Grenz Ricoeur Shelf

Grenz Ricoeur Shelf

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Weekly Reads - 20 February 2016 - In Defense of the Oxford Comma


Ken Schenck: Elephants Rule
Jonathan Haidt showed repeatedly, largely on the basis of experiments conducted, that people immensely follow their immediate intuitions rather than coming to conclusions on the basis of reason. Intuition is like an elephant that turns the rider (reasoning) in a certain direction, and then reasoning strategizes in that direction. Bottom line: "Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second." 
Our intuitions are like an elephant, and we have them in a fraction of a second. One study in the chapter compared the results of past elections with the flash intuitions of contemporary individuals looking at the pictures of the candidates. The question asked was, "Who looks more competent?" The results of the election highly correlated to those immediate intuitions of people who had no idea who these candidates were, what party they belonged to, or what their actual competency was.
Observations like this cause me to think that the advertising companies have a more perceptive implicit anthropology, focused as it is on the shaping of your desires and affections toward a particular end (ie, buying stuff), than the default of a great many still, that persons are primarily "thinking things." I think this also highlights the importance of the work of someone like James K. A. Smith and his emphasis on our loves, the affections, and desires - and the ordering of these toward the kingdom. For more see his books: Desiring the Kingdom, Imagining the Kingdom, and the soon to be released You are What You Love.




I'm completely behind this push by Sarah Bessey (with my normal disclaimer that I prefer the descriptors 'mutuality' and 'mutualist' rather than 'egalitarian'): Let’s collaborate for strong Jesus-centred kingdom-focused marriages


Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed on Miroslav Volf on the unhelpfulness of the so-called 'Secularization Thesis': Secularization Theory Ignores the Evidence


Just one quibble - I like my eggs scrambled.

Livingchurch.org: Pastoral Care Should Punch Us in the Face
The idea that a pastor would sometimes say uncomfortable things and impose discipline is foreign to many congregations today, but that is because for more than a generation we in church leadership have promoted the pastor-as-life-coach model while never talking about the hard road and the narrow gate that leads to salvation. Our parishes need priests today who are neither life coaches nor “middle managers for the Lord.”

The New APPS blog: Apple, the FBI, iPhones, and the Extended Mind Hypothesis - On the philosophical, legal, and ethical downsides of the federal government forcing access to the encrypted iPhone of the San Bernadino shooters.
There are a variety of reasons why Apple might do this, beyond Tim Cook’s love of privacy and the security of Apple’s customers. One is that, as Will Oremus points out on Slate, of the big three Silicon Valley companies (Apple, Google and Facebook), Apple is the only one whose business model is notpremised on selling off or otherwise distributing customer data. So this is a very good opportunity for brand differentiation. The leaders of places like Russia and China will also be watching: if Apple can be compelled by the U.S. government to enable access to its phones, then presumably it can be compelled by those governments too, and China in particular represents a very, very big market. Indeed, the FBI itself has a very poor track record when it comes to respecting privacy and keeping its searches within the bounds of legal authorization, and it’s easy to argue that the fight over encryption is very useful in getting us all to forget the incredible growth of surveillance – one might even argue that we now live in a surveillance state.

Ben Witherington on Mistranslated and Miquoted Verses - Isaiah 45.7.


The Oxford Comma is super!

Theology Forum: Book Review of From Nature to Creation by Norman Wirzba.


Christ and University: Marking Gratitude - Rethinking Plagiarism
The implication of this understanding of intelligibilia, words, and ownership is that at its core plagiarism is not theft so much as a violation of intimacy. As Griffiths points out, the Latin word “plagiarius” originally meant a kidnapper, particularly one who steals a child or seduces a lover. Thus a plagiarist violates intimacy. What the plagiarist takes is not another’s words or ideas themselves—these are commons and cannot be exclusively owned—but rather the author’s claim to a unique and originary intimacy with these words. Words are the fruit of intimacy with knowledge (this metaphor becomes even more rich if one considers the connotations of the Hebrew word for knowing, “yada”), yet a plagiarist wants to claim the fruit without doing the hard work of cultivating that relationship.

