When I was in high school, I not only played the drum set, but I learned how to play the marimba. I don’t think any videos survive. Also, YouTube didn’t exist anyway. But, if it had, and if I wasn’t homeschooled, I might have been involved in something like this:

For comparison, here’s the original of the first song they’re playing:

For more information, read the description of the video in YouTube.

Hopefully you saw this video of Jim Cantore freaking out about thundersnow:

Like all good things, it was “songified” by the Gregory Brothers and it’s a good jam for your winter weather blues:

I’ve recently been enjoying some videos from Rob Scallon. Here is his cover a couple of Slayer songs, first on a ukulele, and second on a banjo:

Then, here is his video noting how you can make a pretty decent metal song (at least djent style) using only one note on a 9-string guitar. It is appropriately called 00000:

He’s got some serious songs too, and you can support him here.

If you’re like me, you might have wondered what ancient music sounded like. Well, you can’t really know for sure, but this project uses ancient Sumerian poetry and instruments to try to recreate what it might have sounded like.

From Laughing Squid:

The Flood is the self-described “first-ever CD of new music sung entirely in Sumerian and Babylonian” by the Lyre Ensemble, a collaborative project by composer and singer Stef Conner, instrument builder and harpist Andy Lowings, and producer Mark Harmer.

Conner devoted research efforts to bridging the time gap between present day and ancient cultures by creating music inspired by studies of ancient languages and texts. She combined Babylonian poetry with music she and Lowings composed to be played on a lyre. Using a painstakingly accurate reproduction of the Gold Lyre of Ur—an ancient stringed instrument from Ur, an ancient city-state that is now part of Iraq—Lowings beautifully plucks out rich melodies as Conner’s deep, haunting voice sings a language used millenia ago.

The Flood from Mark Harmer on Vimeo.

Commentaries For Sale!

February 8, 2015 — Leave a comment


It’s that time of again when I reassess my library and have to let some good books go. Actually in these cases, I now have the book in Logos and so don’t feel the need to also have a hard copy. Here’s what I’m trying to sell to you before I list it on Amazon:

I can accept payment through Venmo which is easiest for both of us. Pay me for the book and then I’ll bill you for the shipping once I put it in the mail, that way you pay exactly what it costs to ship. Best deal is if you live here in Orlando and can just get the book from me. All these book are basically brand new with the exception of the Kruse volume on Romans. I made a few marks here and there, but nothing extensive.

I’ve got several other books I’ll be listing soon, so keep an eye out for that!

Over at Lifehacker, I saw this image giving a rundown on logical fallacies (thanks to Visual.ly) and it seemed like the perfect post for philosophy Friday:



“Can Christians and churches be catholic and Reformed?”

That may well be your first question after reading the title of this book. Thankfully, it’s also the opening lines of the book.written by RTS Orlando theology profs Michael Allen and Scott Swain. Along with Puritan William Perkins, Allen and Swain suggest that “to be Reformed means to go deeper into true catholicity, not to move away from catholicity” (4). And to do this, one must engage in retrieval of “elements, practices, and texts from earlier Christian churches” (4).

Allen and Swain are not along in calling for this. In their introduction, they note several movements along the same lines:

  • Nouvelle Theologie
  • Karl Barth’s revival of dogmatic theology
  • The reception history of the Bible movement
  • Donald Bloesch and “Consensual Christianity”
  • Thomas Oden’s “Paleo-Orthodoxy”
  • Robert Webber’s Ancient-Future Christianity
  • The Modern Hymns Movement
  • Carl Braaten and Robert Jenson’s Evangelical Catholicism
  • The Theological Interpretation of Scripture movement
  • Radical Orthodoxy
  • Evangelical Ressourcement
  • The Emerging or Emergent Church(es)
  • Ressourcement Thomism

And that’s probably not even a comprehensive list. As Allen and Swain go on to explain, “Reformed catholicity is a theological sensibility, not a system” (12). As such, the present book is a manifesto rather than a “full-blown theological methodology.” The ultimate thesis of the manifesto is that “there are Reformed theological and ecclesiological warrants for pursuing a program of retrieval” (13). Allen and Swain suggest that “we can and should pursue catholicity on Protestant principles, and that pursuing this path holds promise for theological and spiritual renewal” (13).

