Open Mic Thread 25


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, 20,2122, 23, 24.

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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114 Responses to Open Mic Thread 25

  1. Anybody got any recommendations on the concept/reality of “participation”? Could be a Trinitarian thing, could be a Barfieldian thing, could be a union w/ Christ thing, could be something else. I did a little digging and I found this:

    Looks like participation was prevalent in Barth’s work. I’ve seen it here too in Julie Canlis’ “Calvin’s Ladder.” I also heard N.T. Wright mention it in reference to the need for a fresh approach to justification that transcended participationist and juris-something disputes.

    I’ve been having this recurring thought about an account of anthropology that’s takes insight from relational ontology. If ecclesiology/soteriology is participationist (in Adam/in Christ), then can’t you walk it backwards to anthropology too?

  2. How did you learn all those little words in Boggle? I recently started playing on my phone. I’m awful.

    • I largely learnt them through learning anagram sets and chains and through studying the missed words after completed games of Prolific on Facebook. Zyzzyva is helpful. I also created many of my own word lists on my word game website here.

  3. Cal says:

    Any recommendation to a good book in understanding Irenaeus or in reading his works? I’ve heard it said a lot of ‘Against Heretics’ is unintelligible as such mythologies have gone by the wayside. Is this true, or is there still general profit in searching through it?

  4. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    I spoke briefly yesterday with poet Edward Hirsch after a reading of his in NYC. (Read this for background on him.) He insists he is not religious, yet went out of his way to send his son to Hebrew school and writes brilliant religious poems about Simone Weil.

    I later sent him this paper on belief and alief.

  5. quinnjones2 says:

    When all I want to do is sleep, I find that I’m actually thinking that I seem to have a double standard. So when I saw mentions of ‘unmentionables’ in a Twitter convo, it was like water off a duck’s back with me… though I wouldn’t mention ‘unmentionables’ myself, except with ‘the girls’, when I would.
    I broke the double standard once when a sixth-form class (mainly boys) was winding me up and talking loudly and throwing things at me every time I turned to write on the blackboard [the OHP was kaputt] A male colleague gave me this advice:
    ‘Try asking “Have they dropped yet?” It works.’
    So I tried it, and it worked. And I wasn’t sacked.
    But normally, I do seem to have a double standard.

    • quinnjones2 says:

      I have not commented on ‘kicking’ because, as a mother, grandmother, former teacher and former Sunday School teacher, I haven’t been into the business of approving of kicking, with the exception of the kicking of footballs 🙂

  6. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Attempted (meaning jumped around in) DBH’s Atheist Delusions, but I don’t think I’ll be reading further in it. It seemed mostly like a bunch of series of studies refutating New Atheist versions of history. But I don’t really believe the popular legends surrounding the crusades or the alleged conflict between religion and science. Seems more like a book to recommend to someone else than to read myself.

    Anyone care to correct my impression? What did you get out of the book?

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      I had a similar experience reading The Beauty of the Infinite. I never took the post-modern conception of difference as violence seriously, so large chunks of the book seemed pretty pointless for me.

    • I found it to be a helpful marshalling of the evidence against the New Atheist position. I was never remotely near persuaded by New Atheist accounts of history, but it is useful to have such a case laid out against them, as an example for others who have to deal with them.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        He seems to have done what he has done very well. These seem like the kind of books I could recommend to others dealing with specific issues, without necessarily wanting to read them myself.

  7. Hi Alastair
    I’d be very interested if you or anyone who follows this blog had any thoughts on (or could recommend anything) on the issue of headcovering as Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 11.2-16. This is a bit of a hot topic at the moment with me, because a recent church plant in our locality practices this, and my wife and I have been asked for advice about it. We were once for many years part of a church that practiced headcovering, too (which is partly why we were asked). I cannot now recall exactly what the rationale was for headcovering in our former church. My initial thoughts are that it is to do with more than simply conformity to dress/hairstyle codes as practiced in Paul’s day. It seems to have symbolic/representive value. My initial thinking links it to Ephesians 5.22-33, where the wife represents God’s [new] mankind (the Bride referred to in, for example, Revelation 19.7-8), and the husband Christ. In 1 Corinthians the woman is the “glory of man[kind]” whereas the man is “the image and glory of God”. The symbolism seems to be similar in both passages. This may suggest, among other things, that the woman’s headcovering is related to the bridal veil that is only removed at the Messianic wedding. But perhaps I am barking up the wrong tree here. Any comments would be welcome. Many thanks, Rob

    • Matt Colvin has some suggestive reflections on this here.

      • quinnjones2 says:

        II was referring to the ”breast-focussed’ of part the exchange. I’ve already said that I found that amusing – but I think it’s time to move on from it. Alastair has also responded, in a way that is not ‘wacky’ at all, to your underlying quest to understand Paul’s meaning 🙂

      • ali1 says:

        Okay. All good.

