Open Mic Thread 4

Mic

The open mic thread is where you have the floor and can raise or discuss issues of your choice. There is no such thing as off-topic here. The comments of this thread are free for you to:

  • Discuss things that you have been reading/listening to/watching recently
  • Share interesting links
  • 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!

Earlier open mic threads: 12, 3

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Open Mic, Public Service Announcement. Bookmark the permalink.

80 Responses to Open Mic Thread 4

  1. Hi Alastair,
    Thank you for your Girard link. I’m very interested and would like to devote time to it after I’ve crossed a number of other things off my list!
    I have a copy of ”The Scapegoat Complex’ by Sylvia Brinton Perera.I don’t know if you are familiar with it or not? In case you aren’t: Sylvia is a Jungian psychotherapist with extensive experience of working with people who identify with a scapegoat complex.
    My own default position on this (in ‘Christine-talk!) is that we are all responsible for our own thoughts, words and deeds, but we are not responsible for the thoughts, words and deeds of others. As soon as we start abdicating responsibilty for ourselves and get into the ‘blaming game’, we end up with a quick escalation of hostilities, alignments etc. such as we see so often on Twitter and in so many other contexts. A blames B for what C did/said – a sort of ‘original sin by proxy’.Then there is triangulation – playing the ‘victim’ and recruiting ‘rescuers’, who then themselves become ‘.persecutors’ etc.
    If a reasonably integrated person (C) tries to make the peace (between A&B), the peacemaker quickly becomes the scapegoat and is confronted by not one, but by two ‘lynch mobs.’
    I realise it is infinitely more complex than this – were that not so, there would have been no need for Girard and Perera (and others) to write their excellent works on this dynamic.
    I will now write a quote from the back cover of ‘The Scapegoat Complex’: ‘Scapegoating means finding those who can be identified with evil, blamed for it, and cast out from the family or the community in order to leave the remaining members feeling guiltless.Psychologically, scapegoating is a form of denying the shadow – by projecting it onto others.’
    I am learning to make friends with my own shadow – no easy task!
    And….. I get 24/7 support & guidance from our best friend, Jesus.

  2. Hi Alastair. Something Brad Littlejohn eluded to in his introduction to the Protestant Future event has been on my mind some. He mentioned that the Davenent Trust was organized partly out of a desire to have an outlet for public study and discussion since doing so with in the halls of academia was not an option. By ‘not an option’, I mean in the way that there are (depending on your discipline) quite possibly a hundred or more PhDs for each decent wage-paying university job opening. Academia as a viable career path is frequently not a possibility, even for those at the top of their class. We’ve all got to have day jobs and do our thinking and writing on the side for (probably) no money and (possibly) no prestige outside of our small personal networks.

    Unfortunately, the public, even those who should probably know better, are still in thrall to the Modernist cult of the “expert”, and not having a day job in the academy is still a barrier to people taking you seriously. I wonder if formally organizing these sorts of ‘think tanks’ (for lack of a better term) or publishing journals together is an effective way to overcome this? By ‘this’, I mean not just the public’s dismissal, but also satisfy our own personal desires to make a dent in the world.

    It seems that one problem we protestants have had, maybe particularly in the Reformed camp is encouraging these folks to sign up for pastoral ministry since it is often a viable alternative. The successful scholar-pastor is widely regarded is these circles. However, counseling young married couples in trouble, comforting mourning parents, and effectively organizing worship services and crews of volunteers (what a pastor spends much of his time doing) may have almost zero overlap with the skills necessary to write effectively and creatively about history or theology. I’d like to see more alternatives nurtured so that we aren’t always as quick to push scholars into the ranks of the clergy.

    My thoughts on all this are still in flux. I am curious as to what your thoughts are about this, as well as hearing from any other readers who have had to deal personally with this issue. As someone who is near the end of his terminal degree, I have no doubt these things are on your mind as of late too!