The chapters that follow present “exploratory excursions into some of the major theological places where we have found examples and principles of Reformed theology that might commend an embrace of Christian tradition (both catholic and Protestant)” (13). Chapter 1 explains how the church is the proper context for doing theology. The next two chapters explain what sola Scriptura really means. The former looks at classic formulations and the latter shows how sola Scriptura actually supports rather than excludes looking for wisdom in church tradition. Chapter 4 examines how authoritative texts (confessions, creeds, etc.) facilitate biblical interpretation by giving rise to “ruled readings” of Scripture. The final chapter, an earlier version of which was an article in JETS, offers a defense of the proper use of proof-texting. The afterword of the book, by J. Todd Billings, is also a revised version of a journal article (which is a revised version of a lecture) and is a fitting encapsulation of the book’s plea.

My favorite chapter was probably the last. I remember seeing the article in JETS, but didn’t take the time to read it when it first became available. Now I kind of wish I had. If you’re not familiar, “proof texting” is not exactly the cool thing to do when doing theology. Three charges are typically brought against the practice:

  • Proof texting fails to honor the specific contexts of biblical texts (119)
  • Proof texting too easily suggests that doctrinal language is the biblical language with no sensitivity for the horizon of the interpreter or the hermeneutical task involved in working with the biblical language (120)
  • Proof texting interacts with ecclesiastical history rather than biblical history (122)

Before offering a model to aid in recovering the practice of using “parenthetical references or footnotes/endnote references to biblical passages that undergirded some doctrinal claim made” (118, i.e. proof texting), Allen and Swain note that “all of the charges brought against proof texting in Christian theology could be lodged against the Bible’s own use of the Bible” (128, italics in original). This is simply to point out that “the use of Scripture by Scripture cannot be understood on the basis of citation techniques alone” (129). Allen and Swain then conclude, “we must not confuse citation techniques (e.g., proof texting) with hermeneutical method, whether we are considering Scripture’s use of Scripture or theology’s use of Scripture” (129-130). Ultimately, we should “extend to theology’s use of Scripture the same patient and charitable attempt to understand that we extend to Scripture’s use of Scripture’s proofs” (130).

In practice, this means that “systematic theologians must be aware of the burden of proof upon them to show that they are using the Bible well in their theological construction” (137). Allen and Swain suggest this could be done through the writing of more theological commentary as well as dogmatic arguments that are enriched with more exegetical excurses. Likewise, “biblical scholars should expect rigorous exegesis to lie behind such proof texting and should engage it conversationally and not cynically” (139). Further, “biblical scholars will do well to familiarize themselves with the history of biblical interpretation” (141). With systematic theologians and biblical scholars working along both of these fronts, “proof texts could be a literary signal of a disciplinary symbiosis and of Reformed catholicity” (141).

This book is a short read, but is worth taking some time with if you’re like me. That is to say, you are someone who considers yourself in the Reformed tradition doctrinally and want to retrieve insights from earlier theological eras to better face the theological challenges of the day. It is also to say you are someone interested in theological interpretation of Scripture and reading Scripture in the church for the church. Also, if you’re like me, you would read this in a weekend, and then wish there were either a) more footnotes for the movements listed in the introduction, or b) that there was a section for suggested further reading. But, that wouldn’t spoil the book for you and you’d still heartily recommend the book on your blog or something like that.


Michael Allen and Scott R. Swain, Reformed Catholicity: The Promise of Retrieval for Theology and Biblical InterpretationGrand Rapids: Baker Academic January 2015. 176 pp. Paperback, $19.99.

Buy itAmazon | Westminster

Visit the publisher’s page

Thanks to Baker Academic for the review copy!


Tony Lane is professor of historical theology at the London School of Theology. He is a world-class Calvin scholar and author of several books, most recently Exploring Christian Doctrine: A Guide to What Christian Should Believe. The book is part of the Exploring Topics in Christianity series (includes one other volume at the present) which complements the Exploring The Bible series also published by IVP Academic.