    • ali1 says:

      Rob, I also have just plodded through the passage. I convinced myself, but whether I convince others is another story. The index ( is in my second to last post on the matter…I know. It’s just how it turned out.

      No doubt you are aware of

      • Hi ali1 and Alastair
        Many thanks to you both for these links, much appreciated. In case anyone might find it helpful, I will post a link here to my answer to the folks who have asked me about this subject. Thanks again, Rob

      • quinnjones2 says:

        I’ve been following this conversation. I wasn’t going to comment, but…
        Yes, ‘Afro’ hair can grow quite long with careful nurturing.
        What I can’t see is what this has to do with God’s plans for womens’ hair!
        I don’t think you mean to be entertaining, but I have been highly amused by this conversation between you and Alastair, and I think Alastair has been very patient with you.
        I’ve never heard anyone else suggest that womens’ breasts might be covered by hair. Oh, yes, we cover up [ especially in church 😉 ] – with blouses, cardies, jumpers, jackets, T-shirts, … but hair?
        Just saying 🙂

      • ali1 says:

        No, I wasn’t trying to be amusing, but I was aware how that particular part of the reading would likely be received. I’m okay with you laughing, If we never entertained ideas that seemed way out and wacky, I think we’d be the poorer for it.

      • quinnjones2 says:

        Ali! I should have posted my previous comment in a different place – but I’m sure you know where I should have put it!

      • quinnjones2 says:

        🙂 I like your use of another meaning of ‘entertained’, Ali! Yes, it can be good to entertain wacky ideas… but I think this particular ‘guest’ has rather outstayed its welcome 😉

      • ali1 says:

        Well, I guess this is where you and I will agree to differ. I have found the exchange beneficial, despite the time it has taken. Whether Alastair has found it so is another story. But Alastair was free to stop at any time, as was I, as was anyone who was reading (I wasn’t sure anyone would care to!). The truth of the matter is that sometimes it takes a good while for one or the other or both sides to click on to what the other is saying. Sometimes there is a lot of junk to clear away. Sometimes assertions become explanations and understanding develops.

        Thanks for your comments.

      • quinnjones2 says:

        Sorry, I posted my previous response in the wrong place – and with typos.
        Take 2:
        Ali, I was referring to the ‘breast-focused’ part of the exchange. I’ve already said that I found that amusing – but I think it’s time to move on from it. Alastair has also responded, in a way that’s not ‘wacky’ at all, to your underlying quest to understand Paul’s meaning.

    • Cal says:

      A couple thoughts after checking out the passage and the resources linked:

      1) Isn’t Paul’s primary concern ‘headship’ and ‘authority’ in the widest sense of the term? The passage is calling for “head-covering” as in something to wear, but principally. That would explain why he makes the passing comment about hair as a covering. God’s Glory is revealed in Christ, Christ had been veiled for ages but now revealed, but man’s glory is still awaiting, so man had covered his head but no longer, now women have their head covered. This passage is eschatology in corporate worship.

      2) Or, following a similar train, the authority question is preeminent. A wife is in submission to her husband (this has eschatologically and typological import to boot). So she covers her head to honor her man. This isn’t calling for a veil, per se, but having some symbol. Hence Paul, when turning the argument around to dash arrogant men (i.e. but man comes from woman…), long hair counts as said covering.

      3) Why are we so easily bamboozled by the word ‘nature’? Calvin apparently even recognized that it pertains to an instantiated cultural climate, not Natural Law or some other such thing. Creational logic, according to Genesis, has man head of woman. But I guess a fair question is what Greco (especially Corinthian or Imperial) society thought about men with long hair. I know the Romans thought it was womanish, had Corinth adopted the same position? Is this apart of Paul’s admonition in Thessalonians to live a “quiet life”? In other words, Paul is telling us not every hill is worth dying on, better to assert manliness/womanliness in the present context and not challenge it. Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s? Do not be weighed down in worthless conversation?

      4) Why do we assume the angels are good? The cursing of man and turning him out of the garden began the reign of the Dragon. Man sold his soul, his blessing (like Esau!), for nothing. So in this present evil age, the glory of man is not fully revealed. Man and Woman represent this time between times, Christ has been unveiled but the Body has not been caught up.

      2 pence for dense sense,

      • On your third point, nature is culturally conjugated. There is a natural distinction between men and women. Culturally, we express this natural fact in certain ways. Behaviour that directly rejects primary cultural distinctions between men and women is a rejection of the natural distinction. This doesn’t mean that nature demands that men must not have long hair in all times and places.

