Family Holiday in Whitby and Congregation

Over the last week or so I enjoyed a holiday with my family, preceded by a day watching England beat New Zealand in the final one day international at Chester Le Street. Last Wednesday was the day of my congregation, so there are also some pictures of that. Click on any picture to look closer, or to scroll through the set.

Posted in My Doings, Photos | 3 Comments

Open Mic Thread 32

Mic

The open mic thread is where you have the floor and can raise or discuss issues of your choice. There is no such thing as off-topic here. The comments of this thread are free for you to:

  • Discuss things that you have been reading/listening to/watching recently
  • Share interesting links
  • Share stimulating discussions in comment threads
  • Ask questions
  • Put forward a position for more general discussion
  • Tell us about yourself and your interests
  • Publicize your blog, book, conference, etc.
  • Draw our intention to worthy thinkers, charities, ministries, books, and events
  • Post reviews
  • Suggest topics for future posts
  • Use as a bulletin board
  • Etc.

Over to you!

Earlier open mic threads: 123456, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14,15,16,17,18,19,20,2122,23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31.

Posted in Open Mic | 31 Comments

The Politics of the Death of the Nation’s Beloved

My latest post over at Political Theology Today has just been published. This week, I am reflecting on 2 Samuel 1, and David’s lament over the deaths of Saul and Jonathan.

David and Solomon are the archetypal kings, not on account of military might or prowess, but because they are the great lovers of Israel. David’s story is one of power gained through the winning of people’s love. Saul loved him (1 Samuel 16:21); Jonathan loved him (18:1-4); the women of Israel loved him (18:6-7); Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved him (18:28); all of Israel and Judah loved him (18:16). David—whose name means ‘beloved’—is loved by God and expresses a deep love in return. As Augustine once observed, “Cantare amantis est” (Sermon 336): it is the lover who sings and David is the sweet singer of Israel, the one in whom Israel’s devotion to YHWH bursts forth into the joy of song.

The friendship between David and Jonathan reflects David’s gaining of power through love. The story of their love begins with the young David being taken from his father’s house and brought into the house of Saul, much as a bride would be (1 Samuel 18:2), and as Jonathan initiates a covenant with him. David’s attractive appearance—ruddy, and bright-eyed—is not the arresting masculinity of Saul’s great stature and physique, but a softer, more feminine one. However, after stripping himself of the garments that displayed his royal masculine status and giving them to David, Jonathan, who formerly distinguished himself as a man on the battlefield, stays at home, is paralleled with Michal (1 Samuel 18:28; 19:1), is cast as a ‘mama’s boy’ (1 Samuel 20:30), and becomes more dependent upon David in emotional and material ways. Meanwhile, the text masculinizes David, who goes out and fights in the most virile fashion, obtaining two hundred foreskins from the Philistines. Yaron Peleg observes that the literary portrayal of David and Jonathan’s relationship in gendered imagery serves the purpose of highlighting the political reversal whereby David is established as husband and father for the nation in Jonathan’s place.

Read the whole thing here.

Posted in 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, Guest Post, OT, OT Theology, Politics, Song of Solomon, Theological | Leave a comment

Christians, Liturgy, and the Past—Part 2

Last week I guest posted the first part of a two part discussion of liturgy and the past on the Theopolis Institute, which we also discussed on the latest episode of Mere Fidelity. The second part of the article has just been published. Here is an extract:

Louis Marie Chauvet speaks of the dynamics of a “cultic conservatism” that replicates and maintains historic rites across many generations, yet in a manner that involves a growing “disjunction between the logic of their production and the logic of their reproduction.” The original purpose and meaning that rites possessed can be forgotten as the convictions driving their current practice shift from those that gave rise to their creation to others responding to the various unarticulated benefits that have come to be associated subconsciously with them.

This is a constant danger to which a conservative impulse is exposed: that the very attempt to preserve or reproduce the past is driven by logic alien to that which first animated that past. Perhaps the most basic form that this can take is seen in conservatism’s common propensity to value and preserve tradition as such over the things that the tradition itself once stood for

Chauvet illustrates some of the ways in which the conservative impulse to maintain the practice of a rite can be at odds with the logic that originally grounded it. He discusses the lingering desire for baptism among many who do not seem to hold to the meaning that baptism has within Christian theology.[7] He identifies, behind this desire, different ways in which the practice of baptism has come to answer a hunger for particular understandings of the sacred. Baptism can become the symbol for such values as tradition, social integration, cultural identity, morality, transcendence, beauty, celebration, or nostalgia for childhood innocence. Despite the preservation of the Christian tradition of the sacrament, through the distorting effect of a particular sort of a subconscious—and thus intensely powerful—conservative impulse, the rite has come to mean something quite different from that which it originally did.

Read the entire post here.

Posted in Controversies, Culture, Liturgical Theology, Society, The Church, The Sacraments, Theological, Worship | 7 Comments

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Sophia?

I’ve written some brief thoughts on the question of the biblical and apocryphal imagery of Sophia.

