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Religion & Liberty Article Listing

Reasons to Celebrate

President Barack Obama has just met with Pope Francis at the Vatican. It is always an important event when the president of our nation meets with one of the most important religious leaders in the world, regardless of who occupies either office at the time of such a meeting.

There are topics I would have liked to see these two men discuss, but I, like most of the world, am not privy to most of their conversation. What I hope is this: that these two men, who have considerably different worldviews, are able to set aside differences for a meaningful discussion with fruitful results.

I think back a few decades to the relationship between Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II. While the two had basic Christian beliefs in common, they were shaped as men by very different experiences. While Reagan was serving stateside in the military during WWII, Karol Wojtyla was trying to...

Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter

It is God's great mercy to mankind, that he will use us all in doing good to one another; and it is a great part of his wise government of the world, that in societies men should be tied to it by the sense of every particular man's necessity; and it is a great honour to those that he maketh his almoners, or servants, to convey his gifts to others; God bids you give nothing but what is his, and no otherwise your own but as his stewards. It is his bounty, and your service or stewardship, which is to be exercised.

Richard Baxter is recognized by many as the most prolific theological writer of the 17th Century. He wrote 140 books, many of them while serving in the pastorate. Timothy Keller, pastor...

Christian Environmentalism and the Temptation of Faux Asceticism

Environmentalism

It is important to clarify the Church's teaching on asceticism because many voices in the environmental movement encourage a kind of ascetical lifestyle in the name of "ethical consumption." Orthodox writers on the environment are not immune to the temptation of putting the ascetical tradition of the Church in the service of another agenda. For example, the conclusion of the Inter-Orthodox Conference on Environmental Protection, held in Crete in 1991, states: "Humanity needs a simpler way of life, a renewed asceticism, for the sake of creation."

Many Orthodox writers call on asceticism— fasting in particular—to reduce consumption. Deacon Dr. John Chryssavgis, the theological...

Why is the Acton Institute Fighting the city of Grand Rapids for Non-Profit Property Tax Exempt Status?

As many city governments seek additional revenue to deal with their growing budgets, one of the new emerging and favorite targets is non-profits. A new survey from the University of Michigan highlights how local government officials are looking to put the tax squeeze on non-profits, educational institutions, and charitable organizations. At Acton, we are currently experiencing this first hand. The city of Grand Rapids denied our property tax exemption request for our new $ 7 million downtown headquarters. Acton lost an appeal to the city's board of review and will appeal to Michigan's state Tax Tribunal.

The city is trying to define us very narrowly as not being a charitable or educational organization but their argument does not persuade anyone familiar with our work for more than two decades. We are confident our appeal will be successful because of the existing...

How our Permanent Political Class Resembles Organized Crime

Review of Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets by Peter Schweizer. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013) 256 pages; $27.00.

If you want to understand how our federal government operates, you might learn more by studying the Mafia instead of civics. In Extortion, Peter Schweizer offers examples and evidence of how the permanent political class is run like an organized crime ring. Shake-downs, protection money, and political slush funds for private use are not only legal, but it's a thriving racket. And it's the sellers of influence who are the biggest benefactors, more so than those trying to buy influence.

The common consensus on political...

Double-Edged Sword: The Power of the Word - Acts 2:42

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

If you asked most church leaders what is the ideal picture of the church, they would probably point you to the second chapter of Acts. It is a description of the most ancient Christian church whose witness to truth endures. In an age where many people do and behave as they wish, it is comforting to be tied to the teachings of those who witnessed and learned from the Lord Jesus Christ. While the apostles were largely simple people, not learned or notably scholarly, their wisdom was divinely inspired and rooted in the incarnate testimony.

Despite the rising hostility to the faith within our own culture, theologian Thomas C. Oden reminds us, "Christianity has seen too many 'modern eras' to be cowed by this one." Even as the culture around...

The Perils of Political Ideology

Review of Reality, Grief, Hope: Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks by Walter Brueggemann (Eerdmans, 2014) 179 pages; $15.00.

In Reality, Grief, Hope, renowned biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann proposes that, mutatis mutandis, "the crisis of 9/11 amounted to [the] same kind of dislocation in our society as did the destruction of Jerusalem in that ancient society." He continues, "The impact of 9/11, along with the loss of life, was an important turn in societal ideology. We have been forced to face new waves of vulnerability. The force of that fresh awareness is evident in the various scrambles for security that have ensued since that event." However, how he fleshes out this analogy...

Shades of Solzhenitsyn

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Thirty-five years ago, a towering intellectual and moral figure drew worldwide attention by criticizing materialism and wealth-obsession in the Western world. The Nobel Laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn was alternately applauded and condemned (though mostly the latter) for his 1978 Commencement Address at Harvard University, in which he bluntly expressed profound disapproval of the prevailing culture in the United States and Europe, noting that "a decline in courage may be the most striking feature that an outside observer notices in the West today."

