Questions Wanted!

For our hundredth episode of Mere Fidelity, which we will be recording tomorrow, we will be answering a selection of questions from listeners. If you would like us to answer a particular question or speak to a particular issue, leave a comment below!

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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26 Responses to Questions Wanted!

  1. retepc says:

    u were serious rite>?

  2. Tony Reinke says:

    Is it true that Alastair once knit a scarf for Derek? And if so, how many times beyond the obligatory selfie did Derek actually wear it?

  3. Caleb Israel Wait says:

    Hey, guys

    I’m just finishing my undergrad at 23, I’m the volunteer Youth Director at my church, I’m married and have a newborn daughter, and my family and I will be relocating so that I can attend seminary this fall. I’m eyeing an MA in Theological Studies at Westminster Seminary California. My question is, what can I prepare myself and my family for now before seminary- what should I read, what discussions should my wife and I have, what can we expect, ect?

    I’m a regular listener and greatly appreciate your conversations on the show, thanks for doing what you do!

    -Caleb Wait

  4. Jason says:

    What’s the best book you read in 2016 and why?

  5. quinnjones2 says:

    What is your favourite hymn (or Christian song) and why?

  6. Did any of you read Hillbilly Elegy? Did you find Vance’s story at all explanatory of why back-row-kids (to use Chris Arnade’s phrase) shifted to Trump? Do you think that lefties are right to dismiss Vance as peddling a modern-day Horatio Alger myth?

  7. Two questions:

    1. Mere Christendom vs. two kingdoms: Can and should governments formally recognize the authority of Christ over their countries and govern accordingly, or is a secular state ideal?

    2. Theological Interpretation of Scripture: Is it valid to find meaning in the text that the human author may not have intended, perhaps by appealing to divine intention? Or is the human author’s original intention the only valid subject of exegesis? If the former, what is the criteria by which appeals to divine intention can be assessed, to keep exegesis from becoming haphazard, imbalanced, or just plain wrong?

  8. piglitpootles says:

    In this 500th anniversary year of the Reformation which of the early Reformers do you each admire the most and why?

  9. ianclary says:

    I’m interested in your (plural) thoughts on Reformation celebrations this year in light of this book by Howard and Noll:

  10. Lee Downen says:

    You all have touched on political matters quite a few times, discussing populism, the new meritocracy, refugees, Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind,” etc. What theological insights, if any, do you think critical race theory can provide in thinking about both the idea of a nation-state and the histories of actual nation-states? (I ask because I just finished reading J. Kameron Carter’s book “Race: A Theological Account.”)

    • mnpetersen37 says:

      Did you like Carter’s book? I was a bit disappointed.

      • mnpetersen37 says:

        That isn’t meant as a rhetorical question. I’d be interested to hear more thoughts–perhaps on the open-mic page.

    • Lee Downen says:

      I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, namely because of Carter’s Radical Orthodox sensibility (which shouldn’t be surprising, I suppose, given that Milbank was on his dissertation committee). Unlike some theologians, he is able to draw upon the work of other disciplines—political, social, cultural, and literary theory—without losing his theological focus, arguing a bold, highly contestable thesis: the modern racial imagination has its genesis in Christianity’s attempt to sever itself from its Jewish roots.

      In particular—and to say nothing of the correctness of his interpretations—I enjoyed his creative engagements with the writings of Irenaeus, Gregory of Nyssa, and Maximus the Confessor. I have questions, though, about the function of Gregory’s understanding of the imago Dei in his constructive project. On his reading of Gregory, we must understand the imago Dei on two interrelated levels: the level of the image as “prototype” and the level of the image as, what we might call, populated prototype. The prototype is not a Platonic form that we, the imperfect copies who populate the prototype, participate in. The prototype is Christ himself. Every person, or image, then, is a unique articulation or inflection of Christ, the Image of God. As David Bentley Hart, whom Carter quotes, says, “The ‘essence’ of the human is none other than the plenitude of all men and women…so human ‘essence’ can be only an ‘effect’ of the whole” (qtd. in Carter 247). This “essence” is seen in Christ, who is the concrete universal, or the One-Many.

