogues are good for virtually everything that ails our society. He takes on relativism, skepticism, materialism, and incivility. Gorgias clarifies the difference between truth-seeking and posturing.


Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm

Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm

Don’t let the dirty boots and the beat-up cowboy hat fool you: Joel Salatin is not your average farmer. While he is a farmer (he owns and operates Polyface Farm), he has a lot to say about how we produce, distribute and eat food in our nation, and how practices in the West negatively impact the developing world.

What each of these delegates said, each session I went to, was, “You Americans butt out. We don’t need your foreign aid. We can feed ourselves.” And they would list these wonderful, perennial nut-bearing trees and things that had now been cut down because of cheap, western-dumping, foreign aid into those cultures, which depressed the price of their locally-produced food, and eliminated the value.”


Blog author: dpahman
Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Not Abba Pistamon

Today at Ethika Politika, I examine some ancient economic wisdom from one of the desert fathers: Abba Pistamon. Far from the newest of Nintendo’s Pokemon monsters (despite the sound of his name), Abba Pistamon was one of the first Christian monks. The dialogue between him and an unnamed brother that I examine from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers has a lot to say about production, labor, profit, and exchange.

I write,

Far from a gnostic allergy to any involvement with the material world, Abba Pistamon acknowledges the good of production and exchange, appealing to past precedent of other revered monks before him (“Abba Sisois and others”). Commerce, he says, was common. In fact, according to the size and expansive enterprise of ancient monastic communities, we can say that his assessment is more than anecdotal. In ancient Christian sources, contempt for the merchant and trader is common, but the reality is more complicated. Sometimes traders and merchants went by a more respectable name: monks. We should not be surprised, then, that Abba Pistamon displays a certain natural business sense. But he does not stop at the merely economic aspects of production and exchange.