Open Mic Thread 9

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, 8.

I will have a very full schedule over the next few weeks and, beyond podcasts, I will be keeping a low profile online. The main upshot of this is that I am unlikely to be an active presence in comments for the next month or so. I don’t expect to be participating in the comments beneath this post, although I will definitely read them. I have a few posts that might make an appearance tomorrow: giving up commenting will give me a chance to finish those before going quiet.

Even though, after tomorrow, I won’t be commenting or blogging much, here are a number of posts beneath which I have enjoyed lengthy and stimulating comment discussions over the past week:

On understanding our evangelical backgrounds
On feminism and its Christian critics
On same sex relations and their tensions with the ‘icon’ of marriage

If you have been involved in any thought-provoking and worthwhile discussions in comments yourself, please share the link with us all in the comments here.

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.

78 Responses to Open Mic Thread 9

  1. Alex says:

    What are your thoughts on male-female relationships outside the scope of marriage? Do you support modern means of dating, including meeting online? Do you think kissing is valid without a commitment?

    • Matt Petersen says:

      Regarding meeting online: It’s not from a Christian perspective, but the book to read is “Cold Intimacies: The Making of Emotional Capitalism.” Extremely perceptive of why meeting online is so extremely difficult.

  2. Paul Baxter says:

    Just a couple of articles to share.
    One on science and philosophy by a thoughtful scientist: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/118655/theoretical-phyisicist-explains-why-science-not-about-certainty

    Another on theologians trashing each other:
    http://scriptoriumdaily.com/well-last-theologian-idiot/

  3. Paul Baxter says:

    Oh, and your comments on the conservative or sexist thread were quite stimulating. Thanks for linking that.

  4. Hi Alastair,
    Just a quick comment here to say how much I appreciate your lucid and convincing posts on Richard Beck’s ‘..’icon’ of marriage’ blog.
    I have posted here rather than there for two reasons:
    – You said on RB’s blog that you did not have time to continue the debate there.
    – Personally, I don’t want to post on RB’s blog because I find many of the comments there less than edifying, to put it very mildly!

  5. Chris W says:

    Regarding baptismal regeneration, how would you reconcile the doctrine with the teaching of 1 John? Particularly the sections which emphasise that all who believe and continue in faithfulness are born again (1 John 2:29, 2:19-24, 4:7, 4:15, 5:1-5) and that those who believe cannot fall away (1 John 3:6-9, 5:18). This is part of a general biblical trend which associates the moment of new life with the gospel call – consider texts like John 5:24-27 for instance, among others.

    Now, I appreciate that the many New Testament texts which speak about baptism do appear to link it with regeneration and the forgiveness of sins (eg. Acts 2:38-39, Romans 6, Colossians 2 and others). However, I think the best way to understand the relationship between the two is to see conversion as an organic process, beginning with the gospel call, and ending with baptism. The language of “regeneration” or “new birth” could then describe either the whole process, or a part of it, depending upon the context.

    I appreciate your busy schedule at the moment, Alastair, and so if you can’t respond to this I completely understand. If anyone else wants to chip in with their own response, I would love to hear your thoughts.

  6. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Some more questions and requests for recommendations on specific theologians:

    Scot McKnight – Tom Schreiner has pointed out some pretty elementary mistakes in The Blue Parakeet. And the book is of course the source of the infamous description of hermeunetics as “pick and choose.” Furthermore, in a whole book on the “Jesus creed” he never, so far as I can tell, offers a remotely coherent definition of love. So, obviously there are some serious problems. So, my questions are: What about The Jesus Creed book? Is it worth reading? Are there some of McKnight’s other works worthy of study? Is it just that his lows are really, really low?

    Roger E. Olson – I’m interested in your opinions on Arminian Theology: Myths And Realities, The Journey of Modern Theology (or the older edition with Grenz, 20th Century Theology), and any other books of his you might have read.

    Stanley Grenz – What do you think of his work, particularly Beyond Foundationalism (with Franke)? I read his Primer on Postmodernism and found it helpful, if a bit wishy washy at times.

    Francis Schaeffer – He has been denounced, with apparently some justification, as an intellectual fraud by a wide range of people, yet has seemed to stimulate a genuine interest in the arts among Evangelicals. Are there any of his books still worth reading, or is mostly of historical interest? I may pick up Art and the Bible at some point.

    Peter Leithart – Have you read any of this books on literature? I believe he has a bunch, on Dostoevsky, Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Dante, classical literature etc. What do you think of them? How do they compare to Rowan Williams’ similar books?

    J.I. Packer – What do you think of Knowing God? The book has defeated my attempts to read it several times, and yet seems to attract absolutely enormous praise in the Evangelical community. Are there any other works of his you would recommend, or think worthy of note?

