Links Post 11/02/17

Links from the last week.

The question of America’s identity has obviously been a live one over the last few months. David Brooks writes:

In that story, America is placed at the vanguard of the great human march of progress. America is the grateful inheritor of other people’s gifts. It has a spiritual connection to all people in all places, but also an exceptional role. America culminates history. It advances a way of life and a democratic model that will provide people everywhere with dignity. The things Americans do are not for themselves only, but for all mankind.

C.S. Lewis’ cautions would seem to be relevant here:

Patriotism has, then, many faces. Those who would reject it entirely do not seem to have considered what will certainly step—has already begun to step—into its place. For a long time yet, or perhaps forever, nations will live in danger. Rulers must somehow nerve their subjects to defend them or at least to prepare for their defence. Where the sentiment of patriotism has been destroyed this can be done only by presenting every international conflict in a purely ethical light. If people will spend neither sweat nor blood for “their country” they must be made to feel that they are spending them for justice, or civilisation, or humanity. This is a step down, not up. Patriotic sentiment did not of course need to disregard ethics. Good men needed to be convinced that their country’s cause was just; but it was still their country’s cause, not the cause of justice as such. The difference seems to me important.… If our country’s cause is the cause of God, wars must be wars of annihilation. A false transcendence is given to things which are very much of this world.

Ross Douthat has some helpful thoughts on the question of America’s identity crisis:

Given this story’s premises, saying that’s not who we are is a way of saying that all more particularist understandings of Americanism, all non-universalist forms of patriotic memory, need to be transcended. Thus our national religion isn’t anything specific, but we know it’s not-Protestant and not-Judeo-Christian. Our national culture is not-Anglo-Saxon, not-European; the prototypical American is not-white, not-male, not-heterosexual. We don’t know what the American future is, but we know it’s not-the-past.

But the real American past was particularist as well as universalist. Our founders built a new order atop specifically European intellectual traditions. Our immigrants joined a settler culture, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant, that demanded assimilation to its norms. Our crisis of the house divided was a Christian civil war. Our great national drama was a westward expansion that conquered a native population rather than coexisting with it.

See also Robert Merry: The Profound Question Behind the Immigration Debate.

Emily Deruy: The Myth of Immigrant’s Educational Attainment. No real surprises here. High achieving immigrant groups will tend to be products of more selective immigration policies. Children in such groups will have both significant genetic and familial culture advantages.

Matthew Loftus: Green Card Holders in the City of Man. Loftus tackles some of the issues surrounding immigration. I’ve written in response to him on the subject before (see the comments here). It is an important debate.

Now a piece on areas where the American preoccupation with the ‘who are we?’ question can become positively toxic. The Non-Racism of American Evil:

The pervasive idea that the amount of good and evil the US does in the world can be determined by the amount of racism exhibited by the people running the US government and military is totally unsupported by the last fifteen years, and the Nazi analogy is not helping us. Chuck Schumer weeping over refugees but voting for each of the military adventures that forced the refugees from their homes is not helping us. We are neither the bulwark against a rising tide of 1930s-style fascism nor can we “convince” Yemen to turn into Sweden by being nice to their distant cousins here. We have legal and moral obligations to Islamic American citizens, and we have obligations to try not to set the world on fire, as the world’s central military power. But putting everything through a lens of racism and “how much like Hitler is this guy?” doesn’t do anybody any favors, analytically or morally. America has done and will almost certainly continue to do a lot of evil—it’s a fallen world, how could we not?—but we seem to be able to do it without much racism just as well as with.

Spot on. As I argued in a recent post, the more that we are guided by a sort of narcissistic virtue ethics played out on the specious screen of the mass media and our social media, the more our preoccupation with our identities as they are projected there will eclipse the actual reality and shape of the moral tasks before us. Good and well-meaning people can be the cause of incalculable evils in the world.

Some fascinating new research on the genetic origins of people from various American regions. Scott Alexander, who reviewed David Fischer’s book Albion’s Seed last year, comments on its relation with this new research here. More thoughts from Jayman (who has written at length on human biodiversity in North America) here. This whole area of research is hugely important and exciting, but must be handled with caution.

