TFAVS Alumni - San Juan Capistrano 2003

The second half of last year saw Kenya’s political arena become a catch story of the media all over the world. President Daniel arap Moi appointed 41 year-old Uhuru Kenyatta as his political heir, against the wish of a significant number of the members of his party. On August 25, 2002, the Sunday issue of the Grand Rapids Press carried an essay entitled “Kenya Faces a Choice of Paths.” It caught my attention because it was written by a white man, Rev. Jerry Zandstra, who seemed to have a deep grasp of the political and economic issues facing Kenya. It was great to read an outsider’s analysis. After reading this article I met Zandstra and discussed some of the issues raised in his article. It was at this time that Zandstra introduced me to the Acton Institute and the Toward a Free and Virtuous Society conferences. I ended up attending the conference at San Juan Capistrano, California from February 20-23, 2003.

The main theme of the discussions was “Toward and Free and Virtuous Society.” The theory discussed on the subject of “Free and Virtuous Society” proceeded with an incredible measure of implications for practical Christian living. It was practically clear that the proposals can help toward the enactment of the rule of law, which would restore the confidence of investment, create more job opportunities, and thereby, help to alleviate poverty.

The conference was culturally enriching, theologically intriguing, and practically inspiring. The conference participants, both the teachers and students, brought an enriching experience of cultural variety from Mexico, Africa, and America. The diversity added great flavor to the lecture discussion and interpersonal relationships. The group formed an interesting kind of extended family bringing in an amazing sense of belonging and security. It was one of the most friendly places I have ever been since coming to the United States; it reminded me of the African community orientation.

For the most part, I agreed with the ideas. However, I did struggle with two things. First, it appeared to me that most of the proposals did not have a clear biblical basis; it seemed that the primary basis was the experience of human reason and natural law. The point is not that everything we believe or practice must find an explicit verse in the Bible talking about it, but rather that everything we believe and practice must have an objective basis of the authoritative Word of God. Reason provides only an experiential and subjective basis. Second, the proposals seemed based on an anthropocentric theology. Man, rather than his creator, appeared to be the focus. God should be the starting point of a sincere talk about the human person.

The lectures and discussions proved to be theologically challenging, though. Indeed, all of the presentations demonstrated thoroughness of preparedness and mastery of material. I gathered profound information. I was particularly intrigued in the way economic ideas were integrated with Christian principles on the basis of natural law and human reason. There was a particular focus on the protection of the less privileged in the society because they are created in the image of God and therefore have a right for human dignity. The message was clear that Christians can confidently propose Christian principles especially on matters of economic policy in public square.