      • ali1 says:

        I’m curious as to why “nature” must refer to culture or (as Alastair writes) result in cultural expression in that passage?
        My take is that the “covering” in v15 is a robe/cloak/garment capable of covering the parts of the woman’s body specific to her womanliness (and therefore the glory of man), specifically her breasts. This reading sees “nature” as physical bodies and, importantly, explains why Paul uses the Greek word also used for cloak/robe etc here.
        I don’t think this use of nature is unprecedented. Romans 1:26 speaks of nature which, to my mind, refers to the physical body as well.
        The only reason I can see not to consider this a valid interpretation is that the idea that Paul is teaching that women should have hair as least as long as half-way down their back would be seen as culturally undesirable today. But is that really a good reason to reject it?

      • Surely afro hair is a rather significant problem for this reading?

      • ali1 says:

        Alastair, I’m not sure you’re right.

        First of all, I’m not convinced that long hair on women and short hair on men has to be absolute for Paul’s argument to work. After all, Acts 18:18 has Paul cutting his hair because he was under a vow. Having just spent 18 months in Corinth (Acts 18:1-17), it seems that Paul was growing his hair as part of what most think is a Nazarite vow in the midst of the very people he is writing to in 1 Cor 11 telling them that it is shameful for men to have long hair. Clearly Paul is talking about generalities, though I accept that afro hair would prove a more forceful argument than, say, balding through sickness, or treatments, or even choosing to cut hair for a cause.

        Second, I’m not sure that afros are immutable. Aevin Dugas, who in 2013 was recognised as having the world’s largest afro, talks about different non-afro ways she wears her hair (see And even tightly curled hair can grow down someone’s back, as this picture of two Ngbandi girls shows (warning: nudity). In other words, Paul says that women are given long hair as a covering. Long hair can be styled in different ways, but the longer it gets, the more likely it is to cover.

        Third, I’m open to being shown I’m wrong, but weren’t there African people in Rome? If that were the case (I believe it was) and Paul’s argument about hair length was a cultural way of looking male or female, then afro hair would raise problems for the cultural argument as well, wouldn’t it? Corinth was a Roman colony, after all.

        In short, I really don’t think afro hair is a problem for this reading.

      • Afros may not be ‘immutable’, but as you seem to be arguing against the cultural conjugation of nature being a key factor in Paul’s argument, this really doesn’t seem to support your case.

        I have no problem at all saying that there are natural reasons that would weigh in favour of such cultural conjugations. My point is that they don’t determine them. Cultural construction and nature need not be polar opposites at all. The point is not that nature is ambivalent on such matters, just that it isn’t as determinative as some might suggest.

      • ali1 says:

        I’m not sure we’re communicating clearly here.

        I am not suggesting that nature and culture are polar opposites. What I am suggesting is that “nature” in v 14 can be read to refer to physical bodies (as it can in Rom 1:26). This seems to be the best fit with “covering” in v15, since the other uses of forms of that word refer to cloaks/clothing etc. In answer to the question what hair would cover, I suggest, in keeping with v7 and “hair being her glory” [i.e. distinct to women] something that women have that men don’t, a woman’s breasts seem to be the best option.

        This has the benefit of explaining how long hair covers something that short hair does not cover on man, something no one has answered as far as I have read.

        My original question was, why put forward readings where culture is the interpretative key when there is a completely consistent reading taking “nature” as physical bodies?

        You replied that afro hair is a problem for the reading I put forth. I responded, among other reasons, that long tightly curled hair that makes up afros does cover a woman’s body and so does not present a problem. (Note: I don’t think Paul is saying women should wear their hair down all the time).

        You reply that this doesn’t support my case? I don’t understand why…

        I’ve tried to be clear as to why I think the idea that “nature” refers to physical bodies works with every part of vv13-15. Can you explain why you think the key has to do with culture? The only way I can see that being done is by downplaying parts of what Paul is actually saying in those verses.

      • I am not entirely sure what you mean by saying that nature refers to ‘physical bodies’. If you are referring not just to bodily reality in a general sense but to the actual concrete body, then I entirely disagree. And the covering in the chapter is focused upon the head. Breasts really aren’t in view here and are very much a speculative intrusion into the logic of Paul’s argument.

        I still don’t think that you have made your point regarding afros. Afro hair is a rather poor covering for the physical body. An extremely bad one, actually.

        The cultural point is that particular hairstyles are cultural expressions of natural distinctions. However, although nature is not ambivalent, it allows for different sorts of cultural expressions of the same fundamental distinctions.

      • ali1 says:

        I’m happy to revise my understanding on this, but I’m getting very little from you other than assertions. You entirely disagree. Breasts aren’t in view and are a speculative intrusion. I haven’t made my point about afros. It’s a cultural point because it is.

        I’m willing to continue dialoguing – arguing, even! – but I appreciate we both have other demands on our time. So if you wish to continue, let me know. Otherwise, I’ll answer your assertions, you can respond or not and we’ll leave it at that for now.

