Religion & Liberty Article Listing

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Challenge to the Ecumenical Movement

This article is excerpted from Jordan Ballor's new book Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945) was a theologian and pastor intimately involved in the German church struggle (Kirchenkampf)— the attempt by the Third Reich to consolidate control under a central Reich bishop and promote pro-Nazi sentiment in the German church. Bonhoeffer issues his critique of the ecumenical movement in the form of an essay, "The Confessing Church and the Ecumenical Movement." The challenging question articulated in 1935, "Is the ecumenical movement, in its visible representation, a church?" echoes throughout the history of the movement. This is, he realizes, "the question...

Review: Thomas Sowell’s Field Guide to Intellectuals

Arguments about ideas are the bread and butter of the academic, journalism and think tank worlds. That is as it should be. Honest intellectual debate benefits any society where its practice is allowed. The key element is honesty.

Today, someone is always looking to take out the fastest gun, and in the battles over the hearts and minds of the public, many weapons are brought to bear. Unfortunately, and too often, among the artillery deployed by both sides in an argument are rhetorical deception, misleading statistics and an air of authority, which can immediately bury facts in the Boot Hill of honest debate.

Seldom held accountable for the violence brought to bear on the verifiable when their ideas lead to long-lasting negative effects, many of these intellectual gunslingers head into battle confident that their wits will save the...

Review: William F. Buckley Jr.

Lee Edwards calls William F. Buckley Jr. "The St. Paul of the conservative movement." No other twentieth century figure made such a vast contribution to the intellectual force of political conservatism. He paved the way for the likes of Ronald Reagan and all of those political children of Reagan who credit the former president for bringing them into politics. He achieved what no other had done and that was his ability to bring traditional conservatives, libertarians, and anti-communists together under the same umbrella. Late in life, when asked why he continued working so hard despite fame and wealth, a surprised Buckley said, "My Father taught me that I owe it to my country. It's how I pay my debt."

Lee Edwards offers an excellent story of Buckley's founding and overseeing of the modern conservative crusade in ...

Assessing the Anti-Federalists

A free society needs both liberty and order. As Russell Kirk once put it, "order is the first need for any society—only then can liberty and justice be reasonably secure." From September 1787 through July 1788, this principle of ordered liberty shaped Federalist arguments for, and anti-Federalist arguments against, the ratification of the Constitution. Contemporary Americans might be tempted to assume that the opposition does not deserve to be counted among the Founding Fathers and Framers. But not only do many anti-Federalists belong in both categories, their works need to be read alongside the more famous Federalist Papers and James Wilson's oratory, if Americans hope to restore a sane balance between state and federal power.

Recent experience with tyranny shaped the Articles of Confederation, the United States'...

Literature and the Realm of Moral Values

In the opening chapter of Aleksander Solzhenitsyn's novel, In the First Circle, the character Innokenty Volodin is faced with a moral dilemma over whether or not to share secret Soviet information with the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. In the end, his decision is made when he asks himself: "If we live in a state of constant fear, can we remain human?" The question is one that Solzhenitsyn asked of the Soviet government right up to the day he was arrested and exiled in 1974. His parting shot to the Soviet powers was the publication in Russia of the essay, "Live Not by Lies."

A new "restored" edition of In the First Circle was published in late 2009 by Harper Perennial in a translation by Harry T. Willetts. The new edition includes the missing chapters that Solzhenitsyn had excised to get the book past Soviet censors....

What is Christian’s Library Press?

In June of 2010, the Acton Institute acquired the Grand Rapids–based book imprint, Christian’s Library Press. CLP was founded in 1979 by Gerard Berghoef and Lester DeKoster as a publishing resource for Christian leadership, theology, and stewardship. Berghoef was president of the John Widdicomb Company of Grand Rapids and was an elder in the Christian Reformed Church for many years. DeKoster was a Calvin College professor and a former editor of The Banner, a publication of the Christian Reformed Church. With the death of DeKoster in 2009, Acton was given an opportunity to build upon their respected work.

Acton Institute is committed to publishing new books and building on the rich theological heritage that has characterized CLP. Acquiring CLP was a natural fit given all the work Acton has done to become a leading source in the area of Christian stewardship. Acton...

Haiti & Solidarity

When I first heard the news from Haiti and watched the horrible stories on television, I had the same impulse I imagine millions around the world experienced: I found myself thinking of catching the next plane to Port-au-Prince to help in whatever way I could.

What was the basis of this impulse? It is our moral intuition, sometimes called the principle of solidarity. We feel pain when others feel pain, and joy when they experience joy; we slow down on the freeway when we pass an accident not merely for some macabre or prurient interest, but because we recognize that “there but for the grace of God go I.”

And yet I had to ask myself the practical question: What would I actually do when I got off the plane in Haiti? I do not know how to set broken bones. I can’t fix mudslides. I cannot operate on limbs and eyes. Only after all these things were done would I...

Francis Schaeffer

We cannot deal with people like human beings, we cannot deal with them on the high level of true humanity, unless we really know their origin—who they are. God tells man who he is. God tells us that He created man in His image. So man is some- thing wonderful.

