Podcast: Augustine’s ‘Confessions’ Book 2

Mere Fidelity

We started reading through Augustine’s Confessions together a few weeks agoThis week we discuss the second book, especially Augustine’s discussion of his theft from the pear tree.

You can also follow the podcast on iTunes, or using this RSS feed. Listen to past episodes on Soundcloud and on this page on my blog.

Posted in Christian Experience, Church History, Podcasts, Theological | Leave a comment

Answers to Questions—2/10/2017-12/10/2017

Here are some of my answers to questions from the last week or so on Curious Cat.


Do you think Jesus cleansed the temple twice? [Answer]


What role does logic play in developing theology? … [Answer] [Follow-up]


When is it a good time to update/abandon/move on from a theological term because it becomes too distracting or misunderstood? … [Answer]


What do you think about The Best of All Possible Worlds theory? … [Answer]


Is it legitimate to say that God died on the cross? [Answer]


What do you think of discussing “theologies of …” blood, hair, place, suffering, etc?

Specifically theologies of place

Specifically if Protestants can or should have one? [Answer]


Both Yoder and Barth have been shown to be guilty of sexual sin (and I might add Yoder did his Phd under Barth). Should this alter our reading of them and if yes are we not hypocrites for letting Luther off with his racism towards Jews? [Answer]


… [W]hat exactly is natural law? [Answer]


Is it immoral to not believe in the existence of God? … [Answer]


Is it wrong to call on departed saints to pray for us, such as by praying the Ave Maria? [Answer]


Should we baptize ‘in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,’ or in Christ’s name? … [Answer]


Why do you think the New Testament writers never mention the huge shift when women received baptism as the sign of the covenant, unlike the focus given to Gentiles? [Answer]


Does a baptized infant receive the new birth? If this is not the case, what is gained by not waiting until the child is old enough to believe unto salvation? [Answer]


Only a minority of U.S. Christians are even Calvinist, so why are the most learned and respected preachers seemingly mostly Calvinist? … [Answer]


If the role of ministers is to be set aside for “pray and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4), why are you concerned about “an unhealthy focus on this pastoral duty [that is, preaching and preparation thereof] often to the neglect of others?” [Answer]


If, as you say, marriage is consummated in the body of the woman, is a Christian couple free to have sex as long as they have decided to marry, even if they are not living together and have not participated of a public ceremony? … [Answer]


When is marriage consummated? In the sexual act, in the religious ceremony? [Answer]


This isn’t a question. In law in England and Wales, for a marriage to be consumated there has to be full penetration, otherwise the marriage could be annulled rather than a divorce.
SSM. I understand the law was not redefined, so there is no true equality. [Answer]


… Why exactly are people allowed to remarry after the death of their spouse, but not after divorce? I understand that the latter is considered adulterous, but if souls live forever, why isn’t the former as well? Should we take the single Jesus line about “no marrying or giving in marriage in Heaven” as a definitive proof-text about how Heaven works? Doesn’t that make marriage feel earthbound and temporary? [Answer]


… [H]ow much does the partially inaugurated new covenant change our approach in the realm of marriage, children, and so on? [Answer]


Can a shift in the perception of masculinity curb mass violence? [Answer]


… In your opinion, is there an basis to this claim that the home is an environment more “suited” to girls? [Answer]


‘All of this is to say that the home isn’t an environment suited to the flourishing of anyone nowadays.’

Are you serious? [Answer]


… What do you think are the things from which one is cut off when one is based at home? [Answer] [Follow-up]


So how can these goods be reintegrated into the home? For instance, in a typical suburban setting, designed around the car, with most people (certainly men) travelling some distance to work elsewhere? [Answer]


As Christians, who embrace an anthropology that places high value on community and a Gospel which has the impact of creating a certain sort of community, is the path forward a retreat from the modern design of life and it’s profound alienating force or the creation of a new sort of community within our modern culture? [Answer]


Why are odd numbers more commonly associated with masculinity whereas even numbers associated with femininity? [Answer]


What’s your view on using the preferred pronouns of trans people? [Answer]


