When this book was first published in Dutch, marriage and the family were already weathering enormous changes, and that trend has not abated. Yet by God’s power the unchanging essence of marriage and the family remains proof, as Bavinck notes, that God’s “purpose with the human race has not yet been achieved.”
Accessible, thoroughly biblical, and astonishingly relevant, The Christian Family offers a mature and concise handling of the origins of marriage and family life along with the effects of sin on these institutions, an appraisal of historic Christian approaches, and an attempt to apply that theology.
Aptly reminding Christians that “the moral health of society depends on the health of family life,” Bavinck issues an evergreen challenge to God’s people: “Christians may not permit their conduct to be determined by the spirit of the age, but must focus on the requirement of God’s commandment.”
John Bolt, professor of Systematic Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary says this about Bavinck’s The Christian Family: (more…)
[N]o single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: “Mine!”
To this, I add a philosophical observation:
[I]f we truly believe that the Truth is one and indivisible, then we ought to acknowledge that all disciplines of study are essentially interdependent, because all ultimately seek to study the same thing—the Truth. And for this reason, I argue that, whenever possible, theological education ought to be augmented with insights from the vast treasuries of other disciplines (and vice versa).
Despite this philosophical orientation, the essay is largely practical. With my target audience of seminarians at my Alma Mater in mind, I offer a few suggestions for how to go about broadening one’s theological education with insights from other disciplines, including the following:
[T]ake the time to read Christian authors of the past who have endeavored to wrestle with the unity of the Truth in the diversity of academic disciplines, such as Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas, Abraham Kuyper, or Vladimir Solovyov. Such great minds offer thoughtful, Christian models for broadening our worldviews, whether or not we end up agreeing with their conclusions all the time.
In light of this, I would like to take this opportunity to shamelessly promote some of the work that Acton has been doing, specifically through our imprint Christian’s Library Press, translating the work of some great thinkers who model this broader perspective. (more…)
Thank you to our friends at The High Calling for excerpting this passage of Lester DeKoster’s Work: The Meaning of Your Life, recently republished by The Acton Institute and Christian’s Library Press. DeKoster, the former professor and director of the library at Calvin College and Seminary, also edited The Banner, the Christian Reformed Church’s monthly publication. Acton is grateful for its relationship with both The High Calling and DeKoster, who left his 10,000+ book library to the Acton Institute upon his passing in 2009.
We are pleased to give a 30% discount off of Christian’s Library Press books at the Acton Book Shop for a limited time for those who follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. If you already follow us, please send us a direct message on Twitter and we will send you the discount code (those who “like” us on Facebook can see the code automatically!).
We are excited about our friend, Byron Borger at Hearts & Minds Books, carrying Wisdom & Wonder, “the long-awaited, freshly-translated, newly-produced, collection of newspaper pieces that Dr. Kuyper wrote so many years ago.” This book is a part of the larger “common grace” work that we are in the process of translating. We hope to have Volume 1 available by Fall 2012. Click here for more information on the Kuyper Translation Project.
Nicholas Woltersdorff, Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology of Yale University describes Wisdom and Wonder as “an eloquent theological antidote to the anti-intellectualist and anti-artistic impulses that infect so much of the contemporary church….Though Kuyper wrote these words more than one hundred years ago, they have lost none of their bite and relevance.”
Mike Wittmer, professor of theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary says, “American evangelicals are deeply influenced by Neo-Calvinist authors who stand on the shoulders of Abraham Kuyper. Thanks to Acton Institute and Kuyper College, we are now able to drink large gulps straight from the man himself. Wisdom & Wonder is essential reading for all of us who aspire to live well in God’s world, and these lectures on science and art are a particularly relevant place to begin. Nothing is more hotly contested and confused than these two areas of culture, and nothing stands in greater need of Kuyper’s biblical tension between creation and fall and between common and particular grace. Kuyper’s deft handling of these worldview themes proves once again that sometimes the way forward begins with a glance back.”
Check out Byron’s site here and purchase this important new work at a discounted cost.
Where we serve others through our work we are serving God. That is the central insight of DeKoster’s book. He writes that “a right view of work becomes the key to a satisfying life, as it now looks to me. And whenever, and wherever, I see people working—at any kind of work, such as head or hand, blue-collar or white-collar, trade or profession—I want to shout out the good news: This gives meaning to your life! Right here! Right now!”
We had a great time meeting new people and reconnecting with old friends. This is an audience that Acton is committed to engaging in the long-term.
Last week we also launched the schedule for Acton University 2011, and we had a station (in use the above picture) for ETS attendees to register on-site.
We enjoyed a lot of foot traffic during the conference, and had the opportunity to introduce ourselves and our work to many people who either hadn’t heard of Acton or were not really very familiar with us.
