I’m a big fan of Touchstone’s blog and the posts of senior editor S. M. Hutchens in particular. A very deep guy. That’s why I was intrigued when I found a book review of his in the New Atlantis entitled "The Evangelical Ecologist" while googling myself (if that doesn’t sound too crude).*

He’s responding to E. O. Wilson’s The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth, in which Wilson

asks the imaginary Baptist pastor to whom the book is addressed to search his faith for reason to make common cause in earth-saving with Wilson’s own secular humanism, the dogmatics of which assert that “heaven and hell are what we create for ourselves on this planet.

Wade through Hutchens’ dialectic and what emerges is a fantastic insight into how easily the Church can be gripped by the humanistic evangelism of the environmental movement, where conservation of Creation is an end in and of itself, and God’s privilege to destroy and remake the earth becomes as much of an anethama to us as Peter’s revulsion to the Cross.

Get thee behind me, satan!

The Westminster Catechism "suggests" the chief end of man is to glorify God, but it’s pretty easy to find ourselves absorbed in thinking a green earth is an end rather than a means. Similarly, our common use of Psalm 24 to proclaim God’s ownership – and by extension, proclaim our stewardship – rarely sweeps us into verses 3-4 (only the pure in heart stand in God’s holy presence), let alone verses 7-10 (Who is this King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle…). But it should.

No, not should. It must, because He Is.

~

HE’S ALSO FOUND the spot that I couldn’t itch the past couple of trips to Boise. [Click and scroll down for my thoughts under Ed Brown's lecture notes. db]. There I found myself among Christ-loving people who earnestly believe God would never, could never, destroy the earth as we know it to establish a New One, but instead wants the Church to serve and redeem the planet through our charitable stewardship.

Here’s Hutchens’ reaction to this sort of thinking:

Here, then, is the first inescapable offense Christianity gives to earth-piety: the earth as we know it empirically is not a final thing but a first creation. The second offense is that Christianity’s principal reason for the earth’s existence is to serve the cause of human redemption, to be defined and carried out not by what seems reasonable to man, but the purpose and method of God. The earth is presented to the faith as sacramental, and as sacrament its end is to be consumed so that a second and higher Creation may come. Its end is as the end of man who has been made from and returns to its dust, who must pass away so the Second and Eternal Man can arise to take his place in a new heaven and earth, the old having passed away. It is difficult to exaggerate the breadth and depth of the chasm that exists between biblical religion and earth-piety.

Thinking of the earth (and all those bullocks!) as a sacrament to be consumed might jive with the Old Covenant but doesn’t exactly lash up with John 3:16, where Christ’s sacrifice is by definition substitutional and given for "the world." And what about those who never returned to dust? Will Enoch or Elijah single-handedly keep Christ from assuming the throne? Not likely.

Regardless of which perspective you take on God’s ultimate intent for the planet just chewing on both is pretty humbling. It gets me to my knees in an earnest prayer to ask for wisdom to do whatever He wants me to do with the earth today, that His will will be done. And maybe that’s the point of such an exercise.

In the end Hutchens offers a scriptural antidote ("Let me suggest that the rule for proper treatment of the biosphere contemplated by the scriptures is not based in consideration of biological life itself, but upon the law of love of God and neighbor…"), an encouraging word on the good to be gained when all men recognize God’s majesty in nature, a reminder that all things are ultimately governed by God’s will, and a warning that the tendency of humansim is invariably worship of creation rather than Creator.

I appreciated getting all four of these today. Absorb the whole article when you have some time.

______________

*No, in case you’re wondering, he didn’t ask me whether "The Evangelical Ecologist" was protected under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License [Exodus 20:15], or whether I thought it was o.k. to be associated with an atheist like E. O. Wilson. But hey – that’s what grace is all about, right?

A noteworthy quote on voluntary poverty from Thomas C. Oden. Oden has consistently articulated the concern that modern Christian theology is often tainted by political agendas, such as the radical elements of liberation theology. Here, Oden rebuffs the myth that a historic and conservative Christian theology has been anything less than strong in its identification and assistance in defense of the poor. Oden is a United Methodist theologian who is also an emeritus professor at Drew Theological Seminary. In addition, Oden is general editor of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture.