In other fascinating recent work on human biodiversity: Irish travellers are as genetically different from settled Irish as Spanish.

Another significant post from Scott Alexander, this time on the troubling questions raised by ‘cost disease’. The Baumol effect would seem to explain part of it (and wages alone are only part of the picture, as employers provide many other things for their employees), as would the increasing number of staff relative to people using the services in question (my primary school had two teachers and a caretaker for a school with over fifty students spread out over eight years). Megan McArdle suggests that part of the problem might be our instinct to provide costlier forms of care (education, healthcare, etc.) to signal concern. One thing that is recommended in the comments (and also in this post) is the idea of making college degrees a protected characteristic, so that employers can no longer discriminate on that basis (as the modern degree is increasingly primarily a status good). This would almost certainly drive down the price of education markedly. Unfortunately this may not be possible, since, as the same commenter observes, anti-discrimination legislation prevents employers from filtering employees as they would like and colleges may be valued for performing this task for them.

A further piece from Spotted Toad, this time on the place of Harry Potter in the liberal imagination: Getting Your Owl. Although I am increasingly of the ‘Read a Different Book!’ camp, there are some things to be said in favour of Harry Potter (which I continue to appreciate, despite the annoying undeath of its author, its wide-eyed fans, and the irritating ubiquity of references to it). It is particularly striking to see the way that this fictional work, its world, and its characters provide a lens through which so many young people come to understand and articulate their identities and process events (I’ve been meaning to write something on the phenomenon of fan fiction at some point). It is a reminder of the potential power of even fictional stories in our lives. In an age where much of our traditional cultural canon has been neglected or rejected, or mummified by literary criticism in the grand academic mausoleums of our society, it is wonderful to see the unity of imagination that a widely loved work can forge from unguarded hearts. We need to learn to treat Scripture similarly.

Alan Jacobs on the replacement of institutions by platforms:

the majority will accommodate themselves to the faceless inflexibility of platforms, and will become less and less capable of seeing the virtues of institutions, on any scale. One consequence of that accommodation, I believe, will be an increasing impatience with representative democracy, and an accompanying desire to replace political institutions with platform-based decision-making: referendums and plebiscites, conducted at as high a level as possible (national, or in the case of the EU, transnational). Which will bring, among other things, the exploitation of communities and natural resources by people who will never see or know anything about what they are exploiting. The scope of local action will therefore be diminished, and will come under increasing threat of what we might call, borrowing a phrase from Einstein, spooky action at a distance.

More on the fragility of platforms.

Harry Pottash reflects upon ‘Identity Affirming Society’ (or SJWs to their critics) and its relationship to moral foundation theory, among other things: One Sacred Trick for Moral Regeneration.

New Dead Sea Scrolls Cave Discovered

R.R. Reno: A Dissolving Age

The Truth About Propaganda

Heterodox Academy: Campus Speaker Disinvitations: Recent Trends (Part 2 of 2)

The Real Message Behind Audi’s Super Bowl Ad Isn’t Exactly An Uplifting One. I did a double-take reading this one, as it was so reminiscent of The Last Psychiatrist blog.

Not ‘Lone Wolves’ After All: How ISIS Guides World’s Terror Plots From Afar

Robin Hanson on some neglected big problems

Utopia is Creepy. The Art of Manliness interview Nicholas Carr.

The Fool on the Hill. Alan Jacobs on the value of having people in our communities without Internet connections.

Microaggressions: Strong Claims, Inadequate Evidence. There are encouraging signs of people pushing back against key aspects of prevailing theory that are unsubstantiated by actual scientific research.

Deborah Soh asks whether gender feminists and transgender activists are undermining science.

Possibly the Most Exhaustive Study of ‘Manspreading’ Ever Conducted. On gendered body language. I’m unconvinced by those simply blaming ‘the patriarchy’ for this. Socialization is an important part of the picture. However, socialization doesn’t operate upon blank slates, but upon pre-existing sexed and physical tendencies, accenting or diminishing them. Our presence is bodily, bodies and their differences (especially sexual) are meaningful, and these meaningful differences can be particularly expressed through communicative acts of body ‘language’. Some such acts can be oppressive and inconsiderate (for instance, when someone pointedly uses their greater height to intimidate someone else), but many are fairly natural expressions of our bodies’ own meanings. ‘Manspreading’, depending on the context, could be either.

