A mea culpa – in my effort to make sure that the equipment used to record the event was set up correctly and working properly, I managed to neglect to start the recorders on time, and thus the recording begins with the event in progress. The good news is that I realized my error in time to catch the meat of Gideon’s opening argument; the bad news is that I missed his rather witty opening comments, and for that, I apologize to Gideon and to our listeners.
Regardless, the audio of the exchange is available to you below; have a listen and let us know what you think in the comments.
It has been interesting to see the reaction that my comments about the Call have generated. Many have said that I simply misunderstood or misread the document. I have taken the time to reread the document and do some reassessment of the entire debate. Unfortunately this has raised more questions than answers for me thus far.
Dr. Carl Trueman is our guest for Acton on Tap tonight at Derby Station in East Grand Rapids. Be sure to join us and bring a friend if you are within hailing distance of this fine establishment (arrival at 6pm, discussion at 6:30pm).
I have said before that I think that the thesis of Trueman’s book and my own recent work, Ecumenical Babel, are on one level quite complementary. We both see a problem with the politicization of the church’s prophetic voice and social witness. We do differ in the objects of our analysis and therefore in the diagnosis of the problem. Where Dr. Trueman sees conservative cultural and political agendas exerting undue influence on evangelical though in North America, I perceive progressive, even neo-Marxist, ideology at work in the larger mainline ecumenical movement.
So while Dr. Trueman’s point of departure is at some distance from my own, I think our projects in one sense meet in the middle. We are both responding to the phenomenon that Paul Ramsey described in 1967:
…in the United States conservative and liberal religious opinion is the same thing as conservative and liberal secular opinion—with a sharper edge. In short, the polarization of public debate on most issues is simply aided and abetted by the polarization of religious forces.
As for Republocrat, which I reviewed for our own Religion & Liberty, I conclude that Trueman’s “project is not about demonizing capitalism, wealth, or profits on the one hand, or political power on the other. It is about putting the pursuit of profit and power in its proper place.”
Find out more about Republocrat with this video introduction:
Join us tonight if you are able, and if you aren’t we hope to provide some follow-up about the event. My hope is that it will be an example of the kind of principled discussion and vigorous dialogue that should be able to take place between Christians, even on matters as divisive as politics and culture, even in the midst of disagreement.
If you weren’t able to join us in person for the inaugural lecture of the 2011 Acton Lecture Series, fear not: today, we’re pleased to present Rev. Robert A. Sirico’s “Christian Poverty in the Age of Prosperity” for our loyal PowerBlog readers. The lecture was delivered on February 3rd at the Waters Building here in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The next lecture in the 2011 Acton Lecture Series takes place on March 16 and features Peter Greer, President of HOPE International. If you’re interested in attending, click here to register.
Peter Cook (center) with fellowship recipients Bo Helmlich (right) and Adam Co at Acton’s 1999 Annual Dinner.
In the main hallway of the Acton Institute hangs a large plaque. The plaque carries the names of the most exceptional students to grace Acton’s Toward a Free and Virtuous Society conferences from 1994 forward. These students, named as Cook Fellows for their outstanding promise and engaged participation, share a connection to the great businessman and philanthropist, Peter Cook. Over the 20 years of the Acton Institute, Mr. Cook sponsored more than 200 students to attend Acton programs, equipping them to articulate and defend the value of a free and virtuous society.
Peter Cook passed away on Sunday evening at the age of 96. His contributions to Acton’s home region of West Michigan are well recognized, but his impact throughout the country and around the world is beyond measure.
This morning, I spent some time reading through files upon files of student testimonials and thank you letters in Acton’s office. The gratitude and admiration felt by complete strangers for Mr. Cook’s life and legacy are in overwhelming evidence. In honor of his passing, I’d like to take a moment to share just a handful of the sentiments expressed.
In 2001, Crossroads of Life pastor and Cook Fellow Lance Scherer wrote:
Even though we have never met, your legacy has been imprinted upon my heart through your generosity. We have such a faithful God, and some of the most thrilling moments in my life have been when I could tangibly see God’s smile upon my life through support like you have demonstrated to me.
2002 participant and professor at Criswell College, Joe Wooddell continued:
Thank you so much for allowing God to use you to help build His kingdom in this unique way. I am better for it, as are my present students and future ministry.
Catholic seminarian Francesco Giordano expressed his admiration differently:
Thoughts and ideas become words; words become actions; actions become habits; and habits become second nature. Thank you for caring about ideas, especially about ideas which our society cannot afford to abandon.
Anglican seminarian and Cook Fellow Christopher Brown most closely expressed our feelings at Acton, writing in 2007:
Thank you so very much… My prayers will be with you continually for the blessing of you and yours. And may you always be comforted by the knowledge that your patronage is raising up generations of energized Christians.
September in Grand Rapids means the return of ArtPrize, which bills itself as a “radically open” art competition, juried by the general public, and awarding the largest cash prize for an art competition in the world – $250,000 for first place.
As the competition takes place in the hometown of the Acton Institute – in fact, many artists exhibited their work in our building last year, and will do so again this year – it’s hard for us to miss it. And frankly, the questions that have been raised about the impact of such a non-professional, wide-open art contest with such a large prize at stake on the art world (for example, does ArtPrize foster real art, or are artists simply pandering to the public to have a shot at the prize) are too intriguing to pass up.
