Open Mic Thread 8

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: 123456, 7.

Once again, I can’t promise to respond to comments myself here. I am hoping to post something this evening and want to prioritize that.

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.

77 Responses to Open Mic Thread 8

  1. I’ve commented extensively beneath this post on marriage and donated gametes (addressing the subject of birth control, for instance). I’ve also been discussing infant baptism, Pauline theology, and faith with Andrew Wilson in the comments on his blog here.

  2. whitefrozen says:

    A few things rolling around in my head:

    Anyone have thoughts on liberal Protestantism (Tillich, for example), as well as Bultmann’s demythologizing program?

    Anyone have any thoughts on Wittgenstein’s philosophy of religion?

    If stories in the Bible were to be turned into modern short stories (with a focus on plot, character development, etc), would you read them?

    Anyone read any Stephen King?

    • Have you read Fergus Kerr’s Theology After Wittgenstein?

      On rewriting the Bible as modern short stories, my interest would be fairly limited. The most fascinating and exciting aspects of biblical narrative tend to be found in areas where their differences from modern short stories are most pronounced.

      • whitefrozen says:

        I have not read it, though I just looked it up on amazon and it sounds fairly interesting. I actually have a thesis that Wittgenstein was influenced by a great degree by Kierkegaard, but I see a lot of similarities in how Wittgenstein treats an religious language with how Tillich does.

    • Colin Clout says:

      “If stories in the Bible were to be turned into modern short stories (with a focus on plot, character development, etc), would you read them?”

      Written by whom? By Dostoevsky or Flannery O’Conner, yes, I’d read them. Otherwise, no.

      • Matt Petersen says:

        There is some precedent (of a sort) for doing so successfully though. The Middle English rebelling of Jonah by the Pearl Poet is excellent. Though, it is neither modernist, not really the same story as the Hebrew (except in outline).

      • I can see a book like Jonah working. Something like Job too, perhaps. That said, I think that many interesting things would be lost in the translation into the new genre.

        On a slightly related note, I finally got around to watching Noah.

      • Matt Petersen says:

        Stupid autocorrect. “Retelling” not “rebelling”.

      • Though, the example of Patience is only an example of modernizing a Biblical story, not of modernizing it with “focus on plot, character development, etc” The modern world was very different 600 years ago. I doubt that if we were to modernize the story of Jonah, we would write an alliterative poem which begins by quoting the beatitudes, and draws from the story an extended illustration of the virtue of patience (long-suffering).

  3. Alex says:

    Do you affirm hell as a real place where unbelievers will face everlasting judgment? Do you affirm the WCF on issues of heaven and hell?
    Sub-question: have you interacted with Perriman’s Hell and Heaven in Narrative Perspective?

    • I believe in the reality of hell and that some people will go there. I haven’t read Perriman on the subject. When it comes to the exegesis typically used to support the doctrine of hell I have a number of differences with many readings that are common in the tradition. I don’t think that the exegesis directly supports many of the conclusions reached (even though it might do so indirectly), not least because many of the eschatological texts employed refer to AD70, rather than to the final judgment.

      I believe that closer attention to the biblical text will lead to a greater degree of agnosticism concerning the specifics of the doctrine of hell (e.g. the exact identity of those who go there, the precise character of its judgment, the nature of the human beings within it, etc.). I would be cautious about making definitive statements on such subjects. What I will say is that God does not warn us without cause, it is not his desire that any should perish, and, whatever happens, we can be assured that God will be just and good, acting in accordance with his character as revealed in Jesus Christ. Within those bounds that maintain the bounds of mystery, I believe that we should warn people to flee from the wrath to come, while recognizing that our knowledge of what exactly that ‘wrath’ entails is limited and fragmentary.

  4. Caned Crusader says:

    I have a blog project in the works, but I won’t disclose what it is until it’s begun. However, here is something that I may explore on that blog:

    COuld we get some conceptual value out of distinguishing various “kinds” of causes of salvation? For example, the Aristotelian scheme: formal (the regeneration of the Holy SPirit) material (the sacrament of Baptism) efficient (the decision of the believer) and final (election in Christ)? This might clear up certain issues regardin the mechanism of justification and the “necessity” of certain things for salvation.

    • whitefrozen says:

      An interesting concept but I’d personally be wary of trying to pin down salvation to such strict categories. My own views, however, align with the Eastern Orthodox pretty closely, hence my wariness.