The Invisible Workload That Drags Women Down (more related links and, frequently angry, discussion here). This seems like one of the many, many areas where both men and women taking typical sex differences more seriously might help us out. Unfortunately, putting this all down to socialization, toxic masculinity, and the patriarchy just tends to produce excessive anger. On average, men and women relate to their homes and relationships in rather different ways from each other and this probably has something to do with sexed psychological factors. The fact that boys disproportionately like action figures and construction toys as kids and girls disproportionately like things such as dolls and dolls’ houses is probably not unrelated to this and has a lot less to do with cultural gender norms than most suppose. Our immediate surroundings can be extensions of ourselves, but men and women often tend to look for different things from their favoured surroundings. On account of their typically far more demanding standards—standards by which they find themselves judged by their peers and others—when it comes to the domestic context, women are at risk of ending up having to do the overwhelming majority of the work themselves, while men may be stifled by women’s standards that prevent them from enjoying the messier environment that a home ordered towards their favoured activities might create. Far more consideration and thought on both sides—but particularly on men’s side—to the possibility that the other sex typically experiences the world differently might make a difference here: both sexes could respect and be mindful of the other’s standards and concerns, without imposing their own standards and concerns as the absolute. There is good reason why many homes often have an implicit primarily ‘ownership’ of different rooms, with women setting the standards for the main rooms, while men might retreat to less public extremities of the house to enjoy their home activities in male reservations (sheds, ‘man caves’, basements, attics, personal offices, etc.).

Michael J. Lewis: What Jane Jacobs Saw

Book review: Dent’s Modern Tribes, by Susie Dent. Countdown has long been a favourite show of mine and Susie Dent is my favourite person on it.

Church ‘regret’ as trainees hold service in gay slang

Ian Paul: Were the Shared Conversations just a Con? In response to a post by Miranda Threlfall Holmes on the sexuality debates in the Church of England.

Also from Ian Paul: Is Evangelical Theology Abusive?

Serial Killers Should Fear This Algorithm. Tackling unsolved crimes with software.

India doesn’t seem to have achieved a just response in its response to the serious problem of rape in the country.

Students in American colleges seem to be facing a similar challenge.

Antibiotic resistance: evolution without trade-offs

A surprising number of people can’t recognize faces—sometimes even their own

How Rachel Carson Cost Millions of People Their Lives

Chinese factory replaces 90% of human workers with robots. Production rises by 250%, defects drop by 80%

Climate change is political and there’s nothing wrong with that

Bumblebees are dying out because they are too fat to mate

Why the Planet Earth II Episode on Cities is so Startling

This Newly Discovered Gecko Can Literally Squirm Right Out of its Skin

What Cats Can Teach Us About How to Live

Doctor Mengele and All Creatures Great and Small

Can We Eradicate Bullying in Schools?

How Model Trains Transformed From Cutting-Edge to Quaint

Russians Engineer a Brilliant Slot Machine Cheat—And Casinos Have No Fix

Indian cricketer Mohit Ahlawat scores T20 triple hundred

What Do Europeans Think About Muslim Immigration? These figures surprised me.

Presenting options simultaneously helps people make more optimal decisions than presenting options sequentially

The 100 Jokes That Shaped Modern Comedy; 100 More Jokes That Shaped Modern Comedy. Informative, but a reminder of why I don’t find much modern comedy very entertaining.

Steve Hays reflects on the ‘apostasy’ in the film Silence.

Tony Reinke: Justin Taylor’s Tweet Rant. (Not that) Justin Taylor on how the current political climate may change people’s usage of social media.

