Open Mic Thread 23


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, 22.

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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130 Responses to Open Mic Thread 23

  1. whitefrozen says:

    I’ve been thinking of two specific verses lately and if there’s any connection – the ‘mercy, not sacrifice’ and ‘obedience is better than sacrifice’ passages. It seems like some potentially fruitful ground there, if I ever get around to pulling my head out of the modality and philosophy of mind and putting it back into the Bible. I wonder if anyone here has anything insightful about such a connection.

    I mentioned on twitter that it’d be very interesting to try and marry a Ziszek (sp?)-ian approach to criticism of ‘self-reporting’ with analytic philosophy of mind, specifically having to do with the incorrigibility of mental states – i.e. my seeming to see a blue jacket – there may not be a a blue jacket in front of me (it may be green) but I can’t be mistaken about the fact that I am ‘appear to bluely). I’m going to try and flesh that out a bit in the near future since I’ve been having a discussion on another blog about that subject.

    Anyone catch Rob Bell’s thing about the ‘church’ being moments away from being all uber happy about gay marriage, and how referencing 20-century old letters is a good way to be irrelevant?

    The wife and I have been watching ‘The Great Allottment Challenge’, a British gardening competition show – we love gardening – though I suspect this will do little to take away from my reputation as the single most boring person in the immediate area to party with – and this show is pretty entertaining. British and American competition shows are worlds apart. America = DESTROY ALL COMPEITION, British = oh, jolly good

    • On your first question, you might enjoy Halbertal’s On Sacrifice. I’ve recommended that book to several people lately.

      Yes, I saw the Rob Bell statement. Not entirely surprising.

      British competition shows can be good fun. You should see my Twitter feed when The Great British Bake Off is on! 🙂

  2. p duggie says:

    Speculate: Where is Mark A Garcia going with this

    “As we shall discover with the help of some very useful scholarship on the question, in her unique sexual ontology and physiology, focused particularly on her reproductive cycle (the “mother of life”), the woman is conceived of as embodying the degrees of nearness to tabernacle sancta: there is a strict corresponding relationship of (1) the stages of relative purity in the sanctuary set-up (outside in the wilderness in the region of death, then within the boundaries but not at the center in sacred space, and then at the center) to (2) the relative condition of the woman (first described as with a pathological blood flow, then with a normal monthly blood flow, then without the blood flow). What transpires in her physiology is a microcosm of the biblical accounts of the creation and flood, as well as of the glorious temple itself. And this, we shall see, informs and in some cases directly shapes the biblical legislation regarding the urgency of proper protection of, care, and love of a woman. It also, in its variety of biblical reverse images, identifies the tragic and dark forms of the failure to properly do so.”

  3. Lindsay says:

    A question for Alastair (and if others want to chime in!): I think I heard you hint at holding (or being inclined towards) Wright’s view of 2 Corinthians 5:21. I’ve only come across swipes against it, so I wonder if a) I heard you right and b) want to elaborate more on why you disagree with the critics and find it compelling, or c) point me out to others who support it?

    It seems to me that many reject it out of hand because of the implications for imputed righteousness or tradition, rather than whether it makes good sense.

    • You heard rightly.

      I presume that you have read Wright’s article on the subject. For me a number of things really weigh in favour of his reading. First, I have yet to be persuaded that there is any basis for claiming that ‘the righteousness of God’ ever refers to the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. Second, ‘becoming’ the righteousness of God is a very peculiar way of expressing things, if the common reading is correct. Third, and most decisively, Wright’s reading just fits so much more tidily into the surrounding context.

  4. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Random musing based on J. Budziszewski.

    Ephesians characterizes both proper Christian parent/child and master/slave relationships as mutual submission. Clearly those relationships are not symmetrical in terms of formal power, so it is odd that the term mutual submission is used to support egalitarianism in marriage.

  5. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Two books I started and abandoned:

    Denis Donaghue, Metaphor – I can’t believe this guy is considered a great literary critic.
    Benjamin Bergin, Louder than Words – Summary: meaning and thought are closely related to the bodily senses. Grab bag of studies.

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      Now reading D.B. Hart’s Beauty of the Infinite. Early chapters are not impressing me, but then I could say the same about The Experience of God, and that turned out to be one of the most profound reading experiences of my life.

      He’s a fussball.

      • I liked The Beauty of the Infinite a lot.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        Liking the positive case Hart makes for classical theism.