        I said, “physical bodies” as a shortcut term, really. I appreciate I could have explained it better. I’m taking nature as physical creation – which itself bleeds into culture. I understand Paul to be using this general term both in 1 Cor 11:14 and Rom 1:26 to refer to the specific physical creation of the human body. So, in Rom 1:26-27, Paul is saying referring to natural relations based on physical characteristics for male and female, even if that is not all he means here. In 1 Cor 11:14, he is referring to male and female bodies again. I don’t see why that should be a controversial option, nor can I see where you have explained why a cultural interpretation of “nature” is to be preferred.

        There is no reason we cannot look at the “covering” in verse 15 as something different from the covering of the rest of the chapter and, in fact, there are good reasons to do so. First, there is a different word used in v15 which elsewhere carries the idea of covering a body. Second, if “covering” in v 15 is referring to covering the head, the same as in the rest of the passage, how is it possible to explain how long hair on a woman covers the head whereas short hair on a man does not? Both short and long hair cover the head! But if we view “covering” in v 15 as covering the body, then it becomes clear how long hair can be a covering and short hair is not. We do not have to accept that a woman’s breasts are specifically in Paul’s mind [that would be an interesting phrase to take out of context], to agree that there are reasons from the text to read “covering” in v15 as a covering for the body, not just the head. But neither is it an absurd proposition to consider what part of a woman’s body might need covering that does not need covering on a man.

        Third, the idea that long hair is a covering for the body is completely in line with the logic of Paul’s argument. He has already argued that a woman who does not wear a headcovering is sending the same message as a woman with short or no hair, that woman should be covered because they are the glory of man. He then goes on to argue from nature that woman’s long hair was given as a covering of specifically womanly parts of her body. The implied argument is that we see the masculine uncovered and a covering of the feminine in nature, so we should not be surprised or argue against the symbolic non-covering of the male (glory of God) in terms of headship and the symbolic covering of the female (glory of man) while praying and prophesying.

        You may not agree with that argument, and it may be able to be expressed far better than I am able to express it right now, but it does fit logically into the flow of the passage and it fits far better, I’d argue, with the specifics of Paul’s argument.

        As for afros, you don’t think I’ve made my point. I’m not sure what else I can say. When tightly curled hair grows long, it grows down, as in the case of the picture I linked to of the Ngbundi girls above. But as I said, Paul hasn’t stated that woman must wear their hair down, rather that long hair is given as a covering (which may be used as such or not). Clearly there is some cultural input into this – after all, parents determine the length of their girl’s hair – but I’d argue that Paul makes the physical characteristics of male and female bodies the basis for this general cultural practice of long hair for women, and short hair for men.

        So in all, I don’t think I’d argue with this assertion of yours:
        The cultural point is that particular hairstyles are cultural expressions of natural distinctions. However, although nature is not ambivalent, it allows for different sorts of cultural expressions of the same fundamental distinctions.
        I’d only add that Paul is teaching that those cultural expressions are generally that men’s hair is shorter and women’s hair is longer, and that this is based on natural physical distinctions between the sexes.

      • Thanks for the response.

        Your comments to this point leave me with the impression that you haven’t understood my position very well, especially as regards culture and nature. Your comments on afro hair simply are unpersuasive, that picture of the Ngbundi girls notwithstanding. There are good reasons why it is incredibly rare to see afro hair that would be even close to being able to cover women’s breasts. The amount of maintenance and styling that afro hair would take to do that would be fairly ridiculous in most cases.

        There is a point about nature in the passage, which is that the woman was given her hair as a covering (the cultural conjugation of this natural fact relates to the contrast between male and female hairstyles). It is entirely unnecessary to read this as ‘a covering of specifically womanly parts of her body.’ A covering isn’t only or always designed to prevent one from seeing what lies beneath. Sometimes it serves to display radiance or glory, which is what women’s hair does. A woman’s hair is glory covering her head (as Paul declares, the woman’s hair is her glory), not something covering the shame of her nakedness.

      • ali1 says:

        I apologise for being unable to resist posting one more comment. I really do relish being challenged on my understanding. I dislike being proven wrong, but even more, I dislike being wrong so I do appreciate your engagement :).

        Sadly, I think neither of us are understanding the others’ position very well. My understanding of covering is not as basic as you seem to assume. And as for afros, there are a number of type 4a, b, and c hair images that can be seen even via google that approach or surpass that length. I willingly accept that my understanding of hair is incomplete, but nothing I’ve found so far supports your assertions about afros being far too difficult to grow long enough to cover breasts.

        But I’ve been wrong before.

      • Part of my point here is that, even if it were possible to grow afro hair that long, it is exceedingly difficult. If women’s hair were given in order to cover breasts, it really is a design flaw of epic proportions. Besides, most women wear their hair going down the back.

        The idea that ‘covering’ must refer to the covering of breasts is a considerable leap for which you have provided no convincing reason. Surely it is considerably easier to think of it as a covering of glory on the head (not primarily as a ‘covering over’ of the head, but as a crowning of it), especially when Paul has just declared that it is given to them for glory.