… [I]f a transwoman (I.e male-to-female) has a ‘female’ brain, then why would it be wrong to consider the rest of the body as being defective rather than the brain/psychological part? [Answer]


Should Christians avoid “homophobic” forms of speech? … [Answer]


How do you read books? [Answer]


Do you have any methods or techniques for remembering what you read effectively? … [Answer]


…What did your parents do for work and how did your family environment shape you? [Answer]


What are your views on gun control? … [Answer]


Do you have any take on this article?

http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/246724/the-specifically-jewy-perviness-of-harvey-weinstein [Answer]


The growing consensus is that cats did not exist until after the curse. Why is this the case? [Answer]


As always, feel free to leave any questions you might have for me on my Curious Cat page!

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Video: What is Masculinity?

I have a new video following on from my earlier video on The Challenges of Gender in the 21st Century. Within it, I offer some prefatory remarks on the subject of masculinity.

Posted in Sex and Sexuality, Video | 2 Comments

Podcast: Translating Genesis 1-11, with Samuel Bray and John Hobbins

Mere FidelityOn this week’s episode of Mere Fidelity, Derek and I were joined by John Hobbins and Samuel Bray, who have just produced a ‘new old translation’ of Genesis 1-11. The translation itself is great, but the notes and commentary upon it provide a wonderful window into a world of which most Christians are only dimly aware. I highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to discover more about the process of translating Scripture and the sort of judgments that need to be made by the scholars engaged in such a task.

Bray and Hobbins’ translation has received praise from a number of scholars:

“Bray and Hobbins have themselves given us the best possible description of their Genesis 1-11 book. It is ‘a new old translation’ for everyone. They resist the temptation to innovate for innovation’s sake. They do not fix what’s not broken. And their lively writing mines the best of the ancient and the new to give us a dragon’s hoard of learned enjoyment. The translation itself gives these famed biblical chapters a more lucid splendor. But more than that, their engaging notes and essay ‘To the Persistent Reader’ are a journey into the translator’s world that will enrich lay-folk and scholar alike.”—Raymond C. Van Leeuwen, Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies, Eastern University, author of “The Book of Proverbs” in The New Interpreter’s Bible

“This is a wonderfully provocative exercise in translation, commentary, and book-making–certain to bring instruction and delight to any Persistent Reader, and to make this vital portion of the biblical text stand forth in a new light.”—Alan Jacobs, Distinguished Professor of Humanities in the Honors Program at Baylor University, author of “The Book of Common Prayer”: A Biography and a critical edition of W.H. Auden’s The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue

The translation has been reviewed here. Bray has also written a wonderful series of articles on the process of translation that will give you a taste of the book. I highly them to you:

  1. Translating Genesis
  2. Translating Genesis: Double Translation
  3. Translating Genesis: Physicality
  4. Translating Genesis: Physicality Continued
  5. Translating Genesis: Repetition
  6. Translating Genesis: Figures of Speech
  7. Translating Genesis: Concluding Thought on Legal Interpretation and Biblical Translation

Buy a copy of their book for yourself here.

You can also follow the podcast on iTunes, or using this RSS feed. Listen to past episodes on Soundcloud and on this page on my blog.

Posted in Bible, Genesis, OT, Podcasts, Scripture, Theological | 17 Comments

The Politics of the Vineyard of Israel

I have just posted a reflection on Isaiah 5, Psalm 80, and Matthew 21 over on Political Theology Today. Within it I explore the significance of the prophetic vine parables and the vantage point that they can provide us upon our own nations:

As the vast drama of the nation of Israel is allegorized in prophetic parables of vines and vineyards, the hearers of the prophetic message are granted an unusual vantage point from which to regard the history of their nation. This fecund matrix of symbolism can give birth to insight, as it enables the hearers of vineyard parables to regard the nation and their place within it from a revealing perspective. The nation is figured as a unified collective agency which ought to respond fruitfully to the generous providential hand of God over the course of its history. The leaders of the nation are responsible to tend to its fruit and to deliver its produce to its owner. The proper response to the parable is one of recognition and judgment in the hearer, an epiphany in which they appreciate the part that they are playing in the narrative and interrogate their performance accordingly.