        Someone like Edward Feser is great at critiquing modernist philosophical positions, but he never makes either classical theism or Christianity attractive in any way.

        Together they actually make a pretty good tag-team. Feser softens you up intellectually, but it takes Hart to make you actually want to believe.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        I liked his discussion of tragedy too.

        Overall, though I admire the book, this wasn’t really a work that really grabbed me. I’ll admit to skipping ahead a few times.

        Part of the problem is that he doesn’t actually define beauty. And I’ve never taken seriously the idea that difference is violence. You have to really hate reality to find that believable.

  6. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    the ‘church’ being moments away from being all uber happy about gay marriage

    It’s gonna happen Real. Soon. Now.

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      Pro-SSM people have to be optimistic. I mean, imagine how awful it would be if 50 years from now, all the thriving churches were just as opposed to SSM as they ever were. That would mean that there is, gasp, probably something deep in the logic of Christianity that is opposed to the logic of SSM.

  7. Clay says:


    Have you read James Jordan’s “Restoring the Office of Woman in the Church” at the Theopolis Institute? It is a 3 part series from back in the Fall of 2013. If you have read it what is your take on it and how it relates to your views on women in the church?


    • I have read it, yes. It isn’t the best thing that Jordan has written on the subject (that would be his treatment of the creation themes in Trees and Thorns), but, like the rest of Jordan’s work in this area, it opens up helpful avenues of enquiry.

      • Clay says:

        Do you know where Trees and Thorns can be found? It doesn’t seem to be available on Amazon or Canon Press or anywhere else.

      • You can purchase it through Biblical Horizons. It doesn’t really join the theological dots for you, but it does present the picture within which we can best address the broader question of women in the Church.

  8. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    I should also report on my attempt on Alister McGrath’s Christianity: An Introduction. It is certainly comprehensive, but in the end I can’t see it as anything but your stereotypical, dry-as-dust textbook. I jumped around in it, but never really found it compelling on any subject.

    I definitely would not recommend it as an introductory book, or really for any purpose whatsoever. Lewis, Stott and Athanasius remain at the top.

  9. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    RE: the article on nominal Christians.

    I still find the label useful, but I only apply it to people who call themselves Christians, but who don’t practice it at all. I mean, if you never go to church, and don’t even know the most basic facts about Christian belief, you’re pretty nominal. But I guess some people have been applying that term in a much wider sense though.

    • William Fehringer says:

      I still find it useful, too. My guess is in the more advancedly secular places like the UK or New York, if you self-identify as a Christian, you’re probably knowledgeable about the faith. But I can attest that there are places still the the US where people dutifully go to church every week and don’t know anything about Christianity.

  10. PB says:

    Does anyone have thoughts on Christian Platonism vs. Conceptualism? I came across this debate in a philosophy book today, and wonder about the implications of the views.

    • whitefrozen says:

      Between the two, I’d probably go with conceptualism – as William Lane Craig notes, it’s difficult to reconcile the platonic take on abstract objects with God.

  11. I linked this in my Delicious feed earlier, but this article is well worth reading: ‘What is ‘the Common Good’? Communication, Community and Personal Communion.’

  12. Matt Petersen says:

    Cavanaugh says

    A problem with trying harder is that, as Smith says, playing, praying, eating, lovemaking, etc., all are distorted when they become moral obligations…Violence makes law and law makes violence.This quote concerns me a little. (Acutally, the whole first paragraph did, and this confirms the troubling aspects of the first paragraph.) If anything is commanded, it is love (Deuteronomy 6:4, Leviticus 19:18; cf. Matthew 22:37-39, John 13:24, I John 2:7, II John 6), and if love can be commanded, anything can be. As Rabbi Hanina, rather sharply disagreeing with Cavanaugh, says “Greater is he who performs a given act because he is commanded than he who performs the same act without being commanded.”

    The latter portion ” violence makes law and law makes violence” is even more questionable, particularly given the usual translation of “Torah” as “Law”. Say rather that Love makes Law, and Law makes Love—for only Love can command love, as indeed, He has; and only the command of Love can express the full presence of love (this is Rosenzweig), and so draw forth a loving response.

  13. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Just finished Edward Feser’s introduction to philosophy of mind. It is outstanding: a clear summary of all the major thinkers and a brilliant defense of dualism. An absolute must read.

    I’ll also add that it eschews Feser’s rather nasty polemical style, as found in The Last Superstition.

