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Religion & Liberty Article Listing

A Curmudgeon's Counsel for the Workplace and Life

Review of The Curmudgeon's Guide to Getting Ahead by Charles Murray (Crown, 2014), 140 pages; $17.95.

If you've ever wondered what a libertarian curmudgeon's guide to life, love, and making a living might look like, well look no further. Charles Murray, the social scientist and best-selling author of such books as Losing Ground (1984) and Coming Apart (2012), has given us such a book in The Curmudgeon's Guide to Getting Ahead. Aimed at those in their 20s or those approaching those years, much of the book's advice is just as applicable to someone in their 30s or 40s, or someone, like me, in their 50s. Interestingly, the book started off as a kind of workplace advice column...

John Milton on Liberty, License, and Virtuous Self-Government

John Milton

The notion that genuine liberty is predicated upon virtuous self-government was an accepted ideal among many of the United States' founders. During the Founding era, this ideal was perhaps best expressed in a 1791 letter by the Irish-born British parliamentarian Edmund Burke, who wrote: "Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites . . . It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters."

Burke's convictions and concerns were anticipated by the English poet and Interregnum statesman John Milton (1608-74). Throughout his writings, Milton addressed...

Vietnam, Luther, and the Doctrine of Vocation

Uwe Siemon-Netto

An Interview with Uwe Siemon-Netto

Uwe Siemon-Netto is the founder and executive director emeritus of the Center for Lutheran Theology and Public Life in Capistrano Beach, California. He is also a regular contributor to English- and German-language publications. Siemon-Netto, a native of Leipzig, Germany, has been an international journalist for over 50 years. His assignments have included the U.S. Civil Rights movement, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War (over a period of five years), the Arab-Israeli Six Day War, and China's Cultural Revolution.

In mid-career, he turned to theology, earning his M.A. from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and his Ph.D....

Editor's Notes

In getting to know Uwe Siemon-Netto, I learned that one of his most admirable qualities is his willingness to speak his mind and stand clearly for truth amid a drifting and compromising culture. I'm sure he'd think nothing of my complimentary view of his character given all he has seen and accomplished. His life reminds me of the popular song "I've Been Everywhere," first made popular in America by the country singer Hank Snow. Siemon-Netto has been all over the world as a journalist covering many of the biggest and most chaotic events of the 20th Century.

As readers will see in this issue's interview, Siemon-Netto's life in journalism gives him added insight as a theologian. As a journalist and theologian, he sees deeply into many of the problems that plague the media today. As somebody who enjoys studying military history, I appreciate Siemon-...

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...