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Mere Fidelity

Author: Mere Fidelity

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From the Mere Orthodoxy Podcast Network: thoughtful weekly conversations about theology, the culture, and the church, hosted by Matthew Lee Anderson, Derek Rishmawy, Alastair Roberts, and Andrew Wilson.
343 Episodes
Ewan Goligher has written a book making a clear and strong argument against euthanasia and for the intrinsic value of human life. He joins Matt and Alastair to discuss many fine points of this complex and knotty issue, including the history of the legality of euthanasia in Canada, the ethical implications of suicide, the good of death, and the intrinsic value of a human’s existence. Full show notes at Timestamps: Keep Us Going [0:00] A Sudden Change in Canada [1:48] A Reaction from the Church [6:48] Autonomy of Physicians [9:56] Whose Prima Facie? [14:34] Intrinsic Value [18:42] Suicide qua Suicide [21:06] Existence [27:47] Death as a Witness [32:28] Death as a Mercy [35:44] Creatures in Time [44:51]
Professor Oliver O’Donovan joins Matt and Derek once more. This time they discuss the relationship of Christian belief and practice to the contemporary political realities of our world. Do we need a new constitution? What’s to be done about the current wars? How can we properly utilize passion and reason in elections? Full show notes at Timestamps: The O’Donovan Inception [0:00] The Role of Scripture in Political Judgment [2:46] How do we read Genesis? [7:31] Carl Schmitt: Friend-Enemy Polarity [10:26] Augustine: Objects of Common Love [16:24] Rene Girard: Rivalry [21:42] Pro- and Post-Liberalism [24:45] New Beginnings [31:18] The Role of Reason in Politics [36:22] Remember the Rest of the World [40:31]
The renowned Professor Oliver O’Donovan joins Matt and Alastair to discuss the relationship between the practice of the Christian faith and the philosophical field of ethics. Full show notes at Timestamps: A Warm Welcome [0:00] How can ethics be Christian? [1:44] Creation vs. Nature [5:27] Family Duty [11:28] Jewish Tradition [19:10] Novelty [23:19] Variety [27:52] The Closure of the Canon [34:37] Moral Formation [38:55]



Casuistry is a technical term for a way of reasoning about ethical principles in specific situations. It fell into disuse historically in favor of a more narrative-based view of the world. But some of the Mere Fidelity cast are sensing that there is a felt lack of organized principle application to pastoral situations in the church. Do you agree that casuistry needs to make a comeback? Full show notes at Timestamps: The Kazooists North American Tour 2024 [0:00] What is casuistry? [2:53] History, Both Catholic and Protestant [5:30] Conflicting Principles [7:46] Proper Context, Lacking Confession [13:58] Practical Application of Practical Application [20:40] Narrative & Principle United [22:08] Moral Reasoning in Paul’s Epistles [28:44] Legalism [30:38] First Steps for Pastors [37:05]
The Deception of Isaac

The Deception of Isaac


Taking up a difficult passage of Scripture, Alastair, Andrew, and Matt consider the incident in which Jacob deceives Isaac into giving him the blessing. Multiple respected theologians bring solid principles to bear on the interpretation of this reading, and come to very different conclusions. What is to be done? Is lying always and everywhere wrong? Was Jacob justified in his ruse? And in the process Alastair reveals some striking parallels between this story and that of King David. Full show notes at Timestamps: Tempus Fugit [0:00] Misreading the Preposition [2:12] The Setup [3:34] The Dispute [7:16] The Anderson School [14:43] Davidic Parallels [23:38] Urgency in Lying [30:09] “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” [36:19] Rogues Gallery or Rogues Mirror? [38:35]
Thinking For Yourself