    • chadinkc says:

      I enjoyed his intro to Aquinas quite a lot. Followed his blog for a while, but couldn’t stomach the polemics.

    • quinnjones2 says:

      I just looked at a preview of this on Amazon and I got to the following passage on dreams in the section ‘Perception’…and I paused for thought:
      ‘You may have had the experience of being chased by a knife-wielding murderer…and then just as the knife was set to plunge into you, you woke up. You thought your senses were telling you that you were in imminent danger, but you were wrong. In fact, you couldn’t have been more safe, snug as you were in bed, asleep and dreaming.
      But if your experiences could, in dreams, deceive you over such a momentous matter, why not in a matter as trivial as reading a book?’
      I acknowledge that Feser’s question above is hypothetical, but I wonder why he makes no mention here of the symbolic nature of dreams, and why he apparently does not consider the possibilty that dreams may baffle us rather than deceive us. I wonder, for instance, what thoughts he might have on OT Joseph’s dream about the sheaves of corn.
      If I were in face-to-face conversation with Feser, I would want to ‘unpack’ this with him before moving on to considering his comments on other matters…but I don’t have that option, of course.
      I believe that there are many ways in which our perceptions of reality can be distorted, and that there are many reasons for these distortions – but I remain unpersuaded by Feser’s ‘dream-logic’!

      • whitefrozen says:

        The dreaming problem has to be seen in the context of a sceptical problem about the nature of knowledge and certainty. Descartes project was to eliminate anything that he could doubt from his foundations of knowledge – all that’s needed here is one instance of a phenomena leading you to believe X is the case when X isn’t the case. Sensory perception is out – a stick in the water looks like it’s bent even though it’s straight, so we cannot build sensory perception into our foundations.

        The dreaming scenario (often interchanged with the Matrix scenario) is like that. As a skeptical problem is doesn’t matter one iota whether or not dreams have symbolic meanings, etc. What matters is that you can’t disprove, in a non-circular way, the assertion that you are in fact dreaming right now and not fully awake and conscious. The same goes for the matrix scenario – there’s no way, if I asserted that right now we’re all plugged into the matrix, or we’re all brains in vats being stimulated so as to have all these experiences without being conscious in any way, that you could counter it. That’s the point of the excercise. Not to disavow dreams as symbolic or whatever, but to show that, on a certain way of thinking, dreams present a serious skeptical problem about the nature of knowledge and consciousness.

        To put it simply: for the skeptic, the *possibility of* deception implies that we cannot count whatever has said possibility as an adequate part of the foundations of our knowledge.

      • quinnjones2 says:

        Hi Whitefrozen – thank you for your detailed post [March 1st 8.39 pm]
        It makes sense – we can neither disprove nor prove if we are awake or asleep – nor can we disprove or prove that Jesus Christ is Lord … and I don’t want to try! I don’t think I’m cut for Descartes 🙂

      • quinnjones2 says:

        Correction ( again!) – ‘ I don’t think I’m cut out for Descartes’. I did try it once at a class and we sat looking at a table and discussing whether or not it was actually there, and I thought the whole conversation was hilarious!
        ‘Cogito ergo sum’

      • quinnjones2 says:

        PS – I suppose I could have dreamt about that conversation around (and about!) the table 😉

    • whitefrozen says:

      *thomistic dualism 😉

  14. quinnjones2 says:

    Confessions of a tempted tweeter!
    [not about theology, I know – we all have different temptations, so this is personal, not general]
    So far, I’ve managed to keep to my intention to resist engaging on Twitter for the main part of Lent – but I haven’t managed to resist having a peek at my timeline and I’ve been interested in the tweets I’ve felt ‘hooked’ by and in some of my first responses to those tweets – so here goes (not in order of priority):
    – ‘This is superb! Tell the world – wake up, you sleepers!’
    -‘Let not your hearts be troubled’
    – ‘Here we go again!’
    – ‘I wish you’d keep your opinions to yourself!’
    Then there are tweets I’d like to post which are of great interest to me but probably of no matter to the world-and-its-brother – mainly about completing some task I thought I’d never complete!
    So on with my Lenten journey – and thank you, Alastair, for Open Mike Thread 🙂

  15. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    I have read through most of Peter Leithart’s Shakespeare book, and it is a thorough disappointment. Even more so, as his Deep Comedy is an absolutely brilliant piece of literary criticism. The latter book provides the deep, Christian reading of Shakespeare that is missing from the former.