  5. Chuck says:

    Your post on friendship in 2012 was a very important exploration of the topic, in my opinion. I’m not sure most of contemporary Christianity, certainly not evangelicalism, has a sufficient understanding of and appreciation for friendship. Do you foresee writing further on it? Have any of your thoughts changed?

  6. Many thanks, Alastair, for making this ‘Open Mic’ thread available – specially for your invitation to publicize a book. I’d like to take the opportunity to publicize a series of Bible studies called ‘The Big Journey’ available at http://www.creationtonewcreation.com. This isn’t so much a book as a series of Bible studies. It aims to be a resource especially for teaching believers in local churches.

    It’s being developed to try to meet a perceived need in local church teaching (at least in the UK). A typical evangelical church provides weekly teaching in the form of sermons (expositional and/or topical). There’ll usually be home groups, which may include some teaching, perhaps based on the Sunday sermon. They might also run Alpha, Christianity Explored courses, or similar.

    But, in my limited research, very few churches seem to provide a programme of teaching that takes members (especially newer believers) comprehensively through the Bible narrative, or teaches them systematically the foundational Christian doctrines. Folk can be members of a good evangelical church for some years, but not usually come away with a basic, yet complete, understanding of the Christian faith and the Bible narrative from creation to new creation. Such teaching should, it would seem, be one of the foundational ministries of any local church; lack of it seems (at least to me) to be a great weakness.

    Clinton Arnold highlights this point while comparing current evangelical practice against that of the early church in his article ‘Early Church Catechesis and New Christians’ Classes in Contemporary Evangelicalism’ (available here: http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/47/47-1/47-1-pp039-054_JETS.pdf). 9Marks have produced an interesting set of articles on the American system of adult Sunday School at http://www.9marks.org/journal/dont-be-too-cool-sunday-school. These articles together make the point that local churches should have another teaching stream besides the weekly sermon. This additional stream can be a great vehicle for systematic teaching of the kind I’m advocating.

    By way of example, Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington DC has a full programme of teaching through the Bible narrative and core theology, as well as other things, in such an adult Sunday School setting. Of course, they are a large church; most UK churches are far smaller. But even in small churches, some such systematic teaching seems feasible on an appropriately smaller scale.

    The series of Bible studies I’m developing aims to be something of a ‘one stop shop’. It seeks to (1) provide a reasonably in-depth overview of the Bible narrative; (2) trace key Bible themes from Genesis to Revelation (e.g. the Kingdom of God, the Messiah and the covenants) and how they connect together; and (3) provide basic theology – such as the doctrine of humanity, the Fall, the Incarnation, the Church, and the end times. Special attention is given to what I understand as the very heart of the Gospel – the story of redemption. So there’s emphasis, for example, on the effects of sin at the Fall, the OT sacrificial system, how Jesus fulfils the sacrifices, and what His death and resurrection and ascension achieved. It does this in just 16 sessions, which could be taught on a weekly or fortnightly basis. So the whole course could comfortably be run over just two or three terms (Bible passages and questions are provided for discipleship groups under my ‘For Small Group’s tab on the main menu).

    In ‘theological’ terms, the Big Journey could be thought of as basic ‘systematic theology’ embedded in basic ‘biblical/narrative’ theology. The aim is that anyone who goes through the material will have a reasonably complete basic understanding of the faith. An audio version and slimmed down 8-session version is being planned. The Big Journey is currently being piloted in the church we attend here in Leicestershire for a men’s discipleship group, run fortnightly on Sunday evenings during term times.

    Clearly there are other materials out there that could be used (for example, Vaughan Robert’s excellent little book ‘God’s Big Picture’). Many of them could be adapted for use in local church teaching. If the series I have produced does nothing more than spark interest in this type of teaching in local churches and stimulate pastors and leaders to seek better material than mine to use as their teaching material, then I feel I would achieved my aim.

  7. I recall somewhere or other you recommending Conor Cunningham’s book on evolution. I first read it about a year ago but plan to read it again soon. I’d be interested in your thoughts on it?

    For what it’s worth, I thought the chapters on evolution itself were very good (unit of selection, species ontology &c.) but was less impressed with the theology.

    • Yeah, my thoughts were similar. He rather badly misrepresented creationism and Intelligent Design, largely for cheap rhetorical purposes, and the theology was very disappointing.

      • Andrew says:

        In what way would you say he misrepresented them?

