Religion & Liberty Article Listing

Editor's Note

In our feature interview in this issue of R&L, Chuck Colson makes reference to the now-famous lecture Pope Benedict XVI gave at Regensburg last September. The heart of that lecture was the relationship of faith and reason. In the course of arguing that each needs the other, Benedict raised questions about Islam which garnered worldwide attention.

But Benedict's point was not principally about Islam. His point was that religious faith, when not purified by reason, can lose its way, even to the extremes of fanaticism and violence. He reminded his listeners that the temptation to neglect reason has been faced in the history of Christianity - mentioning by name the Catholic philosopher Duns Scotus and some currents of thought animating the Protestant Reformation.

One of the areas where faith meets reason is in the encounter between religion and science. The work of...

Jewish Theology and Economic Theory

This article has been excerpted from the upcoming monograph, Judaism, Markets, and Capitalism: Separating Myths from Reality.

There has been very little work by orthodox Jewish scholars on the relationship among socialism, capitalism, and Judaism. Careful reading of the relevant literature, however, suggests that it is possible to posit five basic axioms of Jewish economic theory from which many economic policy implications can be deduced. Although not exhaustive, our five axioms represent, to the best of our knowledge, the first attempt to formulate a parsimonious list of basic principles that help systematize the foundations of what we are calling Jewish economic theory.

Participation in the Creative Process

The first axiom of Jewish economic theory that we posit is: “Man is created in God's image.” In Judaism, this statement is...

The Creative Imperative

Dr. Samuel Gregg

This article was excerpted from Samuel Gregg's The Commercial Society—Foundations and Challenges in a Global Age , a new book published by Lexington Books.

Commercial society's impact upon poverty is not simply a result of the unintended consequences of market exchange. It owes much to commercial society's particular moral foundations. By moral foundations, we mean particular values and habits of action indispensable for the workings of commercial society. What follows is an attempt to describe commercial society's basic moral foundations. Taken together, these habits and values do not suffice for a society that wishes to merit the title humane or civilized. Nor are they exclusive to commercial...

The Challenge of Globalization to the Church

The Acton Institute is midway through a series of lectures—eight in Rome and one in Poland—celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of Centesimus Annus , Pope John Paul II's landmark social encyclical. The lecture series started in October 2005 and will continue through 2007. The following is taken from Centesimus Annus, Globalization, and Individual Development , an upcoming monograph itself [expanded] from Lord Griffiths's address delivered on October 19, 2006, in Rome.

© Hilary Quinn. Image from

The church has the potential to tackle world poverty and to change the culture of globalization in a way that governments and international institutions do not. It is very easy in considering...

How does Acton's Rome office contribute to the mission of the Acton Institute?

The Acton Institute has a number of affiliates around the world, but when it came time to establish a presence in Rome, the institute opted not to start another affiliate, but to open a new Acton office, Istituto Acton. This allows the institute and its Grand Rapids staff to work closely with the Rome staff on a number of important projects that further our mission to promote a free and virtuous society on the international stage.

A large part of the execution of Acton's mission is to serve future religious leaders. Obviously, Rome is an important place to forge relationships with future Catholic clergy from around the world. Just like in the United States, we offer a number of lectures and conferences—most notably our recent series of Centesimus Annus conferences—that bring seminarians that blend of theological insight and economic truth for which Acton is known...

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Born on February 4, 1906, in Breslau, then part of Imperial Germany, Dietrich Bonhoeffer began his theological education in 1923 at the University of Tübingen. He later trained under liberal theologians Adolf von Harnack and Reinhold Seeburg.

Following what he would later call a conversion experience, Bonhoeffer intensified his focus on contemporary theological problems facing the church. With the ascendancy of the Nazi party in Germany, Bonhoeffer was among the first of the German theologians to perceive the pervasiveness and significance of the looming Nazi threat.

When the pro-Nazi German Christian party won the church elections in the summer of 1933, Bonhoeffer quickly opposed the anti-Semitism of the Nazis in an...

From the Gulag to the Killing Fields

In a personal account of his internment in the Albanian gulag, Nika Stajka catalogued the fourteen types of torture that communist authorities used against prisoners. These ranged from shooting by firing squad to sleep deprivation to the cutting of flesh with scissors and knives.

In his memoir, published in 1980, Stajka recalls:

We were all labeled as “enemies of the people,” reactionaries, traitors, saboteurs, criminals, villains ... that is why the “popular government” had no mercy for anyone of us, although we had been told at first that work was a great privilege for us, with the “socialist emulation” on our empty stomachs and enduring club blows on our backs, worse off than animals, since we were all between the ages of sixteen and forty-five years, while the aged and handicapped, unable to work, “ate the government bread as parasites.” They said that “it...

Exporting Hope

Growing up in Estonia, when was the first moment that you realized there was something wrong with the Soviet system?

