Open Mic Thread 22


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, 18, 19, 20, 21.

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. Bookmark the permalink.

132 Responses to Open Mic Thread 22

  1. Philip P. says:

    I was interested to see you pick up a copy of “Debt: the first 5000 years”. I wonder if you’ve read “Antifragile: Things that gain from Disorder”? Although the ideas stem from financial trading, when reading it recently I was struck at how broad the application of the central idea was, and also its applicability to the Church; thinking of, among other things: comfort => fragility, bottom up vs top down, academia vs practice. It is both an enlightening and entertaining read and comes thoroughly recommended.

  2. A few of the books that I’ve finished over the last two weeks or so that might be of interest to people here:

    1. Reading Backwards, Richard Hays: Highly recommended, although I have reservations about Hays’ hermeneutics.
    2. Sacrifice Unveiled, Robert Daly: Disappointing, after a promising start. Helpful treatments of the spiritualization of sacrifice, New Testament treatments of sacrifice, and Trinitarian sacrifice. Less helpful wholesale Girardianism.
    3. On Sacrifice, Moshe Halbertal: Lucid, scintillating, and brilliant handling of the themes of sacrifice to and sacrifice for. Much to chew on and a vast improvement over Daly.
    4. The Glass Cage, Nicholas Carr: Troubling exploration of the effects of automation upon humanity and society. Very much in the vein of his early book, The Shallows, with which I suspect many of you will be familiar.

  3. I would be interested to hear people here comment upon the following two pieces, not least because I think that the second probably has some important things to say to the phenomenon that the first represents:

    Taking the Lead in Developing New Sexual Ethics, Dianna Anderson
    The Moral Appeal of PC, Ross Douthat

    • chadinkc says:

      I had a brief discussion with a friend this morning about a 50 Shades of Grey buyback program, where in exchange for sending in your copy of the book, an organization will send you a free book on the dangers of erotica (my understanding is that 50 Shades is closer to a paperback romance novel with handcuffs and whips, but nevertheless). One of the comments made was that while the spirit of the effort is probably admirable, the only women likely to participate in the program are women who already feel that there are dangers surrounding ‘erotica’ and that maybe something more is needed beyond advice to grit one’s teeth and try not to think about how you’d like to be tied up and boinked.

      The Anderson piece rightly diagnoses that approach as flawed. I was excited for a moment when she talked about a “positive” sexual ethic, but by that all that she seemed to mean was an ethic rooted in self-understanding, self-affirmation, self-fulfillment, and self-direction. Consent enters in as a boundary, and clear/open communication is presented as a virtue.

      I pulled up her link on five reasons to wait until marriage, and the pushback against shame was there again (“‘Because it makes me a better person than you’ is a bad reason to wait”). Again, I agree with that assessment. Again, though, boundaries are set only by consent (#4), by one’s own perceived needs (#3), calling (#2), or desire (#5), or else by one’s beliefs about the nature and purpose of sex (#1).

      The sanctity of the self seems to be the primary thing here, especially if you interpret lack of consent as violating someone else’s self (-understanding/-affirmation/-fulfillment/-direction). This has some echoes in the 5 Reasons piece where a personal calling from God is given authority but is only binding on the individual.

      • Thanks for the comment. I think that the fear of toxic forms of shame is such a driving force behind her positions here. One of the first things that we must do is to challenge her account of and assumptions concerning shame and suggest a strong alternative. There is some good stuff in this piece on shame, I think.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        I think we very much need to get beyond the dichotomy of “shame is good” vs. “shame is bad.”

      • Well, yes. Shame is like pain. It can be destructive and terrible, but without it we would be in real trouble.

        More specifically, shame is the flipside of a sense of our dignity as human persons and moral beings.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        Which relates to the book on shame I link to below.

      • chadinkc says:

        Yes. It seems like her push away from an external/universal authority to one rooted in the self has some roots in the way external/universal authority gets so badly mishandled in evangelical sexual ethics. My own thought on that is that there is the connections of traditional Christian sexual ethics to broader theological/anthropological understandings in the evangelical world is tenuous if it’s there at all. I think Alasdair MacIntyre had a bit in one of his books about a taboo being something that once was rooted in a deep and rich culture and system of thought but that had somehow become unmoored from those origins. That is what a lot of evangelical sexual ethics come off as in my experience, and then when those boundaries are maintained, when shame is felt, etc., all of the attendant pain ends up seeming very senseless.

