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Monday, June 25, 2018

Acting…on Acton

Last week I was “zoned in” on some of my favorite topics of discussion. I was conducting three days of interviews with some of God’s very bright thinkers in the areas of moral development, liberty, and economic principles. Yes…it was the 2018 event known as "Acton University" held annually in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Acton invites a broad audience to engage in the intense four day “university” of knowledge. Attending are spiritual leaders, business executives, entrepreneurs, university professors, and academic researchers. I guess you’d want to add those who seek to explore material not usually found on today’s college campuses.

Acton University is the highlight event of The Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. It is named after the English historian Lord John Acton. Most would associate his name with the famous quote, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

In short form, Acton Institute pursues a vision of society that is free and virtuous. When such a principled world exists, the end game is human flourishing. Thus, the Institute holds seminars and publishes books, articles, and periodicals on topics of this genre.

One of the distinctives of Acton University is the spiritual diversity of their presenters and the attendees. There were 1,140 participants this year representing 72 countries. A total of 144 classes were ofered by 88 faculty members. While the development of this event is from Catholic origins, (Catholic faculty are well represented) you’ll find a number of Protestant and Jewish thought leaders as well.

This year, some of my favorite interviews included:
  • Dr. Mihail Neamtu, Author and Public Intellectual from Romania. In a nutshell, he presented the case that, for the sake of preserving individual freedom and safety, nation-states must restore their claim to political sovereignty, over against any globalist or internationalist philosophy.
  • Michael Matheson Miller, Research Fellow with Acton and producer of much of their media. He offered a CORE curriculum course on the Christian vision of the human person in the context of politics and society.
  • Dr. Kevin Schmiesing represents Action Institute as a Research Fellow as well. He spoke on the meanings of the terms "conservative" and "liberal," mainly in the American context. Very insightful.
  • Dr. Charlie Self, Director of City Expansion, Made to Flourish. His talk was on The Theology of Work, looking at the biblical, historical, and theological foundations of human labor. In a paper published at Mission Alliance, Dr. Self offered these points:
  1. God is the first worker, fashioning the original creation (Gen. 1-2), forming each human life in the womb (Ps. 139), and working at every moment to redeem the world (John 5, 8, 10). Human flourishing includes understanding the dignity and meaning of our daily work, from labor to leadership, paid or volunteer, creative or repetitive. 
  2. God rested and so must we. Sabbath is more than a day off. It is built into our created rhythms and is a sign that we trust God to provide through six days of work what we need for seven.
  3. God celebrates extravagantly and we are invited to join in. The Lord that dances and sings over His people invites us to dance and sing, play our instruments, enjoy good food, and share our bounty with others. We need more celebrations in the midst of all the challenges.
  4. God cares about all dimensions of life: Christ ends forever the sacred-secular divide. All positive dimensions of human activity are gifts of God that we are called to steward well.
I’d encourage you to consider attending Acton University in 2019. It’s four days of intense learning. However, you will come away with a renewed perspective on foundations of thought on human flourishing, which gives meaning to our daily lives.

The apostle James teaches “faith apart from works is useless.” (James 2:20, ESV) So I hope all attendees are prepared to take action on lessons from Acton!

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

For more information: 
You can hear the lectures online and by ordering a thumb drive of the conference. Information can be found at or at

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