        My understanding of his criticism is that the kind of god presupposed by both is not the god of classical theism, ergo atheism. There’s various issues, not least amongst which is whether we live or die by classical theism. Another would be what account can be given for divine action on classical theism, and is this comaptible with creationism or ID. I don’t think he addressed these issues very well (although I did read through the book rather quickly, which is why I’m going to read it again).

        So far I’ve found Gunton’s account of creation/evolution to be most helpful, although not without difficulties.

        Are there any that you have found helpful?

      • My main issue with his representation was his gross rhetorical caricature of them in terms of ‘idolatry’ and the like. This strikes me as cheap point-scoring, relying rather heavily upon a very uncharitable representation of the motives and positions of creationists and I-D types.

        I fear that many employ such hyperbolic caricatures of positions that are more common among conservative Christians in order to deflect attention from the rather less orthodox motivations that have historically driven their own camp, and often continue to do so (see also progressive Christians complaining about ‘bibliolatry’ and conservative theology’s idolatrous vision of God). Close, careful, and borderline respectful engagement with advocates of the positions in question would have been appreciated. This isn’t to say that his challenges are without substance—far from it! However, uncharitable caricatures advanced in order to dissociate ourselves from the unenlightened fundamentalists can often have problematic motives.

        I have yet to read an account that I would completely get behind. That said, Cunningham’s is one of the treatments I have most appreciated.

  8. Alex says:

    Do you believe that state schools are an invalid option for American Christians?

  9. Alex says:

    Have you ever interacted with Dr David Instone-Brewer? Specifically his books on divorce?

  10. ali1 says:

    It occurred to me recently that if in the Lord’s Supper Christ is seen as the lamb killed and eaten by God’s people during the Passover, can he also be seen as a firstborn son killed in judgment (and not eaten!)? In other words, does the Lord’s Supper represent both the salvation of God’s people and also the judgment on those outside of God’s people who do not partake of it?

    • The killed Passover lambs represent the firstborn sons of Israel, being killed in their place. However, the sacrificial lamb is not primarily about judgment, but about the divine claiming of the Israelite firstborn. This event is obviously related to the killing of the Egyptian firstborn and Christ’s death is, in some senses, the bearing of the judgment upon the firstborn. So, the Passover salvation of the Church should be related to the judgment on those outside.

      However, I think that saying that the Lord’s Supper itself represents this judgment might be going too far, suggesting a greater ambivalence of the Supper’s meaning. The Lord’s Supper isn’t a meal of blessing and cursing, but of blessing. This doesn’t mean that judgment isn’t absent from the picture—some people eat and drink judgment to themselves—but it is not the point.

  11. Priesthood of all believers: What order of priest are we?

    (And why is that question so seldom asked?)

    Also: Icons. You shared a link showing that icons were heavily influenced by pagan images. What do you conclude from this? They seemed to think they were just lifted, and the scandalous immodesty covered up. But it looked to me like there could be very large differences between the two pictures, that our cultural distance keeps us from recognizing. (Though, obviously, that’s only a conjecture.) And even without that point, the pagan images could have been taken, either as a sort of protoeuangelion, as a demonic distortion of the truth, and in both cases an appropriate response could have been “no, that’s not the true God on his mother’s knee, here is the true God. Worship Him, not that false god.” So: What conclusions do you draw from the link, and why?

    • I would start with the priesthood of all of the baptized. Baptism harks back to the initiation rite for the OT priesthood in Exodus 40 and elsewhere, as Peter Leithart has argued in detail in The Priesthood of the Plebs.

      As for the nature of our priesthood, it is an incorporative priesthood, rather than an individualistic one. We are all priests as we celebrate sacrificial worship in Christ. We aren’t priests in and by ourselves. As in the case of the nation of Israel, which was also a kingdom of priests, but had that identity secured in the ministry of the Levites, our priestly office depends upon the wider ministry of the body, particularly of the ordained servant priesthood, who re-present our shared priesthood in Christ and also Christ’s authority over us. As we are all priests, the servant priesthood must recognize that their priestly role is a ministration of something that is not just their private vocation and entitlement, but an exercising of the priestly authority of the body and its members.