      • I think that you are correct. Evangelical sexual ethics often lacks any sort of coherent biblical rationale beyond ‘because God said so.’ And without such a deeper rationale, the claim that God said it is significantly more vulnerable to challenge.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        On the Douthat article, I’ve noted that PC is pretty effective at enforcing a certain social norm among more educated people. But it depends heavily on fear, rather than on love for an ideal, and is thus widely resented.

        On the other hand, if nothing else, PC has been extremely good for stand up comedy.

      • That said, I think there may be something very important in “because God said so”. Especially if we remember that the father in Proverbs 7:1-2, is keeping 6:7, and teaching Torah to his son, and in this he is imitating God who gave commandments to Israel precisely because Israel is His beloved Son (Ex 4:22). We act as we do not out of “obedience” (in scare quotes) to an abstract moral principle, but because our loving father so instructs us, and our obedience is a response to His address. (What a marvelous privileged: LORD God, addresses addresses us, by name (Is 43:1), and we can respond to Him!–and indeed, He even responds to us.) Thus, as Levenson quotes the Talmud, “Greater is he who performs a given act because he is commanded than he who performs the same act without being commanded.”

        However, that should not keep us from seeking out the wisdom of our Father’s commandments and instruction, attending ever more closely to them, and seeking out wisdom from them (Proverbs 2:6). That is, of reducing them to a *bare* “The Lord said…”, or, more precisely, reducing a loving and wise father to a boring legal code.

      • Edit: Is keeping *Deuteronomy* 6:7

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      Anderson has often excoriated the gnosticism implicit in much Evangelical discourse on sexuality. But as I note here the progressive view of the body is pretty problematic itself, and has trouble avoiding the trap of gnosticism too.

    • Cal says:

      Just like guilt, there is the dual problem:

      A) The prevalence of false shame. What are we supposed to be ashamed of? Who says? With the atomization of society as Alastair explained, we don’t belong to anyone or anything. This is propped up as a good and a move to no-shame, but it will still exist. But now it is in the hands of a tyranny of preference. The cry for freedom is really continued striving in quick sand. Our emotional lives become completely confused.

      2) There is no ‘shame-bearer’. Rarely in purity culture is Jesus the Shame-Bearer who offloaded it all in the grave. He was stripped naked before the world so that you might have the honor of the only-Begotten Son of God. The problem is a Christ-less Gospel, which is no gospel at all. The problem with ‘church-culture’ is that it is a synagogue of Satan.

      If we are held in account to the Torah, and yet our atoned and redeem by Christ, shame has a reality and an expiation.

      But Liberalized Christianity can only think in terms of Purity-Cult or 50-Shades-of-Insanity. These are instantiations of the Nation, not the Kingdom. I can see the former inwardly cheering at Lucretia’s suicide, I can see the latter clapping for Ovid’s lurid poetry. The Scriptures depict a different way.

  4. Hugh Pearson says:

    Hey Alastair,
    I am preaching at my youth group in a few weeks time on the first three chapters of Hosea. I am hoping to trace the theme of Christ and his Bride through the Bible to give a bigger picture so I am wondering if there is anything helpful you can suggest?

    Being an avid Mere Fidelity listener I asked Detek last week and got some good tips but wondering if you had seen anything in particular that struck you?


    • I would go back to Genesis 1-2 and develop themes from there, because those are the themes that are picked up at the end of Revelation. Look at such things as the relationship between forming, naming, taming (first three days) and filling, glorifying, life-giving (second three days) and the ways that these relate to the work of Christ and the Spirit. Then look at the ways that these two stages relate to the establishment of male and female in Genesis 2. Christ the husband performs the work of the first three days, while the Bride through the work of the Spirit brings it to glorious perfection through the work of the second three days.

      I would explore the way that the relationship between ruler and people is characterized throughout the Old Testament. Note, for instance, the way that the king is presented as if the lover of the people. The beauty and striking physical appearance of the king is typically noted (Saul, David, Solomon). The king wins over hearts (think of David winning over the hearts of everyone in Saul’s house—Jonathan, Michal, Saul’s servants, etc.—and all of the people). The relationship between the king and his people is explored in terms of a song of love in Song of Solomon. This immediate sense of Song of Solomon naturally produces the bud of a messianic sense and the full flower of the reading that sees in it Christ’s relationship to the Church.

      Then look at the way that the themes of the unfaithful bride are treated in places such as Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea. See the development of this theme in places such as John and Revelation (some relevant thoughts on that here) and the way that the unfaithful bride is restored.

      Anyway, there’s obviously lots, lots more there, but those would be my starting points.

