In this short talk, Rev. Robert A. Sirico, co-founder and president of the Acton Institute, offers some general observations about this week’s meeting between President Obama and Pope Francis at the Vatican, and reflects on the differences in philosophy that make a Presidential/Papal alliance such as what occurred during the time of Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II unlikely.
Today at Ethika Politika, I review The Ox-Herder and the Good Shepherd: Finding Christ on the Buddha’s Path by Addison Hodges Hart:
Addison Hodges Hart, a retired pastor and university chaplain, offers in The Ox-Herder and the Good Shepherd a wonderful exercise in comparative religion, examining the common ground that can be found in spiritual practice between Christianity and Buddhism. Hart focuses on the ten ox-herding icons of Zen, originating in China by the master Kakuan and accompanied by his verse and prose commentary. Hart, then, adds his own Christian perspective on the spiritual journey depicted and described by Kakuan, highlighting in the end his emphasis that outer acts of compassion require a prior, inner transformation.
One such person who was inspired by an inner, spiritual conversion not only to “outer acts of compassion” but also to build a freer and more virtuous society was the Indian Emperor Ashoka.
Lord Acton writes in his address “The History of Freedom in Antiquity,”
But in all that I have been able to cite from classical literature, three things are wanting: Representative Government, the emancipation of the slaves, and liberty of conscience. There were, it is true, deliberative assemblies, chosen by the people; and confederate cities, of which, both in Asia and in Europe there were so many Leagues, sent their delegates, to sit in federal councils. But government by an elected parliament was, even in theory, a thing unknown. It is congruous with the nature of Polytheism to admit some measure of toleration. And Socrates, when he avowed that he must obey God rather than the Athenians, and the Stoics, when they set the wise man above the [civil] law, were very near giving utterance to the principle. But it was first proclaimed, and established by enactment, not in polytheistic and philosophical Greece, but in India, by Asoka, the earliest of the Buddhist kings, 250 years before the Birth of Christ.
Tantalizingly, this is all that Acton says about Ashoka (=”Asoka”). Who was he? Why does Acton single him out? (more…)
“Are there then no laws in the legal sense in the law of Moses?” asks Cornelis Vonk, the Dutch Reformed pastor and preacher.
“Of course there are, but there is much more besides.”
Through his law, the Lord also taught Israel what sorts of social measures did and did not please him… Neither did the Lord forget to teach his people through the torah how they could please him through wise and generous economic measures…
…In the torah the voice of a Father is heard. God was teaching his chosen people what life is really all about so that they would follow his example and model themselves after his image.
He wanted them to be friendly and merciful, righteous and wise in daily life. Time and again the torah tells the Israelites, “You shall furnish him liberally out of your flock, out of your threshing floor, and out of your winepress. As the Lord your God has blessed you, you shall give to him. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today” (Deut. 15:14–15). The Lord’s commands to Israel often had such a reason or motive attached to them. The torah had its basis in the deliverance from Egypt, which was the liberation of life. That’s why the various social, economic, and legal measures all contain a hearty echo of the gospel. (more…)
In USA Today comes this story from the Associated Press:
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Wednesday permanently removed a German bishop from his Limburg diocese after his 31 million-euro ($43-million) new residence complex caused an uproar among the faithful.
Francis had temporarily expelled Monsignor Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst from Limburg in October pending a church inquiry.
At the center of the controversy was the price tag for the construction of a new bishop’s residence complex and related renovations. Tebartz-van Elst defended the expenditures, saying the bill was actually for 10 projects and there were additional costs because the buildings were under historical protection.
But in a country where Martin Luther launched the Reformation five centuries ago in response to what he said were excesses and abuses within the church, the outcry was enormous. The perceived lack of financial transparency also struck a chord since a church tax in Germany brings in billions a year to the German church.
The Vatican said Wednesday that the inquiry into the renovation found that Tebartz-van Elst could no longer exercise his ministry in Limburg and that Francis had accepted his resignation, which was originally offered Oct. 20.
Back in October, I was part of a panel of guests on the BBC program World Have Your Say, discussing the question, “Should Religious Leaders Live a Modest Life?” The springboard for the conversation was the scandal surrounding Monsignor Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst.
Over at the Kern Pastors Network blog, Greg Forster uses The Locust Effect – Gary Haugen’s new book on violence, poverty, and human trafficking – as a springboard for discussing the reach and interconnectedness of various Christian commitments.
“The moral commitments that mobilize evangelicals to fight human trafficking have much broader application,” he writes, “and point to the possibility of a larger Christian vision for the public square.”
Yet, for whatever reason, we continue to stall when it comes to expanding, integrating, and applying things such a direction:
These days, trafficking is the only public issue evangelical leaders are comfortable identifying as a gospel imperative. As a result, our people are highly mobilized and accomplishing a lot. On every other public issue, however, we’re paralyzed by endless debates. There are no shared commitments, nothing we’re allowed to agree on; there is only division between the Right and the Left. So we produce a lot of heated rhetoric, and nothing gets done…
…This perpetual division over everything has to change if the gospel is going to speak to the culture, if Christians are going to have an impact in the public square, and if local churches are going to be forces for flourishing in their communities. The human trafficking issue proves there is a way out of this dilemma, because it shows that we do have shared moral commitments. “The Locust Effect” is a good example of how to apply those commitments beyond just trafficking. The Kern Pastors Network, the Oikonomia Network, and others who are working to integrate faith, work, and economics can carry these principles even further.
Forster proceeds accordingly, applying such commitments to the realms of work and economics. (more…)
On Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. ET, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, both of which will have a profound impact on the future of religious liberty and freedom of conscience in America.
Thus, Hobby Lobby supporters across the country have been invited to offer their prayers in support of the company, and I encourage you to participate. You can help spread the word by changing the avatar on your social media accounts and posting with the hashtag #PrayForHobbyLobby. Although the Court will be hearing arguments tomorrow, I would encourage us to begin our intercession today.
The government is telling the Hobby Lobby owners, the Green family, that their free exercise rights aren’t relevant because they run a corporation. They’re telling these Anabaptist woodworkers and the Catholic Little Sisters of the Poor and ministries of all sorts all over the country that what’s at stake is just the signing of some papers, the payment of some money.
Our government has treated free exercise of religion as though it were a tattered house standing in the way of a government construction of a railroad; there to be bought off or plowed out of the way, in the name of progress … (more…)
Hoselton begins by surveying the range of evils that “threaten the well-being of the home,” as well as the dire state of the cultural landscape as it pertains to such matters. “No family evades the consequences of evil,” he concludes.
Yet he wonders: “Does the problem lie in the institution of the family itself? Would the world be better off if we abandoned the family altogether?”
Relying heavily on Bavinck, Hoselton argues that society needs a heavy dose and renewed sense of Christian theology if the family is to truly flourish. “Christians may not permit their conduct to be determined by the spirit of the age,” Bavinck writes, “but must focus on the requirement of God’s commandment,” showing “in word and deed what an inestimable blessing God has granted to humanity” with the gift of family.
Hoselton proceeds to offer the following key points as an initial foundation for the type of framework that’s needed:
God created the family beautiful and good. God is the most committed advocate for the family. “The history of the human race begins with a wedding,” and God himself officiated it. He created a compatible partner for Adam as a gift, blessed the couple, and commanded them to bear his image, multiply families, and subdue the earth (Genesis 1:28). As Bavinck said, “God’s artistic work comes into existence bearing the name of home and family.” God created humans to reflect the relational love within the Trinity, and he appointed the family as the supreme instrument toward this end. (more…)