The reader of these parables in our modern context might be struck by the fact that the perspective they afford to their hearers is one rather strange to us. Although we may regard our nations as possessing a quasi-agency, this agency is typically depersonalized and abstracted from our own. Viewing ourselves as a people with a collective moral agency, responsible to answer God’s generous rains of blessing with good fruit, offers us a surprising and rather unsettling perspective upon our histories.

Read the whole piece here.

Posted in Bible, Ethics, Guest Post, Isaiah, Matthew, NT, OT, Politics, Psalms, Society, Theological | 2 Comments

Hugh Hefner and the Logic of Porn

I’ve just written a piece for the Calvinist International on the subject of Hugh Hefner and the logic of porn. Within it I argue, along with a 2003 piece by Read Mercer Schuchardt, that porn leads to the feminization of men, the masculinization of women, and the homosexualization of sex. I challenge the nervousness we have in speaking about these controversial issues.

What Wittgenstein wrote of suicide—‘when one investigates it, it is like investigating mercury vapor in order to comprehend the nature of vapors’—is something that the Christian tradition has often recognized to be true of homosexual relations. There is something paradigmatic about this sin that serves to reveal the character of sin more generally, especially in the arena of sexual relations. This realization strongly challenges any who would like to treat persons who engage in homosexual relations as a special class of moral lepers, in comparison with whom we can all flatter ourselves in self-righteousness. The Christian tradition has often displayed this moral insight in the ways that it has, however imperfectly, condemned homosexual relations: it has condemned them, not as a discrete and detached type of sin, but as the paradigm species of a particular genus of sins. These sins would include things such as anal sex, masturbation, and other forms of sexual relations seeking to frustrate their proper procreative end.

In claiming that ‘all pornography is ultimately homosexual,’ Schuchardt shares this insight. If we were to think that his claim is merely an opportunistic attempt to appropriate a stigma that exists against homosexual relations and apply it to pornography use, we would be badly misunderstanding him. Schuchardt is engaging in something closer to a task of harmatological taxonomy—exploring the proper classification and phylogeny of sins and vices—a serious task which, though quite unfashionable, is immensely important and illuminating.

Read the whole thing here.

Posted in Culture, Ethics, Guest Post, In the News, Sex and Sexuality, Society, Theological | 11 Comments

Yet More Answers to Questions

Even more answers from my Curious Cat account:


How would you describe your theological method, in terms of moving from text to theology? [Answer]


The first thing called holy in the Bible is neither a person nor a place, but a unit of time–the seventh day. Is there any significance to this? Do you know of anyone who deals with this question? [Answer]


When I read Wright on the Sabbath, he seems to be saying that its purpose was to point to Christ, full stop. But you seem to understand it as a creation ordinance on par with marriage. If so, what is required of us in this regard as God’s new humanity? [Answer]


Why did God accept Abel’s offering and not Cain’s? [Answer]


I’m not familiar with high-quality exegesis of Genesis 4, but the Hebrew for “offer” is “minchah”, which in Leviticus is a grain offering. Why would a minchah be bloody in Genesis? [Answer]


Do you think Leviticus has a positive take on sex? If yes, how? … [Answer]


Was polygamy sinful in the OT? [Answer]


When Jesus fed the 5,000, “the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.” Why? Why did the people leave it vs. take it with them, and why were the disciples getting it? To eat it later? Also, why do people not try to be like Christ by living in poverty (giving away to others)? If Christ was so poor, then why not Christians today? [Answer]


…How would you explain the rich young man who Jesus told to sell everything and give it to the poor before following him?… [Answer]


… I have been re-reading the accounts of the Annunciation and of Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the risen Christ at the tomb. What strikes me is that both women told the men amazing truths about the Lord *which the men did not know*. (Though these truths were confirmed later to the men by the Lord) I have some thoughts of my own about the relationships between these women and the men and also the relationships of both the women and the men with the Lord, but this is so big, and I really need to give more thought and prayer to it! I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on this…. [Answer]