      • Look at different women’s hairstyles from different cultures all around the world and ask yourself whether it is more likely that God gave women their hair to cover their breasts or in order to be a crowning cover of glory upon their head. Also ask yourself how many women use their hair to cover their breasts and, indeed, how they would go about doing that.

      • ali1 says:

        Look up “Long Type 4 hair” on google images, and you’ll see “afro hair” (i.e. type 4a, b, and c) being grown that long. If you read some of the articles, you’ll see that these women work at it, but they don’t tend to say it’s exceedingly difficult. Having said that, growing hair long requires effort for any hair type, many women say. Many of those many say it is the difficulty of not being used to it today.

        As I mentioned, breasts do not have to be part of the equation. But I have yet to understand why a word translated “cloak”, “clothed” and so forth is used in v15 if it didn’t refer to covering the body. I realise words are more flexible than that, but certainly this needs some consideration…and would have no problem fitting in with your understanding of covering, also.

        I’m open to seeing covering as you have described it. I do think it is possible to see hair as a cloak and so a covering for breasts as a cloak would cover. And I also don’t think that being given long hair as a covering is the same as using it as a covering. But I appreciate your view of covering (which I now understand) and I’ll think on it.


      • I really think that you need to do more research on that hair type. Your claims on that particular front seem to be coming from a place of ignorance. What may seem like long natural afro hair is often heavily styled using modern processes. Looking through the pictures, the idea that these women were given their hair in order to cover their breasts only becomes more unbelievable. Besides, men seem to be the ones whom God provided with hair to cover their chests. If it was his intention to provide women with such hair, he did a rather poor job of it!

        I see no reason why saying that women’s heads are ‘clothed’ with a glorious covering of hair should be a problem. Even if we give that word a stronger sense, it would still remain true. Unlike their breasts, women’s heads can be covered with hair.

      • ali1 says:

        Once again, I am not against considering your proposal, nor am I against giving up parts or all of mine. I’m much more attached to the reading that “covering” in v15 is talking about hair that operates as a cloak than in the following deduction that it is for the purpose of covering a woman’s chest.


        You suggest that I am arguing out of ignorance regarding type 4 hair. I may be. Are you? I would be able to have much more confidence in your assertions if you could tell me you have some expertise in that area. My preliminary studies indicate that while modern people use modern techniques on styling hair that would fall down their bodies, people in the past used older techniques to achieve the same result. And this does not come just from the photo of the Ngbandi girls, (but surely they are an example). To suggest that “afro hair” cannot grow long enough to cover the body does not seem to make sense to me, when I understand that is exactly how people have grown – and yes, styled – their hair in the pre-colonial Africa.

        The fact that men have hair on their chest and women do not…I can’t see that as a convincing argument. The fact that women do not, would that not indicate that long hair can perform that function instead? You may not think it’s a clever way for God to do that…okay.

        Remember, I’m not, at this stage, arguing tooth and nail for including the covering of a woman’s chest. Your comments give me pause and I am putting your arguments to the test. The problem is, I can think of responses to your comments that continue to, in my mind, keep the possibility open. But let me think and read and research, and I may change my mind.

      • One doesn’t have to be an expert regarding type 4 hair or women’s hair in general to find your claim that God gave women’s hair in order to cover up their breasts quite unpersuasive and rather ridiculous on the face of it. It just becomes even more ridiculous when this claim is made about type 4 hair. Sure, it is possible with careful styling for many women’s hair to perform that role in an extreme situation. It is also possible for some men’s beard hair to cover their genitals… If God wanted women’s breasts to be covered by hair, he would have given them chest hair or beards. With due respect, I don’t think that this is the sort of suggestion that can be taken seriously, which is why I am not doing so. I can understand why this might be frustrating, but outside of pictures of the Garden of Eden for children, the notion that women were given long hair in order to cover their breasts is bound to provoke laughter rather than serious reflection from most of us.

        Your underlying exegetical and theological concerns are a different matter. I agree with you that this shouldn’t just be chalked down to culture (which I haven’t done, even though I have spoken of a cultural dimension to Paul’s argument, conjugating the natural reality). I also think that Paul’s choice of word for women’s hair should be taken seriously. As a covering, I think that we should wary of placing such a pronounced emphasis upon providing a covering for something beneath and focus more upon the way that a covering can display glory and beauty outwards. Women’s hair does cover over something: the nakedness of their heads and the dishonour associated with this (verse 6). However, the main point is that the covering of hair is one of glory and this glory should not be displayed in the church context, but rather covered.

      • ali1 says:

        I don’t find it frustrating to have an idea laughed at – it’s a form of feedback :). What I find frustrating is being given assertions instead of explanations, so thanks for the explanations you have given. Think of it like having to explain a joke to someone. It can be a little laborious, and the person you’ve explained it to may not laugh, but it relieves their frustration of not knowing why what they said was funny. (I realise that doesn’t put me in a very good light, but I figure I’m not in a good light because of “breasts” in the first place).