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      I’m going to start his Dante book soon. Will report back.

      • Will Sprague says:

        They both have the same feel to me… They are intended as supplements for High Schoolers, if I remember correctly, so I wouldn’t compare them to Deep Comedy for that reason…

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        A House for My Name has basically the same “High School study” format, and yet it is profound.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        Leithart’s Dante book, Ascent to Love, is actually pretty good. It isn’t on the same level as A House for My Name or Deep Comedy, but it is solidly informative throughout, and the parts on the Francesca and Ulysses episodes are outstanding. A definite cut above the Shakespeare book.

    • Interesting. I haven’t read that book.

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      Beware the Kindle version of Deep Comedy though, as it is one of the most atrociously carried over ebooks you can imagine.

  16. BamBam says:

    I know you mentioned enjoying his ‘Musicophilia’, but I dunno if you’ve seen this from Oliver Sacks; he penned a short essay at NYT, on his reaction to being diagnosed with terminal cancer. With his end sharply in focus, he sounds more still like a thoroughgoing progressivist (in the 1920s ‘progressive era’ sense). I hope he doesn’t die outside the embrace of Christ.

  17. quinnjones2 says:

    Alastair and Whitefrozen – Re: learning styles: I just want to add a bit here that I don’t want to tweet – a far cry from academia, this! I taught children across the whole ability range and there seemed to be an everlasting debate about teaching styles and learning styles. Some children seemed to learn foreign languages more quickly if they could sing the sentences to familiar tunes. We didn’t have the resources to make this anything more than an occasional slot in the lessons. I discovered one snag with it when a pupil asked me if he could sing his replies in a speaking test because that was the only way he could do it! [The idea and the resources came from a faculty head and I was happy to go along with it]

    • Interesting. I suspect that the preferred pedagogical methods would vary between subjects. Whitefrozen and I are thinking primarily in terms of the humanities, I suspect. Language learning or STEM subjects might not follow quite the same patterns in key regards.

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      The best media for teaching, whether words, pictures, live demonstrations etc. seems to be correlated more with the nature of the subject taught, rather than with the preferred learning style of the learner.

      This book is pretty good on a lot of educational issues like this.

      • quinnjones2 says:

        Thank you! 🙂 it’s certainly part of the story …but not all of it.
        I wasn’t going to say this, but I think I need to now. I do have a certificate in overcoming blocks to learning in an educational setting. It’s a modest qualification (R.S.A.) but I found it really helpful in my work, especially with children with special needs. In addition to problems such as hearing difficulties, dyslexia, below-average intelligence and so on, the blocks to learning were sometimes emotional. Some children felt demoralized because of their disadvantage – others didn’t.
        I learnt a lot from them.

    • quinnjones2 says:

      Interesting timing! http://fw.2/OE9MG4I [Telegraph – Music – a gift for language learners]*
      It’s got me thinking about sung worship and sung responses at church.We don’t have sung responses at our church, but I’ve attended services at churches where it is the norm, and I really like it. A friend of mine still remembers the ‘O’ Antiphons her father used to sing when she was a child – though they are not sung at the church she has attended for decades
      At our church the Lord’s Prayer ( Keith Routledge) has been sung at a fund-raising event but not in a service, as far as I know.
      The Lord’s my Shepherd is sung frequently ( Crimond and Stuart Townend).
      The Creed is sung occasionally ( We Believe – Graham Kendrick’s version) and I have played it occasionally as a voluntary before the service.
      Sung worship is very important to most people at our church and they seem to know by heart all the words of many hymns/songs – thank goodness our rector and his team put so much thought into their choice of hymns!
      Sometimes I hear people singing hymns to themselves after the service.
      A downside is that sung worship seems have been a focus for more controversy than just about anything else in our church!
      My mind’s gone blank now – any more thoughts on this, anyone?!
      * I hope I got the link right – I can’t copy&paste on this PC

  18. quinnjones2 says:

    I don’t know much about learning humanities in school or Uni. When I did ‘O’ level History it was mainly about learning facts and dates by rote.
    When I was teaching, I covered history lessons occasionally for absent staff and I was pleased to find that pupils were encouraged to have debates about historical events – I thought that was progress!
    ‘O’ level Scripture was also mainly about learning facts, the set text being Acts.
    I definitely preferred #Luke2Acts!