      I didn’t conclude anything from the icons link. I linked it because it was a fascinating piece of information, provoking fertile questions, and I thought that it would be worth bearing in mind

      • Matt Petersen says:

        The first answer raises a second question: Traiditionally, I believe (though it’s been a few years) Protestants objected to the Catholic doctrine of the Sacrifice of the Mass on two counts: That we are all priests, not just the ordained minister (so the minister doesn’t enter God’s presence in our place and there celebrate Mass); and that the only sacrifice is Christ’s. But you seem to be saying that in some sense the Divine Service is sacrificial, though it is a sacrifice offered by the whole congregation, not just the priest–that is accepting the first Protestant criticism (though not entirely without qualification), but not the second (or only with significant qualifications)? Am I reading that right?

        Fair enough. I’ve seen people use that sort of link to conclude that icons are illegitimate, but I figured your thoughts on the issue would be interesting.

      • Yes, the Divine Service is sacrificial. It is an ascension (in Christ’s Ascension sacrifice) and a memorial sacrifice, and peace offering. If all parties knew the categories of the book of Leviticus better, we could make progress on this front, I think.

  12. Peter B says:

    When repentance for besetting sins is lacking–or is soon ‘disproved’ by backsliding–, is it still wise to counsel such a believer against their feelings of guilt? My default is to ‘preach law’ to the person who isn’t fighting their sin, and ‘preach gospel’ to someone who feels condemned because of their sin. It’s the place of guilt in repentance that I’m unsure of. I know more discriminating minds will have used different terms to separate some of the emotions probably in play there. Anyone got links, or wants to chime in? (Btw, I start with the assumption that there is a place for exhortation of believers unto holiness, so I’m not trying to have a debate about sanctification per se)

  13. This is a new theme – ‘The Armour of God’.
    Yesterday afternoon I had an earnest prayer on my heart and I thought of posting here.
    Then came the thought: ‘Wait awhile’. So I waited.
    Last night I thought again of posting here but again came the thought:’Wait awhile’ and also :’Rest awhile’.
    This morning I read Alastair’s beautiful and inspiring post, ‘A New Icon of Marriage’
    and my concerns about spiritual warfare were eclipsed by this vision of God’s eternal love for us and in us.
    And yet… isn’t God’s love the most powerful ‘weapon’ of all?
    Satan doesn’t know love. He cannot create. He is a thief and wants to destroy all the good things God has created.
    When I first became a Christian, I knew the inner turmoil described by Paul in Romans 7.
    I got through lots of ‘ink-miles’ in my prayer journal.
    I will quote from my journal later but first I want to say that, of the many things I notice as I watch the battles raging on Twitter, the spiritual ‘weapon’ I am most aware of at this time is ‘the sword of the Spirit’, the Word of God… and I am so thankful that Alastair and other theologians are being ‘Soldiers of Christ’ in playing the part they play in this battle.
    Now back to my prayer journal. I realised I had been getting overly pre-occupied with Satan and his ‘evil schemes’ and ‘flaming arrows’ when a friend said to me: ‘If you keep looking at Satan, you are looking in the wrong direction.’
    I took my friend’s words to heart .Here is what I wrote in my journal on 29th September 2009 (slightly modified):

    If I focus on the evil done to Jesus and his suffering on the cross, I see a horror story.
    I need to focus on the horror, but I also need to focus on Jesus and the beauty of the cross.
    We see the courage of the cross – in Gethsemane Jesus asked God to take ‘this cup’ away from him …but only if it was God’s will.
    We see Jesus as the truth – he could not deny himself.He chose to die rather than lie.
    We see love – ‘Mother behold your son.Son behold your mother’.
    We see the forgiving heart of Christ – ‘Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’
    We see the faithfulness of Jesus and his obedience to his Father.
    Jesus did not defend himself. He could easily have asked angels to deliver him from his appalling ordeal… but he left the justice to God.
    ‘Father I pray that you will give me and all your children some of the beauty of the cross.’

  14. J. Phillips says:

    Hi Alastair,

    Your reflections on marriage have proved extraordinarily helpful to me in thinking through and examining my own position on marriage and on what place it occupies in Christianity, a task that I’ve been particularly involved in during the past months as my wife and I enter a difficult yet well-known phase in early marriage, that of building our initial affections into a more mature commitment capable of enduring the challenges of children, and one that can move beyond the purely romantic phase while still preserving those elements and the very endearing memory of their intensity within its later forms as new eras of life open up.