    • Great question, Matt. This is definitely something that has been on my mind. It is also a matter that I have discussed at length with Brad in person. I really think that we need to explore the wisdom of Calvin’s distinction between four orders of ministry—pastors, elders, deacons, and doctors. The role of the doctor, as someone entrusted with instruction and thinking in the faith should be a recognized office in the Church, rather than merely handed over to the academy (even in the more ecclesial form of the seminary). This would also have the benefit of clarifying the role of the pastor, which is often rather unclear.

      • Gosh, good point about doctors of the church. In the fairly anti-intellectual evangelical circles I grew up in, I think the very idea of such a person would have been scoffed at and yet on reflection I think the need and place for such people is pretty clear.

        Perhaps with the rise of mass media, it’s been assumed that this mantle has been given to a tiny number of seemingly world-class authors and speakers and there no longer exists any need for someone at the local level.

        In a discussion here a couple of months ago, (within the context of women in ministry), you pointed out how our modern definition of ‘leadership’ has ballooned to a ridiculous size. Now pastors must be not only excellent shepherds, first-class public speakers, excellent organizers, tireless laborers, but (among a hundred other things), consummate scholars. It seems that every office, including that of prophet has been collapsed into one. Perhaps it would be healthy (and humbling) to break them back out again.

  3. C. Frank Bernard says:

    Matthew Petersen linked me to your Open Mic for me to request critiques on my defense of head coverings for husbands in the church: https://www.facebook.com/notes/charles-franklin-bernard/head-covering-coronation-a-symbol-of-authority-a-wife-lays-on-her-husband/10150603632407506

    • Thanks for the question, Frank. I would very much like to engage with your discussion. Unfortunately, things are a little hectic here right now, so I would prefer not to get drawn into any discussions or any form of detailed interaction for at least the next three weeks (or however long it takes me to complete writing up my PhD). If you would like to raise the question again at that point, I would be very happy to discuss it. Until then, perhaps some of my readers might be interested in discussing it. Blessings.

  4. The Waffledog@yahoo.ca says:

    Roger Olson seems to have noticed that affirming the creeds, or something like them, is not enough to make you an orthodox Christian:
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2014/05/is-there-a-the-christian-worldview-if-so-what-is-it-part-1/
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2014/05/is-there-a-the-christian-worldview-if-so-what-is-it-part-2/
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2014/05/what-is-integration-of-faith-and-learning-follow-up-part-3-to-series-on-the-christian-worldview/

    He’s has realized that if you don’t get the background to Christianity right, you at a mimimum massively change the faith, and worst you actively undermine it, even if you affirm the tenets of your institution’s statement of faith.

    An important clarification from someone who might be classified in many ways on the Evangelical left.

  5. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    I’d like your thoughts on the following passage from “Orthodox Arguments Against the Ordination of Women as Priests”, by Nona Verna Harrison, in Women and the Priesthood, page 174.

    “For the Greek Fathers, gender is clearly absent in the divine nature, which is understood in apophatic terms. They stated this position emphatically in debate with the Gnostic teachers, whose mythologies included scores of gendered aeons, and with Arians, who attacked their concept of the Son’s generation from the Father as involving all-too-human gendered activity. For the Orthodox, this divine generation is understood simply as one person’s origination from the other in such a way that they are and remain of one nature.

    The defining concept in patristic anthropology is the image of God in humanity, which entails an intrinsic link and correlation between the human and the divine. To be human is first and above all to live by participation in God. It follows that since gender is absent from the divine Archetype, it is absent in the human image as well. That means that it is not central to being human. The three Cappdocians and St. Maximus the Confessor, all of whom are at the heart of the Byzantine tradition, drew the conclusion that since our destiny is fullness of life in God, gender is a secondary and temporary feature of the human condition and will no longer be present in the resurrection body. They saw it as a source of limitation and division hindering the unity and wholeness of the Body of Christ.”

    Have you read the Cappadocians in this area? Assuming this is an accurate summary, this strikes me as contrary to scripture, in where our sexed nature is part of the good of Creation, and where our sexed bodies are also an image of Christ’s relation to us. I also wonder at the use of highly sex specific terms, such as Father and Son, to refer to God. I understand that God doesn’t have a body, so we can’t take the Fathership and Sonship of God in literal terms, but surely it seems to speak to the ultimate good of sexual dimorphism that these titles are used.

