Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Pro-life Movement Was Compromised Well Before Donald Trump

I have to begin by stating that my knowledge of Mark Shea's alleged meltdown during this US presidential cycle really hasn't been at the forefront of my mind, the foremost reason for which being that Roman ecclesiology can get you into a difficult position. Shea, to his credit, follows Roman ecclesiology to its logical conclusions, even if it may or may not lead to the occasional bout of theological and doctrinal incoherence.

This out of the way, Mark Shea posits that the pro-life movement has been or will be compromised by supporting Donald Trump.

It needs to be said, Shea is sounding the alarm a little too late....about thirty years too late. The pro-life movement was thoroughly compromised when in the wake of Roe v. Wade, it aligned itself to politics that restricted the term to only one issue. In the pursuit of a political solution to a moral and spiritual problem, the pro-life movement was forced to rally behind politicians who had no genuine intention of overturning Roe v. Wade (which would be political suicide) and who proposed policy that would come into conflict with any honest reading of the Gospel and the Tradition. One cannot forget the pro-life movement's circling around George W. Bush, despite an illicit war and a foreign policy that blurred the protections of basic human rights over seas.

The inability to address a moral and spiritual issue on moral and spiritual grounds led the pro-life movement to cozy up to political interests and undercut any integrity the position had. This is why, in large part, the social justice movement (in religious circles) never adopted the pro-life movement's opposition to abortion - pro-life seems little interested in "whole life" and putting its money where its mouth is to support the integral development of lives (both mother and child) they thought they were saving.

But again, this did not begin with supporting Trump. Supporting Trump is the logical conclusion to both a) the trajectory the pro-life movement has been on, and b) the new alignment of the culture.

In the current climate, Christianity can no longer expect to yield public influence - those days are gone. The anti-Christian sentiment (led by marginal Christians no less) has grown to such a point that Christianity is now in a position of simply trying to be tolerated in the current cultural climate. Yes, it is more politics with the intention of supporting a presidency that will, at least at the level of federal law, allow Christian churches room to breathe, that is, adhere to certain convictions that are now thoroughly despised by the culture. Trump, by not making abortion, gay marriage, or religious freedom election issues, and by welcoming both evangelical Christianity and the LGBT community into his fold, provides an opportunity to find respite from the pressure Christianity has felt in the US for the past decade.

Is this the right approach? It falls in line with a 1700 year history of getting too close to the state to have proper distance.You can be the judge as to whether or not this is the right decision. There is no doubt that Christianity as a whole is in turmoil in the West - it is divided among itself and is looking headlong at a generation that is so un-churched it has no appreciation for the good religion can produce (though it knows a litany of religion's mistakes). Whether or not another political decision to issues that are moral if not spiritual is debatable.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Problem with Preaching

The finest preaching I ever heard in my life was in the context of a Mennonite service. The preaching was imbued with thoroughly biblical theology - it was an example of modern day exegesis at its finest. My wife observed we would likely never hear such depth in Catholic church. I observed that the Orthodox Church would also prove wanting in this aspect.

The phenomenon of sterile is common across more sacramental forms of Christianity, that is, Christian churches where sacramentalism, as in either the mystical re-enactment of sacred events, or ritualistic and/or sometimes quasi-magical invocations of divine presence held to be of a certain efficacy by the believing body, is basis for and constant referent of worship. This is, of course, the tried and true basis of cultic observance so far as can be gleaned from recorded history. The ritual observance is conceived of as having a power in of itself and dissolving the boundaries between the sacred and the profane with such real force that it assumes pride of place in the consciousness. Liturgical action is therefore the axis upon which the religion revolves.