  5. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    I am writing a poem for my wedding. Could you point me to where NT Wright discuss the mythic resonances between male/female, heaven/earth etc. in Genesis and elsewhere in the Bible? Any other references that might be helpful here?

    • I briefly discuss Wright on those themes here. You really should take the time to read James Jordan’s ‘Trees and Thorns’ too. His discussion of the themes of Genesis 2-4 is peerless.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        Thanks for this, and for sending me the Jordan. I’ve seen the Wright interview, and his brief discussion of these things in Surprised by Hope. Are there any other books or articles by Wright I should look at?

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        Your article there reminded me that a focus on narrative does not necessarily lead to progressive conclusions. What narrative and what kind of narrative are you talking about?

  6. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Looking at the Habertal listing on Amazon, I noticed this book defending shame.

    • Fascinating! I might have to get my hands on a copy.

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      From the description it sounds like her thesis is that guilt works primarily to combat individual immorality, but you need shame to combat social immorality. This would tie guilt to the Haidtian individualistic moral foundations of fair and harm, while shame would be tied to the binding foundations of loyalty, respect, and purity.

      The author apparently wants to harnass shame for the benefit of left wing causes, but I am skeptical that this would work in practice without a revival of social conservatism. The binding foundations just go better with that form of conservatism. I don’t think it is a co-incidence that the drift towards social liberalism has been accompanied by an extreme atomization of society.

      • I am not so sure. One of the effects of the extreme atomization of society is the de-differentiation of persons. We are all indifferently different nowadays. Such undifferentiated persons are vulnerable to the herd dynamics of the crowds. Within such a context, people can be very vulnerable to the contagion of the judgments and feelings of others, which can make weaponized forms of shame highly effective. Just think of the way that concepts of various ‘phobias’ are used, for instance.

  7. Brett Middleton says:

    I’m in the middle of ‘Reading Backwards’ at the moment. While I think Hays’ imagination is getting away from him at points, the way he brings familiar texts to new life makes the book so worth it. I wish I’d read Hays before Wright. He would have been an excellent primer.

    My one complaint that I’d offer to both Hays and Wright is that they’ve messed with my preaching. The talk I’m writing at the moment (Mark 9:30-50) would once have seemed like pretty simple task. Little did I know, Yahweh the warrior-king from Isaiah’s New Exodus lay beneath the surface the whole time!

    On a slightly different note, I really enjoyed your previous posts on election. I was scandalized to finish Paul and the Faithfulness of God and find neither a affirmation or rejection of what I’d always though I understood of the doctrine. Wright does the sort of exegetical work I was taught to do and landed me in a brand new location. In your post you mention that the work of James Jordan was formative. Anything in particular? I’ve never read him before.

    • Thanks for the comment, Brett!

      I completely agree with you regarding the value of Hays’ book. It really is illuminating. Have you also read Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul?

      Apart from his ‘Thoughts on Sovereign Grace and Regeneration’ paper, there isn’t a particular piece of Jordan’s that has helped me out so much as the way that the subject is addressed in a more occasional manner throughout his work.

      If you have never read Jordan before, I would recommend that you start with Through New Eyes. Jordan is definitely an acquired taste, However, it is well worth persevering with him: he is one of the most insightful Bible teachers out there.

      • Brett Middleton says:

        Thanks for the hot tip on Jordan. I’ll see how I go. He seems…interesting.

        I haven’t read ‘Echoes’, but wish I had, if only for the cred of reading him before he was cool. Its on the to-do list.

        Thanks again.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        Does the fact that Jordan is an acquired taste say something about modern Christians and/or theology reading types? As someone from a literary background, Jordan went down real smooth.

      • I think that it says a lot about those things.

  8. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    I’ve been reading a fair amount of Native American mythology. Of course, a huge part of these mythologies is the trickster. Of course, this figure is widespread in other mythologies as well, with Hermes and Odysseus being good examples from the Greek mythos.

    Any thoughts on trickster motifs in the Bible. Some have said that Jacob is something of a trickster.

