A marvellous and mighty paradox has thus occurred, for the death which they thought to inflict on Him as dishonour and disgrace has become the glorious monument to death’s defeat. ~ Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word.
Job in the Old Testament called out to God begging for a mediator or advocate, begging for somebody who could understand the depth of his affliction and agony (Job 9). Such is the beauty of Christ that he came not to teach or merely talk about suffering, but to suffer for us. No longer can we say our Lord doesn’t understand us or that our own suffering is in the shadows. We worship one who has borne the entire agony and sin of humanity and felt the entire weight of separation from the Father. Through his suffering Christ knows us and is familiar with us. He calls us His own. And through his supreme agony he never ceased to call to the Father, providing us an example in our own affliction.
Jesus, who from eternity experienced perfect relationship with the Father, was separated, cursed, and made sin for us. It is certainly far more agonizing than anything we could ever experience. The country singer songwriter Hank Williams stated it well, “Sometimes I get so weary inside, but then I remember how my Jesus died.” Thomas Oden declared in The Word of Life:
No matter how many commentaries we read, it is impossible for us to know – sitting in an armchair – how forsaken he was and what that meant. However deep it was, it was God-incarnate who was experiencing that forsakenness.
His atoning life pardons us from our sin and is literally our lifeblood. In an Easter sermon Martin Luther preached:
For we are called Christians because we may look at the Christ and say: Dear Lord, You took all my sins upon Yourself. You became Martin, Peter, and Paul, and thus You crushed and destroyed my sin. There (on the cross) I must and will seek my sin. You have directed me to find it there. On Good Friday I still clearly see my sin, but on the day of Easter no sin is any longer to be seen.
As we meditate on the cross and its meaning this week, we take full comfort that our Lord is at the right hand of the Father. We remember that perfect innocence was violently slaughtered on our behalf. Advocating for us now, humanity is imprinted with the image and person of Christ. Christ is marked forever by our transgressions. It was Luther who said the angels are envious of humanity, “They worship Christ, who has become our Brother, our flesh and blood.”
It is abundantly clear that the more we study and think about Christ and everything He accomplished, it is impossible to form an Easter processional on earth long and loud enough to pay tribute to the fulness of His glory. But if we truly believe, we should never balk or withdraw from sharing what God has accomplished in Jesus Christ. Charles Wesley put it this way in 1742:
Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears:
Before the throne my surety stands,
Before the throne my surety stands,
My name is written on His hands…
Jon Erwin, director of the pro-life October Baby movie, was recently interviewed by National Public Radio and, in the background article that accompanied the audio, the network reported his view that Christians didn’t feel very welcome in Hollywood’s movie community. This provoked a lot of comment by NPR listeners about what, really, a Christian is. The title of the NPR article, “‘October Baby’ Tells A Story Hollywood Wouldn’t” probably had something to do with that.
Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos followed up the interview with an article titled, “Christian Is Not Synonymous With Conservative,” which was widely discussed by religious bloggers and news sites. As Schumacher-Matos wrote:
What we have, then, is a question that goes beyond NPR to what should be a national debate over how to use the word “Christian.” A truly useful debate would extend even further, to what it means to be Christian, given that nearly 80 percent of Americans claim to be one.
Yesterday evening, Schumacher-Matos published a roundup of responses to his question in a post titled, “Christians: Who Are The 78 Percent?” Overall, a pretty even-handed job of deepening the discussion, which he hopes to continue. Schumacher-Matos invited Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president and co-founder of the Acton Institute, to participate. Because of space limitations, Rev. Sirico’s response was slightly edited, so I’m published it here in full:
Christianity is and always has been a religion that “receives” its faith rather than one that “invents” it. Hence, a basic definition of “Who are the Christians?” begins with an adherence, doctrinally, to the ancient Creeds of the Church, beginning with the Apostles Creed (believed to have been of apostolic origin, the Apostles having in turn received their mandate from Christ Himself) and continuing on to the faith articulated at the Councils of Nicaea, Constantinople, Chalcedon, Orange, Hippo and Quicunque Vult (aka, The Athanasian Creed), all of which were formative for the belief of Christians. The traditions that would agree with this ecumenical Trinitarian confession (most Catholics, Evangelicals, Eastern Orthodox, et al.) have historically recognized that whatever other doctrinal differences may separate them, this is the meaning they share when they use the term “Christian.”
