Open Mic Thread 37


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
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  • Tell us about yourself and your interests
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  • Post reviews
  • Suggest topics for future posts
  • Use as a bulletin board
  • Etc.

Over to you!

Earlier open mic threads:
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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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36 Responses to Open Mic Thread 37

  1. whitefrozen says:

    This was a fascinating documentary on the rise of black metal in the early 90s in Norway –

    A very dark, eerie world – murder, church burning, pagan revivals, Aryanism, and here and there some good music. Great mythology, though, as far as a musical origin story. I’m also reading a book on the same subject called Lords of Chaos – what a genuinely unstable group of people this was.

  2. To attend a good church…what if the church’s in the area you transfered job to are not good? Do I plan on leaving or put up with a mediocre church? What if I’m stuck? And I am unable to move due to circumstances.? opportunities. .etc….?

    • Thanks for the comment, Elisabeth.

      A few thoughts in response. Most of us will have to make compromise, often quite considerable ones, when choosing a church in our locality. Whatever one prioritizes—preaching, Christian fellowship and support, pastoral oversight, liturgy, worship, evangelicalism, ministry to the poor, etc.—one will usually have to make considerable sacrifices on other fronts, at least in my personal experience.

      Sometimes attending a church that doesn’t meet one’s personal standards can actually be a learning experience. It can teach one to be attentive, to recognize the often surprising ways that God is at work in confused and clearly imperfect communities. I have attended more liberal churches before and seen this, for instance. Also, in some traditions, even the worst of services can be salvaged in part by the use of a biblically informed liturgy.

      It can also be a spur to us to be active in ministering to our brothers and sisters in Christ. In ‘good’ churches it is easy to depend on the church to perform the work of ministry, while not recognizing the difference that we need to represent to those around us.

      It is worth remembering just how many situations in Scripture were profoundly dysfunctional. Was the Corinthian church a ‘good’ one? Or was Israel at most points in its history ‘good’? In many such situations there existed groups of faithful persons with a situation marked by wider confusion, error, or declension. Often the challenge is to find such persons. Attending more liberal churches in the past, it was encouraging to find, for instance, faithful older Christians in the midst of churches that seemed far from perfect.

      If you are in a mediocre church, it is important to make the most of the other Christian resources that you can draw upon. Don’t tell Matt Lee Anderson I told you this, but there are some great sermons to listen to online. There are ways of organizing Bible studies with friends and acquaintances online. You can arrange prayer groups. You can download series of biblical teaching or theology. This will all require your taking a large degree of responsibility for ensuring your own growth in a less than ideal situation. However, as you grow, you might be able to serve those around you in your flawed situation in surprising ways.

  3. davidrlar says:

    I’ve been wrestling with a similar situation. I have for the vast majority of my life attended a Lutheran Brethren church, a good one, but in recent times the liturgy and theology have caused me some friction. The theology in the preaching is strongly influenced by writers such as Tullian Tchvidjian, whom I don’t think that highly of, and I have found additionally that the modern and informal liturgy of the church disappoints me in many respects. After some months of thinking and praying, I decided to start attending evening services at a conservative Presbyterian church, and so far have enjoyed my time there, though, as your comment reflects, I have still found it to be unsatisfying in several areas. I continue to attend the morning services of my former church, and am undecided whether I should break away from those completely.

    Despite the difficulties that this has created – my church has been very positively formative in my upbringing and I appreciate the people there, so I do not relish the conflict, and I have not enjoyed showing disunity with my immediate family on this issue – I’ve found there have been some surprising blessings in the midst of it. I’ve had opportunities to meet one-on-one with one of my pastors and speak deeply and honestly about our differences. I still immensely love and respect him, and it has been gratifying to work through complex issues with patience and grace. I’ve also had opportunities to serve the church through writing book reviews for their newsletter, and there may be chances for me to help with teaching in the coming year.

    All this to say that I resonate with your comments on the simultaneously frustrating and rewarding aspects of church life. It would be interesting to see more writing that tackles dealing with the negative aspects of church life, in addition to giving prescriptions for positive church practices, which already seems to be a fairly common subject.

  4. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Just read James Bowman’s Honor: A History, which was tremendous. Extremely illuminating on, for example, the follies that led up to the Iraq War.

    Less sure were his readings of texts such as the Bible, Shakespeare and Don Quixote.

    Anyway, any thoughts on honor and glory in the Bible and how Christian accounts of those things differ from other versions?

  5. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Here is Freddie de Boer’s latest offering.

    It seems to me like he is trapped in one of the main contradictions of the left: you need organizations and bureaucracy and people exercising power to implement leftist ideas. He sounds like some old hippie saying, “We just need to get together and talk, man.” The problem is that not everyone agrees with leftist ideas and would not be persuaded by them. So, any sort of spontaneous order arising out of such a thing would likely be far more conservative than he would like. Furthermore, as I mentioned, such ideas require things like bureaucracies to be put into practice, just they require depersonalized markets to provoke the desire for them.

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      He seems to think that leftist ideas are so obviously good and true that all you need is to let people be themselves and all will turn out ok.

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      There is this hilarious quote on his own site, commenting on the NYTimes article:

      “In contrast to left-wing collectivism like socialism, corporatism redistributes up, with individual needs being subservient not to the lower classes and the amelioration of human suffering, but towards those already empowered in the institution, or to the institution itself.”

      This is what all institutions do. They tend to get captured by those inside them, especially those few who inevitably end up at the top.

    • I think a lot of de Boer’s remarks are directed at precisely the right place. The corporate culture of the university is a huge problem and threat to healthy academic culture. I’ve commented upon this before myself. This culture is one of the chief reasons for the current threats to academic freedom, as it panders to the middle class student consumers of the institution and their parents.