    Robert Jenson – You have strongly recommended Robert Jenson’s work, yet said that you have serious differences with him in some areas. What particularly do you object to?

    John Milbank – What do you think of Theology and Social Theory?

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      And what are your thoughts on Jurgen Moltmann? Any recommended books? I guess the big ones are The Crucified God and Theology of Hope.

      • whitefrozen says:

        Here’s what a very good friend of mine had to say on Moltmann (he did a good amount of work in seminary on Hegel, Marx and Liberation theology):

        ‘To understand Moltmann we must understand Classic Marxism as interpreted by Marxist/atheist Ernst Bloch (esp. his masterwork Das Prinzip Hoffnung (The Principle of Hope, 1959) and more general conversations between secular Marxists/socialists and Christian intellectuals of the time regarding which Moltmann’s The Theology of Hope (1969) is a mere footnote that became very popular in the context of the Ecumenical Movement. Central to dialogs was the category of hope as a major issue of common concern, rethinking this issue in a manner facilitating achievement of common goals was a common task. “The past is prologue” of Classical Marxism found development and expression in Marxist/atheist Ernst Bloch’s masterful analysis of hope which fed directly into to Moltmann’s. Bloch recovered the root metaphors of apocalyptic literature as a manner of portraying the nature of man and political reality e.g. opression. Key to Bloch’s use of hope is the conviction that our being in the world necessarily involves the not-yet -a form of “transcendence” even apart from considerations of otherworldly eternity (compare Moltmann’s theological elimination of this latter category correlates to his understanding of not just God and the Word of God, but the Trinity -vertically, i.e. a world-historical understanding of transcendence and Trinitarian theology). Whereas for St. Basil “No one has ever seen the essence of God, but we believe in the essence because we experience the energy” Leftward leaning Christian intellectuals within the Ecumenical regarded this as if not a point of contact, at lease an agreement relative to common praxis. Moltmann regarded God’s ousia as self-defined in the historical process (psychology of God an even more fruitless enterprise than psychology of the living or psychology of the dead IMO). So (1) the essence of God is knowable; (2) it is known not only in the historical process, but only in the historical process. Bloch would surely not have objected.

        Moltmann’s vertical perspective of things divine included a denial of the epiphanic. On this view there can be no union or theosis in the classical sense of the earliest apostolic fathers. Moltmann was wrong to view classical Trinitarian and Christological thought as abstractions; they were over safeguarding the Church’s experience of salvation as union (as described in Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, ch 1). As church historian J. N. D. Kelly has noted there was no other view of salvation among the apostolic fathers besides this. Politics aside or not aside, to find an entirely divergent epistemology, soteriology, ontology, ecclesiology, and so on than the apostolic fathers which explicitly contradicts the heart of their faith and casts Christianity in an entirely alien key is to my mind no less dubious than something like the Scofield Reference Bible; I do not say that simply because I’m Eastern Orthodox. That is not to say everything in Moltmann is disagreeable, but his understanding of God, Trinity, Christ, the Church are clever innovations incommensurable with classic Christianity as understood by the Eastern Church.’

  7. In most Bible translations what Jesus says to Nicodemus is “born again”, but some more literal translations use “born from above”. The meaning to me is quite different, and I think what Jesus is referring to is receiving the Holy Spirit as he did at his baptism.

    To be “born again” then means not to receive Jesus as you personal Lord and Savior, as the Baptists say, but to receive the Holy Spirit.

    • Paul Baxter says:

      Just as a general principle in translating (whether from biblical Greek or any other language), when confronted by a word with more than one meaning in the original language, the object isn’t to pick the meaning you like the best, but the one that fits the context best. If you look at how Nicodemus RESPONDS to Jesus statement, I think it becomes much more clear which meaning is to be preferred.

  8. William Fehringer says:

    Hi Thrasymachus,

    I checked LSJ and ἄνωθεν can be translated both “again” and “from above.” One of the features of Greek is that words can have a larger range of meaning than the Englsh words used to translate them. for example, the greek word λύω can mean ‘to set free” or “destroy” depending on the context. It may be, given Nicodemus’s response, asking how he could be born when he is old, that he took it to mean “again.” The word ἄνωθεν is used in a few other places. In Gal. 4:9 I think it would be hard to argue that it means “from above.”

    To everyone else, I’ve been following this blog for a few months now and I’ve appreciated the atmosphere that Alastair has sought to create. About me: I don’t have any formal theological training. I spent some time after college studying classical languages and am currently studying traditional logic.

    • whitefrozen says:

      Traditional logic is a delightful subject.

      • William Fehringer says:

        Hi whitefrozen,

        I’m only halfway through and I find I can examine arguments much more easily already. And I’m starting to see bad reasoning everywhere now that I can begin to parse it.