However, many Americans—and almost all journalists—are less interested in theological distinctions than they are in determining how the moniker can be shared by groups who differ on matters of political dogma. Asking “Who are the Christians?” is less an existential query than a question about partisan branding: What political group gets to claim the word for themselves—and exclude others from its rightful use? The irony is that many mainstream groups wish to recover the franchise at a time when several historically Christian organizations (such as the YMCA) are attempting to distance themselves from the Christian brand. Mr. Edwards claims that “politically and socially conservative Christians have in fact co-opted the title.” But perhaps they never really abandoned it while the politically and socially liberal Christians discarded it, embracing instead, the sort of Christianity that Niebuhr so memorably described as, “A God without wrath [who] brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross” (H. Richard Niebuhr, The Kingdom of God in America (New York: Harper and Row, 1959), 193.).
Zhao Xiao, a government economist in China, on the differences between market economies with Churches (like the U.S.) and market economies without churches (like China):
Is it not integrity that you are pursuing? Then you ought to know: places with faith have more integrity. For China’s crawling economic reforms, this ought to be an important inspiration. Market economies with churches are different in another respect from those without: in the former, it is much easier to establish a commonly respected system. The reason is simple: a people that share a faith, compared to people who only believe in themselves, find it easier to establish mutual trust, and through that to conclude agreements. However, where is the cornerstone for the American constitution? In fact, as early as the first group of English Puritans who came over to the New World on the Mayflower, there was the Mayflower Compact, which would become the foundation of autonomous government in the separate states in New England. Its contents comprised civic organizations as well as working out just laws, statutes, regulations, and ordinances, and the first line of the covenant was “In the name of God, Amen.” So shared faith is the foundation for shared law. Otherwise, a legal system, should it arise, will not be respected.
(Via: Economics for Everybody)
Sam Gregg’s response to President Obama’s latest invocation of the “my brother’s keeper” motif brings out one of the basic problems with applying this biblical question to public policy. As Gregg points out, the logic of the president’s usage points to the government as the institution of brotherly love:
But who is the “I” that President Obama has in mind? Looking carefully at his speech, it’s most certainly not the free associations and communities that Alexis de Tocqueville thought made 19th-century America so different and alive when compared to his own already state-centric native France. No: Our number-one “keeper,” in our president’s mind, is the federal government.
Or more to the point: Who keeps the keepers?
I found this video on NPR’s ‘Planet Money’ intriguing. A young woman reflects on the cost of her wedding dress, which she’s obviously worn once. She recognizes that there is enormous emotional attachment to this garment, but there is something going on in terms of how much she spent; she just can’t quite put her finger on it. She eventually finds out that she probably over-paid by about $1200.
She believes she has been ripped off.
There are a few problems with this. First, no one needs an expensive wedding dress. Yes, we ladies like to dress up and look good – no more so than on our wedding day. But need? Nope. The decision to spend a bunch of money on a white lacey dress has more to do with desire and certain cultural and personal expectations than necessity.
Second, the young lady complains about ‘asymmetric information’; that is, she went into the dress-buying experience at the mercy of those selling the dresses. They all knew far more about labor, material, cost, etc. than she did, and she was just along for the ride. If they said the dress cost $2000, so it must be.
But clearly, she wasn’t at their mercy. AFTER she bought the dress, she went to a wholesale material buyer and a tailor, and got the low-down. Why didn’t she educate herself BEFORE buying the dress?
In Money, Greed and God, author Jay W. Richards says this:
“Free exchanges, by their very nature, will be viewed as winning exchanges by all parties involved. Otherwise the free parties wouldn’t be involved in the exchange….A free market is best for distributing goods, services and information, whether they are trucks, trumpets, or trashy novels. But the system doesn’t determine what choices people will make.
In other words, in a free market, one is free to be a bad consumer and/or a bad business person. But poorly informed or unethical personal choices are not the fault of the market. As Richards points out, “We shouldn’t expect the economy, free or otherwise, to instill virtue in people.”
Did this young lady pay too much for her dress? It appears so. She certainly looked attractive at her wedding, and the photos of this day, she is sure, will be lovingly preserved for generations. But emotions can make for immoderate desires, poor financial decisions – and really expensive lessons for consumers.