Like the other volumes, this one is very accessible. It is essentially a brief systematic theology in terms of topics covered, but far from typical in the way the material is presented. Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. In any case, I was surprised at how some of the contents had shifted from what I consider a standard ordering.

Lane first section (A), Method, is comprised of three chapters. The first is about knowing God, the second is about the Bible, and the third is about language about God. So far, pretty typical. Bonus points for having an actual prolegomena section in such a short systematic.

Then contents take an interesting turn and go to three chapters (the B section) on creation, angels, and humanity respectively. This is followed by a section (C) on sin and evil. Here Lane provides chapters on sin, the fall and original sin, God’s providence, and a brief theodicy (evil and suffering). The latter is a useful inclusion in a format like this.

What you might notice is that we skipped the doctrine of God. To get to it, we begin the first (D) of three sections focused on redemption, which is exploring God and his work. This is the longest section so far and begins with a chapter on the law and the Old Testament. From here, Lane presents a chapter on the work of Christ followed by one on the person of Christ. He then offers a chapter on the uniqueness of Christ (tackling religious pluralism) before a chapter on the Holy Spirit. It is at this point we have the chapters that usually come after prolegomena, discussing first God as Trinity, and then a chapter on the attributes.

From here on out, the flow is more typical, but still somewhat unique. There is a second section (E) on redemption, this time focusing on the personal aspects. In it, we have chapters on becoming a Christian, baptism, justification and assurance, sanctification, and perseverance. Then the final redemption section (F) contains chapters on grace and election, the church (times 2), and communion. The final section of the book (G) is on eschatology and contains chapters on the end times, hell, and future hope.

While I haven’t fully field tested this book, it seems particularly well suited to the classroom. Because it is a relatively small scale systematic, the options for covering material are either broad but not super deep or somewhat narrow but with added depth. Lane has opted for the former and covers an impressive range of topics in 29 relatively short chapters. Within each of these chapters, there are several small sections of material (1):

  • Aims of the chapter (the questions the chapter answers)
  • What do you think? (a question to consider during the reading, which Lane answers later)
  • Sceptic’s corner (a common objection that Lane then answers)
  • Credal statement(s) (selections from a creed or confessional statement)
  • Error(s) to avoid (typical ways the doctrine could be misunderstood)
  • Tension to hold (perhaps the most important section)
  • Speculation (something that is a tentative position)
  • Worship (an extract from a hymn)
  • Prayer (from a historical source)

Further, you might have noticed the broad structure of the material follows a Creation-Fall-Redemption-Consummation trajectory. This helps explain the unusual ordering of the material following the Method section. Lane further explains his approach in the book:

Getting the framework right is very important, just as the foundations are important for a house. In that sense this is an orderly, structured account. On the other hand, I am opposed to the ‘big idea’ approach, the idea that there is a single ‘central dogma’ or ‘controlling principle’ for theology. For example, (some) Lutherans see the doctrine of justification by faith in this way; (some) Calvinists see doctrine of the sovereignty of God similarly; Karl Barth explicitly made Christology the controlling principle for his theology; some today try to fit all doctrine into the category of ‘relationships’ or of ‘narrative.’ These different perspectives all shed light on theology. For example, much of the Bible is in the form of narrative and interpreting it from that perspective can be helpful – but does not, however, have much light to shed on the book of Proverbs. When one particular doctrine of approach or principle set up as the key to the whole of the Bible or to the whole of Christian doctrine it always ends up bringing distortion (3-4).

If you have read that quote within the book, you would notice an * next to Karl Barth’s name, which would lead you to (hopefully if you need to) look up the dictionary entry in Lane’s A Concise History of Christian Thought. Terms that might be confusing can be found in the glossary. After the end notes in each chapter there is a list of further resources to explore. All of this is hopefully working together to meet Lane’s objectives in writing (1):

  • To provide a basic account of Christian beliefs – the primary objective
  • To give, as appropriate, a very brief account of the history of particular doctrines, showing how doctrines have developed historically and need to be understood contextually
  • To illustrate particular doctrines with key historical texts, especially credal statements
  • To show how different groups differ over particular doctrines
  • To point to the interconnections between different doctrines, such as the person and work of Christ
  • To show how particular doctrines relate to the contemporary scene – both Church and culture

I would say Lane accomplishes his objectives well, though the end result is not very readable as a sit down Saturday morning read. By that I mean it has so many sidebars which break up the text it doesn’t every really get a flow. Also, the text is laid out in columns, further enhancing the starts and stops in the writing. If you’re using this as an in-class resource, it probably isn’t a huge problem. But if you’re looking for a theology book to sit down and read through, the aesthetics are not in your favor.

