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The blurbs are in for The Triune Story

I couldn't be more pleased to share the following four blurbs for The Triune Story: Essays on Scripture, the volume of the late Robert Jenson's writings on the Bible that I am editing for Oxford University Press. Due later this summer, pre-order your copy today!

"Robert Jenson was undoubtedly one of the most influential and original English-speaking theologians of the last half century, eloquent, controversial, profoundly in love with the God of Jewish and Christian Scripture. This invaluable collection shows us the depth and quality of his engagement with the text of Scripture: we follow him in his close reading of various passages and his tracing of various themes, and emerge with a renewed appreciation of the scope of his doctrinal vision. He offers a model of committed, prayerful exegesis which is both a joy and a challenge to read." —Rowan Williams

"Robert Jenson never needed to be reminded that the most interesting thing about the Bible is God. For those f…

Thoughts about Don Winslow's Cartel Trilogy

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1. I initially called it his Border Trilogy, but then I remembered that name's already taken.

2. What Winslow has done in these books is impressive, in literary terms, and powerful, in terms of educating the reading public while also entertaining them. Little did he know when he began writing the first book nearly 20 years ago how relevant, and prescient, the topic of the drug war and its ever-widening social, moral, and political consequences would be.

3. Winslow is a gifted writer. His prose is propulsive, soaked in adrenaline and masculine energy, in all its creative and destructive forms. His control of tone, voice, character, cultural reference (popular and "high"), and biblical allusion is masterful. The complexity of his plots, the centripetal force drawing their far-flung lines of action to some center or centers of encounter and explosion (often literal), is enthralling. The man was born to do this.

4. The TV adaptation of the trilogy, on FX, is therefore going …

Two thoughts on Adam Nayman on A Clockwork Orange

You should be reading the film criticism of Adam Nayman. Last week he wrote at The Ringer about Stanley Kubrick's adaption of A Clockwork Orange "in the age of cancellation," i.e., in a time when works of art deemed "problematic" are censored, edited, or banned. Or at least when such a fate is wished upon them by screaming hordes online.

I have two thoughts in response to his piece on ACO, which as usual is an excellent, thoughtful engagement with a difficult and culturally influential film.

First, toward the end of the essay he writes the following:

"It’s hard to say what’s more boring: The idea that a good movie is one made by a good person and/or contains content that could be considered progressive for its time and place, or the shouting-down of that position from those whose investment in rejecting it can seem condescending or creepy."

This is a genuinely strange dichotomy to pose, and there is only one plausible source for it: Twitter, or soc…

Pre-order The Triune Story today!

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Good news: the book I am editing for Oxford University Press, The Triune Story: Essays on Scripture—a comprehensive collection of the late theologian Robert Jenson's writings on the Bible, with a foreword by Bruce Marshall—is available online at both OUP's website and Amazon.

Oxford says the book will be out mid-June; Amazon says mid-July. I'd go with Amazon on that one. I'm working on indexing the book right now, after which point, late this month, I'll get the proofs. So perhaps the revised proofs will be ready by May 1? I don't know how quickly the turnaround is on these kinds of books, but perhaps quicker than I imagined. We also need to get the blurbs, about which more soon.

But, anyway, I only just happened upon this bit of news, and I couldn't be more delighted. This volume is going to be a real resource going forward, for Jenson scholars as well as for theologians interested in Scripture more broadly. I can't wait for y'all to have it in you…

Gentiles exiting the faith

It seems to me that most Christians today—in my context, I mean: college-educated or middle-class American Christians, especially those raised in the church—see their spiritual options as basically threefold. Either they maintain Christian faith of some kind; or they become spiritual but not religious; or they become officially agnostic, though functionally atheist. That is, there are basically two "exit" options from Christianity, both of which can be described as a form of nonbelief: faith in nothing at all, or faith in something-or-other left undefined.

In other words, such wayward believers aren't drawn to other religious traditions: the primary question is organized theism. Give up the former, you remain spiritual but not Christian; give up the latter, you're neither Christian nor spiritual. The temptation isn't ordinarily to become a Muslim or Sikh or Hindu. (Though the other day I did hear someone say, "If it weren't for X in Christianity, I'd…

Incomplete theses on God's will, providence, and evil

Last week, in my upper-level majors course on systematic theology, the topic was providence. We read classical accounts of divine and human agency and discussed the nature of God's will. I wrote up some provisional, incomplete theses to help guide them through the thicket. I'm sharing them below, partly as an aid to others, partly as an invitation to be corrected by my betters—this area is simply not my specialty. St. Thomas, pray for this theologian's poor soul!

