Running Heads

From the editors of Cascade Books and Pickwick Publications at Wipf and Stock Publishers

Hometown Writers

I hail from the small town of Forgan, Oklahoma, population 400. (As I have been wont to say, the entire population could perish on a single jetliner.) Like many small towns throughout America, Forgan is marked by a love of high school sports. In 1975, the year I graduated, we won the state championship in eight-man football (itself another story for another column). Since then, the women’s basketball team have won state once, and the men three or four times.

But while some of us were engrossed in sports, others were obsessed with words. At least three published writers (including, humbly, myself: look for my first foray into fiction coming soon, The Second Baptism of Albert Simmel) have in recent decades come out of Forgan and its rural environs. This week I finished reading the Forganian Samuel Hall’s Daughter of Cimarron  (Ashberry Lane). Sam is a little older than my mother, so I didn’t go to school with him and I don’t know him personally. But it was a pleasure to read his novel, the fictionalized story of his mother settling into life on an Oklahoma farm right in the middle of the Depression and the Dust Bowl. Sam did a solid job of writing from a woman’s perspective, and describing in vivid detail the hardships the pioneers of the area faced.

Perhaps the most successful of Forgan-based writers has been John Erickson, who worked for several years as a ranch-hand outside town. From his experiences, he created the series of Hank the Cowdog, a canine who faithfully (and often amusingly) helped his rancher-masters. The book series was later developed into a Saturday morning cartoon series for children, and ran for several years.

We can’t compare to the success of writers of the small Alabama town that produced Harper Lee and Truman Capote. But it’s notable that a town as tiny as Forgan can produce writers out of proportion to its size. What accounts for this? Surely, in no small part, love of talk and oral storytelling in small towns, and the tendency to gather regularly with extended families and hear about the past in all it challenges and humor.


Marathon Showcase Showdown—Guess Time, Win Book!

On Sunday, October 4th, at 7:00am Pacific, I’ll attempt to complete my seventh marathon. It’s the first marathon I’ve run in seven years, and I’m excited about running around Portland, especially up and over the historic St. John’s bridge (though I might reconsider my enthusiasm for the bridge when I’m climbing it around 17 miles in).


As the date gets nearer, I’ve been thinking more and more about all of the training, the race details, what to eat, what not to eat, etc. My watch reminds me every day how close I am to the event.


When not running, I’ve been very busy lately in my capacity as an editor finalizing work on books for the Evangelical Theological Society, the American Academy of Religion, and the Society of Biblical Literature. One of the books I’ve really enjoyed proofreading is Barry Harvey’s forthcoming Taking Hold of the Real: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Profound Worldliness of Christianity (Cascade Books).


Barry’s book is not only a major contribution to Bonhoeffer studies, but also a significant contribution to the conversation about what it means to live as faithful Christians in a “world come of age.”

Since I’ve had my marathon and Barry’s book on my mind a lot lately, I thought I’d combine them into something fun and promotional with my blog post today.

Wipf and Stock will give a free copy of Barry’s book to the person who comes the closest to guessing my marathon finishing time in hours and minutes. (Barry has given his thumbs up to the idea: “What do they say in Hollywood? There’s no such thing as bad publicity? There is probably is, but your idea sounds good to me. Go for it!”).

Details: Place your entry in a comment on this blog post; one entry per person. Price is Right rules in effect, meaning you have to guess a time faster than or equal to my finishing time in order to win. So if I break the world record and run a 2 hour marathon, tough luck if you guessed 2:01 (though thanks for the vote of confidence!). The only exception will be if I DNF (“did not finish”), in which case whoever picks the slowest time wins! All entries must be submitted before 7am Pacific Sunday morning.

Our marketing director, James Stock, suggested we award a number of prizes, but I will let him determine what they are. Perhaps we’ll give away multiple copies, or perhaps copies of other exciting forthcoming titles, to runners up.

What is a woman?

I am in the middle of proofreading an exciting new book from Cascade Books. Thinking Woman: A Philosophical Approach to the Quandary of Gender by Jennifer Hockenberry Dragseth is a helpful philosophical inquiry about women.


Here are a few paragraphs on the method and design of the book:

This is a philosophical book, not a sociological study or a political treatise. This book explores a “What is X?” type of question, namely “What is a woman?” The book’s method follows that of the ancient philosopher, Socrates. Socrates’s method, which he advocates for both men and women philosophers according to Plato, was to ask a question, hear an answer, discuss the answer, detail the limits or problems of the answer, and then continue with another possible answer. This is the method that is used in each chapter of the book.