    Right now I’m curious to hear your thoughts on what kind of interjection Christianity made (ie. at its inception, in the gospel, Paul’s articulations, and the first churches) into the historical understanding of marriage; in other words, I’m trying to grasp how, at its particular point in history, the emergence of Christianity may have grounded a new understanding of marriage, or at least how its conception of the institution modified the prevailing understanding, not only by way of Jesus’s far more strict denial of divorce but also by way of the seemingly much more deeply grounded sexual ethic that Jesus provides on the question of adultery and that Paul carries through into his admonitions to struggling congregations. What was marriage before and after Christianity?

    One historical account that I’ve been reading is Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage, by Stephanie Coontz. If you read just her introduction on Google Books, you can gain a sense of how she at least avoids allowing her work to fall into the common exaggerations and instead offers a very thorough overview of how marriage functioned.

    “I came to reject two widespread, though diametrically opposed, theories about how marriage came into existence among our Stone Age ancestors: the idea that marriage was invented so men would protect women and the opposing idea that it was intended so men could exploit women. Instead, marriage spoke to the needs of the larger group. It converted strangers into relatives and extended cooperative relations beyond the immediate family or small band by creating far-flung networks of in-laws.”

    In short, her focus is broadly on the way in which marriage unifies the couple with a larger social whole and sets in place its associated obligations, and of course she will then work through the usual steps of noting just how foreign our romantic, privately-oriented notions of love are to that original setting that dominated the understanding of this institution across all its forms until the last couple of centuries.

    That being said, when our churches today speak of the great power of marriage, I sometimes feel as if there is perhaps an anachronistic mixture of ideals, many of them borrowed from the modern romantic conception and then connected somewhat retroactively to the biblical texts, in focusing too much on the couple themselves as a private union that sounds a bit too modern. But then I look at some of the passages in question and I do see that the union of man and woman in one flesh, each treating the other’s body as his or her own, can connect with the romantic conception somewhat more powerfully than perhaps the secular history of marriage will acknowledge. So even if marriage was at that time an external, socially oriented relationship that originally had more to do with obligations towards the extended family and community as a whole than with the couple’s direct or loving union to one another, it feels at times as if there is a kind of microcosm effect in the New Testament that presents this union as distinctly powerful amongst all our relationships, so that instead of the traditional couple’s relationship to each other being secondary to the larger familial obligations, this intimate unity becomes the most powerful and tangible enactment and grounding of those further relationships that then are enacted in wider and wider spheres (culminating in the church’s marriage to God in a final fulfillment). Of course, the great esteem of celibacy complicates any statement of marriage’s centrality in the NT, but I am sometimes led to read that as a kind of even higher marriage to God that only some are well positioned to take on.

    So that throws a lot of issues out there… but in short, I’m wondering how to read the conception of marriage in the NT against its historical backdrop. Are we merely injecting our own romantic conceptions when we treat the couple’s relationship as an extraordinarily powerful union, so that the text should be read more in the context of marriage and fidelity as a broader familial and community commitment that is not centered on the couple’s love or immediate relationship (and sometimes even antagonistic to them sharing any stronger private love, and that historian notes), or does Christianity depict a unique intersection of marriage as a broader commitment (to your entire family, community, church, and then God) and marriage as a deep personal union of one flesh?

    Thanks for any thoughts, and for all your writings online.

    • Thanks for the comment and your kind words.

      You ask some big questions!

      I think that we need to begin by recognizing the ways in which marriage and the family evolved, not just throughout history in general, but throughout biblical history. The practice of marriage in a rural context in the early history of Israel was radically different from its later practice in a Graeco-Roman milieu among many urban Christians in the early Church and both of these sharply contrast with typical practice among most Christians today.

      God never gave us a single model of marriage. However, what he did give us is a set of divinely established marital goods and duties that must be integrated, honoured, and protected. The cultural practice of marriage is a prudential adumbration of deep and meaningful natural bonds, relations, identities, vocations, and movements.

      The way that these things will play out depends heavily upon the wider cultural context and moment in history. In the Old Testament, for instance, we see that the bonds of the family have to bear immense social weight. The social ends of marriage are very much to the fore and the ends of companionship are fairly understated by comparison. Forging strong bonds between families, establishing secure and stable providential and representative structures, and ensuring offspring and the passing on of inheritance are prioritized. Practices that we are a little too quick to stigmatize—things such as polygamy—ought to be understood within this context. In such a context, procreation is more imperative.

      Nevertheless, this emphasis upon the social ends of marriage and family as institutions in Old Testament doesn’t mean that intimate union of mutual delight between husband and wife is absent. From Adam’s poem of delight at Eve’s creation to the Song of Solomon this dimension is very much in evidence. The divine inspiration of such texts is noteworthy in that context, ensuring that certain horizons of the meaning of marriage are kept clearly open.

