Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
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bookIn this week’s Acton Commentary, “Piety and Politics: The Church’s Social Responsibility,” I take up the Kuyperian distinction between the church conceived as organism and as institute and point out some ways in which such ideas can help us navigate the dangerous waters of social and political engagement.

When the Letter to Diognetus describes the diffuse influence of Christians in the world, it uses the living imagery of the soul:

What the soul is in the body, that Christians are in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, but does not belong to the body, and Christians dwell in the world, but do not belong to the world.

Hunter Baker has more recently argued that “the church is the soul of the system.” If this is not to be understood in a clericalist sense, then it must refer to the organic church as the soul of the polis, so to speak.

Abraham Kuyper presents the organism/institute distinction in his sermon, “Rooted & Grounded,” which appears in the forthcoming anthology On the Church, part of the Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Kuyper’s ecclesiology can well be understood as the crux of his public theology, and the organism/institute distinction is at the core of his conception of the church in its relation to God and the world.

In “Rooted & Grounded” Kuyper observes that both realities the distinction points to must be kept together. We have to do justice both to the dynamic, living, organic aspects of the body of Christ as well as the structural, formal, and institutional expressions of this community.

Thus, says Kuyper,

“Rooted and grounded” unites organism and institution, and where Scripture itself refuses to allow any separation, it weaves them together. By means of the person who sows and plants, the metaphor of vital growth overflows into that of the institution; by means of the living stone, the metaphor of the building flows over into that of the organism. The church of the Lord is one loaf, dough that rises according to its nature but nevertheless is kneaded with human hands and baked like bread. The church is called a multitude of priests, legitimated through birth but consecrated only through anointing. A bride brought forth by the Father but accepted by choice. A people, finally, who indeed sprouted from the living trunk but nevertheless are organized with wisdom and guided with self-motivation.

Just as body and soul are united in the human person, the church as organism and institute are united in the people of God and, ultimately, in union with Jesus Christ.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
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7figuresYesterday the U.S. Census Bureau released its latest report on income and poverty in the United States. Here are seven figures from the report you should know about:

1. Real median household income increased 5.2 percent between 2014 and 2015—from $53,700 to $56,500. (This is the first annual increase in median household income since 2007.)

2. In 2015 the median income of a married-couple household was $84,626. For a female head of household (no husband present) the median income was $37,797. For a male head of household (no wife present) the median income was $55,861.

3. The official poverty rate decreased by 1.2 percentage points between 2014 and 2015. The number of people in poverty fell by 3.5 million between 2014 and 2015.
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kuyper1On this edition of Radio Free Acton, we speak with Jordan Ballor, a general editor of the Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology, a major series of new translations of Abraham Kuyper’s key works. We discuss the genesis and scope of the project, and examine what Kuyper has to say to modern Christians and why his contributions remain relevant a century after their initial publication.

You can listen to the podcast via the audio player below.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
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Tim Kaine’s radical roots
Ken Blackwell, The Hill

According to the media, Tim Kaine took a life transforming “mission” trip to Latin America in 1980. Conveniently left out of these stories, are the radical reality of the Cold War in Latin America and Tim Kaine’s Soviet sympathizing mentors. In fact, whatever Kaine’s intentions, he more likely met Karl Marx than Jesus Christ while there.

ISIL’s human traffickers are using Facebook, WhatsApp, and Telegram to sell slaves
Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz

By now, ISIL’s use of social media as a recruitment tool is common knowledge. Less known is the group’s use of those same digital platforms to scout and lure sex slaves.

What the Media, Academics Get Wrong When They Blame Crime Rate on Poverty, Discrimination
Walter E. Williams, The Daily Signal

Some are puzzled by the dishonesty, lack of character, and sheer stupidity of many people in the media. But seeing as most of them are college graduates, they don’t bear the full blame. They are taught by dishonest and irresponsible academics. Let’s look at it.

Christian genocide could succeed through indifference, activists warn
Mark Zimmermann, Crux

Accepting an award for defending persecuted Christians in the Middle East, Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson said Sept. 8, “A genocide that some began by the sword cannot be allowed to succeed through indifference.”

Two months ago Russian president Vladimir Putin signed into law a number of “anti-terrorism” measures that limit missionary and evangelistic efforts and restrict the religious freedoms on non-Orthodox groups.

As Christianity Today notes, to share their faith, citizens must now secure a government permit through a registered religious organization, and they cannot evangelize anywhere besides churches and other religious sites. The restrictions even apply to activity in private residences and online.

Why is Russian taking implementing such constraints on believers? Eric Patterson provides some context and shows how the laws fit into Russia’s continuing suspicion of “foreign” influences:
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globe-hands-missionsMore and more, Western churches are opening their eyes to the risks and temptations inherent in so-called “short-term missions,” whether manifested in our basic vocabulary, paternalistic attitudes, or reactionary service.

As films like Poverty, Inc. and the PovertyCure series demonstrate, our cultural priorities and preferred solutions often distract us from the true identities and creative capacities of our neighbors. Paired with a passion to “do good,” and standing atop an abundance of resources, it’s easy to forget and neglect the importance of real relationship, holistic service, and long-term discipleship.

For missionary Nik Ripken, those missing pieces were made clear through a range of interviews with persecuted Christians in over 45 countries, whose opinions about what makes a “good” Western missionary challenged his own approach and priorities.

In a stirring set of reflections, Ripken describes this shift in his thinking. Serving in an unnamed Islamic country, Ripken was interviewing a group of persecuted Christians about their trials and struggles with their families, communities, and government. They were remarkably open and vulnerable in their answers until he changed the topic to Western missionaries.

“What do we do well?” he asked. “What things do we not do well? What should we start doing? What should we stop doing? What should we pick up? What should we lay down? What makes a good missionary?” (more…)

Note: This is the first post in a weekly video series on basic microeconomics.

For the past two years I’ve been rolling out a series of posts that attempt to define and explain a range of economic terms from a Christian context. The goal of the series is to provide Christians with a basic level of understanding that will help us think more clearly about how to apply our faith commitments to economics and public policy.

But for Christians to understand how faith applies to these areas we must first understand the basics of economics. So starting today as a corollary to the “What Christians Need to Know About Economics” series I’ll be posting new videos each week that explain general economic concepts. Whether you learned this material in school (and have forgotten) or never learned it at all, you’ll likely be helped by watching these videos.
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