This edition of Radio Free Acton tackles the question of how Christians should steward the arts. The participants, Professors Nathan Jacobs and Calvin Seerveld, previously debated this topic in the Controversy section of our Journal of Markets & Morality (Volume 12, Number 2 – you can read the first part of their debate at this link), and we thought it would be interesting to bring them together for a live exchange as well. Special thanks are due to David Michael Phelps, who agreed to sit in as the moderator of the program.
Join us on Thursday, August 12, at Derby Station in Grand Rapids as we continue our Acton on Tap series, a casual and fun night out to discuss important and timely ideas with friends. The event is scheduled for 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm and discussion starts at 6:30.
American Exceptionalism is a newsworthy topic as some on both the political left and right lament that America’s greatness is slipping away. But what does American Exceptionalism mean and how did the idea take root? What are some of the thoughts of those who say American Exceptionalism is a dangerous myth? What are the religious connections to the idea? Ray Nothstine will offer some remarks on the topic related to American history, theology, the presidency, military history, morality, and economics. But this is really a topic that call for a lot of friendly discussion from the attendees so he promises to keep his thoughts short. We want to hear from you.
Rev. Robert Sirico delivered a sermon titled “Whistling Past the Graveyard” at Mars Hill mega-church in Grand Rapids, Mich on September 20. You can listen to his sermon in its entirety by clicking on the sermon title above. Mars Hill was founded by Rob Bell in 1999.
Rev. Sirico addressed Christology, mortality, atonement theology, and the problem of evil. In his remarks Rev. Sirico declared:
And the vision of that hill, there on Golgotha’s bloody mount, is the answer to the riddle of human existence. There in the crucified Christ, we see one who not only suffers for us…but he suffers with us. He enters our grief, our solitude, our pain. And because the one who is suffering so is innocent, he has the capacity to subsume into himself, into his divine person, all of humanity’s suffering, all the history of limitation and death.
Thanks to Clear Channel Radio, I was able to attend Dave Ramsey’s event in Grand Rapids last night. I used to listen to Ramsey on the radio quite a bit as a seminary student in Kentucky and I was always impressed by how much he was inspiring American families to live within their means and become better financial stewards of their resources and income. His own personal faith testimony is very real and inspiring and that brings me to another point concerning his presentation last night.
Last month, Acton’s director of communications, John Couretas, wrote a commentary titled “Obama and the Moral Imagination,” where he asked “If religious conservatives and free market advocates are to oppose Obama on those issues where there is fundamental disagreement, they will have to craft their own counter-narrative to ‘change the trajectory.’ No small task.”
One of my immediate impressions about Ramsey is his mastery of the narrative style of teaching and motivating. He effectively uses his own personal testimony to motivate people. By using his story in the fashion that he does, he disarms possible objections to his teachings and allows attendees to embrace and connect their story to Ramsey’s story. And I mean, not only his financial story, but also his own faith story as well. I would also add that his humor is far wittier and funnier perhaps than any stand up comedy I have ever heard.
How does this then relate to fiscal conservatism and the importance of free markets? Several times last night Ramsey stressed this by saying that “you are not going to spend like Congress anymore.” He uses the story and behavior of Congress to powerfully contrast that with a new found ability of a person to budget, save, and invest. Ramsey even expressed his strong desire to see Congress overturned. He expressed confidence in the long term benefits of the market, while simultaneously denouncing the stimulus bill. Here is a you tube clip of Ramsey on his radio show railing against what he calls the “spending bill.” Ramsey made a good point I stressed last week on a radio appearance of my own, and that is this: “When America is more financially responsible, they will demand more financial responsibility from their leaders.”
The entire event is a creative introduction to his financial teachings, what he calls the seven baby steps to get your financial future on track. He ended the event by sharing more about his relationship with God, and stressing that it is relationship with God that matters most, and it is the greatest life changing principle he teaches.
Grand Rapids seems to be establishing a precedent for private corporations and individuals stepping up to the plate in the face of budget cuts and financial difficulty. The most recent example is the announcement that all six city pools will be open this summer, rather than just three. That means that the Director of Parks and Recreation is now looking to fill 160 new jobs (including lifeguards and water safety instructors) to man the parks. Why, when Michigan is facing a severe budget crisis, are we opening all the swimming pools in the city? Because Roosevelt Tillman, a local business man, remembered the days when he used to spend all day at the pool during the summer wanted today’s children to experience the same thing.
This is not the first time that the local population has stepped in to save the day in the midst of a budget crisis. This winter La Salle Bank and Centennial Wireless in cooperation with the Grand Rapids Griffins Youth Foundation provided the necessary funds to keep the Rosa Park Skating Rink open to the public.
There are several advantages to both individuals and corporations that fund these parks. A person invests in something because they think its worth it – there is good chance of a positive return. A company may invest in order to increase awareness and costumer loyalty. There’s a good chance that I’ll be more likely to bank with LaSalle or get a cell phone plan with Centennial because I drive by people skating in the rink every evening on my way home from work.
A big thank you to the people and corporations who invest in Grand Rapids. Your contributions to this community will not be forgotten.