Welcome to Alastair’s Adversaria. I previously blogged at alastair.adversaria and 40 Bicycles. This blog will provide a home for my occasional and various thoughts, links, and notes on my reading. While you may struggle to find a unifying theme here, my thoughts will frequently return to the subjects of biblical theology, the sacraments, and Christian ethics.
My name is Alastair Roberts. I currently reside in the north of England. In addition to the subjects mentioned above, I am passionate about word games, English cricket, cathedral cities, long walks, and second hand bookstores.
I would love to hear more about you! Why not introduce yourself in the comments?
I have just read your excellent blog on the Scottish Gay Marriage Consultation on Archbishop Cranmer’s blog site and was hoping you might be able to pen a few more articles on homosexuality and gay marriage in general; I would be very interested in reading about your view on homosexuality and human rights as well as well as your response to the latest speech from Hilary Clinton re. the U.S’s intention to be a strong advocate for global LGBT rights.
Thanks for leaving a comment, Richard. I have just sent you an e-mail.
Dear Alistair, I would like to connect with a view to exploring issues of diversity for counsellors and pastoral care workers. Thanks in anticipation of your sending me an e mail.
Are you at Durham uni? That picture looks suspiciously like Durham cathedral!
If so, could be good to meet up. I go to church there, and am a theologian by academic training
I am. I have just sent you an e-mail.
Would love to chat with you more. Enjoyed the twitter back and forth and it’s really helping me grasp the scope of the gospel
G’day Alastair. I’m appreciating your writings. You have gone to considerable trouble to express your thoughts. It has been worth the effort. Please keep doing it. It’s really worthwhile. 1 Corinthians 15:58 ὁ κόπος ὑμῶν οὐκ ἔστιν κενὸς ἐν κυρίῳ. (1Co 15:58)
I have found many posts stimulating, but especially the ones concerning Jared Wilson’s use of Doug Wilson’s Fidelity.
Thanks, David! There are a few more of those to come.
Hello Alistair! We met at Tenth Church a week ago.. I am friends with Paul and Sylvia. I think you met our whole family..or at least Sarah, with me pointing out the rest down the pew…. I have enjoyed reading your latest comments, and hope to spend some time perusing the rest as time allows! We are glad to have met you! Sorry we didn’t have the opportunity to have you stop in to visit our old house! Hope you and your Dad are continuing to enjoy your trip.
Thanks, Cheryl! It was great to meet you all on Sunday, though a pity that we didn’t have greater time in which to become acquainted. Lord-willing, I will be returning to Philadelphia at some point in the next few years.
We are very much enjoying our trip. Today was spent in Monument Valley, yesterday at the Grand Canyon. I hope to blog about the trip here when I have a better connection!
Hi Alastair , may i ask what you are studying in school?
My work is on the Red Sea crossing as a motif in baptismal liturgy. My work focuses on the relationship between typology and the sacraments.
Excellent. Is there an outward and visible sign of your inward and spiritual work on this noble theme? If so, I’d like to read it.
Here and there, but I generally use my blog for other topics. You might want to take a look at my (as yet uncompleted) 40 Days of Exoduses series.
Found your blog a while ago through a combination of Brad Littlejohn and the Wilson/Held Evans stuff. I’m currently appreciating your ‘A Year of Biblical Womanhood’ review – pretty spot on in my opinion (not that my opinion means much!)
Thanks for this and for other great posts.
Thank you, Ruth! If I am correct and he is who I think that he is (your surname is an unusual one!), your husband may remember me. I visited and stayed with his parents several years ago and met him then.
Hi Alistair, where can I find a copy of your book Heirs Together please? Thanks, Jess
There should be another instalment of the YBW review posted this evening.
Alastair, great blog here…came upon it from Googling orthodox alexithymia…would love to ask some questions in a private email. Cheers…
Wow! I’ve just come across your blog for the first time as I was researching the background to von Balthasar’s thoughts on Adam’s participation in the creation of Eve as a kenotic act of the first adam. What an amazing resource!
I also blog as I make my way through postgraduate studies, on quite related themes it would seem, but I am no where near as productive as you!
Thanks for commenting, Chelle! Great to have you here.
I would love to hear more about your work: you seem to be dealing with some fascinating themes! I have added your blog to my Google Reader.
The creation narrative of Genesis 2 is actually something that I was reflecting upon rather closely recently. There are lots of fascinating things going on there and many themes that are taken up later in the text. I will have to revisit von Balthasar on the subject. It would be great to hear any thoughts that you might have on the subject.
I do love to read widely, which might be a challenge 6 months from now when I have to start writing something succinct for the PhD!
Basically, I am developing an argument for a mystical hermeneutic for public conversations about God, religion and ethics, that is Love as Revelation. So, I read about love because I hope to show how it works as an analogy for a certain epistemology; and I read mystics and mystical philosophy/theology because I’m trying to show that is fits firmly within orthodox Christian theology; and I read public theology because that is my application context.
Ambitious? So said the examining panel who approved the topic – but a fantastic amount of fun!
Believe me, I quite understand the struggle of trying to produce a tight and disciplined PhD out of rather feral reading habits (if you have any tips, please share them…)!
Your project does indeed sound ambitious: to my mind, the best projects always are. I await with interest what you come up with and hearing about your thoughts on the subject as they develop!
Hello, Alastair. My name is Dzmitry Kastsiuchenka, I live in the city of Minsk in Belarus.
I am interested in Christianity, in particular by Anabaptists, the Amish and Mennonites.
Your blog I found in google-plus Ribbon when searching for topics that interest me.
English is not my native language, if there are errors, I apologize.
Great to have you here, Dzmitry! Thanks for leaving a comment.
can i sign up for an email alert when you’ve posted a new post? if so then where? thanks – ha ha just saw the tick box as i was about to post comment 🙂
Are you on Facebook? I would like to link to you there if you post on subjects discussed here.
I don’t have a personal account on Facebook. I use Twitter for most things.
Pingback: A Lament for Google Reader | The Kuyperian Commentary
I edit MercatorNet http://www.mercatornet.com/, an on-line magazine which runs out of Sydney.
I saw your piece on Google Reader and found it quite interesting.
Would it be possible to post a slightly abridged version of it on MercatorNet, with due credit? We liked your more philosophical ruminations on the internet and I think that our writers will, too. We can send you the edited version for your approval. You might benefit a bit as well, as it would be useful publicity for your blog.
Michael Cook, editor, MercatorNet
Do you know of any reliable sources documenting the objections that Christians apparently used to promote segregated marriage? It strikes me that those who are wielding this as a club in the SSM debate generally have little to no idea of what the objections actually were, and are guilty of a slippery slope themselves in implying that if we reject SSM we must reject interracial marriage.
Thanks for the comment, Joshua.
Unfortunately, I can’t help you here. I would be interested to see if anyone else can provide sources. I think that the analogy between the two is quite specious, as I argue here.
if you don’t mind me asking, what is the long-term goal of your studies? Are you aspiring to do scholarly work (presumably in a university setting) full-time for the rest of your life? Part-time? The priesthood hold any interest to you? (I’m on the fence about that one myself.) You’ve threatened to write a book several times over the years – is one secretly in the works? I’m assuming at some point you will be writing a dissertation or two. Is the topic set? Just curious. 🙂 Peace.
Yes, there is (at least one) book in the works (that’s all I’m saying about that for now!). As for longer term plans, much depends on what positions are available, of course. Academia is my preferred context at the moment, although I am less excited about that direction than I once was.
I read through one of your Christian tech articles on Google Reader and I wanted to reach out the opportunity to get an early sneak peek at Thoughtree: a new and fun mobile journal that I envision many Christians using, as it’s an ideal place to record prayers, sermon notes, and scripture – along with the other types of valuable ideas you’d like to remember, but don’t really have a good place to write down.
Along with being free, Thoughtree is designed to be drop-dead simple, to the point where even the most atypical writer can enjoy recording ideas. It combines the familiar organizational skeleton of a social network with the personal security of a journal, to create an honest and productive digital environment.
The unique focus on one individual idea at a time makes it the easiest and most effective way to start writing in 2013. It gives users unique freedom to write whatever randomly and naturally comes to mind, while maintaining colorful and beautiful organization.
It is the 1st place winner of the 2013 South Florida Christian business competition held by United Franchise Group and Palm Beach Atlantic University.
Check out http://www.Thoughtr.ee to see it in action.
We’re planning to launch the iPhone and iPad app into the Store soon in the coming weeks, but if you’re interested in playing with it early I’d be happy to send over a beta by way of TestFlight. It is a whopping 1.9MB!
Thanks in advance for considering the app for review, and have a great day!
Thanks for drawing my attention to this, Jude. I’ve just subscribed to receive updates.
What methodology do you use to become a virtuous Christian? Furthermore, I love the work you do!
I am a christian from India. Your blog is really one of a kind for the detailed exposition of the fundamental basis of lots of things we take for granted. I recently came across your blog and read through many posts(posts related to same sex marriage, Rachel Evan’s book review etc).
I am seriously impressed by the logic, detail and historical perspective you bring to the task. I have also thought about many of these matters and hope to interact with you in the future regarding many of my persisting questions. I am deeply encouraged by your willingness to be challenged regarding your convictions.
Are there other ways to follow you Alastair? I so much enjoy your blog, but rarely have time to respond with the kind of depth it requires. It truly is one of the highlights of my week… mostly because we think so differently… but you in fact THINK. 🙂
Thanks, David! 🙂
I tweet here.. Most of my tweeting isn’t particularly deep, though…
I’m writing to you from across the pond, a little outside of Philadelphia Pennsylvania. I just wanted to drop you a line and tell you that I really enjoy you blog, and to be honest I am practically and anti-blog guy. I think I discovered you, maybe from Derek Rishmawy’s blog (??), but I just wanted to say that I have really appreciated your thoughts on many things. I was raised in a Christian home but have in recent years slid into the “Reformed camp.” I have loved growing in understanding the reformed thought, and you have been a great person on the interwebs that has helped in processing some of it. Just today I have been reading your responses on Denny Burk’s blog, and they are incredibly incitful and well defended. I wanted to write you and tell you how much I appreciated you doing that. You were getting a bit beat up and you were definitely outnumbered over there in the comments section. However, you handled yourself really well and with love. I think what you said is a good way forward in the manhood/womanhood topic. Particularly in America things get really out of control, and what you were saying struck me as deeply rooted and progressive in a non-egalitarian way. I was really blessed by it!! Thanks and keep up the good work brother!!
Thanks, Rick! I enjoyed visiting Philly about a year and a half ago. My girlfriend comes from that city.
I am pleased that you have enjoyed the discussion over on Denny Burk’s blog. It has been rather intense! I’ve added several more comments over the last couple of hours, but have dropped out of the discussion altogether now. I have made most of my points and there comes a stage where the responses come through at such a pace that I don’t see the purpose of trying to keep up! 🙂
Sorry to interrupt your hiatus! (c: Like Rick, I have enjoyed your comments over on Denny Burk’s blog (egalitarianism…). What resources (books) would you recommend on the subject?
Thanks! To be honest, there isn’t any book that I have found especially helpful on the subject. I am thinking about writing one at some point soon, actually (I’ve already written about 50,000 words that could be put into a book).
Most of my reading is of egalitarians, actually. I often prefer reading the best of the people who disagree with me. I find it a more helpful way to hone my thinking.
As I think that these debates should focus upon close reading of the biblical text, my one recommendation would be an unpublished manuscript written by James Jordan, a detailed commentary on Genesis 2-4 entitled Trees and Thorns, which can be bought from here. Jordan has elaborated on his thoughts as they relate to the vocations of men and women in other places (for instance, see the piece here, the series here—1, 2—or here—1, 2, 3). While I don’t see eye to eye with Jordan on some issues, I think that he is one of the few who is doing the sort of attentive reading of the text that we need.
Other helpful movements in moving beyond some of the current stale positions are discussed in places such as this blog post.
I would want to extend the debate much, much further, but these aren’t bad places to start thinking things through.
Alastair, your patient commentary on Denny Burke’s blog has been immeasurably helpful to me. I am stunned at your command of the subject matter, from so many different angles. I added a few comments of my own, but later decided just to watch and learn. Blessings on you.
Thanks, Scott! Such discussions can be very difficult because a proper understanding of gender in Scripture is so bound up with a very big picture. Once we start to grasp this picture, so many different things start to click into place. At some point I hope that I will have the opportunity to present this picture in extensive detail, to show how everything slots so neatly within it. It would be good to move the debate beyond the zoom lens of competing isolated texts to challenge all of us to think in terms of more global and explanatory visions.
I agree with Scott, you brought some real refreshment to a well-worn conversation. At some level, however, these exchanges are beneficial mainly to the outside reader, as most of the participants have no honest interest in being swayed from their stances.
I’m wondering if you’ve been able to put your finger on why that is. Why, in the face of nature, tradition, and reason itself do modern women and men contend for these new models of reality?
One thing I’ve learned about the innate motivational differences between men and women is that women have a strong felt need for security, whereas men have an equivalent need to feel significant. (This of course fits well with some of your models of understanding.)
Thus it’s my contention, if you look closely, that women and men endorse the egalitarian paradigm for two different reasons. Women have been persuaded that equality of opportunity (and a concomitant rejection of any form of male supremacy) is the key to avoiding abuse and securing their wellbeing. In the case of men, however, it isn’t so much their perceived benefit from the contributions of peer females (although they might express it as such), as it is their “chivalrous” sense that women have been treated unfairly and need defending.
Will your careful reasoning change their conclusions? Probably only rarely. All of us work off our ‘gut’ far more than we acknowledge. Those of us who have experienced the graces and empowerments of God operate in a different milieu than those who have no internal comprehension of these. I am able to feel safe as a woman primarily because of the security that emanates from God’s sovereignty. Men will find satisfactory significance only when they understand that God has positioned them as regents in His kingdom.
I appreciate your desire to seek the global view. It’s a rare practice these days, and much needed.
Thanks for your comment, Diane!
I agree with your point that such exchanges are often primarily about outside readers. That said, they also help us to hone our own arguments and thinking, which is one of the reasons why I engage in them. I don’t expect that there is much possibility of my mind being changed on an issue that I have thought much about in the course of an online conversation. However, I always try to be open to change, which usually results from road-testing elements of my own thinking, to see what people can respond with and what holes they can pick.
On occasions, I will also road-test ways of approaching such debates in ways most calculated to change other participants’ minds. If I had wanted to persuade other participants, among other things I would have toned down my arguments considerably and taken a gentler and less oppositional approach, so that coming around to my position wouldn’t entail a costly climb-down on their part (this article explains the logic behind such an approach). However, knowing Don and Suzanne well from several previous interactions, I didn’t think that there was much point in doing this. Sadly, they are so polarized and reactive on this particular set of issues that they aren’t really receptive to any argument and even arguments that have been clearly laid to rest in the past will be exhumed and made to stumble around like the living dead.
I suspect that you are right about some of the motivations behind people’s holding of an egalitarian position (that said, I think that, although men and women may have different motivational tendencies in some areas on average, these are only general tendencies, with plenty of exceptions: the heart of sexual difference lies at a deeper level). That said, some will just have been raised in an egalitarian social setting and any else will seem alien and threatening to them. Egalitarianism is such a basic assumption for many that the notion that it could be seriously challenged just doesn’t enter into their minds. Consequently, the force of the biblical passages that do challenge it will be lightly bruised off and never truly recognized, because they aren’t paying attention. We are all at risk of doing this sort of thing in certain areas.
I think that a number of women have come from abusive or restrictive backgrounds in conservative evangelical circles, where unhealthy teaching and practice concerning the callings of men and women exist and that they are reacting against this. You can’t really argue with such a person because their issue lies at a deeper, almost instinctual, level. They react to arguments for non-egalitarian positions, rather than listening, ensuring that they have a clear understanding, carefully reflecting, and then responding. Even for those who haven’t experienced such a background themselves, the stories of others who have are widely shared. Their relationship to the issues is reactive because they think that opponents are a live and personal threat. Debates then become polarized and antagonistic, when there is actually a surprising amount of common ground that could be explored.
I also think that people react to what they imagine you are arguing for, rather than to your actual arguments. It is interesting to see how consistently people attack a caricature of a position that they think that I hold, rather than engaging with my actual words. They apply a label—‘complementarian’ (a label that I don’t typically apply to myself for various reasons)—and then associate you with a caricature of what some such people hold (I’ve discussed the unhelpfulness of such label-based thinking here). Once the label has been attached, they don’t really pay attention to much that you say. Anything that you say that sounds positive is merely presumed to be a ploy to cover the ugly reality of what you really believe. The way that people form an imaginative picture of what you stand for is so important.
People like Don and Suzanne are also so focused on a particular form of complementarianism that they fail to appreciate that most non-egalitarian Christians do not identify with ‘complementarianism’ as it is usually understood. The possibility that strong criticism of their position could come from a quarter that doesn’t identify itself as ‘complementarianism’ doesn’t seem to occur to them. It is like people who fail to recognize that most Christians are neither Calvinists nor Arminians. When you are so absorbed in a polarized debate, you lose sight of the wider world.
I think that many of us as men see that there are profoundly gifted women that we know and care about and we recognize that their gifts are often not truly appreciated by the Church. I don’t think that this motive should be dismissed. We also see that many women have been kept in abusive situations, in the name of ‘submission’. ‘Complementarianism’ in practice in certain quarters is more about what women can’t do, rather than actually encouraging them and supporting them in ministries whose value and importance is truly recognized. We see the pain of these women, relegated to the status of second-class members of the Church and denied the honour due to them in their families, and, naturally, we feel angry and protective. I think that egalitarians tend to presume that, since we don’t agree with their supposed solution, we don’t actually recognize or care deeply about the problem. My arguments have never been meant to serve as an imprimatur for the status quo.
Most of us have been raised in contexts where ‘equality’ has been the watchword when it comes to honouring women. The only conceivable alternative to ‘equality’ for most people is framed in terms of inequality and repressive hierarchy. It requires a feat of the imagination for us to grasp that there are other ways of framing things, ways that move beyond a narrow and constrictive focus upon equality, allowing for a far more glorious and liberating realization of men and women’s callings.
Thank you, Alastair. Your patience is remarkable, and your stamina for such ponderings is even more impressive.
I have a few questions that I’m certain you’ve answered somewhere, but I’m not sturdy enough to make my way through all you’ve written. So if you will, could you point me to a place where you address your objections to “unilateral and static hierarchy,” and also where you discuss what you termed “asymmetrical mutual submission.”
In addition, I am curious about your reference above to a deeper “heart of sexual difference.”
If you prefer not to continue this conversation on your “About” page, please feel free to email me at diane /at/ bereansnotepad /dot/ com.
Thank you again!
Alastair, Hello from Dayton, Ohio. I stumbled onto your blog comments recently and have enjoyed them. I recall with great thanks your hospitality when I visited St Andrew some years ago. Blessings on your studies – thanks again.
Great to hear from you again! I trust that you and your family are well.
God bless you! Good stuff. Greetings from London.
Thanks, Marius! Good to have you commenting here.
I really appreciate the insights and questions you pose here. Thanks for sharing with the rest of us.
I’m in Des Moines, Iowa, USA.
Much to my surprise I find myself worshipping among the Episcopalians. Your posts often help me better understand what is going on here.
Keep creating…and writing, Mike
You’re summary of Edwin Friedman attracted me. I’m gonna keep following you. I’m a church planter in Philly, trying to pastor a church. I write a blog too.
Thanks for following, Jonny!
My girlfriend comes from Philly. I enjoyed visiting it a couple of years ago.
Alastair, I just finished reading yours and Jake Meador’s back and forth about Lent, etc. As someone who’s become jaded with all the rampant blog-tificating going on these days–even from people with whom I heartily agree–it took something special for me to sit through so lengthy a post. It made an impression on me because the ideas generally–and your contributions specifically–resonated with a spiritual struggle I’ve been going through for over three years now and has been coming to a head during Lent (or dare I say Great Lent?). Yes, just about everything you described has been the prevailing rationale behind my family’s recent decision to begin visiting a nearby Orthodox parish. In some ways I deeply wish to “trust fall” into Orthodoxy’s arms, while in others I fear I’m running toward a cliff.
Thanks for indulging that brief little confession. 🙂 My reason for commenting here is because something like the Orthodox Church seems one of the precious few realistic solutions to the problems you describe. Not to criticize, but it seemed like Jake’s response to your comment about the bastardization of tradition by historically-oriented Evangelicals was essentially to propose more bastardization (group fasts, a partial church calendar, “romantic agrarianism,” etc.). Did I interpret that correctly, and can I ask if you have any firm conclusions (or humble inclinations) of your own in response to the questions you raised?
P.S. This probably warrants a longer answer than is convenient. Please feel free to be terse. 🙂
Thanks for the comment, Josh! It is encouraging to hear that the article resonated with you.
Here are a few brief and rough thoughts:
First, these problems are everywhere in some form or other. We aren’t going to escape individualism by swimming the Tiber or crossing the Bosphorus. As I pointed out in some of my comments, the same individualism widely characterizes the reception of the liturgy in Catholic and Orthodoxy (Mark Searle, whom I quoted, was a Roman Catholic).
Second, individualism and associated problem of authority—while big problems—are certainly not the only problems afflicting the Church, nor are they the only places where we have become seriously compromised. There is a danger of so fixating upon these problems and our need to escape them—as some RC apologetes would have us do, for instance—that we run headlong into a different set of problems. The grass always greener in the different tradition, especially when our primary encounter with that tradition is on paper.
Third, the problems may be widely spread, but there are also means that we can take to address them in many contexts. I am an Anglican and committed to the Reformation tradition. I believe that we have many resources within our tradition to address these issues, which is one reason why I appreciate the ressourcement work of groups such as The Calvinist International. One of the things that I appreciate about being an Anglican, despite the immense problems in the communion, is that it keeps me connected to the contexts within which I must minister. It does not allow me to flee the problems into some supposed perfect church, but connects me to the problems in a manner that forces me to seek for ways to address them faithfully. Perhaps comparisons with the split kingdoms of Israel and Judah and the functioning of the faithful remnant within them could be drawn here.
Fourth, merely shifting choice from the individual to the community is not really a solution at all. I think that we need to engage with the tradition as a whole entity. While this will involve discernment and a prudential self-situating within it—for instance, Lent isn’t uniform and at its root is almost certainly a compromise between two distinct practices—it recognizes that the Church and its tradition is to be treated as a given factor of our contemporary situation to be engaged with, not just a choice.