Layout aside, I like the breadth of topics Lane tackles and I think that these, coupled with the mini-sections covered in each chapter, make it ideal for a teaching resource. If that’s what you’re into, you should probably give the book a perusal. If you’re looking for the next book on your theology reading list, you might not want to prioritize this one. But then again, you might just be curious about what Tony Lane speculates about when it comes to theology and it’s not often you can find a semi-systematic theology book with comics in every chapter. He might not give Michael Bird a run for his money, but it’s certainly I trend I’d like to see to continue!


Tony Lane, Exploring Christian Doctrine: A Guide to What Christian Should Believe. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, February, 2014. 308 pp. Hardcover, $30.00.

Buy itAmazon | Westminster

Visit the publisher’s page

Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!

I mentioned on Monday that I had withdrawn from Ph.D studies at SBTS. It wasn’t actually official until today when I received the e-mail from the registrar, but everything on my end was done back at the beginning of December. Rather than fully explain what I’m planning to do long term when it comes to Ph.D studies, I thought I’d explain more about what I’m doing now short term.

Ever since I was at Dallas, Ph.D work has been the plan, but in a kind of abstract sense. I’ve had general aspirations, but no actual plans until my final year at Dallas when I first started an application to SBTS. When that remained unfinished, Ph.D work became a kind of “sometime, someday” sort of thing.

This of course all changed last fall when I re-applied to SBTS, took the entrance exams, and got accepted. Because of how quickly that process came together, I didn’t have time to really reflect on what I was getting into until this past summer. I think part of the outcome of doing that was realizing I ultimately wanted to do a theology Ph.D, and I explained last post where that led.

Because actually doing Ph.D work was now on my radar, I started doing some reading about it to look for guidance. Very helpfully, I was able to get several of the books that entering Ph.D students at SBTS are required to read:

The take-away from the first one is that you need to have set time to write in your schedule, which is part of what I’m doing right now. I’m still working through the second but am finding it very helpful and possibly something to use in a critical-thinking/creative problem solving class I’m helping put together. As for the latter, it’s just a good general overview that I had originally read at Dallas. I re-scanned the newest edition and you can read my thoughts on it here.

In addition, I am hoping to read the following two titles soon, which would also be required reading if I were starting SBTS

The former I skimmed at Dallas. It is helpful as far as providing a framework for organizing your research in a paper format. The latter I’ve only heard good things about. I imagine that is similar to the recent book by Steven Pinker, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. The chapters are a bit on the long side, but the insights into clear grammar and style are worth it.

Though not required at SBTS, I recently read this trio of books:

The first has some good general advice for submitting papers to journals but is mainly helpful if you’re writing psychology articles. The second is a good overview of the dissertation process, though I’m not sure how applicable it is for humanities Ph.D’s. The advice on choosing an adviser and topic I found particularly helpful.

The last book was particularly informative, even if it is geared more toward students looking to do a Ph.D in biblical studies rather than theology. A point that Witherington made that was helpful for me personally is that teaching the Bible really requires you to be a generalist while getting a Ph.D requires choosing a specialty. I latently realized that my dissertation topic doesn’t pin me down to a certain specialty for the rest of my teaching career. But it was helpful to have Witherington expound on it and explain that I didn’t have to lose my love for generality in order to pursue a career in teaching. In fact, I’ll probably need it if I want to teach theology well.

I have some titles that I’ll be working through, but I’ve found that generally, I’m looking at titles about researching and writing better since that’s the bulk of the dissertation. In addition, I’m looking at titles that give an overview of the process and then I’m putting together a general reading plan to nail down potential topics. I’ll have more to say about that Friday.

If you have any advice on this, I’d love to hear it. Anybody else preparing for Ph.D work or even in the middle of it? What did you find helpful?