Business Insider: 10 popular grammar myths debunked


Grammarly.com

Ponder Anew: Worship Isn’t Always In a Major Key - I witnessed a facebook conversation the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday about what a particular person in my feed didn't understand about the liturgical season of Lent. Much of what this person was against seemed like a caricature of Lent and the church year that I myself used to have. However, one prominent reason cited was that Lent was such a downer and God has instead called us to celebrate! I have to say here that I like a good church celebration as much as anyone else, but yet Lent has become very important to me. I think one reason (there are many others) is my inability to keep up with the emphasis on constant celebration. My wife and I have endured a lot of struggle and heartache, including three miscarriages. When we arrived at a new (Baptist) church start that followed the lectionary it was refreshing to me. Even now we attend a eucharistic liturgy on Sundays. Why the lectionary, liturgy, and lent? Because built within into each of these is mourning and repenting along with celebrating on both a weekly and yearlong basis. As the link above says, "worship isn't [indeed can't be] always in a major key." If our weekly worship exists to story and shape us according to the narrative of Jesus our Liberating King, we can't only celebrate. Beyond mere therapeutic ends; our sorrows, griefs, and depressions need to narrated in the way and story of Jesus as well. I've increasingly found the lectionary, liturgy, and Lent already well suited for lament as a much needed spiritual practice.


Commas, Oxford Commas, and Semi-colons

Important notice: Some of you may have noticed me even more absent on social media than usual lately. There is a reason for this: I've purposely dropped off facebook until after Easter Sunday. A lot of things precipitated this, but certain events recently confirm it's a providential decision at this time. I can't give details, but if I were to use the language of Paul Ricoeur, I'd say there was a major 'disorientation' this last week. Now, Ricoeur also reminds us that out of these things, there is also a 'reorientation by disorientation.' However, to facilitate the 'reorientation by disorientation' I am turning to my Lent observance and to a fast from forms of social media like facebook. But please note as well, there will still be the occasional instagram pic (that will show up on facebook as well) to let folks know I'm still alive. As well, I'm still receiving messages through facebook messenger for those who need to contact me in that way. A blessed Lent to everyone.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Weekly Reads - 13 February 2016 - Theological Valentine's Day Edition

Hello all. Did you miss me? Its been awhile, but I promise its been for good reasons. After the last 'Weekly Reads' I was busy writing a paper which I had the pleasure of reading here at New College for the weekly Theology and Ethics Seminar hosted by the University of Edinburgh's School of Divinity. The paper was titled, "Is God (Still) Social: The Social Trinity and its Critics in Conversation with Stanley J. Grenz" and it went well. The Q&A afterwards was also good, and my prior decision to answer any hard questions with "Jesus," "because the Bible says so," and "thus says the Lord" seemed a wise move on my part. Then I got sick with the flu, which, though not intentional, wasn't a good move on my part. But, thankfully, I'm back in time for Valentines Day.

Bookworm Valentine

Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Valentine

Far from the commercialised Hallmark Holiday of contemporary Western culture, it seems Valentine's Day takes its name from not one, but three historic Christian martyrs known as St. Valentine and associated with February 14.

St. Valentine

Spiritual Friendship: Wisdom from Eve Tushnet - Being Single Shouldn't Mean Being Alone

Gottfried Willhelm von Leibniz Valentine

The Junia Project: 5 Myths of Male Headship - This is good for a take on what headship doesn't mean. For a start on what we might make of headship constructively, see the next link from Lucy Peppiatt.

Martin Luther Valentine

Lucy Peppiatt: Talking Heads - On marriage and headship in Ephesians (countering the view that sees headship as "authority over."
A woman, finding herself married to a Christian man in one of Paul’s churches, like a Gentile, or a slave, should have had the disorientating experience of being treated as an equal. Not only this, but unlike many of the pagan husbands around them, she would find that her husband had committed himself to be faithful, binding himself to her for life, loving her as he loves his own body, recognising her gifts and potential as a co-heir of the grace of life, and working to see all of that fulfilled in an analogous fashion to the manner in which we are nurtured and empowered by Christ, who above all, is our Saviour.
Peppiatt's take on headship meshes well I think with Sarah Sumner's close linking of headship with the theological notion of oneness in her book Men and Women in the Church.

John Wesley Valentine

Missio Alliance: Lonely Sunday: Single Christians and the Church’s Opportunity - I completely agree, "The problem to be fixed isn’t singleness—it’s a singular view of what it looks like to have a complete life." (HT: Jesus Creed)

Metaphysical Valentine

At 'Uncommon God, Common Good' Paul Louis Metzger has a couple posts on whether monogamy still makes any philosophical sense in our time of cultural upheaval (hint: he thinks it does):
What’s Up with Monogamy? Reflections and Resolutions in a Time of Transition
Monogamous Sex Makes ‘Good’ Sense to Reason, or Does It?
Friedrich Schleiermacher Valentine

Boy meets girl, you probably know how the story goes. First comes love, then comes marriage, and then ... well, life happens. I know it doesn't seem very 'romantic' but in the wake of realities like miscarriage, infertility, enduring depression, unemployment, living paycheck to paycheck, the joys and trials of raising kids or the struggle of being childless - and fill in your own blanks here - marriage tends to be a test of endurance and fidelity as much an anything else.

