Religion & Liberty Article Listing

Constantine and the Great Transformation

Review of: Peter J. Leithart, Defending Constantine (IVP Academic, 2010), ISBN: 978-0-8308-2722-0.

The argument that the lifting of the persecutions of early Christians and the subsequent expansion of the Christian faith led to a "fall" of the Christian Church is more widespread than we may believe. Academics have defended it for years. Popular Christianity, especially conservative Protestantism, takes it as a truth second only to the Gospel.

Towering over this argument is Constantine the Great. When Constantine faced the final battle that would determine if he became Rome's new emperor, he saw a cross shining in the sky above the sun and heard the words, "By this sign conquer." He took it to mean that divine providence chose him to be the emperor of a new and undivided Rome. His soldiers went to battle with a...

Double-Edged Sword: The Power of the Word - Hebrews 1:3

The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Augustine said the expression "at the right hand" places Christ in a state of "perfect blessedness." Additionally, Christ is a ruler. In what manner does he rule and reign? The author of Hebrews references His suffering and sacrificing for humanity as the perfect lamb. His love and compassion was evident throughout His earthly ministry. His suffering for us knew no limit, just like His love.

But some Christians focus only on Christ up to His resurrection and miss the full power, reign, and authority He holds over all creation. There are benefits to Christ's ascension that have direct implications for us. We know...

Social Leveling: Socialism and Secularism

Social leveling is something that we typically associate with the destruction of material differences between human beings. It is the socialist dream of a classless society in which distinctions, usually the result of economic variation, are made irrelevant. The state, empowered by the political action of the masses (or at least a group claiming to speak for the masses), works to gain control of the wealth and property of a society and then to redistribute it in such a way as to make people equal. It should be obvious that this type of action vastly increases the power of the state because it becomes the effective owner of all property.

Aristotle (384 - 322 BC)

Although socialism aims to wipe out...

Bringing Forward Tradition - An Interview with Thomas C. Oden

Thomas OdenThomas C. Oden is a retired theology professor at The Theological School of Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. He is author of numerous theological works, including the threevolume systematic theology The Word of Life, Life in the Spirit, and The Living God. Currently he is director of the Center for Early African Christianity at Eastern University, St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He is the general editor of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture and the Ancient Christian Doctrine series. He recently spoke with Religion & Liberty's managing editor Ray Nothstine.

R&L: You have said your path to orthodox theology really began through patristics. Why...

Editor’s Note

We should always look to drink deeply from the rich wells of Christian tradition and Thomas C. Oden helps us to do exactly that. Oden has committed much of his work to lifting up the voice of the Church Fathers. John Wesley, who is the founder of Oden's own Methodist tradition, proclaimed, "The Fathers are the most authentic commentators on Scripture, for they were nearest the fountain and were eminently endued with that Spirit by whom all Scripture was given." Wesley took with him the wisdom of patristics to the great evangelical revival in 18th century England.

By treading back along the ancient path, Oden has made that path fresh and new for many followers of the Good News. As you will see in the interview, patristic sources offer wisdom and guidance to the kind of issues and problems we face today. Their voice is never a...

Reading Centesimus Annus

Grasping the authentic significance of Centesimus Annus requires two approaches. First, one must read the encyclical on its own merits, independently of previous papal teaching. As objectively as possible, one can exegete its various passages to discern its thrust and priorities. Then one must read the document in the context of previous social pronouncements by the magisterium over the past 100 years and see what new themes, developments, and directions the present encyclical initiates.

When read for its own sake, Centesimus Annus emerges as an uncompromising rejection of collectivism in its Marxist, communist, socialist, and even welfare-statist manifestations. While the encyclical allows for a certain amount of intervention by the state in such areas as wage levels, social security, unemployment insurance, and the like (always according to...

On the Place of Profits and Politics

Review of: Carl R. Trueman, Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2010), ISBN: 978-1-59638-183-4.

Carl R. Trueman is academic dean of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and an academic historian of the first-order. In this brief book, however, Trueman brings his considerable analytical powers to bear on the contemporary situation of the evangelical church in North America. Specifically, Trueman’s accessible work is an outgrowth of his “belief that the evangelical church in America is in danger of alienating a significant section of its people, particularly younger people, through too tight a connection between conservative party politics and...

The Work of Culture and Civilization

This article is excerpted from Lester DeKoster’s Work: The Meaning of Your Life—A Christian Perspective, newly made available in a second edition.