I couldn't actually say the exact moment. It was very early, but not too early, because my grandfather has told me some stories that I don't remember myself. I was born on the twenty-second of April, the same day Vladimir Lenin was born. I nearly gave my grandfather a heart attack when he asked once whom I loved most in the world. There are a lot of beautiful [people I could have named], including my grandfather, but I shocked him, saying that I most loved Lenin. He was really shocked that his grandson was so brainwashed. But it didn't last very long. Because when you're honest, you understand the Soviet system very quickly because the truth is so clear. The contrast between the truth and Soviet propaganda is very clear and seeable for...

Editor's Note

It is a measure of how radically the situation of Europe has changed in the past generation that one regularly encounters seminars and symposia with grand but gloomy titles such as “Whither Europe?” or “The European Future?”

The question mark is key. There is much doubt about the health of Europe. Part of that is a demographic issue with plunging birthrates and mass immigration, the specter has been raised of a European future that is lacking Europeans. But it is more than that. If the European body is weak, the cause might be in the European soul.

This issue of Religion & Liberty looks at that question, benefiting from the insights of some of Europe's leading voices. Our lead interview is with Mart Laar, the former Estonian prime minister, who talks about “exporting hope” in the context of his country's post-communist transformation. A view from Western...

Europe Is Losing Its Soul

© Orthodoxy News Images

Europe is a unique cultural and spiritual phenomenon that was formed over the course of centuries and is currently undergoing fundamental changes. Why does the fate of Europe concern us, representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church? Because Russia, while possessing a distinctive culture and self-consciousness, is also an integral part of Europe. It is not by chance that Dostoevsky, who like nobody else was conscious of Russia's uniqueness, nevertheless called Europe his second home. In the Russian soul, Europe occupies a special place, primarily because of its Christian roots. I would like to stress that these roots go back not only to Western Christianity, but also to Eastern Christianity, mainly through...

Dignity, Democracy, and the Free Market

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The Acton Institute is hosting a series of lectures celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of Centesimus Annus , Pope John Paul II's landmark encyclical. The following is taken from President Aznar's address delivered on May 4, 2006, at the Italian Parliment in Rome.

The myth of the perfect society is certainly nothing new. The idea of an earthly paradise organized by superior men, whether they be aristocrats, wise philosophers, or members of a self-appointed proletarian avant-garde, has been an incessant theme in human affairs since the time of Plato.

However, the twentieth century laid bare exactly what these utopias conceal: the fact that all of these idyllic and harmonious invented...

Conjugal Economics

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The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man” (Genesis 2:23). When Adam awoke from his nap and uttered these words about his wife, he offered a view of how God's perfectly formed male-female relationship was meant to look. Only eight verses later this ideal relationship comes to an end when man and woman fall from the perfect plan of God.

In her book The Redemption of Love: Rescuing Marriage and Sexuality from the Economics of a Fallen World , Carrie Miles works to reunite modern day perceptions of marriage with God's vision of marriage as it was originally intended. Miles offers up a readable and insightful book by...

Doubled-Edged Sword: The Power of the Word

Genesis 17:3

“When Abraham prostrated himself, God continued to speak to him: 'My covenant with you is this: you are to become the father of a host of nations.'” Gen. 17:3

Within decades of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, the good news had spread from Jerusalem through the Hellenistic culture of the eastern Mediterranean to Rome, and to ends-of-earth places such as India and the British Isles. In the following centuries, holy men and women protected the heritage of Western civilization in monasteries and convents, and then re-evangelized the barbarian-conquered West, thereby helping to create a new entity known as Europe. Over the next two millennia, Christianity built much of what we take for granted in civilization today: universities, economics, a belief in human rights and the dignity of all persons.

Certainly, the house of modern...

Europe without Roots

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Optimism is obligatory, but it's cheap. In the current situation, there is a heavy price to pay. Relativism has wreaked havoc, and it continues to act as a mirror and an echo chamber for the dark mood that has fallen over the West. It has paralyzed the West, when it is already disoriented and at a standstill, rendered it defenseless when it is already acquiescent, and confused it when it is already reluctant to rise to the challenge.

One should not think of philosophy as a luxury for initiates, to be consumed only within the walls of the university. It is instead a powerful tool for the promotion and spread of ideas and energy, and a vehicle of influential opinions. It always has been. It would thus be mistaken to...

Interest and Responsibility

Since at least the middle ages, the payment and receipt of interest has existed under a moral cloud, due mainly to a misunderstanding concerning what interest is and why it exists. Medieval theologians gradually came around to the view that now prevails in economic science.

What connects all forms of interest is the insight that interest is nothing more or less than the exchange ratios between different time horizons. If I prefer to save now, I must put off current consumption. If you prefer to spend now, you must acquire the resources to do so. We can make an exchange between the money you want to spend and the money I want to save. I agree to lend you money, and we negotiate a fee to put to work what might otherwise have been idle resources.

In doing so, of course, I cannot dictate the terms because I must depend on your willingness to pay and I must compete with...