Open Mic Thread 18


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
  • 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!

Earlier open mic threads: 123456, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17.

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.
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77 Responses to Open Mic Thread 18

  1. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Well, that UVA rape story in Rolling Stone seems to have completely fallen apart. See the latest at the Washington Post and Steve Sailer for details.

    I still think that men getting away with rape in Western societies is not a rare occurrence. But we’re also getting a rare education in the fact that women do (sometimes) lie about rape. Can you believe both these things at the same time? Yes, you can.

    • Some women definitely do lie about rape. However, let’s remember that men’s lies about rape are far greater of a problem than women’s and that in most cases we could benefit from trusting women more and men less. Also, I think that it is important to remember that many women’s accounts of rape—perhaps many more women than purposefully lie—won’t stand up as a consistent and reliable account of events under cross-examination without being ‘lies’. People who have undergone incredibly traumatic events often aren’t the most reliable witnesses, even when they are trustworthy as persons. It seems to me that it is important not to presume that the unravelling of details of a person’s story means that it is altogether without substance, or that nothing was done to them.

      On this specific debate more generally, I think that Emily Yoffe’s article has helpful things to say.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        In the UVA case, it looks like a lot of it is outright lies. It is still possible that something happened to the alleged victim, but she also seems to have just made up a lot of stuff in a way that can’t be attributed to fragmentation or faulty memory.

        Of course, there is the problem that people start to actually believe their own lies.

      • Sadly, I suspect that the media’s appetite for the most dramatic of cases will attract them to a disproportionate number of such untrustworthy accounts.

      • buckyinky says:

        Some women definitely do lie about rape. However, let’s remember that men’s lies about rape are far greater of a problem than women’s and that in most cases we could benefit from trusting women more and men less.

        I hesitate to ask you to elaborate on this here (though I would be delighted if you would) because it appears to be something you are very settled upon, perhaps the result of much thought. Is there anywhere you could direct me where you develop the reasons behind these assertions? I ask because to my eyes it does not appear to be the obvious conclusion, especially in the current epoch we inhabit, in which what amount to false rape accusations by women against men are encouraged as a good thing. Thanks.

  2. quinnjones2 says:

    As with some other things, such as shoplifting and fraudulent insurance claims, people who cheat and lie make it harder for people who don’t.

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      Exactly. This is one of the “structural” problems out there. People lie. So, we don’t always know for sure who to believe. Which makes it harder for actual victims to come forward.

      • mnpetersen37 says:

        Though, that we rush to share the most sensational stories, and so hurt the credibility it the victim, is only ine of the causes of a much more troubling trend of defending perpetrators, and believing them even when they lie. Without that last step: “…and so we believe the less vulnerable side, rather than the more, and hold the traumatized to an impossible level of scrutiny” we really aren’t addressing structural ills.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        Mr. Petersen, what you write fits my critique of structural analysis fits my objection to that kind of thing to a T:

        “Mystifying perfectly clear and well understood problems to make them sound more insidious than they really are. For example, a leftist will often talk about vague ‘structural’ problems that result in, for example, poor people being more likely to be convicted of criminal offenses than rich people when charged with the same crimes. Well, the ‘structural’ problem there is that the poor can’t afford as good a lawyers. There are various possible remedies for that problem, but none are without their trade offs.”

        The “structural problems” in rape cases include:

        1. Asking questions of alleged victims to make sure their story is credible.
        2. The “reasonable doubt” standard for criminal conviction.

        I don’t doubt that things like that really do discourage genuine victims from coming forward, and that’s bad. But those things were put in place for good reasons, and not out of insufficient sympathy for rape victims.

        Jackie had been peddling her narrative at UVA for a while now even though it was false, and a lot of people apparently just accepted it at face value. Then Rolling Stone published her version of events, and again simply accepted it at face value. This is pretty much what you would expect whenever you uncritically accept whatever an alleged victim says. In fact, it is telling that the narrative got so far despite some rather severe problems with it on its face. Does the fact that such a blatantly problematic story got so far really inspire confidence that people will handle other, less sensational cases well?

        P.S. Failing to believe the alleged victim is not necessarily the same as believing the alleged perpetrator. To say that it is, and therefore insinuate a sympathy with rapists, just means you’re acting like the wrong end of a digestive tract.

      • mnpetersen37 says:

        I don’t know what position you’re attributing to me and then replying to.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        Perhaps my language was overly harsh. My apologies. However, taking into account all your comments here, your position seems at best incoherent, and at worst quite unjustifiably nasty, at least in it’s implications.