Ben Blackwell: Christology between the NT and Nicaea: Justin Martyr

Josh Gillies:
A Life Most Divine: Karl Barth and Divine Simplicity
Two Brief but Powerful Arguments Against Everyone Going to Heaven

Andrew Wilson summarizes some of Fred Sanders’ cautions about claims of Christophanies in the Old Testament. Sed contra, the appearances of Christ in Old Testament ‘Christophanies’ are as different from incarnation as the appearance of the Spirit in the form of a dove is different from a mission of ‘columbination’. The body of Christ isn’t just a vehicle for the incarnation as an appearance, but the very object of Christ’s mission. Christ’s body is conceived by the Holy Spirit, the seed of David in Adamic flesh, born of the Virgin Mary, circumcised in the Temple, baptized in the Jordan, hungry in the wilderness, transfigured on the Mount, given in bread and wine, taken in the garden, scourged by the soldiers, crucified at Calvary, pierced in the side, its bones unbroken, gives up the ghost, is laid in the tomb, is raised on the third day, appears to many, ascends into heaven, and is opened into a site of communion through the gift of the Spirit. The story of our salvation is the story of Christ’s body.

Eric Hutchinson: The 10 Commandments are the Foundation for Protestant Ethics

Charlie Clark reviews Radicalism: When Reform Becomes Revolution

James Jordan: The Structure and Typology of the Bathsheba Incident

Jake Belder: You Don’t Need to Hear the Whole Sermon Each Week. Encouragement for parents of young children.

Peter Leithart:
Rival Tidinesses
Subversive Psalmody
Divine Double-Talk
God as Artist, Artist as God
God’s Wounds
Fair Nature’s Second Chance
Silence of Painting
Near Miss at Marburg
Horticultural Anthropology
Authoritarian Gardeners

Justin Taylor:
Frederick Douglass on the hypocrisy of antebellum churches
Why I would like to see a moratorium on using the word ‘literal’ when it comes to biblical interpretation

Dr Carl Trueman’s Lectures on the Reformation on Youtube

The latest ‘nightmare-inducing’ Boston robots

The most satisfying video in the world

Plants use an Internet made of fungus

I’m not a robot

Do you have any thoughts on any of the issues raised above?

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Over to you!

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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27 Responses to Links Post 11/02/17

  1. Paul Baxter says:

    Regarding the piece on abusive theology–I think the link between theology/ideology/philosophy and actual behavior would be a never ending mine of research if people wanted to jump into that particular mine. In my own youth the church leader I respected and admired the most was also an abuser, something I only found out about 20 years later. In his case I really have NO reason to suspect any sort of linkage there.

    The subject reminds me of William T Cavanuagh’s Torture and Eucharist, where he advances the case that the specific type of Catholic thought predominating in Chile served to enable the abuses of Pinochet. One could probably advance a similar argument about liberal Protestantism’s role in early 20C Germany’s war preparations. I’m becoming skeptical of that line, though. First, it smacks of intellectual historians trying to justify their own relevance. Second, it leaves out FAR more than it includes. (Why Germany and not, say, Sweden? And what about all the other countries which saw brutal dictatorships?)

    Even so, I would still enjoy seeing more work in the area.

  2. James Cr says:

    Think there might be a link between the following three pieces: women are strongly attracted to high income in potential mates, men’s income, generation on generation, (in the UK) has dropped an average of £12,500 until age 30, and millenials have less sex than previous generations (in US and UK)?

    • Yes, I think there is, though probably mediated by other factors. To explain the larger picture one would have to bring many other factors into the picture: marriage rates, age at first marriage, the rising significance of women’s labour in a service-oriented economy, the place of university education, the role played by the welfare state, etc., etc.

      • James Cr says:

        Thanks for replying. There’s definitely a lot of contributing factors here, but I suspect that at root there’s something to be said for the link I made above. Either way, it’s incredible to think that there’s been such a development in the same generation that’s been encouraged to have sex earlier and with more partners than any previous – less sex, record lows of teenage pregnancies, low marriage rates, increasingly rate age of marriage, fewer children.

        Though the piece from Anthony Esolen where he got to the hollowness at the heart of the debate around cultural diversity – i.e. What culture? Where? – was a great read. It’s simply difficult for me today imagine a world where poets are widely shared and understood, even as we have access and widespread literacy beyond our ancestors’ dreams. Yet Shakespeare was not writing for an elite in his own time. Reminds me of Patrick Deneen’s polemic on his ‘know-nothing’ (but elite) students:

        And the piece on bullying… well, ‘out of the mouths of babes’. I was the friend of a child who suffered severe bullying, observed it closely (both towards him and others, though I was never targeted) and yearned for much tougher adult intervention. The sufferer is left in an impossible position – unless they’re a born stoic, what can they do but respond with retaliation, for which they’ll inevitably be blamed and punished? I wish every teacher and educationalist would read and accept that study. Bullies might well have problems of their own, but the obligation to provide a safe environment for the bullied should be prioritised.

