Worth Reading - 3/9

1. In search of a civil public square. Some thoughts on contemporary etiquette from David Leonard:

In my experience, people tend to have rather passionate convictions about a range of social issues, which makes it extremely difficult to separate emotion from reason, when discussing them with others. But of course, at least one component of the good life is to be intellectually virtuous, to love God with your mind. Among other things, this requires the ability to objectively analyze the pros and cons for a particular issue. To be sure, complete objectivity is an impossible ideal. Our experiences and assumptions will always be influencing, to some degree, how we approach any important subject matter. Nevertheless, I do believe that we have an obligation, especially as Christians, to diligently strive to achieve that ideal, and be willing to follow the evidence wherever it may lead us. Very simply, our chief devotion isn’t to dogma, but to the truth. And since we don’t create the truth, but rather we merely respond to the truth, it follows that we must rigorously seek after it, and be willing to submit our lives to it.

2. Katherine Paterson, renowned children's author, has written an autobiography. If you enjoyed Jacob have I Loved, Bridge to Terebithia, or any of her books, you'll be interested in this review of her life story:

Among the books my parents were pleased to see me returning to were those by Katherine Paterson. My favorite, then and now, was Jacob Have I Loved, the story of Sara Louise “Wheeze” Bradshaw, who lives on a fictional island in the Chesapeake, and in the shadow of her tremendously gifted and beautiful twin, Caroline, struggling to make her own way in a world where her options seem to be narrowly circumscribed. Sara Louise stops praying and stops going to church; at one point, she says, “if I had believed in God I could have cursed him and died.” She doesn’t curse God, and when at last she finds her calling, God’s grace and providence are subtly invoked.

At the time I had no idea that Paterson was a pastor’s wife, and that she had been a Presbyterian missionary in Japan; the daughter of missionaries, Paterson was born in China in 1932. Her books did not appear on the shelves of our church library or upon those at the Christian bookstore. They are full of irreverence and doubt, cussing and bad attitudes. Indeed, Paterson’s most highly acclaimed books—including Jacob Have I Loved and also Bridge to Terebithia and The Great Gilly Hopkins—have been among her most frequently banned and challenged, not least by Christians fearful, for example, of the supposedly pagan dabbling in certain passages in Bridge to Terebithia that most readers would probably be inclined to describe as “children playing imaginatively in the woods.”

3. How much does it take to keep a college going? What is going on with liberal arts? A women's only, liberal arts college is closing while it still owns a $94 million endowment:

Sweet Briar College — located near Lynchburg, Virginia — will close “as a result of insurmountable financial challenges,” the school said in a statement.

Sweet Briar administrators cited several trends that informed the decision to close, including the declining number of female students interested in all-women colleges and the dwindling number of students overall interested in small, rural liberal arts colleges.

4. What is the relationship between nature and grace? Bruce Ashford helps us explore the options with a little help from Abraham Kuyper:

The relationship between “nature” and “grace” is one that can be answered only by looking at the overarching biblical narrative, discerning the meaning of creation, fall, and redemption, and the relation between those three plot movements. How one conceives of the relationship between these various plot movements shapes one’s worldview, theology, and spirituality. It determines one’s view of theology and culture, Christianity and politics, and church and state.

The four views I present here each have proponents that represent the view well and others that represent it poorly. The healthiest members of any category will, in many ways, look more like one another than the other members of the category I have created for them. Thus while adjudicating between these views, it is helpful to see those of other views as fellow travelers toward right belief and practice rather than dismissing them as opponents.