      The New Testament brings other significant things into the picture. The imperative of procreation is greatly decreased, celibate vocations are more celebrated, widows are discouraged from remarriage, and the Church functions as a new fictive kinship. This renders marriage less necessary and, as Hauerwas has recognized, gives more room for the romantic dimension of marriage to flourish. Christianity’s sexual and marital ethics would have stood out in various ways in many contexts in which the early Church found itself. The decreased emphasis on the imperative of procreation, the strong resistance to fornication, the sense of chastity as equally and directly incumbent upon both men and women as we are all temples of the Holy Spirit, the valuing of celibate vocations, etc. would all have been significant factors.

      Few Christians are truly cognizant of the various recent stages of the evolution of marriage, not least since the Industrial Revolution. Many fail to appreciate the way that this evolution plays powerfully into many debates about complementarianism or egalitarianism, for instance. This is one problem with appeals to return to ‘traditional’ marriage or to the way that we have always done things: there isn’t one such way. However, what a transcultural study does reveal is the integration of key ends and meanings in the institution of marriage. Rather than pushing for a ‘conservative’ return to some imagined ‘traditional’ marriage, we need to call for a marriage culture that honours and integrates the primary goods that the institution in its various forms has traditionally existed to serve.

      The principal reservation that I have about Coontz’s summary statement that you post is that it seems to speak of marriage as serving as little more than a functional arrangement. However, marriage isn’t only a means of achieving desirable cultural ends, but is a reservoir, guardian, and matrix of cultural meanings. Furthermore, these meanings aren’t purely culturally contingent, but are also receptive performances and developments of natural meanings attached to male and female, sexual relations between the sexes, procreation, childbearing and rearing, kinship, and the relationship between the generations. While marriage takes many different forms, its performance and development of such meaning is practically universal (much as, while no particular cultural model of gender difference is universal, the existence of models of gender difference is).

      The development of marriage into its current form is problematic in various respects, not least as meanings integral to marriage have been jettisoned in certain quarters. There is much to be thankful for, though. Within our form of marriage, we can explore dimensions of the reality that would have been much more restricted in previous ages. However, while marriage may once have borne a heavy burden of the imperative of procreation, the burden that it now bears may be that of providing us with the intimacy that a fragmented, uprooted, and atomized society denies us in other quarters. Marriage fractures as it starts to be oriented more around the self-fulfilment of the individual. It might be worth observing the character of the historical genre of the romance here, in the high medieval era, for instance. Romance can carry a high social cost, ripping apart the fabric of society. It is far from a straightforwardly good thing, but is closely related to tragedy. Our cultural relationship to it is far less ambivalent and circumspect.

      While there are romantic elements here and there in the New Testament, the power that the relationship bears is less about subjective intimacy and sense of a powerful bond than it is in the objective force of the union as the forming of a one flesh bond, a donation of the self, and a symbol of Christ and the Church. The objective force that the relationship bears ensures that the couple are not the sole curators of its meaning. Rather, marriage makes meaning in the world and draws upon divinely established meanings in his creation in doing so. The depiction of marriage in Old and New Testament firmly resists the jettisoning of the companionate and romantic dimensions, while presenting it as responsive and responsible to the divinely ordained natural order, to God, and to wider society.

      Thanks again for the comment.

      • J. Phillips says:

        Thank you for taking time out to write such a clear and thorough reply. Many of your points here are illuminating and speak very well to my present questions. I feel that you’ve managed to capture the enduring features of marriage as an integration of goods and meanings in a way that fully acknowledges its historical changes without ceding the crucial ground by accepting any change as consistent with those purposes. I’m impressed by your ability to read it as a historically mediated institution while still retaining a powerful sense of its enduring meanings and, thereby, a position from which to revive and cherish its depth yet also to critique current shifts where necessary. Too often it feels like one is stuck either defending a fantasy of a uniform tradition of perfectly stable practices that never quite existed or, on the other hand, giving up and saying that its historical nature means anything goes. Thanks again.

      • Thank you. You raised a great question. Hopefully I will have more time to explore it in the future.

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  45. Pingback: Open Mic Thread 43 | Alastair's Adversaria

  46. Pingback: Open Mic Thread 44 | Alastair's Adversaria

  47. Pingback: Open Mic Thread 45 | Alastair's Adversaria

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