  19. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    I also want to highly recommend Leithart’s book of marriage sermons, A Great Mystery. His discussion of the imagery of marriage is quite profound.

    • I can’t recall: have you read Leithart’s Deep Exegesis yet? I’d be interested to know your thoughts on that one.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        I have not read it. I expect to read it in the next few months.

      • Jonathan Klawans recommends that we give readings of the New Testament that make it possible for there to be honest disagreement between Christians and Jews: The Rabbis may have been wrong (though, as a Jew, Klawans isn’t going to say they were wrong), but they could disagree with the Christians, while remaining intellectually and personally honest. If we don’t do this, I personally have trouble seeing how we can avoid antisemitism: The Jews may have been wrong, but not more so than the Church has regularly been. And they disagreed honestly, and honest and seemingly compelling arguments could be made for their side. Otherwise, we say that the Jews today–the heirs of the Rabbis–are culpable with them.

        In a few passages, I was worried that the readings don’t do that, but made Israel then and by an extension Pr. Leithart does not make, and would strongly oppose making, but which I have trouble seeing how it can be avoided, the Jews today, to occupy a dishonest position.

        Additionally, I think the argument for a hermeneutics of the letter could have been made stronger by attending to, and learning more from, Jewish methods of interpretation. If we can learn to read from St. Paul, presumably, we have much to learn from St. Paul the Jew, and thus, from his Jewish teachers, and their Jewish successors (since we don’t have direct access to, say, Hillel’s writings).

        That said, his attempt to find a hermeneutics of the letter is extremely important, and we would all do well to follow it. The criticisms above are internal criticisms, not external, and are meant as ways to strengthen his overall project, not as a criticism of it.

  20. quinnjones2 says:

    Hi Matt P.
    Thank you for your Bonhoeffer/shape-note singing links – I love them.
    I’m not sure what Bonhoeffer meant by singing in unison – whether he meant everyone singing the same notes, or whether he was suggesting spiritual unity. ( Maybe a bit of both?) I did smile to myself about the idea of singing in unity. Last Sunday I had what I think of as ‘a musical race’ – and I lost! (I play the keyboard.) One lady with a very strong voice sang fast and furiously throughout a hymn that was meant to be more moderato. She got to end before I did and before most other singers did. I gather that the lady has hearing difficulties…and also a strong will 🙂
    ‘Communal in the different parts’ – yes. I had not heard of shape-note singing before and I’d like to find out more about it. I also like the harmonizing in the singing of Taize songs.
    Re: singing of itself – it seems (like Heiniken lager, in that old ad.) to refresh parts of us that other modes of verbal expression do not refresh. Also, singing (and instrumental music) certainly seem to have a link with learning and memory. I am struck, for instance, by some Christian dementia-sufferers who can remember the words of hymns by heart, but who are unable to recognize members of their own families.

  21. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Robert R. Reilly’s Making Gay Okay is a dreadfully bad book. He exaggerates the promiscuity and related public health problems of gay men, ignoring the large percentage who are utterly bourgeois in their relationships and sexual practices. The studies he uses are often exceptionally dodgy. Since lesbians don’t have any similar patterns of behaviour, he is also forced to smear them by association.

    While men having sexual relationships with other men does create special public health issues, that is really a secondary issue. The case against gay and lesbian sexual relationships has to be made on a more essential level.

    • That does sound very poor. Basing arguments against homosexual relations on public health concerns strikes me as an example of the approach that is lucidly challenged in this article. If homosexual relations are wrong, they must, as you say, be wrong on a ‘more essential level’.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        I was hoping for a robust natural law take on how acceptance of gay sexual relationships distorts our thought on a whole host of issues. There is some discussion of natural law arguments against gay sex, but not anything you can’t find elsewhere. So, that leaves little but a mountain of dubious research.

  22. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Just finished Edward Feser’s short book on John Locke. Not quite as outstanding as his book on philosophy of mind, but nonetheless well worth your time. Locke makes a useful foil for Feser to explain Scholasticism against.

  23. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Edward Feser on romantic love and Hitchcock’s Vertigo.

  24. quinnjones2 says:

    I’m wondering what it would have been like if Twitter had been around in Noah’s time…
    nothing quite like a bit of active imagination for helping me keep things in perspective 🙂

  25. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Just finished What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense by Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert P. George. It was very helpful, especially its explanation of bodily union. Highly recommended.