  9. quinnjones2 says:

    Lots of interesting posts here!
    Just two requests:
    Alastair, you mentioned ‘atomization of society’ and ‘de-differentiation of persons’ in a post above – please could you tell me bit more about these concepts?
    My reason for asking is that my response to several tweets I’ve seen recently has been (in ‘Christine-talk’ 🙂 ) ” St.Paul said we are all members of one body and all one in Christ, but I don’t think he’s asking us all to ‘merge into a mergeness’ !”
    Also, I’d be interested in any thoughts about this ‘love’ we seem to hear about so often from some on Twitter (and elsewhere) – some seem to think that this ‘love’ is a magic wand.
    My reason for asking this is that it seems to me that some who speak so highly of this ‘love’ don’t seem to have much interest in the discipline of the Lord (Hebrews). Yesterday I had a fleeting temptation to post some subtweets – e.g. about ‘All you need is Love’. I liked John Lennon, but…

    • quinnjones2 says:

      ‘Olivia Twist’ here, coming back for more!
      Transhumanism has also been mentioned here and I’ve spent more than an hour on Google trying to find out more about it. Please could anyone recommend a book or article by a Christian writer which might be a good starting-point for me, a novice? [I have just the post about the Tower of Babel via Alastair’s links – thank you!]

    • The ‘atomization’ of society refers to the breaking down of the larger body of society—as a body of persons in established relation to each other, sharing common ends, and common goods—into a collection of individuals, who are all primarily concerned with their own ends. The ‘de-differentiation of persons’ refers to the way that when society has been broken down into self-serving individuals in such a manner, the differences between people become considerably less meaningful. Whereas the differences established by relational identities—being a father, daughter, mother, brother, citizen, pastor, king, etc., etc. (such relational identities are like a body with many distinct body parts)—are very meaningful, the more that our identities are sought in detachment from each other, as autonomous individuals, the less that our differences matter. We all celebrate our differences, but none of our differences seem to matter much any more. At root, we are all self-serving individuals like everyone else.

      One of the results of this is that, where society was once an ordered body of individuals, with each person having a particular place and roles within its relational structure, now society is a mass of individuals with no set place or roles. However, we haven’t ceased to be social beings. When we no longer have an identity and place within the social body given to us, our identities will tend to tend to be formed as we follow the herd dynamics of crowds where every individual is much the same as everyone else. The choice is thus not so much between being members of an ordered body of persons in relationship and being individuals in glorious freedom from one another, but between being members of such a social body and being members of a mass and vulnerable to its characteristic herding and stampeding.

      • quinnjones2 says:

        Thank you for this, Alastair – it’s beautifully articulated 🙂 Thank you, too, for the David Bentley Hart link, which will also help me to formulate my thoughts about these matters.

        ‘…where society was once an ordered body of individuals, with each person having a particular place and roles within its relational structure, now society is a mass of individuals with no set place or roles.’ Spot on!

        I tend to ‘think’ a lot in images – for instance, I think of the Body of Christ as being like an orchestra with its members playing different instruments in harmony*, rather than like a cake where becoming part of the ‘whole’ means that the individual components lose their original identity. Personally I find these images helpful, but I don’t get very far in some conversations if I start talking about orchestras and cakes!
        I really do need to learn the terminology that will help me to increase my understanding of these matters, and also (hopefully!) help me to engage more fully in conversations about them.
        Thank you again.
        * ideally – it’s quite a cacophony at times, isn’t it?!

  10. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Have you read much Walter Brueggemann? What are his more valuable works?

    • I’m not especially familiar with his works, although I’ve regularly used his commentaries and have read most of his Theology of the Old Testament. That is probably the best place to start.

  11. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Bruce Charlton has a brilliant post on Biblical hermeunetics here.

  12. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    RE: Feser’s What’s the Deal with Sex

    It is interesting how Christianity seems to fit much better with a modified form of Aristotelian metaphysics rather than with Neo-platonic metaphysics. Neo-platonism, while noble in many ways, seems to have deformed Christian theology in a lot of circumstances, including in the area of sex. Growing up as a Protestant, it was really quite jarring to go from the Biblical text to many classic theologians.

    • Cal says:

      That’s probably because Aristotle had a greater appreciation for Matter as the bearer of the Form, and not the cheap, plastic, carbon-copy echoed from eternity. This is commendable to the Biblical account, but still lacking.

      One needs to take into account the reasons ideas blossomed and flourished. The 3rd and 4th centuries rapidly altered the fabric of the Roman World. So much chaos and instability turned people inwards. The ideal Gentleman was not a public man, leading in the Senate or the Courts. He was not an introspect, reading books in his garden, reflecting on how to escape the changeable to the unchangeable, the mortal to the immortal.

      This was very amenable to Platonistic philosophy. Epictetus and Seneca gave way to Plotinus and Porphyry. But I guess this is sort of a chicken-or-egg argument about culture, ideas, and circumstances.

      I also wonder how much a back-against-the-wall life style impacted Christians, Platonic or not, in general. If you live in a world where you suffer social disgust, mass slavery, huge wealth gaps, cramped living conditions, and pressure to conform, I can understand why you would go out swinging. Tertullian might be a voice of the scared and pressured, where orgies, bloodsport, and idolatry were around every corner. It’s hard to have a good appraisal of sexuality in such a context.

