Podcast: The Value of Controversy

Mere Fidelity

I join Derek and Matt for the latest Mere Fidelity episode, on the subject of the value of controversy. We discuss whether controversy is worthwhile and how to go about it well.

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 Controversies, Ethics, Podcasts, Theological | Leave a comment

New Book on Charles Taylor with an Essay of mine on Liturgy in a Secular Age

A new book edited by Collin Hansen on the tenth anniversary of Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age has just been released by the Gospel Coalition. There are a number of thoughtful and stimulating essays within the volume, which would be very rewarding of your attention, even if you haven’t yet read Taylor’s book yourself (if you haven’t done so, you might find James K.A. Smith’s introductory book a helpful companion).

I have a chapter within it, in which I discuss the significance of liturgy in a secular age:

At the heart of Taylor’s work in A Secular Age is the question of the “whole context of understanding in which our moral, spiritual or religious experience and search takes place.” Although Taylor foregrounds the conditions and framing of unbelief, the cultural shifts he identifies are also critically important for understanding contemporary forms of Christian faith and practice. If the social imaginary of paganism framed much of the Constantinian reception and development of the liturgy, the secularism Taylor’s work explores plays a corresponding role in our own social environment.

You can buy copies of the book for yourself and for all of your friends and family members here.

Posted in Christian Experience, Church History, Culture, Ethics, Liturgical Theology, My Books, The Church, The Sacraments, Theological | 6 Comments

People of the Promise Released!

People of the Promise, in which I have an essay, has just been released by Davenant Retrievals. You really ought to buy a copy for everyone you know, because, whoever they are, they could probably benefit from thinking more about ecclesiology!

A number of smart people have already said nice things about it. Here’s Kevin Vanhoozer:

“I believe in the church.” You might think this is the easiest article in the Creed to affirm because we see and experience it, but you would be mistaken. It is precisely because we are familiar with the phenomenon that its reality eludes us. The fact that there are so many theories as to what church is and what church is for only complicates the matter. I therefore welcome this first installment of the Davenant Retrievals for its fresh and often illuminating presentation of the magisterial Protestant position to these questions, particularly their insistence that the church is a people assembled by God’s Word and Spirit. The authors use exegesis, church history, and systematic theology to make a compelling case that the church is the people who trust the promise of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the fellowship of all who, through the Spirit, live out their “in Christ” reality together.

The essays contained in the book are as follows:

  1. “The Church Question in a Disoriented Age,” Joseph Minich
  2. “The Protestant Doctrine of the Church and its Rivals,” Bradley Belschner
  3. “Finding Zion: The Church in the Old Testament,” Steven Wedgeworth
  4. “Excursus: What is the Church? Etymology and Concept in Classical Antiquity, the LXX, and the New Testament,” E.J. Hutchinson
  5. “Pentecost as Ecclesiology,” Alastair Roberts
  6. “Simul Justus et Peccator: The Genius and Tensions of Reformation Ecclesiology,” Bradford Littlejohn
  7. “‘A Heavenly Office, A Holy Ministry’: Ordination in the English Reformation,” Andre A. Gazal
  8. “Excursus: Church Discipline as Public Good,” Jordan J. Ballor
  9. “Protestant Ecclesiology as Good Theory,” Andrew Fulford
  10. “Protestant Ecclesiology Among Contemporary Political Theologies,” Jake Meador

Buy your copy here!