Sacramental Christianity is stayed, reserved, and collected to the point of restriction in its preaching. One can muse as to why. The most likely cause is the influence of Neo-Platonism on Christian theology and liturgy; the impassibility and apathea that characterizes divinity becomes the primary means of conceiving God of Scripture and leaves its mark on religious observance. We can see some shades of this in early monastic writings (where apathea becomes the central mechanism by which the ascetic life can be achieved). We can also see this in the popular asceticism to which Jerome counseled his patrons. As part of the liturgical act, preaching had to take on traits that made it qualitatively similar to the high ritualism. This is not to say one doesn't find examples that could have been to the contrary (there are homilies from Basil and Chrysostom that are potentially laden in pathos). It is to say, however, that the dominant trend was for stayed and reserved preaching. There is a culture of preaching that developed in more sacramental forms of Christianity that sees dynamic, engaged preaching (that actively gets into the "guts" of Scripture) as a distraction to the liturgical action and out of context in the liturgy.

The need for effective preaching is widely acknowledged. Towards that end, a dominant trend in sacramental churches is to pivot towards more aloof and overly academic sermons - although this approach is marred by a similar reserved quality in virtue of having been conceived and nurtured in the university, an environment that, despite whatever strengths it can reasonably claim, is characterized by a certain artificiality. Still, sacramental churches acknowledge a problem.

In truth, the problem has existed for centuries. It can be argued that it was symptomatic of the divorce between the religious establishment and the people it had a responsibility to minister to. The history of the pre-Reformation movements such as the beguines, the Waldensians (Peter Waldo), the Cathars and Albigensian, and the early mendicant orders all revolved around a common need to engage in preaching that was pointedly able to direct itself into the lives and concerns of its audience. The medieval age was complemented by a dominant cultural belief in the activity of the supernatural in daily life - we cannot discount how important this was to the success of religious movements that, in one way or another, highlighted preaching, which was oftentimes in conjunction with what we would today classify as either charismatic experience, or perhaps even gnosis. Waldo, for instance, is alleged to have received inspiration for a radical life of alleviating poverty and rejecting Roman excess after hearing a sermon preached on the life of St. Alexius. He is an exemplar of an exciting time in the history of Western Christianity, when the ambient presence of the age of faith led to experiences at odds with the religious establishment.

History shows how these movements all eventually headed. Ecclesiastical authority sought (for a variety of reasons) conformity, regulation, and suppression where deemed necessary. Even movements more aligned with ecclesiastical authority, such as the Dominicans, had prescriptions governing their preaching, down such details as cadence, physical motions, etc. Groups that found assimilation (such as the Dominicans and Franciscans) or those that found tolerance (such as certain beguines), found the preaching content and charismatic experience of their movements strictly regulated, to the point that one can argue the final product that received ecclesiastical approval was on tangentially related to the original phenomenon. Certainly, the experience of the supernatural and subsequent proclamation were suppressed in favor of a model complementary towards the hierarchy., the consequences of which would emerge with the likes of Luther, Calvin, et al.

It is tempting to believe that the problem with preaching in sacramental churches ultimately derives from the alleged experience of the divine that surrounds it. Whether or not any religious experience happened (and mind you, it is worth noting that this caveat applies to sacramental experience as well) is beyond the means of verification of most human agencies, ecclesiastical or otherwise. If an experience of the supernatural did in fact occur, the role of the hierarchy is challenged - pretenses to mediating the access to God become less certain and positions of authority based upon said pretenses are challenged if other people begin to believe in the authenticity and authority of the experience. Reserved and restricted preaching has its virtue in that it does not risk any disruption to the religious system built up around the sacramental/liturgical experience. Preaching that otherwise defies liturgical reserve risks offers an experience of the supernatural that is not contained in the liturgical act or sacraments and thus falls outside of the regulation of a given religious establishment. This was acutely observable in the medieval period until the Reformation, wherein the religious authority that mediated the sacramental access to the divine found its unique legitimacy threatened by various movements that fell outside of its normal channels.

Rightly or wrongly, the course of history has dictated that preaching in any appreciable sense is a religious phenomenon reserved to branches of Christianity characterized by a low sacramentalism and divergence from traditional lines of apostolic succession. At root of this divergence is the experiential encounter with God producing two distinct and at times mutually exclusive notions as to how divine presence is effected by human participants.


Schuyler Canterbury KJV - Getting closer!

Schuyler has confirmed that the Canterbury KJV is at the printers and pre-orders should begin shortly after Labor Day in the U.S. (September 5th to the rest of the world).