Some imagine that a high Christology necessarily tends to be neglectful of moral responsibility. Those who buy into the Marxist view of history tend repeatedly to sound this alarm. Insofar as such a distortion occurs, it is inconsistent with classical Christian teaching, where the assumption prevails that the confession of Jesus as Lord has insistent moral meaning and social implications. Christians who call for an identification with the poor do so out of a long tradition of voluntary poverty, which follows from Christ’s willingness to become poor for our sakes.

The Word of Life, Prince Press, 2001, p. 9.

Today’s post will look at the Hendrickson Publishers Academic Catalog 2008 and the Brill Biblical Studies & Religious Studies 2007 catalog (series index):

Titles from Hendrickson:

Titles from Brill:

Rev. Robert A. Sirico joined host David Asman tonight on America’s Nightly Scoreboard on Fox Business Network to discuss The Call of the Entrepreneur. If you missed the appearance, you can catch the video below:

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse at today’s Acton Lecture Series event.

The 2008 Acton Lecture Series kicked off yesterday in Grand Rapids, Michigan with an address by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse entitled “Freedom, the Family and the Market: A Humane Response to the Socialist Attack on the Family.”

Morse, an Acton Senior Fellow in Economics, described how the socialist ideal of equality has played an independent role in the breakdown of the family, arguing that socialism has attacked the family directly, and has adopted policies that have led to demographic collapse. By contrast, Christianity and capitalism offer more appealing solutions to the problems socialism claims to solve, and a more humane approach to dealing with issues of family and gender.

If you weren’t able to attend in person, you can download the audio here (11 mb mp3 file). And don’t forget to set aside some time on February 14 to attend the next Acton Lecture Series event, featuring Dr. Glenn Sunshine’s talk on “Wealth, Work and the Church.”

Update: Video of the lecture is available below.

Blog author: kschmiesing
Friday, January 4, 2008
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Having been informed that my evaluation of George Weigel’s new book was posted a few days before it went on sale, I gladly give notice once more, this time with a link to Amazon. Well worth a look.

Blog author: jballor
Friday, January 4, 2008
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A few years ago I asked the question: “Just how many unjust acts can a just war encompass before it ceases to be a just war?” This question assumed the connection between what scholars have defined as a distinction between ius ad bello and ius ad bellum, justness in the occasion for or cause of war and justness in the prosecution of war.

Prof. Stephen Bainbridge and Prof. Anthony Clark Arend were among those kind enough to respond, alluding to this classical distinction.

I just came across this definition of just war from the sixteenth-century Jesuit doctor Francisco Suarez:

In order that a war may be justly waged, certain conditions must be observed and these may be brought under three heads. First it must be waged by a legitimate power. Secondly its cause must be just and right. Thirdly just methods should be used, that is equity in the beginning of war, in the prosecution of it, and in victory (Tractatus de legibus, I, 9).

With Suarez’s definition in mind, I think we can summarize the matter thusly:

There is an important classical and scholastic distinction between ius ad bellum and ius ad bello, corresponding to the second and third heads of Suarez’s definition respectively. We might therefore say that a war can be just in a divided sense in two distinct ways: in its cause and in its execution. In this divided sense then Bainbridge is right to say that “violations of jus in bello do not affect the jus ad bellum question.”

But in the composite or compound sense of “a just war,” it must meet both conditions (as well as being pursued by a legitimate power, which is itself a complex question. Compare for instance Augustine’s question, “Set justice aside and what are kingdoms but large robber bands, and what are robber bands but little kingdoms?”).

Blog author: dwbosch
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
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What a perfectly optimistic way to begin the new year, via Hampton Univeristy Professor Cuker in Dailypress.com:

Jesus shared the earth with no more than 400 million other souls, Thomas Jefferson with about 1 billion contemporaries, and at projected population growth rates, our children will live with 9 billion others by mid-century. Such rapid population growth can not go on endlessly. Humans, like all other species, can only populate up to the carrying capacity of the environment. Carrying capacity is set by availability of resources (food, water, places to live) and sometimes by the build-up of toxic metabolic wastes. However, as populations approach their carrying capacity, growth often slows as a consequence of increased mortality and lower birth rates due to disease, competition and malnutrition. And for humans we can add the scourge of wars fought for controlling limited resources.

Our children will live in a much better world if human population growth is checked by the rational decision to reduce family size, rather than by famine, epidemics and war. [snip]

When contemplating ways to reduce your carbon footprint, be sure to include contraception on the list along with fluorescent light bulbs and a hybrid car.

Support candidates for public office who embrace family planning and the environment. Regulate the number of your own children. To leave a better world for those you create, vote wisely, conserve and love thoughtfully.

