You searched for index.html - Page 40 of 69 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: dwbosch
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
By

[Got a request to cross-post this from my other habitat.]

In the in-box from an "evangelical enviromentalist who prefers to remain anonymous," responding to the Moyers/Beisner fallout:

IF Moyers said what Cal claims, and tape recorders were running, where is the tape? IF no tape, presumably no statement, and Cal is, um, lying. Is this how a Christian defends his presumably biblical position to a sceptical journalist?

Looking at other transcripts on the same subject (linked here), Moyers certainly gives the impression that he sees ecology as devisive to evangelicals. But it’s also possible [Cal] Beisner could have jumped to conclusions on Moyers motives (vis a vis deliberately using ecology to divide evangelicals politically) and either interpreted what Moyers actually said in light of this, or deliberately put words in his mouth; the latter Cal clearly denies, by the way.

Don’t know though; wasn’t there, and yep – no tape.

The whole Moyers/Beisner kerfuffle was unfortunate because (a) litigation ain’t a great way for two Christians to resolve issues, and (b) it detracted from the discussion over God being green, which frankly benefits neither Beisner nor Moyers, regardless of political leanings.

The only redeeming thing may be if the noise will draw people to read the other Grist interviews. Thought the one with Cal DeWitt, for example, was fantastic.

Thoughts from the group?

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
By

Pie in the Sky (Image source)

The market can be a pretty amazing thing. Matt Tomter, a former Alaskan bush pilot, saw a market niche and jumped at the opportunity. His Airport Pizza delivers a pie anywhere in Alaska for just $30…that includes free delivery.

As reported on the CBS Evening News, “Flying in pizza may seem like a pie in the sky idea, but it’s proving really popular. An average of 10 pizzas each day goes flying out to the villages. There’s even on-time delivery — as long as the planes are on time.” (Check out the video here.)

What’s not included in the price? A purchase from TerraPass to offset the carbon emissions of the flight. That might come out to about a buck per pie, if a trip from Nome to Kotzebue (366 miles) is any indication. It does appear, however, that the pies are simply some extra cargo on flights on Frontier Flying Service. That is, the pizza is travelling on flights that would already be going out.

As promised in Part 3, this post will begin a discussion of natural law in the thought of the Reformer Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562), but first I want to touch on the broader issue of natural law in the context of Reformation theology.

More than any other Reformer, John Calvin is appealed to for his insight on natural law. This is probably due to the stubborn persistence among scholars to single him out as the chief early codifier of Protestant doctrine. While this approach is understandable given the force of habit, the discussion should be widened beyond Calvin to include those Reformers who either preceded him or were contemporaries of his and the later representatives of Protestant orthodoxy. Though Calvin talks a fair bit about natural law, his treatment of it is unsystematic and imprecise compared to the medievals and some of his contemporaries. Susan Schreiner, a Calvin expert and University of Chicago Divinity School professor, thinks Calvin’s discussion of natural law should be seen as an extension of his doctrine of providence. In her view, Calvin uses natural law for the practical purpose of explaining how order is preserved after the fall in society, law, and morality.

As time passes in the sixteenth century, however, Protestant theologians develop increasingly sophisticated doctrines of natural law that they situate in the wider context of the grand moral tradition with Aristotle, Cicero, Augustine, Aquinas, Scotus, and many others. What is striking here is the degree to which Martyr and his fellow Reformer and former student Jerome Zanchi, for example, show continuity with Thomas and Scotus. The Jesuit historical theologian John Patrick Donnelly expresses a similar viewpoint. “Does Martyr’s scholasticism have affinities to any particular medieval school? Yes. Martyr cannot fairly be called a Thomist, yet his scholasticism stands far closer to Thomism than to any other major school of the Middle Ages. His training was mainly Thomistic and he cites Aquinas far more than any other scholastic except Lombard.”

The astonishing thing about the rise of Reformed scholasticism in the 1540s and 50s is that its medieval roots run heavily to Thomism and Scotism, hardly at all to nominalism. This challenges the opinion of several prominent contemporary Roman Catholic and Protestant intellectuals, who credit the emphasis on the will in Protestant ethics to the influence of William of Occam rather than to medieval Augustinian antecedents.

Use of traditional natural-law terms in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Protestant orthodoxy show significant points of continuity with the thought of Thomas and Scotus. The discontinuities stem from disputes over the interpretation of key biblical passages, an expanded sense of how sin affects reason and human nature, and a criticism of works righteousness, to mention a few key areas. Calvin, Martyr, and the Reformed scholastics all share the conviction that Scripture is the cognitive foundation of theology and that moral arguments can be based on precepts drawn from that foundation.