    Anyway, what think you, are the Cappadocians right on this, and is it I that am in error?

    Are there any good resources in this area? I hear Sarah Coakley does some interesting work in this area, but I am also understand that she is advancing her own particular position.

    • I haven’t studied the Cappadocians on this particular question, although I have read second-hand treatments, such as Harrison’s and Coakley’s (she explores the contrasts between Augustine and Gregory on this point). I would have to revisit the Fathers themselves, attending to what they say on this issue. For now, just a few remarks:

      1. On the theological point, God obviously isn’t a man, a male, nor is he simply ‘masculine’. God neither has sex nor gender as an essential property of himself. The fact that God identifies as Father and Son and takes masculine personal pronouns is significant, though. I believe that the primary reason for this probably has to do with the fact that God’s relationship to his creation is ‘masculine’ in form, like that of a father and his child, rather than a mother and her child. Likewise, the other primary images of God tend to be very ‘masculine’ in character: Lord, Master, Sovereign, King, Judge, Ruler, Shepherd, Warrior, etc. God doesn’t bear the creation in a womb, but there is a material hiatus between Creator and creature, and relationship is founded upon covenant commitment, rather than continuity of being. When we start speaking of God as feminine and imagining God as ‘Mother’, we take a significant step away from Christian views of God and his relationship with us.

      Nevertheless, feminine imagery is associated with God in several respects, especially in relation to the Holy Spirit. While this doesn’t justify the use of feminine personal pronouns, it does suggest that women reflect God in particular ways.

      2. Given the fact that God’s transcendent relationship to his creation takes a structurally masculine form, it can be imaged by men in a way that it cannot be by women. In this sense, gender cannot be treated as a matter of indifference.

      3. Gregory’s view seems framed by the pre-lapsarian and eschatological state. It does not dismiss what occurs in between, but relativizes it. At root, our image bearing is not about being male or female, but is something that we hold in common. In the new heavens and new earth, where there is neither marriage nor giving in marriage and no ‘male and female’ we will no longer be sexed (although this need not entail the end of symbolic gender relations—for Gregory, we will all be feminine in relation to God). Gregory’s view of virginity is an important part of the picture here too.

      4. Whether this is true of the Cappadocian Fathers or not, such a relativization of gender needn’t entail: a) a denial of the goodness of gender, nor b) a denial of the symbolic weight and ‘grammar’ of gender. There are other good features of the world as created by God which exist for the purpose of development and aren’t elements of the eschatological state. For instance, the division between heaven and earth. The eschaton involves a sort of ‘marriage’ between the two. Those suggesting that sexual difference will have a continuing place in the eschaton need to reckon with the fact that there will no longer be marriage or giving in marriage.

      My view is that sexual dimorphism has the more immediate purpose of procreation, rendering us a race, developing over time, multiplying and filling the earth, rather than just an eternal host. Sexual dimorphism is more temporal and limited than gender dimorphism, which supervenes on sexual dimorphism but is not simply reducible to it, nor to be straightforwardly equated with it. Gender dimorphism has a more persevering character. My body has a sex, but I have a gender.

      I believe that image language is routinely misused. Most of these debates keep returning to the claim that the sexes are equally made in the image of God. I am not sure that the biblical data supports this claim. Rather:

      a. Genesis 1:26-27 makes a lot of sense when read in concert with Genesis 2. God created humanity (adam) as a kind in his image (which is the sense which is in view in Genesis 9:6). God created a particular individual person Adam as paradigm, prototype, head, and source in his image. God created humanity as a race, male and female. There is a logical progression here, which is related to the narrative progression of Genesis 2. The image of God language is applied to humankind as a whole and to the first and head of the race, Adam. This is not a statement that every human being is an image of God in the exact same sense, or that the sexes are images of God in precisely the same manner.