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      The book, by implication, explains why the use of contraception doesn’t undermine the family the way homosexual relationships do, and thus refutes Catholics, like Elizabeth Anscombe, who say that unless you oppose contraception you have no principled way to condemn homosexual acts. Contracepted heterosexual intercourse is still the conjugal act; it is not heterosexual sodomy.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        Men and women can form a single biological system. So, in one sense, a man and woman who have intercourse form a single body. The purpose of that system is to produce children, but it’s still a single biological system even if is not capable at that moment of producing children, whether due to the natural fertility cycle, some breakdown in part of the system, or even contraception.

        This can sound clinical to some, but, due to our embodied nature, we are our bodies, this isn’t just two halves of a machine joining up, but the forming of a profound unity between between persons.

      • Exactly. You might be interested in this recent Twitter discussion I had.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        He seems to think that bodily union is mere touching, perhaps touching in a particularly intense way. If we hug really hard for an hour or so, maybe taking off our shirts as we do so, is that bodily union?

      • Indeed. I don’t think that he grasps the crucial difference between mere sexual intimacy and bodily union.

      • mnpetersen37 says:

        Re: Bodily union, and the twitter thread:

        I’m not sure I agree. There is a bodily union in choral singing, or in communal silence, or in the celebration of the liturgical year through time, or in sharing a common mean (perhaps in silence). Otherwise, we still have individualism, though an individualism where the basic individual (=indivisible, etymologically derived from the Indivisible Trinity) is the couple, like in Aristophanes’ speech in Plato’s Symposium. (Or perhaps the nuclear family.)

        I think your position may also neglect that the bodily union of the family is not “natural”, but is created–is spoken into existence, by the common meal, choral singing, communal silence, etc. A monastery is united bodily. A quarreling couple who do not eat together, do not sing together, are not silent together, but occasionally have sex are not united bodily, or if they are, are only so in an extremely limited sense.

        Thus Eve is a helper, and addresses Adam’s aloneness, in large part because Adam is able to sing with her, to eat with her, to worship with her, and to be silent with her.

      • I don’t agree. The forms of union that you mention are all incredibly important. However, I am not sure that they constitute bodily union. Singing or eating together doesn’t make us one flesh (the Eucharist is sui generis). Bodily union is most definitely not the only form of union, nor even sufficient for marriage. However, it is the form of union that lies at the heart of marriage.

      • mnpetersen37 says:

        Perhaps my disagreement is over what name we should use. I think that those sorts of unions are bodily, since we sing with our bodies, we are silent with our bodies, etc. That is, that sort of union is bodily. They aren’t the same as the sexual union, but they should still be called bodily.

      • The original context of the terminology’s use was a discussion of sexual relations. For ‘bodily’ union you could substitute ‘one flesh’ union.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        This seems to be a confusion between literal and metaphorical uses of the word ‘bodily.’ A couple quite literally becomes one body during sexual intercourse, while a choir or whatever becomes one body metaphorically, due to the very physical existence of their voices becoming one voice. Part of the problems lurking here is that modernity has tended to denigrate metaphor. But metaphor is possible because two different things really can participate in a shared reality. However, that doesn’t mean they are or can become ontologically fused into a single whole.

      • mnpetersen37 says:

        I still disagree. The one heart and one voice of communal silence and choral singing are bodily, and the unity is not metaphorical. And the one table and one food of a common meal are bodily, and the unity is not metaphorical. Both of these are types of bodily unity.

        And it is this bodily unity that is the goal of marriage. Marriage does not exist for the sake of sex, and sex and childbearing could easily exist (and indeed do exist) without marriage. Rather the purpose of marriage is that children can be born into and participate in the unity of communal silence (since this is the one social role infants are born adept at), and can grow up through communal singing and communal meal to a broader unity outside the family.

        This does not necessarily undermine your main point, but I think the bodily unity of silence, choral singing, etc. is the fundamental purpose and goal of marriage.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        If you define bodily that broadly, it has zero meaning.

  26. quinnjones2 says:

    It’s true that ‘ contracepted heterosexual intercourse’ is not ‘heterosexual sodomy’ , but I think that the reasons for the use of contraception in heterosexual marriages need to be considered too – I suspect that these reasons are sometimes rooted in less-than-pure motives!