Reporter Carol Glatz of the Catholic News Service has a story on the new Vatican document titled “Vocation of the Business Leader: A Reflection” aimed at educators, entrepreneurs and business people.
Glatz interviews Kishore Jayabalan, director of Acton’s Rome office, who praised the document for its pastoral approach:
“It’s trying to encourage and inspire business people” and prompt them to “think about how to incorporate their faith more into what they do,” Jayabalan told Catholic News Service. It shows that “it is possible to be a good Christian and a good businessman; they’re saying there’s no fundamental incompatibility,” he said.
Glatz also explains why the document was published and how its authors aimed for “a simple, concise primer that compiled key principles and aimed specifically at helping business schools form ethical leaders and at guiding business practices worldwide — from mom-and-pop store owners to corporate executives.”
Download a copy of “Vocation of the Business Leader: A Reflection” by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace.
Carter wrote that he exchanged harsh words with the late Pope John Paul II during a state visit over what Carter classified as the Pope’s “perpetuation of the subservience of women.” He added, “there was more harshness when we turned to the subject of ‘liberation theology’.”
I haven’t read the book, so I’m awfully curious to know just how the former President of the United States of America, who was at the time in the middle of fighting the Cold War, defended liberation theology to the Polish Pontiff, who knew the evils of Marxism first-hand. I have little doubt who won the argument, however.
It’s also striking to read that Carter, widely considered the most religious President we’ve had in recent American history and a decent man of good works like Habitat for Humanity, supports same-sex “marriage,” artificial contraception, taxpayer funding of international “family planning” services and embryonic stem cell research, which involves the taking of innocent human life. In other words, he takes the same side on these debates as the most hardened, radical atheist imaginable. Just what kind of Christianity does Carter believe in?
You won’t easily find this kind of muddled thinking and sheer inconsistency matched with moral self-righteousness anywhere else. And if that’s the kind of “Christian” president who can get elected, I’d prefer to vote for a politician who’s quiet about his faith but who’s on the right side of these extremely important non-negotiable issues. Oh, and we know how Carter’s foreign policy and economics worked out, don’t we? What a sham.
Don’t blame the culture wars for the recent debates about contraception, says Phillip W. De Vous in this week’s Acton Commentary (published Apr. 4), the real culprit is statism. The full text of his essay follows. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.
Here are some events worth noting next week:
On Wednesday, April 11, Victor Claar will join us for an Acton on Tap. Victor Claar is a professor of economics at Henderson State University in Arkansas, and previously taught for a number of years at Hope College. I’ll be introducing Victor and the topic for the evening, “Envy: Socialism’s Deadly Sin.” We’ll begin to mingle at 6pm, and the talk will commence at 6:30, followed by what’s sure to be some lively discussion. Join us at Derby Station, and if you’re on Facebook, check out the event page, where some enjoyable dialogue has already commenced.
That same evening George Weigel is visiting Grand Rapids to lecture as part of the Catholic Studies Speaker Series at Aquinas College. Weigel is a prolific author, perhaps best known for his magisterial biography of Pope John Paul II, and holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies at Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC. At 7pm at the Wege Ballroom, Weigel will speak on the topic, “John Paul II, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, and the Future of Catholic Higher Education.” Check out the event and Catholic Studies at Aquinas College on Facebook.
The following morning, Thursday, April 12, at 8am Victor Claar will be headlining a breakfast at Kuyper College. Kuyper has recently introduced a business leadership major, and this breakfast is the latest event held to promote development among the students, faculty, staff, and broader community around the vitally important challenges of faithful engagement of business and economic aspects of life. Claar is the co-author of Economics in Christian Perspective, and will draw on this well-regarded text as he provides principles for understanding the relationship between Christian faith and commercial activity. There is some limited seating available for this breakfast, so check out the details at Kuyper’s website for more information on reserving a spot.
I’ll also be attending the 21st annual Wheaton Theology Conference, which this year focuses on the theme, “Bonhoeffer, Christ, and Culture.” One of my many projects at present is a dissertation (my second!) on Bonhoeffer’s ethics, and so I’m looking forward to this event, which runs Thursday and Friday next week and is at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.