As such, this book is an invitation to the reader to a philosophical dialogue on the question: “What is a woman?” The book is by no means comprehensive or exhaustive. I have limited the conversation to four major theories that are active in contemporary Western feminist discourse. These theories are Gender Essentialism, Gender Neutrality, Gender Existentialism, and Gender Fluidity. Gender Essentialism is the theory that women have an essential and unique nature that is both biologically and psychologically different from the nature of men. Gender Neutrality is the claim that women have the same essential psychological and intellectual nature as men despite biological differences in sex. Gender Existentialism is the theory that women, although biologically different from men, have intellectual and psychological habits that differ from men only because of cultural factors. The theory of Gender Fluidity claims that both gender and biological sex are constantly changing categories that are culturally defined.

Each chapter presents each system by introducing some of the women thinkers who most famously articulated the theories. Because their views were born in the context of their lives, the lives and historical context of the thinkers are important. Each chapter presents the biographies as well as the ideas of the women who were the main architects of each theory. Included also is a description of the ways the specific theory influenced the feminist struggle to help women thrive. Importantly, each chapter shows an area of contemporary public discourse where the theory remains a dominant voice. This demonstrates that each theory is still very much alive. Each chapter concludes with a discussion of the possible objections to the discussed theory before summarizing the main points of the chapter.

In the conclusion, the book does not advocate for a specific theory of woman as being true or correct. Rather the conclusion acknowledges that the concept of woman is complex. Each of the four theories says something obviously true. Thus, understanding women requires holding all four theories simultaneously while acknowledging their contradictions. However, all four theories also clearly fall short of a comprehensive account of women. Thus, understanding women requires continuing dialogue with women and those who are interested in them.

Look for it to be available in the next month or so. It would make for a great reading assignment in all sorts of university and college courses.

Symposium on Race and Racism

A week ago at this time I was somewhere over the Rockies on my way to Chicago and the Symposium on the Theological Interpretation of Scripture at North Park Theological Seminary. The three days at North Park were full and lively, with several great sessions on the topic of Race and Racism. Eventually the papers will be published in the annual journal Ex Auditu from Pickwick Publications, hence my presence there. Below you will find a teasing excerpt from each of the main papers. Keep in mind these are pulled from larger essays and the essays themselves may undergo revision before they are published some time next Spring. The title of the presentation may not be the title of the published essay, and so because of this, I am only providing the speakers’ names.  You can follow links to find out more about who they are, where they work, etc. Videos of all of the sessions of the symposium are here.

Lisa Sung:

The very employment of racial concepts and categories, in the absence of critical historical awareness—using “race” terminology in unmarked, unqualified, and ultimately non-deconstructive ways—comprises a naive realism, and is evidence of the power of socialization—the extent to which the church and its teachers are still captive to a “false consciousness”—the positing of a racial scheme as value-neutral, substantive explanatory concepts, one that conceals its historical origins and essential logic as a classificatory scheme underwriting a stratified social order which secured dominance by assigning persons to newly created status groups to which the goods of society would be disparately allocated.

Bo Lim:

If the Cross is the Lynching Tree, and the lynchee is the Suffering Servant, then salvation for Americans rests upon their acknowledgment of our racist past, most exemplified in the mass terror lynchings of African Americans. The inability to see Christ as the first lynchee results not merely from a lack of information but a lack of faith. Yet those who see that Christ was lynched on a tree can claim, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed” (Isa 53:6).

Love Sechrest:

The goal of allyship is not for people in privileged groups to be shamed, punished, or retaliated against, but to eliminate the conditions that dehumanize us all, to restrain evil in our midst, and to seek our common good. Each and every one of us needs to be able to see what and who have been previously invisible as we cautiously move towards inhabiting the kinds of relationships that give honor to the gospel, risking pain but persisting in our desire to build the Beloved Community.

Ray Aldred:

By entering into the shared narrative of the Treaties as equals, the possibility exists for a shared identity that does not necessitate the eradication of identity. Instead it is an opportunity to embrace the past and be open to a future of walking together in the Creator’s land in a good way. Treaty functioning as a shared narrative allows for a re-envisioning of history and becomes a tool for healing.

