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Religion & Liberty Article Listing

Setting the Record Straight

In recent years, the press has latched onto the work of the Evangelical Environmental Network, an organization formed under the auspices of Evangelicals for Social Action. Because many newspaper reporters and editors view evangelicals as part of the conservative “religious right,” the arrival of evangelicals who sound just like mainstream environmentalists is a news event--sort of a “man bites dog” story.

This attention has given the Evangelical Environmental Network and its associates more prominence than they would otherwise have--and, unfortunately, more than they deserve. Like many mainstream environmentalists, these evangelical environmentalists hold “doomsday” views that are unsupported by the balance of the evidence. It turns out that they also bolster their views with questionable scriptural...

On Going Through the World with Our Hats Off

R&L: At the heart of any discussion about the environment is the question, “What kind of world do we want to live in?” What, to your way of thinking, is the best environment for man?

Dennis: The best environment for man is the environment for liberty. This is an environment that has been hard-won over the years and was somewhat accidental in its occurrence; that is to say, one thousand years ago, men did not go out and say, “We want to live free,” but they learned through trial and error that freedom is a better way for human beings to live. It gave them an opportunity to act like men rather than as slaves, to free their creative capacities, and so, as a by-product, it has created substantial wealth and brought many material benefits and other blessings. Further, it is an...

Environmentalism: The Triumph of Politics

President Bill Clinton's commitment to an activist environmental agenda was apparent early in his administration. The problem is not that he favors conservation but that he supports political control of the environment. Unfortunately, despite the common assumption that government is the best means of protecting the environment, politics has more often thwarted than advanced sound ecological stewardship.

The real political divide is not between right and left, conservative and liberal, or Republican and Democrat. Rather, it is between market process and central planning, market mechanism and command and control. Most politicians believe in government solutions. They may differ on the specific ways they want the state to intervene, but they like government involvement. Although liberal enthusiasm for state...

Solving Problems by Elimination

We live in a time that places a high value on community. The European Economic Community, global markets, the global village, accords and governance--universal fraternity is the wave of the future. Consequently, Pope John Paul II's encyclical Centesimus Annus, with its emphasis on the human person in community, could be seen as simply following these current trends. For those not aware of its continuity with a living tradition, it appears to be an attempt to build bridges where there are none.

This encyclical, however, does indeed stand in continuity with the great tradition of Christian moral teaching. Further, its universal perspective, spanning all places and peoples, argues against the criticism that the pontiff has succumbed to the trendy globalism of our day. What sets it apart from the contemporary...

The Ultimate Economic Resource

Friends of liberty lost a staunch ally earlier this year when Julian Simon passed away on February 8, just shy of his sixty-fifth birthday. He was infamous for his principled and fact-driven defense of the free society and its ability to unleash the creative force of the human person. In contradistinction to the neo-Malthusians and anti-natalists who monopolized the conversation about population growth and resource use, Simon pointed out that, according to the data, the condition of the human family was, in fact, improving year by year--especially in countries with political freedom and market institutions.

Perhaps the most archetypal of Simon's stratagems was his celebrated wager with Paul Ehrlich, ecological doomsayer. Ehrlich, you will remember, in the late 1960s and early 1970s helped found the flowering...

Noah Webster

Noah Webster, el gran lexicógrafo estadounidense nació en una familia puritana que vivía en la Nueva Inglaterra antes de la Revolución. Una vez  culminados sus estudios en 1778 en el College de Yale, comenzó su carrera en leyes, interrumpida debido a un corto período de reclutamiento militar obligatorio para la guerra revolucionaria. Después de 1782, descubrió que su verdadera vocación era el estudio y la enseñanza del idioma Inglés. Sus gramáticas y sus libros de lectura y silabarios comenzaron a ser publicados en 1784, y muchos que permanecieron en la imprenta...

Noah Webster

Noah Webster, il grande lessicografo americano, nacque da una famiglia puritana che viveva nel New England prima della Rivoluzione. Una volta completati i suoi studi nel 1778 nel College di Yale, egli intraprese la carriera giuridica, interrotta in seguito da un arruolamento immediato obbligatorio che lo costrinse a combattere nella guerra rivoluzionaria. Dopo il 1782, scoprì che la sua vera vocazione consisteva nello studio e nell’insegnamento della lingua inglese. Le sue grammatiche, i suoi libri di lettura, i suoi sillabari cominciarono ad essere pubblicati nel 1784, e molti continuarono ad essere stampati fino al primo decennio del XX sec. Webster visse la propria esperienza di conversione...