Francis Schaeffer is one of the most influential Christians to have lived in the twentieth century. His life closely paralleled the rise and fall of godless communism in Europe. Schaeffer spent many of those years fighting to instill a depleted western Protestantism and an increasingly materialistic America with a sense of God’s presence and His voice in human affairs.

Francis Schaeffer

Schaeffer began...

Acton FAQ

What role does blogging play into Acton’s communication mix?

The Acton PowerBlog, the most popular feature of Acton’s growing web presence, marked its fifth year of faith-and-policy punditry in April. Written by a diverse group of scholars, writers, clergy, and businesspeople, the blog is a forum for a wide variety of social and economic topics. To date, Acton bloggers have published almost 3,000 posts and readers – who provide their own invaluable insights – have logged about 5,500 comments to these posts.

The PowerBlog has been an essential communications tool for promoting Acton ideas, scholars, publications, events, and Acton’s writers and thinkers to news organizations and the reporters and editors looking for expert commentary. When big news breaks, the Acton blogging crew is all over the story. For example, the traffic at the PowerBlog exploded during last...


The First Freedom

Twenty years on from the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is worth recalling the distinctly salvific promises of the inhuman ideologies of communism and fascism that resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of innocent people during the 20th century. The utopian promises of murderous ideologues were accompanied by a vicious fury against those faiths that proclaimed freedom and human dignity. The despot persecutes the believer, who refuses to offer the totality of his life to the ruling power. For this reason, the Framers of the U.S. Constitution considered religious liberty the “first freedom,” the foundational freedom upon which others are built. A brief selection of readings follows. – Editors.

Communism and Christianity

Communism... wants above all to be a “world outlook”; it is...

Not Celebrating Communism's Collapse

America’s Religious Left, having invested decades in dialogue with and advocating accommodation of the Soviet Bloc, was flummoxed and uncelebratory about the momentous collapse of East European Communism in 1989-1990.

The United Methodist Council of Bishops, representing 9 million church members in the U.S. were actually in session when the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989. They reacted by blandly commending the East Germans for their “openness and growing self- confidence” and by urging a “new trust and compassion throughout the world.” They also warned against the imposition of Eastern or Western value systems, as though the two were morally equal.

East German United Methodist Bishop Rudiger Minor assured his fellow prelates that East Germans would not exchange communism for West German capitalism’s “society of sharp elbows” and would instead...

Billy Graham and the Rise of the Republican South

Explaining the realignment of American Southern politics is often a favorite area of study among historians and scholars. A region that was once dominated by yellow dog Democrats, has for the most part continued to expand as a loyal region for the Grand Old Party. One of the earliest and most common narratives among liberal historians and writers is the belief that the realignment in the South had to do with a backlash against desegregation. Steven P. Miller in his new book Billy Graham and the Rise of the Republican South puts considerable emphasis on Graham’s role in desegregation, public evangelicalism, and Graham as a spiritual and political adviser to presidents. Miller argues that Graham played a formidable role in reshaping the political climate of the South.

Early on Miller describes some of the dynamics of Graham’s insistence on holding...

A Rare and Tenuous Freedom: An Interview with Nina Shea

There are many anniversaries related to the fall of communism in Eastern Europe this year. Those countries were appropriately referred to as the “Captive Nations.” What thoughts do you have as you look back at that time and remember some of the great figures who toiled for political and religious freedom?

It was thrilling to come to know some of the heroic champions of freedom from that historic period—Soviet human rights advocate Andrei Sakharov, Lithuanian Catholic priest and long time political prisoner Fr. Alfonsas Svarinskas, former Jewish refusnik Natan Scharansky, Romanian poet Dorin Tudoran, and many other less familiar political dissidents, clergy, and writers of samizdat literature. Of course, many others I would only know by reading about because they never made it out of the gulag and labor camps. In the struggle for individual rights and...

Editor's Note

Recent press accounts of atrocities against Christians in the Muslim world too often point to mutual blame between the parties. In this issue, Nina Shea sets the record straight. Nina Shea, whom Christianity Today called “The Daniel of Religious Rights,” has committed her life to fighting for religious and political freedom across the globe. In this interview, Ms. Shea pays tribute to the ten-year anniversary of the demise of communism in Eastern Europe, an uprising that started in the fall of 1989. She also makes important connections between the persecution many suffer today and the long twilight struggle for freedom behind the Iron Curtain and in the former Soviet Union. Her work is immensely important, and we are fortunate and humbled for this opportunity to raise awareness of all she is doing for the sake of freedom.

Managing editor Ray Nothstine has contributed a book...

The Pope on "Love in Truth"

In his much anticipated third encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (Love in Truth), Pope Benedict XVI does not focus on specific systems of economics—he is not attempting to shore up anyone’s political agenda. He is rather concerned with morality and the theological foundation of culture. The context is, of course, a global economic crisis—a crisis that’s taken place in a moral vacuum, where the love of truth has been abandoned in favor of a crude materialism. The pope urges that this crisis become “an opportunity for discernment, in which to shape a new vision for the future.”

Yet his encyclical contains no talk of seeking a third way between markets and socialism. People seeking a blueprint for the political restructuring of the world economy won’t find it here. But if they look to this document as a means for the moral reconstruction of the world’s cultures and societies...