      Given the world around them, the even temper of the Apostles is astounding. Paul’s even-handedness on the topic, neither fearful nor carnal, is interesting. Perhaps a proof for the spirit-breathedness of the Scriptures

  13. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Just finished Balthasar’s Love Alone is Credible. I have to say, I didn’t find it all that compelling. It lurches between the obvious and jargon ridden gobbledygook. Perhaps I found the obvious things obvious (the idea that you must love something to truly understand it) because I had encountered them before. The book might be of use to someone who hadn’t encountered those things before.

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      I may read Mysterium Paschale, as Derek Rishmawy recommends its treatement of Good Friday. Balthasar’s book on Karl Barth is also supposed to feature a classic summary of Catholicism. So, I may check those out. However, LAIC, which is supposed to be an introduction to his longer works on theological aesthetics, did not make me want to read the longer works.

      Anybody have any thoughts on reading Balthasar?

      • I was greatly underwhelmed by Love Alone is Credible when I read it (I never finished it). However, Mysterium Paschale, his work on Barth, and what I have read of his systematics are all well worth reading.

  14. quinnjones2 says:

    I now have a copy of ‘Written on the Heart – The Case for Natural Law’ by J Budziszewski and I’m eager to read it.
    I also have a need for patience and self-discipline while I work through my long list of commitments and tasks, and attempt to cut down a bit on my favourite hobbies, after which I will hopefully get back into study mode – I was quite a good student once 🙂

  15. quinnjones2 says:

    Thank you! I haven’t read anything else on this subject, so it will be very much a journey into the unknown for me – I’ll probably make lots of jottings as I go 🙂

  16. quinnjones2 says:

    Thank you, TMWW – I’ll put that one on my list.
    My first task will be to have my own ‘brainstorm’ about what the words in the title mean to me at this stage, so that I can see what I’m bringing with me as I embark on the book. I’ll then put it in a sealed envelope, and come back to it ‘post-reading’. We used to have similar brainstorms in poetry lessons with teenage pupils. One of my favourite responses to a ‘Daffodils’ brainstorm was:’Miss, when I was three, I ate one!’ Of course the general idea after that was to encourage the children to reflect on Wordworth’s meaning. 🙂
    Alastair – I think this could take me weeks…or even months!

    • quinnjones2 says:

      I can now say – without too much rambling, I hope – what my present understanding of ‘natural law’ is:
      1. Untaught/’inborn’ knowledge, capability and ‘drive’
      This notion is rooted mainly but not exclusively in my own wonder and delight about the lives of my own three children (and more recently my grandchildren) from birth – twelve months.
      2.’Natural justice’, including ‘rough justice’. There seems to be a ‘natural law’ which often prevails over reason and accepted norms, especially in extreme circumstances . For instance, I have re-read Maupassant’s short story ,’Idylle’, and have also been thinking about Brecht’s ‘Mutter Courage’ ( I haven’t re-read that – my copy is probably in the loft.)
      So now to read the book so that I can explore the author’s meaning – and I am both relieved and excited to read in the Preface that his intended audience for sections I – IV includes ‘general readers and beginning students’. 🙂

      • quinnjones2 says:

        I’m having the time of my life reading this.
        I’m still thinking about ‘Doctrine of the Mean’ and up pops a thought about ‘The Three Bears’ : too hot, too cold, but Baby Bear’s porridge is just right.
        Aristotle for children? Ah, there’s a thought 🙂

      • quinnjones2 says:

        Just a quick question – please can anyone tell me about the argument from the excluded middle (or something like that). I heard about it years ago in a Philosophy evening class and all I can remember about it is that one example we were given was pregnancy – either a woman is pregnant or she isn’t – no middle ground. (At the time I thought this example was rather droll!)

      • William Fehringer says:

        Hi quinnjones2. That’s the gist of the Law of the Excluded Middle. Either the proposition is true or false; there’s no third option.

        I don’t know if you’re familiar with the idea of distribution in philosophy, but there’s another use of the term ‘middle’ which could give confusion called The Fallacy of the Undistributed Middle. An illustration of that is:

        All cats are animals.
        All pigs are animals.
        Therefore all cats are pigs.

        ‘Animals’ is the middle term here, the go-between connecting cats and pigs. Distributed means the term refers to all possible animals. Since neither ‘cats’ or ‘pigs’ refers to all possible animals, the middle connecting term ‘animals’ is undistributed and a logical connection between cats and pigs cannot be established. One of the rules for valid syllogisms is that the middle term must be distributed in at least one of the premises.

