Posts tagged with: culture

The modern world has introduced a wide array of fruits and freedoms, yet it also brings with it new tensions and temptations. Whether in family, business, education, or government, the expansion of opportunity and choice require heightened levels of individual wisdom, discernment and intentionality.

In a recent talk for the C.S. Lewis Institute, Os Guinness laments the influence of these effects on the Western church. “It isn’t ideas which have caused the main damage to the church,” Guinness says. “Modernity itself, not ideas… has done more damage to the church than all the persecutors put together, and yet many Christians don’t even know what I’m talking about.”

As Guinness argues, the Western church has far too passively shifted alongside or according to the trends and tendencies of modernity as seen across the culture, whether in family, business, education, or government. Across cultural spheres, we’ve shifted from a stance of authority to one of preference, from a mindset of integration to one of fragmentation, and from a supernatural orientation to a secular worldview. (more…)

Globalization is routinely decried for its disruptive effects, particularly as it relates to local culture and community enterprises and institutions. Even as it’s proven to drive significant economic growth, questions remain about its steamrolling influence on the culture.

“Even if we grant that global competitive markets create prosperity, is it worth the fast food chains and the big box chains we see everywhere we go?” asks Michael Miller in an excerpt from PovertyCure. “What about a sense of vulgarity and bringing things to the lowest common denominator? And perhaps most important, does globalization destroy local culture?”

The threats to culture are real and pronounced. It is undeniable that globalization can and has and will diminish or destroy certain cultures, traditions, and enterprises. Yet as Miller and others remind us in, we are not powerless in our response, whether as creators or consumers. (more…)

Radio Free ActonOn this edition of Radio Free Acton, we speak with David LaRocca, director of a new documentary called Brunello Cucinelli: A New Philosophy of Clothes.

Brunello Cucinelli is an entrepreneur based in Solomeo, Italy and a rising star in the world of high fashion. While that may be interesting in and of itself, what is far more interesting are the ideas that animate Cucinelli and shape the way he conducts his business and relates to his employees, customers, and community. LaRocca’s documentary reveals an entrepreneur who uses the humanistic tradition in Western philosophy to guide him in his business decisions and relations with his employees, customers, and community. It’s a fascinating story.

You can listen to the podcast via the audio player below; after the jump, check out the trailer for Brunello Cucinelli: A New Philosophy of Clothes.

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3-ways1How are we to be in the world but not of it? How are Christians to live and engage, create and exchange, cultivate and steward our gifts and relationships and resources here on earth? Beyond getting a “free ticket to heaven,” what is our salvation actually for?

These questions are at the center of Acton’s film series, For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles, which begins with a critique of three common approaches to Christian cultural engagement: fortification (“hide! hunker down!”), domination (“fight, fight, fight!”), or accommodation (“meh, ok whatever”).

The framework comes from Pastor Greg Thompson’s paper “The Church in Our Time,” in which Thompson summarizes the paradigms as follows (bold emphasis added):

The fortification paradigm suggests that the fundamental calling of the church is to guard the integrity of its divinely wrought life against the assaults of the world. In this view, the basic task of the church is vigilant preservation and the basic threat to the church is the destructive character of the larger culture…

…The domination paradigm suggests that the fundamental calling of the church is to triumph over her cultural enemies. In this view the basic task of the church is to extend its own values into the world while the basic threat to the church is those whose values differ from its own…

…Contrary to fortification, the accommodation paradigm suggests that the fundamental calling of the church is collaboration with the world in the service of the larger good. From this perspective the basic task of the church is active partnership with its neighbors in the interest of social renewal, and the basic threat to the church is its own separatist tendencies.

Each stems from a legitimate theological starting point, but each also tends to falter, in part due to the typical confusions and conflations between the sacred and secular. In Thompson’s paper, he seeks to avoid these pitfalls, attempting to pave a “fourth way” forward by drawing on James Davison Hunter’s notion of “faithful presence.” In For the Life of the World, we see a similar but slightly different path, one framed around embracing a position of Christian exile and “seeking the welfare of the city.” Rod Dreher has been busy exploring yet another. And the list goes on. (more…)

Radio Free ActonOn this edition of Radio Free Acton, Jordan Ballor – Acton Research Fellow, Director of Publishing, and Executive Editor of the Journal of Markets and Morality – talks with Benjamin Domenech, publisher of The Federalist, about the current populist moment in American politics, the roots of American populism, and what the possible outcomes of the current populist uprising may be for the United States.

For more from Ben Domenech, be sure to check out The Federalist Radio Hour, and subscribe to The Transom. After the jump, I’ve included video from Domenech’s excellent Acton Lecture Series address, which is well worth your time if you haven’t yet had the opportunity to check it out.

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strong-weak-chart-andy-crouch12In our discussions about politics, society, and culture, the vocabulary of “human flourishing” has become increasingly popular, moving dangerously close to the status of blurry buzzword.

Yet at its best, the term captures the connective tissue between the material and the transcendent, the immediate and the eternal, pointing toward a holistic prosperity that accounts for the full complexity of the human person.

In his latest book, Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing, Andy Crouch examines the broader ideal. ‘“Flourishing’ is a way of answering the first great question,” he writes. “What are we meant to be? We are meant to flourish—not just to survive, but to thrive; not just to exist, but to explore and expand.”

In order to actually embody that answer, Crouch believes we have to grasp the underlying “paradox of flourishing.” “Flourishing comes from being both strong and weak,” he writes, requiring us to “embrace both authority and vulnerability, both capacity and frailty – even, at least in this broken world, both life and death.”

In truth, most of us tend to elevate one to the detriment of the other, relishing in abuse of power or pursuit of poverty. Yet as humans created in the image of God, and as citizens of an upside-down Kingdom, we are called to embrace and combine each together. Such is the path to real life and abundance, both in the now and not yet. (more…)

Blog author: jballor
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
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Athenebrunnen-Stuttgart Athene+ZeusOver at the Gospel Coalition last week I reviewed Larry Siedentop’s Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism. As I conclude, “The story he tells is true, but at some points only half-true. The half-truth is still valuable, though, if for no other reason than that it runs so counter to much contemporary self-understanding. Siedentop’s interpretation helpfully casts doubt on the dominant narrative of secularism’s emergence from the oppressive claims of God and religion.”

One way of understanding the half-truth of Siedentop’s narrative is that he is right to point out the Christian roots of liberty and liberalism in the modern West, but incorrect in his understanding of Christianity and Christian liberalism. There is more than one kind of liberalism, and some of them end up in not liberty but tyranny.

Confusions abound, and much of our understanding turns on proper definitions. Take, for instance, the word liberalism. For many, this conjures up images of secular, progressive politicians and ideologues. While this may be the dominant contemporary political identification, there is also a classical understanding of liberalism that is worthy of engagement. And in the religious realm, liberalism has yet different meanings, such that J. Gresham Machen’s classic work Christianity and Liberalism would identify in the following way: “the many varieties of modern liberal religion are rooted innaturalism–that is, in the denial of any entrance of the creative power of God (as distinguished from the ordinary course of nature) in connection with the origin of Christianity.”

In this way our understanding of the relationship between Christianity and liberty, whether in historical or normative terms, will depend upon our definitions. And as Machen would have it, proper definitions are a laudable, if controversial, place to start: “Clear-cut definition of terms in religious matters, bold facing of the logical implications of religious views, is by many persons regarded as an impious proceeding.”

For more on the relationship between Christianity and liberty, see Sam Gregg’s review essay, “How Christianity Created the Free Society.”