Articles by Alastair Roberts

  • Boat Stories

    Back in January, Venkatesh Rao wrote a fascinating post on the Ribbonfarm blog, discussing different forms of models of narrative. Engaging with Ursula LeGuin’s talk ‘The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction’, Rao explores her contrast between the (male) ‘hero narrative’ and the (female) ‘carrier-bag story’, and suggests a third model: the ‘boat story’. The male hero […]

  • Yoram Hazony and the Deception of Isaac

    Perhaps one of the most stimulating sections of Yoram Hazony’s The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture addresses the question of how we are to discern the meaning of biblical narratives, especially how biblical narratives might present arguments of a more general nature. Hazony quotes John Barton’s remarks about the difficulty of recognizing the moral stance of the […]

  • Why We Should Jettison the “Strong Female Character,” Part III

    Click HERE for part 1 of this series, and HERE for part 2. The recurring characterization problems with such Strong Female Characters arise in no small measure from the struggle to show that men and women are interchangeable and can compete and cooperate with each other on the same terms. As I have already noted, […]

  • Why We Should Jettison the “Strong Female Character,” Part II

    The Rise of the Action Heroine Click HERE for part 1 of this series. Partly as a result of this everywoman heroine trend, partly in order to be more inclusive in traditionally male dominated genres, partly in order to push back against stereotypes, partly in order to legitimate eye candy for male audiences, partly in […]

  • Why We Should Jettison the “Strong Female Character”: Part 1

    The trailer for the latest Star Wars movie, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, was released last week. Following the success of the revival of the franchise in last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, anticipation is unsurprisingly at a fever pitch. As in the case of The Force Awakens, much of the pre-release speculation and comment has been preoccupied […]

  • What Pastors Could Learn From Jordan Peterson

    Last night, along with a few online friends, I watched this debate on the meaning of life between William Lane Craig, Rebecca Goldstein, and Jordan Peterson, hosted by Wycliffe College. While watching it, and reflecting upon Peterson’s work more generally (about which I’ve written in the past), I was struck by some of the lessons that preachers can […]

  • Twin Nativities

    In the accounts of our Lord’s nativity and early childhood, so familiar to us from many years of Advent and Christmas services, we often fail to recognize in them the gentle intimations of a greater nativity that is yet to come. The attentive ear, however, can discover in these passages the rich honey of a […]

  • Navigating and Celebrating the Complexity of Scripture: A Conversation with Richard Hays

    Editors’ note: For those interested in a review of Richard Hays’s latest book, see here. Richard Hays is a renowned New Testament scholar. The professor of New Testament at Duke Divinity School originally studied English literature, giving his reading of Scripture a pronounced literary sensibility. He’s perhaps best known for his 1989 work, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of […]

  • The Scriptures Made Strange

    The history of the Reformation couldn’t adequately be recounted without discussing the remarkable role played by the relatively recent innovations and developments in book production and printing. The printing press facilitated the rapid production and dissemination of multiple copies of pamphlets and books, which enabled the Reformers to circulate their message with a velocity that […]

  • Exodus in 1 Kings

    In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Exodus, Solomon began to build the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem.[1] That the author of Kings should date the start of the building of the temple from the Exodus is noteworthy. In Exodus 15:17, in Moses’ song following the Red Sea Crossing, he declares: “You […]

  • The Levite, the Concubine, and Israel’s Story

    The story of Judges 19 and the subsequent chapters are some of the most shocking and appalling accounts in all of Scripture. The callousness of the old host and the Levite, and the monstrous brutality of the men of Gibeah, leaves us feebly scrabbling for words by which to surmount our dumbfoundedness. Yet the actions […]

  • Hero’s Theme

    In a recent post, Ian Paul discusses the practice of allegorical interpretation, reflecting in particular upon a conversation he had with someone concerning the reading of the story of Rahab. Paul’s interlocutor argued strongly for an allegorical reading of the Rahab story, writing: “Joshua is a type of Christ in the OT. He leads the […]