      • quinnjones2 says:

        Thank you, William!Thank you, too, for your explanation of the Fallacy of the Undistributed Middle. Although I was familiar with the fallacy, I didn’t know the terminology – it’s interesting.
        My vague memory of the ‘excluded middle’ came to me when I was thinking about ‘The doctrine of the mean’ (‘Written on the Heart’). The course I attended all those years ago was actually called ‘Arguments for the existence of God’ and I remember little about it other than a bit about the argument from design, and Pascal’s Wager. I can’t remember how the ‘excluded middle’ fitted in!
        I am enjoying my journey of discovery via ‘Written on the Heart.’
        Thank you again

      • quinnjones2 says:

        A break-fast comment:
        this book is certainly fulfilling its promise with this reader – I’ve got to the end of the first part (about Aristotle).
        I think this book is very reader-friendly, well-structured and enlivened with occasional dashes of humour, and…: —— – explanations of some doctrines, illustrated with examples
        – examples of some objections to the doctrines, in the form of an imaginary dialogue between Aristotle and an objector
        – some examples of mistaken applications of a doctrine
        – some questions for reflection.
        I’ve have no doubt that the fine qualities and style of the author will run through the rest of the book like the lettering in seaside rock, so I think I need say no more.
        [ Re: my Tweet-fast – so far, so good! ]

  17. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    I just finished Ratzinger/Benedict’s Introduction to Christianity. I think it would be better titled an Introduction to Christian Theology. It was a series of very profound reflections on various aspects of Christian faith. It was an improvement on Rowan Williams’ similar book Tokens of Trust, which tended to ramble. However, it was still very abstract, and really assumed a fair amount of knowledge of Christianity that a beginner would not have. I would not actually recommend it as a true introduction to Christianity, though it might be worth suggesting to someone who wanted to investigate Christian theology deeper.

    I was rather taken aback by his attack on penal substitution.

    So far, in my investigations it really seems like popular consensus is right: despite their flaws, the best introductory books on Christianity are John Stott and C.S. Lewis.

    A good while back I read Tim Keller’s The Reason for God. It is a very good book for opening up a conversation on various reasons contemporary people may have for not believing in God or Christ. But as an introduction to Christianity, it is very sketchy.

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      I also finished off John Schwarz’s What is Christianity All About? It’s a bad book. It’s Biblically centred, but in a bad way: it’s Schwarz arguing about various Biblical texts for almost 200 pages, while losing sight of the big picture.

      The general problem I see with most of these “Introduction to Christianity” books, is that the authors take this as an opportunity to ride their favourite theological hobbyhorses rather than to really introduce the faith. This includes such luminaries as N.T. Wright, Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, and Rowan Williams.

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      I might put Athanasius’ On the Incarnation up there with Stott and Lewis.

  18. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Is this little article by Peter Leithart the best thing ever written on poetry in general?

    I would only add that verse, with its slight pause at the end of each line, seems to permit a much greater concentration of language and meaning than continuous prose. Too poetic of prose gets very tiresome very fast. Hence the frequent conflation of poetry with verse.

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      I just finished Leithart’s book Deep Comedy and would like to strongly recommend it. He is a great literary critic.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        My one major issue with Leithart’s book is taking Greco-Roman paganism as a paradigm for all paganism. Many hunter-gatherers too apparently view the world as a home, as a gift. Now, maybe that’s just some kind of partisan propaganda on behalf of indigenous people. But I don’t think one can simply assume that paganism equals pessimism.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        The paganism of many other more complex, agricultural societies though, does look quite pessimistic: Canaanite, Aztec, Norse etc.

    • quinnjones2 says:

      Hi TMWW! Reading it was pretty difficult for me – but then it would be, because I now think that good poetry speaks for itself and I prefer neither to analyse it nor to attempt to define it. [Something to do with being in the Autumn of my life, I think 🙂 ]
      I think of Wordsworth’s: ‘We murder to dissect’ and Shakespeare’s words about Cleopatra:’For her own person, it beggar’d all description’.
      I’m sure someone somewhere has written a wonderful definition of poetry, but I can’t think of anything off the top of my head.

  19. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Over the past few days, I’ve watched two fairly recent Shakespeare films: Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus and Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing. Both are good adaptations. There are some excellent performances, especially Fiennes as the title character in his play and Amy Acker as Beatrice, but there are some significant letdowns too, like Alexis Denisof as Benedick and Gerard Butler as Tullus Aufidius. The worst problem though is that modern settings tend to undermine the texts. I simply don’t believe that a bunch SoCal moderns care that much about virginity, and the kind of heroism represented in Coriolanus seems hardly less archaic in a modern political setting.