This seems to be a good look at What Romance Means After 10 Years of Marriage (or more):
Traditional romance is heady and exciting precisely because — and not in spite of the fact that — there are still lingering questions at the edges of the frame: “Will I be enough for this person? Will she stop wanting me someday? Is he as amazing as he seems/feels/tastes?” 
But once you’ve been married for a long time (my tenth anniversary is in a few months!), a whole new kind of romance takes over. It’s not the romance of rom-coms, which are predicated on the question of “Will he/she really love me (which seems impossible), or does he/she actually hate me (which seems far more likely and even a little more sporting)?” Long-married romance is not the romance of watching someone’s every move like a stalker, and wanting to lick his face but trying to restrain yourself. It’s not even the romance of “Whoa, you bought me flowers, you must REALLY love me!” or “Wow, look at us here, as the sun sets, your lips on mine, we REALLY ARE DOING THIS LOVE THING, RIGHT HERE.” That’s dating romance, newlywed romance. You’re still pinching yourself. You’re still fixated on whether it’s really happening. You’re still kind of sort of looking for proof. The little bits of proof bring the romance. The question of whether you’ll get the proof you require brings the romance. (The looking for proof also brings lots of fights, but that’s a subject for another day.) 
After a decade [or more] of marriage, if things go well, you don’t need any more proof. What you have instead — and what I would argue is the most deeply romantic thing of all — is this palpable, reassuring sense that it’s okay to be a human being. (HT: Internet Monk
Augustine Valentine

Branson Parler: Marriage Wasn't Designed to Solve Lonliness - On marriage, singleness and the church.
Our confusion about marriage and singleness has an underlying root: confusion about our call as the family of God. Amazingly, when God first said, “It is not good that man should be alone,” what He ultimately had in mind was the new Eve, the church. When that calling is foremost in our lives, then we - single or married - will be the faithful bride of Jesus and the solution to the loneliness that plagues our world.
Also from Parler:
Stanley Hauerwas on Sexuality and Marriage
J. R. R. Tolkien on Romance, Soul-mates, and Marriage 
Paul Tillich Valentine

Think Christian: “Missed Connections” and a Love Worth Pursuing
First Edition Valentine

Fors Clavigera: An American Lent - I know Lent might seem a little off topic for Valentine's Day (but then again, see the the first link about the original St. Valentines as martyrs!), but this is good from James K. A. Smith on temptations lurking in "an American Lent":
"What are you giving up for Lent?" 
This question tells us a lot about American Christianity. While the question alludes to historic Christian practices of fasting and self-denial associated with the penitential season of Lent, the syntax of the question also points out a crucial shift: even our self-denial is an act of self-expression. Our submission to discipline is converted to act of will power. 
In a more robustly communal practice of the faith, my self-denial is not up to me. The practices of fasting and feasting are not a matter of choice: they are part of the spiritual architecture of the church. It's not so much that I choose to abstain from meat; meat is not going to be served. There are communal commitments embedded in an environment that takes the emphasis off of my choice and will power and instead throws me into the formative power of the practice. My participation in the formative disciplines of Lent isn't another chance for me to show something to God (or others). It is an invitation to have my hungers retrained.
I don't know, that part about having our hungers retrained just might have some application in marriage, friendship, and the mutual life in Christ that we share as the church.

Lastly, I dedicate all of these Valentines to my beautiful wife, Christie, who I love the mostest ostest!

Image credit for the theological valentines to Eerdblurbs here, here, and here.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Weekly Reads - 16 January 2016


Roger Olson - Advice I Will Give My Grandson When He Is Twelve (Like Tamir Rice Was) (Imagine having to have this talk with your child/grandchild and then tell me concerns over racism in the USA are overblown.)





