Worth Reading - 2/17

1. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary polled their faculty to find the most common recommendations for books to read before coming to seminary:

Seminary is (or should be) a time of intense study, filled with lots of interesting reading. Yet, in order for seminary students to make the most of their time, they ought to have a good grasp of the academic and, especially, spiritual skills and disciplines required to succeed in seminary.

2. From the Atlantic, a tough, but significant read about what ISIS really wants:

What is the Islamic State?

Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
I am grateful for my encounters with Richard John Neuhaus. From him, we can learn the value of reading widely and leveraging that knowledge in an appropriate manner in the public square. We can learn to build coalitions and communities that sustain and enhance our cultural engagement. We are reminded by Neuhaus to avoid the twin errors of naked public squares, on the one hand, and theocracies, on the other. We remember, and learn from, his warm and gracious interaction with ordinary people. In short, Neuhaus’ life and writings remind us of the value of cultivating a public theology and of raising up public theologians who can speak and act in the public square for the common good.

4. The Gospel Coalition considers whether language makes humans unique:

So what does language have to do with the Christian doctrine of the imago Dei? Quite a lot, as it turns out. Scripture never provides an explicit definition of the image of God, but it does provide a number of contextual clues. In Genesis 1-2, we read that humans are created in the context of a covenant. Broadly defined, a covenant is a solemn relationship between two parties, with mutual promises and obligations. Other elements of a covenant often include a historical prologue and threats for covenantal breach. In all of these respects, a covenant relationship requires language. Language is what enables us to recount history, make commands, offer promises, issue threats, and so forth. Further, the ability to reflect on the covenant relationship itself requires the capacity for recursive thought. If image-bearing implies a covenant relationship, and if a covenant relationship requires language, then we must conclude that language is an essential part of our identity as human beings.

5. Smithsonian Magazine seeks to explain why footbinding lasted so long in China:

Foot-binding is said to have been inspired by a tenth-century court dancer named Yao Niang who bound her feet into the shape of a new moon. She entranced Emperor Li Yu by dancing on her toes inside a six-foot golden lotus festooned with ribbons and precious stones. In addition to altering the shape of the foot, the practice also produced a particular sort of gait that relied on the thigh and buttock muscles for support. From the start, foot-binding was imbued with erotic overtones. Gradually, other court ladies—with money, time and a void to fill—took up foot-binding, making it a status symbol among the elite.