Acton Notes - November/December 2011 Notes

Wisdom & Wonder Book Launch

Dr. Vincent Bacote, who was the speaker at the Wisdom & Wonder book launch, said Abraham Kuyper is still relevant "because there is confusion about the role of Christians in society." The event took place on the campus of Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids on December 10. Dr. Bacote, Associate Professor of Theology and Director of the Center for Applied Christian Ethics at Wheaton College, addressed over 60 who attended the launch. "If you are a Christian, should you be involved in this world or merely on the periphery? Kuyper answered with a resounding yes," added Dr. Bacote. Acton Institute and Kuyper College collaborated on the project that will ultimately see all of Kuyper's seminal three-volume work Common Grace translated into English for the first time. Dr. Nelson Kloosterman, who serves as ethics consultant and executive director of Worldview Resources International, translated Wisdom & Wonder. Dr. Kloosterman will also oversee the entire translation of Common Grace. The event at the seminary concluded with a Q&A panel that included Dr. Bacote, Dr. Michael Wittmer of Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and Dr. Nelson Kloosterman. Dr. Jordan Ballor, a research fellow at the Acton Institute, served as moderator for the panel. Dr. Stephen Grabill, director of programs at the Acton Institute, told the Grand Rapids Press before the book launch:

There are lots of important discussions going on right now within the broader evangelical community, and within the Christian Reformed Church, about science and art. Kuyper, writing on common grace in science and art, has so much to say about these topics. But his contribution gets overlooked because very few people can read Dutch."

Wisdom & Wonder: Common Grace in Science & Art explores the views of Kuyper on the relationship between the Christian faith, culture, and God's preserving work in the world. The first volume of Common Grace is set to appear in the fall of 2012.

3rd Annual Chicago Open Mic Night

The Acton Institute held its 3rd annual Open Mic Night on November 3 at the University Club of Chicago. The panelists fielded a host of questions about how to jumpstart the economy and the role of virtue in society.

Acton executive editor Kris Mauren emceed the event, and panelists included Acton President Rev. Robert Sirico, Brian Westbury, and Heather Wilhelm. Westbury is chief economist at First Trust Advisers L.P., a financial service based in Wheaton, Illinois and Wilhelm is a senior fellow at the Illinois Policy Institute.

Panelists agreed that the sectors of the economy that received little assistance and were not micromanaged or faced burdensome regulation by the federal government fared best. Wilhelm quoted H.L. Menken to great effect: "The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule it."

Jim Healy, an advisor to Rev. Robert Sirico, summed up the importance of Open Mic Night:

The purpose of the Acton 'Open-Mic' evening is to provide a forum to discuss critical publicpolicy issues, so interested people can become better informed about those issues in order to take appropriate follow-up action as necessary to promote a free and virtuous society. This is one initiative where members of other conservative groups in the Chicago area join with us to advance the cause of liberty.

R&L Interviews Dolphus Weary

Dolphus Weary, president of R.E.A.L. Christian Foundation in Mississippi, is interviewed in the Fall 2011 issue of Religion & Liberty. Weary, a popular minister and speaker offers a unique story about his experience growing up in grinding poverty and segregation in rural Mississippi. He was previously a leader in Mendenhall Ministries from 1971 to 1997, a ministry that works to empower people to overcome poverty and hopelessness. The model of Mendenhall Ministries has been widely adopted in other parts of the country and it received national recognition by President George H.W. Bush in 1991 as one of the Daily Points of Light.

R&L Managing editor Ray Nothstine commented on the interview:

Dolphus Weary brings tremendous credibility to the issue of poverty. He has overcome many obstacles in his own life and turned it into a powerful testimony. As the Acton Institute further engages the issues that surround poverty, it is important that we learn from people like Weary. He is the embodiment of a person that is not afraid to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work of ministering to the 'least of these.'

Aid & Enterprise Conference

On December 1, Acton hosted a conference titled "From Aid to Enterprise: Economic Liberty and Solutions to Poverty" in London. The conference explored the limits and unintended consequences of aid and the role of business in poverty alleviation. Lord Brian Griffiths, who previously spoke at Acton University in 2008, was among the speakers. He discussed the moral basis of a market economy, highlighting the importance of freedom, private property, competitive markets, and a just society. "I don't think you can have a market economy without certain values. In other words, it requires certain institutions…but it also requires people to hold certain values," declared Lord Griffiths. This conference wraps up a series of Acton events that took place on four continents over the last two years on the topic of enterprise solutions to poverty.

Jordan Ballor Debates Gideon Strauss

On October 21, at the Christian Legal Society's 50th Anniversary Conference in Chicago, Acton's Dr. Jordan Ballor and Dr. Gideon Strauss of the Center for Public Justice (CPJ) faced off for the third time this year to debate the question of the proper Christian perspective toward justice, poverty, politics, and the state. Interestingly, both participants actually had much in common, since both are Reformed Christians and engage social issues from this perspective.

Dr. Ballor set the stage by outlining the basic institutions of society: family, Church, business (or culture, more broadly), and the state. Having established each as integral spheres, Jordan asked the question, "Whose problem is poverty?" Business, after all, creates jobs and wealth; the family is meant to provide for the basic needs of its members; and the Church has been established, with regards to poverty, to fill in any gaps through charitable giving. Only temporarily and as a last resort, and only to the Church's shame, should the state be involved in alleviating the hardships of the poor.

To this, Dr. Strauss responded by attempting to broaden our definition of the state to include each citizen and to argue that what we need is not less government but better government, one in which entitlement reform would be focused on the rich rather than the poor. Dr. Ballor, however, contended that the real difference between them was rather that he believed government to be "better at less." Having certain programs as a safety net is fine... so long as no one gets caught in it. The problem, according to Dr. Ballor, is that too few people look at these as temporary fixes anymore, and they are not adequately designed to be.

In the end, no participant had the last word in a lively debate that will surely continue.