What a delight to have found such a sharp, well-written blog governed by a gentle Christian spirit. As a former academic, I’m impressed that academic writing has not damaged your craft–your piece on Bell and Mad Men is a masterpiece. I think it took me about four years after my PhD studies to learn how to write again… I look forward to perusing old posts and reading new ones. Pax Christi
A RC from the States
Thank you, Scott!
HI Alistair, loved your contribution on the N.T Wright podcast, appreciated your balanced and well thought-through comments on interpreting Wright.
Hi Alastair. I am on staff at a church called LIG.punt – an Afrikaans, Reformed, Evangelical church in Pretoria, South Africa. We have a transgender issue in our midst. One of our congregants is a male turned female. Subsequent to this change she came to faith, and we are trying to work out what the way forward may be. I would love to email you and share the details of the situation and ask your input on it, if you are able. You now have my details…
Good morning Alastair. Or good evening I should say. Bruce Charlton referred me to your blog when I told him that my favorite thinkers were Peter Leithart and NT Wright. I Think he knew I was steeped in CS Lewis also. I love to hear what other deep Christian thinkers have to say it stimulates me to further thought and I’m preparing a Bible study right now for my church I also like to write from time to time I hope to hear from you since not many Christian thinkers share a jeep and global view of things.
Thanks for commenting, Salvatore! It is good to see you here and to hear of your connection with Bruce.
Since I don’t have private means of contacting you I do so here. My name is Arthur Kay. I’m the minister of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Affetside (near Bury, Greater Manchester). You and your readers may be interested to know that we are hosting a one-day conference on worship in Bolton addressed by the Rev. Dr. Peter J. Leithart on 26th March 2015 . Details are here:
Peter will be speaking in London subsequent to that. Details here: http://northlondontheology.org/conferences/for-the-life-of-the-world/
and he will also lead a ministerial conference, see: http://northlondonchurch.org/ministerial-conference
Feel free to pass my email address to any enquirers.
May the grace of Christ be with you and your readers.
Thanks, Arthur! I’ve posted your announcement here.
Thank you so much, Alastair. It is much appreciated. I am sorry you cannot come. I’d have loved to meet you.
Just read your article on Numbers 5. Although I am not an “intellectual” and, in fact I’m just a very uneducated ‘stay at home mom’, I enjoy learning about the Word of God. I have been haunted, for many reasons, about this passage. I am so grateful for a proper explanation. Thank you so much for sharing! Looking forward to exploring more on your site.
I just read your article posted on the TGC site. I really appreciated your thoughts-particularly this: “…to discover how we have marginalized God’s story for the sake of our own.” There is so much to be said about this in so many situations. Have you written any more on this idea, or know someone who has?
Perhaps one of the first people who helped me to think about this was Richard Gaffin, who sharpened the distinction between ordo salutis and historia salutis—the difference between the order of salvation in the life of the Christian and the history of salvation. The ‘gospel’ is primarily a message about the historia salutis—in the fullness of time Christ died for our sins, rose from the dead on the third day, according to the Scriptures, is ascended Lord, and will one day return in glory as Judge—rather than a message about a timeless process of salvation for individuals (although it is that too!). The gospel is the story of Jesus accomplished on the grand stage of history (and about the call to place our lives into his story), rather than principally about how Jesus offers to come into the lives of religious consumers. While Christ comes into our lives, he does so as our stories are caught up into his.
Gaffin helped me to appreciate the importance of the doctrine of union with Christ in the thinking of Calvin, for instance. Through union with Christ, we are ‘plugged into’ a story far greater than ourselves and made part of a much bigger picture (and the Church is important here—the NT says a lot more about the Church as the new humanity that Christ is forming than about individual detached Christians). Many of the ‘conversions’ of the NT are not movements from unbelief to faith, but from old covenant to new.
This core insight has worked itself out in my thinking in many ways over the subsequent decade or so, but that was probably the first germ of it.
Thanks for your quick response. I think I’m most interested in A) how this idea of our personal relationship with Jesus (which is true and important) becomes hyper-spiritualized/emotional-like other movements-as you mentioned in the article. I am interested in its implications in the life of a believer. For example: I recently had coffee with a friend who converted to Islam. Her testimony was almost identical in word and emotion as Christian testimonies I’ve heard at summer camps and church retreats. In talking to her, I realized that there is something more that needs to be communicated when we share the gospel: beyond our personal experiences. Many of the people I attended Bible school with have left the Faith, and I suspect much has to do with a wrong way that we often view our personal relationship with Jesus. And B) as a (I acknowledge, somewhat rare) “Calvinist/progressive dispensationalist”leaning person, how this highlights Gods redemptive purposes for Israel and the church, and reminds us of the Jewishness of the gospel. As you said, many were not new conversions. Rather, they were Jewish people believing in Jesus’ fulfillment as the promised Jewish messiah.
Sent from my iPhone
Your point (A) is incredibly important. I know of people who left the faith in part as a result of seeing how similar the subjective experience of people of other faiths was.
I suspect that there are a number of contributing factors to this. One of them might be the extreme focus upon conversion over lifelong discipleship in Christian circles. Teens are disproportionately represented among converts and so gospel messages tend to play into the teen search for intimate emotional relationship, existential intensity, identity, etc. Then there is the fact that this sort of individual-focused message really resonates in the cultural context of the West in particular. Presenting things differently would be difficult for our cultures to understand. This is also one reason why other religions often tend to follow evangelicalism’s lead here. Our message presumes individual self-determination over substantial belonging and determination from without because this is fundamental to self-understanding in contemporary Western culture (see the Zizek quotation here, for instance). Much, much more could be said, of course.
On your point (B), when we start to recentre the story on Christ, the importance of Israel and the Church definitely comes into clearer relief. It has definitely transformed the way that I relate to the Old Testament and was very much something that informed my PhD thesis.
I “second” what you note regarding the TGC post of Alastair’s. Thanks for asking the follow up question!
I find that you and I share some things in common. I am an American who studied theology at a Reformed seminary and at a Catholic faculty at a Catholic university. The focus of my research during my doctoral studies was liturgy and sacraments. I wrote a dissertation on the historical evolution of the liturgy for the Lord’s Supper in the Reformed Church in America, with special special emphasis on the changes the liturgy underwent under the impact of the liturgical and ecumenical movements of the twentieth century. My interests, however, have shifted from liturgical studies to economic ethics, in large part because the ‘”restructuring” of the academic workforce during the years I was a graduate student effectively dashed my hopes of ever earning a living from teaching theology or religious studies at American institutions of higher learning. From what I am learning from you posts, the situation does not seem too different in the UK. I only wonder how long this system of economic arrangements can last before they become absolutely intolerable.
Pingback: Audience Participation? | Re:Forming Theology
Is it possible that you have ever passed through Guadalajara, Jalisco?? If so, then I met you there…if not, then it was another Alastair.
I’m sorry, I’m not the Alastair you are looking for. I’ve never visited Mexico.
aha. perhaps Alastair is a popular name in your part of the world. He was from where you are. cheers anyway!!
It is relatively common. I hope you find the guy you are looking for!
Hello Alastair, I have a question. Many things I have read about election/predestination… Some say God is choosing people from eternity past to be saved. Is that true? Or what is election? I read a lot in John 6, John 10, ephesians 1 or acts 13:48 that God is calling and electing people. Nowadays a lot of people state it like that. I struggle with this greatly. How can I see God as loving and righteous through all this?
Thanks for the question, Dieder. For future reference, every fortnight I have an ‘open mic thread’ on the blog, which is for people’s questions, so that readers can discuss them (if you visit my blog, you shouldn’t usually have to scroll down more than two or three posts before finding one). There is also currently an Ask Us Anything thread for a forthcoming episode of Mere Fidelity. Those are usually the best places to ask questions.
I don’t have much time to answer your question right now, but the most important preliminary step with such questions is to break them down to a less threatening size. Here are a few considerations to start with:
1. God has revealed who he is in Jesus Christ. Whatever is hidden to us about the will of God in the world and our lives is not inconsistent with how we know God in Christ. Also, God is the just judge: we can trust him to be righteous in things that we don’t understand.
2. Our faith does not rest upon uncertain speculations. There are ‘hidden things’ that belong to God (Deuteronomy 29:29), and revealed things that belong to us. Speculation beyond the clear facts of revelation (and the exact nature of election, in contrast to the fact of election) is not such a clear fact. We may not understand how it works, but our very experience of finding seemingly intractable tensions resolved for us in other areas of our thoughts should leave us open to the possibility that the apparent tensions that we experience here would not be perceived as such were we to have a fuller understanding.
3. Election is focused upon Jesus Christ. Jesus is the shape of God’s election, so the decree is not radically hidden. We are elect in Christ and if we want to know whether we are elect it will by recognizing Christ as the ‘mirror of our election’.
4. Election and reprobation should not be presumed to be symmetrical, nor is it obvious that reprobation is a ‘decree’ of its own. Depending on how we frame election there are ways to structure it that mean that no individual is necessarily excluded.
5. We should distinguish between God’s sovereignty in forming his people in history (which I think is in view in Romans 9, for instance), and a choice of individuals in eternity.
6. We should distinguish between election of a people for special service (Israel in particular) and election of people for salvation: these two things are not necessarily the same. God may have chosen Isaac rather than Ishmael, but I think that we have good reason to believe that Ishmael was a God-fearer.
7. Many biblical references to election refer to election in history, not to an eternal election. Little is said about an eternal election of detached individuals. When Scripture talks of God’s providential directing of the lives of individuals, it tends to focus upon points in history. God chooses individuals before they were born. Sometimes there are promises of establishing the conditions of a promised child’s conception (and I would suggest that we should be wary of universalizing such things). Or God raises up persons in history for particular ends. What should be noticed in such cases is that God’s purposes are related to specific persons and situations, not represented as being carried out in detachment from history in some ‘eternity past’.
8. Election typically focuses upon the people of God as a body, not upon detached individuals (for instance, in Ephesians 1). It is the Church that is elect in Christ, and we are members of the Church. We share in the status that Christ has enjoyed since before the creation of the world. God may and does act inscrutably in our lives according to his will to bring us into the Church, but this is not where the centre of gravity of the doctrine lies. Christ is the chosen one and he is forming his Church. As we address the Church, we are addressing the elect people, the sons and daughters of Abraham.
9. When speaking about a notion such as ‘eternity past’, it is important to consider the assumptions built into such a notion about God’s relationship to history. Take, for instance, the relationship between a novelist and the characters in his novel. Should the character in the novel think that the novelist’s choice preceded all of his actions? Not necessarily. The novelist doesn’t straightforwardly inhabit the character’s timeline, so the novelist’s decision isn’t prior to the character’s decision temporally, nor need the novelist do violence to the integrity of the character, although every decision of the character is founded upon the creative work of the author. I suspect similar things are true about the relationship between God’s election and us.
10. Election is a wonderful truth to be celebrated. The Son is chosen and beloved before the foundation of the world. God’s creative purpose is to form a glorious humanity in his Son. The Church is the place where this new humanity is coming to form and we are being made part of this. This is the shape that election takes and we want to be the means to draw others into this life.
What’s your email? I want to contact you,
Dieder ________________________________ Van: Alastair’s Adversaria Verzonden: zondag 11 oktober 2015 04:00:59 Aan: firstname.lastname@example.org Onderwerp: [New comment] About
Alastair Roberts commented: “Thanks for the question, Dieder. For future reference, every fortnight I have an ‘open mic thread’ on the blog, which is for people’s questions, so that readers can discuss them (if you visit my blog, you shouldn’t usually have to scroll down more than tw”
What is acts 13:48 really about? What is the ordaining? Is this a calvinistic tulip proof text or doesn’t it say that much about election?
Personally I don’t think the writer of acts is putting a sort of tension in the text. As in a hidden decree or type of election like being taught in tulip calvinism. I don’t know exactly what it is talking about but I don’t think it’s as clear as many think.
Howdy Alastair, my name is Michael Spalione. I am curious if you are planning on attending SBL this year. If so I would love to meet with you and pick your brain over coffee.
Hi: My name is Rebecca Holt Stay. I teach adult Bible studies in local congregations. I got a degree in Judaic-Near Eastern Studies at Oberlin College in Ohio in the US. I am take with your series 40 Days of Exoduses. In particular, I had noticed the parallel language in the story of Abram and Sarai going down into Egypt: I think the dead giveaway is when God plagues Pharaoh.
I wondered if you have read this elsewhere? I am not finding it in the books I;ve looked at.
Great work, by the way!
Hello Alastair. Thank you for your recent book reviews. My name is Robert Lawrence, a physician and author from Alaska. A mutual friend recommended I send you a copy of my new novel, The Dignified Death of Joseph Sherman, about a nurse who struggles with the assigned task of handing a lethal dose of medication to a terminally ill convicted murderer who has requested a medical-assisted death. The story has many layers, the deepest of which is allegorical. I’ve mailed a personal copy to you in Durham. If you have the interest and time, I would be interested in your reflections. A preview is available at http://www.willowptarmiganpress.com.
Recently came across you and your writings(you have an admirer in Derek Rishmawy over at Reformedish). A little bit on introductions, i am a 24 year old working profesional living in Washington, DC. I became a believer only two years ago but I feel like God has me on an accelerated growing plan lol. I am becoming really passionate about theology and have been blown away by the richness of the Christian Tradition. I feel like since coming to Christ, my thoughts and readings are scattered everywhere. Currently I am looking into the turbulent waters of the creation debate, Genesis interpretations, theistic evolution and all that jazz. Have you written anything substantial about this? I have seem stuff here and there. Maybe you could point me in the right direction?? I gotta say it is tremendously good for my faith finding blogs like yours. Congratulations. I will be following and really appreciate your help.
I’ve kept tabs on your blog for years now, and have recently begun listening regularly to Mere Fidelity, and I’ve enjoyed your thoughtful reflections on that podcast and throughout the blog world. I’m particularly intrigued by your recent writing over at Theopolis Institute, as I have been a long time appreciator of Leithart, and the new program they have unveiled looks very attractive to me as I am looking over the seminary landscape.
I am currently wrapping up my undergrad at New College Franklin in Tennessee, and have worked as a pastoral intern for the past two summers at my home church in Langley, British Columbia. As a part of that internship, I have been assigned to write an exegetical paper centred around I Corinthians 11 & 14, re-examining the topic of gender and the church, and more specifically the space women occupy in the liturgy. I am dialoguing with this essay, http://www.trinity-pres.net/essays/women-ministry-liturgy.pdf, which is a good summation of general CREC (Communion of Reformed Evangelicals) thought. My home church is a member of the CREC, which has many rather settled, strong opinions on this topic, some of which I would like to re-examine and possibly question. I have been intrigued by some of your comments in various places about the issue of gender, as well as a desire that you have expressed to see women occupy a more significant role in the worship liturgy. I was wondering if you could dialogue with me over this, and if you could point me to some reading that you have found helpful as you pondered this issue. I am in need of some orientation towards the subject from someone who has reflected on this topic at more length. If you could help me, I would be very grateful!
Hey Alastair, I’m a long-time reader of your blog, though I’m sure you have no idea who I am! I want to send you a private email with some ministry-related questions, but can’t find your info anywhere. Could you shoot me an email at email@example.com when you get a chance? Thanks!
This blog & related podcasts looks like stimulating and edifying stuff. I was pointed in it’s direction when looking to promote an up-coming theological conference in Durham on the topic of Jonathan Edwards & The Glory of God; your name came up as someone who might be interested (&/or might know people who would be). The conference has drawn in some exciting speakers including Iain Murray & Gerald McDermott, I pray that God will powerfully use it to his own glory and the building up of his Church.
It would be great if you wanted to come along or could recommend others who might be interested. The website is at: http://www.edwardsconference.org or you can email me directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org
your brother in Christ
Dear Alistair, I would like to write to you regarding “Five Principles of the New Sexual Morality” particularly point 1. I’m a Christian and I would like to know if you have any advice on how more effectively can I engage the society in which I live, regarding sexuality. In particular, when people say things like what you’ve mentioned in point 1 of your article. Thanks in advance.
Jonathan Grant’s Divine Sex has some good stuff on this subject. Have you read it?
I’m a Mere Fidelity listener and have enjoyed your contributions there as well as your writing on this blog. My wife and a friend and I (all Americans) are making a dream trip to England later this month and expect to pass through Durham in our travels, probably at the very end of the month. Any chance that you might like to let a few traveling Mere Fidelity listeners treat you to lunch? 🙂 If so, you have my email.
The link to the PDF for your Biblical Theology of Clothing essay is no longer active, but I am interested in reading that. How can I access that? Could you email it?
Does this work?
I’m a new reader (US citizen living in Japan) and am looking forward to reading and learning here. I’ve just read (twice) Kelby Carlson’s post on Disability Theology. My husband and I have a son with a cognitive disability and this branch of theology is brand new to us but so enlightening. Is there a way to follow you both on social media? Would love to stay connected so we can learn more. Thanks for your time!
Thanks for the comment!
I’m not currently active on social media, beyond automated tweets for blog posts. My Twitter account is @zugzwanged. I’m not sure whether Kelby is on Facebook; I don’t believe he is on Twitter.
My name is Fellipe; I am graduate student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in America. I hope you’re doing well! I wanted to get in contact because I am just finishing up a thesis (~200 pages) on analytic theology and the ontology of gender, especially in conversation with historical and biblical theology. I’ve just been told that you’re working on something similar, so I thought I’d get in contact to see if you’d be interested in discussing the matter. I’m keen on hearing what you’d have to say, especially since not many evangelicals have contributed to the topic in a systematic way. My email is email@example.com; I look forward to corresponding further.
I’ve recently discovered your voice on the web — your posts in various places, your voice on Mere Fidelity podcasts, your comments on other people’s blogs — and I find myself in great affinity to you. I have never been convinced by egalitarianism, but have been uncomfortable with CBMW’s version of complementarianism.
I’ve not had time yet to read thru this whole thread to learn more about you, but I know that your are active in the Trinity Debate and that I agree with your view that ESS is not orthodox Nicene theology. I also know you are contributing to the debate about the ESV’s changes.
( for tweeters: the hash tag is #ESVpermanenttranslation )
I am greatly concerned about the change to Genesis 3:16 in the ESV, and am equally concerned about the harm that ESS (Eternal Subordination of the Son) is having on the church, especially the harm it is doing to women.
Would you have the time to read my thoughts on this?
I dare not give the link in case it sends my comment to Spam, but you can find my post if you google this:
The change of Genesis 3:16, ESS, the colonial code of relationship, and a call to bystanders
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for the comment, Barbara. It is good to have you here!
I took a look at the post that you link. Thanks for passing it on. I have a number of thoughts on this issue, which I will sketch out briefly. I probably don’t fall tidily on any side of the current Genesis 3:16 debate, even though I agree with many critics of the change.
First of all, I think that we should begin with charity in our judgment of the motives and intentions of the translators, even when we may believe them to be wrong. I have little doubt that the translators translated the text in the way that they did primarily because they thought that it was the best translation, not because they wanted to support a particular complementarian agenda. I think that Alan Jacobs make some wise remarks on this front here. We really need to try to believe better of each other; even when people make serious errors in ignorance or carelessness, it is not appropriate to impute malice.
Second—full disclosure—I have a publishing contract with Crossway, and know many of the people in question. Many of them are very open to challenge and question, and have always gratefully received—and, indeed, asked for—my questions and criticisms, knowing that they come from someone who respects and believes the best of them. Although I am a complementarian, I strongly and thoughtfully differ from most complementarians on several points, but I am not their enemy. I think that many complementarian positions are profoundly vulnerable to abuse and to being abused in order to rationalize abuse. However, this is not their intent and, rather than produce a reaction and digging in of the heels through antagonistic attack, I have found that a great many are open to thoughtful persuasion. Most are appalled when they see abuse happen, but they will tend to circle the wagons when they face attacks that are uncharitable, and risk dismissing the important element of truth that is present in the criticisms. I want to see a number of things change, and resonate with many of the concerns that you raise, and have found friendly but firm challenge to be the best way to go about it. If we want to prevent abuse, it is very important that we make our cases as persuasively and winningly as possible to people who could have their minds and actions changed. If we unnecessarily antagonize them, we risk making the problem worse.
Third, I think that abuse is an immense issue within the Church, an issue that we have hardly begun to tackle. I am very encouraged to see more and more brave people speaking out about it. The importance of this issue is manifold. It is imperative that it is addressed for the sake of the well-being of the most vulnerable of God’s people. It is imperative that offenders are openly brought to justice. It is imperative that the Church undertakes the difficult and painstaking struggle of reestablishing a moral authority that lies in tatters in many quarters on account of its tragic and catastrophic failure to handle abuse situations. Beyond bringing people to justice who abuse, we must also recognize patterns of complicity with abuse that we can be caught by. We must be hyper-vigilant about the ways in which our theologies can be twisted into rationalizations for abuse and close every such route off. All of this said, I think that the dynamics of situations that are vulnerable to abuse are not primarily ideological or theological. Rather, they are emotional, psychological, communal, and institutional. It would be reassuring to believe that our theological or ideological opponents have a corner on them, but they don’t. This is a threat that each of us face, dangerous patterns that any of us can fall into.
Fourth, I believe that we are all in danger of having our reading of Scripture blown off course by the crosswinds of the gender debates. I think that this has happened in the case of the eternal subordination of the Son position and strongly suspect that this translation of Genesis 3:16 is another example of it taking place. However, there are many people opposing these readings who are no less in danger. As much as possible, we all need to put the concerns, antagonisms, and questions of the gender debates to the back of our minds when studying Scripture and learn to be patiently attentive to what it has to say instead. I really do not like to see translations and interpretations of Scripture become so heavily politicized.
Fifth, I think that the ESV change is very unfortunate. However, a number of the points with which they justify it seem absolutely correct to me. For instance, I think that they are quite right to connect Genesis 3:16 and 4:7. In a text as richly literary and poetic as the opening chapters of Genesis, such a parallel isn’t an accident. One doesn’t have to accept their conclusion to recognize that they are correct at this point and I fear that some may resist this parallel in large part because they do not want to reach an unwelcome conclusion. Be assured: the conclusion of Susan Foh and others needn’t follow, but they are completely right in observing a connection. I have written on this at some considerable length in private correspondence and will make public some of my thoughts on the subject in the future.