Posted in My Books, Public Service Announcement, The Church, Theological | 4 Comments

Answers to Unusual Questions

Over the last few days, I have answered about a couple of hundred questions on Curious Cat, on a host of different topics. I’ve particularly tried to answer questions on various issues that are taboo or difficult to discuss in many fora, especially on the subject of sex and race. I’ve also tried to answer a few unusual questions. Here are a few examples:

What were you impressions on the different parts of the US. Were some regions weirder than others? To which do you plan to eventually move? [Answer]


Why are you an Anglican? [Answer]


Why are you Anglican rather than Presbyterian? [Answer]


Is it okay to be bored by theology? This isn’t a wind-up, I just don’t know whether it’ll make me a better Christian. I try to follow the commandments as best I can. [Answer]


Following up on a previous question about baptism, I’m interested specifically in your formulation of the relationship between paedobaptism and faith. Does your position have affinities with the “presumptive regeneration” stream in Reformed thought? And how does your understanding of the (dis)continuity of the covenants shape your reflection on the practice of paedobaptism? [Answer]


Can you define patriarchy and if/how it differs from complementarianism? [Answer]


Much of the scientific literature around gender suggests that there are real differences between men and women when considered broadly, but that there is some diversity within the genders when considering particular individuals. You’ve used the analogy of “family resemblances” to describe how people of the same gender are both similar to each other but can also be different.

How do we understand the relationship between the particular differences between individuals of the same gender and the universal commands to men and women in the Bible? Does the Bible call men and women to strive towards a kind of archetypal man or women or are the Biblical commands (like the scientific literature) speaking in generalities as well? Ie. women shouldn’t be in leadership “in general” but there may be outliers and exceptions? Curious to hear your thoughts! [Answer]


You argue that “Men and women are different kinds of persons, the bearers of different symbolic and relational meaning.”

What symbolism and relationships are you referring to? (Between God and humanity? Between Christ and his church? Within humanity? Within marriage?)

What are some of the key characteristics for each of the sexes? (I’ve heard you mention things like forming, naming and combat for men and filling, giving life and communion for women.)

What grounds can be used to identify appropriate characteristics? [Answer]


Benefited from your labors on work and gender (e.g., Davenant lecture). You’ve mentioned Luce Irigaray before, and I’m wondering if any of her oeuvre would tie into your comments on creational gender differentiation in Gen 1-2 or the fragmentation seen in modern economic approaches (such as her work in je, tu, nois and her writing against some streams of capitalist feminism, if I read her correctly)? Apologies for the longform question! [Answer]


How does the Evangelical church decide what is appropriate male and female behavior? For example, I can do construction type work, and I mow the lawn and know more about what’s under the hood of vehicles than a guy might. Do evangelicals relegate women’s roles to that of Suzy Homemaker? Seems to me that a woman who isn’t quiet and in the kitchen making homemade bread would be excluded from evangelical community. [Answer]


Alastair, do you agree that procreation is a fundamental purpose of marriage, and secondarily, that there is something lacking in marriages without children? [Answer]


A recent Duke dissertation complains of the Christian “tendency to sexualize women’s bodies far more than men’s bodies.” This is a common complaint; I feel there is something underneath it that I cannot cut down to. What is that thing? =) [Answer]


Why do gay people ‘look’ gay? (Serious question I’ve always had, reminded of it by the recent face scanning article) [Answer]


Is onanism a sin? [Answer]


What do you think about the concept of “rape culture”? On the one hand, there have been numerous scandals in the church of sexual assault allegations being hushed up and handled inappropriately, but at the same time the language of rape culture comes out of an unchristian ethical system where consent is the only thing that matters. How can we humbly accept outside criticism of the church without unconsciously adopting unbiblical categories? [Answer]


Is the manosphere / red pill view of male-female religions correct? Do women crave control from their men? [Answer]


Why are a substantial minority of women attracted to psychopaths and men of violence? What is the theological purpose of this? For context, I know someone who use to deal with Ian Huntley and he apparently would receive hundreds of letters a year begging for sex / maintaining that he was innocent. [Answer]


Is there an alternative to capitalism that Christians can support? [Answer]


Any thoughts on what governments, institutions, and individuals should do about the (probable) coming mass displacement of workers via automation? [Answer]


What advice would you give to an orthodox Christian man aged 30 who is (almost) exclusively same-sex attracted, who has stayed completely ‘in the closet’ about this fact and remained celibate, but who is increasingly finding the isolation and the lack of any sense of meaningful vocation despair-inducing? Should such a man disclose these attractions to his family and friends? And is it wrong for a man in this situation to seek marriage (with a woman, obviously) and fatherhood, despite the lack of instinctive physical attraction to women? [Answer]