      • whitefrozen says:

        Being able to grasp formal logic is to me invaluable for that very reason – you can identify bad raining right off the bat. It’s been a quick minute since I went over some of the denser aspects like symbolic logic and predicate calculus, but it’s a very worthwhile study.

    • Peter B says:

      Hey William, your last sentence interested me. What are you using to study traditional logic? I want to do the same but the only resource I’ve found is ‘Logic’ by Vern Poythress (b/c it’s free online), and I’m planning to read and work through it come early October, by God’s grace. http://www.frame-poythress.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/BLogicFinal.pdf
      Could you skim through the Table o’ Contents and tell me if traditional logic is covered anywhere in that curriculum? My hope is to learn how to do what you mentioned below: get practiced at spotting faulty reasoning.

      • whitefrozen says:

        This is one of the best intros to traditional as well as formal logic out there: http://www.amazon.com/Logic-Brief-Insight-Graham-Priest/dp/1402768966

      • William Fehringer says:

        Hi Peter,

        I am using Martin Cothran’s Traditional Logic. It’s a middle/high school level text for classical schools that looks to develop mastery over Aristotelian logic. Though it’s not a college text, it goes more in depth than college texts that talk about traditional logic. Another one from the classical school set of offerings in Jim Nance’s Introductory Logic. I’m studying Cothran’s with a tutor from Westminster, where Poythress teaches. We’re on Traditional Logic Book II and will move on to Material Logic after that.

        Poythress’s book looks good, I’ll probably pick it up at some point, but it’s a mix of traditional and modern logic and seems more a book about logic than a book for doing logic, and more mathematical than language-based, where the value for critical thinking lies. Studies of figure and mood are relegated to supplemental sections and I don’t see a section on distribution which has been one of the most important parts for me so far in my studies. I don’t disparage the value of modern logic, but I like the idea of mastery of one system before starting another.

        I’ll also probably pick up whitefrozen’s recommendation, the Graham Priest book, at some point. I have S. Morris Engel’s “With Good Reason” as an introduction to informal fallacies, also Irving Copi’s textbook for when I want to begin modern logic, which has a lot of exercises.

      • William Fehringer says:

        Hi Peter,

        I spent some time looking through Poythress’s book and I really like it, but I can’t say I like it as a book that teaches you how to do logic. It lacks exercises and examples drawn from real world writing. I’d have to look closer, but I don’t see any section that helps you translate ordinary sentences into standard form syllogisms, to which Cothran dedicates a chapter.

        He goes through the 19 valid forms of the syllogism, with their weird sounding names, but he doesn’t explain the mnemonic that those names are a part of. That mnemonic when memorized and you know what you can do with each letter in each name is an incredible tool for finding faulty reasoning. I’d think you’d learn a lot from this book, but probably not how to spot faulty reasoning in writing and conversation and how to practice reasoning well in your own thoughts, speech, and writing. It is a good book about logic, but I would think it would be better for someone with an already existing foundation in traditional logic. I know you mentioned it because it’s free online, but if you can, give the other recommendations a try.

      • Peter B says:

        To summarize the suggestions:
        Cothran – Traditional Logic I (then II)
        S. Morris Engel – With Good Reason
        Graham Priest – Logic (A Brief Insight)
        Lepore & Cumming – Meaning and Argument
        [couldn’t find a Copi title that received unqualified praise on Amazon, so I’ll table that decision until I’ve at least gone through the above ones]

        Thanks for the recommendations, all!

  9. Andrew says:

    Meaning and argument by Ernest Lepore is good.

  10. Christians in Iraq are dying horribly at the hands of the genocidal butchers of ISIS. These Christians are not hearing anything from other Christians in the world. Christians: you must come out onto the streets of London and elsewhere in your hundreds of thousands and give those suffering Christians of Iraq heart. Evil succeeds if good people do nothing. This is urgent.

  11. Yes, it is urgent,Solarus.
    I don’t know if you are on Twitter.If not, I hope you will find some comfort in the following:
    Canon Andrew White @vicarofbaghdad posts from time to time and many of us read his blogs and prayer requests and re-tweet them.
    Jeremy Courtney @JCourt, a doctor who worked in Iraq, tweets updates which give us a prayer focus
    UK aid @DFID_UK have posted photos of people involved in providing emergency aid for displaced people in Iraq, including a photo of some displaced people who are now safe and sheltered.

    Let’s pray now:
    Lord Jesus Christ
    ‘man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’
    please comfort all those people
    whose hearts, minds and lives are shattered
    and give them hope.
    We pray especially for persecuted Christians everywhere
    and especially for those in Iraq
    and for the families of slaughtered children.
    Lord have mercy
    Christ have mercy

  12. Matt Petersen says:

    It seems that either whitefrozen or Thursday linked to a book about Christianity or Christian ethics and improvisation, but I cannot seem to find it anywhere. Does anyone know what the book may have been?