Sixth, I fear that many critics of the ESV decision are seriously over-reading the new ESV translation, insisting that it bears a sense that it does not necessarily bear (e.g. Scot McKnight arguing that it is prescriptive rather than descriptive or Claude Mariottini saying it means that only the man’s desire is correct). Others are going over the top in claiming that the ESV is implying that its translation is perfect and beyond need for change. We can also raise concerns that the new translation leaves itself vulnerable to being abused, without suggesting that it is abusive or justifying of abuse. There are plenty of grounds for criticism here without exaggerating the case.
Anyway, I hope that gives you a clearer sense of where I come from here. Thanks again for commenting. Blessings!
Thanks Alastair for your gracious and detailed reply. 🙂
I’ve read Alan Jacobs’ post ‘The Frozen Standard Version’ in which he says he is at a loss to understand why a good many people are freaking out over the ESV permanent text.
Alan Jacobs doesn’t allow comments on his blog (sigh) but if I could I would have said to him that my concern over it is only about what they’ve done to Genesis 3:16 and the impact this will have on women.
Jacobs has published a followup post called ‘humility, shame, etc.’ in which he reminds us all that “The presiding spirit of the ESV, from its beginning to its conclusion, is J. I. Packer,” that Packer’s health and age is now such that he’s probably unable to continue working on the ESV, and that “given Packer’s strong leadership at every stage of the project, it is difficult to imagine how he might be replaced — especially since several other members of the translation committee are near or beyond retirement age.”
— That’s a fair point. If only Crossway had explained in their press release why the translators had decided to draw a line across the project and declare it O.V.E.R. Then we would all be enlightened!
In principle I agree with you that we should begin with charity in our judgment of the motives and intentions of bible translators. And yes, the translators of the ESV no doubt think that ‘contrary to’ is the best translation of Gen.3:16.
But my question is — why do they think that? They’ve clearly been persuaded by Susan Foh’s interpretation. The threads of this can be traced back thru CBMW’s materials and books written by CBMW people over several decades. Why did Foh come up with her interpretation? She made it clear that her 1975 paper was responding to feminism. Her paper she said: “The current issue of feminism in the church has provoked the reexamination of the scriptural passages that deal with the relationship of the man and the woman.”
And CBWM have been responding to feminism since then, and many people who produced the ESV are from CBMW, Wayne Grudem being the chief editor of the ESV and the co-founder of CBMW.
Because you have a publishing contract with Crossway, and know many of the people in question and think that many of them are very open to challenge and question, and they have always gratefully received—and, indeed, asked for—your questions and criticisms, I wonder whether you are thinking that they are equally open to questions and criticisms from people like me. And let’s be blunt, are they open to questions and criticisms from women?
From where I sit, and from my many years of experience in trying to offer then helpful and constructive criticism, they are NOT open to people like me. Is it simply because I’m a woman and you’re a man that we each have received such different impressions? The question needs to be asked, even though it can’t be answered.
Here is what I see and have experienced from the folks at CBMW and their associates.
CBMW never allow comments on their posts. TGC and other big sites like that which are more or less in alignment with CBMW don’t allow comments either. Many men don’t allow comments on their blogs. (Case in point — the MOS team: Carl Trueman and Todd Pruitt don’t allow comments but Aimee Byrd does.)
So non-egalitarian women like me, and the few men who are trying to speak about the way complementarian dogma can so easily become dangerous and toxic to women — we are unable to express our concerns to those who most need to hear them because they are most responsible for the harms that are being done. We blog, but who follows our stuff? The victims of abuse do. And a few other people do. But the leaders who COULD fix the problems in comp-land are ignoring us. Silencing our voices. Blocking us from their twitter feeds. Ignoring our phone calls and emails. Or giving us the patronising ‘pat on the head’ and then ignoring us.
You said “We really need to try to believe better of each other; even when people make serious errors in ignorance or carelessness, it is not appropriate to impute malice.”
Yeah. But when I observe and can document a clear pattern of behaviour from the leaders and hangers on at CBMW, and that pattern shows a consistent unwillingness to listen to feedback from non-egalitarians such as myself… what are my conclusions? Maybe I don’t jump to impute malice, but I can’t be blamed, I think, for saying that there seems to be something seriously wrong in the camp. And it can’t all be explained by mere ignorance and carelessness.
I invite you to read my post titled “Wayne Grudem & CBMW don’t seem interested in reducing domestic abuse”. It gives documentation about how longstanding this pattern of behaviour has been.
Thanks for the response, Barbara.
Despite the fact that some people may only be concerned about the translation of Genesis 3:16, there has been considerable comment about the fact that ESV is not making any more changes. Many people have reached uncharitable and seemingly unfounded judgments about this move on Crossway’s part, and have connected it closely with the change to Genesis 3:16. Crossway shouldn’t have to explain any of this for Christians to refrain from making unfounded uncharitable judgments. The fact that they didn’t give out more information doesn’t mean that they were ‘asking for it.’ It would be good to see some people retract the unchristian statements that they made. It is quite possible to criticize Crossway sharply while still seeking to believe the best of them where possible.
It probably isn’t accurate to say that Foh’s interpretation was ‘responding’ to feminism. She makes it clear that the general re-examination of such texts was occasioned by feminism, but this is a rather different thing. Besides, even if they were responding to feminism, this does not mean that their interpretation is incorrect. That must be proved from the text and the relevant arguments themselves, not from a fallacious dismissal of their case on the basis of their supposed motives.
That said, there is definitely a high possibility that, as we seek to challenge particular errors, and are driven by specific questions and concerns from outside of the text, we can unwittingly misread the text in line with those concerns. However, this danger applies no less to the critics of Foh and CBMW at this point. I believe that the reading of Genesis 3:16 in the ESV has been distorted by complementarian concerns, but I also see plenty of distortion and unhelpfully motivated reasoning on the other sides of the debates.
I suspect that I am asked for my opinion on such matters mostly because I am a theologically conservative scholar with a relevant doctoral degree, who has done a lot of thinking on the areas under debate, but who has a much broader base of scholarly research. They didn’t start listening to me until I had a lot of writing, research, and credentials under my belt, which is one reason why I am surprised when some people without such things feel entitled to be listened to. Most of us have to devote decades of our lives in study and research to earn a voice and seat at the table. I am also—I hope—someone who isn’t highly agenda or issue driven, but who writes and thinks on a wide range of topics and is more defined by theological instincts, insights, and scope of knowledge. I am also clearly primarily a friend and brother in Christ of the people involved: when I express any disagreements, it is quite apparent that I am not driven by animus.
I won’t speculate on whether they would be listening to me if I were a woman: I hope that they would. However, the main reasons why they do listen to me have very little to do with the mere fact that I am a man. I also know that they listen to many other people, a number of them being women. Besides, the very fact that they have engaged in email correspondence with you in the past suggests that they are open to criticism and questions from women. The points that Stinson makes in his final email have to do with your mode of engagement in particular, and imply that, had you approached him differently he would have been receptive. Furthermore, people can welcome criticism and questions while not agreeing. The fact that someone doesn’t take the action I want them to take doesn’t mean that they didn’t weigh up my words carefully or take my criticisms seriously.
In my experience as a blogger, people make extensive demands on my time and many people feel entitled to my attention. On the typical day at least a couple of people will make requests of me that amount to a hope or often expectation that I give at least an hour worth of attention to them. Someone will write to me expecting me to give them feedback on a book. Another will email me asking for my general thoughts on a huge doctrine. Someone else will want to Skype about their research. Yet another person will have strong differences with something that I have written and will want to argue it out over email. With a lot on my plate, I have to be much more selective about my response to these. I used to engage very heavily with comments on my blog, but simply don’t have the same time nowadays, so often just ignore them. Occasionally people will complain that I am ignoring them, not considering that, in expecting me to engage with them, they are making demands on my time—a resource that is currently very limited for me.
Having experience as a blogger whose time is heavily in demand and who occasionally faces very hostile criticism, I have a great deal of sympathy for groups like TGC, CBMW, and Crossway. In the Internet Age, it is easy to presume that the ease of publishing our passionate opinions online entails a duty on other people’s part to listen to what we have to say and engage with them. We complain about people not responding to us, but we do not realize the scale of the demands that people experience. Besides, if they respond to us, everyone else may expect a response from them too. Most people think that their concerns are the most important. For instance, do the people complaining about TGC not responding to critics on Twitter really have much of an idea about what they are demanding, or of what TGC’s Twitter presence actually involves? People who make such unreasonable, entitled, or hostile demands are generally best avoided. The more I have encountered such demands, the more I have retreated to private email addresses, my private Twitter account, private discussion lists, and have considered deactivating comments on my blog.
Unfortunately, a great many critics simply aren’t worth engaging with and will only eat up your time: they are overly hostile and are open neither to persuasion nor to two-way conversation. Their criticisms are exaggerated, uncharitable, and they are often unprepared to moderate or revise their judgments. This is the point at which people generally disengage. Nowadays, I try to engage primarily with conversation partners with whom I can hope for a profitable conversation, or at least a publicly visible conversation that will be of benefit to some spectators. Such conversation partners tend to be predominantly people with extensive theological education, wide-ranging research, and charitable judgment. They may be highly critical of things that I say, but I can generally be assured that their criticisms are driven primarily by their scholarly judgment, rather than by their dislike for me.
Such conversations largely occur in private forums too. The fact that you do not see the conversations occurring publicly is no evidence that they aren’t taking place. The more I know what goes on behind the scenes in such organizations, the more I am struck by how presumptive and unfair many of the accusations made against them are. They typically do listen to criticisms, to women’s voices, and to the voices of abusers, but this listening occurs out of the public eye, where it can proceed without being disrupted. The important conversations have moved into private settings because there are too many hostile and unreasonable people in open and public settings. Most of my most challenging theological conversations take place in private nowadays because public settings are so filled with angry, uninformed, or entitled people who would prevent the conversations from making progress.
Not following a blog, or blocking someone on Twitter really isn’t the same thing as ‘silencing’ someone. No one is preventing the people in question from speaking; they are just resisting the notion that they are entitled to demand everyone else’s attention. This point really is important, as I know how intrusive and even abusive such demands can become (I’ve received phone calls from people who are obsessed in the middle of the night). When TGC’s Twitter notifications are being filled with hostile, uncharitable, and often vitriolic criticism, I don’t blame them for blocking people. The worker who probably runs their social media really does not deserve to be bombarded with such negativity and, besides, the account does not exist for that sort of engagement. Notifications filled with such criticism prevent them from seeing the notifications that they really need to see. Likewise, just as I am not silencing someone by not reading their book, by not attending their church to hear their sermons, by not watching their TV shows, so I am not silencing anyone by not responding to their blog or answering excessive emails. None of this need imply that I am not cognizant of their valid concerns, or that I don’t in any way share them. It just means that other people cannot have my time on tap and that I have determined that my time would be better employed elsewhere.
Sadly, my experience has been that, when the tables are turned and certain critics of groups like CBMW or TGC have criticisms made against them, they dodge the issues in much the same way. They think that everyone should listen to them but, when they face intense demands upon their attention, they can suddenly close down. They presume that the justice of their cause gives them peculiar entitlement to others’ attention, often without considering that they are not the only people who believe that they have especial claims to wider attention. I hardly ever get serious engagement for my comments when I try to engage with egalitarians, for instance. I think that they are unwise and naïve to ignore the issues that I raise, but it is entirely their prerogative to do so (even though they bear more responsibility for their errors if they have wilfully been ignoring criticism from thoughtful critics).
As I believe that the issue of abuse is an incredibly serious one, and also one that has been very poorly handled in conservative evangelical circles, I believe that it is important to consider how to make criticisms in a way that they are most likely to be attended to. In my experience, that requires moderation of judgment, especially when speaking about people’s motives.
Most people stop paying attention to criticism when they see hostile, uncharitable, and inaccurate representations of their motives. The final letter from Stinson that you post illustrates such a response, I think. He makes clear that they are, in fact, listening to women and victims of abuse. However, he has closed off to you because you have aligned him with those in support of abuse, which he really is not, even if he is addressing the issue poorly.
This is regrettable, because your criticisms may have been very valid and may have been received well and made a difference if presented in another fashion. The same concerns coming from a friend who wants to strengthen and improve our approach will be received very differently from a hostile critic who suggests that, because our approach doesn’t meet their expectations on particular fronts, we are in fact supportive of the very abuses we are seeking to oppose. The claim that Wayne Grudem and CBMW don’t seem interested in reducing domestic abuse is a serious one to make, for instance. It seems to me that it is quite false too: the problem is not that the issue doesn’t matter to them, but that they may have handled it poorly.
Once again, thanks for the comment. I hope that this (extremely long!) response will give you a sense of how things can appear from the other side of such conversations. My hope is that, rather than close you down, it would be an encouragement to you in your quest to present exceedingly important concerns on the subject of abuse in a manner most likely to enjoy a receptive hearing and to make a genuine difference. Blessings!
typo. I meant … trying to offer THEM helpful and constructive criticism,
Al, If you have time to read and comment on it, this just-published post by a Hebrew scholar is EXCELLENT:
“On the New ESV Translation of Genesis 3:16”
— find it at neurosciencelinguisticsandhebrewDOTwordpressDOTcom
Thanks for the link. That is probably the most sensible thing that I have read on the discussion so far, because it frames the issue in exactly the right way. I also feel somewhat vindicated, because I recently wrote a lengthy discussion of that verse that emphasized the importance of such an intertextual meaning that recognizes the subtle interplay of similarities and differences of intentionally juxtaposed statements.
He also has the good exegetical sense and the ability to detach his interpretative faculties from the blinding antagonisms of argument to see that many (perhaps most?) of the critics of the ESV’s decision go very seriously wrong in detaching Genesis 3:16 and 4:7 from each other. Genesis is a highly poetic and literary text and such similarity of phrasing is definitely not accidental. The writer intends us to read those two verses in relation to each other.
That said, although he has framed the issue exactly correctly and his instincts are spot on, I am not persuaded by his interpretation. I believe there is more going on there than he thinks.
Thank you so much Alastair for this second thoughtful response from you. I am mulling over many of the points you made. You have truly stimulated me to think in different and enlarged directions. I may respond more later but I’m very aware you’ve given me a lot of your precious time already… and I’ve got other pressing tasks at the moment anyway.
Bless you brother, and again, thank you.
I’m not fully persuaded by neurosciencelinguisticsandhebrew’s interpretation either, but it sure open up light in the debate!
There is discussion on Genesis 3:16 over at Wendy Alsup’s blog too. She and Hannah Anderson have co-authored a series of three posts on the ESV’s new translation of that verse.
Part 1 http://theologyforwomen.org/2016/09/toward-better-reading-reflections-permanent-changes-text-genesis-316-esv.html
Part 2 http://theologyforwomen.org/2016/09/toward-better-reading-reflections-permanent-changes-text-genesis-316-esv-part-2.html
Part 3 http://theologyforwomen.org/2016/09/toward-better-reading-reflections-permanent-changes-text-genesis-316-esv-part-3.html
Thanks for the links. I’ve followed Wendy’s blog for a long time and know Hannah well online (we used to share a blog), so I had seen these.
Alastair, I appreciate the trouble you’ve taken to help me understand how things can appear from the other side of conversations, and to encourage me in my quest to present exceedingly important concerns on the subject of abuse in a manner most likely to enjoy a receptive hearing and to make a genuine difference.
In regards to Randy Stinson’s response to my Critique of CBMW’s Statement on Abuse, the bottom line, as I see it, is this :
When he was President of CBMW, Randy Stinson told me he that CBMW would make some changes to their Statement on Abuse. But they never tweaked their Statement. They only removed it from their website.
Stinson perceived my Critique as fairly hostile to CBMW. “You practically have us as accomplices in the act of abuse” were the words he used to indicate his perception my Critique.
…. And you, Alastair, seem to have accepted Stinson’s perception at face value, without investigating to see whether I WAS in fact saying that CBMW were accomplices in the abuse.
This is the problem I face perennially.
When I try to point out where a person’s or an organisation’s teaching is effectively enabling abusers / or tacitly condoning the abusers’ mindset / or unwittingly or inadvertently complying with the abuser’s agenda, — when I give this feedback to people, they think I am being hostile to them. And they swiftly reject my feedback.
It seems that many folk in Christendom are happy to ‘in principle’ say they disapprove of domestic abuse, but when try to I give them informed feedback about how and where they are tacitly or unwittingly enabling domestic abuse, they bristle! If I point out how they are permitting domestic abuse to flourish by their unbalanced teaching and victim-blaming language, they bristle. If I point out how they may be at fault for turning a blind eye to the problem, they bristle! If I give evidence of how they are treating the victims of abuse unjustly, they bristle! And if I try to show them how naive they are to the tactics and mentality of abusers, and how they are so easily snowed by abusers, they bristle!
This is the big problem I face.
In your post you stated:
It is the sentiment expressed in that final sentence that I believe Stinson would have strongly objected to. I’m not sure how you intended that to come across, but I can quite understand why Stinson would hear it in the way that he did. Stinson can’t see your intentions: he can only see your words. And busy people in his situation really have to weigh up which interactions to give their limited time to. They will often cut off interactions that seem to be unconstructive, because they have more constructive conversations they could engage in. They simply don’t have the time to investigate each interlocutor’s intentions in detail, to discover if they really are as hostile as some of their statements appear to be.
Whatever your intentions in writing it, that sentence comes across as a very hostile construction of the situation and I expect most people would bristle in response to it. I think that most people in Stinson’s position would just cut off interaction were they sent a statement like that from someone. There are many people who are survivors of abuse, so Stinson doesn’t need to engage with you in particular to hear the position of a survivor. That they aren’t engaging with you in particular doesn’t mean that they aren’t engaging with survivors.
The fact that they may hear your perspective yet not change things that you challenge needn’t mean that they didn’t pay attention to what you say. They may listen to what you have to say, carefully assess it, listen to various other positions and pushback against yours, weigh it up, and come to a different conclusion from you. I’ve been asked for my thoughts on two particular matters in the last couple of weeks by organizations, who decided not to follow through with my suggestions in key details. This doesn’t mean that they didn’t really value my opinion, or that they won’t ask me for advice again. Such organizations are listening to many smart, informed, and experienced people presenting their differing perspectives. I feel honoured to be included in such a group, but I don’t expect that I will always be agreed with, nor do I believe that I am entitled to my place at the table. When they don’t follow my advice, it doesn’t mean that they haven’t listened or taken what I have to say seriously.
I hope that you understand that my intention here is not to side with Stinson against you on the substance of the issues that are at stake in the conversations surrounding domestic abuse. Nor even to side with him against you in this conversation. Rather, I think it is essential to be aware of how your statements will be heard and handled by someone in Stinson’s position, if you want to encourage him to be attentive and receptive to your concerns, or even to persuade him of your viewpoint.
Good to know that you follow Wendy’s blog and know Hannah well!
I agree, Al, that it is essential for me to be aware of how my statements will be heard and handled by someone like the President of CBMW (which Stinson was in 2010) if I want to encourage him to be attentive and receptive to my concerns, or even to persuade him of my viewpoint. And I can doubtless improve my awareness how I come across to such people.
But to me the most important thing is not whether people in such positions of power and influence are willing to dialogue directly with me — but whether they actually take ACTION to improve the way churches are responding to domestic abuse.
Whether Stinson felt I was too hostile and chose to not dialogue with me for that reason, is really not the main point any more. Since 2012, the blog A Cry For Justice has been publishing masses of information and resources about how churches could better respond to domestic abuse. If people don’t want to actually dialogue personally me or my colleagues at A Cry For Justice, they don’t have to. They can read what we are saying without personally engaging with us. And if the leaders at CBMW wanted to improve the way CBMW responds to domestic abuse, they can get feedback and perspectives from anywhere they like — including from our blog.
But these facts speak volumes —
1. CBMW have not published a revised version of their Statement on Abuse.
2. Some time after 2010 CBMW removed that Statement from their website.
3. There is no Statement on Abuse at CBMW’s website any more.
And if CBMW want to demonstrate that I’ve attributed motivation to them unfairly, if they want to demonstrate that ARE interested in reducing domestic abuse, then the ball’s in their court. One way they could do that is to revise their Statement on Abuse and publish the revised statement on their website.
You mentioned that you are on some private forums where people respect your views even though they may not necessarily end up agreeing with you, and that you are not driven by animus which may be one of the reasons you are received in those forums.
The definition of animus:
1. hostility or ill feeling
2. motivation to do something.
I certainly have animus of the second kind — I am motivated to provoke and educate the church to improve how it responds to domestic abuse. When many in the evangelical church are deeply resistant to improving on this matter, I am outraged, because I know how much the abuse victims are being deal injustice by churches.
In my Critique of CBMW’s Statement on Abuse, I pointed out how some things in the statement would enable abusers and unjustly blame victims. Randy Stinson’s read it and told me: “You practically have us as accomplices in the act of abuse.”
Hmm. If there is disease in the body, the first step is to face the diagnosis, is it not?. If something is being done poorly, isn’t it better to face up to the facts and fix what one is doing? If the medicine is bitter, does that mean you can be excused from drinking it?
The injustice being done to the victims of abuse by churches is HORRENDOUS. We regularly hear of women being excommunicated by their churches because they refused to reconcile with their unrepentant abusers, or because they decide to divorce their abusers. Some of these women write letters to resign their church membership and the church refuses to let them resign but instead insists on subjecting them to Biblical Discipline in the church court system! And that’s just a tip of the iceberg of the dreadful ways many churches are treating victims of abuse. Would it be godly to have NO animus, when such injustice is being done by churches?
A person’s animus may simply be their motivation to bring justice, truth and righteousness into this sin-blighted world — which is surely a godly motivation, a motive our Lord exhorts us to embody and embrace.
Yes, it is essential for me to be aware of how my statements will be heard by folk who I’m trying to persuade, but it’s also essential for me to be aware of how my statements will be heard by the victims of abuse. If I soften my diagnosis of the disease to make it more palatable to the resistant leaders, and if I squelch my animus, I will be betraying the victims. Jesus showed animus when he was criticising the scribes and Pharisees. And he strongly urged his followers to not heed the Pharisees’s interpretations of Scripture. I try to do likewise.
Thanks for the response, Barbara.
Some of the cases of abuse and the injustice in the handling of them in churches are indeed horrific. There is also definitely cause for challenging certain church leaders for their complicity.
If you want to condemn people like Stinson as Pharisees, you will gain a large and appreciate hearing among victims of abuse and also among partisans who strongly dislike complementarians. However, if you take this route, you will give the impression that you think that they are beyond persuasion and that condemnation is all that is left. They will probably stop listening to you at that point, as no genuine dialogue will occur. They may well even become more resistant to the perspective that you represent.