Kyle Small:

Coming up from the turbulent waters of initiation is new life, indeed a white person with a white body can participate differently. Rising from the drowning, ascending from hell is a rejection of Caucasian as an identity marker. The word is drowned in the depths and will not return. The initiation is a participation in something other than whiteness currently understood. The journey to hell exposes the fullness of white privilege and supremacy practiced by white-followers of Jesus. The journey down discloses the full white consciousness. The pain, misery, and shame that will occur to a white body that enters hell will emerge from the depths out of breath and seeking help from divine participants who are image-bearers-of-many-hues.

Néstor Medina (old CV):

Since the middle of the twentieth century, hermeneutics has changed at a faster pace in great part because the Eurocentric character of theology, biblical scholarship, and philosophy has been challenged. Those other cultural groups previously absent from prevalent versions of Christian scholarship and theology brought forth critical new approaches to interpretation, which reclaim the role of gender, social location, racial-ethnic background, and cultural tradition in the biblical text, from its original production when it was written to its reading and interpretation in multiple settings today.

Emerson Powery:

Are translations responsible to present ancient tensions in new ways to help “address” our contemporary concerns and conversations or should they translate what “they see,” which is always interrelated in complex ways with how translators view their own contemporary world. It is not only language that changes, however; perspectives, in this case, with regard to ethnic conflict also changes. So are translators responsible to present ancient tensions in new ways to “address” (indirectly) contemporary conflicts?

Lewis Brogdon:

Because [Onesimus was not a Christian in the house of a Christian master] is ignored as an exegetical and theological issue, the impact of the conversion of Onesimus is lessened. Instead great emphasis is given to Philemon’s benevolence and the return of a wayward slave. . . . This is both a distorted and limited reading of the letter. In my reading of Philemon, exclusion and its role in the unconverted condition of a house slave is an important theological issue. I believe that Onesimus departed and was not a Christian because of Philemon’s practice of selective inclusion. In this sense, the conversion of Onesimus serves as an indictment against Philemon and the church. In addition, the return of Onesimus as a Christian takes on a different kind of significance that what is argued by slave-flight interpreters.

Ten Commandments of Debate

This has made the rounds on the internet for some time under various titles. It ought to be mandatory reading for anyone posting a Facebook comment or standing to ask a question during a session at an academic conference.



Daylight Saving—Movie Trailer (funny)


Charles Chauncy (1705-1787) on ‘death’ in 1 Corinthians 15

I just had a weird experience. I was looking on the internet for information about Rev. Charles Chauncy when I came across a blog post that I found very thought provoking. The weird thing is . . .  I wrote it (back in August 2009). I had forgotten that I had written it and I had forgotten that Chauncey had said the things he said. I’d also forgotten the ideas it provoked in me. So, I hereby give it a second lease of life.


Charles Chauncy was minister of First Church in Boston for decades. He was very influential and is best known as an opponent of the Great Awakening (standing against men like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, et al). So that does not make him an obvious person for an evangelical to turn to for inspiration.

However, Chauncy was a firm Bible-believing Christian and whilst he sadly came to doubt and then reject the classical doctrine of the Trinity we must stress that he did so because he believed it to be unbiblical (it was not uncommon in this period for Bible-based Christians to reject the Trinity as unbiblical).

Anyway, of interest here is that Chauncy became a universalist because he believed it to be the only view consistent with Scripture. In 1762 he preached a sermon entitled “All Nations Blessing Christ,” which was the first hint at this new view. But the main work he wrote is a very scholarly (I’m not joking about the scholarly part) book published anonymously in 1784 entitled The Mystery hid from Ages and Generations, made manifest by the Gospel-Revelation: or, The Salvation of All Men: The Grand Thing aimed at in the scheme of God (they loved short and snappy titles in those days)

The Salvation of all Men (1784) is a very impressive work—one of the more impressive works from the history of universalist theology. It provoked a book-length response from Jonathan Edwards (son of the famous Jonathan Edwards) entitled The Salvation of all Men Strictly Examined: and the endless punishment of those who die impenitent, argued and defended against the objections and reasoning of the late Rev Doctor Chauncy, of Boston, in his book entitled “The Salvation of all Men”. See what I mean about snappy titles! At least you knew what the book was all about! It does what it says on the can. (for those who are interested you can download both books online. Here is Chauncy and here is Edwards).