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      I should add though, that, in my opinion, neither of those plays is Shakespeare at his best. They are merely very good.

      • quinnjones2 says:

        In which of Shakespeare’s plays/sonnets do you think he is at his best?

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        Off the top of my head, I’d say Hamlet, Lear, Othello, Macbeth, Anthony and Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, As You Like It, and the Henry IV plays are at or near the heights. That isn’t an exclusive list.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        The Merchant of Venice too.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        In addition to Coriolanus and Much Ado About Nothing, over the past year I’ve been a bit underwhelmed by readings of Love’s Labours Lost, Measure for Measure and The Winter’s Tale, though there are truly Shakespearean things in all of them.

        I plan on taking another look at Twelfth Night, Richard II, Henry V, and Troilus and Cressida in the near future, plays which I have a hazy memory or am a bit unsure of. I might do the same with A Midsummer Night’s Dream too.

      • quinnjones2 says:

        Thanks! I haven’t read all of them but I agree with you about the ones that I have read. Believe it or not, I haven’t read Othello or Lear… but I’ve read quite a lot about them. I’m pretty much out of touch with Shakespeare’s works these days and couldn’t begin to write a commentary on them…other than to say that Portia is my favourite character!

      • quinnjones2 says:

        You have read a lot of the Bard’s plays – have you read all of them? I just saw your second list – I’ve only read three of those : Henry V, Twelfth Night and M/N/D. I do like the fact he wrote both comedies and tragedies… unlike Goethe and other German playwrights. [I’m pretty much out of touch with them now, too]

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        I watched Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado for comparison with Whedon. I prefer Whedon.

        I really like Kenneth Branagh as an actor in some roles, but he’s never been terribly convincing as a Shakespearean. Alexis Denisof was kind of wooden as Benedick, but I preferred him over Branagh. Surprisingly though, I also preferred Amy Acker over Emma Thompson.

      • quinnjones2 says:

        I needed to do a search about Whedan, Denisof and Amy Acker – do you mean the 2012 American film?
        Sometimes I think I’d like to see another live performance of one of the Bard’s plays before I shuffle off this mortal coil – I can’t remember the last time I saw one. I live about 30 miles from Stratford but our visits there now tend to be family occasions – boat trips, feeding the swans and very occasional visits to the butterfly farm!
        The first live performance I saw was ‘Hamlet’ at the Birmingham Rep. with Ian Richardson before he became famous – we all thought he was superb. (I never got into ‘The House of Cards’) I think Ian Holm was also in that ‘Hamlet’ production – about time I watched him in the ‘Lear’ film, methinks – have you seen it?

  20. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Didn’t Doug Wilson get in trouble for saying this?

  21. quinnjones2 says:

    I felt prompted to write this after reading the recent Twitter conversation between Alastair and Whitefrozen on the subject of self-deception. I intend to read the books you mentioned at a later date and I shall probably ferret through them looking for every hole I can possibly find!
    My default position is:
    1.Experts are not always right about everything
    2 Experts disagree amongst themselves and I think that’s a good thing.
    3.I am not wrong about everything and I’m actually right about some things!
    This position is rooted in a time in 1992 when I was a case-study at a meeting of 13 neurologists after I was admitted to hospital with a suspected brain tumour.
    Some asked me if they could check my reflexes. Some shone a light in my eyes. I’d already had these tests on four other occasions after being admitted [along with scans, lumbar puncture and so on] but these consultants wanted to check it out for themselves – and I’m thankful that they did. They had a variety of suggested diagnoses and a variety of suggestions for further tests and treatment. I was fascinated with the questions they asked me and with the conversations they had amongst themselves.
    In contrast, five months before I was admitted, the GP I consulted decided that my symptoms were caused by stress and she advised me to take up yoga and jogging. I was, of course, living in my body 24/7 and I knew that some weird things were happening, but she didn’t let my reality interfere with whatever preconceptions she had. I don’t suppose she intended to deceive herself, but that was effectively what she did. When I asked if I could see a consultant, she arranged a non-urgent appointment for me for twelve months later. I was eventually given an earlier appointment with the consultant, thanks to his secretary. I had rung to ask if he took private patients. She said that he didn’t but she added that she’d concluded from what I’d told her that I needed a consultation on the NHS, and urgently. Even after I was finally given a diagnosis and my treatment had begun, some people still preferred to make their own diagnoses of my condition. After I collapsed at work one day, three colleagues rang me up and commented that seeing ‘that accident’ obviously hadn’t done me any good. I saw no accident but I discovered that a colleague who’d seen an accident en route to work had decided that I must have seen it, too.This story had soon whizzed around the school; via bush telegraph. Oh, I do love the book of James!
    And a year ago I ventured into the Twitter jungle, where such preconceptions, misconceptions and self-deceptions are magnified and where bush telegraph is accelerated and on a grander scale. I now regard Twitter as part of my ongoing education!
    I will now continue my journey through ‘Written on my Heart’.
    Thank you both for your conversation 🙂

