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.

Worth Reading - 7/22

1. Bernie Sanders is right. The economy is rigged. However, a recent article at Vox argues that the rigging of the economy is more a function of union protectionism and licensing boards than a corporate conspiracy.

Dentists rig the system against dental hygienists by working to make it illegal for hygienists to clean teeth without totally unnecessary supervision by dentists. Taxi medallion oligopolists rig the system against regular folks with cars who would like turn a buck giving people rides. Beauty school cosmetologists rig the system against hair braiders and sidewalk hair-clipper artistes. "Massage therapists" rig the system against anybody with strong hands who might want to give back rubs for cash.
About 30 percent of all jobs in the United States today require some sort of occupational license, up from 5 percent in the early 1950s. This rather dramatic shift is evidence that the economy has indeed become increasingly rigged — which is really just another word for "regulated."
But the rigging of the economy is not just the story of occupational licensing. It’s also the story of big-city gentrifiers who block construction projects that would reduce the cost of housing by expanding its supply, which has the effect of rigging the economy against workers who can no longer afford to live where the best jobs are.

2. Alan Noble, editor at Christ and Pop Culture and Star Wars aficionado, recently wrote a piece that calls for a different sort of culture in churches, including youth groups. There needs to be a space for struggle, and a reason for hope.

I needed to be told that God loved me and that whatever “authentic self” I was so desperately trying to piece together and display for all my peers to approve of, I would never really find it and I didn’t need to try to. I needed—and still need—a church that has space for sadness, fears and anxiety, depression and mental illness. I also need a church that doesn’t let me continue to believe the lie that my life is meaningless until I achieve something, or am loved by someone, or I craft some impressive identity.
All along, my identity was hidden in Christ’s finished work on the cross, an act of unmerited love that objectively grounded and sustained my being in the world regardless of how I felt or what I thought about myself.
The funny thing about working to make yourself good enough to be Christian is that you inevitably end up more self-absorbed and less assured of God’s love for you. If we are not careful, our youth groups and churches can easily develop a culture of image-making—Christians striving to define themselves, especially according to some Christian cultural norms, instead of resting in Christ’s definitive work. The gospel frees us from these endeavors and gives us the space to be fully human, with doubts and anxieties and loves, but also with the grace and love which flows from a heart unburdened by identity and committed to others.

3. Aaron Earls, author in residence at Wardrobe Door, explains that Christians need to embrace the role of villain in contemporary culture.

We are the villains.
Look at our culture’s obsession with radical personal autonomy. Society encourages us to be completely self-absorbed—look out for “number 1,” take care of you and yours.
While everything around us is saying your personal preference should be the deciding factor for every important decision, Christianity is asking us to put that aside for the sake of others.
Instead of getting our way and living how we want to live, we are asked to pick up our cross and die to ourselves. Following Christ means you should be interdependent with others. You should use your gifts to serve the church, working with others who are doing the same.
When others see this lifestyle, it—like our sexual ethic—seems odd and out of place in modern culture. In one sense, it seems too traditional. In another, too extreme.

4. From the New York Times, efforts at advancing renewable energy sources are pushing attempts to curb climate change off course. This includes the devaluing and shutting down of nuclear power, which is the best reliable, low-carbon energy source available.

In Southern Australia, where wind supplies more than a quarter of the region’s power, the spiking prices of electricity when the wind wasn’t blowing full-bore pushed the state government to ask the power company Engie to switch back on a gas-fired plant that had been shut down.
But in what may be the most worrisome development in the combat against climate change, renewables are helping to push nuclear power, the main source of zero-carbon electricity in the United States, into bankruptcy.
The United States, and indeed the world, would do well to reconsider the promise and the limitations of its infatuation with renewable energy.
“The issue is, how do we decarbonize the electricity sector, while keeping the lights on, keeping costs low and avoiding unintended consequences that could make emissions increase?” said Jan Mazurek, who runs the clean power campaign at the environmental advocacy group ClimateWorks.
Addressing those challenges will require a more subtle approach than just attaching more renewables to the grid.

5. Egalitarians have taken to smearing all complementarians with caricatures of abuse. One wife in a complementarian marriage answers some of a recent, vocal critic's questions on her blog.

Jesus condemned a personal-power view of authority. He condemned men who exercised authority in a selfish, domineering manner. He said, “It must not be like that among you!” (Mark 10:43-45)
The misuse/abuse of authority is an abomination to God. He wants leaders to be shepherds after His own heart. (Jeremiah 23:2; Ezekiel 34:1-4; Zechariah 11:17). Some of the Bible’s most scathing condemnations are directed toward leaders who fail to exercise authority in a godly manner. The Lord’s anger burns hot against them (Zechariah 10:3).
According to the Bible, a wife’s submission is her choice alone. A husband does not have the right to force or coerce her to do things against her will. He does not have the right to domineer. He does not have the right to pull rank and use strong-arm tactics. He does not have the right to make his wife submit. No. According to the author of our faith, it must not be like that among us!

6. From BBC, Switzerland is the nation that hates to be late. A fun, interesting read.

Whenever I visit Switzerland, I go through several stages of punctuality reaction. At first it delights me, especially if I’m coming from neighbouring Italy or France with their rather more flexible approach to timekeeping. By contrast, life in Switzerland is sturdy and dependable, like a Saint Bernard dog. If someone says they will meet me at 2 pm, they arrive at 2 pm not 2:05 (or 1:55, for that matter). I like this. For a while.  

Then it annoys me. The extreme punctuality strikes me as a kind of stinginess, and I find myself agreeing with the English writer Evelyn Waugh who said that “punctuality is the virtue of the bored.”

That is unfair though, and finally, invariably, I come to appreciate Swiss punctuality for what it is: a deep expression of respect for other people. A punctual person is a considerate one. By showing up on time – for everything – a Swiss person is saying, in effect, “I value your time and, by extension, I value you.”