  3. quinnjones2 says:

    Hi Alastair,
    I will read Emily Yoffe’s article later – I’m a bit pushed for time just now.
    Just for now, I’ll comment on the witness of traumatized victims.I think it must be fiendishly difficult for the police to interview rape victims. Although the details of the traumatic events themselves are clear and unforgettable [unless the victim is suffering from psychogenic amnesia], victims may be reluctant to speak about these details and may, therefore, give an impression that they are prevaricating. The details that are more forgettable are the ordinary, everyday details, such as the exact time of the events, what the people involved were wearing, the colour of the curtains, and so on – the kind of details most of us forget, anyway, unless we have some very special reason for remembering them.
    Of course, the task of a defence lawyer is to cast doubt on the evidence of the complainant/victim and I don’t think it would be too difficult a task to trip her up over her inability to remember ordinary, everyday details. Although this inability in no way invalidates her account of the traumatic events, I wonder how many jurors know that, or can be expected to know that?
    As for women deliberately making false rape allegations – shame on them!

  4. Alex says:

    What’s a good, short novel?

    • Have you read Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead? I enjoyed it when I did.

    • PB says:

      The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway is good; it might be considered a short story though.

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      Tolstoy’s short novels are some of his best work, and often touch on spiritual themes. I particularly like The Death of Ivan Ilyich, The Devil, and Hadji Murad. This collection is a good place to start.

      I would also highly recommend his short novel on the early days of Christianity: Walk in the Light, While There is Light, available here.

      Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground is also excellent. The Pevear/Volokhonsky translation is good, as is the Oxford World Classics version.

  5. quinnjones2 says:

    Alastair re: your comment on the media – so true. Unfortunately the media feed the appetites of readers/viewers and it seems to be a chicken/egg thing!

    • quinnjones2 says:

      I have now read (quickly!) Emily’s article – a careful and thoughtful consideration of complex issues. I just thought of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, andTamar, and Dinah ,and Ecclestiastes – maybe there is nothing new under the sun!

  6. quinnjones2 says:

    Hi Matt,
    Re; ‘defending perpetrators’ ( your most recent post) , have you read anything by Jennifer Temkin, for instance ‘Rape and the legal process’? I hope to buy it sometime. I.vedone a google search and found an article by her called ‘Prosecuting and defending rape -perspectives from the bar’. I first read that a few years ago, and found it quite an eye-opener! I made a bit of an amateur study of this a few years ago and saved hoards of links – then my PC had a virus a while back and I lost them all! I’ll probably search for them again when I can find the time. I know defendants are entitled to a fair trial, but some of the tactics used by their barristers make my blood boil!

    • mnpetersen37 says:

      No I haven’t. That we treat defendants unjustly would not at all surprise me. And regarding rape, it’s important that we be able to tear both sides justly. The issue seems to be that we currently treat neither side justly

      • Conor Friedersdorf makes some helpful points here, I think.

      • quinnjones2 says:

        God alone knows the whole truth but ,as a friend of mine said, He won’t be asked to testify in court. I continue to pray that God’s truth, justice and mercy will prevail in every heart, in every place.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        I would absolutely agree that there are contexts where the victim is entitled to the benefit of the doubt at each turn, but I also think it incumbent upon anyone dealing with an alleged victim to actively seek out the truth and ask at least some some questions, at an appropriate time.

        There should also be a general amount of love and support regardless of whether someone is telling the truth. Usually, if you’re going so far as to make a false accusation of rape, something traumatic has happened to you in your life.

  7. Peter B says:

    I recently heard an explanation of ‘simul iustus et peccator’ that helped the implications of grace sink in deeper. It confused me for a while, but I’ve gone back to it a couple of times and am starting to see the flaw in my understanding. But it has me slightly confused. It can be found here ( [start at 4:00]).

    In the course of my young Christian journey, I haven’t been much tempted to antinomianism (Romans 6’s opening is very salient). But I have used good works as a measure of growth in grace, consequently taking the lack of them—esp. with besetting sins—to be a reproach on me & my lack of sanctification. As I imbibe the point here (that good works will not, finally, commend me to God), I’m now wondering what is/are the role(s) of good works in the life of the believer? I think I’m confused about the balance b/w passivity & striving in the Christian life. For one who has leaned toward striving, functionally relegating the benefits of Christ to an afterthought (“I’m under grace not law”, after all), I’m eager to hear other articulations of this balance. I mean, the mere passage of time inclines me to measure progress/regress in sanctification. Is that a worthless exercise?
    (Kinda rambly, lol, but I’m eager to hear any thoughts)
    Or has all this just been an exercise in ‘Protestant sins’ (from Leithart’s recent post)? lol

  8. chadinkc says:

    Anyone have suggestions on books covering the origins and history of Puritanism?

  9. Matt Petersen says:

    The Tolkien article doesn’t get the half of it right. Tolkien lost his friends in The Somme, where he was injured. He hated war. And as the futility if it. And loved things. And the ascendency if man was only mentioned as tragedy in Jackson.

