Web-log, March 13, 2017

Morning Reading

Micah 6:3-4

Screenshot 2017-03-12 21.18.29

My translation:

My people, what have I done to you?
And how have I wearied you? Answer me!

For I brought you up from the land of Egypt
and from the house of bondage,
and I redeemed you and sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.


Our family has been caged (with a few excursions for each my wife and I, including Wheaton for me) for almost two weeks with the flu. So, it was really good this weekend finally to get out and have dinner with our care group. I also submitted another application to a good Christian school in Des Moines. There’s a good chance we move while I’m finishing this, but things are still very much up in the air. I need a job, and then the other dominoes will fall.

IMG_6198Set Up

Today I’m in the basement. I’ve got my Better Homes and Gardens “Fall into Autumn” candle burning and I’m trying to avoid thinking of how fast the snow is falling right now. Getting Bella to school was an hour-and-a-half task this morning between clearing the drive and sidewalks, shuffling cars (after finding them), and waiting for Molly to return to shuffle them again.

The Plan

  1. Clear of my desk, to do list, and emails
  2. Finish chapter 3 after Thursday’s melt down


Web-log, March 11, 2017


I spent the day driving (four hours), listening to presentations, and talking. Paul Maxwell compared Calvin and Voltaire’s determinism and approaches to theodicy. Kevin Emmert negotiated the “New Perspective on Calvin.” Kristen Mathson unpacked the concept of authority. And Ryan Fields critiqued Webster’s theological ecclesiology. All the talks I attended were excellent, even though Paul was interrupted by a dusty smoke detector–we had a freezing fire drill.

The Set Up

I’m back at Wheaton for a bit today, waiting to hear sparks fly on whether or not God can suffer. The real reason I came down was to hear Austin Freeman and Paul Hartog and to see the Marion Wade Center–I’ve never been. Photos below.



Example of Lewis’s grandfather’s work:



Lewis’s desk


Tolkien’s desk


My favorite book (I have the first American edition on the right):


Web-log, March 10, 2017


Yesterday I fell into a dissertation black hole, was overwhelmed with despair and quit an hour early. There are these days. What is a dissertation black hole? Here’s my explanation.

At least in theology, if you write a dissertation, chances are you are a generalist. This has some very particular difficulties. One of them is the possibility of slipping into a dissertation black hole. A dissertation black hole is when you are drawn deeper and deeper into providing backing for a minor claim to the point where you find yourself buried in a pile of PDFs and books that cost you at least eight hours.

Yesterday it was this. I wanted to illustrate the ways philosophers and theologians denied the immortality of the soul in the late Renaissance. I had a few figures and “schools” picked out, and really was only trying to expand on what I already had written, an introduction of sorts. I had already written about Siger of Brabant, George of Trebizond, Cardinal Bessarion, Marsilio Ficino, and Pietro Pompanazzi. However, a passing comment in an article I read yesterday mentioned the rise of “Alexanderism” in the 16th century, which is exactly relevant to my topic. I added “Alexanderism” to “Averroism,” and “Galenism” to be addressed by my paragraph today. The trouble is the relationship between Alexander and Averroes is incredibly complex and involves something like ten other theologians–particularly from the Italian Renaissance–between the early fifteenth century to the middle of the sixteenth. I read through roughly two hundred pages of crap about Alexanderism and Averroes before I realized that I wrote about fifteen words today, all of which will be deleted. I am no further than yesterday, and actually quite a bit more confused.

What have I gained? I now know that actually the reception of Aristotle was quite a bit more complicated than I supposed, and Alexanderism, which is probably not justly an “–ism”, has bearing on my project to a much greater degree than I had realized, culminating in a possibly pervasive influence on the radical Reformers through Jacopo Zabrella. Important, complex, and time consuming. My 14,000 word monster of a chapter threatens to become much bigger.

I could finish the 150 more pages to read, take notes, and write ten very well-crafted and nuanced sentences on the scope of controversy, and how it influenced not only Calvin’s psychology but the anabaptist psychology he attacked as well.

Or… I could write the three sentences I had originally intended, knowing full well I’m oversimplifying the situation, putting a few sources in the footnotes and move on. There are literally hundreds of these black holes to avoid. And what makes this worse is I also didn’t do very well blocking out that I don’t have any job prospects and received a discouraging email around quitting time.

I fell into a black hole.

The Set Up

Today I’m at Wheaton College for the Midwest Regional ETS.