If they were prepared to make changes, however, such an approach would be counterproductive and damaging. It would create polarization and alienation. It also tends to come with and produce an emotionally reactive environment (I’ve written a lengthy summary of Edwin Friedman’s A Failure of Nerve, which you might find interesting on these dynamics).
The climate of the conversation surrounding abuse online is so reactive that it is surprising that any progress is made sometimes. Like many others, I give it a wide berth much of the time, because there is so much polarizing anger. This dynamic is not unexpected in the circumstances. Avoiding reactivity is all about having strong boundaries and a robust sense of self and near the heart of abuse is the violation of both of these things. This is why advocates for those who have been abused are so important. Movements founded upon outrage and reactivity tend to be counterproductive.
In my experience, avoiding feeding the dynamics of reactivity is so important in conversations like this, especially if we want persuasion to occur. This all comes down to prudence. Firmly, unambiguously, and openly condemning abusers is extremely important. However, there is no reason to believe that someone like Stinson is an abuser, even were he not taking as clear and effective an approach in dealing with abusers as he ought.
In my experience, avoiding reactive dynamics when dealing with someone in that position is absolutely crucial. My approach in such a situation tends to be self-differentiated firmness in engaged relationship (read my Friedman summary for a better sense of what this means: I appreciate I’m using some jargon words here!). I don’t compromise my convictions, but I maintain their strength in relation less through vehement and polarizing expression than through friendly but firm disagreement with people I continue to interact with. As soon as things become reactive people harden in their positions and instinctively polarize.
In short, it is important that you don’t compromise. However, carefully containing and channelling outrage and trying to avoid reactivity more generally is not compromise. In fact, if changing things for the better is what motivates you above all else—even above venting anger and outrage—the uncompromising path to take is always the path of prudence. Such a path may not seem as cathartic in the short term, but in the long run it will make the greatest difference.
Al, thanks for interacting with me patiently and giving me your perspective on the way I’m writing about abuse issues.
On a slightly different topic — Genesis 3:16 and 4:7 —
An article recently published in the Journal of Semitic Studies will probably help our understanding of Genesis 3:16 and 4:7 a great deal. It deals with the meaning of the Hebrew word teshûqâ which has been translated as desire in so many English translations.
Here is Dr Claude Mariottini’s summation of the article
[pasted from https://claudemariottini.com/2016/10/04/genesis-316-and-the-esv/ ] —
In a recent article, “The Meaning of Hebrew תשׁוקה,” Journal of Semitic Studies 61 (2016):365-387, Andrew A. Macintosh did a thorough study of the word תְּשׁוּקָה and came to an interesting conclusion.
In his article, Macintosh studied how the word תְּשׁוּקָה is used in the Hebrew Bible, how the word is translated in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament), in the Peshitta, and how it was understood in Rabbinic writings, in the Dead Sea Scrolls, in Arabic, and in the Quran. Macintosh said that modern translations of the Bible are almost unanimous in translating the word תְּשׁוּקָה as “desire.”
However, Macintosh wrote: “Where the ancient versions are concerned, the same unanimity of interpretation is not apparent, and now, in recent times, different understandings of the word have begun to appear” (2016:365).
In his study of the word תְּשׁוּקָה as it appears in the Hebrew Bible, Macintosh does not mention any translation, ancient or modern, that translates Genesis 3:16 as “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,” as the ESV has done.
After a thorough study of the word תְּשׁוּקָה, Macintosh offers his view on how the verse should be translated. He wrote: “In summary, I conclude that ‘desire’ is not a proper rendering of the Hebrew word תְּשׁוּקָה in the Hebrew Bible or in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Rather, on the evidence of comparative philology and of the ancient versions, ‘concern, preoccupation, (single-minded) devotion, focus’, appears to be more likely” (2016:385).
If the word teshûqâ means “concern, preoccupation, (single-minded) devotion, focus,” then that would fit perfectly with my interpretation of Genesis 3:16.
That is an interesting and helpful article.
My concern in this debate, however, is that the cart has so consistently been put before the horse. So many of the arguments that I have read against the ESV’s new reading have been driven by a reactive resistance to what they suppose to be the ESV’s implications for women, rather than by responsible and careful exegetical reasoning. They have grasped at some good readings of Genesis 3:16, but the process whereby they arrived at such readings is quite contrary to sound scriptural reasoning and inspires little confidence. Some seem to approach this more as a matter of choosing the reading on offer that is most amenable to their preconceived opinions, rather than as a matter of teasing out what the text actually says, even if that meaning runs directly against what we may want to believe.
I haven’t looked at Andrew Macintosh’s article itself yet, but Matt Lynch has yesterday published an article which includes a summary and quotes from Macintosh’s article. IMO Lynch uses sound scriptural reasoning.
I’ve read Macintosh’s article and it is a scholarly piece that makes its case pretty well, whether one ends up agreeing with it or not. My concern is more with the general tenor of the discussion online, where people have appealed to articles like Macintosh’s, but where patient, careful, and balanced exegesis has frequently seemed to be overwhelmed by reactivity and the desire to attack the ESV reading with whatever ammunition comes to hand. It is that dynamic that has concerned me.
That dynamic concerns me too, Alastair. And I say that, even while acknowledging that I have had a tone of reactivity myself at times because of my concern for the harm the 2016 version of Gen 3:16b will do to women, esp to women who are abused by their husbands.
My perception of the general tenor of the discussion online is that some people are keen to attack the ESV reading with whatever ammunition comes to hand, and some are keenly defending the new ESV reading with whatever ammunition comes to hand. And particularly in comments threads, I’m noticing some men defending the 2016 ESV reading as if to criticise it would be to criticise the concept of ‘male as head’ per se; that form of reaction is very common when issues of gender relations are discussed.
Yes, the reactivity is something that is generally found in all of the gender debates, and is present on almost all sides. We really need to find ways to resist it and create contexts where it does not dominate.
How to find ways to resist that reactivity and creating contexts where it does not dominate? Hmm.
I don’t have any ideas about how to do that to with dedicated egalitarians. As you’ve observed yourself, they tend to avoid engaging with people like you when you bring up your concerns about how they tend to flatten out and oversimplify male-female differences, and how they tend to skate over or misread the parts of Scripture which indicate that man is head.
But I do have some ideas about how to do it with the folks (mostly men) who reactively defend the idea of male headship. Jeff Crippen and I, as the admins at A Cry For Justice, have developed a good nose (so to speak) for discerning the language of abusive men who portray themselves as victims of abuse. And we’ve also become able to discern when men or women present themselves as being concerned for the spiritual health of the church but they are in fact abusers or abusers’ allies. Their language gives them away, if you know what to look for. And if we are not sure, we invite them to converse privately with us by email until we can decide. After one or two emails from them, it’s clear who they really are.
You may think we are nuts to imagine we’ve developed this discernment, but secular experts in the Department of Justice in Vic, Australia have discerned the exact same language features we have picked up on. These secular experts train the men who work on Men’s Hotlines. They teach the workers about these features so that the workers can better discern when a caller is genuine victim of spouse abuse, and when a caller is most likely a perpetrator of spouse abuse.
We have also observed that most leaders and laity in churches are pretty naive about the features of the language of abusers. They can’t discern it. When the ‘c’hristian abuser is in Dr Jekyll mode, most Christians can’t detect that it’s an abuser speaking. They get snowed. And most Christians (except the victims) rarely if ever see the ‘c’hristian abuser in Hyde mode. (There are many examples of abusive ‘c’hristian men in Hyde mode on a certain website which I will not name because I don’t want to drive traffic there.)
I don’t think it’s possible to create contexts where these reactive abusers and their allies do not get a chance to contaminate the debate unless (a) enough people develop the ability to detect the language of abusers, and (b) enough people realise that these abusers must simply be moderated out of the conversation.
The scriptural ground for moderating them out is 1 Corinthians 5:11 —
“I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler–not even to eat with such a one.”
The Friedman series I linked earlier has some helpful insights. I’ve also written some thoughts on the subject in various places like this and this. The key thing is creating differentiation for ourselves and others. Differentiation is a jargony way of speaking about the manner in which we create various sorts of intervening space and time between people within which they can act independently. Differentiation is what enables us to respond rather than merely react and it is absolutely essential if such debates are to be engaged in well.
I’ve got your Friedman series on an open tab but haven’t had time to read it yet. 🙂
Hey Alastair – Would love to get in touch about the possibility of you coming down to do a lecture for the English branch of L’Abri Fellowship in Hampshire. Do get in touch if you’d be interested. Thanks!
Hi Alastair, I attended the conference at London Seminary on Tuesday at which you gave a paper. I would love to connect with you as I have a question relating to Genesis 1-3 but couldn’t find an email address anywhere. Thanks, Ian Jones
I hope all is well. I am a regular listener to Mere Fidelity, and have really appreciated everyone’s contributions on the show. But I have been particularly encouraged by the way you are able to analyze issues, and provide helpful ways to think through them. Would you be willing to do an unpublished interview in which you discuss what you’ve done to cultivate the life of the mind over the years, and who some of your influences have been toward that end. The interview would not be published anywhere, but rather would be just an encouragement for me as I continue to grow in my intellectual and spiritual pursuits. If you would be interested, then just email me back. I realize that the holidays are upon us, so if it needs to wait until after the new year, then I completely understand.
Thanks so much,
Hi there Alastair,
Could you briefly explain what John 10 is all about?
There are some notes on John 10 in this post.
Alastair. My name is Philip Almond and I have spent considerable time over recent years debating the question of the Ordination of Women on the Anglican fulcrum website (these posts are no longer in the public domain). I have just come across your article on Reformation 21 on ESS – kephale in 1 Corinthians 11:3. I see no way (am I missing it?) to comment on this article on the Reformation 21 site, so I thought I would put a comment on this site. In my view a much better case for the ministry of women and against the ordination of women can be made by starting with Ephesians 5. The Bible nowhere says ‘wives be subject to your own husbands as the Son is subject to the Father’ but it does say ‘wives (be subject – implied) to your own husbands as the Church is subject to Christ’. I can give you a link to the full case if you are interested.
Sure! I’d be interested to read it.
Ctrl and Click link:
If you scroll down you will come across several of my posts but the one I referred to is:
Phil Almond August 28, 2014 at 3:42 pm #
‘Sometimes in the Christian life we individually (and Churches collectively) make mistakes. And sometimes it takes a while for us to realise that they are mistakes’.
I have also made some forthright posts on Ian Paul’s website on thread ‘Evangelicals and the Trinity’
I thoroughly enjoyed your article in Ad Fontes. I am a long time reader of your blog, and of the Mere Fidelity podcast. Have a great Christmas and New Year. All the best.
Thanks! I trust you have a blessed Christmas!
I’ve been enjoying mere fidelity for nearly two years, and I’ve been really diving into your writings this last year. I just want to take a moment and tell you that I appreciate you. I find the way you carry yourself, as well as your thoughtfulness, inspiring.
On the podcast, it has been rather telling to hear how you don’t speak over your friends, and you wait for others to speak before you choose to share your voice, though you often have much to say. You don’t assume a privilege; you don’t use your intelligence as a license to speak over or more than those around you. I admire you for these reasons.
I’m a single young man studying at Liberty University — my thoughts and heart are still rather adolescent. You’ve been an older brother to me in the journey who I can admire for more than only cognitive abilities, or only a gentle spirit. That’s unique, and inexplicably helpful.
I know I’ve been fairly personal, I hope you don’t mind. It’s gotten to the point where you are an active shaper of my imagination, so saying as much seemed right.
Keep sharing your voice/heart — Jesus is doing work.
Grace and peace,
Thanks for the encouragement, Shane! It is always wonderful to hear from people who appreciate Mere Fidelity and the other things I write or am involved in. 🙂
I should note, however, that speaking first on the podcast is in many respects the least desirable position. Those who speak later have more to bounce their thoughts off and more time to gather them. I don’t envy the task of Derek, in particular, who has more responsibility to develop the momentum and direction of our conversations and to share his thoughts when he may only just have discovered the topic. It is harder to look good when performing this role, and it is almost certainly the toughest one.
I trust that God will richly bless you in your continuing studies!
I recently came upon your blog by chance, and find it stimulating and quite informative. Your post of November 17 on “A Problem of Gender” articulated amazingly well what I have been feeling for a long time. You should think about turning it into a book.
I have, however, one perplexity. I can’t understand why you keep using the expression “social justice” to refer to a problematic aspect of liberal progressivism. From where I come from (and I have to confess I am an American who has not lived in the US for a long time, and am far from the academic world) the concept of social justice, aka justice in society, is a profoundly gospel-based notion with roots in the prophets of Israel. You undoubtedly wish for a society where all are respected and treated as persons beloved by God, and have access to the goods that make a decent life possible. Does the fact that some people may have perverted the meaning of this fine expression in the interests of an ideology which is Manichean or intolerant or what have you mean that we should surrender it to them? Can’t we call the worldview we find unacceptable “political correctness” or “post-Enlightenment progressivism” or “ideological leftism” or something else, and retain the beautiful expression “social justice” to express an essential dimension of the Christian message? Words are important, as anyone who reads this blog is well aware.
A small cavil which shouldn’t obscure the fact that you are doing great work. Keep it up!
While I think it is unfortunate, ‘social justice’ is one of those terms or expressions that has become heavily ideologically weighted in many contexts. While some contexts such as that within which you find yourself are different in this respect, most of us now read the expression ‘social justice’ with implicit scare quotes around it almost all of the time (which is the way to read my references to it in my various posts).
As for a Christian approach to social justice, I’ve commented on the differentiation of social justice from social justice ideology here. I would also add that, for the most part adding the word ‘social’ to the word ‘justice’ is a redundancy: justice has always been intrinsically social.
Thanks. I missed that post. You have responded clearly to my concern.
I’m thinking of studying a GDip in Theology at Durham with a view to further study.
Having studied there yourself, was this an experience you’d recommend?
I really appreciated the Theology department here, and would recommend it.
I’m not sure where else to bring this up, as I didn’t see a “contact me” form at your blog. Perhaps I’m blind. This may seem like an act of self-promotion, but it was not intended to be such.
Being an obvious product of my generation I am ashamed to say that I’ve mostly just skimmed your articles instead of reading them through. Short attention span and all. Nonetheless, I see value in what I have read thus far. Your latest summary article on the effects of social media on public discourse is dear to my heart. I am concerned about the same trends that you discuss and I’ve been asking myself what it would take to turn the tide on these trends.
I believe part of the solution would involve a counter movement. Imagine people beginning to publicly declare that they are operating by a different set of standards with respect to these discussions. What “different set of standards,” you might ask? I’m still working on them, but this is what I’ve come up with…
Given your interest in this subject I would certainly welcome any feedback you have on the concept I’ve put together.
Thanks for the comment, Paul. I can definitely get on board with that vision.
The one thing that I have emphasized in my work is that pursuing the virtues of good discourse and dispute as individuals will ultimately fall short of solving the deeper problem, which is a structural one. Most traditional forms of discourse work through rigorous application of community norms, etiquette, institutional procedure, moderation, restriction to elite participants, containment within specified arenas of dispute, attachment to a specific gendered culture/context, etc., etc. Healthy discourse definitely requires commitment to the sorts of virtues that you identify—now more than ever!—but perhaps the more pressing need is structural and institutional (re)formation.
I would agree that the deeper issue is structural, and such a transformation is desperately needed. However, that is also the vastly more challenging, time-consuming and intensive undertaking (I believe, perhaps naively) than getting people to start exhibiting some modicum of “discourse virtue” if we can call it that. Not that getting people to treat each other with respect will be easy – far from it – but it will probably prove easier than the second step which you described.
My hope is to start with the low hanging fruit. If people – especially those with a larger audience – publicly declared their commitment to civil discourse then perhaps that might inspire others to follow suit. That could be particularly effective if individuals on opposite sides of certain debates – and who regularly engage with one another – not only jointly made such a public proclamation, but actually exemplified it in their interactions.
Explain it, then live it. Your audience is listening.
That’s my hope with the website. Maybe this could be a starting point for people to say, “there is a better way, and I commit to pursuing it.” I think that would be contagious, in a good way!
Any further feedback you might have, or suggested changes to my list of ten / eleven commitments, would be greatly appreciated.
Came across you through Mere Fidelity podcast, which I came to respectively from Andrew WIlson’s blog! I live in Reading, recently married, hoping to do a philosophy PhD in Turk4y as means of apologetics & mish. Do you have your PhD already? What keeps you busy these days?
Yes, I have my PhD. I am currently lecturing and writing a few books.
Brother – your sharpening comments on gender complementarity have been on my mind a lot as I’ve been studying Proverbs 7, 8, and 9. Does your upcoming book tackle what I’ve noticed so few scholars do – theories about why Proverbs 8:22 and following is commonly believed to be about Christ, but is framed in entirely feminine language? I have a strong one, but haven’t seen it elsewhere. Appreciate any thoughts, (or an email address for follow up).
Alastair, what are the top several (3-5) books/articles/essays you would recommend on the Lord’s Supper?
I am terrible when it comes to giving book recommendations. Most of the books and essays I’ve found most helpful in the development of my thinking are not books I could recommend with extensive qualifications and reservations. I develop my thinking through books that serve as conversation partners, and often end up coming to strong disagreements with them. From experience, I also know that perhaps most such books I recommend don’t prove to be as helpful to others as they were to me, perhaps because they engage with them differently than I tend to. One book I would happily recommend on the subject, though, is Peter Leithart’s Blessed Are The Hungry, which is a great initiation into reading Scripture in conversation with the Supper.
Lovely article – one of the best things I’ve recently read, and by far the most useful. That helped me a lot. I would like to share with you a great service to fill a form online. You will be surprised how easy it can be to fill forms. Try fillingl TN Genesis Gen-001 through the online sowtware https://goo.gl/gRZKLE.
I’ve spent the weekend perusing the articles on your blog an am so glad I came across your site. I’ve especially enjoyed your thoughts on womanhood, motherhood, and sexuality. With those in mind, I’d be interested in reading your thoughts on Ephesians 5:21-33. I suspect your understanding of the passage would not fall into either of the 2 categories I typically come across (a liberal outright dismissal of the text or some sort of God sanctioned male dominance). Just curious really. If you have written on the topic can you please point me to it? Thanks!
Thanks, Rebekah! I’m encouraged to hear you’ve found the blog helpful.
Yes, you are right: my position on Ephesians 5 wouldn’t fall into either of those camps. Unfortunately, I haven’t (yet) published anything on the subject. I will be doing so at some point, though.
Alastair, My name is Brady Weller, and I am a public policy intern in Washington, DC with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). I have one more year left in college at Loyola University in Baltimore where I study Rhetoric and Philosophy. My main interests in theology pertain to gender roles, sexuality, and complementarian apologetics. I am currently assisting my rhetoric professor with a book on textual interpretation, with one of the chapters centering around women’s preaching in Methodism. Introduction aside, I have recently started following your work, and really appreciate the depth to which you assess the scriptural basis for gender relations, but also the social/cultural/biological distinctions. I admire your voice and passion for giving the church a full and awe-inspiring view of Christ’s design for manhood and womanhood. I want to follow in your steps here.
I would greatly appreciate it if you would send me an email. I have some thoughts about the Genesis texts in relation to the rest of the scriptures that I would love to get your thoughts on, as well as questions about advancing the gospel in a gender-confused age.
Many kind regards.
Brady A. Weller
Do you still reject the doctrine of limited atonement?
I still have strong objections to the doctrine in many of its common formulations, yes.
Random question (I’m curious!) how old are you now? Do you have anywhere where you’ve written or spoken about your development through university to know, whether in the form of a testimony or the development of your thought?
I’m in my mid thirties. No, I don’t think I’ve written about that anywhere.
I heard mention of your upcoming book which is out next year. I’m very much looking forward to reading it. I am hoping to work on a paper this year for our leaders on men and women, complimentarianism, and hopefully some other issues relating to gender (what is masculinity? what is femininity? and how do our answers begin to inform some of the big discussions going on today?) In the absence of your book, I wondered if you had a list of 5 to 10 books you would recommend to me?
Something like Stephen B. Clark’s Man and Woman in Christ wouldn’t be a bad place to start. For philosophical discussions, Roger Scruton’s Sexual Desire has some very helpful stuff, as does Julián Marías’ Metaphysical Anthropology. John Paul II’s Man and Woman He Created Them is another important read.
Hi Alistair. I live in Australia and historically Australia has Judeo Christian heritage. So there has been laws requiring companies to pay penalty rates to workers if they work on Sundays. However of late that’s been challenged and as the country has secularised those calling for the status quo argue by saying, “Sunday is a family day therefore penalty rates should be paid for disrupting family day.” This doesn’t sound like a good argument to me. Now to my question(s). I know there are some who argue that the Sabbath is a creation ordinance, how does that relate to secular people though – I don’t know if that is your conviction. Is there a natural law argument for the Sabbath? Secondly is there any historical evidence of pagan cultures keeping a day of rest/Sabbath? Thanks in advance.
I haven’t given this enough thought to provide you with an adequate answer. I think there are very good reasons of prudence and justice for having a day of rest. It enables us to regard our work from without and to get a better purchase on time.
There are a number of pagan and other cultures that have had days of rest; you should be able to find stuff on the subject if you spend some time searching online.
We’ve interacted a bit in comments previously, but I wanted to introduce myself (as you suggested here).
I’m in my late 30’s and live in southern Minnesota (though I grew up in rural South Dakota). I’m a husband and father. I have a longstanding passion for theology and philosophy and a heart for pastoral care. Over the years, I’ve found that I’ve always had an incipiently Reformedish theological disposition. I’m a sci-fi/fantasy fan, and I enjoy writing and drawing when I can manage to do so.
I was initially introduced to you through the Mere Fidelity podcast. And I recently stumbled upon some of your older blogging (which I’ve enjoyed immensely). In the process, I noticed how you’ve been influenced over the years by (or have otherwise been reading) several of the same people I have. I found your explanation of N.T. Wright’s view of justification/righteousness extremely accessible and helpful. And I reveled in your three-part series on singleness. It captured so many things that I’ve thought for a number of years. I battled to get other Christians to understand and appreciate those things as I sought to live out a life of service as a “eunuch for the sake of the kingdom” until I married when I was 33. And I’ve sought to foster an appreciation for such a perspective in the adolescents and young adults whom I’ve befriended and served.
Thanks for commenting and introducing yourself, Aaron! I’m also really encouraged to hear that some of my writing has been helpful to you.
Alastair, could you reply to this article:
The Conversation is an influential Australian website which purports to be an objective presentation of academic views on various topics.