So, I've very proud of the fact that, due to living in the UK presently and an earlier release time over here, I was able to see the new Star Wars movie with my family before it was released in the USA (I will rub that in if given the chance). I thought it was well done. But then again, I don't especially hate the prequels either. In fact, I kind of like them - yes, even episode one. (I hope that means we can still be friends.) In the case of The Force Awakens, some of the critiques I've seen make me wonder if some folks aren't over analyzing and doesn't reveal something of a certain level of misplaced hope. As this piece alludes, sometimes we can invest in that movie we are just dying to see (and we could probably extend this to music, art, culture, etc) a level of identity formation, anticipation, and hope that should only be reserved for Jesus Christ. A Jesus-juke perhaps, but a necessary one IMO. Not only may the hermeneutical posture and subjective expectation one brings to their cinematic experience goes a long way to determining whether someone judges a movie 'good' or 'not good' - it may also reveal our misplaced and malformed hopes.



Alan Rickman passed this last week. You probably remember him as Snape from the Harry Potter movies, but this link reminds us that his career extended far beyond that. Still, I can't help but notice it left off one of my favorites that Rickman was in - Quigley Down Under!


Alan Jacobs - I'm Thinking it Over

I think Jacobs' eight points of social media wisdom are spot on...
  • I don’t have to say something just because everyone around me is.
  • I don’t have to speak about things I know little or nothing about. 
  • I don’t have to speak about issues that will be totally forgotten in a few weeks or months by the people who at this moment are most strenuously demanding a response. 
  • I don’t have to spend my time in environments that press me to speak without knowledge. 
  • If I can bring to an issue heat, but no light, it is probably best that I remain silent. 
  • Private communication can be more valuable than public. 
  • Delayed communication, made when people have had time to think and to calm their emotions, is almost always more valuable than immediate reaction. 
  • Some conversations are be more meaningful and effective in living rooms, or at dinner tables, than in the middle of Main Street.

A general question: If this is true, at what point can we conclude that the level of trust of the general public is so low that it places in doubt their ability to place an informed and reasonable vote (because no one is telling the truth)? At what point does voting become a meaningless act under these conditions?

A more specific question: If this is true, what does it tell us about the general public that they continue to vote for people who they can be reasonably sure have lied (in some way) at some point to secure that vote?

A final question: If this is true, when will Christians (and I have in mind here especially my fellow evangelicals in particular) give witness to the value of truth telling by ceasing to support candidates who lie (regardless of charisma, platform, and whether or not "the other side did it too")? Does not the fact that Christians (both liberal and conservative) largely fail to give this witness indicate misplaced hopes/fears and political and ideological entanglements which subvert the gospel?



Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are great together as Holmes and Watson. No doubt about that. But while I've been on the fence for awhile, after this rather odd (even for Sherlock) installment, I have to agree with Witherington and say that I prefer the US based Elementary


We could have hit the ER at an opportune time, but ... I’ve also asked many people about their medical care while I’ve been in the UK. Not one person wanted to abandon the NHS. I’ve heard of excellent care and some care that was lacking, but the bad care has nothing to do with the “national” part. Rather it was diagnostic errors or a full hospice unit, things that I hear about with the same incidence back in the world of commercial insurance. Take away the accents and I could easily have been listening to a group of Americans discussing their care. With one exception, no one in the UK is left wondering what the price will be or gets an egregious bill. 
It makes you wonder exactly what frightens Americans about the NHS?
The Almons are thankful for the NHS and Scottish generosity. Those who know our story will know why.


The latest bombshell in theology and biblical studies is John Barclay's Paul and the Gift. Below are some related links if you haven't had the chance to make it through all 672 pages yet. I especially found Scot McKnight's offerings helpful.
Jesus Creed (Scot McNight): John Barclay’s Grace in the Church
Books and Culture (Scot McKnight): The Unexamined Grace: What God's Gift Entails
Books and Culture (Wesley Hill): Grace Redefined: The Disruptive Christ-event
Internet Monk (Chaplain Mike): John Barclay on “Dangerous Grace”
What’s So Dangerous About Grace? - A Christianity Today interview with Barclay by Wesley Hill.

Apparently, this is what a thesis/dissertation defense is like:

[HT: Michael Bird]

And these are the options afterwards as a professor:

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Weekly Reads – 9 January 2016

So, how are you doing with those New Year’s resolutions thus far?
Good Intentions 

Rowan Williams recently (as in a couple of months ago) gave the 2015 Orwell Lecture at University College London – War, Words, and Reason:Orwell and Thomas Merton on the Crises of Language. I urge a read of the whole thing. Its quite good at getting at the ideological habits of language that prop up militarism and the worthy task difficult writing (there's probably some good indications in this as well why presidential campaigns produce such empty speech/rhetoric). The quote below from Williams struck me as a good description of what a theologian (and someone writing a dissertation in theology!) does:
...the good writer [or theologian] attempts to speak in a way that is open to the potential challenge of a reality she or he does not own and control. [brackets mine] 

Tolkien, The Force Awakens, and the Sadness of ExpandedUniverses – If you like Star Wars and J. R. R. Tolkien, read this!