… It’s relatively easy to see how the male focus on Christ’s mission could continue after the Ascension, it’s harder to see how a female focus on Christ’s body could continue. Do you see any space for a body focused piety after the Ascension?… [Answer]


… What are your thoughts on the ways in which men such as Simon of Cyrene and Joseph of Arimathea also attended to the bodily needs of Christ?… [Answer]


(How) should modern Christians follow the example of the early disciples who held everything in common? [Answer]


It is commonly stated that Paul and the early church believed in an imminent return of Christ. 1st – do you believe this is true? 2nd- was that belief satisfied in 70AD? It seems that many in the early church continued to see the Parousia as imminent after 70. [Answer]


What are your thoughts on the New Perspective on Paul? [Answer]


Romans 2:6-11. What’s going on? [Answer]


I understand the Ephesians 1, Romans 9 explanations you hold. But what about the Romans 8:28-30? Does that also talk about election or what? And How would you explain that in your position on election? [Answer]


Should we adopt the practice of women wearing head coverings? What is Paul getting at in 1 Cor. 11? If he meant to appeal to cultural norms, why would he not do so? Why appeal to “nature” instead? [Answer]


…[Texts like 1 Thess 4:13-18 and 2 Thess 2:1-12 hinder] me from fully embracing the AD70 perspective on Jesus’ teaching, which, if leaving Paul aside, makes good sense historically and textually. Curious to see your perspective on those Paul texts. [Answer]


If a biblical “truth” like “warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them” Titus 3:10 changes based on cultural context, just how true is it? [Answer]


There was a question on Revelation 12, this person seems to built a case. How do you look at his exposition of the text and this taking place in the skies the coming days? [Answer]


So you think Revelation is (in part) a post-70AD theological commentary on the fall of the temple/Jerusalem? [Answer]


What (if any) are the theological considerations of whether one should be buried or cremated after death? … [Answer]


… Would freezing a corpse show even greater respect for the body? [Answer]


What’s your view of organ donation? [Answer]


What do you think about the “intermediate state”? Does it make sense in light of einsteins discovery that time is a field and not linear? [Answer]


It seems like your main criticism of the federal vision would be its failure to embrace a classical Christian understanding of nature. How would you defend a classical understanding from the bible, as opposed to say the kind of position advocated by Leithart? … [Answer]


Given that a secular society does not recognise the Bible as having any sort of authority, do you think that when it comes to arguing in the public sphere on matters of policy, law etc, Christians should only be making secular arguments? For example, arguing against same-sex marriage on sociological grounds rather than on biblical grounds? [Answer]


The WCF says that its part of natural law to set aside time for worship of God. Would we and should we make natural law arguments for that claim any easier than natural law arguments for stopping same sex marriage? [Answer]


… I’m having a hard time understanding what is being referred to by the classical 2K people as Christ’s spiritual kingdom…. [Answer]


What is the role of the Scriptures in the life of the church and practically, how might / should that work itself out? [Answer]


…is saying “Baptism *is* a man being joined in covenant to Christ” [as Leithart does] what you might find in other reformed authors? [Answer]


… If [brain differences between men and women exist] … how can [certain] neuroscientists credibly say they aren’t any differences? Is it all skewed by ideology? [Answer] [A post giving LOTS of links to research on brain, psychological, and behavioural differences between men and women]


What’s your view on believers marrying unbelievers? How would you counsel someone considering taking that step? [Answer]


What are your thoughts on the way many people are currently using the word ‘misogyny’? … [Answer]


…1. What do you recommend to women who face prejudice on male dominated areas?
2. How should women handle this male/female tensions at home? [Answer]


Do you think it’s ok for a wife to work part time while raising kids if she does not need to do so for the money? How much time at work is too much time at work? [Answer]


“A woman working part time while raising children is understandable, if she is pursuing some of the goods alienated from her by the form of our society. However, the larger situation within which this choice occurs is really not good and we should be addressing it.”

