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Religion & Liberty Article Listing

Globalization and Culture

Many of the ills of globalization are the result of top-down planning rather than free markets, but this realization needs to be balanced against another: Global capitalism can't of itself supply the cultural and moral formation worthy of the human person and essential for human flourishing. Even if we could purge much of the cronyism and misguided central planning from the process of globalization, the global market wouldn't suddenly supply the cultural and moral formation essential for widespread economic and human flourishing. This is not the function of a market, and both the critics and supporters of an international process of globalization and free exchange need to understand this clearly.

My friend, the late Rev. Edmund Opitz, put it this way: "The market will exhibit all the shortcomings and failures that people, in their peaceful acting, will exhibit....

Francis Hutcheson

Francis HutchesonThe ultimate notion of right is that which tends to the universal good; and when one's acting in a certain manner has this tendency he has a right thus to act.

Francis Hutcheson (1694-1746) was one of the most important clergymen and intellectual lights of the 18th century Church of Scotland. As the successor of another Scottish minister and philosopher, Gershom Carmichael, as Chair of Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow from 1729 onwards, Hutcheson wielded immense, even charismatic, influence over the generation of men who presided over the Scottish Enlightenment. Not for nothing did Hutcheson's most famous pupil, Adam Smith, describe him...

Double-Edged Sword: The Power of the Word - Matthew 5:4

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

The Psalmist declared that, "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy." This text from Matthew, the second verse in the Sermon on the Mount, ultimately points to what the coming of Christ has accomplished.

These words from Christ may appear contradictory to us. Those that spiritually and physically mourn don't feel blessed and certainly they would believe their comfort is in doubt. The words have a deep spiritual and theological significance however. The words primarily address those that recognize their need for salvation. Jesus is addressing those that understand their fragile state, the seriousness of sin, and what it means for their soul. They mourn over the seriousness of their sin and the despair and havoc it wreaks. There is indeed a blessing in these actions.

Today in our culture...

A Case for Limiting Caesar

For too long the commentariat has assumed it is an oxymoron for someone to be both an advocate for limited government and concerned about the well-being of their fellow man. A classically liberal philosophy is too often equated with a form of individualism so brutish that it is scarcely recognizable as human. For many classical liberals, it is precisely because they care deeply for the welfare of humanity, and religious liberty, that they advocate for limiting the role of government at all levels.

In fact, Americans should be seeking less action from Capitol Hill and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue if they want to answer the call to be our brother's keeper and uphold the First Amendment. The tumult surrounding President Obama's HHS mandate only...

A Receding Voice: A Century of Methodist Political Pronouncements

Review of Mark Tooley's Methodism and Politics in the 20th Century (ISI, Jan 2012) ISBN: 978-1885224712. Hardcover, 406 pages; $24.95.

Methodism was once the largest denomination in America. The faith grew rapidly from America's beginning and has traditionally been characterized by aggressive evangelism and revival. It has carried a vibrant social witness, too. Methodist Church pronouncements once garnered front page headlines in The New York Times. Its high water mark undoubtedly came during prohibition, the greatest modern political cause of the denomination. Methodists even built and staffed a lobbying building next to Capitol Hill, believing a dry country could remake society.

In Methodism and Politics in...

Two Faiths: The Witness of Whittaker Chambers

Calvin Coolidge remarked that, "Great men are the ambassadors of Providence sent to reveal to their fellow men their unknown selves. To them is granted the power to call forth the best there is in those who come under their influence." To Coolidge's treatment of greatness, we might add the transcendent voices of certain writers who encapsulate in almost lyrical form the creative ideas, passions, and tensions within themselves, as measured by the period's conflicts they were providentially hurled against. These voices speak to the heart of man from the center of the writer's soul.

One such writer was Whittaker Chambers, whose autobiography Witness, published in 1952, details his life as an agent in the Fourth Section of Soviet...

Reformation and Rediscovery: An Interview with Herman J. Selderhuis

Dr. Herman J. Selderhuis is professor of Church History
at the Theological University
Apeldoorn (the Netherlands) and director of
Refo500, the international platform on projects
relating to the 16th Century. He is the author
and editor of several books, including John
Calvin: A Pilgrim’s Life
(2009). He is also
president of the International Calvin Congress
and Curator of Research at the Johannes a
Lasco Library (Emden, Germany). Selderhuis
recently spoke with Religion & Liberty managing
editor Ray Nothstine.

R&L: In what way did the Reformation reshape education in the...

Editor’s Note

"My conscience is captive to the Word of God," declared Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms in 1521. The Protestant Reformation transformed not just the theology of much of the Church but also heavily influenced the thought of civil and religious liberty. Today about 670 million Protestants span the globe. We are approaching the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, kicked off by Luther's posting of his 95 theses in 1517.