Wesley Hill – The Future of Asceticism

The debate concerning Christian human sexuality shows no signs of abating. One thing that has frustrated me is that so much of the conversation (if we can call it that) has thrown more heat than light. One of my trusted sources for thinking through these issues has been Wesley Hill. In this post, Hill calls us, among other things, to a better conversation and debate that is more distinctively Christian.




One of the laments I have is that the divide between “contemporary” and “traditional” (I’ve always thought we needed better language) worship seemingly still pops up in the evangelical landscape. For my part, I’d like to see more efforts at a creative, liturgical re-imagining between the two (its possible, I've seen it done). Here is a plea addressed to the ‘traditionals.’ – Dear Traditional Worshipers

It includes 14 points for moving forward at the end (I've listed the bullet points):
  • We must not be reactive. 
  • We must never focus on nostalgia and sentimentality. 
  • We must be table worshipers. 
  • We must be liturgical.
  • We must be eschatological. 
  • We must not be elitists. 
  • We must not be emotionally manipulative. 
  • We must be intentionally theological. 
  • We must be open to new material, language, and influence. 
  • We must put our hearts into what we’re doing. 
  • We must gather together. 
  • We must be educators. 
  • We must break down the silos. 
  • We’ve got to be generous, patient, empathetic, and understanding.
Come to think of it, this seems like a worthy plea no matter who you are!


Preston Sprinkle – Romans 13 Doesn’t Tell Christians to Kill their Enemy (IMHO, there’s plenty of common ground for Christians who still yet disagree on the use of violence. One doesn’t need to be a radical pacifist to take to heart the exegetical points Preston makes here.)


New Testament scholar Matthew Malcolm takes an interesting approach to the Corinthian church. Its normal for the Corinthians to get dog piled with criticism upon criticism. And I get it. The Corinthians were far from perfect. Still, in a rather refreshing manner, Malcolm digs around and finds some Things the Corinthian Church Got Right!


And here’s the kicker: Those examples of xenophobia or racism mentioned above don’t even include black Americans. It only covers Mexicans, Arabs, Chinese, and the various indigenous peoples. Put another way, one can give a horrifying history of American racism and injustice without even discussing the racial minority that has suffered most regularly at our hands, black Americans, or the most horrifying example of racial injustice, race-based slavery.
Given all that, is it so implausible to us white Americans that our nation would still struggle with significant issues of racial injustice that are built into our legal systems as well as being hardwired into the cultural norms and habits that shape our nation’s shared life?
Is it so difficult to believe a black person when they say they are afraid of the cops, even when they are simply being stopped for expired license plates or a busted headlight or even for nothing at all? Is it so hard to believe this (white) friend of mine who fears for the safety of her black son? Is it so hard to believe our brother Thabiti Anyabwile when he writes that his one fear with moving back to the United States is what would happen to his sons?
And if all that is reasonable, is it not possible for us to be more careful about our knee-jerk reactions when a black person speaks up about modern-day American racism?
Good questions! Let those who have ears, hear.


I remember pretty much all my youth ministry and religious education courses in undergrad and graduate school were built around the idea of learning styles – which was all the rage at the time. It seems now, however, the conventional learning styles wisdom is being called into question as another one of a long line of “neuromyths.” Uh oh! I’ve come to urge caution to pastors, church leaders, and even professors in how they incorporate scientific findings and studies into their teaching and preaching. I'm open to being correction , but it seems the nature of the beast. What was once hailed as a ‘breakthrough’ is sometime later regarded as a ‘myth.’ I’m not sure what to make of this one just yet, but as a case-study involving the hermeneutics of subjectivity, its fascinating to me. (HT: Scot McKnight)



Syndicate has published a symposium on John Milbank’s Beyond Secular Order. For those who may have the sense Milbank is important but yet difficult to navigate, this might work as a introduction to his newest publication with a pretty good conversation to boot. Each of the ‘commentaries’ on the right hand side (just click on the links) have a rejoinder from Milbank. Be warned though, it may be a bit long to read through in one sitting. I’m still not all the way through it myself.


Lastly folks, this is one meme that could literally save your life!