Of course, with a same-sex marriage plebiscite looming, and the website having a prominent left-wing slant, it’s recruited a biblical scholar from a liberal theological college to put forward a very one-side view.
Could you kindly reply in the comments?
Thanks for commenting. I’ve written a lot on this subject at various places on this blog and elsewhere (if you search the archives and the ‘Written Elsewhere’ section of the blog you find a number of pieces). I don’t have time to comment on the subject myself any time soon, but you could direct people to things I’ve already written on the issue. Blessings!
Hello Alastair, would love to get in touch asap but can’t find an email on your website. Do you mind emailing me?
Grateful for your (and Derek and the rest of you) thoughtful theologically minded insights and cultural criticisms. I don’t always land in agreement, but I am very thankful for your approach to such weighty topics. It encourages me to go and do likewise.
Random question, but judging by your comments on the Mere Fidelity podcast I thought you might be able to provide a suitable answer, and you seem to respond to people’s questions.
I wonder if you might be able to comment on the *potential* types found within the specifications of the temple in Ex. 26 as a type/image for the Church, and the specifications of the Priest’s garments in Ex. 28 as a type/image of the righteousness of Christ himself.
I guess my question is: are these actually OT types of what I think they represent, or am I projecting onto the text?
I’m self-admittedly new to typology in general, but those two stand out to me as potential types–and given the specificity of those passages I see them as a wonderful statement of God’s care for his redeemed–and I in my looking I haven’t yet found anything that really deals with them.
Anything would be appreciated–follow up, book/article recommendations…
Thanks for the comment, Matt.
Most of the time, I don’t think typology is best approached by looking for one-to-one correlations with Christ. Generally, what we see are progressive developments of broader biblical themes. These themes culminate in Christ, but they find developing expression all across the biblical narrative.
So, for instance, when looking at the tabernacle, we should pay attention to the way in which it follows the seven day pattern of the original creation account and how they relate to Mount Sinai (see my posts here and here for some comment). It is also important to notice the way in which the high priest’s garments are (1) a clothing of the priest with the world; (2) relate the high priest to the tabernacle, as a sort of walking tabernacle figure.
Vern Poythress’s The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses might be a book you’d enjoy on these issues.
I appreciate the response. I’m looking forward to diving deeper into the realm of typology!
Thanks for the links to resources, and other suggested reading. This is a great start!
Pingback: On the Nashville Statement and My Signing of it - Kuyperian Commentary
I’ve found both your written and podcast work though provoking and interesting. Do you have an email address you could be contacted at ?
Alastair, I write for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. I would like to follow up on a question that I asked you during your Curios Cat experiment. Could I do so by email?
Good morning Alastair,
I hope you are well?
We were wondering if you knew about the Reformation500 conference taking place in Gateshead in a few weeks time? (12-14th October)
You may know that Joel Beeke, Ian Hamilton and Geoff Thomas are amongst the speakers (see http://reformedconferences.org/)
(On behalf of The R500 organising committee)
I wasn’t aware of it. Thanks for informing me.
Unfortunately, I won’t be available for the conference period, which is disappointing, as I would be interesting in attending if I were available.
Geoff Thomas was an occasional visitor when my parents were missionaries in the Republic of Ireland and he was always one of our favourite visitors when we were children. He used to tell us stories, including a particularly memorable one about a mouse who used to transmogrify when he ate Lyle’s Golden Syrup. Somewhere I still have a copy of a letter he sent us about said mouse, with pictures substituting for words. Really wonderful guy!
I’ve enjoyed and been edified by your interventions on the Mere Fidelity podcast. Excellent work: keep going!
I am wondering about the degree to which your study and evaluation are a form of an echo chamber.
You do seem to challenge others and embrace being challenged yourself. However, I wonder to what degree it is relegated to the lofty world of ideas, as opposed to ground zero — where the impact of the ideas hits human lives. Ground zero, where human beings live busy lives in which there is not the time for extensive study. This is where Joe and Mary Christian live, whose lives are impacted by church leaders who are in turn influenced by your ideas and those of your peers.
In your response to Barbara on 9/20/2016 at 6:44 you say,
“I suspect that I am asked for my opinion on such matters mostly because I am a theologically conservative scholar with a relevant doctoral degree, who has done a lot of thinking on the areas under debate, but who has a much broader base of scholarly research. They didn’t start listening to me until I had a lot of writing, research, and credentials under my belt, which is one reason why I am surprised when some people without such things feel entitled to be listened to. Most of us have to devote decades of our lives in study and research to earn a voice and seat at the table.”
….and a bit further down:
“Nowadays, I try to engage primarily with conversation partners with whom I can hope for a profitable conversation, or at least a publicly visible conversation that will be of benefit to some spectators. Such conversation partners tend to be predominantly people with extensive theological education, wide-ranging research, and charitable judgment. They may be highly critical of things that I say, but I can generally be assured that their criticisms are driven primarily by their scholarly judgment, rather than by their dislike for me.”
My thought: Firstly, I completely understand the practical considerations here (lack of time & energy). But more to my point, those with a seat at the table inhabit what strikes me as quite a rarified environment. If time and energy is reserved for the scholarly or professional peer level, how can they understand the impact their ideas have on down the food chain?
Are ideas right and good because they are logical, philosophically and methodologically air-tight? Is the practical application of such ideas also worked out at the exclusive table, where those who experience the impact are not permitted?
Church leaders soak up such ideas (in many cases with what i observe as being low on objectivity). Leaders in turn are influenced in their values and beliefs, which show up in their behavior, subtle and overt communication, and church policy-making. The church attender / member bears the brunt of these at ground zero.
It is no small thing. Lives are mangled and destroyed by degrees at ground zero.
If you thought that I spent anywhere remotely near as much time at some exclusive table as I do in close day-to-day interactions with other people on the ground you would be very badly mistaken. My points about the seat at the table have to do with the fact that this is the sort of thing that one has to earn by putting in a very great deal of work and study and displaying considerable aptitude. It is not something that is generally handed to you on a plate because of who you are.
Furthermore, it is exceedingly difficult to have productive and illuminating conversations in situations where everyone feels entitled to a say by virtue of the strength of their opinion or grievance, yet are very poorly informed and studied on the issues at hand. While it is important to understand what drives many such people and to be closely attentive to their concerns, if you want to have a context that is conducive to the pursuit of truth, you need to be very selective of those who participate in certain conversations. The table needs to be exclusive if the conversations that take place there are to be effective. However, the table does not exclude you from close relationships and knowledge of people more generally. Most people who have a place at ‘the table’ spend only a small percentage of their time there. The rest of the time they will have plenty of interactions with people on the ground.
I’ve seen rather a lot of ideas being used to destroy lives. Some ideas lend themselves to such use by being very poorly framed. Other ideas are relatively good ideas that are mangled beyond all recognition. Ideas are powerful, though nowhere near as powerful as many think they are.
Something I’ve learned over the last years is that one has work extremely hard upon oneself if one wants truly to become tractable to ideas. Most of the time ideas function as rationalizations or as products or servants of our reactivity or woundedness. And, since dysfunctional persons take and mould ideas as their tools, those ideas start to bear the marks of their dysfunctionality and also get blamed for the dysfunctionality of the behaviour they are used to rationalize.
But a rationalization really is not a reason. Why do ‘male feminists’ have such a bad reputation for abuse? There are good reasons, but to claim that their feminism was the cause of the problem would be to badly misunderstand the situation. There is something deeply dysfunctional about the way that feminism functions in many contexts (where demonstrating that one holds the right ideas can suffice as proof of good character), but this really isn’t the same thing as something being dysfunctional with the ideas in and of themselves (although the ideas do have problems, largely independent of this).
Something I’ve pressed for in a great many contexts is for recognition of the deeply complex relationship between ideas, people, and practices. Against people who elevate the causative power of ideas over all else, I have emphasized the importance of attending to the ways that human beings use and misuse ideas and the ways in which ideas and our uses of them are encouraged by environmental factors such as the form of our media.
This recognition has implications that push in both directions. On the one hand, it suggests that if you plug good ideas and truths carelessly into a dysfunctional context, you will get dysfunctional practice, and perhaps even worse than it was before. Your truths and good ideas will also be tarnished in the process. And this is even more the case with sloppy or bad ideas (I’ve written about some complementarian approaches to authority along these lines).
On the other hand, it suggests that dysfunctional practice doesn’t disprove ideas. For instance, associating any teaching on the existence of highly significant and large differences between the sexes on average with oppression, many immediately dismiss the extensive mainstream scientific research that demonstrates the existence of such differences. They fear such research because it fundamentally challenges ideas that they use to support their sense of personhood and dignity. The problem is that the evidence is mounting up and isn’t going to go away; resting one’s life upon palliating falsehoods is not the healthiest approach. Unfortunately, the truth on these issues is often and easily handled in very dangerous ways.
We all need to aware of these dynamics. We need to recognize that good ideas aren’t sufficient to create good effects and can easily cause bad effects if mishandled. We need to create healthy contexts if we want good ideas to produce good effects. We should recognize the importance of healthy implementation. Many ideas are put into churches like live and open electrical wires. Pastors should be trained as skilled electricians, who can safely wire the empowering electricity of God’s truth into the house of his people, ensuring that truth is not a cause of damage and injury.
Thank you for responding.
“it is exceedingly difficult to have productive and illuminating conversations in situations where everyone feels entitled to a say by virtue of the strength of their opinion or grievance, yet are very poorly informed and studied on the issues at hand. ”
People who have been harmed by evangelicalism have nothing left but their voice.
I’d say you need to get over what you perceive as their ignorance. The fact that they have many compatriots who were also harmed by the frankenstein of evangelicalism in its present state signals that listening to them could yield far more helpful information than a conference room full of the studiously informed (who i reckon created the frankenstein in the first place). I mean, what good is scholarship that hurts people?
“Ideas are powerful, though nowhere near as powerful as many think they are.
Something I’ve learned over the last years is that one has work extremely hard upon oneself if one wants truly to become tractable to ideas..”
It may be true that ideas aren’t as powerful as many think. However, evangelicalism’s promotion of the pastor as God’s conduit and the sermon as God more-or-less speaking makes ideas a powerful cocktail, indeed. Many congregants don’t stand a chance of not losing their objectivity until they come to and realize the idea they were bamboozled into accepting as gospel truth is either a half truth, or not true at all. And was destructive. The idea was bad and wrong, the way it was marketed and sold was bad and wrong. The incorporating of the idea into their lives was bad and wrong. It was life-taking.
“Are ideas right and good because they are logical, philosophically and methodologically air-tight? Is the practical application of such ideas also worked out at the exclusive table, where those who experience the impact are not permitted?”
i could have expressed this better. I’ll try again. It seems to me that to some degree the theological academy (i’ll just call it that) studies and formulates conclusions in a cleanroom of sorts. They discuss with peers in another cleanroom. And then they publish it all. And the exercise is finished.
Now, I imagine the more thoughtful of these academicians go further and consider the practical application of their ideas and conclusions. In the cleanroom. Then they publish it all. And the exercise is finished.
The ideas in the cleanrooms made sense, maybe approached perfection — they fit all the paradigms (philosophical, methodological… those words encompass plenty). However, outside of the cleanroom where life is unpredictable, messy, and as complex as are human beings, the experience of these seemingly once-near-perfect ideas and conclusions is problematic.
They are problematic because by the time they reach Joe & Mary Christian they have morphed into rules, oh so many rules. Spoken and unspoken. Rules that one must follow in order to be a legitimate christian, to be accepted into the Gospel-Centered Group.
Some Joe and Mary Christians balk at these rules somewhat. Something seems off about it all. They may feel controlled. They may see harm coming from these rules. They may see hypocrisy on the part of those enforcing the rules, as well as the originators of the ideas in the cleanroom. And they resist.
Pastor John doesn’t like the resistance. He is afraid of the resistance. The resistance is kind of a personal insult, and makes his job less enjoyable and fulfilling, as well as threatens his job security. Perhaps he feels it threatens the institution he loves (sentimentality is at least part of his feeling). And so the rules become weapons. Weapons to further control people. (and the weaponizing of ideas and rules isn’t limited to Pastor John — the Joe and Mary Christian masses use them to control each other, to create in-groups and out-groups, & other forms of self-gratification).
My little story here is what happens when forces like TGC (and it is a force) offer up publishing after publishing of their ideas ideas ideas and rules rules rules. It seems to me that it all tumbles out easily, without awareness of what happens afterward. The consequences. I feel TGC and its contributors are irresponsible in this regard.
As to the reasons for the proliferation of publishing, that’s another subject. I’ve talked too long here already.
Thank you for putting up with me having repeated myself to some extent. I have some personal investment in it all — my kids no longer want to go to church for these reasons. I feel the same.
I am very sorry that your experience has been as you describe. And I don’t deny that what you describe is a real issue. None of what I say after this is intended to excuse it.
Getting back to my earlier remarks here, in such situations it really is crucial to discern whether the problem is with the ideas or truths themselves, or whether the problem chiefly lies with the way that people are using them. As I argued, there really are huge differences between ideas and people’s use of ideas.
When people have experienced profoundly damaging contexts that have held to certain ideas, it is easy for them to blame the ideas and believe that change must take an ideological form. This is definitely sometimes the case, and the danger of damaging ideas is a possibility that theologians are attentive to, though often not as much as they ought to be. However, while those who experience damaging contexts can testify to their poisonous effects, they are seldom the best placed to understand the exact causes and operations of the problems they experienced (although several years distance in time can help).
The theological task has God and his revelation as its primary object. On the one hand, there is a real danger that theology becomes reimagined as a form of sociology, treating truths about God as if they existed principally for the sake of the optimal ordering of communities, downplaying the significance of the fact that they are true. One of the depressing things is seeing how, as soon as something like the Trinity gets caught up in the gender debates everyone cares about it. And most of the people who care about it clearly don’t have a clue what they are talking about. They will blame a false doctrine of the Trinity for a host of abuses, while missing the fact that their own doctrine of the Trinity (which they’ve clumsily redrawn around their own account of gender relations) is no less erroneous. As I’ve argued before, the problem here is the desire to functionalize our doctrine of the Trinity, to treat it as a technique for achieving an ideal form of society, gender relations, etc. But the Trinity isn’t a social programme; it is an illuminating revelation of who God is.
On the other hand, there is the danger of presuming that theological truth is sufficient for the healthy ordering of a society. Pastors who believe this will preach a lot, but tend to be blind to dysfunctions in their hearers that mean that the real truths they are preaching will have destructive effects.
The sort of situation that you describe is depressingly common, but it is rarely a product primarily of ideas. Rather it is a product of factors such as fear and an associated desire for control and certainty, a technique-driven mindset that just wants to know the rules by which to get the results, the anxiety and tension of contexts where everyone is caught up in a great feeling plasma and unable to get a healthy distance, a reactive preoccupation with certain oppositions over positive and non-reactive definition of one’s stance, the desire for everything to be translated into rules in a way that would relieve us of the need for discernment and character-formation, etc.
Now, I think groups like TGC can definitely play into this at times. Part of the problem is that they often share the assumption that wrong ideas are our primary problem and that right ideas will be our primary solution. And they usually aren’t. Dysfunctional people gonna dysfunction. The truth is treated as technique, in a very American way: five things that you need to know/do to be a better Christian/parent/church member, etc., etc. Yet what is usually so desperately needed is a wise and perceptive physician of souls, not a purveyor of universal techniques. And there is a dearth of wise physicians of souls in churches that think in terms of truth as technique. Nor is the situation helped by Christians who think that learning ideas online can substitute for faithful pastoral oversight and discipline (in the positive sense of that term).
The solution to the error of truth as technique is not to give people in the pews more of a say in the process of forming theology. This is actually perhaps one of the worst things we could do! This said, pastors need to be much more attentive to people who are hurt and to recognize the way that truth used wrongly can be destructive, learning to be wise and perceptive in their application of truth. But while good pastors need to be attentive to such people and learn how things can go wrong, such people are very seldom good people from whom to learn what healthy pastoral ministry looks like. People whose primary experience is of dysfunction tend to articulate their position far too much against that foil, thinking about good pastoral ministry as avoiding dysfunction. However, good pastoral ministry is not about avoiding dysfunction so much as it is about forming health. It is edifying, rather than medicinal.
On the other hand, theologians need to wrest theology from the hands of people who treat it as technique and who have caught theology up in the distorting battles that constantly preoccupy us. Both complementarianism and egalitarianism as they currently exist, for instance, are largely technique-driven ways of doing theology. The result is a distortion of truth on both sides as both believe that simply holding the right set of ideas will solve glaring problems that really need pastoral wisdom and both form their beliefs to be useful, useful in undergirding their practical theories and useful in attacking the other side. Neither really appreciates the gap between theology and technique.
To restore theology to its proper functioning we need to recognize that it is about God and his truth, not about technique. People who are looking for technique or wanting to correct what they think is a failing technique should be kept at a safe distance as they will only mangle it. Once the disconnect between theology and technique is appreciated, pastors and Christians will better appreciate that holding the right ideas won’t solve their dysfunctions and the huge importance of pastoral skills will be more likely to be recognized.
Thanks again for the comments.
Thank you, again, Alastair for replying. It’s very gracious of you.
You say, “the danger of damaging ideas is a possibility that theologians are attentive to, though often not as much as they ought to be.” I can’t help but question this. Theologians i have observed and interacted with are all about principle over people. It’s their job, really (as i see it). Human collateral damage isn’t so nice but so be it, as long as there is purity of doctrine.
Also, I think the nature of the discipline defaults into the cerebral and mystical — quite removed from reality. My experience of theologians more often than not qualifies them as “so spiritually-minded as to be of no earthly good” — it’s as though they have stared at the text so long their vision has gone swirly and their brains have turned inside-out like a paper cup. And they think, “ohhh, so THIS is what the prophetic is like! Time to blog! Call TGC! Call my publisher! Get me on the speaking circuit!” (a touch of silly hyperbole here, but only a touch). They are full of ideas, and out of touch with people, with the reality of human lives. Perhaps you are different — and good for you if this is the case.
I do appreciate the spirit with which you communicate. One thing that’s not sitting quite right with me, though, is an overall sense that you seem to view christians in terms of hierarchy. The theologians are the elite and always good. Then come pastors, some of whom are idiots. All others are peons. Stupid sheep, who can’t figure out how to tie the shoelaces of their life without a pastor there to show them. (sheep in sneakers) This is not true. To me it is so patently untrue that i can’t even come up with an argument. Like, how does one argue that the sky is blue? Or that water is wet? it just is. Or maybe i’m just tired.
Thanks for the response.
I can’t speak to the theologians that you have interacted with, as I don’t know who they are. However, as someone who has been doing theology for some time now and is quite familiar with what many theologians talk about and do behind the scenes and how various ministries work, I have often been amazed at how far off the mark some people’s assumptions about them can be.
As I’ve been arguing, purity of doctrine won’t guarantee that people aren’t badly hurt. And the fact that people are badly hurt by the misuse of a doctrine needn’t make the doctrine erroneous or mean that theologians need to change it. There are many true doctrines—or truths more generally—that are very dangerous if handled incorrectly. Some doctrines are like powerful medicines that, if wrongly prescribed or used, will seriously harm people. Theologians often present these doctrines, as it were, with bold warning labels and guidelines for proper use. However, people still go ahead and misuse them and destroy lives.
When it comes to the practice of theology, I strongly believe that not everyone is equal. Theological training, aptitude, skills, knowledge, and experience are needed if we are to do theology well. When the task of theology becomes a conversation in which everyone is invited to participate in the same capacity, we soon end up in a mess. Theology is one of those issues upon which almost everyone seems to have their cherished opinions and most of them are deeply uninformed.
It is possible to recognize the danger of poorly prescribed treatments and of badly designed medicines and the immense human damage they cause while still recognizing that people shouldn’t be self-prescribing or encouraged to start making their own medicines. Doctors and pharmacologists really need to be attentive to patients and often aren’t attentive enough. However, their work requires considerably higher than average intelligence, specialist knowledge, challenging skill sets, and extensive experience. Democratization of their work would put people at far greater risk. If you think that poorly trained pastors and theologians are bad news—and they really are!—completely untrained people trying to play the part of pastors and theologians is so, so much worse. What may seem to be elitism to some people, in requiring very high standards of those ‘at the table’, is driven by the concern that a lot of pastors and theologians out there are charlatans peddling snake oil and harming many people as a result.
The type of church situation that you describe, for instance, doesn’t seem to be a result of bad theology so much as it seems to be a result of pastors who are poorly trained and lacking in some of the fundamental skills required to perform their vocation competently and perhaps also of people in the pews who are mixing their own medicines, dangerously self-prescribing, and not following the guidelines they are given. Just as those people entrusted with the care and healing of our bodies struggle with these problems among their patients, so those entrusted with the well-being of our souls struggle with the spiritual snake oil salesmen and with spiritual patients who self-prescribe and won’t follow wise guidelines.
Does this mean that pastors and theologians are more important people more generally? Not at all. It is just about the fact that, in the body of Christ, there are a great many different ministries and that those given the gifts and responsibilities for particular ministries should be allowed to do them, as in regard to that particular ministry they must take priority over those without the same gifts or callings. Again, this doesn’t mean that they are a higher class of Christians, as their ministry exists for the sake of the rest of the Church.
Nor does it mean that other members of the Church should be passive, unquestioning, and abject recipients of their ministry. Just like a good patient, a good Christian should learn how to take responsibility for their own spiritual health to the greatest extent that they can. But this responsibility needs to be guided by people who have the relevant experience and expertise. There is something seriously wrong when pastors and theologians treat those in the pews as if they knew nothing and didn’t know when something was amiss in the pastoral ministry they were receiving. However, there is also something seriously wrong when people in the pews think that they are as equipped to play the role of pastors and theologians as those who have received proper training and have years of experience.
I am very sorry to hear about the struggles you have experienced and how they have hurt you and those closest to you. We both definitely want to prevent such damage and harm being caused. However, if we don’t handle such things carefully, we can easily make a bad situation worse. This is my concern about treating the discipline of theology as if it was directly and straightforwardly related to the ways that people practice it and of lowering the bar for participation at the table of theological discourse.
“When it comes to the practice of theology, I strongly believe that not everyone is equal. Theological training, aptitude, skills, knowledge, and experience are needed if we are to do theology well. When the task of theology becomes a conversation in which everyone is invited to participate in the same capacity, we soon end up in a mess. Theology is one of those issues upon which almost everyone seems to have their cherished opinions and most of them are deeply uninformed.”