What does that look like? [Answer]


Do you think it is imperative for wives to take husbands’ last names? [Answer]


What are your thoughts on natural family planning? Or, basically, of the use of contraception within Christian marriage? [Answer]


Could you speak to your opinion on Jen Wilkin’s advice that men in church leadership need to cultivate female leaders and hear from them/work with them more closely in order to keep the church from becoming a single parent family? [Answer]


A Christian baker respectfully declines a request to bake a cake with a message that goes against her conscience (and simply is a sinful message). That is commendable. But she then refers the would-be customer to a non-Christian baker who has no qualms baking such a cake. Isn’t the Christian baker complicit in that other baker’s sin? [Answer]


Why do text-to-speech services (e.g. Google, Siri, Alexa, Cortana) default towards female voices? [Answer]


…Do you mind to comment on what exactly is a healthy anthropology? [Answer]


To what extent do you think the historic teaching of the Church on men and women has a) involved seeing women as inferior and b) been massively distorted from the biblical vision by the huge influence of Aristotle? [Answer]


What exactly is hierarchy and how does it impact things like equality and human dignity? There seems to be a strong push to deny that any kind of ranking in society is biblical, or that such could only be the result of the fall, meant to restrain sin. Is this reaction to hierarchy biblical or born out of modern assumptions about humanity? [Answer]


Continuing with the idea of hierarchy, what do you make of the arguments presented in this article: https://www.heartandmouth.org/2017/03/09/complementarity-without-subordination/ [Answer]


Following up on your response to another on hierarchy and gender differences – do you think formulating a general social norm as something like – “women by nature have a general orientation towards the home and nurturing children, and men have a general orientation towards protection of and provision for family and home” – is helpful? Having that general orientation then allows for uniqueness and context of particular family situations without removing any natural force to our bodies and psyches. Or do you think that’s only *a* way to structure a social order, but it should not be something put forth as a norm across human societies? [Answer]


… How do I know what it means to live as my gender and not as the opposite? If we can’t distill any norms for nature or scripture for what it looks like to do that faithfully and not rebelliously, living with the grain of our gendered natures seems to become somewhat arbitrary and individually defined. Is there something we who believe gender is designed and different can say other than an abstract assertion that such is the case? [Answer]


“Manliness and womanliness are what it looks like to be good at being a man or a woman.”

Not to be a “demanding” reader, but what does this even mean? [Answer]


What are your thoughts on using feminine or neuter pronouns in reference to the Godhead or to the Spirit?… [Answer]


Should we retrieve the idea that chastity is a virtue within marriage, as conservative Protestants/evangelicals? [Answer]


If Junia could be called an apostle being the helper of her apostle husband, can we also regard the wife of a pastor as a pastor in some sense? [Answer]


Is there any evidence for a gay gene? [Answer]


I am not seeking a perfect church which I may “perfectly” submit to, but I am seeking some wisdom for laypeople in helping them be placed. Blanket statements such as, “stick with your church, even if you don’t like it” do well in curbing consumerist tendencies, but what do we do when we have (seemingly legitimate) doctrinal and formational concerns? [Answer]


How important is psalm-singing? [Answer]


Having just begun formal theological education, I’m wrestling with the place of the mind in the Christian life. I want to walk the path between over-intellectualism and anti-intellectualism. [Answer]


How do you convince non-believers to become Christians?… [Answer]


…What’s maybe most striking to me is _how_ you engage topics…. Where does this come from? [Answer]


…do you agree that race is a social construct? … [Answer]


Do you have any thoughts on the Flynn effect?… [Answer]


What are some of your pet peeves? [Answer]


How do you organize your personal library? By topic / genre? Alphabetical order? [Answer]


Several of my professors at Bible college have been telling me to build my theological library with ebooks. Do you think this is good advice? [Answer]


What are your favorite board games? Are you into Eurogames? 🙂 [Answer]


Where are you politically? [Answer]


Do you think the UK should have the equivalent of the first amendment? [Answer]


Send any questions you might have for me to my Curious Cat account!

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