I’ve completed the first full day at the Acton UniversityHere’s some highlights of the day. As it is my first time, I had the privilege of attending a set of standard “foundational” lectures providing a general orientation for all participants (before we break out to specific issues – which I’ll talk about over the next several days). The four lectures were:
Christian Anthropology – Not a lot new here for me (I teach anthropology, after all), but the emphasis on humans as embodied persons, human creativity, and the dual individual and corporate nature of the human person were important reminders. Based on this, we need to think about how particular societies and policies are consistent with this anthropology.
Limited Government and the Rule of Law – after a brief historical analysis, the presentation presented arguments for limited government from within the Christian framework. The goal of human flourishing was emphasized , as was the need for some governmental coercion because of human fallibility. Warnings about subsidiarity and the choice between governance and government in enforcing morality were also discussed.
The Economic Way of Thinking – A brief primer on economics. This highlighted a lot of the basic principles of economics you would get in an economics course. The absence of this knowledge is a general weakness among Christians; our discussion of economics have to start with some basic understanding (though throughout the day, it was repeatedly emphasized there is no one Christian system or set of policy prescriptions). The most interesting observation might have been the concluding observation that markets are consumer sovereignty systems – they give people what they want. From the perspective of Christian realism & morality, we need to say something more, which is why Acton combines freedom (including markets) and virtue.
Foundations of a Free society – Highlighted the tensions within Enlightenment liberalism (e.g., liberty and equality, individuality and community), the importance of general revelation and natural law for Christians to discuss public life and public theology.
Our final afternoon session was a wide-ranging question section with the panel of presenters from the day. Unlike many such sections, I felt the questions were of high quality and the answers helpful. Topics addressed ranged from the proper definition of nominalism, the distinction between what is moral & evil (i.e., how do we decide when to legislate morality), the notion of just prices (vs. market prices) and a reevaluation of Rousseau (perhaps…). Interesting stuff.
Tomorrow, I get to look at Social Thought, Market Economics and the Family, and Environmental ethics. Looking forward to it!