      In my judgment, though, greater specificity is needed concerning what it means to be “in the prototype.” Carter says, “[A]ll particular persons, in the unique and often tragic histories that constitute them as persons, by virtue of their residence in the prototype—or stated differently, by virtue of their histories being embraced from beyond themselves through the incarnation—are of eternal and salvific significance” (248). Although he focuses on Patristic theologians, he might find helpful resources in the writings of later figures (e.g., Peter Vermigli’s threefold distinction concerning union with Christ—incarnational, mystical, and spiritual).

      Other questions could be raised about his project, but I think that there is much to commend in it, such as his insistence that we cannot adequately think about Christ apart from God’s covenantal history with Israel, and that it is God’s covenant rather than the Israelites’ “race” that is the basis of this history. Carter reasons that this covenantal logic—as fulfilled in Jesus (in a non-supersessionistic way)—is the key to undoing racial ontologies.

      What disappointed you about it?

      As to my original post, I was wondering what the guys of Mere Fidelity thought about the use of critical race theory by some theologians (and, on a related note, the reticence of conservative theologians to speak about “race”). Given his past blog posts, I’d be particularly interested to hear Alastair’s thoughts on Part I of Carter’s book, which is where he draws upon the work of Michel Foucault, Etienne Balibar, Cornell West, and others to explore, as he sees it, an inseparable connection between the “modern racial imagination” and the modern nation form.

  11. Physiocrat1 says:

    What are your favourite films?

  12. Saul Sarabia Lopez says:

    What is the relation between philosophy and theology and how that affects our treatment of doctrines such as the trinity or incarnation?

  13. Khoiberg says:

    I’d like to “second” the first question above by Clayton Hutchins on “Mere Christendom vs two kingdoms”.

  14. cal says:

    I’d like to hear your reactions to Ephraim Radner’s new book “Time and the Word” and his attempt to revitalize “figural” reading of Scripture. Particularly, I’d be curious for you to interact on his justification for two testaments.

    If you haven’t read it, it’s intellectually meaty and worthy of reflection.

  15. cal says:

    Also, in light of Manning’s commuting, what do you think of wikileaks, Snowden, and the US intelligence apparatus when configuring your views on political theology? Intelligence networks have been around for awhile, from Byzantine diplomatic cunning to the Elizabethan spy networks run by Walsinham to protect a Protestant England. Now a days, spying is even more important. How can you reckon a Christendom with an institutional necessity that depends upon highly skilled dissembling, lying, theft, confusion?

  16. twilliamwalker says:

    What is the good, the bad, and the ugly in Wendell Berry’s writings?

  17. wyclif says:

    What is the longest blog post Alastair has written to date?

  18. Chris Wooldridge says:

    I’d love to hear a discussion around your thoughts on the nature of evangelicalism. I think that would be a really fascinating one.


  19. Tim says:

    My wife wants to know: What are your favorite works of fiction?

  20. Geoff Graham says:

    1 What are your favourite, robust, pet, theological avoidances within and without Christianity, within and without and across churches and denominations?

    2 Does a Christian’s union with Christ avoid or answer all the divergences stemming from New Prespectives. Mike Reeves has written and taught that Union is something not consiered by Wright, and is Union a mystical, experiential, reality that is denigrated by many in the reformed tradition, or does Wright consider it to be a metaphor? for what?

  21. Is there an impending crack-up between minimalist complementarians (those who believe, and I hope I’m being fair to their position, that women can and should take any role in society aside from pastor/elder and final authority in the home) and the CBMW-style (those who believe, and I hope I’m being fair to their position, that maleness and femaleness are “creational norms” which provide guidance about which roles are most suited to each sex)?

  22. We recorded the episode earlier, Thanks to everyone for the questions!

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