      b. Image language more generally is, I believe, rightly associated with sovereignty and rule, something that most biblical theologians seem to agree on nowadays. The image of a person is the visible expression of their authority and rule. In Genesis 2-3, a careful reading of the passage should make clear that Adam is the image of God par excellence in this situation. As a member of humankind, Eve also shares in the image of God, but Adam is the one primarily entrusted with rule in the situation. He is the priest—the one guarding and serving the Garden and entrusted with upholding and teaching the commandment, which Eve only received second-hand—who represents God’s authority in the world order. He is the one primarily charged with establishing and maintaining the form of the world order—the day 1-3 acts—dividing, forming, ordering, taming, and naming.

      c. Image language also has a close kinship with the language of sonship. Image is primarily passed between fathers and sons (e.g. Genesis 5:1-3). Christ’s sonship, for instance, is associated with his being the Image of God (e.g. Colossians 1:15). Being a ‘son of God’, much as being an image, is also associated with ruling status throughout the Scriptures. Angels, kings, Israel as a nation, and other entities and persons endowed with especial sovereignty are denoted as ‘sons of God’.

      d. Paul appears to draw a direct distinction between the sense in which men are the image of God and the sense in which women are the image of God in 1 Corinthians 11:7: ‘For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.’

      Of course, as the claim that every individual is equally in the image of God is such a fundamental axiom of much Christian thought, any challenge to it will tend to be vehemently opposed on a deep instinctual level, irrespective of the actual merits of the claims being made.

      On the exegesis, I think that Gregory is wrong on a few counts. However, his view doesn’t seem to as radical as many would like it to be.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        Neither does Gregory deny that there is a female nature and a male nature, nor that is essential to our being now.

      • I suspect that Gregory’s position regarding that statement would depend rather heavily upon the definition of its terms: ‘nature’, ‘essential’, ‘our’, ‘being’.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        Those suggesting that sexual difference will have a continuing place in the eschaton need to reckon with the fact that there will no longer be marriage or giving in marriage.

        I take the point that there will no longer be reproduction in heaven, so there will no longer be male or female bodies in the new heaven and earth, in the sense of that they are not oriented towards reproduction in either role. However, I would be surprised if our bodies were not marked in some way by their history as either male or female in this life, and in that sense still distinctly male or female. Perhaps I am wrong.

      • I would also be very surprised were that the case. Also, as I believe that gender is a constitutive dimension of our personhood, I don’t believe that it will just disappear.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        Well, that maleness and femaleness are real and distinct things, for one thing.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        Poked around and found this article on Gregory of Nyssa’s views in this area. Puts the passage I posted above in context. I would not favour Gregory’s reading of the creation narrative.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        I have another question: why do the images of Father and Son seem to be so much more central when describing God, or at least the persons of the Godhead, compared to other images, such as judge, master, light, water etc.?

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        Any thoughts on the work of Beth Felker Jones in this area?

  6. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Apropos of the Roger Olson blog posts, it seems to me we really need a sophisticated theology of matter and how it relates to spirit/soul/mind. There seems to be four basic positions:

    1. Aristotelian – both the material and the mental/spiritual really exist and are inextricably linked to each other, they are not the same thing, but there is no absolutely clear boundary between the two.
    2. Cartesian – both the material and the mental/spiritual exist, but they are entirely separate kinds of things which are somehow linked up in a person.
    3. Idealist – there’s really nothing except the mental/spiritual and matter is an illusion.
    4. Materialist – there is really nothing except the material, considered as meaningless “stuff,” often the reality of the mental/spiritual is outright denied.

    There are other positions, but I think these are the most important. For example, Plato somewhat anticipates Descartes in separating the material and mental/spiritual, and in denigrating the material, but, of course, Plato does not view the world as composed of a bunch of meaningless stuff. I’m not sure how his view really makes sense.

    Notice that 2-4 all implicitly deny any real meaning to matter. For the Idealist, matter doesn’t really exist at all, while for the materialist it exists but is inherently meaningless and needs to have meaning imposed on it without by a person whose mental life may or may not even really be there. The Cartesian definitely affirms the existence of both mental life and matter, but again denies the inherent meaning of the latter.