        I really would like to redeem my reputation here by discussing more of the exegetical and theological side of things that you mentioned above, but, despite telling quinnjones2 that I don’t think this exchange was unnecessarily long, I do have other things to do. Perhaps another time, if I’m welcome to come back again.

      • You are more than welcome to come back to discuss this again! Thanks for the conversation so far.

  8. quinnjones2 says:

    Despite having some misgivings about the title of Joanne Bailey’s ‘Foetus: From the Sensory to the Scan’, I was delighted with her article and the links she included, and I am now following her on Twitter 🙂

  9. Paul Baxter says:

    Alastair, it would be nearly inconceivable to me for you not to have already read Ammon Shea’s book, Reading The OED, but the above mention of word games reminded me I should mention it here for the benefit of your readers. Shea’s book is an intellectual-lexical freak show, in the best sense of that term.

    Just as a brief summary, Mr. Shea decided to take on the daunting task of reading all the way through the Oxford English Dictionary. His book is a reflection on that task, on dictionaries in general, and, mostly, on the odd words he found. It may very well be the most humorous book I’ve ever read.

  10. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    I finished Leithart’s Deep Exegesis. I had already been convinced by the typological method through seeing it in practice, but it was nice to see the theory set out. The sample readings of John were brilliant.

  11. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    I attempted and failed to finish Rowan Williams on Narnia. Certainly not awful, but I just didn’t find it all that deep. I don’t particularly care about the accusations of racism and sexism against Lewis.

    • I was less put off by the accusations of racism and sexism when I read it, although I do find the need that many seem to have to signal our greater awareness of social justice issues over past generations to be tiresome.

  12. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    I also reading William H. Gass’ On Being Blue, a highly idiosyncratic meditation on the colour blue and its wide emotional range (as opposed to other colours). Hard to summarize, but contains significant meditations on pornography and obscenity, as in blue movies or working blue. Contains some brilliant writing.

    I also recently read Roger Scruton’s Modern Culture. A brilliant book.

  13. quinnjones2 says:

    I am delighted to learn that the book ‘The Emotional Experience of Learning and Teaching’ ( Isca Salzberger) is back in print. I read this when it was first published in 1983. It was recommended to me by a friend who described it as being ‘full of soft wisdom’. I endorse her comment. This book is aimed at teachers in educational settings, but I have found it helpful and relevant in all relationships.
    I have a low success rate at posting links on this site. If any of you are interested, you can find it on Amazon.
    I have also tweeted a link via Karnac Books ( excellent, but expensive), mainly because I could 🙂
    [I’ve not worked out how to tweet Amazon links!]

  14. whitefrozen says:

    An interesting thesis: I read an essay on that Ive been working on myself for a bit: Aquinas and Barth substantially agree on the doctrine a of divine simplicity. Both locate his simplicity not as a metaphysical doctrine but as a consequence of God’s fully actual life and aseity. Aquinas’ doctrine of simplicity is based on the revelation of God in Christ (though not in the same degree as Barth) and basically derives from the creator/creature distinction he sees coming from the Incarnation and creation.

    Any thoughts? I had a very unproductive argument on Facebook about this. Hopefully you people are a bit better 🙂

  15. whitefrozen says:

    *essay on a topic that I’ve been working on

  16. quinnjones2 says:

    We can’t have the writer of ‘White Hot Harlots’ having to risk the ‘upsetting’ and ‘uncomfortable’ reality of being fired just for including ‘upsetting truths’ and ‘uncomfortable texts’ in his/her lectures 😉

    • quinnjones2 says:

      So far, I’ve got no further than the title.I find that I’m responding to it by doing some ‘mental somersaults’ – ‘sodomy’ and ‘Celebrating the Eucharist’ seem to be bracketed together as ‘disgusting act’. I guess it contains ironic intent, but I’m not ‘…gusted’ by it!

      • quinnjones2 says:

        I’ve now read the article and the comments, and I like Ian Paul’s comment.
        I get the impression that Steve is trying to give a number of people ‘the benefit of the doubt’, but I find it almost impossible to follow what he’s saying about the Eucharist, and us all being ‘fallen.’
        As a layperson, I think it’s true that we all fall short before God. If being without sin was a requirement for sharing in the Eucharist, none of us would share in it, ever.
        What’s significant for me is that before we share in the Eucharist, we confess our sins, and the priest says a prayer of absolution. We then approach the Lord’s Table as repentant and forgiven* members of the Body of Christ. ‘Repentant and forgiven ‘ does not describe a person who unrepentantly practises sodomy, something described in Scripture as ‘an abomination unto the Lord’.
        * A friend of mine was not permitted by her priest to share in the Eucharist for six months after she committed adultery, because he believed that she had not fully repented.