  13. William Fehringer says:

    With the suicide of Robin Williams, a lot of people are talking about the appropriate Christian response. What do you think of Chesterton’s claim that suicide is selfish, in light of what we know now about brain chemistry?

    • I wouldn’t express my position in the way that Chesterton does. In this context I think that it is important to distinguish between the intrinsic character of an act and the intentions of those who commit it. Much of what Chesterton says is true about the intrinsic character and meaning of the act of suicide, but deeply and dangerously untrue about the motives of those who commit it.

  14. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Apparently those Christians who support SSM hold views on other sexual issues that are indistinguishable from the rest of the population. And check out the views of Gay and Lesbian Christians! I guess Andrew Sullivan isn’t alone in his porn lovin’ ways.

  15. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    RE: Robin Williams and depression

    Steve Sailer likes to talk about the two types of depression. The first is what happens to otherwise mentally healthy people when genuinely bad things happen to them. For example, Sailer mentions how he got depressed when he got cancer. But since beating it, he’s gone back to his normal non-depressed self. This kind of depression is totally understandable and probably just a natural part of life. The really horrifying kind of depression is the kind that seems to come on for no good reason at all.

    I have faced depression when younger, and used to think that depression was part of my general make up. Now I’m not so sure. Since I got a good but not too demanding job, some small recognition for my artistic work, and a pretty and agreeable girlfriend, the depression has vanished. Now I tend to think the main reason I was depressed was that my life just sucked back then, and now it doesn’t, though it is also possible that getting older helped.

    Anyway, I have no idea what Williams’ version of depression was like, but I thought this was worth mentioning.

  16. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    In response to the recently uncovered Mark Driscoll rants, there seems to be this meme going around the Progressive Christian blogosphere that if you say that it is degrading for a man to behave like or have the characteristics of a woman, you are saying it is degrading for a woman to be a woman, or behave like a woman, or have the typical characteristics of a woman.

    There is lots to legitimately complain about in Driscoll’s rants, but I don’t think it is at all clear he has ever thought or said it is degrading for women to act like or be women.

    My own thoughts: it is good for men to act like men (though there are many ways to do that), and it is good for women to act like women (though there are many ways to do that too).

    • Yes, I’ve seen quite a bit of this. I think that, given people’s sensitization to what is perceived to be denigration of women, they haven’t sufficiently attended to the broader phenomena. I believe that this attention would reveal that this is part of a wider practice of ‘gender policing’, much of it actually relatively healthy. This ‘policing’ can present behaviour or presentation distinctively characteristic of one sex as shameful in the other. It also stigmatizes gendered vices. So, while men can be stigmatized for being ‘girly’, we also have gendered slurs such as ‘creep’, ‘dick’, ‘asshole’, ‘jerk’, ‘douchebag’, etc., which (often rightly) stigmatize more extreme and inappropriate male behaviours.

      Also, while characteristics that are more stereotypically ‘male’ in the popular imagination can be praised in men and women (logical, assertive, level-headed, etc.), the same thing works the other way (sensitive, empathetic, caring, etc.). Also, such traits can also be regarded as bad things when taken to extremes. Men can be stigmatized for more male vices or weaknesses of aggressiveness, emotional coldness, social ineptitude, etc., and women can be stigmatized for being overly emotional, thin skinned, or precious.

      All of this isn’t without considerable problems. However, it isn’t the straightforward and unilateral devaluation of women that many think.

  17. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    This explains a lot.

  18. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    I just watched Disney’s Frozen. OK film, with better than average songs. I didn’t find any disguised pro-gay themes in the movie, as some have alleged. There are some general “accept who you are” themes that are very consonant with a broader liberalism, but nothing more specific than that.

    On the other hand, one should be somewhat careful showing films like this to children, as they do tend to normalize a general modernist ethic.

    • Although I was far less enamoured of the movie, I found Brad Littlejohn’s thoughts on Frozen very interesting.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        There may be a mistranslation from oral to written or North American to British idiom, but by OK I meant something like not terrible/competently executed/watchable.

        Though one might deplore its message, the song Let It Go is the most aesthetically realized part of the film. The story itself is rather perfunctorily told. Though the story arc may point towards the themes Littlejohn points out, the filmmakers don’t put much effort into drawing them out.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        Sorry, thought you were saying I was enamoured of the film.

        In a related note, Czeslaw Milosz talks in this interview about growing up in an essentially media free environment.

      • No, I was distinguishing my impression of the film from Brad’s.

        Interesting. I grew up without a TV and film and didn’t really listen to the radio. We had a huge library, though.

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