*                        *                         * Affirmations
God, as the sole creator and author of creation ex nihilo, is solely responsible for the ongoing existence and well-being of the creation.God is sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient, and good.God is Lord of creation.God upholds creation as a whole and in all its parts at all times, without ceasing.God underlies, informs, and enables any and all activity in creation: nothing happens apart from God; no creature can act apart from God’s sovereign will.God …

Talismanic invocations of scholarship

One of the silliest, and most annoying, trends in public Christian discourse is the use of academic scholarship. I've no doubt the trend I have in mind is present on all sides, but where I see it most is in newly liberated ex-evangelicals, whether pastors or laypeople, but certainly in popular writers.

Not only is "scholarship" used in the singular, as if two centuries' worth of study of the Bible in all its variety of contexts across dozens of countries in as many languages can be considered monolithic and unanimous. Even more, it's waved around as a kind of talisman, evidently with the expectation of an effect that can only be called apotropaic—which, we may infer, is the effect it had initially on the person so using it.

It's true that any number of stupid or damaging claims about the Bible and Christianity are a function or result of ignorance, and that education can remedy some of this. But the truth is that scholars disagree about very nearly anything a…

My new email plan

I've written recently about my technology habits, and now I write with an update. Last week I took email off my phone, moving ever closer to the reduction of my iPhone to the basic features of a dumb phone, plus pictures/video, maps, weather, WhatsApp, and podcasts. That was why I purchased an iPhone in the first place, in the fall of 2015: to send and receive pictures and video of my children and nephews, and to get around easier when traveling. But Facebook and Twitter and Gmail and the rest colonized my phone and, in turn, my mind and, eventually, my daily habits; and this is part of my ongoing purgation of that colonization. Get thee behind me, Satan!

My iPhone's weekly Sunday morning report of usage told me my screen time declined by 30%, to an average of 49 minutes/day. I bet the next report will be even smaller. As I've said, my goal is an average of 45 minutes/day. But honestly, if I'm not texting much, and instead of reading Instapaper articles I'm reading…

On reading political writing from the 1990s

Recently I've been reading through Left Hooks, Right Crosses: A Decade of Political Writing, edited by Christopher Caldwell and the late Christopher Hitchens. It's a collection of 40 essays written during the 1990s, nearly all under the Clinton administration.

It's been a revelation. I was 7 years old when Clinton was elected the first time. I came of age politically and intellectually during the second Bush's two terms, and I didn't start consistently reading serious—or at least good—political writing from across the ideological spectrum until Obama's second term.

That means I'm basically a novice in these matters. I have a fairly good sense of the historical scope and shape of these arguments; I've read political philosophy, old and new; I'm conversant with what's going on at present. But I've little idea what it was like in the moment, in weekly and monthly political journalism, in each of the previous decades, even those I lived through.

"This Day" by Denise Levertov

This Day

By Denise Levertov

i Dry wafer,
sour wine.

This day I see

God’s in the dust,
not sifted

out from confusion.
ii Perhaps, I thought,
passing the duckpond,
perhaps—seeing the brilliantly somber water
deranged by lost feathers and bits of
drowning bread—perhaps
these imperfections (the ducklings
practised their diving,
stylized feet vigorously cycling among débris)
are part of perfection,
a pristine nuance? our eyes
our lives, too close to the canvas,
enmeshed within
the turning dance,
to see it?
iii In so many Dutch 17th-century paintings
one perceives
a visible quietness, to which the concord
of lute and harpsichord contribute,
in which a smiling conversation
reposes;
‘calme, luxe,” and—in auburn or mercurial sheen
of vessels, autumnal wealth
of fur-soft table-carpets,
blue snow-gleam of Delft—
‘volupte’; but also the clutter
of fruit and herbs, pots, pans, poultry,
strewn on the floor: and isn’t
the quiet upon them too, in them and of them,
aren’t they wholly at one with the wond…