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Reply to John Bolt's 'Catena sive Umbilicus: A Christian View of Social Institutions'

Gary Quinlivan


John Bolt dichotomizes opinions concerning the relevance of social institutions. There are the liberationists/Marxists who reject social institutions (especially traditional family values, community, organized religion, and capitalism) and those of the Christian/biblical view who hold the opinion that strong social institutions are essential to liberty, human fulfillment, and prosperity. Bolts essay also delineates opposing views of statism, offering a strong defense for subsidiarity. As explained by Bolt, Marxists regard social institutions to be an invisible alien power that is at the root of racism, classism, and sexism. Thus, the destruction of these social institutions is necessary for mans emancipation. But the demise of the social institutions, Bolt warns, will cause individuals instead to forfeit their only possibility of living freely as human beings with dignity,value, and worth. According to the tradition of Christian social teaching, Bolt states that there are two defining features: an enduring concern for the plight of poor urban workers, and a sharp repudiation of socialism. For example, Rerum Novarum points out the meaningful role of private property rights in improving economic and political outcomes for the masses. In addition, Bolt refers to writings by Abraham Kuyper and Pope Pius XI that caution us of the dangers to families, businesses, sciences, the arts, and religion when too much power is put into the hands of government. As Bolt explains, key associations such as the family and the church serve as a buffer against state absolutism."

Gary Quinlivan, "Reply to John Bolt's 'Catena sive Umbilicus: A Christian View of Social Institutions,'" Journal of Markets and Morality 4, no. 2 (Fall 2001): 322-324

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