“Just as those people entrusted with the care and healing of our bodies struggle with these problems among their patients, so those entrusted with the well-being of our souls struggle with the spiritual snake oil salesmen and with spiritual patients who self-prescribe and won’t follow wise guidelines.”
i agree somewhat. But,… hm…. where is the Holy Spirit in all of this? It’s like he’s been removed from the equation. Or only accessible to theologians. The Holy Spirit is my companion — there is lively 2-way communication all day long. God & Jesus are my friends. (it’s hard to know where one ends and the other begins! i don’t think theology / doctrine truly answer that question, at least beyond theory).
We interact all day long. I learn in the moment by doing. Simple things. When I pay attention and go along with it (put it into practice), i become stronger. More of “me” is available and effective at what I can do (like a tree by rivers of water; like a branch on a vine). Truly, there’s not much a 3rd party can do to improve on this.
I buy in to what you’re saying to some degree. But at the same time, what you describe seems like a totalitarian society, where the shadowy powerbrokers make decisions behind closed doors on what is true, what is binding, and how and who to implement it. And then it is repackaged (deceptively) and sold to the masses. The lives of the underlings are shaped by it. Not unlike Panem in The Hunger Games. Some powerbrokers may be benevolent, but it is no less a totalitarian society.
I think the SBC very much resembles this.
Look at Right Now Media — it’s feeding ideas to to people like a gastric tube, decided on by those above. Christians plug in and drink it up, so trusting. Same with the TGC website. To be in christian culture these days is to hear the party line regurgitated everywhere. it’s like people have become programmed automatons.
This is what it seems to me you are advocating: For the pew peons to be passive and not bother themselves with things they could not possibly understand in the first place. But to simply receive.
Yikes, that scares me. Oh, blessed opting out.
i think this may be the heart of the matter for me: christian culture feels more and more like a totalitarian society. Even if this is not the intent on the part of the “powerbrokers”, does it really matter when the sum total yields this experience on the ground?
The Holy Spirit is there as the one by whom Christ ‘gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.’ The gifts of pastors and teachers (or theologians) are gifts that serve as a ministry of the Spirit—a membered and distributed re-presentation of the single Gift of the Spirit given to the Church in Christ—for the edifying of the whole body.
These ministries are certainly not the only ministries in the Church. Indeed, these ministries exist in order to facilitate and equip the saints more generally for their various works of ministry.
Nor is this a sort of hierarchy or totalitarian society, However, it isn’t a democracy or a society of autonomous individuals either. It is a society where God has established certain people to exercise authority for our good and where he has gifted certain people with particular insight in order that they might deepen our knowledge of his truth. These acts of appointing and gifting are gifts to us: God gives to us through his ministers.
Using Paul’s 1 Corinthians 12 body metaphor, when everyone tries to be the seeing, the body will not function very well and will not experience the ministry of the eyes that God has appointed as it ought. This doesn’t mean that the whole body cannot participate in the act of seeing in various ways, but it doesn’t function in an egalitarian manner.
In my comment, I explicitly said:
This is a very different thing from what you are claiming. The important thing is that, while taking agency in and responsibility for their spiritual health, people recognize the limits of their understanding and also recognize the gifts that God has given to others for their edification. Far too many people fancy themselves leaders and teachers nowadays.
yes, you’re right, i missed that part. (“Nor does it mean that other members of the Church should be passive,…)
“The Holy Spirit is there as the one by whom Christ ‘gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers….”
But, of course, apart from what is understood as “the official giftings and their offices”, Holy Spirit also indwells individuals . For the pleasure of each other’s company, as I see it. And to be a team, Holy Spirit and me (or you, Joe, Mary…) — we work together. Be it chores, errands, parenting, music, administrative tasks, leading opportunities, teaching opportunities, charitable activities, confrontation, fun and games with loved ones, sleep even….
The way I see it, just because the bible mentions pastors and teachers doesn’t not mean to be a christian one must therefore be subject to people wearing these hats. There are times in life when a person does have need of a Holy Spirit infused teacher, or pastor (although i have to admit the concept of pastor has lost all meaning — it means too many things, and things which are at odds with what i believe the original idea was). There are also times when a person simply doesn’t need such things. Doesn’t need to be taught by a person lecturing/preaching (honestly, i haven’t heard anything fresh or insightful in at least 20 years — just crusty reheated casserole surprise seasoned with bits of the processed idea du jour),….. there are times when a person doesn’t need to be monitored, managed, “loved on” by someone wearing the “love on you” hat with a sense of entitlement. Even when these things are of the highest caliber and sincerity — sometimes it’s just too many cooks in the kitchen of a person’s life.
Sometimes i wonder if christians truly have faith in God, or is it more like faith in faith? Faith in the bible? Faith in the system? Faith in the magic of christianity? incantations, ceremonies, spin around-clap 3 times-abracadabra! and a Gospel marriage can be yours! (for just $19.95 and you get the book, the study guide, and the bonus dvd!) yuck. digressing a bit here….
“Nor is this a sort of hierarchy or totalitarian society”
in theory, no. in practice and experience, yes.
i meant to say Thank you for your gracious interaction. (it got edited out in the final clean up)
Thank you, Alastair, for the opportunity for conversation.
A final summary thought on spiritual giftings under the teachers & pastors label — it seems to me that (to some degree) the focus & priority in christian culture is on opportunity to practice such things, and the church members/attenders are used towards this end. That many times the sheep are pawns used to foster jobs for pastors, teachers as they practice the industry standard for teaching and pastoring. (whether spiritually gifted or not). (this is not intended as the “last word” on the subject)
You’ve been a gracious host, Alastair.
Thanks for the interaction! I’ve appreciated the discussion, and the time, thought, and charity you’ve given to it.
Hi Alistair, thanks for your insightful and helpful work that you put out here, I have a been a regular listener to Mere Fidelity for the last couple of years.
I’m part of a church in Hartlepool and we have a number of creative arts students who are part of the church, one of whom is putting a lot of work into studying the theological implications of typography and format.
I think I have a vague memory of hearing you say something about this on the podcast but I haven’t been able to find it looking back through the titles of the past episodes. Did that come up in an episode or am I mistaken? If it is something you have put some thought into, would you be willing to correspond with him about it?
You might be thinking about this podcast. Also see this post.
Thanks, I’ll pass those on to him
Reading Reinke on Smartphones who speaks highly of you! Good to connect!
I guess my own “about sections” do the honours
Hi, just read your excellent article on Ruskin. What a pleasure to read intelligent comment on the value of homemaking.
Thanks! Great to hear that you appreciated it!
I was fortunate enough to be pastored by Derek during his time as a college pastor and have been listening to Mere Fidelity since the beginning. I remember telling him in his office a couple years back how insightful your contribution to the discussion always was. Recently, I came across your contributions at The Davenant Institute concerning gender and masculinity. I just wanted to say these have been a huge blessing (along with your audio lecture on the sexes) for me and I am very much looking forward to your book. A particular quote from the “What is Masculinity?” video that has stuck with me is: “We should be concerned to be the men that God has created us to be. That doesn’t mean living up to stereotypes and it can allow a lot more latitude then we often think.”
Thanks, Erik! I’m really pleased to hear that you found them helpful. I’m also a little curious to know what it is like to have Derek as your college pastor! It has been a lot of fun podcasting with him and interacting in many other ways online, but I still haven’t met him in person. 🙂
I Love the blog and heard you speak at a day hosted by LTS. Would it be possible to send you an email?
I’ve been reading your blog consistently now for the last 9 months and have so enjoyed your posts that I regularly check for more. Because you have written so much, it is hard to know where to start. If you haven’t already done this, would it be possible for you to make up a Top Ten of the most popular posts of all time? Thanks
My most popular posts are generally those posts that are most charged by the context of controversy. For instance, my Questions and Answers on Same-Sex Marriage post received over sixty times as many hits as my recent The Strangeness of the Modern Mind post and over two hundred times as many hits as my post on the Cat Person article (I was a little surprised that post received so few hits, to be honest). For this reason, I really wouldn’t focus on my most popular posts.
Take a look through my ebooks section. That wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
I know you asked Alastair, and not me, but I have been an admiring reader for a couple of years and I would point you toward the following:
Social media :
Modernity and Technique:
Brexit (provincials and cosmopolitans):
These are pretty heavily weighted toward recent work as I only started reading in 2016.
I’m sure this will get stuck in the spam filter – so I hope Alastair releases it.
Pingback: Where to Find My Stuff | Alastair's Adversaria
I couldn’t find another way to contact you, so here we are…
Greetings from CLC Bookshops Sheffield, where I am based as the mission’s Events Coordinator and from where we provide quite a number of bookstalls for events up and down the country, as do colleagues from their respective CLC branches.
Here is a quick question/request: if you are going to recommend, review or otherwise mention any hard copy resources in what you share at the Psephizo Festival of Theology, kindly let me know as soon as you possibly can so we can source them and hopefully have them available! With a weekend coming up, that leaves very few working days… but we can try.
I thought your article on Jordan Peterson and what pastors could learn from him was very measured and interesting. Thanks for putting it out there and greetings from Cumbria. Kevin
Your linked article below just made my day!! I recently discovered and have been binge watching Jordan Peterson. You very well articulated what I’ve been thinking and much I hadn’t even processed into words except I would broaden it that what all men and even society at large could learn. A friend that I talked to about J.Peterson about just sent me this link. Thank you!!
Would you kindly send me your email? There are a few things I would like to send you. Among other things, I changed my mind about writing on the Jordan Peterson phenomenon, and it looks like the Gospel Coalition will be publishing it.
Here’s mine: davidgemoore at gmail dot com
I happily stumbled onto your blog due to https://www.christiandailyreporter.com/ that shared your post about what pastors could learn from Peterson (? I’m not good with names and closed the tab, haha), and I heartily admired it. 🙂
I’m a very concerned citizen of God’s kingdom and of America, and it’s such a relief to read people telling it like it is.
Thanks, Squid! 🙂
Dear Dr Roberts,
I found this site via a link in an e-mail message from Dr Piper’s “Desiring God” ministry. I’ve only looked around briefly, but am glad to have found my way here. The Internet can be an interesting place when you try a new road!
Thanks for your work; I look forward to reading more of what you have written.
Thanks for the encouragement, John!
I appreciate a lot of what you write, and I’m very excited about Heirs Together. Amazon says it’s still over a year away from publication, and I seem to remember you saying the same on one platform or another. Are there any books you would recommend on the topic that I could read in the meantime?
Thanks so much!
Stephen Clark’s Man and Woman in Christ wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
Thanks a bunch!
Have you written on the ethics/implications of lab-grown meat? For example: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/sep/20/lab-grown-meat-fish-feed-the-world-frankenmeat-startups
This doesn’t seem right to me, but I’m having a hard time pinning down exactly why. Could you point me to some good reading material?
Thanks for the comment. This isn’t a subject to which I have really much thought at all, and couldn’t recommend anything in the way of reading on the matter. The only thing I’ve ever written on the subject, I think, is this.
Discovered your blog and website through Paul VanderKlay’s YouTube channel and reference to your recent “Understanding Jordan Peterson.” Excellent analysis. Noticed you have a pending book, Heirs Together: A Theology of the Sexes (2019). Are you familiar with Dr. Richard M. Davidson’s scholarly, 25-years-in-the-making, magnum opus FLAME OF YAHWEH: Sexuality in the Old Testament? I highly recommend it. See my Amazon review -> https://amzn.to/2pThHoB
Welcome to the blog, Dan! I just discovered your comment caught in my over-zealous spam filter.
Yes, I am familiar with Davidson’s book, and some of his other work on typology. Some very helpful stuff in there.
Rick Sheehan here
Friend Nebraska .Originally from the North Shore town of Wakefield Massachusetts.
I am a Christian , Husband , father , grand father .Self employed carpenter .No college education ,ex hippie. ex liberal. I love to read .
Love your essays. Your essay on Peterson was excellent imho. Also ” true believer.”.
Thanks for introducing yourself, Rick. Great to have you here!
I recently caught your mini-video on Davenant’s YouTube on headship. I loved the way you seemed to be describing what I’ve tended to call a vocational headship: that in a sense, the wife, being made one flesh with her husband shares in (rather than comes under) the husband’s authority directed towards the ordering of creation – in the same way that becoming ‘one flesh’ with Christ (Eph 5) means the church shares in Christ’s headship over all things (Eph 1). If I’ve come close to understanding your position, it really resonates with the direction I’ve been working towards for a while – would you be able to suggest other readings/books/articles that might help me engage with others who are thinking in this direction? (I’ll be keeping an eye out for your book also!)
Perhaps the most helpful thing I’ve found on this subject is a careful re-reading of the creation narratives and the NT texts relating to Christ’s headship. In both cases, I believe that the vision of headship that emerges is less one of headship as male authority over women or Christ’s authority over the Church, but of a headship ordered out into the world for the sake of others.
Christ’s headship is a headship that the Church must submit to, but it primarily serves to build up the Church. It is important to bear in mind that the thing that corresponds to the submission of the wife in Ephesians 5, for instance, is not the authority of the husband, but his love. In the debates about the meaning of the Greek κεφαλή, I’ve found Andrew Perriman helpful in his book, Speaking of Women.
Great, I’ll check out Andrew Perriman.
Yes, I’m sold on the way you read headship/one flesh-ness in Genesis & NT. In Ephesians even Christ’s headship is “over” all powers, dominions (and everything) “for” the church. As Paul riffs on Psalm 8 in Eph1, the impression I’m left with is that the church/wife SHARES in the authority of Christ/husband, rather than coming under it. Looking forward to your book!
I’m a christian who is a visiting professor at University of Pacific in Stockton Ca. Unfortunately, I missed your guest lecture on March 26th, Male & Female in the Image of God. Kudos to you for speaking at our bastion of “diversity and inclusion.” I’m curious what, if any, response you may have had. Advocating gay marriage is no longer the purview of unbelievers; professing Christians (“affirmers”) now argue that gay marriage can be supported by Scripture. There are many writings being published and even courses taught designed to promote “christian” gay marriage. Have you run into these people? I have been having to deal with them. I have an argument that I believe is “airtight” demonstrating that Jesus’ teaching on marriage necessarily precludes sexual relations outside of monogamous, heterosexual marriage. My background is law, not academics, so I would be interested in having someone like yourself take a look at it. If you are willing, my email is email@example.com. If you are unable, no worries. It was just nice to see your willingness to discuss the issue on our campus.
I have recently read an article taken from your book about Esther. I was pleased to read it because I had never considered that Esther was a type of Israel. I myself have had a Naomi experience. In 2009, my son, Rick, was shot in the head. He was on a respirator for a day or so, but he died. It was devastating to me. In fact, I could barely maintain for a year. At that point, just short of a year, my mother died. She had moved here with us about two or three years earlier. In 2015, my youngest son was hit by a train. He did live, but he had a fairly severe brain injury and a broken ankle. Due to his brain injury, in January this year, he committed suicide. My husband had been struggling with having found squamous cell carcinoma on his body, and he has had several surgeries beginning 1/17. He now has progressed to a very aggressive type of squamous cell carcinoma. I do not anticipate he will live. I tell you all this because I myself feel I should be named Mara. I too am too old to have more children. However, I do not understand the joy of Naomi when she takes Ruth’s baby and calls it her grandson. It is not her physical grandson. Maybe in her day and time, Ruth represents safety and security to her because Ruth’s husband is wealthy and Naomi will be taken care of for the remainder of her life. I do not understand how Naomi would not still be bitter because she actually has no seed in Israel any longer. Please help me understand your perspective on this. Thank you.
I am incredibly saddened to hear of your terrible set of experiences. That is heartbreakingly awful.
To understand Naomi’s joy, it is important to bear in mind a few things:
1. The practice of levirate marriage, whereby a near kinsman of a deceased and childless man could be called upon to take his widow to raise seed for him, so that his name wouldn’t be wiped out. As we see in both the stories of Tamar and Ruth, this was something that the widow would generally strongly desire. It would give her both economic security and a heritage.
2. The extremely close bond between Naomi and Ruth, who joined her fate to that of her mother-in-law.
3. The shrewd plan by which, although the kinsman redeemer was to redeem Naomi and raise up seed for Elimelech, Naomi and Ruth determine to outwit the reluctant yet nearer kinsman redeemer and make clear to Boaz that he can raise up the seed for Naomi through Ruth. Note Ruth 4:14-17a:
See Matt Colvin’s explanation of this here. The child is raised up for the redemption of Naomi (‘a son born to Naomi’), but through Ruth, who has bound herself to her mother-in-law.
Much of the joy of Naomi comes from the remarkable reversal of fortunes, from the sudden entrance of promise and new life into an existence previously lived so fully under the cruel shadow of death, bereaved of all hope. Naomi is, of course, a picture of widowed, childless, and barren Israel having her life transformed by the unexpected advent of God’s healing goodness in her mourning (a picture we also see in places like Isaiah 54). The prophets explore such images in various places, assuring their mourning hearers that a new dawn will come, a dawn in which all tears will be wiped away, all wounds healed, and all things made new. The comfortless weeping of Rachel robbed of her children will endure in the bitterness of this current night, but joy comes in the morning.
I’m a teacher at a classical and christian school in the United States, and I became interested in your work recently due to your contributions to Theopolis Institute. I’ve since subscribed to Mere Fidelity and just ordered your book Echoes in Exodus. I’m looking forward to diving into your work more thoroughly. I’m glad to have found out about what you are doing!
I’m excited to find your blog, Alistair! I like what I see and I’m looking forward to reading some more of your articles. I hope we can have some good discussions, too.
Hi Alastair. I have really appreciated your writings on circumcision and baptism and am looking forward to reading your thesis! Right now I’m looking for an article of yours that explores the association of circumcision with judgment, specifically I believe you wrote about Exodus 4:24ff. But I can’t find it! Would you happen to remember that and know where I can find it?
Is this the piece? It is a very old one.
Hi Alastair, I have been listening to you for a while on Mere Fidelity and most recently on the Theology of the Sexes Lectures from Theopolis Institute. I really appreciate the thoughtful way you engage on issues. I am working on a DMin project dealing with a theology of the body and a theology of beauty as it relates to pastoral counseling issues. Your lectures contained a ton of helpful material regarding body theology, which I am assuming will be in your forthcoming book. I really liked the way you worded many of the concepts, and I would love to be able to use and cite some of this material in my thesis. Is there any way I could obtain some documentation that would let me do that?
Unfortunately, unless I’ve written on the issues you want to use me on somewhere on my blog or elsewhere (and much of my material in the lectures has been explored elsewhere in written form), you’ll have to cite the lectures themselves for now.
Great, thanks so much for getting back to me!
Hello Alastair, love your blog posts. My pastor recently shared a Steven Lawson study on how to read the old testament. That it needed to be looked at in 3 ways. As being Moral Law, Ceremonial Law, and Civil Law. Some of it fulfilled, some obsolete, some carries over to the new testament. Would love to here your take on this.
Thanks for leaving the comment, Greg! I’ll copy and paste your question onto my Curious Cat account and might answer it in a video at some point.
I hope you don’t regard this as spam but I just I wondered if you’d heard of The Wall of Answered Prayer? It’s a project to build an national monument in the UK with a million bricks, with each brick representing an answered prayer and there will be a way to access and read these. They have the land, next to a motorway in the Midlands, and now they are trying to raise funds and answered prayers.
I was just thinking if you have any testimonies that you feel able to share with the nation you might be interested. These testimonies would then be available for the generations to come to hear of God’s love, mercy and faithfulness.
Please look on their website http://www.thewall.org.uk to find out more.
Thanks for reading and it is a pleasure to read about your work.
I hadn’t heard about this. What a wonderful idea! Thanks for passing it on, Verity!
My name is Kyle and I am from Jacksonville Florida. I was raised in the Southern Baptist tradition so I knew all about “Salvation”, “Redemption” and other keywords..It wasn’t until I picked up a book by James B Jordan called “Through New Eyes” and it radically changed the way I read and viewed the Bible. It is so much more alive and real! The patterns and symbols can be non-other than supernatural. Since then I have learned from others such as Peter Leithart, David Chilton, John Barach, Mike Bull etc. I love typology and symbolism in the Bible and I am so glad to be introduced to your fruitful labors through Theopolis Institute. I promise to get your book on “Exodus pattern” soon! Keep up this amazing work for God’s Kingdom as it is truly a blessing.
Thanks for taking the time to introduce yourself, Kyle. Great to have you here! Through New Eyes is such a wonderful book; I’m always pleased to see new people discovering it.
Alastair – Sorry to communicate here but I cannot find another avenue. I really enjoy listening to your podcasts but I have a request: Is there any way you can record the podcast so as to increase the volume for your listeners? My computer sound controls are at max and I can hardly hear you talking. I am not a computer wizard but I have done what I can to better hear you (my hearing is fine) with no luck, so any help you could give at your end would be appreciated. Thanks.
That really is very strange. I don’t know what the issue could be. No one else has mentioned similar problems and the sound levels on my personal podcasts seem to be the same as those on Mere Fidelity and on my YouTube videos. They play at regular volume on my computer. Have you checked your volume levels on Soundcloud itself? Perhaps that could be the issue.
Hello! I’m a journalism student at Patrick Henry College, and if you have a chance I’d love to interview you regarding your upcoming lecture series on sexual ethics. Would this be possible?
Thank you very much for your recent video on the healing of the woman with an issue of blood and the raising of Jairus’ daughter. It was extremely helpful, espectially the link to Ezek. Ch. 16. Some time ago I wrote an essay in which I tried, amongst other things, to relate these intercalated healings, as described in Mark, to the surrounding passages in that Gospel, and wondered if you might be kind enough to have a very quick look (if you get time that is – in what is a clearly busy and productive schedule!) The essay is called “Peace be Still” and is chapter 5 of “Chiastic Structures in the Interpretation of Scripture” which can be found in the Articles section of my website http://www.famousfox.org (a bit like curiouscat, but without the curiosity or the cat!) The essay is in the form of a Word document – so should download OK.
I would be really interested in your thoughts – particularly the linking of the three miracles after Jesus’ stilling of the storm with the three parables that preceded!
With very best wishes, and many thanks for all the excellent articles and videos you are producing,
Thanks, Stewart! I’ll take a look.
Hi Dr. Alastair Roberts,
I hope all is well.
Have you ever considered if Adam was born of a virgin? If not, and you are interested, I have written a little article with evidence from the second Temple period, first century, gnostic text and rabbinic period to argue that it was possible to come to that conclusion.
If you have time, would it be possible to critique or comment on what I have written? It is part 5, Unearthing the virgin birth: http://nazarenesoftheworld.info/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=8
Much appreciated in advance for your consideration.