        Thank you for compiling the links.

    • Joe says:

      Millenials also have porn

  3. quinnjones2 says:

    ‘The invisible workload that drags women down’ – I can’t resist this! I thought it was hilarious but that is probably because I don’t have to put up with that kind of thing any longer – if anyone fails to notice that the toilet roll is running out, the culprit is almost always me, because I live alone now 🙂 But I do remember those days and years of toilet-roll angst and I think that a far worse offence than failing to notice that the toilet roll is running out is using the last piece of toilet paper and failing to put on the holder one of the spare toilet rolls which were left in the bathroom for that very purpose!
    But seriously, I don’t remember us running out of toilet paper very often On one occasion when we did run out ( many moons ago) I found a paper ‘Mister Men’ tablecloth and cut that up into suitably sized pieces. Our kids thought it was the best toilet paper ever.
    On a different slant, I am not entirely convinced that women in general do all of the thinking and worrying about such things. A former colleague told us once, after explaining that one of his children was off school ill, that his wife was the one who decided whether or not people were well enough to go to school, but he also told us on another occasion that when he got home from work he would have to choose between preparing the evening meal and delivering charity leaflets – he did not, apparently, have the option of sitting down and chilling for a bit. My guess is that in different households there are probably many variations on the theme of who worries about what and who delegates what to whom 🙂

    • Yes, it certainly isn’t the case that women have a monopoly upon worrying about this. However, they tend to be the ones who disproportionately end up doing it. In many ways it can be like a game of chicken, with the person who is least able to cope with mess and disorganization in shared living spaces having to do the lion’s share of the work.

      I’ve been in several shared house situations over the years. The phenomenon of differing or mismatched standards when it comes to the appearance and organization of the house has often been an issue. In some cases, it can be hard to feel at home when the mismatch is extreme. People who want the house to look immaculate all of the time are difficult to live with, much as those who hardly ever do any cleaning.

      I currently have one housemate who mops the floors three or four times a week and another who I don’t think has ever done them. When the first housemate is away for a few weeks, she seems to expect the house to fall into chaos in her absence and is surprised to come back to find it clean. While I don’t clean the main rooms of the house every couple of days, but I will clean them every week. In such a situation, determining who is and isn’t doing their ‘fair share’ is far more complicated than people would like to think. It can be complicated by the fact that sometimes the people cleaning the most think that they are being taken for granted, while those tidying the least find the constant cleaning to be oppressive and wish they could live in a house where people were more relaxed about the existence of mess.

      • quinnjones2 says:

        That is really interesting- there can be a mismatch because of different standards/preferences or different tolerance levels, rather than anyone being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. I have just thought of another area where I would now be difficult to live with (and can be difficult to be with, anyway!) – I developed an intolerance to curry and not only am I unable to eat it, but I also can’t bear to be in the same room as curry! I also just remembered an Italian/American friend who loved pastas etc. but who was married to a Yorkshireman who thought that a meal was not a ‘proper’ meal if it did not include potatoes. On one occasion when this friend visited me she left with these words: ‘Right, I’m now going home to prepare the meal and we’ll having potatoes – boiled potatoes, mashed potatoes, roast potatoes, chips, duchesse potatoes and croquette potatoes.’ So here was one woman who did a lot of accommodating – though ironically so on this occasion!

      • This piece I linked last week is interesting on the way that some of these situations are resolved in the favour of an intolerant minority.

        The standards mismatch dimension is an important part of the picture, I think. However, in cases such as household tidiness, I think it is worth bearing in mind the fact that these situations can play out like a game of chicken. The person who cares the most ends up doing the overwhelming majority of the work, simply because they cannot bear seeing it ignored. However, the work can be of benefit to everyone and not just a matter of overly high standards. Also, the people who ‘win’ the game of chicken can reap the benefits of a tidier house, while doing little themselves and taking the labour of the loser of the game for granted. There really is a problem here and obviously the different standards levels in such a situation are being used to take advantage of the person with the lowest tolerance for household mess.