  • The Falls of Man

    The story of the Fall enjoys a peculiar place in Christian thought. Together with the creation account in the two chapters that precede it, it is one of the few Old Testament narratives consistently to escape the relative neglect the Hebrew Scriptures often suffer. While the characters of Abraham, Moses, or David may be accorded […]

  • A Musical Case for Typological Realism, 4

    Time as a realm of participation can be difficult for us imaginatively to grasp. While music is a profoundly temporal art, exploring the medium of time like no other, most of our temporal experience seems decidedly unmusical in character, disjointed and unorchestrated. The form in which we naturally discover time is seldom very musical; rather, […]

  • A Musical Case for Typological Realism, 3

    Thinking about time in terms of music also helps us to appreciate its unity and inner relations. Henri Bergson observes our cultural habit of dividing time into discrete moments, and conceiving of these as if akin to objects in a spatial succession.[1] Against such a notion, Bergson argues for the significance of time as duration, […]

  • A Musical Case for Typological Realism, 2

    As we attend to these and other aspects of music’s temporality, Begbie suggests, we will find means by which to resist some of our habitual modern ways of conceptualizing time, most especially our tendency to conceive of time as if it were a homogeneous set of technologically quantifiable units laid out on a time-line in […]

  • A Musical Case for Typological Realism, 1

    Metaphor exerts a surprisingly powerful influence within our thinking. Although it is easily dismissed as little more than a figure of speech, when we attend more closely to the ways in which we use it, metaphor’s importance swiftly becomes more apparent. Although many of our metaphors have become quite invisible to us through habitual use, […]

  • Embracing Embodiment: Baptism and the Nuptial Meaning of the Body

    In my previous two articles, I argued for the significance of the fact that baptism addresses our bodies in their objectivity. In the body, the self has an existence that runs deeper than our consciousness, decision, self-expression, and action. In washing our passive bodies, baptism seals us with an anticipatory seal of future resurrection. The […]

  • Presenting Limbs and Organs: Baptism and Sacrificial Ethics

    Although we tend to define ourselves by our subjectivity—our perceptions, thoughts, feelings, decisions, actions—we are frequently forgetful of the objectivity of the self as body, the reality of the self that underlies and precedes all of our subjectivity. The body is the site of our ‘givenness’, where we are embedded in nature, tradition, society, and […]

  • Sealed for Resurrection: Baptism and the Objectivity of the Body

    Christians, even those who say much about ‘incarnational’ faith, can say surprisingly little about the way that God claims our bodies. Perhaps this is most striking in treatments of baptism, where the intensely bodily character of the rite would especially seem to invite comment. Even if the term ‘baptism’ were to be regarded as synecdochal […]

  • Before Obergefell: Some Thoughts on How We Got Here

    The establishment of same-sex marriage is not a bolt from the blue, but the logical outworking of a series of related developments in America’s practice and understanding of marriage. Same-sex marriage was unthinkable just a few decades ago. What made it thinkable wasn’t a concerted campaign on the part of gay rights activists to undermine […]

  • Christians, Liturgy, and the Past, 2

    Connecting with the past within the present is a complicated endeavor. One of the most immediate challenges facing us is that of ensuring that, as Christians, our use of the past is undertaken in service of present faithfulness. The past is not a realm to which we retreat, but a developing legacy that we must […]

  • Christians, Liturgy, and the Past, 1

    Over the last few years, I have had frequent cause to return to the question of the ways in which the past and its forms of liturgy should be handled within the Church today. Keeping faith with the past is seldom as straightforward an endeavour as it might initially appear, despite the extreme self-assurance that […]

  • Sexual Difference, Liberal and Christian

    Ethika Politika has published a fascinating interview within which the French Catholic philosopher Fabrice Hadjadj discusses his recent work on the subject of sexuality. While there are many points where our lines of reasoning as Protestants will sharply diverge from Hadjadj’s, there is also much that is deeply perceptive in the interview. Within this article, […]