My names Marnie and we met at English L’Abri when you lectured there over the Summer. Im working at the Swiss L’Abri now,and I wondered if you would be interested in coming to the Alps, to visit us in the New Year. We would love to have you!
I work for CUF, which as you may know is a Christian social action charity working around the country tackling issues such as food poverty, homelessness and financial exclusion. This Advent our team are focusing specifically on the issue of homelessness and raising awareness about this issue and what Christians can do to make a difference to the many thousands of people who experience homelessness.
The level of homelessness in this country is unacceptable, but there are many ways Christians can and are making a difference. We believe this is something that needs highlighting in the Christian community and would like to ask if there’s a way that we can partner to more effectively share this message? ? Could we offer you some editorial content, or could we write a blog or article for your site?
It could (but doesn’t have to) include our brilliant new resource for churches about ways they can tackle the issue of homelessness which includes a beautifully written set of reflections for each Sunday of Advent. Or, it could include an invitation to take part in the Advent Sleepout Challenge: teams or individuals can sign up to take the challenge and get themselves sponsored to sleep either outdoors, or somewhere else unusual and uncomfortable to raise funds for our work with people who are homeless. You can watch a video about our work tackling homelessness in Manchester, where we have one of our twenty-two community hubs, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcXgtH54lUY
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Very best wishes,
0207 898 1091
Alastair, are you ordained or pursuing ordination? and where?
No, I’m neither ordained nor pursuing ordination.
Alastair, in what did you earn your undergraduate and graduate degrees?
Thanks as always for sharing your thoughts, cheers.
All in Theology.
I appreciate the reply; I’m also reading Plato’s Republic since your recommendation to start with the classics.
Wonderful! I hope you find it rewarding.
What would be your top 2 or 3 books on the beauty of the Christian sexual ethic? Thanks,
I wanted to drop you a little line to thank you for the class you taught through Theopolis on the theology of the sexes. I was not there in person, but downloaded it and listened to it over the Christmas break. I found it very helpful. I particularly liked your creativity as a theologian as well as your commitment to the truth of the Scriptures. You do not get entrenched in the classic furrows but give a different, refreshing perspective. I believe you are one of the only theologians that I have found who tackles the subject head-on in this way. I’ve been doing some thinking on womanhood from a biblical theological perspective and found much confirmation in your teaching, for which I am very grateful. From the role of Eve in the first creation, to the biblical trajectory of womanhood in the Bible, to the Spirit-filled church as Bride of Christ and second Eve, and to final consummation as the city-bride in Revelation. I’d to “pick your brain” on this topic, but also realize you are probably incredibly busy. So in lieu of that, I might have to wait for your book to come out in the Fall. Thanks again!
Dear Alastair, Are you aware of the Tyndale Fellowship? I chair its Study Group in Philosophy of Religion, and it occurred to me that it might be of interest to you. You can see the schedule for our June conference at https://sites.google.com/view/tyndalefellowship/study-groups/philosophy-of-religion.
Thanks for passing this on. Unfortunately, I probably won’t be in the UK in June. I hope that the conference goes well, though. I would be interested in attending such events in the future, if I am around.
I appreciated your comments regarding Jordan Peterson and would like to subscribe to your podcasts. Please advise. Thank you.
Thanks, Mark! You can subscribe here.
It was great spending time with you in Dallas. I treasure fellowship wherever I can find it, but with such a like-minded bunch as were at the Theopolis course was a real treat. Enjoy your time in Moscow, hopefully you’ll come to Boise sometime.
It was great to meet you! I thoroughly enjoyed the days in Dallas too.
Hi Mr. Roberts – from Boston, USA. Can you suggest books for teaching a biblical anthropology? Thanks for your work.
Dear Alastair. I’ve enjoyed your writing, and am especially interested in the work you’ve published on Jordan Peterson. I’m looking at aspects of the Peterson phenomenon for my MA Theology dissertation. Would it be possible to get in touch to run some thoughts by you? Thanks!
Hello Dr. Roberts,
My name is Courtney Neujahr and I’m writing on behalf of Nick Bogardus, our Lead Pastor here at Cross of Christ Church in Costa Mesa, CA. He greatly enjoys your podcast and writings and is highly interested in having you on our church’s weekly podcast as a guest during this upcoming sermon series on 1 Peter. Specifically, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the following topical question: How can Christians hold and live our convictions in an increasingly secular culture, especially one represented in some ways by people like Rob Bell and Jordan Peterson?( Similarly, we’ve also interviewed Dr. Russell Moore on faith and politics, David Zahl on living in an age of distraction, and Dr. Al Mohler on being a Christian in the midst of some of the socio-cultural issues going on now). Would it possible to connect via email to discuss this further? I look forward to hearing from you! Thank you!
I have been deeply blessed by your daily videos (which I consume in podcast form). I would be very interested in a kind of apologia for your mode of digesting the world. You clearly have a nearly omnivorous interest in the things around you and have a very healthy and vigorous “throughput.” Have you written or recorded a manifesto on the ways you choose to be? If not, would you consider recording one? I get the feeling that you are bursting upon many peoples’ intellectual scenes who do not have a sense of how you came to be in your current form.
Secondly, it all feels like it’s building towards something. Is it?… Political office? Armed insurrection? Retreat to a monastery? Do you have an “endgame” for all of the analysis and thought-forming that you craft? Do you believe it is incumbent upon Christian intellectuals to have a call to action? A militant cause? A pièce de résistance that results not just in changed minds but a new world order?
I am so thankful that the Lord put you in the world, brother. May he bless your ministry. I am not in a financial position to donate to anything beyond my church, but if that changes, you are the first on my list. (Pray that I’ll get a raise).
Thanks for the comment, Jonathan!
I don’t have anything near so grand as a manifesto, although I definitely believe that we should be in the business of changing things. However, real change requires many people working together. I regard myself as one of a great number of careful thinkers and committed workers sharpening, supporting, and equipping each other as we collaborate in the long term task of forging faithful Christian communities and witnesses in the historical and local contexts in which we find ourselves. I am not a lone guy with a vision and a mission, but someone who learnt the overwhelming majority of what I know from others and want to pass it on in turn, while enriching the legacy I have received.
I see my particular task as primarily concerned with equipping Christians to interpret the world, our times and contexts, and the Scriptures wisely. I want to excite people about God’s truth and get them wanting to live it out. I believe that my task is to give people the tools that will equip them to discern the best course of action in their particular contexts. I do not believe that there is a one-size-fits-all approach we should be taking (although armed insurrection is definitely not something I have in mind). I am less about a single call to action than I am about helping people to learn the wisdom and skills by which they will be able to act prudently and effectively, whatever form that requires where they find themselves.
For most people, their responsibilities will chiefly be those of marrying, raising children, developing healthy and productive households, committing themselves to a local church and wider community of Christians, bearing faithful and honourable witness in their neighbourhoods, strengthening their communities, and working wisely to build a legacy that will outlast them. We need to build deep foundations for the coming decades, when both we and the world around us will really need them. A few may be called to politics. I don’t believe that I am. Others may be called to the world of the arts or business. Some may even be called to something like monastic life. Once again, I don’t believe that I am.
Hello – did anything come of the book treatment on fashion and theology that you shared on the blog back in 2012? https://alastairadversaria.com/2012/02/10/theology-of-clothing-book-plans/ I did a quick Google search and didn’t find anything. Would love an update. Thanks!
Unfortunately not. Just a lot of unpublished notes and documents on my hard drive, which may or may not see the light of day in the future.
Many thanks for your excellent series on the family of Abraham, (and also for kindly mentioning in Part 28 an article I wrote suggesting some possible links between the Ruth and Tamar narratives!) I have been thinking about the narrative of the Cupbearer and the Baker in Gen. Ch. 40, and enjoyed your talk on this. The Baker is, I think, the first person in Scripture to have been hung on a tree. In the light of Paul’s near-quotation of the LXX of Deut. 21:23 in Gal. 3:13, can we infer that the Baker was cursed, and if so by Pharaoh, by God or by both? Perhaps one’s view on this might be affected by one’s understanding of Gal. 3:13. I notice that in Gal. 3:13, Paul does not say either that Christ bore the curse of the law or that Christ was cursed by God (even though these are frequently inferred in many commentaries). Also, the text does not say that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us: the Greek does not have the word “by” which is an interpolation by the translators rather than a strict translation. Paul here (it currently seems to me) appears to be noting a contrast or paradox between “our” redemption from the curse of the law and Christ’s coming under a curse for us: thus this is certainly a juxtaposition but not necessarily also a “cause and effect” theological explanation (Correlation does not imply causation as they say in statistics!). (This is of couse not to deny a key aspect of the mechanism of many atonement theories – rather that this is not, I (with great trepidation) suggest, what Paul appears to be covering in his teaching here.
Finally, I wonder if you might be interested in my attempted chiastic analysis of the Galatians ch. 3 passage. It can be found on my website (www.famousfox.org) in the Articles section – in chapter 17 of The North Galatian Hypothesis (where it can be downloaded as a word document), and in particular the diagram on page 191 where I show that Gal. 3:10-13 is divided chiastically into two sections of 39 (13×3) words each.(in the Received Text).
With very many thanks for all your hard work, and very best wishes, from Stewart (Fleming)
Thanks for dropping by, Stewart, and for your work!
I suspect that there is a sort of natural symbolism to being hung on a tree that is associated with curse (also having one’s flesh eaten by birds). It is a sort of desecration of the body. I probably wouldn’t put a great deal of theological weight on this in the case of the story of the baker, though, unless it could be supported more from the near context.
Hello again Alastair!
Many thanks for your thoughtful reply to my last question.
I’d just like to put forwards one or two brief thoughts regarding your helpful recent podcast (Q&A#130) on bible reading. Like you, I have a strong attachment to the KJV, and also have an old and extremely worn KJV bible given to me as a child (in my case in 1955 alas!!) One of the advantages for me in using the KJV is that it is based on the Received Text, and in my chiastic analyses of New Testament passages in which I attempt to incorporate word count aspects, I have never found a single instance in which the Nestle-Aland Greek text “works” better than the TR. Conversely, I have repeatedly found examples in which the numerical aspects of the chiastic structure, and sometimes even the chiastic structure itself, “work” when using the TR, and not with NA when there is a difference between the two texts. A clear example of this,would be the chiastic analysis of Rom. 8:1-4 as described in the article “There is therefore now no condemnation . . ” at http://www.famousfox.org – about two thirds down the list of articles on the opening page of the website), This is something that I have found as a result of doing these chiastic analyses – I started off with no presuppositions in this area of “the best text”. As a result, I now work with Greek-English interlinear texts which use the Received Text rather than Nestle-Aland (though I frequently compare the text with my NA interlinear too). For readers and listeners to your excellent articles and podcasts who wish to carry out their own chiastic analysis of NT texts, I would really recommend use of the Received Text – particularly if they wish to investigate and appreciate the numerical (word count) aspects of the text.
With all very best wishes as always,
from Stewart (Fleming)
I am a Muslim and recently came across your writings and have been impressed by the erudition, diligence, and wisdom in your publications. I do not know if you are open to the idea, but I would be very interested in potentially exploring avenues of greater collaboration between confessional Muslim and Christian intellectuals. Though we bear significant differences theologically, our social values are closely aligned (though not exact, of course). Given the nature of what it is we are up against, I think there is mutual benefit to be had in such efforts, particularly if we can coalesce around a set of discrete issues with a group of intellectuals that have given thought to the types of issues you have written about (for what it is worth, I have written on a few of the same subjects as well for Muslim audiences).
With much gratitude,
My name is Michael, I am a priest in the Anglican Church of Canada and about to retire after service as a military chaplain. I hope to return to parish ministry and, in a small way, to theological education. My interests going forward are interfaith dialogue (a living concern in the chaplaincy), missiology in the local community, and what a theologically informed faith in the public square might look like. My military career, while intensely rewarding, has left my theological wits somewhat dulled, and my reading has suffered the last decade, so I am happy to follow voices such as yours that might make me better informed.
Blessings to your ministry, Michael
If you would like an advance copy of NT Wright’s upcoming book, The New Testament in Its World, please let me know. Working on interviews for the fall release.
Chad Grissom here. I attended your Theopolis course on the theology of the sexes. I had pre-ordered your upcoming book on the topic and I just got a notification that Amazon cancelled the order. Do you know what the status of the book is?
It has taken longer than expected, but it is still forthcoming.
I’ve just been listening to your very helpful talk on “men as trees walking” and I wondered if you might be interested in an Old Testament text which I suspect might have a bearing on the interpretation of this miracle. In the first stage of Jesus’ healing of the man, he sees men as trees walking. Furthermore, in the account, Bethsaida is not presented in very complimentary terms (even though some of the people there clearly had faith in Jesus) since the man is taken outside the village to be healed, and after the healing he is not to return to it! (Woe unto thee Bethsaida!!?)
Is there anywhere in the Old Testament where men and trees get confused in the context of a city under judgement? Yes, amazingly, this very expression, occurs in the rules for beseiging a city. In Deut. 20:19 we read:
“When you besiege a city a long time, to make war against it in order to capture it, you shall not destroy its trees by swinging an axe against them; for you may eat from them, and you shall not cut them down. For is the tree of the field a man, that it should be besieged by you?”
“Is the tree of the field (i.e. outside the city) a man?”
Now the context is that fruit trees are to be treated well during a siege, so that when the city is conquered, the trees will provide fruit, and life for God’s people. Treating the trees like men (and destroying them) is actually an act of faithlessness. In God’s providence it is not necessary to use this wood for the siege, even though might seem necessary in the short term.
The man in Jesus’ miracle thus initially corresponds to the faith to believe that the Deuteronomic city can be successfully besieged, but not enough faith to believe that i) God can do this without using all the available resources and ii) the city can continue to prosper afterwards. God’s plan is that there will be justice (in the destruction of the city) as well as blessing for God’s people. The other rules for warfare in Deut. 20 are pointing in the same sort of direction.
Now Jesus came not just to judge sin (the beseiged city), but also to provide life and blessing afterwards for God’s people – those who die to sin and are raised up to new life. (see also Deut. 20:14).
So the man initially seems to represents the “first half” of conversion – the judgement half – and perhaps the John the Baptist and Elijah reference corresponds to this. But the Deuteronomy passage goes beyond this, and points forwards to both judgement and to blessing though the person and work of Christ. The man’s eventual “seeing clearly” would thus correspond to the saving of one’s life through losing it via the cross (Mark 8:35). To participate, one has to leave the old city: “Come out of her my people” (Rev. 18:4)
I don’t think I’ve got the details right here, and hope you will be able to use this (if it’s at all valid) and put it all into the proper order!!
With very best wishes as always,
from Stewart Fleming
Very interesting! Thanks for this.
I’m not sure I’m convinced of this (yet), but it is most definitely suggestive and worthy of investigation.
Dear Alastair Roberts,
I just discovered your expose on Jordan Peterson and his Jung based philosophy. You make it clear and impossible to not see that he is false teacher and a Trojan Horse in even churches. At least he is honest and up front that he is promoting Carl Jung. But that is not the case with Rick Warren’s whose SHAPE Personality Profile is rooted and embedded with Carl Jung’s Temperament Divination Theory that he Jung acquired from a spirit-guide demon named Philemon. I published an article proving this published in two Conservative Christian Theological Journals. Here is a link to one of them.
RICK WARREN’S SHAPE:
Here my article on Warren’s SHAPE Personality Profile (also in his PDL book) based on Carl Jung that was published in two conservative Christian Theological Journals:
Click to access Personality%20Profiling_Jungian%20Analysis%20of%20Rick%20Warren’s%20SHAPE%20Personality%20Profiling.pdf
These are Carl Jung’s own words:
“Philemon represented a force which was not myself. … It was he who taught me psychic objectivity” ― Carl Gustav Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections
If you would like to email me I can send your the 4 color slides that accompany the the above report.
Finally, what is exponentially baffling is how many Christian scholars like you warn us about Carl Jung, but very very authors or Christian journalist exposes RIck Warren for promoting Carl Jung.
I look forward to your response.
Kindest regards in Christ,
Every time I visit my daughter, her husband (Joseph Minich) and I have late night discussions about thoughts I have going round in my head, and this almost inevitably end up with him mentioning Alastair someone or another. (-: He tell’s me that bit but I promptly forget. I think I have the name written in my phone where I write down books and films that the SIL has recommended. Well if you are THAT Alastair, I look forward to reading some of your work, Here’s hoping I won’t need to get Joe to explain it to me. The stuff he’s mentioned has really resonated with me but then again, it’s been pre-digested and brought to where I love.
Susan Nye Ferrell
Thanks for visiting and commenting, Susan! Great to hear that you are Rebecca Minich’s mum too. Joe has been such a blessing to interact with online over the last near decade and it has been wonderful to visit and stay with Joe and Rebecca and their family in the past.
Much of my work nowadays happens over on this blog devoted to podcasts and videos.
Arrgh, when will I learn to proof read before sending? The comment page doesn’t seem to allow editing of comments. The good news is this will either make me less impetuous at hitting send, or more of a lurker if I do follow your blog.
I am a pastor from central Illinois, and our church is planning on doing an adult Sunday school class on the theology of sex and gender. I have seen some of your lectures on this topic, and was excited that you were publishing a book on this topic as well. I recently received an email informing me that the publishing date had been indefinitely postponed. Do you have any idea when the book will be published? I was also wondering if you could recommend other resources on this subject for our Sunday school class?
Thank you for the work you do for the Kingdom. In Christ,
When is Heirs Together going to be published?
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed what I’ve seen of your work thus far! I have no formal theological training, so I appreciate your blog helping me to think deeper about theology. In that same vein, I’d like to pick your brain regarding collective guilt in Scripture. I’m particularly interested in the tension between Exodus 34 (visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children), Ezekiel 18 (people only dying for their own sins), and 1 John 2:2 (Christ atoning for the sins of the “whole world,” despite not saving all individuals). The doctrine of participation in Adam could resolve this tension if it extends to individual sins. That is, by committing sin as an individual, I not only incur guilt for that specific sin, but I also accept culpability for all sins ever committed by humanity, by my willing participation in the spirit of Adam. This would mean that by atoning for my sins, Christ would be covering all sins, without necessarily saving all people. It would also mean that I could be held accountable for the sins of my fathers (ie Deut 1), yet would be dying for my own sin. I’ve never heard this proposed before, so I’m curious whether you’re aware of any precedent for it.
Thanks for dropping by and for your question. The best place to leave it where it might get a response at some point is over on my Curious Cat page.
My name is Lorcan, I’m a musician and I’d like to ask you about the poem The Windhover, by Gerard Manly Hopkins. I’m very interested in the patterns and symbolism in its language
I wrote an air for the words and would love to get your opinion.
I purchased and am listening through your lectures on Theology of the Sexes. I decided to do this bc I received word that your expected book on the topic might not be out for some time. However, I was excited to have something in writing that I could refer back to given that I listen to your lectures while driving. Are there manuscripts or notes available that I could get my hands on? It would be extremely helpful for me bc I am attempting to draft a document for my organization about Biblical sexuality and gender roles in ministry.
There are no publicly available notes. Sorry.
Thanks for getting back with me. Can’t wait for the book to come out!
Good morning Alistair. I am wondering if you have any source recommendations critiquing John Stuart Mills’ concept of minimalist ethics. Thank you; appreciate all you do.
Hello brother, I have a question : How do you interpret Genesis 2.3-6 ? Some people (Calvin if I am right) interpret this as the global creation of plants (it would match the 3rd day of Genesis 1), but because of the local context of Eden I think it refers to the creation of Eden as a parallel of 2.8.
Besides there are a lot of views concerning verse 5 : these vegetables would be particular vegetables species that didn’t exist before Man’s Fall when he starts working the ground with toil whereas in the garden we are said that the trees grow automatically thanks to God’s providence through the river of Eden. I read Mark Futato’s on that “because it has rained” and found that interesting. FInally the water that flows from the ground in verse 6 is nowhere subject to unanimous translation, a hebrew nerd friend said that it is difficult to chose the right translation.
Thanks for all your edifying work ! Blessings
Last fall after reading Echoes of Eden, I subscribed to your podcast and have relished the connections you point out within Scripture. It is an immense help in my Bible study and teaching. Several questions have crossed my mind recently: What’s the point? What are the purposes for these interwoven threads? Did God write into history all these connections just to show the connectedness — and hence the reliability — of the Bible? Is there a takeaway that we should have for our own lives? Does God work in the same patterns today?
near Nashville, TN
How do I subscribe to your blog please
There’s a little tab that hovers in the bottom right hand corner!
Alastair, I want to learn how to chant the Psalms, and need some help. Do you have any recommendations for methods/principles/psalters? Thanks!
I preordered Heir Together, but recently received an email that said it was no longer being published. Is it still being released?
It is still going to be published, Lord-willing, but not soon.
Alas- Heirs Together was going to be our one refuge from Carona 😉 Blessings from all the Saints at St Luke’s Anglican Church, Miranda in Australia
What happened to Kelby Carlson’s guest post? Did he request it be taken down? Is there a way to get in touch with him?
I took it down at his request. He wanted to decrease his online profile for employment reasons. If you wanted, I could pass on your contact details to him.
That would be wonderful. How can I pass on my contact details to you securely?
The email notification I receive about your comment has your email address in it. I’ve forwarded it on to him.
And he’s already emailed me. Thank you very much.
Dr. Roberts, thanks so much for your work! Is there a good way I would be able to email or direct message you? Thanks again!
Hello, Dr. Roberts!
I have just read your 2016 blog re the social crisis of distrust and untruth, which I found immensely helpful, and I forwarded it to friends and families for their perusal. I then found myself curious as to your position on same-sex marriage, and read some of your lengthy comments on that issue posted in 2013 (I didn’t read everything – you wrote a lot!).
I come from a very different community than you, although I consider myself a serious Christian. My theology is very, very liberal, and thus we would differ on a number of things, although not all. However, I enjoy and gain a lot from reading those whose general positions differ greatly from my own, and wonder if you would consider responding to a question of mine on one small point re same-sex marriage.
