Open Mic Thread 32


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
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  • 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, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31.

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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53 Responses to Open Mic Thread 32

  1. AJ says:

    I’m going through a dark night of the soul, I think. At any rate, my last 5 years have been excruciatingly difficult, and it feels relentless. I would request prayer.

  2. thrasymachus33308 says:

    I have prayed for you. For me, personally, wisdom has only come through suffering. Difficulties, trials, and suffering are not in vain if they lead us closer to the truth, and God.

  3. Bryan T. Mathew says:

    Hi Alastair,

    First, I wanted to thank you for the tremendous resource you have provided in your blog. I’ve been listening to the podcast Mere Fidelity for half a year now, and I recently started reading more of your work here. I’ve particularly valued your posts on election and the totus Christus, which has brought out new dimensions of my readings of NT Wright and DB Hart.

    Second, I wanted to ask your thoughts on universalism. Growing up in the Church of South India (a union of Anglican, Reformed, and other churches in India), I had never really been exposed to it as a possibility. Even my exposure to American evangelicalism hasn’t really made me think of it as a live option. However, DB Hart seems to take the possibility of universal salvation much more seriously. (He commented multiple times on the subject on this blog post, in case you’re interested

    I’ve since been intrigued by the possibility. In fact, the biblical witness does seem to leave itself open to such an interpretation at some points (“every knee shall bow, every tongue confess”). However, there seems to be a tension with those passages in Scripture and others that warn that those who cling to wickedness and oppression will be judged and suffer eternal loss. Any thoughts on how to think through this?

    Also, I apologize if you’ve written on this at length before and I’m just missing it!

    • Thanks, Bryan!

      Universalism isn’t a subject that I have written upon at any length. My own position is one that is hopeful for a broader inclusivism, but I am not persuaded by universalism, which seems to me to dispense with rather too much biblical witness along the way.

      The verses suggesting universal reconciliation (every knee bowing, every tongue confessing, all things being reconciled, etc.) refer in their context to the overcoming of the rebellion of the creation. All aspects of the creation can be reconciled to their Creator and their rebellion ended without universal salvation, however. Other verses refer to pacification, not reconciliation. The conquered rebels’ rebellion may be finally and decisively ended and they may be left with no option but to confess the Lordship of Christ. At this point, however, I don’t believe that this will be a saving confession.

      • Bryan T. Mathew says:

        “At this point, however, I don’t believe that this will be a saving confession.”

        That gives me something to chew on. Thanks!

    • whitefrozen says:

      Universalism is wrong and worse, boring.

  4. Lindsay says:

    1. Starting tomorrow, my family (two children [2 and 8mths], wife and I) will be joined by a team of 20 from the USA who will travel from York to Edinburgh, St. Andrews and Inverness and will mostly pray but also aid in other areas. Prayer would be appreciated. We are all facing significant health issues as well as other “random” things leading up to this week!

    2. This question has the potential to be far too exhausting for this venue, but if one adopts a preterist AD70 reading of Mark 13 and parallels, how does one then avoid pulling other NT texts such as 1 Thess 4-5, 2 Thess 2, Rev 6, and then by extension every other “second coming” text back into AD70 as well? It appears to me that those texts all draw from the Olivet Discourse.

    I find the AD70 reading of the Olivet Discourse compelling but keep running into this problem when I consider making the jump. It seems that these other texts take the OD and treat it as speaking of worldwide events.

    • bethyada says:

      Hi Lindsay. I don’t have a comprehensive eschatology but the more I read Jesus’ words the more I see him as thinking there was going to be a significant delay, ie. not just 40 years. For example, consider the parable of the virgins and it’s proximity to the Olivet Discourse in Matthew.

      It seems to me we expect a chronological reading of Jesus’ words but this is not how we read Isaiah 11. So it is likely that parts of the discourse are preterist and parts are not. I have recently found listening to the Bible helpful. Hearing Jesus’ words in Matthew removes my chronological bias as it is reminisent of listening to a story where the speaker is more topical, ie. jumps around chronologically because wants to join ideas that are thematically similar—we don’t think it poor form to mention asides in conversation when they are needed for clarification.

