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Religion & Liberty Article Listing

Doing Justice - Benedict's Way

As the squabbling continues over various policy suggestions contained in Benedict XVI’s Caritas in veritate, there’s a risk that the deeper theological themes of the text will be overlooked. It’s also possible some of the wider implications for the Catholic Church’s own self-understanding and the way it consequently approaches questions of justice will be neglected. For historical perspective, we should recall that before, during, and after the Second Vatican Council there was—and remains—an intense theological debate within the Catholic Church about, firstly, how it renews itself in order to spread the Good News more efficaciously; and secondly, what this means for the church’s engagement with modernity.

Putting the matter somewhat simplistically, one group of twentieth-century Catholic theologians—including Henri de Lubac, S.J., Hans Urs von Balthasar, Jean Danielou...

Lester DeKoster

Lester DeKoster“God is a free enterpriser because he expects a return on His investments.”

At once a father, professor, librarian, editor, publisher, and author, Lester DeKoster leaves a powerful legacy that resonates far beyond the borders of his school and denomination. In 1951 DeKoster became director of the library at Calvin College and Seminary, affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. During his tenure at the college, DeKoster was influential in expanding the holdings of the H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies, one of the preeminent collections of Calvinist and Reformed texts in the world. DeKoster also amassed an impressive personal library of some 10,000 books, which includes...

How the Byzantines Saved Europe

Ask the average college student to identify the 1,100 year old empire that was, at various points in its history, the political, commercial, artistic, and ecclesiastical center of Europe and, indeed, was responsible for the very survival and flourishing of what we know today as Europe, and you’re not likely to get the correct answer: Byzantium.

The reasons for this are manifold but not least is that as Western Europe came into its own in the later Middle Ages and Renaissance, Byzantium gradually succumbed piecemeal to the constant conquering pressure of Ottomans and Arabs. When Constantinople finally fell in 1453 (two years after the birth of the Genoese Christopher Columbus), Europe, now cut off from many land routes to Asian trade, was already looking West and South in anticipation of the age of exploration and colonization. Byzantium and the Christian East would fall under...

Editor's Note

Our lead interview with author Amity Shlaes about the Great Depression and its various interpreters has obvious parallels to the often heated debate about what has caused the financial crisis of 2008-09. In The Forgotten Man, a superb examination of the history of the Depression and the mythologies that have grown up around it, Shlaes makes important connections for us. In speaking of the “forgotten man” she says, “Our own children and grandchildren are forgotten men because they will pay the taxes in the future that will result from our over expansion today.”

Executive editor John Couretas contributes a review of two books about Byzantium, an often forgotten empire by those in the West. He takes a look at The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies which has multiple editors, and Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire by Judith Herrin. In...

Money, Greed, and God

The belief that the essence of capitalism is greed is perhaps the biggest myth Jay W. Richards tackles in his new book, Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and not the Problem. One reason for confronting this challenge is that many freemarket advocates subscribe to the thought that capitalism produces greed, and for them that’s not necessarily a negative. But for those with a faith perspective, greed and covetousness are, of course, serious moral flaws.

It’s also the kind of myth that less articulate writers would rather not challenge, especially in this troubling economic climate. Richards does, however, have a skill for tightly honed logical arguments, and he not only is able to defend free markets but to tear lethal holes into many of the economic ramblings of the religious left. He even takes on holy of holies like fair trade and Third World debt...

Why is the Acton Institute Partnering with the Stewardship Council?

Following the successful production of Acton Institute’s Effective Stewardshipcurriculum, and with an eye to the launch of Zondervan’s NIV Stewardship Biblein the fall of 2009, we have formed a close partnership with the Stewardship Council, a five-year-old nonprofit that was established as an outreach to the broader evangelical community. The Stewardship Council is a natural partner for the work that Acton has been doing now for almost twenty years.

The Stewardship Council, a leader in the development and delivery of stewardship content and resources, will share office space with Acton in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The council is no stranger to us. It has, for much of the last four years, partnered with Acton in the research, writing, and editing of the Stewardship Bible, which will be one of the major publishing events in the Christian book world in...

Debating the Depression: An Interview with Amity Shlaes

Your book, The Forgotten Man, has played a major role in challenging the consensus about the New Deal that prevails in the acad- emy and in popular culture. I'm interested in what motivated you to write the book.

We grew up with various versions of the 1930s. One version was that Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office and made it better. That Roosevelt cured the depression, in essence. A less simple version was: Roosevelt didn't cure our economic ailment in the 1930s, but that didn't matter because he gave us back our confidence. Another version said the Depression was caused by monetary problems and the rest doesn't matter. That the Depression was about monetary problems the way the play Hamlet is about a Prince–there's no play without the prince. That's the version that markets-oriented people grew up with, following Milton Friedman...

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

One word of truth shall outweigh the whole world.

Toward the close of his 1970 Nobel Prize lecture, Alexander Solzhenitsyn affirmed the power of literature “to help mankind, in these its troubled hours, to see itself as it really is, notwithstanding the indoctrinations of prejudiced people and parties.“ In this, the great man affirmed the power of literature to communicate the moral truths of our lives, our societies, across all national and ethnic boundaries. Solzhenitsyn, perhaps known by most as a Soviet dissident, was nonetheless an artist of great distinction who heroically exposed the lies at the heart of Marxism-Leninism and the...