  22. quinnjones2 says:

    Thank you! And your Twitter handle? Very few people actually look at my blog page, but I do want to acknowledge that it was my reading of your Twitter convo that sparked me off and I keep thinking of the grain of mustard seed … so…

  23. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    I’m kind of wondering why on earth J. Budziszewski would consider the earlier arrival of puberty due to better nutrition maladaptive biologically (if indeed that is the mechanism). That the body would ready itself to reproduce as quickly as possible under advantageous material circumstances is not surprising.

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      School has become dumbed down because less intelligent people who would never have gone to secondary school now do. Schools are being asked to teach people who aren’t really suited for school, and then get blamed when they fail. It’s more than a little unfair to call them incompetent.

      Budziszewski’s basic point is sound, but it looks like he hasn’t bothered to become even minimally informed on a bunch of other stuff.

      • quinnjones2 says:

        Yes, he has expressed opinions about the education system which are merely opinions. I don’t share some of these opinions.
        I will be reflecting on this during the coming weeks.
        I will also be reflecting on my own tendency to be relatively uncritical of opinions which resonate with me. I want to try to unpack such opinions and also to unpack the reasons why they resonate with me. I find I tend to be more willing and able to unpack opinions which don’t resonate with me and the reasons for my own initial ‘NO’ response to such opinions!
        I intend to take a Twitter break during Lent. Sometimes, maybe often, I fail to live up to my own intentions!
        May Lent be a blessed journey for us all.

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      From what I’ve seen, women (even in our society) appear to be as ready as ever for marriage by the time they are 20. Men are as ready as ever by around 25. There is very little increase in the divorce rate once they reach those ages.

      Which sounds about right to me anyway, in any society.

      • The average age of first marriage in England in 1600 was 28 for men and 26 for women. Probably worth bearing in mind when people talk about the increasing delay of marriage. Yes, marriage is more frequently delayed now than it was half a decade ago, but average age at first marriage fluctuates and varies.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:


  24. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    RE: the social science article

    We live among a cultivated imperceptiveness. Any group of people who require a peer reviewed study to affirm the obvious, like significant male/female differences, is probably not qualified to pass judgment on the existence of God.

  25. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Woman to man transsexual interview on the effects of testosterone.

  26. Pingback: Open Mic Thread 23 | Alastair's Adversaria

  27. Pingback: Open Mic Thread 24 | Alastair's Adversaria

  28. Pingback: Open Mic Thread 25 | Alastair's Adversaria

  29. Pingback: Open Mic Thread 26 | Alastair's Adversaria

  30. Pingback: Open Mic Thread 27 | Alastair's Adversaria

  31. Pingback: Open Mic Thread 28 | Alastair's Adversaria

  32. Pingback: Open Mic Thread 29 | Alastair's Adversaria

  33. Pingback: Open Mic Thread 30 | Alastair's Adversaria

  34. Pingback: Open Mic Thread 31 | Alastair's Adversaria

  35. Pingback: Open Mic Thread 32 | Alastair's Adversaria

  36. Pingback: Open Mic Thread 33 | Alastair's Adversaria

  37. Pingback: Open Mic Thread 34 | Alastair's Adversaria

  38. Pingback: Open Mic Thread | Alastair's Adversaria

  39. Pingback: Open Mic Thread 36 | Alastair's Adversaria

  40. Pingback: Open Mic Thread 37 | Alastair's Adversaria

  41. Pingback: Open Mic Thread 38 | Alastair's Adversaria

  42. Pingback: Open Mic Thread 39 | Alastair's Adversaria

  43. Pingback: Open Mic Thread 40 | Alastair's Adversaria

  44. Pingback: Open Mic Thread 41 | Alastair's Adversaria

  45. Pingback: Open Mic Thread 42 | Alastair's Adversaria

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

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

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

Leave a Reply to The Man Who Was . . . Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.