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There is a relationship between the other two points from the previous post:  those around the government’s role in achieving a fair distribution of society’s wealth, and whether people will do the rights things with the redistributed wealth they receive.  At the heart of this matter is the answer to the following question, ‘Who is best able to direct society’s resources, its individuals or its government?’ – for its answer is directly connected to charity.  Historically, until somewhat recently, charity has consisted of providing things such as bread, food, shelter, care for those unable to care for themselves (widows, orphans, aged, and the dying), and debt relief.  Charity is about service and providing sacrificially, simply because another is in need, and throughout the Middle Ages there was a direct connection between the giver and the receiver.

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Posted in: Stewardship
28

In the last post we made the point that we often use money as though it is a significant part of a solution.  We throw money at everything from education, to various forms of welfare, to the war on drugs, to developing alternative energy sources.  However, many times it seems that money is more closely related to the problem.  It is spent and there is either no effect or a problem often worsens.  Why?  Take social justice.  The whole idea underlying social justice is the notion that problems will be solved simply by a ‘fairer’ distribution of wealth – accomplished by the transfer of wealth from those who have to those who do not, with the determination of who has and who needs left to the discretion of a ruling elite.  The underlying belief is that it is morally wrong to accumulate wealth for the sake of wealth itself, and there is truth in this notion.  However, money is just a tool.  It is fungible, meaning that it can be used for many things.  It can be used well, or it can be used badly. 

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Posted in: Stewardship
15

As discussed in the last post, stewardship is about using your gifts and abilities well, not only for oneself, but for others as well.  Committing to that kind of stewardship, and acting upon it, is agape – the kind of love that finds its expression in charity.  Charity is about providing to those in need what they need.  This is much broader than the focus we have today on simply providing for the poor.  It is within that broader focus that we find a relationship between stewardship and education.

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Posted in: Stewardship
21
We’ve mentioned several times the concept of stewardship, but what exactly is it?  If we look at a dictionary today we’ll likely see something like this, ‘the employment or use of one’s time, talents, or abilities.’  It is a definition focused on us, but I would suggest that this focus is a relatively recent development. As an example, we have no further to look than the titles of some of our leading magazines over the last seventy years or so, as they are a reflection of our society.  At the beginning of that time span we had publications like Time and Life, and they did quite well.  Fast forward to the early 70’s and we first had People, and a mere ten years after that we had Us and Self.  Notice the progression?  It is no different from many of our other basic concepts and ideas, including stewardship.  We’ve ‘progressed’ from being fascinated by the big picture of things outside of ourselves, to one absorbed with ourselves.  Don’t get me wrong.  There is nothing wrong with self-examination, if it is balanced with a valid objective.  That objectivity within individualism is provided by a set of virtues and a given morality.  Within collectivism that objectivity is provided by the dictates of the state.

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Posted in: Stewardship
17

I will present two arguments.  The first will be a logical one.  Its basis is that, at its core, collectivism believes that all people are not created equal – or more precisely that some are created more equal than others.  This is captured by both Plato’s and Aristotle’s thoughts on the relationship between the state, education, and citizenship.  Their relevant thoughts can be summarized as follows:

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Posted in: Education
06

Plato viewed society as being comprised of four levels, those who were either:  gold (those who governed, the guardians), silver (those who supported the guardians), brass (artisans and laborers), or iron (farmers).  The many slaves were not considered.  Aristotle had more divisions, but his approach was basically the same.  The structure of these societies resembled a pyramid.  The guardians were the smallest group, their assistants larger in number, and finally by far the largest segment of the population consisted of the remaining groups.  These views were not uncommon in state religion societies like Rome and Greece. 

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Posted in: Education
23

So far we’ve looked at the ‘why’ and some of the ‘what’ about education, from both collectivist and individualist perspectives.  Both groups view education as one of the most important responsibilities within a society, as it is the means of perpetuating society, but for very different reasons.  It is important to understand these differences as they shape the content of the education provided, how it is provided, and who receives it.  Within collectivism this amounts to the state perpetuating itself and the societal status quo.  According to both Plato and Aristotle, the state is the lowest level within a society which matters.  While their writings are ancient, their ideas are still relevant as ‘there is nothing new under the sun.’  The state’s purpose is to bring people into harmony by either persuasion or compulsion (Republic VII), as the legislator’s job is not only to write law but to blend into them the explanations as to what is respectable and what is not in regards to the perfect citizen – and bound them by standards backed with legal sanctions (Laws VII).  The state is to decide what is best and to compel other teachers to learn this material (Laws VII).  This material should include and be based upon imitations of occupations, and includes control of words and the determination of what is good and bad (Politics VII).  These teachers are to be public instructors and they are to be supported with public funds (Laws VII and Politics VIII).  Finally, the children will be given over to officials appointed for the purpose of educating them (Republic V), for the citizens do not belong to themselves, they belong to the state (Politics VIII).

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Posted in: Education
27

Within the individualistic thread, just getting a good education is not enough.  It also matters as to the contents of the education.  Clement saw that both faith and reason were necessary in achieving our purpose of becoming good.  This view laid the foundation for much of the later theological/philosophical thoughts of the early Church fathers.  There are two levels within individualism.  We touched on both previously.  The first is at the individual level and is the act of fulfilling our purpose by becoming good.  This requires a good education as we are not born with virtues; we are, however, adapted to learn them.  The second level is as a people.  We are called to be a people, and being a people requires virtue in order for justice to exist.  The exercise of reason and faith require individual choice – free will.  Freedom.  Coercion by the state directly conflicts with the achievement of our purpose and therefore our ability to be a people.

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Posted in: Education
23
I’ll begin with a quote from Clement of Alexandria, who described truth coming from our Creator, not directly but ‘in the way in which showers fall down on the good land, and on the dunghill, and on the houses.  And similarly both the grass and the wheat sprout; and the figs and any other reckless trees grow on sepulchers.  And things that grow, appear as a type of truths.  For they enjoy the same influence of the rain.  But they have not the same grace as those which spring up in rich soil, inasmuch as they are withered or plucked up.’  We should search for those truths which spring from the rich soil, wherever we might happen to find them.

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Posted in: Education
29

The philosophy of individualism is captured in the works of Clement of Alexandria (Clement), Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas—among many others.  These philosopher’s works are not only regarded as among the best of their respective periods, but each one provides a different aspect in regards to individualism.  Clement describes the relationship between an individual and his Creator, Augustine the characteristics of two communities-one of which is oriented towards our Creator and the other towards man himself, and Thomas outlines how individuals of the community oriented toward our Creator are to act.

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About Dan Wolf

Dan WolfMy goal is that my writing will help you to get started on your own journey of discovery, or help you along the way on a journey you may have already begun. Our Founders considered education, religion, morality, and virtue to be the cornerstones for any successful society. Being successful requires understanding both the languages of reason and faith; reason alone is insufficient.