    • quinnjones2 says:

      The plot thickens!
      I realised that I didn’t know the exact meaning of ‘sodomy’ so I checked it out and found that the legal definition covers a broader area of meaning than I’d thought, and that both men and women can practise it.
      I also checked for the use of the word ‘sodomy’ in the Bible and I couldn’t find one instance of it.
      So I re-read Steve’s blog and comments and found no reference to the absence of the word ‘sodomy’ in the Bible. Steve seems to confine his definition of it to anal intercourse.
      As for the comments about married people sometimes being no better than they ought to be, I think that’s a red herring. I assert that a heterosexual Christian marriage is a marriage, as ordained by God, and it may be a good marriage or a marriage ridden with many flaws but it is still a marriage. And if it comes to a sticky end, it does not follow that it was never a marriage in the first place!
      So back to the title and ‘disgusting acts’.
      Sodomy? Yes, very distasteful.
      The Eucharist? ‘A broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.’ Such is the beauty of God’s holiness.

      • quinnjones2 says:

        This morning the saying ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed’ has been on my mind this morning and I’ve found myself thinking of the colleagues who were friends in need for me when I had serious health problems. Three of them were gay – two men and one woman. We all knew they were gay, but they discussed no details of this area of their private lives with us and though we believed that their life-style choice was not right with God, we made little more than a passing mention of it. What I remember more about these gay colleagues is how amazingly compassionate and helpful they were. I wonder if this is part of their appeal for those high-profile people who support them? It will certainly be a focus of prayer for me today

      • quinnjones2 says:

        I have just re-visited Steve’s blog-page and I like Ian Paul’s second comment.
        I’m also interested in this excerpt from another comment:
        ” In the general matter of homosexuality, two factors have influenced me very powerfully:
        1.The number of young men who came forward for very public prayer at a church I was pastor of in the 1980’s,seeking desperately to be set free from homosexual feelings.
        2.The steadfast and committed friendship of a gay Christian man who prayed for me and supported me when my life was in ruins and when ( to be ruthlessly honest!) those to whom I was looking for help were busily ‘passing by on the other side.’ ”
        Re: the first point – I have never experienced ‘homosexual feelings’, so I am not in a position to comment on that. However, I have experienced other troublesome and painful feelings, and my prayer is not to be ‘set free’ from them, but to pray that I will be given the strength to endure what seems to me to be unbearable, in the power of the Spirit of Jesus, who endured what was truly unbearable on the Cross. I usually hesitate to say this because I’m afraid of being accused of having a ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude, but it is the truth – that is the way I pray, and my prayers are answered! I also pray for self-control: feelings are one thing; actions are another thing – and so are words.
        Re: the second point – I am interested in the allusion to to Parable of the Good Samaritan, with the writer in the role of the man in the ditch, and the gay Christian in the role of the Good Samaritan. I think it is sometimes possible, if also difficult, to celebrate and nurture good things in our relationships with people whose personal morality clashes with our own, without any loss of our own integrity.
        For a number of reasons, I decided that it was more appropriate for me to make this comment here rather than on Steve’s blog-page.

      • I think that the point about recognizing profoundly good things in people with whom we have intense moral differences is extremely important. We shouldn’t be surprised to recognize forms of virtue expressed in same-sex relationships, for instance.

  17. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    I’m not sure about Richard Beck’s latest post. Surely the goodness or badness of shame, even in creative areas, depends on the content of what you are ashamed of. Phil Collins is on the borderline between good and bad taste, but what about The Gospel According to Celine Dion or Josh Groban or K-pop. Or, outsides music, Thomas Kinkade.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        Slightly off topic, but I’m find works of art that are on that borderline between tacky and good (sometimes very good) quite interesting: Phil Collins, Shania Twain, even U2. This applies in the higher arts too: Raphael, Boucher, Dickens, Grieg, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak.

  18. quinnjones2 says:

    When I posted on Twitter that my copy of ‘Rejoicing in Lament’ was delivered today, what I didn’t mention was that in fact 4 copies of it were delivered! I thought I’d ordered 1 copy and I don’t know why I got 4, but I suspect that a bit of human error on my part had a lot to with it! I also received 2 copies of ‘A Deeper Note’ and I’m wondering what tomorrow will bring.
    So I shall soon embark on a conversation with Amazon 🙂

  19. Have you written anywhere about Adam as priest? I think I remember you connecting that with a thought he might not’ve been the literal first man made, but rather a representative over a group.

    • Not much in anything that I have published, although I have treated the issue extensively in unpublished material. The possibility that Adam was not the actual first is a pure speculation that I don’t think that we should simply dismiss. However, I believe that if it is held, it should be held very lightly, as the speculation that it is, and it should be subject to the many questions that Scripture might raise against such a position.

