Why do we have the Creeds?

Over on GodPod, Jane Williams, Graham Tomlin and Michael Lloyd have begun a new series on the Nicene Creed. In the first episode in the series, they discuss the question, Why do we have the Creeds? It’s well worth a listen. Particular highlights, for me, included the following insights:

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Remembrance Sunday: Nigel Biggar on Just War

With Remembrance Sunday just around the corner, I’ve been revisiting some of Nigel Biggar’s work on war and peace. The purpose of this short piece is to highlight some of Biggar’s chief insights, or at least those insights that most strike me as worth highlighting in the contemporary climate. I have derived these points from my reading of In Defence of War, as well as listening to Biggar’s talks on the justifiability of WWI, on just war in debate with Michael Ruse and on the role of religion in war and peace.

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The Pose and the Voice in Politics

Tobias Phelps, drawing on Stephen Marchedraws attention to the difference between the Pose and the Voice in politics. As he explains:

The Voice, a product of post-war literature’s emphasis on identity and experience, encouraged verbal originality and idiosyncrasy, the fullness of personality poured onto a page. It was flawed, often belligerent and short-sighted, lacking the range of the modernists or the authority of earlier writers. But at least it had spirit.

The Pose, however, is a product of distinctly 21st Century anxieties — its “foremost goal” is to “not to make any mistakes.” It is “language trying not be language, with the combed-through feeling of cover letters to job applications in which a spelling mistake might mean unemployment.” And as with Starmer’s brief reflections on his upbringing, “the style grows less personal even as the auto-fictional content grows more confessional.”

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Matthew Crawford on the Administrative State

For my money, Matthew B. Crawford is one of the most original thinkers around just now. I first came across him via one of Giles Fraser’s editions of the Radio 4 Thought for the Day. On a rare occasion where the programme caught my interest, Fraser drew on Crawford’s Why We Drive to argue provocatively that God does not, in the first instance, exist to make us feel safe but to save and love us. I immediately went out and bought the book. Readers of this blog will remember Crawford’s influence on my covid counterfactual, my 2020 New Year reflections, and my final Covid Diary on risk and liberty, rightly ordered. 

In a recent piece for Unherd, entitled “The new public health despotism”, Crawford uncovers the intellectual history of the administrative state—more on that term shortly—and helps to explain the long-developing shifts that have disturbed many, myself included, in the relationship between the government and the governed over the last 18 months. It makes for necessary reading not only as a retrospective analysis but also as a prospective warning as governments, including in the UK, consider stricter “plan B”s ahead of Christmas. 

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Tribalism, Kimmich, Vaccines and Conversion

In the second piece in my series on Christianity and Tribalism, I argued that tribalism consists not of the presence of disagreement but the resentments held towards those with whom we disagree. These are expressed in how we treat, speak of and think about those who think differently from us.

Towards the end of the piece, I highlighted a common tribalistic move in contemporary debates—the injunction to “educate yourself”. On this view, the problem of tribalism is simply the existence of competing ideas. The solution is simply to resolve differences of opinion through catechesis into a closely guarded communis opinio

Only this week, I was sad to see a classic example of this tactic in the discussion around Joshua Kimmich who has, up until now, decided not to get vaccinated due to anxieties around the longer-term health effects (he remains open to vaccination in the future).

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NT Wright on Prayer and the Saints

With All Saints’ Day fast approaching, I’ve found myself getting into discussions with Orthodox and Roman Catholic brothers and sisters about what we’re doing as we celebrate this important day in the church calendar.

I’ve found myself returning to NT Wright’s Surprised by Hope, a book which re-lit the smouldering embers of my faith back in 2013. 

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The Reformed Traditions: A Bibliography

Below is a bibliography I have been compiling on the Reformed traditions. I’ve divided it into introductory works, classic texts from across the ages, creeds and confessions, books and essays on key issues and encyclopaedia and handbooks. I’ll be looking to update it over time. If you’ve any comments or suggestions for things I’ve missed out, please leave a comment below.

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Nobody’s Home

I don’t often expect something as mundane as a banking form to provide inspiration for a blog post. But I was recently filling out such a form when the section for providing my telephone number gave me pause for thought.

As I entered “not available” under “Home”, it suddenly struck me afresh how the changing nature of our telephone infrastructure has deeply impacted on our sense of who we are. 

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Sojourner Patriotism: What Rich Mullins Teaches Us About National Belonging

24 years following Rich Mullins’ death, what can we learn from him about national belonging?

The Appalachian Mountains, “waking with the innocence of children”

“And I’ll call you my country, and be lonely for my home”

***

On this day in 1997, Rich Mullins was killed following a car accident in rural Illinois. He was 41. The news sent shockwaves across the Christian music scene, the English-speaking church, and beyond. 

I grew up listening to Rich Mullins through my Dad, right around the time of Rich’s death. I’m not sure what album he bought first, but I remember The Jesus Record, Songs and Brother’s Keeper being played on our living room CD / Vinyl turntable, and via the CD player on caravan trips through France. Before university, I remember branching out and listening to A Liturgy, A Legacy & A Ragamuffin Band. And only in recent weeks, at the instigation of a fellow pilgrim, have I picked up the two volumes of The World as I Remember It

It was Rich’s heartfelt passion and honesty that made the first and lasting impression. These hallmark qualities of Rich’s faith have brought me back to his music time and again. As Hannah Rich has recently argued, such genuine faith has often put Rich at odds with the mainstream Christian music industry of his day, and ours. For Mullins, faith had to be “active” to be truly alive (as Rich commented upon moving to the Navajo reservation on the Arizona border: “I can make records for the rest of my life and talk about love, but it won’t mean anything until I love somebody”. Faith spoke truth to power. It was not personal and private but political. It was honest to God about its doubts (the demo version of Hard to Get was a dear friend to me through many a long, dark night of the soul at university). It was also honest to God about its joys. This faith challenges our many false dichotomies, all of our “vain imaginations / and misguided pieties”. 

On the 24th anniversary of Rich Mullins’ passing, I want to focus on a slightly different paradox within his music. This is the curiously neglected theme that I consider to be a leitmotif running throughout his works—the experience of home. For Rich, the theme of home relates deeply, though not straightforwardly, to experiences of national belonging, since both have to do with one’s roots, the stuff of which we are made. In what follows, I want to briefly consider the following question: what might Rich Mullins have to teach us about national belonging and patriotism, about belonging to home and, conversely, the experience of homesickness? I will suggest that there are two animating experiences which exist in tension within Rich’s account of home: the first is the passionate desire of the lover who celebrates the particular place to which she belongs; and the second is the homesick longing of the sojourner who is lonely for his true home with God. 

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Reforming Things: Where I’m Coming From

Just a heads-up that I’ve updated (ahem, reformed) the About Me section of the website. You’ll notice some changes to the My Perspective section.

There, you’ll find a renewed emphasis on my Christian faith, and in particular the influence of the Reformed traditions.

This will no doubt change again, over time, and if it doesn’t, you reader, can hold me to account for not changing my heart or mind.

In the meantime, I hope to put up a couple more posts on what in the Reformed traditions is forming me. So keep an eye out for those in the coming month or so.