"What lies immediately ahead of us is not the flowering of summer but a polar night of icy darkness and hardness, no matter which group wins the outward victory now. For, where there is nothing, not only has the Kaiser lost his rights but so too has the proletarian. When this night slowly begins to recede, which of those people will still be alive whose early summer seems now to have flowered so profusely? And what will have become of you all inwardly? Embitterment or philistinism, sheer, dull acceptance of the world and of your job--or the third, and not the least common possibility, a mystical flight from the world on the part of those with the gift for it or--a frequent and pernicious variant--on the part of those who force themselves into such an attitude because it is fashionable....
“It is in the nature of beginning that something new is started which cannot be expected from whatever may have happened before. This character of startling unexpectedness is inherent in all beginnings and in all origins....The new always happens against the overwhelming odds of statistical laws and their probability, which for all practical, everyday purposes amounts to certainty; the new therefore always appears in the guise of a miracle. The fact that man is capable of action means that the unexpected can be expected from him, that he is able to perform what is infinitely improbable.
“First, we have stated that the purpose of law is to be ordained to the common good, and this can be twofold. The one is material and earthly benefit; this was directly envisaged by the Old Law, which from the start invited the chosen people to the promised land of Canaan. The other is spiritual and heavenly good; to this we are directed by the New Law. At the opening of his ministry our Lord invited us to the kingdom of heaven: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ (Matt. 4:17). Accordingly Augustine (Contra Faustum 4.2) says that the Old Testament contains the promise of temporal things, which is why it is called ‘old,’ whereas the New Testament offers the promise of eternal life.
February 17, 2010
"If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accept harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford him no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice."
You may have noticed that since the blog template switchover, there have been a couple of irksome problems: 1) the dates of the posts are not showing up at the top, 2) odd blank spaces keep appearing at the top of posts, 3) the font has been too small, or of oddly varying size. To the first problem, I can find no solution except to start putting the dates in myself at the top of each post. As far as the second and third, I have been wrestling with the blog demons all week, and they still seem to be getting the better of me. But I'll keep experimenting, and find some solution. Think of the constantly-changing font as an extra incentive to read this blog--you never know what you're going to get each time you peek in...it's like a fortune cookie. :-)
As I believe Martin Luther showed us well, the point of posting theses is to get people to have at it. So, if you have a desire to debate any of these, please do so:
- Since God created us with bodies designed to work in certain ways and eat certain foods but not others, we have a duty before God to exercise good stewardship over our bodies, so that we can use them and our resources effectively in his service, rather than becoming weak or expending enormous resources on treating preventable diseases. This means that we have a responsibility to eat food that will benefit, rather than destroy, our bodies.
Aquinas offers an excellent sketch of the dynamic of nature and grace in civil government in On Kingship, recognizing that, while a civil government will never be able to guide society to true beatitude and virtue in itself, since only the divine power in the Church can accomplish that task, it must nevertheless orient society in that direction, rather than pretending to provide merely neutral human goods. Human goods cannot be neutral, because true human good is found in God; therefore the government must manage the resources of society so as to pursue that true good, while humbly recognizing that the full accomplishment of this task lies outside their power. But don't listen to my poor attempts at summary--he says it much better:
In Book 2 of the City of God appears a truly remarkable passage, in which Augustine criticizes Roman society and law in terms that seem as if they were aimed directly at our own modern liberal society. It is worth quoting in full:
"'So long as it [the republic] survives,' they say, 'so long as it prospers, rich in resources, self-confident in victory, or, better still, secure in peace, what difference does it make to us? What matters is that there is money to be made to support our lavish style of life, and to give the stronger their hold over the weaker; that the poor treat the wealthy with compliance, to ensure their daily bread--the poor depending on the patronage of the wealthy for a quiet life, the wealthy calling on the poor for support to boost their public standing. Popularity should accrue not to those whose policies promote public welfare, but to the big providers of public entertainment.
Some time ago, when I blogged about the problems of US foreign aid, I promised to follow it up with a more theoretical consideration of how capitalism's understanding of generosity underlies the perverse contemporary consensus on foreign policy. You may have noticed before that I generally try to keep such promises, but am usually very tardy in doing so. So, here's the payoff on that particular promissory note.