Acton Institute has an eBook initiative underway and today we launch the first title on Amazon Kindle: Lester DeKoster’s “Work: The Meaning of Your Life.” Get yourself to the Kindle store to purchase this Christian’s Library Press work for $3.99 or to download a free sample.
Soon to be added to the Kindle store is Jordan Ballor’s Ecumenical Babel, now available in hardcover from the Acton Book Shoppe and Amazon.
Excerpt from “Work: The Meaning of Your Life” by Lester DeKoster (read his new Religion & Liberty profile here):
We know, as soon as reminded, that work spins the wheels of the world.
No work? Then nothing else either. Culture and civilization don’t just happen. They are made to happen, and to keep happening — by God the Holy Spirit, through our work.
Imagine that everyone quits working, right now! What happens? Civilized life quickly melts away. Food vanishes from the stores’ shelves, gas dries up at the pumps, streets are no longer patrolled, and fires burn themselves out. Communication and transportation services end, utilities go dead. Those who survive at all are soon huddled around campfires, sleeping in caves, clothed in raw animal hides.
The difference between barbarism and culture is, simply, work. One of the mystifying facts of history is why certain peoples do create progressive cultures while others lag behind. Whatever that explanation, the power lies in work.
An interesting thing, too: if all workers did quit, it would not make too much difference which quit first — front office, board room, assembly line, custodial staff…. Civilized living is so closely knit that when any pieces drop out the whole fabric begins to crumple. Let city sanitation workers go out this week and by next week streets are smothered in garbage. Give home-making mothers leave, and a lot of us suddenly go hungry and see our kids running wild. Civilization is so fragile that we either all hang together or, as Ben Franklin warned during the American Revolution, we all swing separately.
Incidentally, let’s not make the mistake, if ever we are tempted, of estimating the importance of our work, or of any kind of work, by the public esteem it enjoys. Up front types make news, but only workers create civilized life. The mosaic of culture, like all mosaics, derives its beauty from the contribution of each tiny bit.
A few weeks ago Hunter Baker posted some thoughts on secularism and poverty, in which he wrote of the common notion that since private charity, particularly church-based care, had failed to end poverty, it seems only prudent to let the government have its chance.
Hunter points out some of the critically important elements in creating a culture of prosperity and abundance, what Micah Watson calls “cultural capital.”
But it’s worth examining in more detail the point of departure, that is, considering the relationship between the church’s approach to charity and the creation of the welfare state. Lester DeKoster and Gerard Berghoef write of this in a brief essay contained in their book, The Deacons Handbook: A Manual of Stewardship, first published in 1980.
DeKoster and Berghoef argue in “The Church and the Welfare State” that “The Church is largely responsible for the coming of the modern welfare community.” But they also contend that the diaconal office is the key to answering the challenge posed by the welfare state: “The Church could be largely responsible for purging welfare of its faults and problems. IF enough deacons caught the vision!”
The church helped to bring about the welfare state in two ways. First, the Church embodied the idea of loving self-sacrifice in service of others. “The Word which the Church proclaims demands charity and justice for the poor. As this Word has permeated at least the Western world, an alerted public conscience has demanded public welfare,” write DeKoster and Berghoef. “The Church is the parent of the welfare community.”
But this “welfare community” became secularized when the Church “did not, and perhaps in some respects could not, measure up to her own ideals. Not all the starving were fed, not all of the homeless given shelter, not all of the oppressed and exploited relieved. The cries of the needy ascended to heaven. The Lord answered with the welfare state. The government undertakes to do what the Church demands and then fails to achieve by herself.”
In this sense, the welfare state is understood to be God’s preservational (thus imperfect) answer to the failed duty of the Church:
Thus the Church is, both by commission and by omission, author of the welfare state. Deacons start from here. Government has undertaken to do what conscience, tutored out of the Scriptures, demands but fails, through the Church, entirely to achieve.
In the brief essay Berghoef and DeKoster go on to outline some practical steps that can be taken to address this failing and rein in the scope of governmental responsibility. Some of these specifics need updating given what has happened in the United States over the last thirty years. But the vision of The Deacons Handbook, that the core of the answer lies in the diaconate, is a worthy and compelling insight.
Hunter will be pleased to note that among the practical advice given by Berghoef and DeKoster is that the meaning of the First Amendment needs to be reconsidered. Their advice for the deacon? “Do a study of what is so readily called ‘the separation of Church and state’.” This aligns with the argument Hunter makes in his new book, The End of Secularism.
This much remains true:
What is important, with an eye on tomorrow, is to discern what constructive relations may be developed between alert diaconates and public welfare. And it is immediately obvious that diaconates are uniquely qualified to amend what are commonly perceived as defects in the welfare system.