Worth Reading - 1/14

1. From Smithsonian Magazine, some new archaeological finds are changing our understanding of ancient Greek civilizations and the roots of Western culture.

In other words, it isn’t the Mycenaeans or the Minoans to whom we can trace our cultural heritage since 1450 B.C., but rather a blending of the two.

The fruits of that intermingling may have shaped the culture of classical Greece and beyond. In Greek mythology, for example, the legendary birthplace of Zeus is said to be a cave in the Dicte mountains on Crete, which may derive from a story about a local deity worshiped at Knossos. And several scholars have argued that the very notion of a Mycenaean king, known as a wanax, was inherited from Crete. Whereas the Near East featured autocratic kings—the Egyptian pharaoh, for example, whose supposed divine nature set him apart from earthly citizens—the wanax, says Davis, was the “highest-ranking member of a ranked society,” and different regions were served by different leaders. It’s possible, Davis proposes, that the transfer to Greek culture of this more diffuse, egalitarian model of authority was of fundamental importance for the development of representative government in Athens a thousand years later. “Way back in the Bronze Age,” he says, “maybe we’re already seeing the seeds of a system which ultimately allows for the emergence of democracies.”

2. I've never gotten a ticket from one, but I've often wondered if those red light cameras are constitutional. This interesting article at Public Discourse argues not and recounts one law professor's work to undermine his own prosecution for a ticket issued for someone else driving his vehicle.

Traffic-camera laws seem like such minor, insignificant intrusions on liberty that few grasp their constitutional significance. But they reflect a profoundly mistaken view of American constitutionalism. One might say that the traffic camera is a sign of our times. Its widespread use and acceptance reveals how far we have drifted from our fundamental commitment to self-government. When our governing officials dismiss due process as mere semantics, when they exercise powers they don’t have and ignore duties they actually bear, and when we let them get away with it, we have ceased to be our own rulers.

3. The prosperity gospel is in the news again with Paula White, a leading prosperity preacher, praying at the upcoming US Presidential Inauguration. This article gives some basic reasons why we should avoid the prosperity gospel.

Even if we avoid the more obvious versions of the prosperity gospel in our lives, it is easy to fall prey to the same error in a different key.

A soft prosperity gospel is a temptation for many Christians in the United States. We believe that if we pray over our proposal at work, our boss will be more likely to grant it. It’s easy to equate a bullish stock market with God’s goodness as our retirement portfolio climbs. When we get laid off from our steady employment, it’s easy to wonder if being a more faithful Christian might have prevented that personal tragedy.

4. Aaron Earls takes on the hype-machine Colin Cowherd (whose voice consistently made me change the channel whenever I listened to sports radio) in his rebuttal to Dabo Swinney. The interesting thing is that Cowherd's act as a blowhard sells and people are buying it. Earls asks if that is the right thing.

We need the cold shower of the truth to wake us up from the slumber brought on by cozy hot takes.

In the story of the boy who cried wolf, he was the only one who suffered for his dishonesty. That will not be the case for us, when our entire culture trades truth for passion and honesty for entertainment.

When everyone is constantly crying wolf to get attention, no one notices the wolves casually strolling around. And the most dangerous thing is, as Cowherd demonstrates, no one seems to care.

5. I wrote a post at the B&H Academic blog on the relationship between Ethics and Theology. My argument, using Dorothy L. Sayers for support, is that Ethics begins from a foundation of right doctrine:

Doctrine is the very heart of ethics. Unless you believe the right things, there is little hope that you will do the right things. If someone does not believe that humans have inherent value, they are unlikely seek to relieve their suffering or may justify doing harm while calling it good. Proper concern for the wellbeing of other humans is not self-generated; it arises from an anthropology that values people as made in the image of God. When anthropology fails, so does true compassion for other humans.

For example, movements that advocate for voluntary euthanasia are often couched in terms of individual autonomy and alleviation of suffering. Assisting in the suicide deaths of the old and the infirm is ethical if your anthropology presumes that humans have a right to self-determination and that human suffering is purposeless. A deep theological sentiment lies behind a pro-euthanasia ethic. Ethics springs from a foundation of those doctrines that are believed.