The 2014 Acton Lecture Series got underway last week with an address from Jay Richards on the topic of “Why Libertarians Need God.” In his address, Richards argued that core libertarian principles of individual rights, freedom and responsibility, reason, moral truth, and limited government make little sense in an atheistic and materialist context, but make far more sense when grounded in a theistic belief system. The video of the full lecture is available below; I’ve embedded the audio after the jump.
The core economic challenge facing the American experiment is not income inequality per se, but rather stratification and stagnation — weak mobility from the bottom of the income ladder and wage stagnation for the middle class. These challenges are bound up in a growing social crisis — a retreat from marriage, a weakening of religious and communal ties, a decline in workforce participation — that cannot be solved in Washington D.C. But economic and social policy can make a difference nonetheless, making family life more affordable, upward mobility more likely, and employment easier to find.
Ross Douthat, op-ed columnist at The New York Times and author of Bad Religion, will be joining the faculty of Acton University 2014 and featured as a plenary speaker. His writing has been called “prophetic;” Douthat has a keen eye for culture, religion, economy, politics – the milieu of American life. In Bad Religion, Douthat examines how America is becoming a nation of heretics, and the harm that is causing. David Wilezol of The Washington Times had this to say about Douthat’s book:
“Bad Religion” is a superb documentation of America’s crisis of faith, and a persuasive apology for the restoration of Christian orthodoxy in America. Mr. Douthat theorizes that the cause of America’s economic, political and moral slump has been a societal departure from our Christian roots, but the cause hasn’t been the fashionable atheism of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. (more…)
Christian’s Library Press has released a new translation of Wolfgang Musculus’ commentary on Psalm 15, which includes two related appendices on the topics of oaths and usury. Released at the end of 2013, On Righteousness, Oaths, and Usury comes on the 450th anniversary of Musculus’ passing. The book is part of CLP’s growing series, Sources in Early Modern Economics, Ethics, and Law.
Musculus (1497–1563) was a second-generation reformer in the cities of Strasbourg, Augsburg, and Bern, and produced a variety of works, including an influential collection of theological topics, the Loci communes, or Common Places.
The contents of this new translation come from his commentary on the Psalms, his largest exegetical work and one of his most popular. Portions of the commentary were originally published in German, Dutch, French, and English throughout the sixteenth century. Although Musculus has been somewhat overlooked among the likes of Luther and Calvin, particularly this side of the Atlantic, his works had a significant impact on the Reformation and post-Reformation eras.
The domestic threat to religious liberty and the global slaughter of Christians around the globe is becoming harder to ignore. It certainly is now one of the most important news stories to follow for the New Year.
Yesterday, I delivered a lecture on the topic of religious liberty to the faculty of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind. My Acton commentary is an abbreviated version of the portion of the lecture that focused on the current domestic threat. I’ve already talked about how the American Civil Rights Movement might be one model to push back against the rising tide of Christian persecution in this country. It is becoming increasingly clear that churches need to do a better job preparing believers to handle and deal with religious persecution.
We are really living through a dangerous era of historic revisionism, where the agenda to drastically curb the influence of religion and a faith informed virtue from the public square is strengthening. I simply ask in my piece, “What would Western Civilization look like without God, and more specifically the Lord Jesus Christ? Francis Cardinal George warns us that “secularism is communism’s better-scrubbed bedfellow. (more…)
“There is only one effective solution to world poverty,” says theologian Wayne Grudem in a recent lecture on his latest book, The Poverty of Nations, co-authored with economist Barry Asmus. That solution, he argues, is a rightly ordered free market, and such a solution, he goes further, is “consistent with the teachings of the Bible about productivity, property, government, and personal moral values.”
Watch the whole thing here:
Grudem’s primary question, “What causes wealth or poverty in the world?,” is not new, but he approaches it from a distinctly Christian perspective. Assessing the question from three distinct angles — a nation’s economic system, government, and cultural beliefs and values — Grudem and Asmus propose 79 factors that “will help nations escape from poverty and move toward prosperity.” (more…)
Here’s a key section from a speech given by Nelson Mandela in 1998 at the World Council of Churches:
At the end of a century that has taught that peace is the greatest weapon in development, we cannot afford to spare any effort to bring about a peaceful resolution of such conflicts.
