Blog author: bwalker
Thursday, August 13, 2015
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US Ambassador to the Holy See Talks about Pope Francis’ Visit to the United States
Gerard O’Connell, Vatican Insider

Q: Francis is the first pope ever to address Congress. How do you read this? A: I think it’s terrific. Speaker Boehner is a Catholic and he said I’m going to invite him. And Francis, a pope of surprises, said I’m going to do it!

How Can Engineers Heed Pope Francis’ Challenge on Climate Change?
Engineering Deans of Catholic Colleges and Universities, U.S. News & World Report

In a time of great unrest, uncertainty and disagreement over the reality of climate change, the encyclical forces all peoples and institutions, particularly Catholic ones, to examine if they are doing enough to address one of the gravest issues of our time. The encyclical presents us with a challenge and an opportunity as we consider the role of engineering education in an interdependent world.

How Recycling Factors into the Vatican’s Climate Change Plan
Michele Nestor, Waste360

For starters, Francis stepped up to the mound and zipped a curve ball across the plate as the industrialized nations stood like Casey at the bat. His windup coupled the forces of industrialization, globalization and capitalism. With a little help from a holy rosin bag, he got poverty and climate change to cling tightly to those issues, just as if they were the laces sewn into the ball.

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Last week, I was pleased to attend the ERLC’s 2015 National Conference on Gospel and Politics, of which the Acton Institute was a proud co-sponsor. The speaker line-up was strikingly rich and diverse, ranging from pastors to writers to politicos to professors, but among them all, Russell Moore’s morning address was the clear stand-out.

Moore began by asking, “How do we as Christians engage in issues that sometimes are political without becoming co-opted by politics and losing the gospel and the mission at the same time?”

Starting from the story of Paul and Silas’ imprisonment in Philippi (Acts 16:25-40), and continuing with a rich perspective on Christian exile and a needed critique of American civil religion, Moore reminds us of how the Gospel has the power to cultivate a community that is equipped to “naturally and organically” bear witness to the outside world — through love, conscience, word, and action.

You can watch and listen here:

I encourage you to watch the whole thing, but for those without the time or in need of a teaser, I’ve highlighted some key excerpts below.

(Also, for those paying attention, Moore’s perspective serves as a fine complement to Acton’s latest film series, For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles, particularly the episodes on Exile and the Economy of Order. He also has a new book on cultural engagement that is quite good.) (more…)

Blog author: dpahman
Thursday, August 13, 2015
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S. L. Frank

Today at The Imaginative Conservative, I offer a brief look into the social though of the Russian philosopher S. L. Frank:

In his 1930 book, The Spiritual Foundations of Society, Frank offers a refreshing vision of a conservatism that cannot survive apart from creativity.

The book is a remarkable tour de force of intelligent, nuanced, and in some ways even prescient Christian social thought. One can find references—some explicit, some in Frank’s own words—to personalism, natural law, solidarity, subsidiarity, sphere sovereignty, organicism, and ordered liberty, among others. These are all tied together through the uniquely Russian Orthodox concept of sobornost’ and its counterpart obshchestvennost’, the inner, supratemporal spiritual unity of society and its outer, temporal and mechanical form, respectively. Through these two lenses, he examines the perennial questions of social life: individualism and collectivism, morality and law, hierarchy and equality, the state and civil society, inter alia.

In one sense, we might say that Frank advocates a sort of “Third Way” between these pairs, but that wouldn’t really be accurate. Instead, he insists on the fundamental duality of life, not a terium quid but a both/and, tempered by actual historical experience. (more…)

??????????????Christian’s Library Press has now released Psalms II, the fifth primer in its Opening the Scriptures series, and the second in a two-part release on the book of Psalms. The book is currently available for order on Amazon.

Written by Dutch Reformed minister Frans van Deursen, and newly translated by Nelson D. Kloosterman, the volume provides an introduction to Psalms, a book which serves as “the oldest songbook that God’s people possess,” as well as the “oldest breviary or prayer book,” the author writes.

Like other volumes in the series, Psalms II is neither a technical commentary nor a collection of sermons, but rather an accessible primer for the average churchgoer. In this case, van Deursen hopes we learn lessons on both theory and practice when it comes to the great tasks of honor and worship, prayer and praise.

Whereas the first part provided a bit more of core theological and historical set-up on the Psalms as a whole, Psalms II dives straight into the summaries and analyses on the individual psalms themselves.

Van Deursen connects each psalm with many others and notes its Biblical surroundings, historical context, and the implications within our post-crucifixion Christian reality.

As an example of this approach in action, in examining Psalm 119, van Deursen notes the poet’s position as one persecuted by those who were supposed to be on his side. An excerpt of his analysis follows:

Psalm 119 is hardly a timeless poetic production about the glory of the Law; rather, it is a psalm in which a poor sufferer like Jeremiah could have recognized himself, someone who for his entire life had to remonstrate against political and ecclesiastical leaders in Judah who took counsel against him and spread lies about him (see, e.g., Jer. 36).

But the greatest fulfillment of Psalm 119 occurred with our chief Prophet and Teacher, who was smeared by prominent leaders in the Jewish ecclesiastical life of his day (he was called “Beelzebul, the prince of demons” by the Pharisees, Matt. 12:24). He also encountered “princes” like those members of the Sanhedrin who laid snares for him (trick questions) and were just as harsh as the opponents of our psalmist. And the servants of Jesus Christ were no greater than their Master. Church history often displays the pattern of Psalm 119: “princes” who “take counsel together” against innocent righteous ones who desire nothing more than to respect God and his Word…

We would encourage Bible readers, however, to read each verse of this psalm from the point of view of the historical situation of the writer. Then you will see the haze of “generality” and “timelessness” that covers this psalm for some people automatically disappear, and you will hear this psalm in terms of its flaming, polemical, confessional language—in the church world of our day, as well, which is just as full of contempt for the Word.