I am a partner in such a marriage, and it was enormously important to me that our union be “blessed” in our church; and, fortunately for us, our church community was very willing to provide us with that gift. You make a distinction between relationships based on love, romantic and sexual attraction, etc., as opposed to the objective and binding commitment made in a “marriage.” It is on this point that I would like to engage you. In fact, when I sought a blessing of our relationship (in 1996, long before legal “marriage” was possible), my motivation had nothing whatsoever to do with “being in love” with my partner, or romantic/sexual attraction (although I did and do, very much love my partner!). What I sought was to be BOUND in precisely the way you speak of marriage binding, in an objective, community-sanctioned, and potentially very uncomfortable way. I wanted to be stuck with my partner til death do us part, regardless of how miserable that might make me in future. Even if I later met someone with whom I “fell in love with” in a far more convincing way. My reason for this is that I truly believe that the kind of profound growth and relationship I sought with my partner is only possible through a lifelong commitment that could be very difficult. We intended to embark upon a joint life, not two separate lives which happened to intersect happily for a while. And as to “romantic” or sexual love – well, as it happened my partner and I met when we were both quite mature, and hence not so swayed by such passing trivialities (and romance always does pass, being based on fantasy and illusion). Each of us, rather, experienced the other as someone who helped us to be our very best selves, and the kind of selves we needed to be in order to give back to our community the objective gifts with which we each were blessed. As a matter of fact, we have ended up in an entirely celibate relationship, and I say “ended up” simply because it just happened, and has been that way for about 25 years now. I doubt very much that that will change! It’s just that our love really has nothing to do with sex at all; sex is just an add-on that we can just as easily do without. You might believe that sex is the crux upon which a true “marriage” turns on (not having read everything you wrote), and that it is the essence of “homosexuality.” Or if not sex, per se, but at least procreation. Well, as a matter of fact, for medical reasons, both of us are and were infertile at the time we met, so the possibility of procreation even in a heterosexual union would be non-existent for us. And I really don’t believe marriage turns on sex, and I doubt that you do either.
I think that this matters because Linda and I are far from alone in our understanding of our marriage (which is now fully established by both the state and our church). In fact, most of the gay couples we enjoy spending time with are just like us (except, perhaps, for the celibacy – I have no idea what the sex lives of our friends are, and don’t want to know!). I’m sure that most of the gay folk who are serious Christians understand marriage as the solemn, entirely binding, objective fact that you describe as proper, Christian marriage. We have some acquaintances, both straight and gay, who think marriage is all about being “in love” and romance, and that when that is gone it is okay to split up, but they tend not to be the kind of thoroughly earnest folk that we are, and hence don’t get along with them so well. We, and our friends, are all terribly earnest types, alas, and no fun to be around at all!
So I do wonder how you would fit couples like us into the kind of analysis you provided way back in 2013. I do think it matters, for the church, because there are a number of us gay folk who are indeed in the church, and mutual understanding of what our relationships mean is very, very important to community life.
Sincerely, Elizabeth Morton (Calgary, Canada. I have a Masters of Theological Studies from Vancouver School of Theology; an MA in Religious Studies (biblical studies) from the University of British Columbia; much work toward an incomplete PhD in biblical studies through McGill University; a law degree, and an undergrad degree in philosophy.)
Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to respond to this, as I am rather snowed under with work at the moment. However, I wanted to thank you for taking the time to write it, and for engaging thoughtfully and critically with my piece (which still essentially describes the position I hold).
I am a recent college grad (heading off to graduate school for my MPH). I really enjoy your daily scripture meditations, as they are both intellectually fascinating and refreshing for the soul. I was wondering, do you possibly want someone to transcribe them into text for you?
I personally would volunteer to do it because I think it would help for the material to “sink in” a bit better. I used to work for a podcast so I am pretty comfortable. Let me know!
Thanks for this kind offer, Hayoung!
I’m not doing any transcriptions right now, although I have done them in the past. I am interested in exploring the possibility of working on transcriptions of my biblical reflections next year, though. If you would be interested in being involved, drop me a line using my contact form and I will get back to you.
Thank you so much for your all the work you’ve put out. The quality and volume is outstanding. I’ve found it intellectually stimulating, but most importantly, spiritually challenging.
I do have a few questions for you (and I don’t have social media accounts and cannot post a question on Curious Cat). I’m not sure you have the time to respond, but I figured I would post them here nevertheless.
1. What are your thoughts of imputation? (Do you: affirm, deny, distinguish, etc)
2. In your recent Daily Scripture reflections you discussed 2 Cor 5 and mentioned that “ἁμαρτίαν” in v. 21 should probably be taken as a “sacrifice/sin offering.” I’ve done my own reading and reflection on this passage and this is a popular perspective in interpretive history. I, however, remain unconvinced of this because the LXX uses the lexical formula περὶ ἁμαρτίας (as in Heb 10:6) to denote a sin offering. I’m unaware of anywhere in LXX or NT literature where ἁμαρτίας alone means sin offering (which doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist!). Could you point me to the commentaries you find most illuminating on this passage? And, I’d love to hear your take, though I know I’m asking a lot already.
3. Are the Gentiles the referent in Acts 2:39 of “all those who are far off?” Given Peter’s own development about Gentile inclusion within Acts (Acts 10), I find it more likely that the referent is fellow Jews throughout the Diaspora, but I’d love to hear your take.
Thanks for any interaction you’re able to provide and God bless!
Firstly, I just wanted to thank you for your writing ministry. I’ve been really helped, particularly, by your thoughts on gender and ordination.
I’m curious. What were some of the resources / texts you found most helpful in developing your views on these matters?
How would an organization go about booking you to teach?
The contact form on my other blog is the best way to get in contact with me more directly.
Hi Alistair. I have appreciated your work on your blog, YouTube channel, as well as the Davenant Digests very much. Your thought and writing strikes me as thoughtful, courageous, creative, and generous. I have been trying to track down a copy of your most recent book, “Heirs Together”. Why is not available on amazon, nor with the publisher? Can you point me to a seller and also helpful reviews or articles that engage it? Thanks.
It isn’t available because it isn’t complete yet!
Hi Alastair – I recently listened to an old podcast on Mere Fidelity about manhood and loved something you said about approaching conversations about gender using the language of beauty or aesthetics because of its inherent mystery. You compared gender difference to two instruments playing the same note, and I thought that was one of the more helpful things I’ve ever heard about gender. Are there any works you’ve come across that focus on thinking about gender in terms of aesthetics or beauty? / any more resources you could point me toward? I enjoyed the brief clips you posted about gender on your website.
Thanks, Christina! I am writing a lengthy book of my own that gets into some of these issues.
Hi Alastair, I’ve been enjoying your writings, the daily readings of Scripture (OT/NT), and your 5-point replies on Mere Fidelity.
I just wanted to especially thank you for the insistence on thoroughness, and charity, and gentleness that has marked your work thus far. I do not think that it is easy to be patient with people who know a lot less and speak a lot quicker, and I praise God for your faithfulness with the knowledge that you do have.
I will be praying for you and your work, and if you should ever drop by Singapore – I doubt I can offer you too much in the way of theology, but I do have a good eye for food. Thank you for loving the body of Christ with your mind and heart. I am one of many grateful believers who have been built up.
Grace and peace, Joseph
Thanks, Joseph! I would love to visit Singapore some day.
Dear Professor Roberts,
I recently read an article you wrote for Mere Fidelity, entitled “Why we should jettison the ‘Strong Female’ character’. I found it deeply insightful and resonated a lot with the things you said. I had found the article while researching for my college application’s Personal Statement, it was one of the first writings I found that perfectly encapsulated my issues with feminism/femininity and being a woman. I have spent much of my life at conflict with myself and my femininity. Media taught me that being soft or empathic was weak and being vain or girlish made you unintelligent.
I am not at all religious, but I will continue to read your articles and essays. As someone who has grown up atheist in a non-religious community, I find your writings fascinating and informative. Although I plan to pursue a degree in science, you have influenced me to consider courses in theology as well.
Thank you, Olive! I’m glad to hear that you found it helpful.
I mostly produce material over on my podcast and video blog nowadays, although I do occasionally post something here.
All of the best in the pursuit of your studies!
I am extremely curious… why are links for ax a pirate here? I have no idea who you are but I am a bit confused. I recalled earlier this evening some funny videos my fiance, friends and I watched in 2006. The age old pirate vs ninja argument was a huge part of our friendship betweenthe 4 of us. I tried to find some info about the channel and I found a short blurb on this site. I can’t find anything else. What is the connection? I have no social media because I try to keep my internet existence minimal. Past trauma and the internet… I do not want to be found. so this seems to be my only option to reach out. As I expected both ask and ax direct to the dreaded ninja YouTube… I think they always did but I’m not sure. I am providing my real email address and not my anonymous one. I hope you don’t think I’m crazy. Just those videos reminded me of a very good part of my life, before suicide and abuse changed my life. I hope for an answer but I expect none.
I apparently linked to them back in 2006, in an old blog whose archives I included in this. I’ve been blogging for a long time and can’t recall how I first came across them.
I am very sorry to hear the way that you have been hurt since that time.
Hi Alastair! Don’t know if you remember me. We were Prolific buddies for a season, and connected on spiritual matters thereafter. You once wrote an article whose primary thesis is that righteousness is relational. My wife asked me today if I still had the article. Sadly, I can’t find it. Would you still have access to a copy (or an update)?
I definitely remember you, Scott! I’ve emailed you what I suspect you are looking for.
What a small world – I’ve been playing Prolific for several years, and I remember enjoying many games with you Alastair (and your Word Masters alter ego, as well as some with Scott). Tonight, my 20 year old son had some of your videos going on the TV, and I recognized your name so I had to look you up and check if it was the same person!
Wow! It is a very small world. 🙂
Hi Alistair! Happy Sunday 😊
I was just reading – and troubled by – Numbers 5:11-31 so googled it and boom! There you are! Thanks SO much for such a wonderful, thought provoking explanation. Yay God and Yay you for being such a good and faithful witness. Have a great day!
Pleased to hear that you found it helpful! Thanks for the encouragement.
You’ve made allusions here and there to topics related to creationism, but I can’t seem to find anywhere you address it directly and thoroughly. Are we ever likely to see an all-in-one treatment of the age of the earth, human origins, death before the fall, and the apparent discrepancy between the Bible and scientific consensus? That might also be a place to deal with evangelical applications of the doctrine of inerrancy.
Not any time soon! I generally avoid the subject because it is one of those debates that sucks too much energy into it, while producing little light or much else of value. Creationism has been a dangerous source of conspiracy theories and bad science on the one side and much anti-creationism has undermined the Christian doctrines of creation and Scripture. I don’t feel at all able to address the scientific questions responsibly either (although I can see enough to know that ‘creation science’ is generally profoundly unreliable and best avoided). For that reason, along with the fact that I really don’t think that Genesis settles the questions as tidily as either side would like, I would best devote my energies to issues where I am more qualified to speak and where there is more possibility of meaningful progress.
Hey Mr. Roberts,
I’m currently an MDiv student in the American Midwest and I’ve been thinking about pursuing a PhD. Your work as well as Leithart’s and Jordan’s et al. has delightfully illumined my understanding of the Bible. My interests include first and foremost Biblical Theology, secondarily Ancient Near Eastern Studies (I’d love to learn Aramaic too), and recently, patristic theology. As one who has stared at the gulf of graduate programs and exercised course-specific discretion, could you 1) recommend any programs that would encompass most if not all of these interests (from what I’ve found many schools don’t allow multi-disciplinary research and circumscribe students to one, myopic concentration), and 2) provide feedback on how to cull the menagerie of schools and options? On this last point, sometimes it seems there’s so many possible contenders that there are none.
I am probably not the best person to ask for recommendations here. I wonder whether James Bejon would be able to help you out. I could put you in contact with him if you want.
Yeah that’d be nice if you don’t mind!
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org if you need to send me any further info. Thanks!
Greetings Dr. Roberts,
I wanted to contact you to see if your book on a theology of the sexes will be published soon. I enjoyed reading the Via Media Podcast which covered this topic in 2019. Thank you for your contributions to the church.
I have greatly benefited from your podcasts working through the Scriptures, as well as Echoes of Eden. This morning as I listened, the thought occurred to me that it could be immensely helpful – when you finish all the brief commentaries – if you were to go back to each book, listing and briefly explaining the main themes/key words found within.
Hi Alastair, I recently read your post on “The Politics of the Day of the Lord—2 Peter 3:8-15a” on politicaltheology.com. Preterism is an extraordinarily powerful idea for interpreting the New Testament, but I can’t help but be unnerved. e.g. you write “With the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in AD70, that route of access to God is completely closed off, leaving nothing but judgment for those who continue to rely upon it. This is the melting of the firmament and the elements, the removal of the protective cover that the Temple afforded the people of the land and their works.”
If even a passage referring to the dissolution of the elements of the world can be “preterised”, then what language do we have left in the New Testament to describe the Second Coming? What defence have we against the so called “Full-Preterists”?
Thanks for the comment.
The point is not to ‘preterize’ but to interpret. Likewise, when reading the Scripture, our chief concern should not be to defend ourselves against the full preterists, but to be faithful and accurate in our understanding of the text. The reading I presented is not a novel one. John Owen, for instance, made a similar one back in the 17th century.
Besides, if you do adopt a non-preterist reading of that and other such passages, you get into problems with Jesus and the apostles being incorrect in their prophecies.
I am not a full preterist. We have other prophecies in Scripture (for instance concerning the general resurrection) of which we still await the fulfilment. Furthermore, scriptural prophecy often has a telescoping character, with initial fulfilments followed by greater future fulfilments. For instance, the new covenant prophecies initially refer to the return from exile, but also to what Christ accomplishes, and to the restoration of all things that we still await.
I’m having trouble finding a copy of your book, Heirs Together. Could you share a link to where I could purchase one?
Thanks for your work! Keep the faith!
I’m having trouble finding a copy of your book Heirs Together. Could you send along a link to where I may purchase one of those?
Thanks for your work!
I wanted to ask if you could give me any recommendations on Old and New Testament scholars that I should read. I am currently in the process of diving deeper into New Testament and Old Testament (with great help coming from your daily podcast) and want to spend great time with a singular scholar’s work for a long amount of time. Right now I have been looking at the works of Thom Schriner as he was suggested by a friend. But suggestion would be helpful, I don’t really know of many influential scholars in both fields.
The following are some scholars and works that I found really helpful in getting into Old and New Testament theology.
James Jordan, especially Through New Eyes. Peter Leithart, especially A House For My Name. Richard Hays, especially Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels and Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul. N.T. Wright’s Christian Origins and the Question of God series, especially Jesus and the Victory of God. While you will probably start to recognize flaws and limitations in each of these scholars’ approaches as you dig deeper, in my experience these scholars have been extremely influential on my reading of Scripture more generally.
Thank you very much, I will get as soon as I am able.
I recently came across a podcast which you did with Gerald McDermott on his show, Via Media. It was excellent and since then I have been trying to track down a copy of your book, Heirs Together: A Theology of the Sexes; but, alas to no avail.
Are you aware of anywhere this might be purchased, or quite honestly, anyone who may have an extra copy they would be willing to sell?
Thanks ever so much,
All the best,
Unfortunately, the book hasn’t been finished or released yet and probably won’t be for some time yet.
Oh, I see! That certainly clears my questions up, then.
Thank you for letting me know and I look forward with eagerness to when your volume is ready to set sail in the world.
All the best,
Greetings from Spain. Would you please send me an email? I would like to invite you to publish an article in our journal, which we will translate into Spanish. I look forward to hearing from you. Kind regards.
Greetings from Canada, I would like your advice on biblical commentaries on the Gospel of Luke hat touches on symbolism.
For an accessible level work, Robert Tannehill gets into some dimensions of the symbolism and is pretty good on the intertextuality. There are lots of things he doesn’t explore, though.
Alastair, I dip into Mere Fidelity and Davenant podcasts from time to time and in one of those places I heard you talking about holiness in the context of Leviticus (I think). I have been looking and looking for where I heard you talk about that and I can’t find it.
The main thing that I want to know more about (and I’m sure I’m going to garble this awfully) is the idea of holiness being directed toward bringing people in toward God rather than being distanced from God. Whatever it was I heard really opened up my eyes to the beauty of the law of God and I want to know more. Do you have any articles or messages/lectures which would help me?
I’m not sure where that was, sorry. I have some more stuff on Leviticus linked here.
I came across this short article: https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2013/01/the-theology-of-disability, but the link to the original blog post no longer works. Is there any way I could access the original post? Or can you point me in the direction of some of Kelby Carlson’s other writings?
The post was removed at the author’s request and is no longer available. Sorry.
Hi Alastair, came across your ministry after your interview at Speak Life. I loved what you were saying about Genesis. I’m preaching on it at the moment so looked up your excellent piece “The Music and the meaning of male and female”.
Whilst I was at theological college in 2008 I did a dissertation on Genesis and 1 Tim. 2 in relation to women’s ministry. I read so much stuff and couldn’t believe that virtually no one spotted why Paul describes Eve as having been deceived but Adam not. Do NT scholars even study the OT? This is pretty disturbing to me given our commission to correctly handle the word. Anyway, I was so encouraged that your excellent article explains this well: “The difference between the adam and the woman here helps to explain how the woman could be deceived, while the man was not.”
Great reflections on Genesis – thanks so much.
Hi Alistair, my name is Grant Van Brimmer. Found you through Theopolis podcast. Grateful for your service in the church.
Hi Alastair, I am a masters students doing a dissertation exploring the necessity of Christ’s maleness in the Atonement (trying to respond to feminist Christologies). I was wondering whether it would be possible to email you about some your insights in Genesis 2? No problem if not. Thank you for your work. Lydia
How do I get a copy of Heirs Together?
I found you via a search on books related to Theology of the sexes
The book isn’t published yet.
Hi Alastair, Ive read your book Echoes of Exodus and desperately wants to read
Heirs Together: A Theology of the Sexes, but cant find it anywhere! Can you advice me how to get it please.
The book hasn’t been released yet.
Alastair, congratulations on your new marriage! I hope y’all are enjoying your honeymoon (or did enjoy it if you’re back). Marriage is wonderful.
I recently wrote a piece for The Gospel Coalition on meditation as a “living bridge” between Scripture and prayer, and developing that idea into a book proposal. My own study of Scripture has been influenced by the approach in your work and the Theopolitans (I’m a Beeson Divinity grad, and have heard Dr. Leithart speak there), and also been a fan of your writing and Mere Fidelity for a while, so I’d appreciate your thoughts on some of the questions below, in whatever format you prefer – you can email me back, or we could schedule a 15- or so-minute phone or Zoom chat.
Thanks for your time!
1. How do you define meditating on Scripture, and how is it different from simply reading the Scriptures (if it is)?
2. Your approach to reading Scripture seems akin to literary practices of “close reading,” with a strong sensitivity to patterns, repetitions, and genre forms. Who or what has most shaped your understanding that the Scriptures can be read fruitfully in that way?
3. What helps you take the “objective” practice of studying a passage of Scripture intellectually and let it feed your personal spiritual life?
I work with a french reformed blog named parlafoi who translate Davenant Institute’s Guides and videos, Theopolis Institute’s articles and Biblical Horizon’s resources. We would like to know if we can translate and record in French your biblical commentary on the Bible. There is a great need and thirst in France for such resources. Thank you !
In light of your recent critical review of a few books on “being a man”, I’d love to hear some of your recommendations for healthier books for men to read instead. God bless.
Hi Alistair, lovely pictures of Cambridge and Durham, places dear to my heart. I’d like to contact you offline with an idea – can you email me? thanks.
Hello Alistair, I’m finding your theological articles to be helpful and enlightening.
Our pastor just brought the book “Its good to be a man” He gave it to the men’s group that meets every month for breakfast, and a study. He now wants to have the men meeting every two weeks to get through it quickly.
What we have seen in this book is evil. We are a conservative Baptist church.
I hope you are keeping busy. Would you email me? Id like to ask a favor.
A number of us in Virginia Beach have been following us for a while now (especially through your audible commentary series). But recently we’ve been having discussions about your posts about church and locality. There’s about 60 of us regularly taking about this issue in VB and the clarity with which you have articulated the problem is really helping. We want to know how to take next steps here. I was wondering if you’d consider coming out to speak with us sometime. Not sure if you do that sort of thing. Obviously we could put you up and pay you for your time. We just would love to go further with putting this conversation into action and could use some help. Let me know if you might be willing to chat. Thanks. And keep up the good work!
Aloha! Would love to interview you on the TheLaymensLounge.com podcast in connection with “DOES CREEDAL
SEXUAL ETHICS?” Please let me know if youd be down to help give the gift of orthodoxy this Christmas!
Thanks for the invitation. Unfortunately, I’m absolutely snowed under with commitments at the moment, so will have to pass.
Heard you on the Mere Fidelity podcast and how you are still working on the non-lectionary posts of the Bible. I wrote a dissertation on the genealogies of the Chronicler. Feel free to reach out to me if you would be interested.
Hello, my name is Joanna and I am a mum based in Oxfordshire. Thank you very much for the two-year programme of Biblical readings and reflections. I really appreciated the depth and thoughtfulness of the commentary and it made for very rich devotional times. Thank you for all your hard work!
Thank you for the encouragement!
I highly enjoyed your recent appearance on the Good Faith Effort Podcast, and was excited to hear about your upcoming book. The significance of the numbers that appear are indeed illuminating. Eliezer travelling with Abraham a good example ;). I was hoping that you may be interested to discuss a few topics in a bit more detail (from An Orthodox Jewish perspective). I thank you in anticipation of your email.
All my best,
Just sent you an email!
Any other big podcast series in the pipeline? Or do I listen to The Family of Abraham series again.
There is my chapter-by-chapter commentary on the whole Bible… https://audio.alastairadversaria.com/playlists/1/biblical-reading-and-reflections/
Do you have any references to a Jewish similar understanding of your Sabbath as key to the Law? That would cinch it for me.
Hello. I am a Christian and live near Montrose in Scotland, where I attend a Free Church. I just came across your work when I was looking for some analysis of the subject of ‘replacement theology’ (your video response to someone’s question). I found it helpful for answering a Christian Zionist or Dispensational view. Have subscribed to your Daily Biblical Reflections on YouTube. Thank you for your work.
Hi, I recently read one of your essays on Theopolis about Judges 19. I would love to have you on as my guest on my podcast to interview you more about it. Let me know if you are interested. Thank you!
Thanks for all the resources you put time into producing. I’ve found them very helpful and stimulating to engage with since coming across your work.
I’ve seen a book about the sexes called “Heirs Together” listed at various places online. Is this a book you are indeed writing? If so, I’d love to know if you have a sense of when it might be published.
It would be great to hear from you.
There isn’t a date set for its publication at the moment. I have recently revived work on the project, though.
Amazing. I’ll look forward to reading when it’s finished and available! Thanks again.