  5. quinnjones2 says:

    Hi Lindsay – in reply to (1.), I will certainly pray for you, your family, and your team as you minister on your journey from York to Inverness, and as you prepare for your journey.

  6. quinnjones2 says:

    I have been interested in comments on Twitter today about the institution of marriage and the changes in the character of marriage. I read some of your 2011 document, Alastair, which you linked on Mere Fidelity. I want to spend more time reading through it and I hope that many others will also read it. (I wasn’t on Twitter when you wrote it and I don’t suppose I’m the only one who wasn’t) However I am aware that I am getting on the defensive about some references to divorce in conversations about same-sex marriage, though not on the defensive about divorce itself. I realise that this is a call for more prayer and reflection for me because I am divorced so I will not say too much about it at this stage, but I do want to say that my marriage ended in divorce before I became a Christian. I thank God that I have been made welcome at my church. I believe that I am welcome at the Lord’s Table and that it is not only fellow Christians who welcome me but, most importantly, the Lord Himself who welcomes me. I would not want to be in a church where frowning on divorce became too much of a focus – I realise that I am beginning to sound a bit like some LGBT people when they speak of feeling welcome or unwelcome at church!
    So, as I wrote at the start of this, I will pray and reflect on this.

    • quinnjones2 says:

      Correction: – ‘…which you linked on Mere Orthodoxy’

    • There is always a fine balance to be established when speaking about potentially highly sensitive issues that nonetheless have cultural importance. For instance, a number of primary school teachers have spoken to me of the fact that their schools discourage references to mothers and fathers, as many of the pupils will be raised by single parents, many have divorced parents, and some are raised by same-sex couples. However, the understandable desire to be sensitive to such pupils leaves people silent about the most formative relationships in children’s lives. Because we don’t want any pupils to feel their lack, we avoid talking about the good gift that God gave (this article is helpful on this tendency). Likewise, the fact that divorce is such a feature in the lives of many people in our society—whether their parents or children divorced, or whether they divorced themselves—makes it difficult to have the sort of conversation that we need to have on the subject. Our desire not to hurt or offend people causes us to draw back from speaking about a reality that is causing considerable damage to people.

      Here I think that it is imperative to keep in mind and to communicate the invitation and welcome that God’s extends to each one of us, even as he addresses sin and its effects in our lives. When speaking about something like divorce we should also remember that, while God hates divorce and the reality of divorce it a result of sin, it is not always a sin to divorce and God makes provision for people to divorce.

      How do we address sin and its effects directly and honestly without destroying people? I think that the crucial factor is that we address sin and its effects in the context of forgiveness and welcome. When our past sin or the sins that other people have committed against us are no longer allowed to determine our acceptance much changes.

  7. quinnjones2 says:

    Thank you, Alastair. I think you have made good points about schoolchildren and I think that ridiculous constraints are being placed on schoolteachers. I get the impression that the main concern of many children is that they do not want to be stigmatized. They may already be painfully aware of the truth about the sins of their parents. In this respect I still remember a child I felt deeply concerned about (and also much respect for), who was troubled not by parental divorce or by the gender of her parent figures, but by the fact that her father was in prison for murder. She did not need to have anyone point out to her that her father had committed a terrible crime – nor did she want to be placed before a ‘classroom jury’ on a daily basis. She wanted to live her life as well as she could in extraordinarily difficult circumstances which were not of her making. The scriptures are clear on the subject of murder and also on the subject of divorce, which, as you said, is not always a sin and God makes provision for it. As some LGBT say, we are all sinners and it is so easy to put some sins at the top of the list and to stigmatize particular groups of ‘offenders’. I don’t think I have seen condemnation named as a sin in the Scriptures but Jesus did tell us not to condemn and I think that condemnation is sometimes more evil than the sins which are being condemned.
    So I fully endorse your final paragraph. We do need to address sin in the context of welcome and forgiveness – and we cannot be open to God’s forgiveness if we delude ourselves that we are without sin.