  20. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    A quick comment on John Gray. I have come to the conclusion that he is simply a reflexive pessimist. For him, everything is always going to hell. Of course, he’s sometimes right about that, like a stopped watch, as there are lots of bad things going on in the world. But his conclusions are not reached by carefully looking at what the world is.

    For example, I don’t think that anyone can seriously challenge Pinker’s assertion that violence has declined precipitously over the past few centuries. Now, whether that will last, or whether that is in every way a good thing, or whether other things in the world are getting worse, are open to challenge. But that isn’t the case that Gray makes.

  21. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Scott Alexander sums up a lot of my concerns with using the word religion to describe every and anything.

    One of the problems that Scott Alexander points out, one particularly acute for a Christian, is that saying everything is a religion is you are implicitly saying that religion is just blind irrationality. This is the problem with, for example, James K.A. Smith’s attempted appropriation of post-modernism: apparently, we’re all equally irrational, so “Christianity, why not?” I don’t think it is too hard to see that this is not going to be an effective rhetorical strategy.

    • Cal says:

      I’ve not read a lot of Smith’s work (though I’m on the trail for it), but that sounds like a terrible reduction. His point is not that we’re all irrational, but that rationality is not the comprehensive driving mechanism for humanity. Mankind does not make decisions by reason alone.

      Everything “can” be religious, especially if pay attention to the vaguery of the term in how it has functioned over the years. I think Bill Cavanaugh does an excellent job in describing this well.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        There are many many JKA Smiths. You sound like you’ve read the Cultural Liturgies version.

  22. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Been reading David Brakke’s book on Gnosticism. It takes the usual “early Christianity was just a bunch of different views” position. I’ve always found this unconvincing. It’s almost like the existence of a coherent earlier and larger orthodox group is ruled out of court without much argument.

    Particularly when it comes to canonical issues, I have a couple questions:
    1. Were the heretical scriptures almost all later?
    2. Were the heretical scriptures just too incompatible with what we find in Paul and the early Jesus traditions?

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      Once you get past the politically correct boilerplate, it’s actually a pretty good introduction to the various schools of thought associated with the term gnosticism. And there are certain common theological themes that keep popping up, enough so that I see no reason not to apply the term gnosticism to the groups that held them.

  23. I’ve been reading your fascinating links about the shift in culinary tastes around the time of the Reformation and a thought struck me – does it have anything to do with the Eucharist? In Roman Catholicism, the primary category under which the Eucharist was understood was that of Sacrifice. Assuming that this affected the broader approach towards food and growth, it’s not surprising that everything was conceived as a kind of ‘cooking’, since this most closely resembles sacrifice.

    However, when the Reformation came, the Eucharist was understood less as a sacrifice and much more in ‘Spiritual’ terms. The people participate in the Eucharist by faith and in the Spirit, not in a ‘carnal’, sacrificial way. This wasn’t necessarily a rejection of real presence, just a different way of understanding it. And with this could come a different way of understanding food and the processes of life: ‘fermentation’. Fermentation is much more like a kind of ‘Spiritual’ transformation, as opposed to the more ‘carnal’ transformation which happens in cooking.

    Another thing to consider is that foods are cut up and mixed together more in the pre-reformation diet, whereas the later diet involved distinguishing and maintaining the ‘essense’ of each type of food more. This could be related to sacrifice again, since cutting up seems connected with the notion of sacrifice. However, there could also be a rejection of a nature/grace dichotomy inherent in the later approach. The earlier approach sees the food as-it-is as inherently bad and seeks to transform it by grace, whereas the latter approach sees the food-as-it-is as inherently good and seeks to enhance what is already good about it.

    Just tentative thoughts. Does anyone else have anything to add?

  24. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    I found this article pretty much dead on, though I have caveats with some of the terminology. I’d have to note that progressive Christians seem pretty iffy on the core of the faith (God, Jesus) even if they affirm it, but they are very, very sure of their social views. But it isn’t just them.

  25. quinnjones2 says:

    A Tale of the Unexpected – I really didn’t have it on my list to do this today! – I just did this Google search: ‘Why do men naturally have facial hair?’
    So far, all I’ve found is lots of links focusing on it from an evolutionary standpoint, and lots of links about the psychology of beards. I don’t really think we evolved from apes, because I believe we were created in God’s image, and I’m not all that interested in the psychology of beards… I still haven’t found an answer to the question I googled!
    Please can anyone enlighten me?
    And finally… I did the search after seeing a tweet containing a mention of @CricketBeards 🙂

    • Some of the early Church Fathers have interesting positions on this question! 🙂

      If I were to develop a theory to explain the purpose of beards, I would probably start by reflecting upon the role that they play in signalling virility and in visibly heightening the distinction between juvenile and mature males.

  26. quinnjones2 says:

    Thank you, Alastair! That makes a lot of things click into place for me.I just did a search for the early Church Fathers. It’s fascinating reading 🙂

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