Purchase the book here and add it on Goodreads here. Also, see the other titles in the Opening the Scriptures series.

For updates on new titles and promotions from Christian’s Library Press, follow us on Facebook and Twitter and subscribe to the mailing list.

Mock-01 (2)_Front OnlyCreation and the Heart of Man, the first volume of Acton’s Orthodox Christian Social Thought monograph series, is now available for pre-order on Logos Bible Software. Those who pre-order can get the book at a discounted price.

In addition, the Logos edition is able to offer some unique features:

In the Logos edition, this volume is enhanced by amazing functionality. Important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.

Sign up for Creation and the Heart of Man on Logos here.

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, August 13, 2015
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In the Crosshairs of the Assault on Religious Liberty
Jonathan V. Last, Mosaic

The threat is not just to individuals but to religious institutions, and the latter are remarkably vulnerable.

Progressive policies drive more into poverty
Joel Kotkin, Orange County Register

The dirty secret here is that a large proportion of Californians, roughly one-third, or some 3.2 million households, as found by a recent United Way study, find it increasingly difficult to keep their heads above water.

Whole Foods’ John Mackey: Why Intellectuals Hate Capitalism
Nick Gillespie and Todd Krainin, Reason.com

They’re jealous, he says, they side with rulers, and they don’t understand how markets work.

Why Obamacare Could be Heading to the Supreme Court (Again)
Andrew Kloster, The Daily Signal

This past week, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, over the vigorous dissent of four judges on that court, denied rehearing en banc (legalese for an entire court rather than just a panel of three judges) in the case of Sissel v. United States Department of Health and Human Services.

Yes, there really is a headstone cartel, at least in New Jersey. The Monument Builders Association of New Jersey are the only ones who can sell, carve, deliver and install headstones.

One might think this is all right (after all, headstones aren’t that creative] but there is at least one church cemetery that would like the right to sell their own headstones to the patrons of their cemeteries. So the Archbishop of Newark took the headstone cartel to court. Liberty & Law explains the issue:

climbing_in_bureaucracy__alfredo_martirenaWhen American’s think about the rule of law—if they ever think about it at all—it’s usually about how it’s lacking in foreign lands, such as Latin America or Africa. Corruption and bribery, the usual symptoms of a breakdown in the rule of law, aren’t much of an issue for us. We tend to feel secure that, with minor exceptions, our country is governed by agreed upon laws and not by arbitrary decisions of individual government officials.

In general, this is true. We benefit from a legal and political tradition that has valued and strengthened the rule of law. Yet there is one area that should still concern us. As economist John H. Cochrane notes, the “burgeoning regulatory state poses a new threat to our political freedom.”

Cochrane has written and important, and lengthy, essay on the rule of law in the regulatory state. While I’d recommend reading it in its entirety, here are six key quotes from the article:
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Blog author: bwalker
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
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Pope’s climate push at odds with U.S. Catholic oil investments
Richaard Valdmanis, Reuters

But some of the largest American Catholic organizations have millions of dollars invested in energy companies, from hydraulic fracturing firms to oil sands producers, according to their own disclosures, through many portfolios intended to fund church operations and pay clergy salaries.

Bill Ritter reflects on small role 
in encyclical
Dennis Webb, The Daily Sentinel

Former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter this week hailed the significance of a recent encyclical by Pope Francis on climate change — a document Ritter played a small role in helping develop.“Really it’s less about church doctrine than almost any other encyclical ever written,” Ritter said during the 12th annual AREDAY (American Renewable Energy Day) Summit.

Snow: His dictum misreads science, will doom billions to poverty
Catherine Snow, Austin American-Statesman

These are challenging times for some faithful Catholics such as me. Because, while I have utmost respect and love for our popular, approachable pontiff, I believe he has been sadly misinformed about climate change, as evidenced in his encyclical on the environment released in June.

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Braekeleer_Ferdinand_de_A_Peasant_Family_Gathered_around_the_Kitchen_Table_Oil_on_Panel-largeWith the expansion of economic freedom and the resulting prosperity, we’ve reached an unprecedented position of personal empowerment and vocational choice. This is a welcome development, and it can be seized for good in any number of ways. But it also comes with its own risks and temptations.

As with any surface-level “freedom,” unless we seek God first and neighbor second, our action will quickly be steered by pleasure, pride, pursuit of power, or plain old personal preference — leading to shackles that may be looser, but remain shackles nonetheless. Such illusions are nothing new, and lurk no matter what the sphere of our stewardship. But if modernity has wielded a tangible, visible blow to one area in particular, it’s that of the family.

Over the last few decades, marriage has increasingly been misunderstood, and our misaligned approaches to business, education, and politics haven’t helped. Rather than a basic starting point, a foundation of a flourishing society, the family has become just another optional perk in the worship of narrow self-fulfillment.

“Oh that? It’s not for me. Not now.”

As a result, marriage is increasingly seen as a mere contractual arrangement, a 50-50 partnership for the purposes of personal pleasure rather than duty and sacrifice. In turn, culture and family have “evolved” accordingly. Fewer and fewer people are getting married, and those who do are doing so later and later and having fewer and fewer kids, if any at all. Divorce is routine. The basic definition of marriage is constantly questioned. (more…)