Part 5 will begin to sketch out Martyr’s view of natural law.

This entry has been cross-posted to my blog, Common Notions.

Blog author: jballor
Saturday, October 21, 2006
By

In the latest Interfaith Stewardship Alliance newsletter, dated Oct. 21, Cal Beisner passes along his response to the letters sent by Bill Moyers’ legal counsel (background on the matter with related links here).

Here’s what Beisner says as related through his own counsel:

Your letter of October 18, 2006, to Interfaith Stewardship Alliance and your letter of October 19, 2006, to Dr. E. Calvin Beisner have been sent to me by my clients for reply.

I have carefully examined the language in the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance Newsletter dated October 9, 2006, that you contend in your October 18 letter is defamatory of your client, Bill Moyers. My examination of that language in the light of applicable United States Supreme Court opinions and those from other jurisdictions as well as major treatises on defamation forces me to the opinion that the language is not legally capable of a defamatory meaning. I would be pleased to review any authority you have that you believe supports your position.

Dr. Beisner is troubled by the fracturing of the relationship with your client and desires to attempt to restore that relationship outside of the civil courts as Christians are admonished to do in First Corinthians chapter six. He was preparing to do this before he received your first letter, which necessitated his seeking legal counsel. He sincerely believes that he accurately summarized in the newsletter his recollection of a private conversation with your client that was not recorded prior to the interview on camera. He also believes his recollection may have been influenced by a conversation he and your client had on the way to the airport following the interview. Finally, he stands by the opinions expressed that you challenge in your letter.

Accordingly, your demands in your letters are rejected. Should you be able to call to my attention applicable authority in support of your position which is persuasive, then your demands will be reconsidered.

Beisner concludes by saying of Moyers, “While I understood from the conversation that he was a Democrat, I accept his representation that he is an independent.”

In the meantime, Don Bosch has compiled a series of quotes from Moyers which show the political direction of his thinking about evangelicals and climate change. “How wide is the gap between a ‘political agenda’ and expressing a point of view,” wonders Don. With the “circumstantial evidence” in hand, Don writes, “A long stretch to ‘dividing the evangelical vote?’ I’ll let you decide that for yourself.”

Blog author: jballor
Friday, October 20, 2006
By

As noted here, last week PBS ran a special by Bill Moyers’, “Is God Green?” examining the “new” trend among evangelicals toward stewardship of the environment.

Arguably what is “new” about this move is its coherence with liberal/leftist environmentalism. As also noted previously, “The Judeo-Christian community for 5,000 years or more has taken its responsibility for the environment seriously. The whole concept of ‘stewardship’ is one that comes directly from sacred texts.” Stewardship isn’t new. Perhaps the method for stewardship proposed is.

In any case, Acton adjunct scholar and spokesman for the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance E. Calvin Beisner appeared on Moyers’ program, as a counter-point to the majority of evangelical voices heard on the show. Blogger Jimmy Akin, a self-professed “old friend” of Dr. Beisner, posted a response by Beisner to his portrayal on the Moyers program, which included allusions that Moyers had confessed some overt political agenda by the timing and content of the program.

When Moyers became aware of the assertions, this apparently did not please him. His lawyers sent letters to Akin, claiming that “Dr. Beisner’s accusation is false and defamatory as it goes to the heart of Mr. Moyers’s integrity as a journalist,” and demanding “on behalf of Mr. Moyers a retraction from the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance stating clearly and without qualification that Dr. Beisner’s statement was erroneous, that Mr. Moyers never made any such statement to Dr. Beisner or anything colorably close to it, and apologizing to Mr. Moyers for the error.”

The lawyers representing Moyers in turn accuse Akin: “You have also defamed Mr. Moyers. On behalf of Mr. Moyers, we demand that you immediately publish in full Mr. Moyers’s response to Dr. Beisner, as well as the retraction and apology of the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, if any, all with at least equal prominence to that given the false statement of Dr. Beisner.”

Also linked at the above is the response from Akin’s lawyers. This story has been picked up by numerous bloggers, some of which are run down on this post at The Evangelical Ecologist.

We’ll keep you posted on any further developments.

Update: Dr. Beisner’s response through counsel has been posted here.

