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Religion & Liberty Article Listing

Editor’s Note

Sarah Stanley editor of R&L

The final issue of Religion & Liberty for 2016 will explore a breadth and depth of topics, including the “ten dollar founding father,” why we need those dollars, the danger of a utopian dream and more.

For the main feature, Victor Claar interviews Vernon Smith, who won the Nobel Prize for economics in 2002. He describes the relationships among many things we might not think are connected, especially the interplay between economics, science and religion.

Bruce Edward Walker revisits the 1941 book Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler. He was intimately familiar with the lies and horrors of totalitarianism, as he faced political prison in Spain and a French...

Double-Edged Sword: The Power of the Word

Luke 2:48–50

When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

The mission of Jesus throughout the Gospels is focused on the will and passion of the Father. Here we have the first words of the incarnate Christ at the age of 12. He is at the temple in Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. Jesus did not return with his parents on the journey home; Joseph and Mary left the caravan, going back to look for him.

It is clearly evident in this passage that a youthful Jesus knows he has a special and unique...

The evidence of things not seen: An interview with Vernon L. Smith

In June 2016, Vernon Smith gave an Acton University Lecture titled “Faith and the Compatibility of Science and Religion.” After giving this lecture, he was gracious enough to sit down with Victor Claar to go into some of the specifics of his lecture, as well as his vast experience in economics, including experimental economics.

Vernon L. Smith was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2002 for his groundbreaking work in experimental economics. He has the George L. Argyros Chair in Finance and Economics and is a research scholar in the Economic Science Institute at Chapman University. He is the president and founder of the International Foundation for Research in Experimental Economics. Smith completed his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering at the California Institute of Technology, his master’s degree in economics at the...

Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton [1757 – 1854]

I cannot spare myself or others. My Maker has pointed out this duty to me and has given me the ability and inclination to perform it.

Known to most as “Eliza” and to her husband and closest companions as “Betsey,” Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton is a forgotten founding mother. Eliza is best known as the widow of Alexander Hamilton, despite outliving him by half a decade. Her story is hard to piece together as she chose to erase herself from history, all while preserving her fallen husband’s legacy by commissioning Hamilton’s first collection of writings.

Historian Ron Chernow describes her as deeply religious, stoic and averse to self-pity. Eliza was the daughter of General Phillip Schuyler and Catherine Van Rensselaer Schuyler, one of New York City’s blueribbon couples. Eliza was born on August 9, 1757, and was brunette...

Utopias denied: Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon at 75

Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, public broadcasting aired a television series titled “Meeting of the Minds,” created, produced, written and starring the multitalented polymath Steve Allen. As a high school student, yours truly monopolized my family’s farmhouse Magnavox each week to witness the panel of historical characters (portrayed by actors) arguing philosophy, history, science and culture in their own words.

One can imagine a similar experience seated across the table from Arthur Koestler, an author whose personal life was as fascinating as it was infuriating. Setting aside the infuriating aspects—not least, the 1983 suicides of the Parkinson’s diseaseand cancer-stricken author and his perfectly healthy and much younger wife— for the purpose of this essay, Koestler found himself in the thick of events as the civilized world...

Why money matters

In his first epistle to St. Timothy, the Apostle Paul includes a warning about money:

Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. (1 Timothy 6:9–11)

This is often erroneously summarized as “money is the root of all evil,” but that is clearly not what St. Paul said. It is the “desire to be rich” and “the love of money” that are the problem. Why? Because such outlooks confuse a means with an end. If treating a person as a means to an...

Ukraine—on its own terms

Review of Serhii Plokhy’s The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine (Perseus Academic, 2015).

It is hard to get objective information about Ukraine. This isn’t just because the initial frame through which most of us encountered Ukraine presented her as a territory of Imperial Russia or the Soviet Union. Nor is it simply a result of the confusion about facts and intentions that always exist when one country invades or annexes part of another. Both of these certainly come into play, but they are exacerbated by Moscow’s aggressive information strategy that is as much directed toward undermining Western ideological hegemony abroad as it is at reinforcing its own at home. The fact that the West is trying to do the same thing in reverse and that both Moscow and the West define Ukraine in a way that bolsters their own cause means that Ukraine is...

What can we expect from Acton in 2017?

Every year we want to expand and improve our event offerings. In 2016, we held more than 25 events, including lectures in our auditorium, film screenings, receptions around the United States and conferences throughout the globe. Next year will be even busier.

We already have nine Acton Lecture Series events planned for the winter and spring of 2017. You can expect great discussions on topics like free trade, C. S. Lewis and more. These lunchtime Thursday proceedings are the backbone of our events schedule, offering a formal lecture and giving audience members a chance to ask questions of the impressive experts in their various economic, academic and other fields.