Double-Edged Sword: Psalm 94:14,15

For the LORD will not cast off his people, neither will he forsake his inheritance. But judgment shall return unto righteousness: and all the upright in heart shall follow it.

So often in life we feel alone, neglected, and forgotten. Even in crowds an indi vidual can feel isolated, excluded, and supremely unimportant, sometimes through no fault of his or her own. Yet worse, often we are unfairly wronged by people who are supposed to be friends and loved ones, or we are persecuted and tormented by foes. The 94th Psalm is an appeal by the psalmist for the Lord to be a judge and to intercede on behalf of his people.

The English evangelist, Charles Spurgeon, declared of the 14th verse of the Psalm: “If any of you are deeply troubled, I counsel you to get a hold of this promise! Perhaps it seems to you as if two seas of sorrow had met...

Eliot, Kirk and the Moral Imagination

The following is adapted from a speech on the occasion of the republication of Russell Kirk's Eliot and His Age, given to the Intercollegiate Studies Institute student group at Central Michigan University in September 2008.

What makes T. S. Eliot and Russell Kirk so important that we should be here tonight to discuss them? Well, for one, both fathered "ages"--the twentieth century was, according to Kirk, "The Age of Eliot" and Kirk himself inaugurated the contem- porary Conservative Age with the publication of The Conservative Mind in the early 1950s. Both men recognized that there is no culture without cult, cult in this instance, for Kirk, "a joining together for worship--that is, the attempt of people to commune with a transcendent power. It is from association in the cult, the body of worshippers, that human community grows." Additionally...

Why Did The Acton Institute Develop The Effective Stewardship Curriculum?

One of the best ways to reach people of faith is in their places of worship and church communities. Church and lay leaders of many different Christian traditions are often looking for quality and affordable curriculum materials that can equip their own members to act and think biblically about important social issues such as care of creation, poverty relief, financial stewardship, and giving.

Acton’s purpose in developing the Effective Stewardship Curriculum and NIV Stewardship Bible was to take the best of our ideas, as expressed in the work of our scholars and staff members, and to offer them to a broad audience. With a DVD and companion study guide, Acton can multiply its reach and influence tremendously.

What’s more, many church leaders and educational materials propose teachings and policy solutions that are at odds with the “free and virtuous...

Power and Corruption in Catholic Boston

Lord Acton’s quotation concerning the corrupting effect of power is widely known. Less so is the fact that the target of his criticism on that particular occasion was the power possessed not by government but by church officials. Acton’s understanding of ecclesiastical authority (as distinct from power) is debatable, but his insight into human nature is not. A case study—not that we need another to file away in the vast archives of the history of human frailty—is the collapse of the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.

Philip Lawler documents the details in this skillfully written account of the triumphs and travails of Boston’s Catholics. The history is episodic rather than thorough, but Lawler chooses his episodes well. The bulk of his attention goes to the last forty years, and much of that is focused on the sexual abuse scandals of the last ten. For anyone who...

Spiritual Enterprise: Doing Virtuous Business

With the onset of the financial crisis and economic downturn, there has been a lot of discussion about the future of the free economy in this country. Scandal and corruption among executives and financial institutions has of course played a significant part in fueling the discussion. While paying tribute to the free economy and the wealth it has created, Theodore Roosevelt Malloch also looks to reinforce and renew the foundations of virtuous business in Spiritual Enterprise. Malloch agrees that businesses and entrepreneurs that embody those spiritual traits played a substantial role in leading the United States in its rise as an economic power second to none. A key driver of this as cendancy was that so many business leaders and the people who made up those institutions had a deep well of spiritual might and heritage to draw from. “I do not deny that...

Busting a Pop Culture Illusion

For the past several decades, American popular culture has frequently promulgated an idea central to modern liberalism: the idea of a life without limits, that we can have everything we want with out having to make hard choices. That assumption is especially evident in Walt Disney movies, and not only in recent ones. Fortunately, the makers of some pop culture products see the absurdity and danger of that notion.

The life-without-limits mindset, derived most directly from the ideas of the eighteenth century French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau (one of the main progenitors of modern, statist liberalism), is an essential foundation of modern liberalism and has an important corollary that pervades leftist politics: that the only thing that stops each of us from achieving our life without limits is the stubborn restrictions placed on us by various villains,...

The Envy Trap

It is one of the great puzzles, true throughout all human history, that during an economic downturn, people turn on the rich. They call for them to be taxed, harassed, beaten, and jailed. Because they have money when others are losing money, envy is unleashed and encouraged by the political establishment. It amounts to a kind of lashing out at the most conspicuous target, even though doing so won’t actually accomplish anything.

On the face of it, this should be obvious. In hard economic times, the goal should not be to harm the rich but create conditions that enable more people to become rich. Punishing those who have created and accumulated wealth doesn’t do this. In fact, it does the opposite. It sends the signal that the creation and accumulation of wealth will not be tolerated—and this is exactly the opposite signal that an economy in recession needs.

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