The Power

We know, as soon as reminded, that work spins the wheels of the world.

No work? Then nothing else either. Culture and civilization don’t just happen. They are made to happen and to keep happening—by God the Holy Spirit, through our work.

Imagine that everyone quits working, right now! What happens? Civilized life quickly melts away. Food vanishes from the store shelves, gas pumps dry up, streets are no longer patrolled, and fires burn themselves out. Communication and transportation services end and utilities go dead. Those who survive at all are soon...

Double Edge Sword: The Power of the Word

John 8:12

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’

Martin Luther called this announcement by Christ, “The language of presumption that stops all mouths.” Luther is right. One must stop and take heed of the word of Christ here and the authority of his teaching. The theologian Thomas C. Oden says of the “I am” statements in John’s Gospel:

Jesus did not teach as the prophets taught when they pointed beyond themselves to the source of divine revelation. Rather he taught and spoke in the first person, as Yawheh had spoken in the form of “I am” in the Exodus account of deliverance.

Some simple points from this passage declare the divine nature of...

The Interview: A Collection

We thought it would be appropriate to highlight some of our past interviews in the 20th Anniversary issue of Religion & Liberty. The responses selected represent a range of timeless truths of the Gospel, the importance of human liberty, and the importance of religion and moral formation in society.

R&L: In some Christian circles, social action has taken precedence over evangelism. I am here thinking of the way that the pursuit of social justice has taken the place of the proclamation of the Gospel. What are your thoughts on this trend?

Luis Palau: My view is this: Evangelism, proclamation of the Gospel, is social action. It is social action because it changes the core of the problem, which is, the individual out of control from God. Conversion brings the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, and His...

Views of Wealth in the Bible and the Ancient World

Think back to the last time you heard someone from the pulpit in your church talk about money, the Bible, and your spiritual life. On those occasions when pastors venture into this area, the focus is often, and rightly, on matters of the heart and one’s attitude toward money and possessions. But in that emphasis often lies an unexamined assumption that goes something like this: Given that the Bible focuses on attitude, not accumulation per se, that materialism is fundamentally about attitude, not amount, and that the human heart has not changed since the Bible was written, little significant difference exists between people in biblical times and people today when it comes to money. Hidden in that assumption is the notion that the ancient world and the world of today are also similar when it comes to money, wealth, and possessions. Though it is true that the...

What sets the Acton Institute apart from other free-market think tanks and organizations?

The Acton Institute’s unique position in the free-market movement is that its advocacy and education on economic issues is integrated with Judeo-Christian teachings about the dignity and inestimable worth of the human person. The Acton Institute has always understood the human person as a co-creator, producer, and innovator, not as a greedy materialist or consumer.

The first words that God spoke to the created family are words that declare that humanity is created for a moral purpose, with human dominion over the earth, and to embrace our vocational calling. That calling is a living out of the dignity we have inherited by virtue of our very nature and creation. Indeed, God Himself was at work at the creation. Christian authors Gerard Berghoef and Lester DeKoster in Work: The Meaning of Your Life-A Christian Perspective, republished by Christian’...

Whittaker Chambers

Review of Richard M. Reinsch II, Whittaker Chambers: The Spirit of a Counterrevolutionary (ISI, 2010).

Whittaker Chambers began Witness, the classic account of his time in the American Communist underground, with the declaration: “In 1937, I began, like Lazarus, the impossible return.” The line was, most of all, a deep recognition of the power of God to redeem what was once dead. Witness was a landmark account of the evils of Communism but, most importantly, a description of the bankruptcy of freedom outside of the sacred. “For Chambers, God was always the prime mover in the war between Communism and freedom. If God exists then Communism cannot,” says Richard Reinsch II. It is Reinsch who reintroduces us to...

Thoughts on the Education of Lord Acton

Of the various influences that shaped Lord Acton’s distinctive understanding of history, none was as decisive as his education. His intellectual formation was in fact unique, the product of social position, conditions within English and Continental Catholicism, revolutionary ideas in the Germanic world pertaining to the study and methods of history, and the epic debate in North America over the nature and future of the Union of the States. All of these developments converged in Acton’s life during the decade of 1848-1858, at the end of which he entered an aggressive public life in journalism and scholarship that established his name in the pantheon of the great minds of the Western tradition.

Born into a cosmopolitan family which was prominent in English, German and Italian life, a Catholic with easy access to the highest levels of Whig society by virtue...