    But Jackson makes was look awesome. And profitable. (Cheney would like Jackson’s films, Tolkien would have cast him as the Mouth of Sauron.)

    And nature (the Ents) is silly not profound. And Faramir tries to take the ring (thus more depth is destroyed: Tolkien’s characters are more saintly than Jackson’s, not just more sinful. Jackson’s are just Americans dressed up as reenactors. Tolkien’s Frodo would have gotten on well with St. Francis. As would his Elrond. Jackson’s would have gotten on NFL stars.)

    And man’s arrival is as much tragedy as anything: it is the loss of Laurenlidorinon. It is the loss of Rivendale. Man’s work is only firm in the Incarnation. Nothing else is firm. (Also in Tolkien’s world.)

  10. NM says:

    I’ve spent the last few years thinking about the nature of the church and trying to evaluate Anabaptist type claims of the Babylonian Captivity of the Church. Did the early church lose its biblical moorings early on? Has the institutional church neglected the teachings of Scripture on the organic nature of Christian assembly?

    One issue that I’ve been pondering is that of open-participatory gatherings, raised by the likes of Frank Viola and George Barna in their book Pagan Christianity. Many would say that New Testament gatherings were open ala 1 Corinthians 14:26 (each one of you has a song, a hymn, etc) and that these gatherings provided the context for the multiple “one anothering” passages in the NT. They would then point to the early Church Fathers and the like for corrupting New Testament worship and leaving the church with an unbiblical heritage of the liturgy (e.g. the Didache). I can see the power of the argument in the text of Scripture itself, but then again, I’m very wary of a solo Scriptura approach which makes my private interpretation of the biblical text as valid as those espoused in the council of Nicea! Are we really to believe that after the death of the apostles that the Holy Spirit went on holiday and only came back with the advent of the Plymouth Brethren? Has the way that the whole, confessing, catholic church been out of step with Scripture?Am I the only one who struggles with these questions?

  11. quinnjones2 says:

    I just read the article about ‘Final Lucidity’ and yes, it happens.
    I am especially interested in the writer’s dream about Sally and her dog, Shane, and I don’t think it was a fluke. I attach weight to what Carl Jung wrote about the ‘collective unconscious’, dreams, and synchronicity – something some of my Christian friends describe as ‘God-incidences’.
    More significant to me than what Carl Jung said about dreams is the fact that God spoke to people in dreams in the Scriptures, and I believe He still speaks to us in dreams. I always pray before I sleep, and I have found it helpful to keep a dream journal, because I believe that, during my sleep, the Holy Spirit shines a light on things that my conscious (and overly-rational!) mind dismisses.I wish I could paint some of my dreams!
    The writer of ‘Final Lucidity’ is a scientist and, as far as I can see, not a Christian, so why might God speak to him in a dream? For me, the question immediately following on the heels of that question is, why not? God is God.
    I found it a very interesting and thought-provoking article – thank you for the link, Alastair 🙂

  12. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Interesting article from an atheist on why Jesus was not a queer ally. Someone might want to send (tweet?) this to progressive Christians like RHE, Sarah Bessey, Tony Jones.

  13. quinnjones2 says:

    Hi TMWW,
    This is a response to your post of Dec.16th at 5.58 pm.
    You do sound so concerned, and it really is a delicate matter. Do you live in the US, by the way? I ask because there are safeguarding guidelines in the UK for school teachers and for CofE members who work with minors, and you may or may not know about these guidelines. I don’t know about guidelines in higher education establishments.
    Re: your final sentence, beginning:’If you are going so far as to make a false accusation of rape…’, I can’t make a general comment on this, other than to say that I believe people who make such allegations are very much in the minority. I agree with you that such people certainly have a problem and maybe some of them have a history of trauma – but I suspect that others, like Potiphar’s wife, may be opportunistic!

  14. The Man Who Was . . . says:
  15. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    I have been reading an anthology of Egyptian love poems from the New Kingdom in the excellent translation of Barbara Hughes Fowler. I may read John L. Foster’s versions too.

    What charming and beautiful poetry, and obviously the principle literary influence on The Song of Songs. The Biblical work is definitely it’s own beast, but there are just too many echoes to deny a close relationship between the two texts. In fact, Michael Fox wrote a whole book on the relationship between these poems and the Biblical work.

    1. Biblical writers were obviously deeply read in the literature of the surrounding cultures. (Another prime example is the close relationship between the Epic of Gilgamesh and Ecclesiastes. There are several excellent translations of Gilgamesh, including wonderful poetic versions by Stephen Mitchell and David Ferry, but the one that brings out the parrallels between it and the Biblical book is the well written prose version of N.K. Sanders.)

    2. Biblical writers often just flat out adopted literature from these cultures for Yahwistic purposes. Psalm 104 is a prime example. There are no doubt other examples where we do not have the original usage.

