Worth Reading - 2/23

1. I've recently been reading Hannah Arendt's book about the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem, so this post at The Gospel Coalition about two young people that resisted the oppressive government of the Third Reich was encouraging:

Formerly enthusiastic about the Third Reich, the siblings soon realized the brutality and oppression of their own government. By the time World War II broke out, they’d turned from supporters to resistors. And they were students at the University of Munich when they formed the White Rose, a student-led resistance movement.

“We fight with our words,” Sophie said; and in June 1942, the first anti-Nazi leaflet appeared in Munich mailboxes. It was an eloquent plea for resistance and truth, aimed at the millions of Germans who shut their eyes to the brutalities enacted by their dictator. Each member of the White Rose understood the crime—high treason—and the punishment meted out to such offenders. “We were all aware we were risking our necks,” one member said.

A second leaflet soon followed, highlighting the mass deportation and killing of Jews, which they called “a crime . . . unparalleled in all of history.” A third, fourth, and fifth came in quick succession, landing in mailboxes, phone booths, and other public places around Munich and beyond. “Hitler cannot win the war, he can only prolong it,” the leaflets insisted, as Germany faced staggering losses on the Eastern Front during the Battle of Stalingrad.

With every pamphlet the risk of discovery increased, as the Gestapo scrambled to investigate the mysterious White Rose.

But to the Scholls, it was a risk worth taking. Raised Lutheran, they held deep convictions about the stand Christians should take against injustice. They quoted Scripture, along with the writings of prominent Christian thinkers, in every leaflet.

2. One of the significant problems of the Book of Mormon is the dearth of corroborating archaeological evidence. This Science magazine article tells the story of a Mormon lawyer who revolutionized archaeology in Mexico and lost his faith:

After decades of stressing the importance of the scientific method and using it to shore up his own faith, Ferguson now found himself at its mercy. “I must conclude that Joseph Smith had not the remotest skill in things Egyptian-hieroglyphics,” he wrote to a fellow doubting Mormon in 1971. What’s more, he wrote to another, “Right now I am inclined to think that all of those who claim to be ‘prophets’, including Moses, were without a means of communication with deity.”

This doubt ultimately spread to Ferguson’s archaeological quest. In 1975, he submitted a paper to a symposium about Book of Mormon geography outlining the failure of archaeologists to find Old World plants, animals, metals, and scripts in Mesoamerica. “The real implication of the paper,” he wrote in a letter the following year, “is that you can’t set Book of Mormon geography down anywhere—because it is fictional.”

Although open about his doubts in his private letters, Ferguson didn’t discuss his loss of faith with his family. He continued attending church, singing in the choir, and even giving blessings. “[Mormons] are so immersed in that culture … [that] to lose your faith, it’s like you’re being expelled from Eden,” Coe says. “I felt sorry for him.”

3. Andrew Peterson's recent album is exquisite. This is the story behind one of the songs with an opportunity to hear it. 

When we went to the Garden of Gethsemane, I knelt near the fence that surrounds the ancient olive trees and read Psalm 22, which opens with, “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?” The entire psalm, which foreshadows Jesus’s suffering in a very specific way, would have been on his mind as he was first abandoned by his friends and then subjected to torture.

By the time we left Gethsemane, I was weeping. That’s no exaggeration. I couldn’t stop crying as I asked God the same question: “Why did you forsake him?” And my question to Jesus was, “Why were you willing to be forsaken?” The writer of Hebrews gives us an answer in chapter 12, which says that it was for the joy set before him that he endured the cross, despising its shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father. What joy? The joy of seeing his world and his people redeemed; the joy of the glory he brought himself by making every sad thing come untrue; the joy of making us his sons and daughters.

4. A recent article from the Acton Institute relates data that indicates individualist, free market societies tend to produce more generous citizens.

Individualist societies see people precisely as individuals. It is the defining mark of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, who ignored ethnic loyalties to care for a fellow human being in dire circumstances. In the Eastern Christian tradition, Jesus is identified with the Good Samaritan and referred to as O Filanqropos, “the Lover of Mankind.” Christians are called to respond to His initiative by proactively seeking out opportunities to care for the His suffering children.

In light of the data, March concluded that “equating individualism, and the wealth that promotes it, with selfishness may be a mistake.” (One wishes she used a stronger verb than may, but one may forgive an academic.) She would have found another confluence by noting the most philanthropic nations’ relative positions on the Fraser Institute’s world ranking of economic freedom: U.S. (13), Australia (7), New Zealand (3), Canada (5), and the UK (10).

By the same logic above, mutatis mutandis, you could conclude that it is a mistake to ascribe the promotion of a free market economy to selfishness, or “greed.” Those of us who promote economic freedom and a free and virtuous society do so precisely because it aids those most in need: the isolated individual with no community to care for him or her – and because it frees the rest of us to become Good Samaritans.

5. There's a good chance a seal of Isaiah has been discovered, which adds additional archaeological evidence that supports the veracity of Scripture.

Even in his own day, Isaiah was important. Not only did he reside in Jerusalem and have a close relationship with the kings of Judah, but subsequent generations added to his words and work. The majority of scholars believe that the Book of Isaiah should be divided into two if not three sections, with each being attributed to a separate author. The author of the second segment, Second Isaiah (Isaiah 40-55), is thought to have written during the exile and predicted the return of the Jewish people from Babylon to Jerusalem. What the incorporation of these later sections in to the book shows is that Isaiah was important enough that others wanted to use his memory to spread their message.

Now, for the first time, we have an example of what might be his signature. Not only is this proof that Isaiah existed (not something scholars truly disputed), but, arguably, evidence of his role in eighth century BCE Jerusalem society. Not everyone who had a seal was of elevated high status (as they were a means of solidifying identity), but the Bible does describe Isaiah as a counselor of the king to whom the monarch would turn for advice. The discovery of his seal impressions in close proximity to that of King Hezekiah confirms the picture of a court prophet that we get from the Bible.