It is hard not be impressed when one sees examples of its interior:

Crisp, clear, and, frankly, stunning. Not to betray any bias here, but the single column psalter is still the big win with this one:


The Goatskin edition will come in at $220.00 USD, Calfskin at $100.00 USD, and the leather over board at $60.00 USD. All editions will have art gilting and 36 GSM paper - among the upper tier of what you'll find in the industry.

You can find more info at the Canterbury webpage.




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Monday, July 11, 2016

ESV Heritage Bible Update

The out-of-print Heritage Bible is slated to be re-launched at the beginning of 2017 as the Single Column Personal Size Bible. The edition will come in imitation leather as well as black calfskin. The Heritage Bible was basically a reduced version of the Legacy Bible, an edition which has no shortage of fans but proved to be something more appropriate for at-home use. The Heritage aimed at providing a more travel-friendly option of the stunning Legacy book block, and did so marvelously well.

Crossway's single column editions tend to be difficult to find when they go out of print. The ESV Single Column Reference Bible is a good example of this. If you didn't get it back in the day, re-sellers will nearly take you for a ride now - Crossway hasn't reproduced that block since. This makes the news that the Heritage book block is staying in circulation all the better to the ears.




Theological Fluff - or, What Happens When Mainstream Catholicism Tries Offering a Response to the Benedict Option

It abounds. Usually regarding any contemporary issue. Oftentimes coming out of contemporary Roman Catholic circles.

In keeping with the tradition of Theological Fluff (cute, internet meme styled options devoid of substance and rigor, behold : the David Option.

Where does one begin?
"While various scholars debate on what exactly the Benedict Option is or what it should look like, generally the option includes retreating from the world, preserving and nurturing positive aspects of civilization and of the Christian faith, and then eventually approaching the world with moral truth and good culture."
Really? I don't necessarily think so. The Benedict Option typically means keeping a critical eye on the culture, recognizing that the culture has taken turns that cannot be reconciled with Christianity, at least Christianity in any meaningful sense of the word. Retreat from the world? I don't think so - the position does not require the creation of alternative self-sustaining communities. What it requires is that one positions one's religion as the lens through which reality is interpreted and upon which actions are based, with a sagious reflection upon the culture, such that one recognizes irreconciliable dichotomies and maintains the integrity to leave one's faith uncompromised. 

Oh, but it gets better:
"The “David Option” would be inspired by the shepherd-king who fought the giant Goliath. In the Old Testament narrative, Goliath was overwhelming, violent, offensive, and an immanent threat to the Israelites.
The young King David did not succumb to fear and did not seclude himself in the Israelite camp. He engaged the Philistine. David was dressed simply, without armor or regular weaponry. He was empowered by a sense of righteousness and justice, and artfully struck the head of Goliath with simple stones from the earth claiming victory over the giant."
.....David killed Golaith...that's it...kill, murder, violence, an offensive action...not to be crass, but that must be some pretty crazy opium the author was smoking.

...but it gets better:
"Drawing from this example of the Israelite leader, the David Option is a challenge and opportunity for the Church in the contemporary world. In imitation of the shepherd-king, it calls the Church to simplicity, having neither ornate, royal attire or defensive armor."
Okay...David was a king. We have a pretty good idea of what kings (who exercised a ceremonial and military function) wore. He would have worn both ornate vestments and defensive armor in his life.

"It summons the Church to stay focused on holiness and to engage the world with a genuine spirit of justice and goodness, not ideology, power lust, or political agenda."

Has this guy actually read these books? David is an interesting character study, with a good dose of power lust and political agenda in his life time.
"Symbolically, the David Option compels the Church to use “stones” in the “head” of the goliaths of our age; namely, to use reason and respectful arguments as a means for the intellectual conversion of culture."
That is a pretty big leap there, buddy, want to lay down a basis for your post-modern anagogy?