More recently, another well-known figure of great moral stature, Pope Francis, sounded the very same message in his Apostolic Exhortation ...

Freedom in an Age of Secularism: An Interview with Russell D. Moore

Russell D. Moore serves as the eighth president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the moral and public policy agency of the nation's largest Protestant denomination. Prior to his election to this role in 2013, Moore served as provost and dean of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where he also taught as professor of theology and ethics. A widely-sought cultural commentator, Moore has been recognized by a number of influential organizations. The Wall Street Journal has called him "vigorous, cheerful, and fiercely articulate" while The Gospel Coalition has referred to him "one of the most astute...

Editor's Note

When it comes to our first freedom, perhaps nobody is more engaged in the public square right now than Russell Moore. He is President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, a theologian, and a dynamic preacher. I knew of Moore long before he was a public figure. We had both worked for the same U.S. Congressman, but at different times. I heard the Congressman and other staffers praise Moore's work, integrity, and his commitment to his faith on many occasions. I was glad to finally connect with him for the purpose of this interview in this issue.

Moore discusses the state of religious liberty today and delves into why Baptists offer a unique insight on this issue because of their own persecution in American history. He also touches on the importance of ecumenical cooperation for religious liberty, an area where he has emerged as a leader.

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Decentralization is a Fundamental Principle

This is an excerpt from Guidance for Christian Engagement in Government by Abraham Kuyper. It's the first-ever English translation of Kuyper's Our Program, which was published in 1879. The intention of his work was to inform people participating in the Dutch general elections of 1879. The French Revolution was over, but not the dangerous nature of its collectivist ideas. The influence of modern life and its secularizing influence was growing and reshaping the minds and hearts of Europeans and the rest of the Western world. Kuyper knew it would be a disaster for society if God was completely divorced from politics.

In this passage, Kuyper reflects his own idea of "sphere sovereignty." In Kuyper's words, "The sovereignty of the state as the...

Breaking Bread at Acton University

A rabbi, a school teacher, an economics major and a director of a non-profit sit down for a meal: It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but I assure you, it is not. It is lunch at Acton University.

I find it difficult to think of another single event that draws together such a diverse group of individuals from around the world, all focused on one ideal: exploring the intellectual foundations of a free and virtuous society. The Acton Institute sets the benchmark very high for this event, held every year in Grand Rapids, MI, in June, and I am pleased to say that every year, we seem to exceed our own expectations.

Don't mistake this for hubris; it is the very people who attend that make Acton University the heady experience that it is. I could talk about our impressive faculty (whose expertise ranges from economics to human trafficking to theology to community...

Hildegard of Bingen

Hildegard of Bingen

God has gifted creation with everything that is necessary . . . . Humankind, full of all creative possibilities, is God's work. Humankind is called to co-create . . . . God gave to humankind the talent to create with all the world. Just as the human person shall never end, until into dust they are transformed and resurrected, just so, their works are always visible. The good deeds shall glorify, the bad deeds shall shame.

"This strange child" is how Hildegard was once described. Born in 1098, she was known to have visions, but kept them private for many years. Her family sent her at the age of eight for religious education. It was not until the age of 42 that she realized the full extent of her...

Why is Acton accepting Bitcoin donations?

In December of 2013, the Acton Institute started accepting Bitcoin donations. Bitcoin is the first decentralized digital currency that is created and exchanged electronically. While the currency solely exists in an online capacity, it can be transferred or used to purchase non-virtual goods and services. It allows online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through financial institutions.

It's a new, cheaper, and easier way for some to transfer payment in the global economy. Bitcoin can easily be exchanged into currency, which is exactly what we plan to do with our donations. It would be unwise for Acton to use resources to try and speculate about the fluctuating value of Bitcoin in the market so we will immediately convert the donations into dollars. As I write this, one Bitcoin is currently trading at $605.

A few retailers accept...

Knowledge and Power: The Information Theory of Capitalism and How it is Revolutionizing our World

Knowledge and Power by George Gilder

Review of Knowledge and Power by George Gilder (Regnery Publishing, 2013) 400 pages; $27.95.

We are trained and educated to comprehend the operations of the universe in a materialistic way, where physical and chemical processes are assumed to be the deepest level of knowledge that can be acquired. George Gilder, in his new book Knowledge and Power, disputes that. The universe, he writes, is actually a vast information system of unfathomable limits.

Ever since the rise of information theory in the 1940s, it is becoming increasingly clear that the universe is, in a sense, digital. Information, logic, data, whatever you want to call it, lies even deeper than the material...