If God wants men to remain virgins, why would he make male virginity so unattractive to women? [Answer]


Thanks for the long answer on virginity. But what about men who are too ugly or idiosyncratic to find a wife? [Answer]


Would, uh, would you mind giving the single guys some advice–practical or other–about “how to master oneself and be chaste”? [Answer]


Is ethnic nationalism incompatible with Christianity? [Answer]


Are jews culture annihilators? [Answer]


Do you accept the HBD premise that certain racial groups are genetically more intelligent than others? [Answer]


Is there any sort of Christian position against race-mixing? I would really like my grandchildren to be white, and I would regret if my son marries his Chinese girlfriend, as they will look nothing like me, or any of our ancestors for thousands of years. [Answer]


Is western civilisation a product of the white race? [Answer]


But why isn’t race decisive in forming western civilisation? Of course, I wouldn’t regard myself as simply a deracinated white man: I am English. But it is obviously the case that, for instance, you and I are white. An Italian is white, a German is white, a Frenchman is white. The white race is the soil out of which western civilisation sprang. [Answer]

Follow-up to those questions here, here, and here.


What do you make of Chesterton’s contention in chapter 5 of Orthodoxy that suicide is “the ultimate and absolute evil”? [Answer]


Is lifting a Christian thing? [Answer]

I have a huge backlog of questions that I’ll probably never get to answer, but ask any question you’d like answered here!

Posted in My Doings, Sex and Sexuality, Society, Theological, What I'm Doing | 15 Comments

Navigating and Celebrating the Complexity of Scripture: A Conversation with Richard Hays

I’m rather excited to share this interview with a ground-breaking scholar who has long been an inspiration to me, and one of the most influential figures in my own theological development: Richard B. Hays. I reviewed his recent book, Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels, a few months back. He kindly agreed to an interview, within which we discuss his approach to the figural reading of Scripture and several other matters.

Should Christians advance figural readings of the OT beyond those explicitly set forth in the NT? I would say yes, for two reasons. First, in the last chapter of Luke’s Gospel, in conversation with the despondent disciples on the road to Emmaus, the risen Jesus himself “interpreted for them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures (Luke 24:27). This extraordinary (and tantalizing!) narrative suggests that the OT contains far more latent Christological material than can be delineated within the bounds of Luke’s narrative, or in the relatively concise pages of the NT. (For a lovely illustration of a Christological reading of the story of Joseph, see Gary Anderson, “Joseph and the Passion of Our Lord,” in E. F. Davis and R. B. Hays, eds., The Art of Reading Scripture.)

The second reason why fresh figural reading can be welcomed is found in the Gospel of John, where Jesus promises that the Spirit of truth will come to the community of Jesus’s followers after his bodily departure and continue to lead them into deeper understandings of the things about Jesus (John 16:12–15). The caveat, of course, is that fresh figural readings must demonstrate consistency and theological coherence with the readings already exemplified in the NT.

Read the whole thing here.

Posted in Bible, Guest Post, Hermeneutics, Interviews, John, Luke, Mark, Matthew, NT, NT Theology, Reviews, The Gospels, Theological | 5 Comments

Ask Me Anything

I have a Curious Cat account.

Ask me anything.

Today I answered 42 questions, but will generally limit myself to no more than five a day from now on.

Posted in Public Service Announcement | 3 Comments

Podcast: Orthodoxy and Ethics

Mere Fidelity

Mere Fidelity is back after a long summer break, with an episode on the subject of orthodoxy and ethics. We discuss the recent debates about the relationship between orthodoxy and sexual ethics and then talk briefly about the Nashville Statement.

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 Culture, Ethics, Podcasts, Scripture, Sex and Sexuality, The Church, Theological | 1 Comment