"Fideism, heavy theological systems, rash moral judgment, hubris, isolationism, and similar spirits and approaches have no place in the David Option. There is no room for a remnant in this option. It clearly exemplifies the proper place of the Church within the human family, especially when moral truth is questioned and neglected and times seem dark."
David was a King. His context was a theocratic monarchy. He actually killed someone, was involved in the conspiracy to remove his predecessor from power, committed adultery, had someone else killed to cover up his act, etc.

I don't know if I'm willing to throw my hat in with the Benedict Option, but Mr. Dreher's idea has little in the way of competition from mainstream Catholicism, especially if this drivel is the best it can do. 


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Future of Crossway's Legacy Edition

Crossway's Legacy edition was a major development in contemporary bible binding. 36 gsm from a major publisher with a wide market share was not something many readers thought would be seen in 2012 - and is still largely reserved to somewhat smaller publishers strictly involved in the premium bible niche. It was later re-released as an Heirloom edition, printed and bound by Jongbloed on 28 gsm paper. It made the Legacy more portable, but there was no substituting the original 36 gsm supplied by LEGO.

Going forward, there are a few changes to the Legacy line.

First, Crossway has confirmed a second printing of the Heirloom Legacy should be available by the end of the year. Thus far, the expectations are that the specs from the first version will be duplicated.

Second, if you haven't purchased the LEGO produced immitation leather version of the Legacy (the original), you may want to do so now. The original Legacy edition is heavily discounted on ChristianBook.com. Crossway has confirmed that when this stock is gone, it is gone - Crossway is taking the 36 gsm edition out of print.

In the recent past, Crossway has let editions go out of print. Typically, you wait about 3 or 4 years and these same editions become sought after. It is not certain how the continued publication of the Heirloom Legacy will effect interest in the original - the paper on the original is REALLY nice (thanks to LEGO).

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

CROSSWAY - ESV Heirloom Thinline in Brown Goatskin (Review)


Crossway has something truly exquisite in its Heirloom line. Printed and bound by Jongbloed in the Netherlands, the Heirloom line represents Crossway's premium treatment of some of its more endearing text blocks. As the name of the line implies, these volumes are designed to last - investing in one of these editions should ensure you have a bible that can transition to another generation. These editions are supremely crafted (among Jongbloed's best work) and the pinnacle of Crossway's offerings.



The Heirloom Thinline wastes no time in impressing the reader. The goatskin binding is extremely supple - a tactile delight, frankly. One is readily reminded why one falls in love with the art of the sacred book.

The Heirloom Thinline features perimeter stitching - coupled with the inside liner, this ensures flexibility of the front and back covers. 

The perimeter stitching is done quite well - in keeping with Jongbloed's standards.

                                                                                                                                                                 











The end papers are tabbed/edge-lined to provide greater durability. This is standard practise for premium bibles and customary for Jongbloed's top tier editions. The hinge has Jongbloed's nearly trademark re-enforcement. There is minor trade off in that the bible (as one finds in many Jongbloed editions) does not lay flat. Conversely, the hinge is strong and that can often be crucial to a bible's long term durability, especially if it receives a reasonable amount of daily use. If the hinge is weak, the bible will fall apart, typically detaching the cover from the book block.
The ESV Thinline Heirloom is designed for portability. As such, its strength is intended to be found in manual use. To this extent, the Thinline Heirloom fits extremely comfortably in the hand and is easy to navigate and read from. The 8 point font works well. As should be expected, the thinline format keeps it suitable for carrying in one's satchel or backpack - this one will be easy to take with you on the road and isn't tough on the eyes.
The text text block is a well used thinline block from Crossway. It has proven its endurance and established its credentials. It is only fair to note that due to the age of the block, it does not feature line matching. Depending upon one's preference, this might be a consideration. The paper is approximately 28 gsm and there is a some bleed through, although it does not distract from the reading experience.


The art gilding is extremely well done across the Heirloom line, benefiting as it does from Jongbloed's excellent materials and technique. When lying closed, the gold edging exudes that warmth and richness that was nearly omnipresent among bibles and prayer books and psalters until the 1960s or so, and then became displaced by methods more suitable for mass production. There are only a handful of printers on the planet who do this and do it right, successfully continuing (not simulating) practises that have since become rarities in the publishing world.