    Now other monotheistic faiths may (or may not) be able to better get away with some other position, but I think that anything like 2-4 cause huge problems for the Christian doctrine of the incarnation.

    A. The Idealist position makes the incarnation pointless. Matter doesn’t even really exist.

    B. The materialist incarnation simply dumps God into a hunk of meaningless bits. What’s the point in that?

    C. The Cartesian affirms that a person is made up of both matter and soul, but again what the point of the incarnation if the soul is the really important thing? I suppose one could see the incarnation and the crucifixion as God coming down to understand and identify with all of these souls that are chained to matter. To a certain extent this “feel our pain” has a certain kind of appeal, but it seems to me this makes nonsense of the bodily resurrection. Isn’t it better for the soul to be liberated from an attachment to matter which is painful at worst and meaningless at best? Besides the Word became flesh; it wasn’t just chained to flesh.

  7. Alex says:

    I’d like your thoughts on the CCEF counseling movement and Paul Tripp specifically. if you ever have a chance.

  8. Alex says:

    What do you think about the legitimacy of using ADHD drugs (especially for kids)?

  9. Alex says:

    I wonder where the place for wrestling with God and overcoming plays out in prayer. We often talk about submitting to His will, which is biblical. But I wonder about Jacob wrestling and think: are there times where we see a “closed door” and are to break it down in prayer rather than assuming we always need to just submit to providence? After allow, we are advisers to God in a sense, right?

  10. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Here is the list of introductory volumes on Christianity I’ve come up with. I tried to include everything that could reasonably be construed as an introduction to Christianity. I though about setting off the general introductions into shorter works (Lewis, Stott, Woodhead I) vs. longer works (McGrath, Ratzinger, Woodhead II), but haven’t done so. However, I have put an (L) by them. I’ve set a fairly arbitrary limit of 500 pages for even these. Anything longer wouldn’t seem to be an introduction anymore. I also thought about dividing the general introductions into books with a more apologetic turn (Chesterton, Keller) vs. those who are more descriptive (Woodhead, Stott), but that is a hard distinction to maintain. Many of these books straddle those categories.

    A lot of people have volumes on the creeds that seem to function as short introductions to the faith. I have put these off in separate categories. To keep things manageable, I think I will focus on the volumes that are not based on the creeds first. I may get to the creed based volumes later.

    I have read a few more of these and will post short reviews on an open mike thread here when I have some time.

    I have excluded introductions to specific branches of Christianity, like Catholicism, though I have compiled a list of those too.

    You can see that there is a wide range of theological perspectives here, ranging from Protestant to Catholic, from theologically conservative to theologically liberal.

    General Introductions and apologetic volumes
    C.S. Lewis
    John Stott
    Francis Spufford
    Wayne Grudem
    Rowan Williams
    Malcolm Guite
    N.T. Wright
    Linda Woodhead (2) (L one of the two)
    Stanley Grenz
    Roger E. Olson
    Michael Reeves
    Douglas John Hall
    Timothy Keller (2)
    Kathleen Fischer and Thomas Hart
    Peter Kreeft
    Alister E. McGrath
    John Schwarz
    Marcus Borg
    Michael S. Horton (L)
    Gail Ramshaw
    F.J. Sheed
    Karl Rahner (L)
    Philip Kennedy
    G.K. Chesterton (2) (L for the second)
    Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI (L)
    Adolph von Harnack

    Nicene Creed
    Donald Wuerl
    L.Charles Jackson
    David Wills
    E. Timiadis
    Marianne H. Micks
    A.E. Burn
    Carlyle Roberts II
    Geddes MacGregor
    John James Lias
    A.P. Forbes
    M.R. Hyde
    Donald T. Williams
    Frank H. Seilhamer
    Richard Maffeo
    Gregory Simpson

    Apostles Creed
    Timothy Luke Johnson
    Ronald Knox
    Hans Urs von Balthasar
    J.I. Packer
    Karl Barth (2)
    Justo L. Gonzalez
    James C. Howell
    Raymond Cannata
    Henry de Lubac
    Thomas P. Rausch
    Alister E. McGrath
    Michael S. Horton
    William Barclay
    Roger E. Van Harn
    David Steindl-Rast
    C.E.B. Cranfield

    Both Creeds
    Berard L. Marthaler

  11. philjames says:

    In his Levitical Atonement post, Dr. Leithart seems to agree with Darrin Belousek’s suggestion that atonement is about purification, but he suggests that Belousek doesn’t take into account the death of the sacrifice, and that this involves the introduction of wrath in some way.