Anyway, all I wanted to do was to draw attention to one of Chauncy’s arguments regarding 1 Corinthians 15. The relevant text reads (in the ESV)

22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order:
Christ the firstfruits,
then at his coming those who belong to Christ.
24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.
25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

Against the majority view Chauncy argues that Paul sees a temporal gap—perhaps a very long one—between the end of v. 23 and the start of v. 24 (p. 208). He reasons that Paul has in mind the Second Death when he speaks of ‘death’ in v. 26. Consequently, until the Second Death is destroyed (which is effected when all those condemned to hell are redeemed) Christ has not defeated death.

Now I find Chauncy’s case unconvincing as an attempt to exegete what Paul meant (not least because his arguments, which I will not set out here, depend on interpreting Paul’s meaning through the Book of Revelation).

However, there might be a theological argument from Chauncy’s reading of Paul that is suggestive. Chauncy reasons that the grounds for thinking that death is an enemy would also apply to the Second Death—indeed more so. If death is an enemy of Christ that needs to be destroyed then the Second Death is more so. Both are divine punishments on sin that cause humans to fall short of God’s ultimate intentions for them. If one was inclined to agree with such logoc then Paul’s argument in 1 Cor 15 would require an extension beyond what Paul was talking about (i.e., the first death) so as to apply to the Second Death. In other words Paul has provided a theological argument that has an even bigger implication that he draws out explicitly (but one fully consistent with his universalist intro in 15:22).

Now Chauncy also has a fall-back argument in case any readers have not been persuaded that Paul is speaking of the Second Death. It too is interesting. He points out that the kind of resurrection that would count (for Paul) as a defeat for the first death is not a mere restoration to life. Rather, only a resurrection to glory and immortality would do the job. 1 Cor 15 makes that clear: only when “the corruptable shall have put on incorruption” shall it come to pass that “death is swallowed up in victory.” So until all have attained such a resurrection it cannot be the case that the first death has been fully defeated (and 1 Cor 15 requires that it is fully defeated).

Now this is an interesting argument—one I have never considered before [RAP on 30 Sept 2015: and one I had completely forgotten until this morning]. I am not sure that it would count as a straightforward exegesis of what Paul ‘had in mind.’ But it surely counts as a sensible reflection on the implications of Paul’s reasoning. I don’t think that Paul’s concern in 1 Cor 15 was the salvation of all. I do believe that he asserted the salvation of all in 15:22, but his focus is on how that applies to believers. The damned don’t appear in his scheme, except in the gaps and by implication. But I think that Chauncy helps us see how a theological reading of 1 Cor 15 that takes Paul’s logic seriously can lead in universalist directions.


Why Do Republicans Want to Govern?

There’s a strange thing about Republicans who want to serve in federal government. This includes the many Republican candidates for the president, the strongest office in the federal government. With the demise of moderate Republicans, most if not all Republican candidates for the House, Senate, and Presidency talk about how they want to shrink and in some cases eliminate government (think of Rick Perry, in the 2012 elections, wanting to eliminate three regulatory agencies, even if he couldn’t remember all three). Not to put too fine a point on it, but why do these Republicans want to serve in a government they say they hardly believe in? Their scorn for government raises questions about their ambition to be a part of it.

What would we think of an aspiring doctor who said she wanted to eliminate much of the practice of medicine? What to make of a would-be banker who said banking should be shrunk “to the size where it could be drowned in a bathtub”? Or a house-builder who set out to build as few houses as she might possibly could? For that matter, what about a book editor whose goal was to produce fewer books every year? (I know what my bosses at Wipf and Stock would make of that!)

So here’s a question that should be asked in the next interminable Republican presidential debate: If you hate federal government so much, why do you want to be a part of it?

Persons over Projects

So I did an impromptu interview the other day in our office about my work as an editor. I wasn’t at all dressed or shaved for the occasion, but it was fun and it gave our media guy a chance to play around with his new toys and editing software. Here’s a piece he put together:

Oh, and there was this as well…



One biblical book that is not highly read by the nonscholarly community is the book of Deuteronomy. My friend of over thirty years, Don Benjamin, has written a really engaging commentary on Deuteronomy, employing methods of feminist criticism and social-science criticism. He provides so much that is interesting along with an enormous wealth of secondary literature (most of it not well know). He engages a wide range of not only feminist and social-science literature, but also comparative ancient Near Eastern materials. This volume will be ready by the Society of Biblical Literature meeting in November. I recommend you put this on your list.

« Older posts

© 2015 Running Heads

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