As I mentioned in Part 2, a common stereotype of Protestant ethics is that it is wedded to nominalism. While this may be true for some (particularly modern) Protestant ethicists, it is false for Peter Martyr Vermigli and Jerome Zanchi, two older Reformed moral theologians. Before showing how this is so, and still by way of introduction, I want to point to four doctrines where natural law exerts some influence.

First, it is important to recognize that none of the confessional documents of the magisterial Reformation — whether Lutheran or Reformed — rejected the doctrine of natural law. In fact, those documents universally state that Gentiles — though outsiders to God’s special revelation to Israel in the law and the prophets — remain accountable to the moral law by means of the natural knowledge of God’s will experienced in creation, conscience, and reason. Confessional examples abound to prove this point, but I will mention only what the Second Helvetic Confession (1566) states:

We teach that the will of God is set down unto us in the law of God; to wit, what He would have us to do, or not to do, what is good and just, or what is evil and unjust. We therefore confess that ‘the law is holy . . . and good’; and that this law is, by the finger of God, either written in the hearts of men, and so is called the law of nature, or engraven in the two tables of stone, and more largely expounded in the books of Moses.

This confession, like so many other sixteenth-century confessions, makes an explicit identification of the law written on the heart in Romans 2 with the natural law.

Second, natural law played a significant role in the three uses of law articulated by the Reformers. The first use of law is to convict of sin by taking away all natural presumption of righteousness. The Reformers made frequent appeal to the conscience’s imprinted knowledge of right and wrong in this respect. The second use of law is to maintain order. “Since the devil reigns in the whole world,” states Luther, “God has ordained magistrates, parents, teachers, laws, shackles, and all civic ordinances to at least bind his hands and keep him from raging at will.” The third use of law is to exhort believers to ongoing obedience and gratitude. “The law is to the flesh,” says Calvin, “like a whip to an idle and balky ass, to arouse it to work. Even for a spiritual man not yet free of the weight of the flesh the law remains a constant sting that will not let him stand still.”

Third, while the Reformers famously emphasized Scripture as the ultimate authority for doctrine and Christian living, the modern doctrine of sola scriptura falsely pits the Reformers against the Scholastics on the issue of tradition. Unlike modern Protestants, the Reformers did not pit Scripture and tradition against each other as antithetical sources of authority, even though they did affirm the normative priority of Scripture in theology and ethics. The Reformers also did not play special revelation off against general revelation, as tends to happen today, both were considered legitimate forms of revelation that served distinct roles in theology. This is why the modern Protestant rejection of natural law in favor of supernaturally revealed legal or moral instruction is skewed in relation to the thought of the Reformers.

Fourth, the Reformers felt no tension in affirming a strong doctrine of original sin, on the one hand, and natural law, on the other. While every aspect of reality was affected in the fall, including the rational and social nature of human beings, the Reformers did not believe the divine image was totally annihilated. Instead, only aspects of the image were destroyed while other aspects were permanently disoriented. That disorientation put people in a wrong relationship with God, their neighbors, and the world. However, the implanted knowledge of right and wrong, which survived the fall as a relic of the original image, was now weakened and obscured. The Canons of Dort, a doctrinal standard issued by the Synod of Dort (1618-19), for example, affirms the existence of natural law but also points to its insufficiency:

There remain in man since the fall, the glimmerings of natural light, whereby he retains some knowledge of God, of natural things, and of the difference between good and evil, and shows some regard for virtue and for good outward behavior. But so far is this light of nature from being sufficient to bring him to a saving knowledge of God and to true conversion that he is incapable of using it aright even in things natural and civil.

Without this affirmation of the natural knowledge of God, the result for ethics would be pessimism toward any transcultural, universal moral ontology. The alternative, then, would be to place ethics exclusively within the sphere of redemption and the new creation. If those “glimmerings of natural light” were wiped out, it would be difficult to find a bridge to the public sphere in which Christians and non-Christians could work side by side.

In Part 4 we will begin looking closely at Peter Martyr Vermigli.

This entry has been cross-posted to my blog, Common Notions.

Blog author: dwbosch
Monday, October 16, 2006
By

Dr. Joel Hunter, President of the Christian Coalition and Pastor of the 12,000-member Northland Church in Longwood, FL, Dr. Paul De Vries, National Association of Evangelicals board member and President of New York Theological Seminary, and Rev. Gerald Durley, Pastor of Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta and civil rights leader held a teleconference last Thursday to "address the importance of this issue to their communities and will take questions from reporters about the Statement, the Call to Action, and the potential implications of both on the American religious and political landscape."

(more…)