Worth Reading - 3/13

1. Nathan Finn of Southeastern Seminary and First Baptist Durham Fame, writes about how Chuck Colson helped shape the way he thinks. To be clear, for Nathan, this occurred on the college campus not from experience in prison.

I was raised in Southeast Georgia, close to the buckle of the Bible Belt. I came of age in the mid-1990s, when the Christian Coalition was at the height of its influence, Newt Gingrich was making contracts with America, and it seemed like national revival was closely tied to the fortunes of the Republican Party. Those were heady days for politically conservative evangelicals, Bill Clinton’s presidency notwithstanding. I was a proud member of the College Republicans and listened regularly to D. James Kennedy and James Dobson on American Family Radio.

I was also what my friend Bruce Ashford calls a “cultural anorexic.” To my thinking, American culture was decadent and should be avoided by believers—with the exception, of course, of voting for Republican politicians. I didn’t listen to secular music for a couple of years. I didn’t watch any R-rated movies and avoided most PG-13 movies. I even avoided G-rated movies (at least the ones made by the Walt Disney Company). I wore a lot of Christian t-shirts and rocked a “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelet. As I have reflected on those years, I think I meant well. I really wanted to honor God. But I was an arrogant, condescending, and pretty ignorant religious reactionary.

All this began to change the summer between my junior and senior years of college. Simply put, I discovered Chuck Colson. Previously, I had listened to the “Breakpoint” radio program, so I knew Colson’s name. But that summer, I read his book How Now Shall We Live?. Next, I read The Body: Being Life in Darkness. I started subscribing to Christianity Today, and Colson’s columns became a monthly highlight. I started reading every essay of Colson’s that I could find on the internet. By the time I graduated from college, by God’s grace—and with Chuck Colson’s help—I was no longer a religious reactionary.

Through his writings, Colson taught me three lessons that have continued to shape how I think about the relationship between faith and culture.

2. Joe Carter from Acton Institute evaluates a recent OpEd that calls for government bailouts of students who went deeply into debt for low-value and low-opportunity degrees:

In reality, though, student loan forgiveness would make the economy worse off. Mr. Hopp doesn’t seem to care about the “corporations doing the lending” because he fails to recognize that corporations are just people. The money was lent by people who expected to get repaid so that they could spend the money on “things like houses, cars, plane tickets”—or expensive private colleges for their kids. If they don’t get paid they are much worse off.

Why not just have the government pay the loans? Because, again, “government” in this case is just another word for “American taxpayer.” Every dollar that the American taxpayer gives to pay off someone’s student loan debt is one less dollar they can use for “things like houses, cars, plane tickets.”

What Mr. Hopp’s is really asking for is a redistribution of income from people who didn’t make bad educational decisions to people who feel entitled not to pay their debts. Mr. Hopp is making the case that he and millions of other Americans should be freeloaders. They want the taxpayer equivalent of moving into their parent’s basement and living rent-free.

The one thing I agree with Mr. Hopp about is when he says, “We need to have a serious conversation about student loan debt.” Indeed, we do. The main thing that needs to be said is that if you take out a loan to buy luxury goods (like expensive colleges) you have a moral obligation to repay it. It’s time we start expecting that all Americans—especially those who want to lead our churches— to start acting like adults instead of whiny, entitled children.

There are many issues of economic and social justice that should be of concern for Christians. Paying back the student loans of middle-class snowflakes who feel “called” to make bad decisions is not one of them.
This has been the issue in the U.S. bishops’ contest with the Obama administration over the HHS contraceptive/abortifacient mandate in Obamacare: Will Catholic institutions and Catholic employers be able to conduct their affairs according to the Church’s settled convictions, protected by the robust definition of religious freedom contained in the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act? Or will the government attempt to coerce those institutions and businesses into becoming de facto extensions of the state insofar as the delivery of certain “reproductive health services” is concerned? That question of identity, or integrity-in-mission, will be the issue in other culture-war assaults on Catholic life; one of the next lines of battle involves employment practices in Catholic schools. Will the Church be allowed to staff its schools with teachers who teach and live what the Catholic Church believes and teaches, hiring those who meet those criteria and declining to employ those who don’t? Or will the state try to coerce Catholic schools to employ teaching staff according to other criteria?

This is going to be a nasty fight, given that “tolerance” has become the all-purpose bludgeon with which the sexual revolution, in all its manifestations, beats its adversaries into submission or drives them into catacombs. All the more reason, then, to be grateful for the courageous leadership shown by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, whose San Francisco archdiocese is arguably ground zero of the culture war that cannot be avoided—and that must be fought if Catholic institutions are to remain free to be themselves.

4. Why the university is not (or should not be) a complete free for all. On order and tension in the academy:

Universities were founded to sustain faith by reason—to maintain order in the soul and in the commonwealth. My own university, St. Andrews, was established in the fifteenth-century by the Scottish Inquisitor of Heretical Pravity to resist the errors of the Lollards, the levellers of that age. The early universities’ teaching imparted both order and freedom to the intellect: that was no paradox, for order and freedom exist necessarily in a healthy tension.

But in our day, as in various earlier times, many universities have lost any clear general understanding of either freedom or order, intellectually considered. So it seems worth-while to review here the relationship between order and freedom, and the part of a university in maintaining the tension between the two.

Indulge me first in some observations concerning the connection between faith, order, and freedom, all of which are intertwined in university studies. In recent generations, many professors have failed to apprehend the connection. Let us commence with that popular but vague term “freedom.”

Freedom is normal for mankind. I mean that ordered liberty is natural for truly human persons. Yet, human freedom, like much else in human normality, is denied at least as often as it is affirmed.

5. 40 motivational speeches in 2 minutes, in honor of the last day of my final PhD seminar: