Links Post 14/01/2017

Links from the past week.

Matt Lee Anderson recently reminded me of this sobering quotation from T.S. Eliot on Liberalism:

That liberalism may be a tendency towards something very different from itself, is a possibility in its nature. For it is something which tends to release energy rather than accumulate it, to relax, rather than to fortify. It is a movement not so much defined by its end, as by its starting point; away from, rather than towards, something definite. Our point of departure is more real to us than our destination; and the destination is likely to present a very different picture when arrived at, from the vaguer image formed in imagination. By destroying traditional social habits of the people, by dissolving their natural collective consciousness into individual constituents, by licensing the opinions of the most foolish, by substituting instruction for education, by encouraging cleverness rather than wisdom, the upstart rather than the qualified, by fostering a notion of getting on to which the alternative is a hopeless apathy, Liberalism can prepare the way for that which is its own negation: the artificial, mechanized or brutalized control which is a desperate remedy for its chaos.

Older post on Amish principles for technological adoption. I was reminded of this piece by someone’s dismissive remark on Sousa’s concerns about recorded music. While some of Sousa’s concerns may seem ill-founded in retrospect, recorded sound has definitely changed our relationship to music as a society. The task of making music and song has largely been outsourced to professionals and electronic devices. Most families and communities no longer gather together to sing and make music. Our folk music traditions have been profoundly weakened. The recorded voice increasingly substitutes for that of our families, friends, and neighbours. We increasingly sing in imitation of recorded artists, rather than in our own voices. See also: Amish buggies are more high-tech than you think.

When Robots Take All of Our Jobs, Remember the Luddites

Students want universities to act like parents, but they won’t like the results. I don’t believe that this is quite accurate. Rather, the university is increasingly becoming more like a business and students, rather than submitting to institutional ends that transcend and challenge them, are expecting a more pleasant experience as entitled consumers.

Qu’ran passage denying the deity of Christ recited in St. Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow

Swiss town denies passport to vegan anti-cowbell campaigner ‘for being annoying’

The sexual habits of Parisians

Burke Was No Conservative

Heuristics Work Until They Don’t

Interesting hypothesis about the measles vaccine: amnesia for the immune system

Why Killer Whales and Humans go through Menopause

Do you have a boy under ten whose interest in science you want to encourage? Scientists are building an animal fart database.

Scientists use light to trigger killer instinct in mice

Fascinating dual function hypothesis for sex differences in the brain

Women Killed By Superbug Resistant to All 26 American Antibiotics

Jake Meador on the Liturgies of Soccer. See also Karl Ove Knausgaard on Life, the Beautiful Game.

The Gender Wars and Domestic Stress

Gender differences in the benefits of having a pet

Association between delay of child-bearing and education largely mediated by family environment

Charles Hodge’s Famous Footnote on Friedrich Schleiermacher

In praise of Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy

Explorers find disease-cursed City of the Monkey God and nearly lose their faces to flesh-eating parasite

20 cent centrifuge made of paper

The failure of the Implicit Association Test, a favoured test for racism

Zwingli and the rise of Reformed expository preaching

James Hoffmeier on the Bible and immigrants

The Devil and Hilary Mantel

The Extraordinary Size of Amazon in One Chart

David Bowie presciently discusses the Internet in 1999

Some Blue Collar Workers Probably Shouldn’t do Pink Jobs

Effects of concussion upon the brain

The Internet as a machine of passing judgment

Drug helps rotten teeth regenerate

Freddie deBoer on the importance of criticizing people. When you take people seriously, you don’t pat them on the head.

Cracking the case of Shakespeare’s identity

Brexit as identity politics

Yes, Biology Helps Explain Why Boys and Girls Play Differently

The Radical Calm of Alex Honnold. On the famous free climber.

Discussion of the work of social psychologist Roy Baumeister

Tim Keller Goes For a Walk

Derek Rishmawy reviews N.T. Wright’s latest on the atonement

Trying to imagine what a longsword duel should be like:

Salvaging a sunk ship and 1,400 cars:

Do you have any thoughts on any of the issues raised above?

The comments of this thread are also free for you to:

  • Discuss things that you have been reading/listening to/watching recently
  • Share interesting links
  • Share stimulating discussions in comment threads
  • Ask questions
  • Put forward a position for more general discussion
  • Tell us about yourself and your interests
  • Publicize your blog, book, conference, etc.
  • Draw our intention to worthy thinkers, charities, ministries, books, and events
  • Post reviews
  • Suggest topics for future posts
  • Use as a bulletin board
  • Etc.

Over to you!

Posted in Links | 15 Comments

Interview on Smartphones, the Internet, and How They Are Changing Us

Last year, Tony Reinke interviewed me while working on his forthcoming book, which reflects on the subject of the smartphone and the wise use of it from a Christian perspective. The first half of the interview was published on Desiring God last February, but the full interview has only just been posted over on Tony’s blog. Here’s the beginning of the second half of the interview:

So, our digital profile is plastic and malleable — we can edit and project ourselves as we please. Our physical profile exists in a much more fixed state — we are largely the product of biological factors we cannot control. For most people, do you think social media is an attempt to disguise our physical limitations, or a way to express the sort of control we wish we had over our physical selves?

I don’t think that most people are alert to the ways in which their profile in various social media has come to shape the way that they relate to themselves. I don’t think that our use of social media is initially an attempt to gain control over ourselves. It does tend to become such an attempt very quickly, though, simply through the sort of reflexivity of self-understanding that the habitual practice of self-representation encourages. In an earlier response, I remarked upon the manner in which the Internet functions as a spectacle and that this spectacle mediates our relationships, not merely with others, but also with ourselves. The projected representation of ourselves within this shared spectacle can be a means of vicarious or idealized self-realization. This occurs as my personal sense of self becomes increasingly dependent upon and represented in the ‘self’ that is represented in my Facebook profile, Instagram account, Twitter feed, Tumblr, and other such media.

The advent of social media and mobile connected devices is, in certain respects, a development akin to the movement from a world without any clear mirrors to one where highly reflective surfaces are ubiquitous. Just as the physical mirror image powerfully mediates my sense of my bodily self, the virtual mirror of social media now powerfully mediates my sense of who I am as a relational and social being. If the physical mirror feeds many anxieties and obsessions with our bodily appearance, the mirror of social media has a similar effect for our sense of our selves within our communities and society more broadly.

Read the whole piece here.

Posted in Christian Experience, Culture, Ethics, Guest Post, Society | 4 Comments

Links Post 7/01/2017

Some links from the past week.

Great stuff from Sarah Perry again. Tendrils of Mess in Our Brains:

So here is a mystery: why are tableaux that are apparently more orderly (in the sense of compressibility in the data required to specify them) also more messy? Let me offer a few more hints, in the form of definitions supplied by my friends, before I reveal the answer. Sam Burnstein notes a connection to intentionality: “Messes are low-intentionality as a whole but high-intentionality in their component pieces.” “A mess is a decaying purpose,” says @allgebrah. Chris Beiser deconstructs the experience of mess: “Mess is an incomplete aesthetic experience composed of a surplus of objects that produce aesthetic experiences (often themselves incomplete) of vastly different types and durations, without a canonical ordering.” And Daniel Klein hints at the implied user interface of mess in conceiving of “mess as matter deficient in side-effect-free interfaces.”

And here is the answer: in order for mess to appear, there must be in the component parts of the mess an implication of extreme order, the kind of highly regular order generally associated with human intention. Flat uniform surfaces and printed text imply, promise, or encode a particular kind of order. In mess, this promise is not kept. The implied order is subverted. Often, as in my mess of text and logos above, the implied order is subverted by other, competing orders.

Fascinating article on CRISPR, likely one of the most significant scientific developments in our lifetimes:

He went on to say that humans no longer need to be governed by nature, or rely on brutal and ruinous methods to control it. “When nature does something that hurts us, we respond with chemistry and physics,” he said. “We spread toxic pesticides that kill problematic pests, and often kill most of the other insects in the area as well. To get rid of mosquitoes, we use bulldozers to drain swamps. It works. But it also destroys wetlands and many other species. Imagine that an insect is eating your crops. If you have a gene drive and you understand how olfaction works in that pest, you could just reprogram it to go on its merry way. The pest would still be in the ecosystem, but it would just dislike the taste of your crop. That is a much more elegant way of interacting with nature than anything we do now.”

This article on growing conservative churches and dwindling liberal ones has been doing the rounds. I express some cautions here.

Some great stuff in this Edge list: What Scientific Term or Concept Ought to Be More Widely Known? For instance, Helena Cronin on sex.

See also this on Bayes’ Theorem, which is why stereotypes are relevant for judgments about individuals, even when one has individualized information.

Multivariate versus univariate understandings of sex difference

GQ on the rise of nootropic drugs

The futility of gender neutral parenting

The Mysterious Virus that Could Cause Obesity. See also this on how rising obesity isn’t limited to humans and pets, and this on obesity’s apparent correlation with height above sea level.

New guidelines tell parents to feed their kids peanuts early and often

Truly self-driving cars may not be as near as we think

This article on Post-VR Sadness is worth reading alongside this piece on future-induced nausea.

Virtual reality shoes

How fertiliser helped feed the world

Woman struck by lightning loses synaesthesia, then it returns

danah boyd asks: Did Media Literacy Backfire?

My Ad Fontes article on Pentecost as Ecclesiology is available to read here.

I wrote a piece on women in UFC a week ago (check out my contributions in the comments), which caused rather a lot of controversy. Rachael Starke posted on the subject here and here (I address some of the issues raised in both of her posts in the comments of the first) and Wendy Alsup here (again, I left a few remarks in the comments). The Christianity Today podcast Quick to Listen invited me on to discuss the subject a couple of days ago. You can listen to the discussion here.

Rick Hogaboam posts on a related issue, discussing women, weapons, and warfare in C.S. Lewis’s Narnia

Andrew Wilson asks whether there is a connection between changing notions of pastoral ministry and the increased presence of women in pastoral office

Nathanael Smith reviews Silence, which I watched on Monday and am still thinking a lot about.

Is Canada the world’s first ‘post-national’ nation?

Introduction to the Reformed Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms

Matt Colvin posts a passage about the thief on the cross

Peter Leithart on Britain’s accidental empire

100 Things We Didn’t Know Last Year

Christian Bestsellers of 2016

Amazing 85-year-old marathon runner

4 Reasons Spurgeon Died Poor

In England, you can camp in abandoned churches

My friend and fellow Durham resident Jake Belder has started blogging again. Here he is on John Webster on the task of theology.

The chilling stories behind Japan’s ‘evaporating people’

William Lindesay has produced drone footage of the Great Wall of China. He talks a little about his work here:

Incredible boxwood tabernacle:

Do you have any thoughts on any of the issues raised above?

The comments of this thread are also free for you to:

  • Discuss things that you have been reading/listening to/watching recently
  • Share interesting links
  • Share stimulating discussions in comment threads
  • Ask questions
  • Put forward a position for more general discussion
  • Tell us about yourself and your interests
  • Publicize your blog, book, conference, etc.
  • Draw our intention to worthy thinkers, charities, ministries, books, and events
  • Post reviews
  • Suggest topics for future posts
  • Use as a bulletin board
  • Etc.

Over to you!

Posted in Links | 16 Comments

Links Post 31/12/2016

Some interesting links I’ve encountered over the last few days, along with a few links to things I’ve written elsewhere.

Carl Raschke on why The New Global Populism May Not Be What Everyone Seems to Imagine:

Populism, which has become a swear word for privileged professionals of all stripes in many different cultural contexts, actually signifies a many-faceted and multi-pronged revolt in a truly “multicultural” context against the planetary hegemony of transnational neoliberalism, what I have elsewhere termed the new planetary “corporate-university-financial-information complex, inexorably liquidating the utility of material labor while reducing what Marx termed an “immiserated” former middle class to sheer demographic or statistical tokens that can be alternately seduced or demonized to preserve a new cosmopolitan order of symbolic justice masking economic exploitation.

The familiar narrative of the new populism as equivalent to fascism constitutes a polemical sleight of hand that amounts to the pot calling the kettle black, as social theorists Raphaële Chappe and Ajay Singh Chaudhary brilliantly demonstrate in a searing piece in the Los Angeles Review of Books. One does not need to worry about the advent of fascism, the authors argue, because it is already upon us in the guise of the “progressive” neoliberal status quo.

Rejecting what they term a cartoonish pop cultural image of Nazism in the 1930s, they draw eerie parallels between “the supermanagerial Reich” of that era and the way in which neoliberalism today holds sway over divergent populations. If, as Lenin argued during the Bolshevik coup that Communism is simply the power of the soviets plus electrification, then neoliberalism in this day and age is historical fascism minus racism.

Make sure you read the blistering Chappe and Chaudhary article he links.

In Praise of Ignorance, another great piece from Quillette, which is currently looking for patrons:

The problem is, we have little tolerance for agnosticism. A politician who admitted that she held no opinion on the TPP might expect mockery, even though it is as unreasonable to expect the average politician to know about the difficult empirical questions raised by such agreements as it is to expect the average doctor or nurse. And we should all be alive to the possibility that most politicians would not do much better than the rest of us if they had to pass Econ 101 tomorrow. It is even worse that we ordinary people suffer disapprobation when we express agnosticism towards issues about which we know nothing. This intolerance of ignorance threatens to sever both policy makers and ordinary people from reality, harming our best chance at improving our world — scientific knowledge combined with careful, open-minded moral thinking.

Is Male Androphilia a Context-Dependent Cultural Universal? Argues that it is and shows it is more common than has been previously supposed by some. However, it includes details that may point in the other direction:

Our new tabulations reveal that male same sex behavior is absent in 9.7% of all societies or present in 89.6% of all societies (Table 3). If we restrict male same sex behavior to male androphilia by including sex-gender congruent and transgendered androphilia, we find that male androphilia is present in at least 57.5% (Table 3) of societies in our sample.

That 9.7% has long intrigued me, especially in cases such as the Aka (Atlantic article on them here). It is also fascinating that there may be some correlation between rate of male androphilia and social form. Rebecca Kyle observes of her own research:

These results strongly support the idea that homosexuality is increasingly likely to be present as population pressure increases. The percentages demonstrating the presence of homosexuality: 0 (Low, hunting and gathering), 33 (Low, hunting, gathering, and fishing), 44 (Medium, Horticulture, etc.), 57 (High, Intensive agriculture) demonstrate a marked correlation between the presence of homosexuality and the intensity of a society’s adaptation to the environment. That none of the exclusively hunter-gatherer societies had any significant manifestations of homosexuality is particularly noteworthy, especially considering that over half of high population pressure societies have significant expressions of homosexuality in their culture.

Lots of reasons to be cautious about such research (in both directions), but important grist for the mill in an important debate.

Income inequality doesn’t have the negative effect that people think, in fact, in some contexts, it may have a positive effect. Very surprising finding to me. Definitely worth honing questions.

Familial factors, victimization, and psychological health among sexual minority adolescents in Sweden:

Sexual minority adolescents were more likely than were unrelated nonminority adolescents to report victimization experiences, including emotional abuse, physical abuse or neglect, and sexual abuse. Sexual minority adolescents also reported significantly more symptoms of anxiety, depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, disordered eating, and substance misuse in addition to increased parent-reported behavior problems. Victimization experience partially mediated these associations. However, when controlling for unmeasured familial confounding factors by comparing sexual minority adolescents to their same-sex, nonminority co-twins, the effect of sexual minority status on psychological health was almost entirely attenuated.

Emphasis added. Again, this should be handled with great care, but potentially an important finding.

Kay Hymowitz on how women in media missed the women’s vote:

Soon enough, an ailing mainstream media, trying to diversify staff and desperate to grab the attention of younger readers and viewers, came calling. The bloggers moved into cubicles at the New York Times, Slate, MSNBC, the Guardian, and The New Republic. There they learned to search Google for articles from the expanding oeuvre of gender research to support the positions that they were already convinced were true. They made a formidable sorority: stylish, full of sexy bravado, and, unlike their baby boomer mothers, wholly at ease with technology. Under the auspices of the media and cultural establishment, they quoted one another’s bon mots about the patriarchy and sat on the same gender panels at the 92nd Street Y or at Yale “sex weeks,” where they mocked the Michele Bachmanns of the world. In the past few years, their influence has only grown, as mass-market fashion magazines like Elle, Cosmopolitan, and Marie Claire have given them column space, effectively crowning them the new elite experts on women’s issues.

They weren’t. They had heads full of academic theory and millennial angst but little life experience with—and virtually no interest in—military wives from South Carolina or Walmart managers from Staten Island, who also happen to fall into the category “women.” Nor did the new luminaries or their bosses seem to notice that the latter group far outnumbered their own rarefied crowd.

A critical review of C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce by Scott Alexander, of SlateStarCodex fame:

So I guess my problem with Great Divorce is that it talks about a very personal morality. But its personal morality doesn’t translate very well into a political morality, unless maybe you’re an extreme conservative, which for all I know Lewis might very well be (I think writing about the Great Divorce as a critique of liberal politics would be an interesting essay on its own). Yet I worry that personal morality and political morality are not so easily separated: that people just don’t think finely-grained enough to understand that if you’re in Heaven, you should stop annoying the angels with your self-absorbed victim-spiel about your abusive nursing home, but if you’re on Earth then when someone complains about an abusive nursing home you take it frickin’ seriously and if you’re in an abusive nursing home you complain as loud as you humanly can to anyone who will listen.

This may be a special case of my worry that what is beautiful is not always true, and that the things that actually improve the world may give us an icky feeling inside when we do them. Lewis presents a compelling vision of morality and redemption, and in some ways the vision is enough, in that it solidifies some things we know are good and gets us to start questioning our pride and ego-defensiveness. In other ways, it suffers from exactly the problem that I would expect: that a moral system designed for dead souls in Heaven might not be strong enough for living people in a flawed world where there is very likely not a God.

Always interesting to hear the thoughts of a smart non-Christian on a Christian book.

Matthew Loftus: If our enemy is modernity, aren’t immigrants and Muslims on our side?

Refugees and immigrants overwhelmingly hail from cultures that prioritize communal values over individual expression, understand the preeminent value of marriage and family, and see religious devotion as a key process that helps to form virtuous and capable citizens. There are some legitimate differences in politics, theology, or culture, but those values tend to be more superficial when considered in light of the overwhelming overlap in social vision they have with religious conservatives. The conflicts that we might encounter in dealing with Islamic political theology and other foreign ideas might even help sharpen our particular viewpoints and force us to actually describe how we imagine religion informing politics doing rather than shrieking about Supreme Court justices ad nauseum.

I write a lengthy response in the comments. Rod Dreher comments here and here.

Dreher on what Wendell Berry gets wrong. Important.

Also Dreher on the other guy from Wham!

Wonderful piece on Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation

Ten Commandments of Good Thinking. A few significant reservations about these, but worth reading.

Dr. Thomas Sowell says farewell. We’re poorer off without him.

Bringing back the aurochs

Are we celebrating Jesus’ birth at the wrong time?

Reverend Fraser and the Cult of Giles. Spot on.

Amazon files patent for flying warehouse

King William’s College Quiz 2016 (some guesses at answers here)

Tom Owolade has a great list of interesting articles from 2016. Well worth a gander.

Hrishikesh Joshi argues that there’s no moral difference between a wall and a migrant visa. I’m not entirely convinced he gives enough weight to the concept of the neighbour in his account, but worth engaging with.

Sad yet interesting piece on the feminist Susan Faludi’s relationship with her trans father.

An iPhone’s Journey from the Factory Floor to the Retail Store

Problems with the world’s favourite lab animal

Why Sex is Binary but Gender is a Spectrum. The discussion of the science here is very helpful in many respects, although I have reservations about dimensions of the framing.

How the scientist who founded the science of mistakes ended up mistaken

Christ and Pop Culture produce some great stuff. Here is one such superb article by Gina Dalfonzo: “An Odd Sort of Mercy”: Jen Hatmaker, Glennon Doyle Melton, and The End of the Affair

Tim Keller talks with Nicholas Kristof over on the NYT

Hauerwas on the Politics of Sex

Kevin Bywater recommends 10 presentations you must see

Alissa Wilkinson on the forthcoming Silence, which I am really looking forward to watching

Justin Taylor invited me to share my thoughts on Ronda Rousey’s forthcoming UFC bout with Amanda Nunes over on his blog

What different cultural forms of greetings and leave-takings reveal about our values

Jacobin skewers the Victorian values of the twenty-first century elites

Democrats have a religion problem

Stop saying 2016 was the ‘worst year’. In a great many respects, things are only getting better. The vaccine for ebola received surprisingly little coverage relative to other stories, for instance.

2016 was the year solar panels finally became cheaper than fossil fuels. Just wait for 2017.

Lots of news about the celebrities who died in 2016. However, we also lost some incredible scientists, not least D.A. Henderson and Vera Rubin.

11-year-old British girl, Alma Deutscher composes her own opera, Cinderella, which is performed in Vienna. She sounds like quite a character from the interview!

My wonderful brother and comrade, Peter, has uploaded a tape of Chinese propaganda songs in English to Soundcloud. We Always Remember chairman Mao’s Kindness is probably my favourite. Classic for the ages.

Daryl Davis, an African-American man, converts white supremacists through friendship

Carrie Fisher Interview. It’s a hoot and a half.

Do you have any thoughts on any of the issues raised above?

The comments of this thread are also free for you to:

  • Discuss things that you have been reading/listening to/watching recently
  • Share interesting links
  • Share stimulating discussions in comment threads
  • Ask questions
  • Put forward a position for more general discussion
  • Tell us about yourself and your interests
  • Publicize your blog, book, conference, etc.
  • Draw our intention to worthy thinkers, charities, ministries, books, and events
  • Post reviews
  • Suggest topics for future posts
  • Use as a bulletin board
  • Etc.

Over to you!

Posted in Links | 30 Comments

Retrospective on 2016

I enjoyed a wonderful and refreshing Christmas with my family and other friends this year. The last few days have been packed with lots of good food, renewed fellowship, board games, and country walks. I got to watch Rogue One with my brother, caught up on some reading, and gave myself ample reason to start a new diet in the New Year!

Detail from the Christmas cake I decorated this year

Detail from the Christmas cake I decorated this year

Once again, apart from a few bursts, 2016 wasn’t the most active year on this blog. Beyond podcasts and occasional links to posts elsewhere, I didn’t write very consistently here. Much of what I did write was concerned with the US election and its aftermath. Outside of this blog, however, I wrote fifty-nine guest posts or articles, including a few that have yet to come out. I participated in thirty-eight Mere Fidelity episodes. I now also have nine e-books available on my blog.

Considering that my primary interests lie elsewhere, I have written a surprising amount on politics over the last year. In addition to seventeen posts for Political Theology Today, I have written a dozen or so other major posts on events of this rather turbulent year in world politics. In particular, I have sought to explain the social dynamics that underlie the political phenomena we have been witnessing. In February, I asked whether Donald Trump’s support was really driven by racist xenophobia. In July, I reflected upon the moral vision of nationhood in light of Brexit, discussing the divides that the referendum result revealed.

