Posts tagged with: christianity

As we reap the benefits of market exchange and observe the many achievements of free trade and globalization, it’s easy to give credit to the market itself, either ignoring or forgetting the supporting individuals, communities, and institutions who actively leveraged it for the common good.

Capitalism is, after all, a mere framework for human engagement. Although the constraints it imposes (“thou shalt not steal”) and the features it elevates (ownership, stewardship, risk, and sacrifice) may fit well within a broader Christian context, it says more about what we can and can’t do than what we might or might not imagine or accomplish.

As Michael Bull recently explained, through capitalism’s continuous process of value creation, it is in many ways similar to a “biblical covenant structure”:

Good businessmen understand how it works. It invariably necessitates the risk and sacrifice of what we now possess for a greater reward. Steve Jobs told us that, and demonstrated it again and again. It takes money to make money. This requires faith in the one who made the promise, even though business people do not recognize the source of the abundance is the hand of God.

Yet, of course, it is different:

God calls Man to work, which involves risk (faith), a sacrifice and some obedience to laws (which include natural and business laws), which will bring fulfillment of the promise — a greater abundance than what you sacrificed. That is where capitalism ends, but it is not where Covenant ends, and here is the problem for which socialism is tendered as a solution. (more…)

Acclaimed and accomplished, Dave Brubeck died December 5 at the age of 91. He is best known as a jazz composer, who once said Duke Ellington was his mentor. He was known to cancel appearances if his racially-integrated band was asked to leave out non-white members. He was an ambassador of sorts, as well:

“Jazz represents freedom, freedom musically and politically,” he says. He notes that his tour “to show how important freedom and democracy are” targeted countries near the then-Soviet Union, including Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey and India…

What many did not realize was how much Brubeck’s religious faith infused his music. Of course, he did write religious pieces, such as  “A Light in the Wilderness,” and his setting of Thomas Aquinas’ hymn, “Pange Lingua. He wrote music inspired by the astronauts and their isolation in space, in which he said he referenced Christ’s 40 days in the desert.

He believed the creative process was a sharing in God’s design:

In nature, “there is never a duplication, a snowflake is never duplicated. And think of how many billions come down,” Brubeck says. “If God can create like that, we ought to be able to reflect a bit of that.”

Finally, Brubeck believed that the biblical message of loving one’s enemies was at the heart of his creative process.

In a recent blog post, Acton blogger Joe Carter talked about the “cultural mandate” Christians:

As the theologian and former Dutch Prime Minister Abraham Kuyper once claimed, “No single piece of our mental world is to be sealed off from the rest and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” Because every aspect of creation belongs to God, he can providentially use our interactions in the economic sphere—whether working at our vocations or engaging in the marketplace—to help us fulfill his cultural mandate.

Clearly, this was a mandate Mr. Brubeck heartily and joyfully participated in, and our world is the better for it.

 

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
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Earlier this week we noted that Patrick Brennan posted a paper, “Subsidiarity in the Tradition of Catholic Social Doctrine,” which unpacks some of the recent background and implications for the use of the principle in Catholic social thought. As Brennan observes, “Although present in germ from the first Christian century, Catholic social thought began to emerge as a unified body of doctrine in the nineteenth century….” Brennan goes on to highlight the particularly Thomistic roots of the doctrine of subsidiarity, “a new idea creatively culled from the depths of the Catholic philosophical and theological tradition that had roots in Greek philosophical speculation.”

While recognizing the innovativeness of Taparelli’s thought and the genius of 19th and 20th century revivals of neo-Thomism, it is also worth noting the basic “catholicity,” or universality, of a doctrine like subsidiarity within the broader Christian tradition. If Christian social thought has been around since the first century, then so have its constitutive elements, in more or less developed form. And pace Brennan, it is not clear to me that there is one univocal version of subsidiarity, at least as it arises out of the early modern period.

With this in mind, I have just posted two papers that explore the early modern backgrounds of subsidiarity and related concepts like natural law which focus particularly on the provenance of these ideas in the Reformed tradition.
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Arabic icon of St. John of Damascus

Today (Dec. 4) is commemorated an important, though sometimes little-known, saint: St. John of Damascus. Not only is he important to Church history as a theologian, hymnographer, liturgist, and defender of Orthodoxy, but he is also important, I believe, to the history of liberty.