Lots of interesting comments below the article. My two cents:

$0.01 = Those advocating population control are never the first to volunteer to leave the planet.

$0.01 = Since 2004, US per-capita growth is neutral (2.0 kids). All our growth, as in much of the industrialized world, is by immigration. US population is a small fraction of world population growth.

Oh, and "Love thoughtfully" in the same commentary as a plea for population control? That’s just fascinating. At least he admits there was a Jesus.

[Don's other habitat is evangelicalecologist.com]

The University Bookman, a publication of the Russell Kirk Center, reviews Dr. Samuel Gregg’s The Commercial Society: Foundations and Challenges in a Global Age in its Fall 2007 issue. Actually, the Bookman reviewed it twice.

Reviewer Robert Heineman, a professor of political science at Alfred University in New York, described the book as an “exceptionally well written volume” that should be read by anyone concerned about human freedom and progress.

Heineman has this to say about Gregg’s discussion of democracy in the book:

As he so aptly notes, in a democracy, a majority is considered authoritative; whereas, this is definitely not the case in commercial enterprises. Moreover, in democratic politics, the ability to exercise self-restraint is far more difficult than it is in the business world. Interests are continually importuning their representatives for more largesse or other benefits, usually at the expense of commercial enterprises. The trend, then, is inherently toward bigger, more restrictive government, perhaps even arbitrary government. As Gregg shows, Wilhelm Roepke argued persuasively that the expanded welfare state contains disincentives for the kind of behavior—self-discipline, hard work, saving—that is important to commercial activity.

Thomas E. Woods Jr., author of The Church and the Market: A Catholic Defense of the Free Economy, had this to say about The Commercial Society:

Thankfully for Gregg he has no plans to run for political office, for his chapter on democracy would surely be waved menacingly before the public at every opportunity. As with the rest of his arguments he has much more to say than we can properly analyze here, but he follows F. A. Hayek, who once noted that “unlimited democracy is bound to become egalitarian.” “Democracy,” Gregg writes, “tends to encourage a fixation with creating total equality because it requires everyone to relate to each other through the medium of democratic equality and encourages us first to ignore and then to dislike and seek to reduce all the differences that tend to contradict this equality, particularly wealth disparities.” (H. L. Mencken was more biting: government, he said, is “a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods.”)

Gregg, director of research at Acton, also contributed an article to the current issue of the Bookman. In “Tocqueville as Économiste,” Gregg looks at a new work by French scholars Jean-Louis Benoît and Éric Keslassy who have collected some of the economic writings of Alexis de Tocqueville, the great commentator on American democracy. In the review, he writes:

Tocqueville’s writings about how to address poverty quickly reveal him to be no radical libertarian. The state, he always believed, had responsibilities in this area. At the same time, Tocqueville was deeply conscious of the limited effectiveness of state action in this area, not to mention the unintended consequences of many interventionist policies about which economists are skilled at reminding those who see state action as the universal elixir to all social problems.

The Commercial Society is available for online purchase from the Acton Institute Book Shoppe.

The Journal of Markets & Morality is one of eight journals that has been selected for indexing in the seminally important ATLA Religion Database in 2007. The American Theological Library Association (ATLA) is a professional association of theological libraries and librarians, with almost 300 institutional and 600 individual members.

From the ATLA’s website: “The ATLA Religion Database (ATLA RDB) currently indexes more than 500 journal titles and approximately 250 polygraphs each year, and considers new titles for evaluation based on member, publisher, and scholar recommendations.”

The Journal of Markets & Morality is one of only 20 journals that have been added to the database since 2002. In that time the database has gone through some major remodeling, including the discontinuation of the indexing of a number of journals.

The fact that our journal is one of the select few that has been added to this important resource during this process of increased competition speaks to the unique interdisciplinary focus of the journal and the high quality with which it is pursued. Of course a great deal of the credit goes to the founding editor of the journal, Dr. Stephen Grabill.

The journal “promotes intellectual exploration of the relationship between economics and morality from both social science and theological perspectives. It seeks to bring together theologians, philosophers, economists, and other scholars for dialogue concerning the morality of the marketplace.”

We’ll be launching a small advertising campaign to highlight this achievement. If you are a student or a faculty member at an institution of higher learning, please take the time to recommend that your library subscribe to our journal. If you are in interested layperson or independent scholar, please consider subscribing yourself.