      • quinnjones2 says:

        I read the post you linked about situations being resolved in favour of an intolerant minority, and it is so true. I also appreciate what you say about the ‘chicken game’ and it is true that some people exploit ‘willing horses’ and that the ‘willing horses’ may feel resentful but also feel that their consciences will not allow them to do less work than they do. (I have been a ‘willing horse’ myself in different contexts)
        When I read what you wrote about ‘the game of chicken’ and I remembered a different kind of domestic ‘game’ – this is a bit tangential, but it fascinates me. After my grandfather died, my grandmother told me that she felt that my grandfather never gave her enough money to feed and clothe their seven children. She objected to him spending so much money on cigarettes, drink, and betting on dogs! She told me that on one occasion she found a £1 note tucked in the spine of one of my grandfather’s books. She kept it, and made no mention of this to my grandfather. She also found £1 notes hidden between floorboards and she kept them, too. She accumulated some extra cash in this way, but it was never discussed between my grandparents. I was in full sympathy with my grandmother for keeping the money, but I thought my grandfather must have known what she was doing and I wonder if it was his way of being ‘softer’ than he would openly admit to being. This is just speculation on my part, of course, and I am mainly mystified by this ‘game.’ My grandparents’ ‘game’ was a covert game and it seems to me that the household ‘chicken game’ is also a covert game, which I guess is rarely openly discussed.

      • quinnjones2 says:

        I just did a search on the ‘chicken game’ and it looks as though, in the realm of international politics, this could be what Eric Berne (‘Games People Play’) might describe as a ‘third-degree game.’ At a domestic level I think that the ‘chicken game’ can be toxic, but I think that some of the ‘players’ may be unaware of the dynamics.

  4. Physiocrat1 says:

    An excellent short piece I read this week summarising the causes of inflation and its effects. Of particular value, is how the form of the monetary expansion effects the economy- is it from the banking sector directly or from the central bank buying assets. Prior to the 2008 crash it benefited borrowers who put the new money into housing purchase and post-2008 has benefited bond holders and owners of other assets,

  5. Geoff says:

    Christophanies : It would be good to have more discussion. I’m aware of Mike Reeves spoken teaching on this which seems to be distinct from Sanders caution, and Reeves has written and taught widely on the Trinity at a popular level.
    Well regarded Old Testament teacher, Alex Motyer wrote this:
    “The Angel of the Lord is both an independent person and is also recognised as Yahweh revealing himself, speaking in his own right repeating Yahweh’s promises. He is both “the Angel” and Yahweh (“the LORD”), the God of the fathers. Many other references confirm this understanding of the Angel, so that the writers of the Old Testament speak of him as “the double of Yahweh” or Yahweh’s “alter ego”, “a distinction without a difference”.
    Motyer continues with more all the while citing scripture with this summary:
    “Put it this way: in his essential nature God is Spirit. and invisible, but when he wishes to clothe his invisibility in an outward shape, there’s a form uniquely suited to his nature. It was in that form he created “man”. Hence, even the human form of the Angel itself marks him out as God become visible.
    This revelation of the “Angel of the Lord” thus leads us back to Creation, but also leads us forward to Jesus. Where else in scripture is there one who is both distinct from Yahweh and identical to him; who, without losing or diminishing his divine essence and holiness, yet accommodates himself to the company of sinners;who can both affirm the wrath of God and at the same time be the supreme outreaching of divine mercy?
    Who but Jesus? The Angel is a chief Old Testament preview of the Second Person of the Trinity.”


    Comment: His reasoning is from scriptural exegesis.

  6. jacobther says:

    Hi Alastair,
    Part 2 of my take on free speech is up. This time I try to look at whether older societies were morally inferior because they did not have free speech and other liberal values.
    Any comments are welcome.

  7. Geoff says:

    Thanks for the reference to Kline. I’d come across him from Clowney and Keller DMin teaching on the Internet, but it is the second time in just over a week his name has been mentioned. The first was by David H Campbell a Canadian Durham University theology graduate as he taught the book of Revelation, last week in NE England in a New Frontiers church. He has written a Shorter Commentary of G K Beale’s tome and his teaching was based on a distillation of that Shorter Commentary, published as “Mystery Explained – A simple guide to Revelation “.
    I’ll look up Kline when I get back online with a new router and ISP.