My heaviest blogging period of the year occurred in the days surrounding the US election. Prior to the election, I posted on the social crisis of distrust and untruth in America and evangelicalism, pondered whether evangelical support for Trump should lead to our stepping back from the label, and encouraged potential Trump voters to reconsider their vote. Following the election, I wrote at length about some of the social factors that had given rise to Trump’s win: How Social Justice Ideology Gave Us Donald Trump, Further Thoughts: How Social Justice Ideology Fuels Racism and Sexism, A Crisis of Discourse—Part 1: Cracks in the Progressive Left, A Crisis of Discourse—Part 2: A Problem of Gender.

As in previous years, the subject of technology and its effect upon our society and discourse has been a matter of interest to me. In The De-condensation of Humanity, I discussed the ways in which technological developments may threaten our very notion of the human. In our podcast on Bible designs, we reflected upon the significance of the ‘technology’ of the modern Bible and how it has shaped and changed our understanding of and engagement with the Scriptures. In February, I had a long interview with Tony Reinke of Desiring God on the subject of social media and modern communications’ effect upon us: the first half of that interview has been posted here (the second half may appear at a later point next year). I also wrote a retrospective piece on Brave New World, eighty-five years on.

A couple of months ago, I uploaded an e-book on the subject of the rise of the first person storytelling as a mode of Christian discourse. I have also given thought to the importance of fighting for our institutions, looking back at John Stott’s stand against Martyn Lloyd-Jones and the collapse of the old American Protestantism to see what lessons we can learn for our current situation.

In addition to the post already mentioned in which I explored the gendered character of discourse, I have written on gender issues on a number of occasions over the course of the year. I wrote a piece on the strong female character trope for Mere Orthodoxy. I discussed the importance of taking natural gender differences seriously in our theological discourse on the subject of the sexes for The Calvinist International (with a follow-up piece here). I also wrote an essay on the vision of the sexes offered in Genesis in the latest edition of Primer.

Questions of scriptural hermeneutics have been prominent in my thinking at various points during the year. Two of my lengthier treatments of the subject of hermeneutics from the past year have since become e-books: Transfigured Hermeneutics and A Musical Case for Typological Realism. In October, I wrote on the subject of contextual theologies and their readings of Scripture in A Truth Above All Contexts: Daniel Kirk, Whiteness, and the Theological Interpretation of Scripture. In Hero’s Theme, I argued for the legitimacy and importance of figural reading of Scripture, employing the story of Rahab as an example. The relationship between biblical scholarship and dogmatic theology has also been a prominent issue in my continuing series on the eternal subordination of the Son debate: 1. The Debate So Far; 2. Survey of Some Relevant Material; 3. Subordination; 4. The Need for Trinitarian Clarity (Part 1); 5. The Need for Trinitarian Clarity (Part 2); 6. The Tension Between Bible and Doctrine; 7. Reconciling Scripture and Dogma; 8. κεφαλή in 1 Corinthians 11:3.

I have written a few posts on the biblical theology front. In addition to my series on a musical case for typological realism and my treatment of the Rahab story, I have written three further biblical theological pieces for the Theopolis Institute: The Falls of Man, The Levite, the Concubine, and Israel’s Story, and Exodus in 1 Kings. In a piece written for the most recent issue of Ad Fontes, I maintained that we can find an ecclesiology in nuce in Luke’s account of Pentecost, especially when read against the background of the Old Testament. I also reviewed Richard Hays’ superb new book, Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels, for Themelios.

Of my seventeen posts for the Political Theology Today blog, there have been a few that I especially enjoyed writing: The Politics of the Table, Conquest Narratives in Islam and Christianity, The Politics of the Memorial, and The Politics of the King’s Donkey. You can read all save for my latest two lectionary reflections in the e-book I have produced here.