      Which all raises the question of an alternative. One can’t really have academic freedom without a greater degree of financial independence or with some ground for acting independently in a way that may displease other parties, maintaining willingness to seek the education you provide even when you are prepared to cross their will. Older institutions have their reputations and traditions that can afford them greater independence. They often also have large bequests. Institutions that have high academic standards that are publicly recognized as such have a greater capacity to resist the demands of other parties, especially when they are prepared to reject the overwhelming majority of applicants and fail poor students. They produce and maintain something through the pursuit of their particular and proper ends that is of genuine worth and consequently enjoy considerably more bargaining power than lesser organizations. Unfortunately, many academic institutions have sold themselves out to government or to their consumers and can’t really recover their soul, being little more than servants—even very rich ones—of external interests. Academic institutions need both the nerve and power to resist such interests and many seem to lack both.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        My point is that one can’t really separate left wing identity politicking and modern corporate culture. They are symbiotic.

  6. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Would you have any suggestions for a good short introduction to the Bible (250 pages of text or less), or any short introductions to the two testaments separately? Not thinking of Jordan or Leithart type readings here, but something more basic to explain the general context.

    OK, if you don’t know of anything.

  7. Alex says:

    Is Christ all we need, and if so, what does that mean for our need for the Father and Son?

    • Alex says:

      That should say “our need for the Father and the Spirit.”

    • Christ is the one in whom the Father has been made known. As Christ says to Philip in John 14:9, the one who has seen him has seen the Father, as the Father is in him, and Christ is the way that the Father has furnished to himself. Christ is also the one who has received the Spirit without measure—he is the Anointed One. Consequently, to receive Christ is to receive Father, Son, and Spirit.

  8. Have you written anywhere on assurance?

  9. mnpetersen37 says:

    What is propositional content?

    Here are the questions I have of it:

    Merleau-Ponty writes of vision and objects:

    I see the next-door house from a certain angle, but it would be seen differently from the right bank of the Seine, or from the inside, or again from an aeroplane: The house itself is none of these appearances; it is, as Leibnitz said, the flat projection of these perspectives and of all possible perspectives, that is, the perspectiveless position from which all can be derived, the house seen from nowhere. But what do these words mean? Is not to see always to see from somewhere? To say that the house itself is seen from nowhere is surely to say that it is invisible! Yet when I say that I see the house with my own eyes, I am saying something that cannot be challenged: I do not mean that my retina and crystalline lens, my eyes as material organs, go into action and cause me to see it: with only myself to consult, I can know nothing about this. I am trying to express in this way a certain manner of approaching the object, the ‘gaze’ in short, which is as indubitable as my own thought, as directly known by me. We must try to understand how vision can be brought into being from somewhere without being enclosed in its perspective. Etc. Phenomenology of Perception Experience and objective thought. The problem of the body.

    It seems something of a similar problem occurs when trying to speak of propositional content, as can be seen by rephrasing the original quote:

    If I say “I love you” I speak with a certain person and tense, but it would be spoken differently in fifty years “I have loved you”, recounting my memory of a marriage from its end, or by my friend encouraging me to initiate a courtship “you love her!”, or by a third person observing my courtship “Matt loves her”: The proposition itself is none of these articulations; it is without tense or person, the words spoken from nowhen, by no one. But what do these words mean? Is not to speak always to speak from somewhen, and with a particular person? To say that the proposition itself is spoken from nowhen and by no one is surely to say that it is unarticulated! I am trying to express in this way a certain manner of approaching the ‘object’, the ‘articulation’ in short, which is as indubitable as my own thought as directly spoken by me. We must try to understand how articulation can be brought into being by someone from somewhen without being enclosed in its person and tense—that is, how “You love” can be a repetition of “I love”, how “I have loved” can articulate a memory of faithfulness to the command “Love”. Etc.

    But here I’m not sure that Merleau-Ponty’s solution, that we in fact mean a view from everywhere, can be carried across without involving us in inextricable problems. “Articulation by everyone” means “unanimous choral singing”, and it is difficult to imaging everyone singing “Matt has loved”, and though it is possible to imagine everything that has breath singing “LORD has loved…” when we do so, we are imagining our eschatological hope—imagining everything that has breath praising LORD for his marvelous acts, and recounting that the kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our LORD and of His Christ. This is hardly the “propositional content” of any statement. Articulations seem, necessarily, to have person.

    Tense proves to have similar problems. The reason we can imagine all the views of the house is that we can, at least in our faculty of imagination, move around a house to see it from multiple perspectives. But we cannot, in any way, move around through time to speak the proposition from multiple whens.

    Which leaves me wondering what propositional content is.

    A second question:

    Later in “The spatiality of one’s own body and motility” M-P writes:

    The translation of precept into movement is effected via the express meanings of language, whereas the normal subject penetrates into the object by perception, assimilating its structure into his substance, and through this body the object directly regulates his movements.

    This also confuses me. When we speak, the speaker fashions a body which the listener perceives, and which is not only penetrated by the listener, but which penetrates the listener’s body, and directly regulates the listener’s movements. (Sexual imagery would perhaps not be out of place here. The speaker inseminates the ear of the listener, who is not a passive recipient of the seed, but actively welcomes and shapes the spoken word—the word belongs to the listener as much as to the speaker.) Perhaps even Schneider’s problem was that the senses of hearing and seeing are not as integrated as they are with healthy people: He hears, and moves toward action, without having to mediate thought—otherwise he would be caught in an infinite regress—but he has to impose an artificial thought in order to terminate the process initiated by the listening.


  10. Alex says:

    Thoughts on thile lyrics in this Rich Mullins song?

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