Colson Center Series on Nominalism is Back Online

I occasionally receive requests for links to the series of articles I wrote for the Colson Center from 2012-14 about Nominalism and Realism. Unfortunately, the Colson Center lost all my articles when changing servers, and hence these articles have been unavailable. However, I have gradually been republishing all my Colson Center articles on this blog, and thus I am happy to announce that my entire series on Nominalism and Realism is now available at the following links:

Since writing those articles, I have also authored a three-part series to explore the question of whether John Calvin was a nominalist. Here are links to that series:

My Survey on Printing Services in Academic Libraries

Having written about the dangers of too much screen time, as well as the fact that we approach digital text differently to printed text, I’ve found it interesting that academic libraries are increasingly offering less printing services to students. University libraries are also increasingly replacing physical holdings with their digital equivalents.

But is a page read on the computer equivalent to the same content read in physical form? That is a question I’ve begun exploring in research with the University of Oklahoma. To assist my research, I have created a survey people can take about their own preferences and learning styles when it comes to print vs. digital. Here is a link to my survey. Feel free to take it.

Take my Questionaire 

 

Valentine’s Day and Feminism

In my Salvo article, ‘The Massacre of Valentine’s Day‘, I show how the hostile response that many third-wave feminists have to Valentine’s Day illustrates the strange metamorphoses that feminism (now in its fourth-wave) has undergone. Much modern feminism is now working to achieve a state of affairs that earlier generations of women activists would have unhesitatingly condemned as misogyny. Read about this at the following link:

 

A Valentine’s Day Meditation on Marriage and Love

At Christmas, Christian thinkers generally do a good job of encouraging us to see past the veneer of commercialism and hedonism to reflect deeply on the theological meaning of the holiday. Similarly, on Valentine’s Day, we would do well to look past the shallow sentimentalism and bad quality candy, to spend some time reflecting deeply on the theological significance of this holiday.

Properly understood, Valentine’s Day is the ultimate counter-cultural expression. As a 3rd century priest in the Roman empire, St. Valentine performed church weddings against an edict of Emperor Claudias, who had forbidden marriages on the assumption that unmarried soldiers made better fights. St. Valentine was ultimately martyred for disrupting the culture’s idolatry with the gospel.

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Doubt and The Silence of God

In 2012 I wrote that good fiction can help us grow in wisdom by inviting us to grapple with the pain, confusions and ambiguities of human experience, including experiences that we may be very different to our own. We grow into richer and deeper people by living through these experiences, even vicariously through fictional characters.

I was reminded of this recently as I’ve been reading 20th century Catholic novelists who portray the crisis of doubt. For me, two of the most intriguing works in this genre have been Silence by Shūsaku Endō, and The End of the Affair by Graham Greene.

Silence is a novel Endō wrote in 1966 showing the progression from belief to apostasy in the tumultuous context of 17th century Japan. The End of the Affair (1951) chronicles a journey in the other direction: from unbelief to faith. Both books present agonizing spiritual dilemmas for the characters, and both conclude with the faith of the main character still unresolved for the reader.

Silence, like Psalm 13, struggles with God being completely quiet in the midst of the soul’s agonizing quest for Him. But unlike Psalm 13, which ends in praise of God, Silence ends on a deeply discordant note. By contrast, The End of the Affair explores the turmoil that arises when we want God to be silent and yet He palpably and inconveniently invades our world, demanding commitments from us that seem to only bring pain and loss in their wake.

In 2016, Silence was made into a movie by Martin Scorsese, himself a lapsed Catholic who wanted to do justice to the book’s spiritual themes. The film is an amazing work of artistry that remained true to Endo’s book, although watching it is no substitute for reading the book.

Relationships and Attachment Bonds

In their book Created for Connection, Sue Johnson and Kenneth Sanderfer have helpfully summarized the findings of formal studies about human attachment bonds and how that impacts our love relationships. I quote from pages 29-30 of their excellent book.

  • Our deepest instinct all through life is to seek out and stay close to a few previous loved ones.
  • Contact with these loved ones offers us a safe haven to go to and a secure base to go out from with strength and confidence. Secure connection makes us stronger as individuals.
  • Loss of a felt sense of connection with such loved ones is painful and creates a disorienting sense of vulnerability. Disconnection at times of high need can be traumatizing for human beings.
  • Emotional accessibility and responsivenes to another’s signals and needs shape secure loving connection. The quality of our emotional engagement is the key element that shapes our love relationships.
  • There are only a few simple strategies that we use to connect and deal with perceived disconnection. When we feel safe enough, we can risk reaching for a loved one and asking for our needs to be met. When we feel unsafe, we resort to demanding and controlling or, if we truly expect rejection and desertion, we try to turn away and shut down our needs for connection.
  • These negative strategies can shape the very disconnection we are trying to cope with or avoid.
  • As adults we can hold loved ones in our minds and find comfort, and we do not always need physical closeness. Adult romantic bonds also have a physical–a sexual–element. Sexuality is part of adult bonding.
  • The relationship between God and people of faith can be understood as an attachment bond in which God is a safe haven, a secure base, and the ultimate source of comfort and case.

Christian Marriage in the Early Church

In The Benedict Option, Rod Dreher discusses the way Christian teaching on marriage came as a revolutionary alternative to the exploitation of women in the first and second centuries. From page 198:

Paul’s teachings on sexual purity and marriage were adopted as liberating in the pornographic, sexually exploitive Greco-Roman culture of the time—exploitive especially of slaves and women, whose value to pagan males lay chiefly in their ability to produce children and provide sexual pleasure. Christianity, as articulated by Paul, worked a cultural revolution, restraining and channeling male eros, elevating the status of both women and of the human body, and infusing marriage—and marital sexuality—with love.

Christian marriage, Ruden writes, was “as different from anything before or since as the command to turn the other cheek.” Chastity—the rightly ordered use of the gift of sexuality—was the greatest distinction setting Christians of the early church apart from the pagan world.

 

Nine Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Parenting Teenagers

This post was originally published a number of years ago, and is being re-issued at the top of my blog for the sake of new readers.

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Having been involved in raising three teenagers, I have sometimes been approached by other parents for advice with their teens. Perhaps it is providential that this doesn’t happen very often! When people do seek my advice, although the various situations differ widely, the problems usually revolve around the same sorts of general issues and so I usually end up saying the same things again and again. For what it’s worth, I’m going to share below what I normally say. This advice is what I wish someone had shared with me before I ever had teenagers. With regard to the personal anecdotes I will share, some of the circumstantial details have been altered to preserve the anonymity of the subjects. But first a disclaimer is necessary for those who may happen to know me: I am still learning to apply these principles myself. It is one of the ironies of life that by the time we finally learn all the lessons we need to know about being good parents, our last child is already grown.

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Calvinism’s Christology Problem

Imagine someone set out to reinvent the wheel but got it all wrong. That’s the position that reformed theologians find themselves in. However, due to lack of historical consciousness, they usually don’t realize they are trying to reinvent the wheel. But the truth is that the Sixth Ecumenical Council (680-681) provided a framework for understanding the relationship between the human and the divine with a subtlety and sophistication that rendered unnecessary nearly all subsequent Calvinist metaphysics.

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