Nor can we allow anything to detract from the urgent need to cooperate in order to ensure that our continent avoids the negative consequences of globalization and that it is able to exploit the opportunities of this important global advancement.
That means working together to ensure that the legacy of underdevelopment does not leave Africa on the margins of the world economy.
That means finding ways to deal with the world’s highest incidence of AIDS, to advance and entrench democracy, to root out corruption and greed, and to ensure respect for human rights.
It means together finding ways to increase the inward flow of investment, to widen market access, and to remove the burden of external debt which affects Africa more than any other region.
It means cooperating to reorient the institutions that regulate the international trade and investment system, so that world economic growth translates into the benefits of development.
It means finding ways of ensuring that the efforts of countries to put their economies on a sound basis in order to uplift their people are not set back by huge flows of finance as they move across the globe in search of quick profits.
The challenge facing today’s leaders is to find the ways in which the prodigious capacity of the contemporary world economy is used to decisively address the poverty that continues to afflict much of humanity.
As I outline in Ecumenical Babel, this kind of a platform for ecumenical engagement of the issues surrounding globalization would have been much more positive, constructive, and promising than the course that was pursued by the mainline ecumenical organizations. Mandela’s words here provide a much more balanced and nuanced assessment of globalization than is often found in ecumenical pronouncements, including the deliberations that ended up leading to the Accra Confession of 2006.
In a recent review of Christena Cleveland’s Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart, Paul Louis Metzger wonders, “What leads people to associate with those who are similar, while distancing themselves from diverse others? What causes us to categorize other groups in distorted ways?”
I remember reading H. Richard Niebuhr’s The Social Sources of Denominationalism early in my seminary career, and Niebuhr’s analysis made a very strong impression on my admittedly impressionable sensibilities. It was clear to me then, and still is now, that much of what constitutes disunity in the Christian church is imported from the broader culture and has nothing to do with a people in which there is “neither Greek nor Jew.” These concerns for principled ecumenical unity are in large part what animated my later book Ecumenical Babel.
And yet in denouncing the tribalism that is an endemic temptation for all forms of fallen human community, we must be careful not to embrace a simplistic, milquetoast version of Christianity that papers over our real differences, and our uniqueness as individual persons created in the image of God, each one of us with our own perspectives, callings, hopes, fears, and trials.
We need to embrace an understanding of diversity without falling into disunity, a diversity within unity that mirrors in our own creaturely way the call to unity expressed in Jesus’ high priestly prayer.
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore is one of the Chairmen of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee for Religious Liberty. He recently celebrated what is known as a “Red Mass”, an annual event throughout the church for lawyers, judges, legislators and others in the legal profession, at St. Benedict Catholic Church in Richmond, Va. In his homily, he addressed issues of religious liberty pertinent to Americans today.
First, he stressed the link between sound society and morality:
In his farewell address, George Washington famously said: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports.” (more…)
I had the opportunity today to take part in a discussion on the BBC program World Have Your Say, discussing the recent suspension by the Vatican of the Bishop of Limbu, Germany, Franz-Peter Tebartz-van-Elst, known in the German press as the “bishop of bling.” He is under investigation regarding expenditures of 31 million euros (roughly $41 million) for the renovation of the historic building that served, in part, as his residence. This story (which can be read here) served as a springboard for the broader question: Should religious leaders live a modest life?
One point I wish had been examined a little more (though it is briefly mentioned at the end) is that of redemption. Much was said of how one needs to handle one’s wealth well, but little was said of what hope there may be for someone who has misused their wealth or even who may simply be overly attached to it. While Christ warned, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God,” he continues to condition this statement by saying, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:25, 27). As St. Paul writes, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9) — rich in holiness and virtue, heavenly treasures that do not wear out.
Listen to the interview at BBC World Service here.