In a series of decrees from 726-729, the Roman (Byzantine) emperor Leo III the Isaurian declared that the making and veneration of religious icons, such as the one to the right, be banned as idolatrous and that all icons be removed from churches and destroyed. The Christian practice of making icons dates back to decorations of the catacombs in the early Church as well as illuminations in manuscripts of the Scriptures; indeed, many icons can be found in manuscripts of the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures and several icons have even been uncovered in the ruins of synagogues.

Naturally, most Christians of the time protested. Patriarch Germanos I of Constantinople was forced to resign and was replaced by Anastasios, who supported the emperor’s program. This began what is known as the iconoclastic controversy. It spanned over 100 years, and the iconoclasts in the Roman (Byzantine) empire martyred literally thousands of the Orthodox who peacefully resisted and destroyed countless works of sacred art that would be priceless today. Whatever one’s understanding of the place of icons in the Church today, this controversy was a clear abuse of government power that resulted in great tragedy. (more…)

Pravmir.com, a Russian site, has published an English translation of an interview given by Archpriest Nikolai Chernyshev, who is identified as “the spiritual father of the Solzhenitsyn family during the final years of the writer’s life.” The interview touches on Aleksandr Solzenitsyn’s upbringing in a deeply religious Russian Orthodox family, his encounter with militant atheism ( … he joined neither the Young Pioneers nor the Komsomol [All-Union Leninist Young Communist League]. The Pioneers would tear off his baptismal cross, but he would put it back on every time). Fr. Chernyshev describes the writer’s later “period of torturous doubt, of rejection of his childhood faith, and of pain.” The priest talks of Solzhenitzyn’s return to the faith after his experience in the Gulag and how “he suffered and fretted about the Church being in a repressed state. For him this was open, obvious, naked, and painful.” Excerpt from the interview:

Today many people remember the writer’s famous “Lenten Letter” to Patriarch Pimen (1972) and say that Solzhenitsyn expected, and even demanded, greater participation by the Church in society. What were his views in this regard at the end of his life?

Fr. Chernyshev: Solzhenitsyn was one of those people who could not remain silent; his voice was always heard. And, of course, he was convinced that the Savior’s words Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature should be fulfilled [Mark 16:15]. One of his convictions, his idea, was that the Church, on the one hand, should naturally be separate from the government, but by no means should be separate from society.

He felt that they are quite different, that they are completely opposite things. Its inseparability from society should become more and more manifest. And here he could not but see the encouraging changes of recent years. He joyfully and gratefully took in everything positive taking place in Russia and in the Church – but he was far from complacent, since all of society had become twisted and sick during the years of Soviet rule. (more…)

Blog author: jballor
Monday, November 19, 2012
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Dr. Kuypers zorg voor de kleine luyden

A rare work in which Kuyper dispatches a particularly troublesome vampire.

However history remembers me … it shall only remember a fraction of the truth.

The multi-talented Abraham Kuyper is sometimes difficult to introduce. I often use the descriptors, “theologian, statesman, journalist” to highlight his many interests and talents. But there is much more than this to the life and work of this complex and compelling figure. As a recent introduction to Kuyper’s thought puts it, “Kuyper was a man of many hats: statesman, politician, educator, preacher, churchman, theologian, and philosopher.”

Kuyper was, indeed, the head of state of the Netherlands from 1901-1905, and had previously led a church movement that formed a new denomination, initiated the publication of two newspapers, wrote a series of essays, books, and editions of works across decades, and much, much more. He is the real-life kind of persona that the words recently placed in the mouth of a fictionalized Abraham Lincoln, who apparently enjoyed a career as a vampire hunter before his ascendancy to the nation’s top political office, would aptly apply to: “However history remembers me before I was a President, it shall only remember a fraction of the truth…”
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Blog author: jcarter
Friday, November 16, 2012
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In 1958, Leonard Read published his brilliant essay, “I, Pencil.” The Competitive Enterprise Institute recently released a wonderful video that illustrates Read’s point that the creation of a pencil requires an unfathomable level of complexity and undirected cooperation.

Read’s original essay was written from the point of view of the pencil and the humble writing implement explains why it is as much a creation of God as a tree.

Since only God can make a tree, I insist that only God could make me. Man can no more direct these millions of know-hows to bring me into being than he can put molecules together to create a tree.

For Christians the idea that God creates trees is uncontroversial since that claim is made directly in Genesis 1:12. But where do we get the idea that God creates pencils? I believe it comes from a few verses later, in Genesis 1:28, when God blesses mankind . . . and then puts us to work.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (ESV)

In the Reformed tradition, this command is often referred to as the “cultural mandate.” As Nancy Pearcey explains in her book Total Truth:
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