Thinking For Yourself


When dealing with delicate, nuanced, disputed, or important issues, should Christians primarily rely on their own judgment or the authority of church leaders in their lives? Derek, Alastair, and Matt bring their own experience to bear, as well as a reliance on Scripture and authority, to answer this listener-submitted question. Full show notes at Timestamps: Hot Deal [0:00] A Better Question Than It Sounds [2:21] Be Like Alastair [4:14] Clarification of Roles [8:55] Avoiding Individualism [13:30] Submission to Commands [22:24] Casuistry [26:18] Rebellion [30:18] Confessions [35:52]
Andrew, Matt, and Alastair take up the oft-disputed passage from First Timothy that seems to restrict the authority of women in the church. What’s the best way to handle this in the twenty-first century? Full show notes at Timestamps: Zwingli the Pastor [0:00] Old Conundrum, New Energy [1:39] One Weird Question [3:18] One Further Question [6:35] Ecclesiastical Evolution [11:22] vv. 11-15 [16:25] Load-Bearing Details [22:12] Autheneo and Didasko [27:27] Restricting Teaching [29:26] Saved Through Childbearing [35:00]
Christ is risen indeed, alleluia! The Easter season is upon us, and the regular cast and crew have the Resurrection on their minds. This year Matt, Alastair, and Derek dive into the Gospel of John to discuss what makes this account different than the other gospels, including, but not limited to: why Jesus told Mary Magdalene not to touch him but invited Thomas to touch him, why John waited for Peter before entering the tomb, and what is going on with those 153 fish. Full show notes at Timestamps: Which Gospel Is Best? [0:00] Johannine Distinctives [3:38] Resurrection All Over [7:13] Ezekiel [13:04] Characters [14:52] The Footrace [18:08] 153 Fish [26:29] Touch Me, Touch Me Not [31:48] The Ending [44:57]
As we approach Palm Sunday, Alastair, Matt, and Derek meditate—and ask incisive questions—upon the Cross, the Resurrection, the Triumphal Entry, the Transfiguration, and the true center of our faith. Full show notes at Timestamps: All Glory, Laud, and Honor [1:09] The Bible’s Third Day Problem [2:14] The Crucial Tension [3:12] Holy Saturday [6:13] Resurrection Art [8:42] Satellite Events [13:59] Watershed [17:05] Crossbearing [19:43] Triumphal Entry [22:08] Glorious Defeat [28:25]
Quit Social Media

Quit Social Media


We can all feel it. Something about social media is just really unhealthy. But what to do about it? That’s the question on the table in this episode of Mere Fidelity. Should we pull the plug entirely? Should we seek balance? Should we embrace it? Full show notes at Timestamps: One More Episode [0:00] Like, Follow, Subscribe, Defend Yourself [1:47] Types of Social Media [4:14] The Twitter Shift [6:22] Gamification of Speech [9:20] The Attention Dimension [11:23] Default [14:12] Signaling and Positioning [18:09] Digital Benedict Option [21:27] Regulate [30:27] Quit Hypocrisy [34:23] Huge Benefits [45:18]
In yet another brazen foray into hot topics, Matt, Derek, and Alastair talk with eminent trinitarian theologian, Dr. Fred Sanders, about why masculine terms are used to refer to God. Full show notes at Timestamps: Pastoral Ethics [0:00] Our Trinitarian Correspondent [1:54] Referring to God [3:22] Matt’s Second Publication [7:19] Personhood & Revelation [8:42] Trinity First, Then Creation [11:47] Now It’s Personal [15:13] Back to the Spirit [19:19] Feminine Imagery & Feminine Identity [24:17] Breath [31:33] Utility [34:43]
Is asceticism good for the Christian life? Seems like a simple question at first, but there is a lot more there than you may realize. Matt, Derek, and Alastair unpack this deep issue on this episode of Mere Fidelity. Full show notes at Timestamps: Davenant [0:00] “Ash What?” says the Presbyterian [2:26] Defining Ascesis [4:44] Negative Over Positive [5:51] Secular-Spiritual Fasting [10:51] Bodily Locus [13:57] Distorted Self-Perception [17:13] Sociology [20:29] Lenten Dysfunction [24:46] Giving Up Goods for the Sake of Betters [29:13] We Modern Democratic Individualists [32:28]
C.S. Lewis is an odd figure. Beloved, cited, and recruited by both progressive and conservative Christians, his works have a very broad appeal. The very fact of this broad appeal raises questions about his legacy. Alastair, Derek, and Matt examine this phenomenon and how Lewis is read both in fundamentalist America and evangelical Britain. Full show notes at Timestamps: Brits and Yanks [1:24] A Very Broad Fanbase [2:23] Mere Universality [7:50] Lower Influences [9:43] The Progressive Reading [12:30] Openness [18:28] Sin [22:50] Alternate Mode of Engagement [25:05] The Conservative Reading [32:07] American Lewis Retrieval [37:58]
Moral Complicity

