Worth Reading - 4/14

1. An excellent post by Fred Sanders, an expert in trinitarian theology, on the nature of the incarnation of Christ with respect to the Godhead. It's well worth your time.

When the Word became flesh, he didn’t morph from a to z. In fact, when the Son of God came to earth, he didn’t leave heaven behind and stop being there in order to be here. As Athanasius says, “he was not enclosed in the body, nor was he in the body but not elsewhere.” He stayed everywhere and added a special human locatedness to it; the everywhere is what must be true for his divine nature, and the human locatedness is what must be true for his human nature.

On the other hand, when the Word became flesh, the Son of God wasn’t looking down from the ramparts of heaven at a human Jesus far below that he moved around like a puppeteer would. The entire human nature may be thought of as a special kind of instrument wielded by the Word, but it’s wielded from within as something that is as much his as your human nature is yours. Notice, by the way, that at all times we are talking about the entire human nature, not just the physical body.

You might say it this way: It’s no good thinking of the Son as departing from heaven and landing on earth, morphing from God to man on the journey. That assumes that the divine nature turned into the human nature. But it’s also no good thinking of the Son as operating a Mr. Jesus device by remote control from his distant control center in heaven. One is too close; the other too far. The first option would say goodbye to the Word, turning it into someone Jesus used to be. The second option would never make it all the way to the flesh, settling instead for a fleshy automaton. In neither case would you have the Word becoming flesh in the Christian sense. We need the real Word, really becoming real flesh: the Son of God as both fully God and fully human.

2. I wrote a piece a few years ago for the Institute for Faith Work and Economics for Holy Week. They reposted it this week for their audience, and it may be worth your time.

One of my favorite hymns is “Joy to the World.” We usually sing it around Christmas, but for years I have thought of it as an Easter hymn.

The first verse calls for us to have joy because the Lord has come, and calls for heaven and nature to sing. Nature is singing in anticipation of the redemption spoken of in Romans 8:19–21, when the effects of the Fall are removed.

3. This is a fun piece about the duties and responsibilities of the junior Supreme Court justice.

No one could have known it at the time, but at the end of last summer, Justice Elena Kagan gave Neil M. Gorsuch a face-to-face tutorial on what it means to be the Supreme Court’s newest justice.

It starts in the kitchen.

“I’ve been on the cafeteria committee for six years. (Justice) Steve Breyer was on the cafeteria committee for 13 years,” Kagan said at a Colorado event where she was being interviewed by Gorsuch and Timothy M. Tymkovich, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

4. People are calling for a moratorium on overbooking flights because of last week's debacle with the United passenger (though the flight wasn't overbooked). However, the reality is that overbooking saves everyone a whole lot of money. This article begins to explain why it's worth it.

Economist James Heins says the shift to passenger compensation led to a savings in the U.S. economy of about $100 billion over the last three decades. This has allowed airlines to operate at a higher capacity and makes flights more profitable while reducing air fares and increasing tax revenues.

“People know about the system, but they don’t know where it came from,” said Heins, who worked with Simon at the University of Illinois. “I think they should. There are a lot of important research breakthroughs on campuses, but few generate $100 billion in savings to the American economy.”

Simon understood a basic fact of economics—one that United Airlines seems to have temporarily forgotten: People respond to incentives. If United had simply provided a proper economic incentive (i.e., increased compensation for the hassle of missing a flight), they could have saved the company millions in lawsuits and bad press. Instead, they are learning what happens when a corporation treats interactions with customers as a zero-sum game rather than as an opportunity to use incentives to make everyone involved better off.

5. A midwife in Sweden has been blacklisted from participating in the marketplace because she won't commit abortions.

In Nordic countries, and Sweden especially, elite institutions create what political scientists call “opinion corridors,” setting the parameters of debate. Ms. Grimmark was locked out of the opinion corridor on medical freedom of conscience. When she sued the Jönköping council in 2014, claiming religious discrimination and violation of her freedom of conscience, she became a public enemy.

Speaking at a panel on Islamist extremism in 2015, Mona Sahlin, a prominent politician and former government antiterror coordinator, argued that “those who refuse to perform abortions are in my opinion extreme religious practitioners” not unlike jihadists.

In January a TV segment framed Ms. Grimmark as part of “a global wave of oppression against women.” On another TV panel the same month, feminist writer Cissi Wallin mused, “Those who are against abortion now, can’t we abort them—retroactively?” Another panelist replied, “Yes, a really great idea!” The others chuckled.

During the trial, in the fall of 2015, an attorney for the defendants asked one of Ms. Grimmark’s would-be hospital directors, Christina Gunnervik, if it would be possible for someone “who stands for these opinions and is willing to express them publicly” to work at her hospital, even temporarily. Ms. Gunnervik responded: “Unthinkable. Completely unthinkable!” Attorneys for the county council declined to comment.

6. This is an excellent piece at Christ and Pop Culture about the possibility of people with vastly different perspectives learning to get along and debate. Public discourse continues to be one of the most important concerns of our time.

Robert P. George holds the esteemed McCormick Chair in Jurisprudence at Princeton University, and is one of the most respected conservative intellectuals in the nation. Cornel West is currently Professor of the Practice of Public Policy at Harvard Divinity School, a self-proclaimed “radical liberal,” and a leading luminary of the left. If these two men followed the contemporary precedent set by politicians, celebrities, and media personalities, they’d be utilizing their platforms to score points for their respective parties, adding their own brand of academic infective to the public square. Instead, they’ve set their ideological differences aside to pen a joint statement extolling the virtues of academic inquiry, freedom of thought, and civil disagreement. Titled “Truth Seeking, Democracy, and Freedom of Thought and Expression,” the statement opens with a striking exhortation: “[All] of us should seek respectfully to engage with people who challenge our views. And we should oppose efforts to silence those with whom we disagree—especially on college and university campuses.”

7. Five reasons you should delight in theology. This is a post I resonate with strongly and is well worth your time.

Theology is the language of Christianity. We of all people should be consistent, contagious God-talkers. Yet many act as though theology is alien to the nature and works of God. Loving God isn’t about a set of doctrines, they say—it’s about a relationship. For them, theology is just an academic sport for professionals, but it’s not vital for the Christian’s daily life; theology belongs in outer space, not in our hearts.

When theology feels like a professional sport for the elite few, it will feel like a set of shackles to be avoided. But rightly understood, theology is eternally freeing, because we cannot be Christian without theology. A theology-less Christianity is a mute, lifeless religion. The Christian God defines and demonstrates theology. I can’t talk about my wife without describing Christa Smith, and Christians can’t talk about theology without describing God.