The image of Wisdom (Sophia) in Proverbs and elsewhere needs to be understood in terms of the broader picture within she occurs. The entire book of Proverbs is about the relationship between the royal son and wisdom, framed in terms of the quest for a good wife. The book juxtaposes the way of folly, of the foolish woman who leads to destruction, with Lady Wisdom and the noble wife, who should be desired and sought. The book ends with the portrait of the noble wife, Lady Wisdom as royal consort. The prince’s relationship with Wisdom is presented as erotic in character, comparable to the relationship between a man and wife (a theme even more pronounced in Wisdom 8:2ff.).

More here.

Posted in 1 Corinthians, Bible, Controversies, Creation, Doctrine of God, NT, NT Theology, OT, OT Theology, Passing the Salt Shaker, Proverbs, Scripture, The Triune God, Theological | 15 Comments

Open Mic Thread 31

Mic

The open mic thread is where you have the floor and can raise or discuss issues of your choice. There is no such thing as off-topic here. The comments of this thread are free for you to:

  • Discuss things that you have been reading/listening to/watching recently
  • Share interesting links
  • Share stimulating discussions in comment threads
  • Ask questions
  • Put forward a position for more general discussion
  • Tell us about yourself and your interests
  • Publicize your blog, book, conference, etc.
  • Draw our intention to worthy thinkers, charities, ministries, books, and events
  • Post reviews
  • Suggest topics for future posts
  • Use as a bulletin board
  • Etc.

Over to you!

Earlier open mic threads: 123456, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15,16,17,18,19,20,2122,23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30.

Posted in Open Mic | 25 Comments

Our Culture of Reading and the End of Dialogue in the Internet Age

Matt Lee Anderson has a typically perceptive essay over at Mere Orthodoxy on the subject of our habits of reading in the Internet Age and how these are unconducive to reflective and receptive dialogue. He writes:

I suggested above that a world that does not read deeply will struggle to speak reasonably with each other. That claim deserves more attention, as it is not intuitively obvious. If my hypothesis that deep reading demands trust gets anywhere near the truth, it would provide one reason why a world of shallow readers would also be a world of combative and reactive interlocutors. When our posture is one of skepticism or defensiveness toward what we read, our tone in response will be as well. Winsomely and cheerfully defending the truths of Christianity means charitably reading those who oppose us.

The paradox of this is that the very promise the internet made for intellectually minded Christians is the one that it necessarily cannot fulfill, at least not for very long. As someone who began his public career by organizing the first conference for Christian bloggers back in 2004, I know well the triumphalism of the “new media” and the possibilities for improved and expanded dialogue with those we disagreed with inherent in it. Those possibilities may have come to pass in some small corners (like this one!), but more often than not the speed and anonymity of the internet brought out the least charitable and most polarizing aspects of our world. And that was among a body of people whose first movements in this world didn’t have screens in front of them. Those who are children now will struggle even more than we, unless they are fed a steady diet of books.

Read the whole piece here.

Matt’s points about the connection between our online media and our habits of reading, thought, discourse, and argument will be familiar to readers of writers such as Nicholas Carr. However, I believe that they are extremely important. I have reflected upon these things extensively over the last several years and, in large part as a result of this, I am reaching the conclusion that the Internet isn’t generally serving me well on these fronts.

Like Matt, this has brought me to the point of radically reassessing my online reading, writing, socializing, and dialoguing. Most of the time I spend reading material online would be better spent reading published material offline. Most of the time I spend writing material for blogs, comments, tweets, e-mails, and other online discussions would be better spent writing in a more polished and detailed fashion. Most of the time I spend socializing online would be better spent interacting with people in person. Much of the time I spend dialoguing online—with the esteemed commenters on this blog excluded—could be more productively spent doing … well, just about anything else!

As I have argued before, greater speed, increased efficiency, the reduction of ‘friction’, more information, and greater sociality are often detrimental to our habits of reading, thought, writing, and argument (follow any of the eight links in this sentence for much more of my thoughts on the subject). Those of us who know life before the Internet and especially before the web started to be dominated by a few social networks and when it provided room for much more obscurity and privacy, with much less supervision, may sense a loss that many of our younger peers might not. Many of the sorts of conversations that first inspired me to start a blog are no longer possible now on the Internet now. Indeed, what it means to blog has changed considerably. The future of the Internet for me may well be a movement back to such archaic media as private e-mail discussion lists, where it is still possible to have slow, non-reactive, non-intimate, and intelligent conversations with select groups of interlocutors, who can be held to high standards of interpretation, argumentation, and dialogue. The value of and great need for online contexts that are slower, ‘frictionful’, pared down, less social, less efficient, less intimate, obscurer, less accessible, less inclusive, less interactive, less connected, etc. has never been so clear to me. It is in such contexts that reading, thought, and discourse may finally thrive.

Posted in Culture, Ethics, On the web, Society, The Blogosphere | 26 Comments