    I’m wondering if the tabernacle/temple is taken as a creation, and the significance of blood is understood as ‘life is in the blood,’ then wouldn’t the message be that God would one day counterintutively make life the contagion. The animal’s death would then be the way of procuring the ‘detergent’ and a foreshadowing of the path through which Christ’s eternal life would be procured so as to be shared with all of creation.

  12. whitefrozen says:

    Any thoughts on the energy/essence distinction?

  13. Kamal says:

    I’d like you to look ahead to the next 20-50 years and make some guesses/predictions/calls/prophecies. I haven’t been following your blog for very long, so I don’t know if this is your kind of thing, but it’s always interesting to hear where people see things heading.

    I’m interested in two broad areas here. The first is between in the areas of Church-state relations and Church-society relations in Britain (and wherever else in the West or the Rest that you feel qualified to talk about).

    The second — and larger — one is how you see things shifting within Christianity itself regarding such hot theological issues as (to pick some, not at all at random) war and violence, women’s ministry, hell, sexuality, Catholic-Protestant relations, the establishment of the Church of England, liberal-orthodox tensions and attitudes towards historical criticism (especially among the more conservative/traditional/orthodox churches), our ways of doing theology. To turn some of those into easy-to-answer questions: Do you think there’ll be an established Church of England? Will the liberal (arms of) churches die out? Will there be a(nother?) schism in the Church of England? Is complementarianism doomed? Will evangelicalism come to accept approval of same-sex relations within its tent? Are all we conservative/traditional/orthodox Christians going home to Rome?

  14. Thanks for the questions, everyone. Unfortunately, I am snowed under here at the moment and it looks as though it will be this way for at least the next month. Apart from existing commitments, such as the weekly podcast over on Mere Orthodoxy and #luke2acts on Twitter, don’t expect to see much from me over the next few weeks. This means that, although I will post Open Mic Threads, I won’t be able to participate much if at all in the immediate future.

    Sorry.

  15. cinda-cite says:

    thanks for the opportunity to ask. since you are busy now, maybe for future ref.? …might you consider placing a cut early in your posts? (i read them on my blog’s feed.) i think mere-orthodoxy does this as well. i’m very glad of the opportunity to receive your posts.

    • Thanks for the comment and suggestion. If people would generally prefer this, I will readily change it. My personal preference has always been for minimal clicking, even at the expense of heavy amounts of scrolling, which is why I have things this way. Would others prefer if I changed it?

      • Chuck says:

        If cinda-cite’s question refers to feeds that only show a small amount of the actual posts, I plead with you not to go that route. Full posts only, please. I too dislike being forced to click.

      • I really wouldn’t want to do that. I hate having to click through to visit a blog when I could just read the post on feedly.

  16. G.J. Dijkgraaf says:

    Thanks for the opportunity to ask questions. I’ve come across some references to Oliver O’Donovan’s work on your blog, and believe you are quite familiar with his work. In chapter 2 of ‘Resurrection and Moral Order’, O’Donovan writes about the order of creation. I’ve been thinking about how seeing creation as a gift, with a given order, can function as a bulwark against our ‘technological impulse’, in which we see creation just as raw material to be manipulated for our private purposes. But how would we go about determining what this order exactly is? It seems to me that, in deliberating about certain technologies in connection to creation order, a more specified description of this order would be needed, and thus, a method of finding out the ‘ordered aspect’ of certain parts of creation. Do you know whether O’Donovan has written about this problem? Or even better: has he used his notion of creation order in analysing concrete examples (e.g., the use of DNA testing in job applications, about which I heard a piece on the radio only yesterday)?

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