Rowan-williams The archbishop of Canterbury is an extremely likable Christian gentleman, a first-class Christian scholar. He is also a leader who often fails to address some of the more difficult issues in our time with a straight, clear answer. There can be no question that the man is brilliant. My question is how he uses this brilliance in his service of the kingdom of God. Like so many modern leaders Rowan Williams seems intent on being nice while avoiding those kinds of issues that desperately need a courageous and wise Christian response. This has been seen time and again in his response to issues like homosexuality and the challenge of Islam to the West.

Rowan Williams recently visited New York City and addressed the subject of economics on Wall Street. My friend John Couretas, at the Acton Institute, has reflected on Rowan Williams’ comments with measured and helpful criticism. What he says about Williams could very easily be applied to a great deal of what is being written by well-meaning Christians about modern economics and the role of the free market in lifting people out of poverty all across the world. Before people talk about the “evils” of the free market they should know a little more about how the market actually works and how it really can and does profoundly change people and societies for the better.

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  1. Joe Schafer February 14, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    This reminds me of many instances over the years when well meaning bishops and church leaders have made lofty-sounding pronouncements on all sorts of things that they did not understand. Nuclear proliferation and climate change, to name just two. They are free to express their opinions, of course. But please call it what it is, a personal opinion. Can’t we agree that church leadership does not automatically bring moral authority to make pronouncements on difficult and controversial issues, unless those issues have been seriously studied?

  2. pyodor12 February 22, 2010 at 1:14 am

    “[C]hurch leadership does not automatically bring moral authority to make pronouncements on difficult and controversial issues”
    I do not agree to the above statement at all. The more difficult and controversial issues are, the more we need moral guidance in these issues. No matter how serious and sophisticated study is conducted on these issues, that study alone can’t be be a sufficient determinant for moral guidance. I read the archbishop’s talk in full and I do not object to any points he raises. In fact I find that this man is very intelligent and seems to know what he is talking about. About the poverty reduction, we all know different numbers are produced depending on how the calculation is done and who is doing the calculation. So can we actually say who is doing the correct calculation? In some situations, statistics has no meaning, especially when it comes to baseball games. I don’t believe the stats from the games at all. I also do not believe the stats published on journals because the numbers are either all different from different groups or the numbers are all the same which makes me think how could they all agree on the same number! I might be better off believing the archbishop’s number!
    I think the archbishop’s talk was more than just a personal opinion. Consider the following excerpt from his talk:
    “Theology does not solve specific economic questions (any more than it solves specific scientific ones); but what it offers is a robust definition of what human well-being looks like and what the rationale is for human life well-lived in common.”
    I agree with the archbishop 100% on this and I think it is not just a personal opinion. I especially like the phrase “a robust definition”. I think we need it more than ever. How can we solve difficult and controversial issues without “a robust definition of what human well-being looks like and what the rationale is for human life well-lived in common.”?

  3. Joe Schafer February 23, 2010 at 7:45 am

    Hi pyodor12,
    This is so humorous to me, and in a good way. I guess you didn’t know (or did you?) that I am a highly trained statistician who does statistical research and publishes in all those journals that you just dismissed as bunk. You have just dissed a couple decades’ worth of my life’s work. But that’s ok, I know you mean well and I do get what you are saying.
    Different data sources, assumptions and methods do often lead to different results. That does not mean that statistics is useless. Truth can be subtle, which is why we need to engage in a healthy process of spirited, open debate, teaching an learning from one another.
    This is true of statistics, as well as all political, moral and theological issues.
    Perhaps it sounded to you as though I was dismissing
    the viewpoints of Bishop Williams and other church leaders. Perhaps I was too flippant about that, and if so, I am sorry. But haven’t you noticed a tendency among religious leaders to do the same toward those with expertise in the so-called secular world?
    People do this to one another all the time. Church leaders are no exception. But in Christlike humility, we ought to know better,

  4. pyodor12 February 23, 2010 at 10:33 am

    “haven’t you noticed a tendency among religious leaders to do the same toward those with expertise in the so-called secular world?”
    Not so far in my life. Even if they did, I would believe they would be more correct than those experts in the secular world. Why? For example, statisticians BY NATURE do not possess the expertise to come up with “a robust definition”. Why? It is my belief that “a robust definition” requires a spiritual dimension. I don’t think a man could become more spiritual than religious leaders by doing a lot of statistics (or could he?). So if I am correct, since religious leaders and statisticians work on different dimensions, they could come to different conclusions on the same issues. But I personally would believe that those who work on spiritual dimension should provide better guidance than statisticians. This doesn’t mean that statistics is useless. However it does mean that statistics is not spiritual. Therefore all the stats published on journals must be understood in the context that the methods employed and the workers supported by external grant money are very imperfect. Most of the times the numbers might not mean so much. A better guidance could be provided by well-trained religious leaders.

  5. Joe Schafer February 23, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    What would you say if I told you that I am both a well-trained statistician and a well-trained religious leader?

  6. pyodor12 February 23, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    If that were the case, I would praise the LORD and thank him for you with all my heart and with great joy!!

  7. Joe Schafer February 23, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    Sorry, pyoder12, I was just messing around with you a bit, which I shouldn’t have done. I am a religious leader of sorts, not a highly trained one, but one who is very familiar with failure owing to my intense pride. I’m just writing to let you know that these two sides of my life and work are not as different as they seem. I have seen the dangers of bad scholarship on the one hand and bad theology on the other. Both are a minefield, and I walk in them both by the grace of Jesus Christ alone. God bless you, my friend.

  8. pyodor12 February 28, 2010 at 10:11 am

    “Truth can be subtle”
    I just wanted to say something about the above statement because it is often quoted by many people. It is very unfortunate that we often tend to believe that it is one of the features of truth. If truth seems to be subtle, it is not because the subtlety is one of the features of the truth. The subtlety is due to our inability to correctly comprehend truth. We should say that the subtlety is not a feature of truth but it is a feature of a sinful human being. We should not blame truth but only our inability. This subtlety is featured in the works of any scholar in this world owing to his inability and to his sinful nature. No matter who we are, we are all at the mercy of Jesus.

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