 

 My go to reference for how well a premium bible is made is not so much older bibles by Cambridge and Oxford, but rather the breviaries published in the 1940s and 1950s. The combination of art gilding, ribbons, leather lining and cover evokes the build of those well made volumes - and I still tend to think many of the printers responsible for today's premium bibles cribbed a few notes from the binding of prayer books in previous decades.

The subtle salmon color to the dye underlying the gold gilding is classic - reserved in display and following on the spectrum of well crafted sacred books from previous decades.




The Thinline Heirloom comes with two ribbon markers. As with the choice of dye under the gold gilding, Crossway has opted for more reserved ribbons. The color of course is suitable for the leather. Ultimately, there is something about Crossway's line that lends itself to more reserved ribbon markers. Crossway isn't trying to produce something ostentatious, and I am not sure how many of the more "sumptuous" ribbons out there genuinely compliment the editions they are attached to. I personally prefer something more understated and reserved when it comes to ribbons. As alluded to above, I see the continuity between contemporary premium bible design and the vintage missals and breviaries of the 40s, 50s, and 60s. The ribbons should follow suite with those noble volumes. The design in the Heirloom series carries on the tradition quite well.

Another shot of that gilding for good measure:



Every now and again one sees a bible that exemplifies the holy art of the sacred book, that is, the consistent application of rigorous standards and craftsmanship to produce a bible worthy of its purpose. The ESV Heirloom Thinline is one such volume. Sufficiently portable and easier on the eyes than many similar counter-parts, this edition will serve you well if you are looking for a well built and travel friendly ESV designed to last.

You can pick up the Heirloom Thinline at ChristianBook.com  and EvangelicalBible.com.



Holman Christian Standard Bible - UltraThin Reference Bible - Cowhide (Review)


The Holman Christian Standard Bible has been in an awkward spot. Unfortunately named, it has struggled to gain traction among advocates for either a literary or literal approach, to say nothing of that smaller (but very devoted) subset looking for bibles with a better build than is commonly found in an era of mass production. Which is a shame - because while not perfect, the UltraThin Reference BibleCowhide edition of the HCSB merits consideration. 

Admittedly, it may take a while for the UltraThin Reference Bible to grow on you. There are a few things that aren't initially palatable and take some getting used to. No, printing in China is not one of them - in fact, the paper quality and print job is acceptable. However, when reading the bible, one cannot avoid the occasional eccentricities of the HCSB translation itself. The editors would like the audience to believe this is a result of "optimal equivalency" translation. Having familiarity with the original languages, I tend to think it is more a matter of the HCSB translation trying to find its legs, as it were. Settling on either Yahweh or Lord for the translation of the divine name would help in this regard. 

Translation eccentricities aside, the main knock against this edition is the typeface. Holman selected 2K in Denmark to produce the typesetting and layout for the UltraThin Reference Bible. In doing so, the followed the course of a number of other publishers, including those in the premium bible market, who selected the firm. Most notably, Schuyler's Quentel series garnered uniform acclaim for the clarity and readability of the typesetting and layout done by 2K. Sadly, the results in the UltraThin Reference Bible fall far short of nearly perfect job in the Quentel series. Where the Quentel typesetting is crisp, clear and pulls the reader in - even those of us who "have sworn off of" double column text in favor of single column. The UltraThin Reference Bible's typesetting is, by comparison, cold, sterile, and a more than a little off putting by the proximity of the font to the typical inter-office memo or text message. The theory behind this font selection, and hence the decision of go with 2K on it, was to have a text block that was immediately clear and easy to read. To this extent, mission accomplished. The trade off is a text block that frankly doesn't look like it belongs in a book, least of all a bible. It is understandable what Holman was aiming at, but the attempt itself fails to completely hit its target.

The bad news out of the way (and it may take a while to get over that hurdle depending upon the reader), the UltraThin is a really well built bible.


The leather is smooth, and limp almost to the point of feeling like it would melt in your hands.



There a five raised hubs on the spine. All things considered, they are nicely done.