  8. Veronica says:

    I think that actually is the guy from The Last Psychiatrist. He actually mentions the blog in this one.

    • He seems to mention it as a reader. Besides, the identity of the author of the Last Psychiatrist has been revealed as a different person. He is clearly an avid fan, though, as he really has the Last Psychiatrist’s style of writing and (almost) analysis down.

  9. Geoff says:

    I’m back online.
    1 Kline’s book seems as though it will lead to great rejoicing and greater knowledge of God and His glory. It will be interesting to see if/how he deals with the presence of God, post Pentecost, in the now, but not yet period.
    2 Have you read prof Glynn Harrison’s recently published book, “A Better Story,
    God, Sex and Human Flourishing” ? He is a retired prof of psychiatry, Bristol University. I’ve not read the book, but listened to a pre- publication lecture. His book is an expansion of his lecture. You may glean from the title that his theme is that Christianity has largely been presented as what it is against but today has not been effective in prompting the gospel as a better story of human flourishing even set against today’s empty fulfilment promise of completeness in “expressively individualism,” particularly in the sphere sexuality, so replete throughout western culture.
    This is a summary from a book web site:
    “The 1960s heralded a sexual revolution, transforming society’s vision for sex and relationships. With an appealing narrative of freedom and authenticity, the revolution won the hearts and minds of many.
    The church’s leaders and faltering apologists seem overwhelmed. And biblical Christians tend to react defensively rather than offering a compelling vision of their own. Many young Christians are questioning whether the gospel really is good news in this area
    But what if we faced up honestly to our sub–Christian culture of shame? Re–imagined what it means to made sexual in the image of God? Remembered that we flourish when we live in harmony with God s design? And left behind the broken promises of the sexual revolution to tell a better story of our own?”

  10. Geoff says:

    Have you considered sending it to Harrison? I think he is contactable through his web site. I don’t know him, but from what I heard, I don’t think he’d be adverse to discourse/

    By the way, based on your opening photographs, you should be paid by Durham Tourist Board, if such an organisation exists.

    • No, I’m not planning to do anything with the review (I thought the book was very good, with some reservations). Jonathan Grant’s Divine Sex is the book I’d recommend in the area.

      Pleased you like the photos! I work as a volunteer in Durham Cathedral, so I do have some very minor involvement with tourism in the city.

      • Geoff says:

        Harrison’s book:
        Although I didn’t attend the pre-publication lecture, I have a recording. The lecture was one of a series of Autumn lectures organised by the Christian Institute each year at a venue in Newcastle upon Tyne. You may consider attending in 2017, if your interest is piqued by the theme (not yet decided) and it fits in with your itinerary. Recent years speakers have included Mike Ovey, now in glory.
        The speaker invites questions at the end. In answer to one question, Harrison reply, essentially, was that he was not, firstly, a theologian. That may fit in with your reservations about the book, but I’m not seeking to draw out those reservations.
        My main interest, is the Good News of Jesus and how to draw people in, with a better story of reality for young generations today, as I was part of a generation mis-sold a counterfeit freedom, a lie, which permeates the West in various forms, almost in an osmotic fashion.

  11. W.A. Hall says:


    I was wondering if you could briefly elaborate on some methods you find helpful when studying and cataloging notes. I have tried a few different things (notebooks, annotating the books itself, writing summaries in a word processor), but none seem effective ways of cataloging notes to return to later. You mentioned briefly once on Mere Fidelity that you use some kind of notecard system and that system would be beneficial for graduate research work. I was wondering if you could point me to any resources or briefly elaborate on yours?



    • Thanks for the comment, William.

      I use a number of methods. I use record cards, writing notes on particular passages that I might need for future reference, and put them in ordered slots. I underline books liberally in pencil, using a bookmarker as my ruler, and leave comments in the margins. I open a Word file and write notes as I proceed through a book. Occasionally I’ll use a notepad. I also have large Word documents with thousands of links I have collected on specific topics, ordered in detail.

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