US foreign policy in recent decades displays an odd paradox, which is baffling to internal and external observers alike. Two recent illustrations got me thinking about this. First, my father came back from a trip to Israel, and while there, he had talked a lot with his Palestinian guide about the politics of the area. He learned that the Palestinians' view of the US was not nearly as negative as one might expect--it was in fact rather confused. For the Palestinians observed that on the one hand the US seemed to support brutal Israeli policy against the Palestinians, making life very difficult for them, and on the other hand, USAID provided a tremendous amount of humanitarian support for the Palestinians, leaving them very grateful. All in all, it was rather puzzling--with one hand we're beating them, with the other, we're holding out gifts.
“The legislation, which encourages each family’s ownership of land, has contributed to the Western ideal that every family has a right to own property. The view of land ownership herein, however, is revolutionary. It does not promote the ownership of private property in a way that allows the rich to amass large tracts of land, displacing the poor, nor does it permit the speculative buying and selling of land that feeds inflation, which in turn increases poverty. Neither does this manifesto promote a social or common ownership of land. Instead, this legislation prescribes a classless society in which each family has an inalienable ownership of a plot of land. It promotes responsible work that attends ownership of property, and at the same time it promotes responsible brotherhood of all Yahweh’s people arising from their faith in Yahweh. Those who are more prsoperous assist their poorer brothers, raising them to their own level, because they fear Yahweh. Kinsman helps kinsman, neighbor helps neighbor to face and to overcome economic hardship. Greed and covetousness are broken. This wonderful manifesto will continue to feed both the eschatological vision and utopian thinking until the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ is fully established.”
Labels: pop culture
Martin Bucer's De Regno Christi (On the Kingdom of Christ) is an utterly fascinating book, revealing better than any text I know the tensions and contradictions that dogged the Reformers' attempts to simultaneously retain a strong ecclesiology and strong view of the civil authorities' role in promoting the kingdom.
The chief question I brought to this text was: Is the Church in itself the kingdom of Christ, or is the kingdom the joint work of Church and State under Christ's lordship? Bucer begins by unequivocally stating the former, and articulating what seems to be a robustly political idea of the Church--it is itself a kingdom, analogous to, but set over against, "the kingdoms of this world," which refers to all political powers, Christian or secular. The Church too is a kingdom that seeks to unite its citizens in a community peace, in the pursuit of a common good that affects every area of life, and which seeks to order the lives of each to assist the whole, but it does so through the word, not the sword. With the Church as such a seemingly autonomous political entity, standing over against even Christian civil governments, one wonders how Bucer is going to take this treatise in the Erastian direction that we all know he is going to.
But then he begins citing Scripture passages that describe the kingdom, and what seemed so solid, physical, corporate, and political begins to vanish into mist.
Alright folks, the new layout is basically here! There's a few bugs still, but I'm reasonably satisfied and I hope you are too. You may notice that when I changed the template, the expandable post summary code (the part that makes it say "Read More") disappeared for all posts. I've fixed it manually for the first few, and will gradually go back through and fix it, but for now, older posts appear in all their overlong glory. The upside is that the new way of doing the expandable post summaries won't share the bug of the old way--that it says "Read More" whether or not there is any more to read!
A brief note on the rationale...a couple months ago it struck me that my blog sounded rather violent--"Target Practice" was the title, and the tagline said it was "an arena for lobbing shots at anyone who I disagree with" or something obnoxious like that. Given that I have in the last couple years come to feel strongly about the Christian opposition to violence (again, I'm not a pacifist, but Christians today are so far from pacifism that we need to lean in that direction to achieve any kind of godly balance) this seemed rather out of character. It also (despite what I remember as my resolute intent at the time) comes across as rather brash, obnoxious, yea, even arrogant. While "lobbing shots" (do you "lob" shots??) may happen here from time to time, and indeed will be necessary from time to time, it is scarcely the point, which is to constructively seek harmony and growth in the Church and our societies.
Plus, the whole blog was looking rather stale and ugly to me...hence the total makeover.
(Special thanks to Donny Linnemeyer for helping fix a few bugs.)
So things are a bit messed up right now. I hope to get everything tidied up soon, and I hope you'll enjoy the new look.