Moral Complicity


Alistair Begg hit a nerve with Christians online when he said in public that it might be ok for a Christian to attend an LGBTQ wedding. Given his opposition to same-sex marriage, this firestorm brings to the surface many questions about the nature of moral complicity, scandal, fraternal correction, and just how a Christian is to live day-to-day in a world so at odds with the truth. All in all, a perfect topic for Matt, Derek, and Alastair to tackle together. Full show notes at Timestamps: Stable Emotional Life [0:00] An Everyday Problem [2:49] Meta Issues [3:55] For the Fundamentalists [8:04] Obvious Gaps [11:13] Sacrilege or Mere Paganism? [18:41] Fraternal Correction [24:58] Third Party Scandal [30:48] Naaman [38:59]
What does the Gospel of Jesus Christ have to say to those who wrestle with mental illness? This month’s Lexham Press book of the month arrested Matt’s attention. It’s like Augustine’s Confessions in a contemporary idiom as a really profound searching exploration of one man’s personal experience of OCD and his identity in Christ. So, today Matt and Alastair talk to the author, John Bryant. You will better understand how to simply be with a person with mental illness in a way that is best for them. Full show notes at Timestamps: Making Up For a Lost Opportunity [0:00] A Peculiar Title [4:00] A Place Without Words [6:42] Discerning Voices [10:47] Scripture Speaks [19:34] The Logic of the Body [24:24] Pastoral Relations [30:58] Practical Steps Toward Good Companionship [35:49] Lessons About Grace [39:47]
The Ethics of Shunning

The Ethics of Shunning


It’s come up on the show before, but this time Andrew and Matt are going to settle this once and for all, with some help from Alastair. How should the church deal with flagrant sins of professing Christians? Full show notes at Timestamps: Most Irregular [0:00] Digging Up the Past [1:51] Range of Interpretations [3:24] Levels of Affiliation [8:44] Clarifications [16:07] Church Discipline [21:31] A Hard Case [30:34] Publicity [41:24]
Dr. Kevin Hector has written the theology for the rest of us. Normal, non-academic persons will find Christianity as a Way of Life approachable and rewarding to dive into. But he just walked into a podcast with an ethicist, a Biblical scholar, and systematic theologian. Will he come unscathed through the grilling that Matt, Alastair, and Derek give him? (Short answer: yes, and it’s awesome.) Full show notes at Timestamps: Trustworthy Alastair [0:00] Thrilled [2:24] How Systematic [3:15] Generic Method Question [9:32] Disrupting Conversations [14:00] The Notion of Devotion [19:43] Just Ethics [22:36] Wisdom [25:36] Community [29:34] Straight-up Doctrine [33:06]
What is the most basic aspect of God’s identity? What do we know Him as first? One potential answer to those questions is God as Creator. Repeat Mere Fidelity guest, Peter Leithart, has written a book that sets out to examine the idea of God as Creator as found in Genesis 1. But this is not without controversy. Matt, Derek, and Alastair push back hard in this very fruitful discussion. Full show notes at Timestamps: Alastair’s Boss [0:00] What’s the problem with Genesis 1? [2:27] God’s First Name [6:11] God’s Dependence [11:42] God’s Freedom [16:38] Language and Accommodation [22:50] Negation, Affirmation, and Progress [27:06] Self-Revelation [42:28]
In the wake of a controversial Vatican document favorable toward blessing those in same-sex relationships, Matt, Alastair, and Derek discuss what exactly blessings are, what they do, and why we should get this right. Full show notes at Timestamps: Vatican Bomb [0:00] Having Been Blessed, We Bless [3:09] Genesis 1:28 [5:49] Asher vs Barak [9:31] Human Procreation [12:59] Priestly Blessing [16:53] But what does blessing DO? [19:28] Blessed Be God [23:24] New Testament [27:20] A Good Word [32:24]



In a time when “being canceled” is one of our greatest fears, thinking Biblically about reputation as a category is a very productive exercise. But when we turn to the Bible, there’s a prima facie tension about reputation. On the one hand, we’re told to rejoice when we are reviled; on the other, we’re told to have a sterling image for the sake of the Gospel. Derek, Alastair, and Matt dive into this conundrum and work it out in dialogue. Full show notes at Timestamps: A Taylor Swift Reference [0:00] Challenging New Testament Passages [1:54] The Third Commandment [4:30] Tension & Calumny [7:17] Which Community [14:13] Time, Reversal, & Vindication [21:18] When to Defend Yourself [26:39] Letting the World Set the Standard [32:15] Judgment Calls [42:48]