Herman Selderhuis is the director of Refo500, the organization that wishes to draw attention to the Reformation and its continuing relevance. In the interview, Selderhuis revisits Reformation history and the myriad ways it has had a lasting impact on social structures, government, the Church, and Europe's future.

Also marking a memorable moment in time, this year is the 60th anniversary of the publication of Witness...

The Vatican's Economic Letter

In October, the Vatican released an 18-page document titled "Toward Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of a Global Public Authority." Since then, it has been celebrated by advocates of bigger government the world over.

What's ignored is that the document—released to stimulate debate, not offer official doctrine—embraces a sound economic theory concerning the cause of the world financial crisis: the breakdown of the postwar Bretton Woods monetary system and the unleashing of fiat currencies and central-bank printing presses.

Let's look at a representative passage, while keeping in mind several important markers: 1971 was the year that the Nixon administration killed the gold standard, and along with it Bretton Woods and hard currencies; in the early 1980s, financial deregulation in many countries...

Vladimir Solovyov

Socialism really stands on the same ground as the bourgeois régime hostile to it, namely, the supremacy of the material interest. Both have the same motto: "man liveth by bread alone."

The Russian philosopher Vladimir Solovyov has been cast in many contradictory ways, not all without merit. Born in Moscow, as a teenager he abandoned Christianity in favor of atheism, only to return to faith by 18 after encountering Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, and Schelling. Despite some syncretistic tendencies and despite plausible rumors that, in the interest of ecumenism, he once took communion at a Catholic mass, to his death Solovyov identified himself as an Orthodox Christian. The thought world of Solovyov's Russia, especially among the upper class of...

What's behind PovertyCure?

In this column, in the Summer 2006 issue of R&L, I answered the question: How does Acton communicate its ideas to the world? You might recall how I explained that video will be an increasingly important tool for Acton in the future. Video, of course, is today's dominant popular medium and we've been using it at Acton for some time now to advance the cause of freedom, globally and instantaneously.

That's why Acton is one of the lead sponsors of PovertyCure, a website, documentary and group study curriculum that will change the international aid conversation by its simple appeal to the entrepreneurial spirit that is embedded in human nature. You and I know that the materialist anthropology of the U.N. Millennial Development program is a poor foundation for the development of the person. PovertyCure offers a real alternative.

Floods...

Modern Conservative Crusader

Review of Carl T. Bogus's William F. Buckley Jr. and the Rise of American Conservatism (ISI, Oct 2011) ISBN: 978-1596915800. Hardback, 416 pages; $19.80.

Ronald Reagan affectionately called William F. Buckley "our clipboard-bearing Galahad" who took on the "knights of darkness." The quote delivered at the 30th anniversary celebration of National Review speaks to the depth of Buckley's leadership over the conservative movement. Anybody knowledgeable of ancient Christianity and theology understands the significance of biographer Lee Edwards words when he called Buckley "The St. Paul of the conservative movement." Now, in a new biography titled William F. Buckley Jr. and the Rise of...

Double-Edged Sword: The Power of the Word - 1 Corinthians 4:9

For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men.

The German theologian Johannes Brenz declared, "There is no higher honor than to be classed with the prophets and the Son of God." In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul compares the fate and treatment of the apostles to the captured competitors in Rome at the end of a parade or procession. Their sentence was a brutal and inhumane death for the entertainment of the spectators. Such was the life of the apostle that a death of suffering awaited them.

The purpose of Paul in this passage is to discipline and instruct some in the Church that had become arrogant and puffed up with pride. They felt superior in knowledge and felt they...

One Percent or 33: America's Real Inequality Problem

Review of Mitch Pearlstein's From Family Collapse to America's Decline: The Educational, Economic, and Social Costs of Family Fragmentation (ISI, Aug 2011) ISBN: 978- 1607093626. Paperback, 165 pages; $24.95.

The American economy remains sluggish and, from all over the political spectrum, particularly the left, people have turned their attention to inequality. The Occupy Wall Street movement, though without actual plans for reform, emphasizes the growing inequality between the top one percent and the 99 percent of Americans below them, with the implication that income growth among top earners means less for everybody else. Supporting this line of thinking, the New York Times published an article in...

Onward Catholic Soldiers: The Catholic Church during the American Civil War

It is a common, even clichéd saying that the American Civil War pitted "brother against brother." Certainly, the conflict divided the nation as the seceded Southern states fought for independence, while the Northern and Border states fought to preserve the Union. Even within the sections, there were politicians, civilians, and soldiers who sympathized with the other "side." The issues of Slavery, "States-Rights," and the meaning of the Federal Constitution created passions and hatreds, which leapt from the ballot box to the battlefield. Even churches— especially churches— were prone to this division. Each section, denomination, and parishioner believed God to be on their side.

The...