  27. quinnjones2 says:

    Hi Matt P.
    I do agree with you that there can be ‘unity of silence’. I have been a member of a silent prayer group for ten years and I am still amazed at the way the Holy Spirit moves in those ‘circles of silence’. The Holy Spirit unites and at the end of some of those silences we have sometimes felt that people we’d never even met before were old friends. However, the Holy Spirit also shines a light on divisions that already exist, and on some occasions the silence has been followed by fierce theological debate – on one such occasion I said, only half in jest – ‘Please don’t excommunicate me!’
    However… I don’t think the unity of silence is bodily unity…
    TMWW – I still don’t know why you think that Elizabeth’s Anscombe’s argument has been refuted…

    • Matt Petersen says:

      Perhaps what’s at issue is what we mean by bodily unity. It is a unity that is accomplished and enacted and achieved by and through our bodies. And it is a unity that our bodies are oriented toward, with organs designed so we can live such unity. I’m not sure why then it couldn’t be called bodily unity. Yes, it is a unity that requires that we be what Michel Henry calls flesh, feeling and undergoing body, not just matter in motion. But then, we are flesh (in Henry’s sense). And it’s only by an abstraction that we can treat ourselves as matter (in the scientific sense).

      I might though be willing to grant that in all those things we are metaphorically one body, since we, collectively, are only metaphorically a body. But “bodily unity” does not mean “one body”, since in the second, the noun has become an adjective and the adjective, a noun.

      Also, if it isn’t a bodily unity, what sort of unity is it? Not a spiritual unity (though it could be a Spiritual Unity). Not a disembodied unity. Not a emotional unity. The first suggests something aerial, which such unity is not. The third could be the result, but that phrase overlooks that they are enacted bodily, and that our bodies are acting as one, speaking one word.

  28. quinnjones2 says:

    Matt.P. – PS: Re: finding ‘old friends’ in the unity of silence – I found many such friends in Iona. I travelled alone, but I was never alone

  29. quinnjones2 says:

    Hi Matt P. Thank you for your full and interesting comment. I do want to respond fully but it probably won’t be until next week because I’ll be away tomorrow and Sunday.
    Just for now, I have a question: when you wrote ‘our bodies are acting as one, speaking one word’, would you include under the umbrella of ‘our bodies acting as one’ such things as kneeling for prayers at church, doing the Sign of the Cross, and kneeling at the altar when we take Holy Communion?
    This is a different matter from the original context here of sexual relations, as Alastair mentioned above. But I am also interested in the points you have raised here.

    • quinnjones2 says:

      Hi Matt P, Just a waking thought…’not emotional unity’…’not spiritual unity’… yet our hearts, minds and spirits are embodied… Jesus spoke of joy, sorrow, anger, fear…when we sing songs of joy and songs of lament in corporate worship, can that not be a corporate expression of inner unity?[or inner disunity, as can sometimes, sadly, be the case]

  30. Ryan Harrison says:


    You’ve mentioned somewhere that you believe that there’s a difference between the personal faith that someone may have between believing the gospel/repenting and joining the church officially in baptism (union with Christ). Can’t remember where I saw you mention it though

    Does that sound familiar? Have you written on that or do you have a resource that’s helpful on that topic? Something about participation in the faith of Christ by being a pet of the body of Christ?

    • Here is a comment that I wrote on the subject recently. Perhaps it will help to answer your question:

      We should start by recognizing that the faith implicated in the meaning of baptism is not faith as such, but ‘Christic’ faithfulness, much as the faith implicated in circumcision is ‘Abrahamic’ faithfulness—Abraham’s personal faith and the faith characteristic of those belonging to him. For this reason, it is unhelpful to see faith primarily as an individual disposition of heart that each baptized party independently brings to baptism or develops in response to the promise held out within it. Rather, our baptism is a participation in and growth into Christ’s decisive faithfulness. We are baptized into his baptism—his baptism in the Jordan, the baptism of his death, and the baptism of Pentecost. For this reason promise and faith belong together. In baptism, we are following in the footsteps of Christ—the author and finisher of faith—through the passage he has opened in his death and resurrection, through the rent abyss of the grave. The promise, then, is that as we are conformed by the Spirit to Christ’s fulfilment of faith in his death, we will also be conformed to and attain to his resurrection. Baptism itself is part of this process: we are baptized into conformity with his faithfulness and death. The ‘promise’ that Baptism holds out to us is, among other things, the promise that the faithfulness exercised on our behalf by Christ—and the great narrative of faith that arrives at its consummation in him—will be a faithfulness that will be worked out and fulfilled within us by his Spirit. This doesn’t remove the need for discussions of our personal faith in the reception of Baptism, but it helps to put it in its proper place and perspective.