Who doesn’t like watching movies? Acton will continue to host screenings of important films and documentaries. One screening you can look forward to in January is “Liberating a Continent: John...

Winning Hearts, Minds and Souls

This issue of Religion & Liberty features an article on Arthur Koestler’s classic novel Darkness at Noon, which reminds us of the soul-crushing apparatus of the Soviet state under Stalin in ways, perhaps, that nonfiction could not. An interview with Nobel prize-winning economist Vernon Smith reveals that science, free markets and religious faith aren’t incompatible. All are prescient in ways I shall explain below.

As I put pen to paper for 2016’s last issue of Religion & Liberty, news broke of a poll indicating only 55 percent of Americans believe communism “is or was a problem,” compared with 91 percent of elderly U.S. citizens. As for my generation—the Baby Boomers—...

Editor’s Note

Sarah Stanley editor of R&L

Questions about what makes a good or a bad leader dominate many conversations as we approach the 2016 presidential election. Real leadership happens all around us, not just in the Oval Office. As we pulled together the various pieces for this Summer 2016 issue of Religion & Liberty, the informal theme of leadership seemed to connect all the content. For the interview, I was able to sit down with the CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Cheryl Bachelder, to discuss her unique approach to leading the casual fried chicken corporation. Rev. Robert Sirico also addresses leadership in his column as he asks the question, Where are the leaders? He reflects on the legacies of Reagan, Thatcher and John...

Jeremias Gotthelf [1797 – 1854]

For where belief dwells, the spider may not stir, neither by day nor by night.

Though few Americans today have heard of Jeremias Gotthelf, he belongs among the great European authors of the 19th century and, indeed, the greatest Christian writers of the modern West. Gotthelf, whose real name was Albert Bitzius, was pastor in the tiny Swiss village Lützelflüh, not far from the capital, Bern. He began writing relatively late, publishing his first novel, Reflections on a Peasant’s Life, in 1837. But then his output was prodigious. In less than 20 years he produced eleven more novels and over forty novellas and short stories, while also editing an almanac for several years and, of course, fulfilling his pastoral duties. Sadly, little of his writing is available in English, though there is a recent translation of his best-known work, the novella The Black Spider...

Double-Edged Sword: The Power of the Word

Mark 1:16–20

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

This dramatic call of some of the most notable disciples shows that the ministry of Christ is chiefly concerned about drawing people unto himself. The incarnate Lord is a central theme of Christianity. The text highlights that following Jesus is an immediate and dramatic life-changing experience. The disciples...

Eric Metaxas’ golden triangle of freedom

Review of If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty (Viking 2016) by Eric Metaxas.

Though we have enjoyed the summer heat for many weeks now, we should reflect on the event that kicks this season off. Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial beginning of summer in America. School’s out for summer (in most places). The pools are open. The grills are hot. The ballparks are full. Memorial Day is also the beginning of the American liturgical calendar of patriotic feasts and festivals over the summer months, reaching its pinnacle with Independence Day.

Memorial Day began as Decoration Day in 1868 to honor the fallen Union heroes of the American Civil War. It was a day set aside to decorate their graves and remember the “last full measure of devotion” given by these men. There was, of course, competing memorials in the...

Millennials should read Solzhenitsyn

The appeal of Bernie Sanders’ socialism is a puzzle to many; his appeal rises when economics is understood mechanistically, subject to impersonal forces and nefarious individuals. As a result, an economy can be directed only by the macro decisions of large and powerful entities like governments.

It is easy to appeal to free education, the eradication of poverty, and all the other promises made by those who don’t have any real experience in wealth creation. Most often their supporters don’t either, including millennials. We need to be patient with the ignorance of the young, but we should never acquiesce to it. Economics is not a mechanistic enterprise. Economics is closely tied to human anthropology—the precepts that define what a human is, how one produces artifacts first for survival and then for the building of culture, how one values nature and the...

What’s the state of American money?

Review of The Scandal of Money: Why Wall Street Recovers but the Economy Never Does (Regnery 2016) by George Gilder.

Citizens of the world’s superpower are worried about the future. Polls of public sentiment indicate that Americans are pessimistic about their opportunities for prosperity, concerned that the next generation will not enjoy an improving quality of life, and more. This anxiety is reflected in the current presidential primary season. Hillary Clinton unimaginatively offers to manage the decline. Donald Trump offers himself unfiltered for public service, yet his strongman act seems better placed in the darker decades of the last century rather than the new challenges presented in the 21st.

By the end of the 20th century, communism proved to be the god that failed, defeated by a resurgent American resolve backed by an extraordinary new...