Worth Reading - 10/6

1. A helpful meditation on Isaiah 55:11 by Courtney Reissig, which goes beyond typical surface reflections of the power of God's word:

The preaching of God’s word on Sundays does its work in the lives of his people. It might seem small and pointless. It might seem slow and like growth isn’t happening (Hab. 2:3) It might seem monotonous and routine (for the one preparing the sermon). It might even seem like foolishness to the outsider looking in (1 Cor. 1:18). But it works. Slowly, but surely, as the preached word goes forward God’s people are strengthened, equipped, and challenged in their faith. It might not happen in a burst of growth, but it surely happens over a lifetime of faithful hearing.

The same is true for us personally. Ordinary faithful time spent in God’s word is never for naught. The deposits of scripture that we make in our own life, through personal bible study, will be used by God when we are drawing on the reserves. As Paige Benton Brown so helpfully says in this talk, we are never overdrawn. There will come a day when we have nothing to deposit into the bank account of our mind and hearts. But the word we have deposited over a lifetime will protect us from bankruptcy. The deposits are doing something, even when they are small and we can’t see their outcome.

2. Invasive species are generally considered to be detrimental to ecosystems, but in the case of some large herbivores, some scientists reckon them to be good for the environment: (This is a National Geographic page that autoplays ads, but I read the article on mute.)

Wild horses grazing on the Western range, dromedary camels roaming the Australian outback, hippos lounging in Colombian lakes—they all have two things in common: They’re very large herbivores, and they’re on the “wrong” continent. They were imported from their native range by people—in the case of the hippos, by the now-deceased drug lord Pablo Escobar, whose private zoo the beasts escaped from.

The conventional view among ecologists is that these species and other expatriate herbivores are an ecological problem. A new study takes issue with that, arguing that we should welcome them in their new ranges. According to the authors, out-of-place beasts are either replacing grazing animals that humans drove extinct thousands of years ago, or preserving their own species from extinction, or both.

Of the 76 herbivores in the world that weigh more than 100 kilograms (220 pounds), 22 have substantial populations outside their native ranges, according to ecologist Erick Lundgren of Arizona State University and his colleagues. Of those 22, half are threatened or extinct in their native ranges.

3. Who is the "economic man"? That is a question at the heart of the ongoing debates over capitalism, socialism, and the variants in between. This is a nice explanatory article on that topic:

Intellectuals are often vocal critics of capitalism. Most of them lean left politically, so it is easy to identify anti-capitalism with progressivism. It is therefore no coincidence that the modern welfare state has been administered by elites eager to correct supposed market failures on the way to a more egalitarian society. Leftist elites tend to be university professors rather than captains of industry, but elites they remain.

How, then, are we to explain the growing dissatisfaction with capitalism among those hardy band of intellectuals who call themselves conservatives? Has capitalism changed in some fundamental way so as to lose their support? Or was it always seen as the ugly sister to be tolerated for the sake of the alliance against communism? Perhaps there is something about intellectuals, regardless of their political affiliation, that leads them to look down upon moneymaking as the driving force of society.

4. A popular trope in contemporary laments of secular society is that the Reformation led to secularism by fragmenting the unity (or hegemony, depending on your perspective) of the Roman Catholic Church and giving rise to the individual. This post helpfully summarizes some of the counterarguments to those claims:

While I believe there is some truth to the fragmentation argument (more on this below), it also suffers from substantial flaws. Here are two of them.

First, plenty of disagreements existed in the church before the Reformation: bitter philosophical disputes, ruthless competition between religious orders, and life and death struggles over authority between the conciliar movement and various popes. Indeed, some of these disagreements had already produced structural breaks in the church: consider the East-West Schism of 1054, which permanently separated the Catholic and Orthodox churches, or the Western Schism of 1378-1417, which temporarily divided Europe between two—and eventually three!—rival popes. And this brief summary doesn’t touch on violent disagreement with those outside the church: heretics like the Cathars in southern France, Jews and Muslims in Spain, pagans in Lithuania. To the extent that some of these disagreements were resolved before the Reformation, the solutions tended to involve persecution, exile, and slaughter.

In sum, the problem of disagreement did not begin with the Reformation. What changed after 1517 was that there was no longer any single authority with the power to suppress disagreements and violently impose its will on all of Western Christendom. If the violent disputes following the Reformation are indirectly to blame for secularization, that blame rests just as much on people and events before the Reformation as on the Reformation itself.