Our first episode of Mere Fidelity was released over two and a half years ago and we are now within two episodes of our hundredth. I continue to be blessed by the company and conversation of Matt, Derek, and Andrew. A highlight from this past year for me was our five part book review of C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves. However, once again, this year of Mere Fidelity has been marked by some fantastic guests. We discussed disability with my friend Kelby Carlson. We dove into the subject of Bible designs with J. Mark Bertrand. The irrepressible Karen Swallow Prior helped us to appreciate satire. We went full theology nerd with David Wilmington to explore the topic of apophatic theology. A couple of weeks ago we recorded our most popular episode yet, talking with Tim Keller about his new book, Making Sense of God.

Beyond the blog and the podcast, 2016 has been an incredibly busy, yet a productive and enjoyable one for me. I have had several speaking engagements and have largely completed two book projects for Crossway, a big book written alone, and a shorter book written with Andrew Wilson (watch this space!). I enjoyed a couple of wonderful holidays in the North of England with family and the opportunity to explore further in the area around Durham. I knit a blanket, a few scarves, and four cats. I also became a volunteer guide in my favourite building in the UK: Durham Cathedral. The following are a few pictures from the year.

High Force

High Force



Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle

With my brothers in the Dales

With my brothers in the Dales

In the Dales

In the Dales

Lindisfarne Castle

Lindisfarne Castle

On Bamburgh Beach

On Bamburgh Beach

Pimms and pavlova on a summer's day

Pimms and pavlova on a summer’s day

Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle

Driving in the Dales

Driving in the Dales

Low Force

Low Force

Knitted Cats

Knitted Cats

Posted in Just for Fun, My Doings | 13 Comments

The Politics of Cosmic Praise

I’ve just posted a reflection on Psalm 148 over on the Political Theology Today blog.

The unifying telos of the entire cosmic, animate creatures and inanimate bodies alike, is the worship of YHWH. Where William Paley imagined the world as if a finely designed timepiece and more modern thinkers may regard it as a temporary emergence born of random fortuities, doomed to collapse under entropic forces in its time, the psalmist invites us to think of the world as if an unfathomably vast liturgical assembly. Transcending and traversing the vast reaches and divisions of time and space, gathering together the stars in their courses and the movement of subatomic particles, creation is united in expressing the glory of its Maker, YHWH, bound together in its beautiful and joyful witness to his greatness.

Within such a world, humanity is, as Alexander Schmemann has observed, not primarily homo sapien, homo faber, homo economicus, or even homo politicus, but homo adorans. Our knowledge, creation, economics, and politics are all subordinate to the greater end of the worship of YHWH.

Read the whole piece here.

Posted in Creation, Guest Post, OT, Politics, Psalms, Society, Theological, Worship | Leave a comment

The Politics of Sentinels

I’ve written a Christmas reflection over on the Political Theology Today blog.

Advent continually returns us to the posture of vigilant and expectant watchers, looking for the coming of Christ in our lives, communities, and world. Christmas calls us to spiritual perception, to be those who see the import of the signs when they appear, recognizing and rejoicing in them.

For many, Advent may be a time associated with the experience of doggedly waiting in the darkness of personal pain, abandonment, loss, or tragedy, eyes hungrily seeking out the smallest indication of divine arrival to relieve a terrible night. For others this Advent, the darkness may be a political one, anticipating a year with threatening and troubling prospects on the domestic and international stage. Wherever we find ourselves, Advent recalls us to our fundamental way of being in the world as Christians: to being an expectant people, a people who perceive the darkness as their eyes are ever watchful for the coming Light.

Every Christmas we are presented anew with a first century Jewish peasant infant, the great Sign of the world’s salvation. The Advent season connects the expectant waiting for the first advent of Christ with our expectation of his great and dread final appearance to judge the world and restore all things, and connects both of these Advents with the Christian expectation of Christ’s coming to our lives and communities. From the faithful watchers of the gospels and their evocation of passages such as Isaiah 52, we learn to recognize the latter disclosed in the sign offered by the former.

Read the whole thing here.

Posted in Bible, Christian Experience, Guest Post, Isaiah, Luke, Matthew, NT, NT Theology, OT, Politics, Theological | Leave a comment