    3. There are mythological allusions in the Bible.

    Peter Leithart in his book on Classical literature has to defend himself against James Jordan’s suggestion that studying pagan, indeed polytheistic, literature is at best a waste of time, and at worst actively corrupting. I think that the example of the Biblical writers in this case is quite clearly in favour of a discerning reading of non-Biblical, indeed pagan, literature. Not that there are no dangers that way, but pagan literature is not just a heap of wicked idolatry.

  16. whitefrozen says:

    ‘James Jordan’s suggestion that studying pagan, indeed polytheistic, literature is at best a waste of time, and at worst actively corrupting.’

    That just made me lose a lot of respect for Jordan, and I’ve still yet to read him.

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      Jordan is still an amazing reader of the Bible. Don’t let this deter you from reading him.

      The Jordan article I am referring to is here. Leithart’s preface to his book on Classical literature is here.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        I think even Leithart starts off too harsh there, though he goes on to soften his stance almost immediately.

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      Jordan, not surprisingly, also doesn’t like the idea of natural law, and Leithart is ambivalent there. I think they’re dead wrong, but there you have it.

  17. quinnjones2 says:

    I just thought of two instances of Person A saying one thing, and Persons B-N hearing another thing [as if we need any more examples!]
    In a French lesson:
    Some pupils thought my colleague said, ‘Turn, you tw*t!’
    My colleague actually said, ‘Tournez a droite!’
    In a German lesson:
    Some of my pupils thought I said, ‘The gay goes in the middle.’
    I actually said, ‘The ge- goes in the middle.’ I’d even written it on the board, so they were ‘without excuse’ ( !)
    For non-Germanists who have endured reading this so far, I was talking about the past participles of separable verbs, e.g. auf-ge-macht (opened) – unlike ge-macht (made/did).

  18. Peturb says:

    This link from your caught my eye because it was titled in a manner reminiscent of Ch. 3 of ‘Begotten or Made’ (which I just read). Though O’Donovan’s prognostication was about a 3-parent child (two genetic, one physiological [pregnant woman]) and the fact that trying to sort out who is ‘mother’ would reduce human r/ships to being a merely legal reality. With this embryo repair business, it seems that his prediction has largely come true. Weird to think that he wrote that in 1984. Whatever happened to bioethics (in law and practice) after the Warnock report?

  19. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Peter Leithart flubs things a bit here.

    He quotes with approval Jack Miles’ defense of religion being based in fear. Trouble is, it is false. As Jesse Bering and many others have argued, people don’t imagine that there is food when they are hungry, so there is no reason to believe they would imagine a giant protector when they are afraid. You’ve got to already believe that sort of thing exists before it can bring any comfort to you. Similarly, religion is not a primitive form of science. You’ve got to already find a personal aspect of reality plausible before you can use it as explanation.

    What religion is is personification, the attribution of personality to things other than human beings. You have believe that on some level reality is fundamentally personal to be religious. The desire for protection or for explanation can piggyback on that intuition, but they can’t cause it.

  20. Matt Petersen says:

    On twitter, you said, rather cryptically:

    I don’t hold a Catholic understanding of Mary, although I think that Protestants understate her significance.

    I’d be interested to see this developed more. Or at least, what sources do you draw off?

    (I’d also be interested in the unfinished post on the Aqedah. Is there any way you could email me that?)

    • It would take a while to articulate my view on Mary. Perhaps at some later point I will write a post on the subject.

      I still plan to post on the Aqedah, when I have the time (probably towards the end of January at this point).

  21. Matt Petersen says:

    Also, does anyone have thoughts on why Christ was born of a Virgin, not just sine virili semine? Most of the explanations of the virgin birth I’ve heard instead explain why it was necessary for Christ to be conceived without seed. But their explanations could apply equally well had He been born of a widow, or pf woman who once did not tend her own vineyards, or even of a wife whose husband was away, and so do not explain what they set out to explain, the virgin birth.

    • A few brief comments, towards an answer:

      First, there are a few occasions in the gospels where significance is given to Jesus’ use of something that hadn’t been used before: the colt and his tomb being key examples. Being born of a woman no man had known is another example of this, I think.

      Second, it is important that Jesus was Mary’s firstborn, the one who opened the womb and was claimed by the Lord.

      Third, being of a betrothed virgin in such a manner meant that Jesus had a mediating role in the relationship between his parents that he would not have had otherwise.

      Fourth, being born of a young virgin is more suggestive of a radical new beginning, a surprising new chapter being miraculously opened within the narrative, rather than life from the dead and a surprising end to an existing one, which birth from a widow might suggest.

      • quinnjones2 says:

        If you do write a post about Mary at a later date, Alastair, I will be very interested in what you have to say, and I am thankful to Matt for raising this subject here.Thank you for your four mind-stretching points above!

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