    • quinnjones2 says:

      Another correction : ‘LGBT people’

    • quinnjones2 says:

      Back to schoolchildren: I just remembered one subject area in the Modern Language syllabus which was fraught with difficulties – ‘helping at home’. For instance, one child refused to speak or write about it and told me I was being ‘nosy’. A much sadder memory for me is of some Asian girls who described how they helped in a shop, cooked for the whole family and could not start on their homework until about 10.00pm – and who were also under pressure from their parents to get all A* grades! And we were afraid to comment too much about this for fear of being labelled ‘racist’ and so on.

  8. Jeff Bruce says:

    Greetings Alastair/all,

    I’m an appreciative reader who’s finally posting to say thanks! I’m consistently encouraged and sharpened by the content and interactions here. Alastair, I’d greatly appreciate a little bit of direction (and some suggested resources) for a class I’ll be teaching at my church. Is there a best way to contact you personally?

    Thanks again!

  9. mnpetersen37 says:

    You may be interested in this Tibetan Buddhist text-based meditative practice. (Here‘s an anglophone description.)

  10. quinnjones2 says:

    Hi Alastair,
    I’ve been thinking about the tweets you posted about the child who was marked down for answering a multiple-choice question correctly – and thank you for re-tweeting the ‘Family is…’ post and for your comments on it!

    One of my thoughts was that in this instance Wordsworth’s ‘The child is father of the man’ is true because that pupil certainly seemed to have more ‘nouse’ than the person who marked his answer! If I had been marking this pupil’s answer I would probably have given him a commendation – not only because he selected the best answer, but also because he waded successfully through the alternatives!

    Three of the answers presented are obviously grammatically wrong because they begin with ‘should’ and the verb ‘to be’ is never immediately followed by a modal verb. Answer ‘e’, ‘a collection of individuals who care for and about each other’ can be true of families but it can also be true of other groups of people ( such as the ‘Ladies’ Group’ at our sister church!), so it is not a family-specific descriptor. Answer ‘c’, ‘a collection of related-by-blood individuals living together’ is the only descriptor which contains a family-specific fact (related-by-blood) and although this is a narrow definition of family and it does not describe adoptive families, or step-families where widowed people have re-married, it does describe the majority of families and it is the best answer out of the five answers presented. I have also been wondering about whoever devised this Q&A task and it occurred to me that the three ‘should’ answers might have been included in the way that Chris Tarrant has included some ridiculous options in ‘Millionaire’, though I think that Tarrant’s purpose was probably to entertain, and maybe also to put contestants at ease.

    • Personally, I doubt that the ‘family is should…’ answers were intentional. So many other aspects of the question display incompetence and lack of consideration that it would seem most likely that the writer didn’t realize what they were doing. Questions like this are also why I have long hated multiple choice questions. Such tests seem to be geared towards people who just regurgitate details they have been taught uncritically, rather than to people who can think for themselves about the ways that questions and answers are framed and what is presumed and applied in that. Reality is seldom so straightforward.

  11. quinnjones2 says:

    It would have helped if the pupils had been given the option of ticking more than one answer and if an ‘other’ slot had been included. The pupils were being evaluated on opinions and the marking system was biased. Multiple-choice tests can be helpful with strictly factual questions which have right/wrong answers – reading and listening examinations in modern languages include such tests, but they are carefully worded. I do not know of any multiple-choice tests for, for instance, poetry appreciation, which calls for a more open-ended response from pupils, a response which can be both creative and critical.

    • quinnjones2 says:

      I missed a bit! Revised statement: ‘Pupils were being evaluated on opinions presented by the person who devised the test…’

      • quinnjones2 says:

        And another thought: that multi-choice test has just reminded me of something a door-to-door salesman said to me a while back: ‘So shall I come back tomorrow, or one day next week?’ ( as though I did not have the option of not inviting him back at all. I gave myself that option!)

      • Yes, that is a classic ‘double-bind’ salesman question.

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