Robert Samuelson is absolutely right in today’s column. The next generation faces an increasing proportion of the Federal budget that goes to pay the expenses of retired workers. We can’t go on like this. These costs amount to a massive barrier to fertility for the next generation:

Our children face a future of rising taxes, squeezed — and perhaps falling — public services, and aging — perhaps deteriorating — public infrastructure (roads, sewers, transit systems). Today’s young workers and children are about to be engulfed by a massive income transfer from young to old that will perversely make it harder for them to afford their own children.

That is, we are signing up to look like Europe. Samuelson continues:

No major candidate of either party proposes to do much about this, even though the facts are well-known.

Spending for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — three programs that go overwhelmingly to older Americans — already represents more than 40 percent of federal spending. A new report from the Congressional Budget Office projects these programs could equal about 70 percent of the present budget by 2030. Without implausibly large budget deficits, the only way to preserve most other government programs would be huge tax increases (about 40 percent from today’s levels). Avoiding the tax increases would require draconian cuts in other programs (about 60 percent). Workers and young families, not retirees, would bear the brunt of either higher taxes or degraded public services.

I agree with Samuelson. We need to act now to make the necessary corrections. I am a Baby Boomer. I’ve been talking about this, and I must say, planning around these facts for my entire adult life. It’s time to act.

Crossposted at my blog.

What have many academics and a good number of religious leaders learned from the collapse of communism and the failures of so many utopias of socialism that couldn’t deliver on their promises? Well, nothing. In “The Great Lie: Pope Benedict XVI on Socialism,” Rev. Robert A. Sirico looks at a critique of the socialist impulse offered by the Pope in his new encyclical Spe Salvi.

In the article, published on InsideCatholic.com, Rev. Sirico discusses the futility of a salvation based on a materialistic worlview:

History is strewn with intellectuals who imagined that they could save the world — and created hell on earth as a result. The pope counts the socialists among them, and Karl Marx in particular. Here was an intellectual who imagined that salvation could occur without God, and that something approximating the Kingdom of God on earth could be created by adjusting the material conditions of man.

Socialist theorizers simply cannot wish away economic realities. “The economic problem is intractable,” Rev. Sirico writes. “Simply asserting that the new world will magically appear begs critical issues, such as how we are to feed, clothe, and house people.”

Pope Benedict sees this flaw clearly. This is from Spe Salvi:

Together with the victory of the revolution, though, Marx’s fundamental error also became evident. He showed precisely how to overthrow the existing order, but he did not say how matters should proceed thereafter. He simply presumed that with the expropriation of the ruling class, with the fall of political power and the socialization of means of production, the new Jerusalem would be realized. Then, indeed, all contradictions would be resolved, man and the world would finally sort themselves out. Then everything would be able to proceed by itself along the right path, because everything would belong to everyone and all would desire the best for one another.

This utopian impulse, Rev. Sirico says, blinds the socialist to unchangeable realities of the economic order:

… the pope has put the problems of economics exactly in the right light: the practical issue that needs to be settled within the framework of a sound morality and understanding of human nature. Socialism fails for a precise and practical reason: It has no system for pricing factors of production to make economic calculation possible. Prices come from the exchange of the very private property with which socialism dispenses.

Read the encyclical letter Spe Salvi on the Vatican Web site here.

Blog author: mvandermaas
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
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A few radio appearances to let you know about today:

  • Michael Miller made an appearance today on the Accent Radio Network to discuss the role of faith in the public square, especially in light of the ongoing presidential primary process. You can listen to the audio from The Right Balance with Greg Allen by clicking here (2.2 mb mp3 file).
  • On Monday, Dr. Jay Richards joined host Jim Brown on WRNO in New Orleans, Louisiana to discuss the impact of religion on Mike Huckabee’s win in the Iowa Republican Caucus last week. If you haven’t had a chance to check out that audio yet, you can do so by clicking here (1.4 mb mp3 file).
Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
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A new interactive video sharing site for activism and “ideas,” Big Think (HT), including entries from experts like Niall Ferguson, Jagdish Bhagwati, Paul Krugman, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali (along with the requisite spate of politicians).

Here, for instance, is Richard Cizik, vice president of Govermental Affairs at the National Association of Evangelicals, answering the question, “How should the Bible be interpreted?”

Here’s a sample: “Your argument is not with me. Your argument is with God.” Cizik’s video is probably sixty seconds too long. But hey, the site is only in “beta.”

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.