  31. whitefrozen says:

    The internet is a basic human right.

    Yes, no, needs to be qualified, ridiculous?

      • Did you follow the link? It was in jest.

        More seriously, I would give a highly qualified yes. Access to the Internet is access to an increasingly primary realm of social exchange, expression, and organization.

      • whitefrozen says:

        It didn’t come up as a link on my wordpress app 😦

        I hesitate to answer yes – it seems that a definition of rights stretched such that internet access is included either stretches it to the point of ridiculousness or devalues other human rights. I agree with what you said, I’m just not sure that qualifies it as a human right in the same sense that, say, the right not to be tortured, the right to hold religious belief, etc, are. I made roughly the same argument to my wife and it felt pretty thin to me.

        If I had to give a sustained argument in the affirmative, I’d probably try and group it with the right to information, or something along those lines.

  32. whitefrozen says:

    So what’s everyone think about Moltmann trying to get that lady off death row?

  33. quinnjones2 says:

    I think it’s encouraging – I feel encouraged by Prison Fellowship, too – and by the Alpha courses in prisons. I wish this lady well. But … and it’s a big ‘but’ … from my limited experience of ex-offenders, I would be very wary of them being given too many concessions and I think they need a long ‘probationary period’. I won’t give details on Twitter except for one person: he committed a murder and then he did, I believe, deeply repent when he was in prison. He was then gradually transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit – I thought he was like a gentle giant when I met him, several years after his release from prison.

  34. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Interesting comments by Freddie de Boer on the TV series The Fall. Is there something in the nature of the arts that pushes them away from liberal/left wing politics? Reminds me of this article. Other critics of the show basically say that the Gillian Anderson character is basically a man . . . with female secondary sex characteristics.

  35. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    That Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig article on Pope Francis was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever read in my life.

    his wildly successful evangelism


    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      Vastly more insightful in vastly fewer words here.

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      Jim Kalb is also very shrewd here.

    • BamBam says:

      Certainly didn’t agree with it all. But I thought she had good things to say about the nature of modern conservatism (within & without the RCC). Yeah, his “wildly successful evangelism” was a pause-worthy clause, and I think will only look weaker with the passage of time (recall Spurgeon’s famous words on ‘counting your converts’, if indeed Francis’s moves have earned him converts/reverts). But about how fraught the appeal to history that especially conservatives instinctively make can be, it was enlightening. I’ve heard this point made about young evangelicals that go about seeking ‘deeper traditions’, but it’s the same insight applied far wider. Also, and this is perhaps wrong, I couldn’t help but wonder how quasi-Protestant is her proposed approach to handling the tradition. Which perhaps is why those views rankle RC traditionalists. I’m not at all swayed by her reading of this papacy or the cultural moment (and I’m sure the rebuttals on that end will involve much more inside baseball than I care for), but where she tries to describe conservatism, I found it helpful.

      And on your further links, I get the sense that this view is common among many trads. I recall the comments from when RR Reno wrote to temper Maureen Mullarkey’s heated criticism of the vicar of Christ.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        ESB’s characterization of what conservatism is (does it actually have much to do with change per se?) was one of the most suspect aspects of her essay. Though their name is legion.

        Mullarkey is really all ESB had. But then a whole article on how one First Things blogger said something intemperate wouldn’t have been much of a story, now would it?

  36. quinnjones2 says:

    I have a few random thoughts about voting – in the light of the forthcoming General Election and yesterday’s Twitter conversation about suffrage.
    – when I was married, my husband & I each cancelled out the vote of the other ( he voted Conservative, I voted Labour ) We rarely discussed politics 🙂
    – I live in a marginal constituency, Nuneaton & Bedworth. I will vote for a local candidate, not for a national party. I’ve done a fair bit of ‘homework’ on this and I know why I will vote for Mike O’Brien.
    -I don’t know much about economics and the national Budget, but I’m a whizz-kid at balancing my own budget (I need to be!). Sometimes I wonder how much George Osborne knows about real poverty.
    – I watch PMQT very occasionally and have found it sometimes interesting and relevant, often about one-up-man-ship and put-down-man-ship, and too often just spiteful!
    – I don’t know if my vote will make a difference to me or to anyone else, but I like going and placing my vote and seeing my neighbours do the same.

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