Noah Webster

The great American lexicographer Noah Webster was born in pre-Revolutionary New England to a Puritan family. He embarked on a career in law after the completion of his studies at Yale College in 1778, which were interrupted by a swift tour of duty in the Revolutionary War. After 1782, he discovered his true vocation in the study and teaching of the English language. His grammars, readers, and spellers began to be published in 1784, with many remaining in print through the first decade of the twentieth century. Webster had a conversion experience during the Second Great Awakening, whereupon he became an orthodox Calvinist and an ardent Congregationalist....

Written on the Heart

Many Americans likely never heard of the concept of natural law until it was made an issue in the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. As then, we would do well to consider a good, clear definition. In the broadest sense of the term, natural law embraces the whole field of morality.

Murder, adultery, incest, prostitution, theft are universally felt to be wrong; they run contrary to the natural law. Defense of one’s own life and that of others, the recognition of the distinct difference of human life from all other animate life, the preservation of human life (including that within the womb), philanthropy, marital fidelity, one’s right to property, all of these are recognized as goods, part of the natural moral order.

Johannes Grundel provides the classic...

The Futility of Coerced Benevolence

Tibor Machan’s Generosity: Virtue in Civil Society provides a fascinating and thorough treatment of the role of virtue in a society characterized by limited government, freedom of association, and economic liberty. Its thesis, according to Machan, is that “Generosity is a moral virtue that cannot flourish in a welfare state or in any sort of command economy, because to be generous is to voluntarily help others in certain ways. It will flourish in a free society.” Generosity and virtue cannot flourish without fully embracing economic, political, and personal liberty. As an example, Machan notes the importance of private property for magnanimous action. Generosity will not flourish in societies that do not respect private property because people cannot give away what is not theirs.

This...

Pope John Paul II's Visit Heralds New Beginning for Cuba

R&L: In the weeks before Pope John Paul II’s visit to Cuba, there was a great deal of speculation as to what he would say and do during his time there. What were your expectations of the pope’s visit?

Paredes: Knowing how the Holy Father has addressed local churches around the world in the past, I had no doubt that he would challenge the Cubans to rediscover their faith and to value their traditions and religious identity.

R&L: Were your expectations fulfilled?

Paredes: We did not know what the response of the faithful in Cuba would be, so it was wonderful to see the huge manifestations of faith and devotion at the Masses with the Holy Father in Cuba’s public...

Natural Law and Modern Economics

It is probably fair to say that many Christian intellectuals regard the positivist, rationalist social sciences with some suspicion. Many Christians would reject outright the proposition that the human person can be studied with the same tools and with the same detachment as inanimate objects. Probably many more Christians would be willing to make limited use of social science research, without accepting the whole philosophical apparatus that seems to go with it.

Among the social sciences, economics would probably win the prize for having the most mechanistic, materialistic view of the human person and his motivations. My background in economics includes thorough training in mathematical modeling of human interactions, as well as in the Humean, Hobbesian subjectivist contractarian approach to...

Evangelicals and Economics

What does the field of economics have to offer evangelicals? The embrace of economics should be more than merely an excuse to put forward naive views about public policy. Instead, evangelicals should embrace the “economic way of thinking”–a rigorous study of the benefits and costs of personal decisions and public policy. That said, the study of economics is frequently limited in scope; thus, evangelicals would do well to learn the economic way of thinking, using a biblical worldview and applying it to topics of biblical concern.

Positive Versus Normative Economics

The distinction between “positive” and “normative” economics is one of the opening topics in most economics textbooks. Positive economics is meant to represent the “what is” portion of economic analysis; normative...

The Culture of Life, The Culture of the Market

Many who proclaim the culture of life fault the free market for devaluing human life and reducing people to mere economic actors, valued only for their earning potential or their productive capacity. Our times are characterized by a lack of respect for the dignity of the human person, but it is a tragedy to see our allies against the forces that degrade the human person hindered in their efforts because of a misunderstanding of the market economy. The interaction, tension, and ultimate reconciliation of the culture of the market and the culture of life is a subject worthy of deeper reflection.

First, let us be clear about definitions: The culture of life is the recognition that this life is a temporary stage of our eternal existence and that life itself is a gift entrusted to us by our Maker that...

Wojtyla's Thought, John Paul II's Pontificate

As the years of his pontificate mount up, so do the books devoted to this singular pope, with the promise of some good things still in store, notably the forthcoming biography by George Weigel. From many angles, one has sought to fathom John Paul II’s secret, or perhaps to glimpse his distinctive gifts at work, a contemplative actor surely but patiently shifting the tumblers of the vault of history. There are already several biographies to choose from, numerous collections of papal writings and speeches, clever analyses grinding any number of axes, and (for the intrepid) a cloudy and somewhat misleading translation of his Polish phenomenological studies.

The present volume is not another book about Pope John Paul II; rather, as the English translators’ title rightly suggests, it is about...