Of course an important hallmark of a cowhide binding is flexibility. 


This one, as can be seen, has flexibility in spades.



The bible has gold gilding. Admittedly, this is nothing to write home about. There are some better examples of plain gold gilding out there (JongBloed, LEGO, etc.) and there is sufficient demand for more art gilding.


Similarly, there is nothing too notable (either which way) about the ribbons. They are functional, but not silky smooth (if that is your thing). However, after a year of use, there is no indication they will fray in the immediate future. 


This bible excels at the "Genesis-Revelation" test. It opens with no help from the reader...

                                      

...And it keeps open with no help. Granted, this copy does not lay flat "end-to-end," but the reader will not need to spend any amount of energy holding the pages down.





The UltraThin Reference Bible does a good job at packing in text notes.


Aside from single column, an optimal bible will have detailed notes on the manuscript variants out there - providing the reader with a good appreciation of the full breadth of the textual tradition. Check out those notes in 1 Kings.



Overall, the UltraThin Reference HCSB has a good built. Granted, there are better ones coming out of China these days, such that it is getting more difficult to knock Chinese printing as second or third tier. In all truth, the main knock against this one is the font - it is cold, sterile, though efficient. Some readers may like it, if clarity is one's primary motivator. Ultimately, though, the UltraThin Reference HCSB gets the job done - highly portable and with a nice build. Let's see where this goes when the next revision comes out.

Note: Special thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this edition.









Saturday, July 2, 2016

Schuyler's Canterbury KJV - update - possible cover build and end page options under consideration

Well bound books merit attention. We live in perhaps the lowest historical watermark of book publishing standards and anytime a publisher wishes to challenge the status quo, I am interested. Schuyler is such a publisher. Its line of bibles is among the top tier available and their work with Jongbloed has produced exquisite editions of the Bible, reminding me more often than not of the former standards we saw for breviaries in the 20th century.

The scheduled Canterbury KJV is shaping up to a major release for the company. The hype and buzz surrounding it (due in great part to Schuyler's sharp social media presence) is uncanny. Of course, with the building excitement comes raised expectations - this is Schuyler's moment in the sun (in the premium bible world) and it is theirs to lose.

I have been fairly active any time Schuyler solicited feedback on formatting options for this edition. Not to toot my own horn, but I think I played no small part in raising the case for Schuyler to pursue red ornate drop caps for this edition in stead of settling with an underwhelming black and white print. True, it still isn't quite in the manner I imagined (and I think Mame could do a better job) but nevertheless Schuyler takes feedback seriously.

Via the EvangelicalBible's (Schuyler's distribution arm) facebook page, we learn that the publisher is toying with the idea of the a leather over board with marbled end papers (not actual examples, but for reference only, but presumably of similar styling):


  



Let me state without any ambiguity, I believe in the old world standard when it comes to publishing, particularly as pertains to binding. This is part of the appeal (and building momentum) of Crossway's upcoming six volume Reader's Bible. There is nothing quite like a book that has presence, a sturdy, thick, leather over board volume that intends to last, to run the marathon on many a book shelf or divinity library stack with the finest volumes of the last few centuries. Where such a job can be done, it ought to be done, with one caveat: it needs to be scalable.

To produce a fine leather over board volume, publishers have to be realistic with technologies and techniques, and materials available. Recognizing that not everything done in previous decades or centuries can be reproduced to the same standard in the contemporary era - without, of course, coming off as a "cheap" simulation, a failed attempt at leaving the impression of antiquity.

I've seen contemporary examples of "antique style" binding and marbled end-papers, and they come off as cheap simulations in age drowning in the inauthentic. Again, part of the appeal of Crossway's six volume Reader's Bible, is that they have targeted the essential build and aesthetic of the old world design, without trying to replicate a volume that came off an 18th century printing press. This why Crossway will deliver. The proposal floated for the Canterbury risks rendering what should be a watershed volume in the company's portfolio as a failed attempt at effecting the impression of regalia, where it should have fond regalia for the post-modern age (in the physical form of the book).

Schuyler has upped the game on just about every publisher in the premium bible world in the past 3 or so years. It has gone from strength to strength, guided by smart designs and editorial decisions. The initial problem with this proposal (and, at the moment, that is all it is) is that they seem to be falling victim to Baudrillard's notion of simulacra and simulation. We are not in James I's court - any volume designed to look the part entertains both obsolescence and degradation.

We'll see what happens here. I still think Mame, for instance, could have covered all of the bases for this project (LEGO as well). If Schuyler really is going after invoking the old world aesthetic on this one, it is yet more of a mystery to me why a firm like Mame was not at least evaluated.

I suppose we won't have to wait much longer to see the results. Fingers crossed.

Friday, July 1, 2016

ESV Reader's Bible - Topgrain Cowhide - first look!


I've been reading more from the ESV Reader's Bible. Particularly the well designed imitation leather version.

                         
As I've mentioned before, more than a few people have stopped to ask if this was calfskin - a testament to how well Crossway does its synthetics.

                          


One is hard pressed to find a bible with such an appealing layout. Again, as mentioned before, the psalter has never looked so good in a bible - the liturgical functionality of this layout presents itself from the start.



Frankly, it makes anticipation for the topgrain cowhide (single volume) all the more exciting. The imitation leather is fantastic, and although the six volume set definitely carries the old world aesthetic, there is something to be said for having all of the ESV Reader's Bible (with its nearly pitch perfect design) in the palm of your hand. For now, thanks to the folks at Crossway, here is the first image of topgrain cowhide ESV Reader's Bible:


Initial reaction: this is quite nice!

The topgrain cowhide ESV Reader's Bible is set for release September 30th, 2016. You can pre-order it at ChristianBook.com. The original ESV Reader's Bible was top choice upon release. Expect this edition to be the same.

Can't wait for the topgrain cowhide? Then check out the imitation leather and the hardcover editions - great prices at ChristianBook.com.





Somewhere between Isis and Osiris there lurks Set

A year on, and we have new reflection on the impact of the US Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage. You can read it at First Things.

The author has some very astute observations. Principle among them being that secular society is aggressive in promoting same-sex marriage as neo-orthodoxy for the civil society.

This said, I admit to being somewhat bewildered by the author's insistence in describing the more extreme progressive ideology that has dominated cultural opinion, law, and popular ethics as "new gnosticism."

The Gnostic material we have suggests a religious worldview that was invested in extreme asceticism, sexuality being filtered through ascetic ideas. One exception might be the Sethian groups, although this is such a murky area of scholarship that we have to be careful about identifying homosexuality among the sect.

There are theories that Sethian Gnosticism has some connection with the worship of the Egyptian deity Set and that the latent homosexuality in much of Set's mythology was assimilated into a Gnostic Christian framework. The theory is tenuous and is largely supported by suggestion. Linguistically, the pronunciation of Seth and Set are identical in the ancient languages and the Gospel of the Egyptians (also known as the Book of the Great and Invisible Spirit) is the most thorough Gnostic text that follows a principle of inversion. By inversion, we mean that the text routinely, if not systematically, takes everything canonical scripture/religion identifies as holy and posits it as demonic, and everything that is demonic as the true source of salvation. This includes a reference to the "holy cities of Sodom and Gomorrah" that were destroyed by a false god. Given that the account of Sodom's destruction positions homosexuality as the sin that drove God to destroy the city, it is believed that this portion of the Gospel of the Egyptians (a prime source of Sethian Gnosticism) intimates that, following the principle of inversion, homosexuality was practiced or at least seen as a source of gnosis, in opposition to the dominant strands of Christianity which condemned it.

Does this equate to a new Gnosticism sweeping the West? I'd be very careful about stating that. Yes, a new civil orthodoxy is positioning itself and it forcefully marginalizes anyone who disagrees with its articles of faith with utmost efficiency by means of media. But, let's be honest, there isn't a single metaphysical, spiritual, or supernatural element behind this new orthodoxy. It is, plainly, an unbridled materialism with which most forms of Gnosticism would have disavowed as barbaric.