Classical art, classical music, classical literature — yeah. Classical God?

G CIEL 1_025As you may have guessed by now, we’re interested here at An Open Orthodoxy in exposing and examining our deepest view of God and what consequences follow from it. To that end, we thought it would be helpful to describe what we have in mind when we speak of these different views of God (and the larger worldviews that form around them). We’ll start with the most popular and traditional Christian view of God, a view we’ve already referred to as “classical” theism. You’ll hear open theists and Process theists use the term and criticize the view incessantly. We’ll get into those criticisms later. For now let us state simply what we believe to be at the heart of this “classical” view of God.

Classical theism is a constellation of beliefs about God, but there is at its center the single and fundamental belief that God is actus purus or “pure act” (“pure actuality” if you like). Now, actus purus is Latin, and that places us in the Western or Catholic (Latin speaking) tradition, as opposed to the Eastern Orthodox. So the question arises, Do the Orthodox also believe God is actus purus? And the answer would seem to be yes. More later.

[Detour. By the way, it can be frustrating to follow a conversation in English when Latin and Greek terms are tossed about. There are several bad reasons why theologians throw these terms around, the worst of which is to appear smarter than they are. We’re guessing the only good reason for using such terms is to situate oneself properly in a conversation that is many hundreds of years old and which was (and is) carried on in Latin and Greek. It would be igorant to know of this conversation and choose to ignore it, which is why so many Evangelicals are ignorant. But for the record, we use the Latin or Greek terms only as GPS coordinates for those who wish to explore more a conversation whose topography for more than a millennium was (and still is) mapped in Latin and Greek. We’re not trying to impress anybody. Neither of us knows Latin.]

What does God’s being “pure act” mean, then? It means, as Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart reminds us, there is no potentiality in God. Write it in bold and in a font size that will stretch its truth from one end of the universe to the other — no unfulfilled potentialities/possibilities in God. God is always all God can be — every possibility actualized, every potential always already fulfilled. Other “classical” attributes that attend this belief (with respect to time, providence, evil, foreknowledge or what have you) all revolve at different distances around this one truth like planets under the gravitational pull of the Sun. All divine attributes incline in their orbits, their momentums, and their placement around this first and fundamental truth — God is pure act, void of all potentiality. That is the heart and soul of “classical theism.”

Consequences follow from this. For example, there is no ‘temporal succession’ in God, no “before and after” and thus no memory of things past and no anticipation of things future; nor are there any changes in states of mind, i.e. no thinking one thought after another and consequently no ‘coming to know’ what ‘comes to be’ as it comes to be. These consequences can all be gathered together underneath what theologians call ‘immutability’. In the case of “classical” theism, that immutability is absolute.

Isn’t God unchanging in any respect? Yes, he certainly must be. But do the senses in which God must be unchanging or immutable preclude the possibility of his being open to change in other senses? Interestingly, when the Orthodox explain why it’s important that God not be thought of as possessing any unrealized/unactualized potential, we (Dwayne and I) find ourselves agreeing with the values that motivate the Orthodox. That is, we agree that what it is the Orthodox wish to protect regarding God ought to be protected and maintained — whether it’s the unimprovable and undiminishable fullness of God’s life, his absolute freedom from Creation, his imperturbable triune delight, even his transcendence of time. In all these senses God is actus purus, pure actuality with no potentiality whatsoever. At this point some may be wondering how it is we are open theists at all. And you will find we disagree with many of our open theist colleagues in how we integrate divine transcendence with our open theism. But as we hope to show (and as we think Greg Boyd does show in Trinity and Process), God would suffer neither loss nor diminishment in any of the required senses were God also to experience the world in its temporal flow, be open to its contributions, and know its future as open.

(Picture from here.)

The beauty that is thine in us

trashIf you haven’t yet beheld what beauty, what joyful beauty, the destitute children of Paraguay’s barrios are creating, no wonder you’re having difficulty understanding the Orthodox doctrine of apatheia. When you get a chance, check out the miracle, and as you weep and laugh at the same time, thank God for opening your heart to the undefeatable music of beauty. And while you’re still here on this page, and if the heavy lifting of comments from two posts ago has you worn out, enjoy some more poetry!

Beautiful. So beautiful—
Where ‘ere I look I choose to see
the beauty that exists
in spite of evil that resists
like shadows ‘gainst the rising Son;
they are not real,
no substance have,
are no ‘thing’
and nothing mean.

All that is real on thee depends
and from thy breath of love extends;
With thee infused all is
to thee alone all sends
its praise back.
Beautiful. You are so beautiful,
in all things. I see you in their eyes
and deep within their depths I find
eternal surprise after surprise.

Who can have a fear, fully rested here,
where endless fields are laid before
and all I love with me above;
each one by name in thee restored?
No dream can touch
nor can song match
nor craft enshrine
the beauty that is thine
in us.

(Tom Belt, Iraq, 2008)
(Picture from here.)

What if we were meant to be trees?

(For Ashley, on the occasion of her drawing a tree and asking the question.)


What if we were meant to be trees?
Meant to give life instead of take it?
To stare at the stars until
They were freckles on our faces naked?
Meant not to fake it?
I wonder.
What if we are trees but don’t yet know it?
Because we don’t yet know how to show it?
How to raise our limbs to the sunlight’s call,
Drink in its life, breathe it out for all.
Maybe all things living are at heart one and the same,
Leaning on and leaned upon,
Your sunset someone else’s dawn,
Reaching out explore myself,
See in others my own wealth—
In whom we live and move,
In whom we have our being,
Whose voice in every voice is heard,
And whose face is every face we’re seeing.

(Tom Belt)
(Picture from here.)

The “stuff” out of which God is made?

trinityI’d like to share a quick thought regarding a recent ReKnew video blog of Greg Boyd’s. It deals with a Christological issue that we’d prefer to postpone until we’ve outlined his Trinity and Process. But his addressing the question of whether or not the Son was separated from the Father on the Cross provides us with an opportunity to highlight some important differences. Greg concludes that the eternal Son (the Logos) is separated from the Father on the cross. At 3:50 he begins to conclude with, “The love that unites the triune God is greater than their own enjoyment of that unity” and moments later “The separation of God from God on the Cross represents the perfect unity of God with God.”

This, we think, is a miscalculation with wide ranging implications. When we outline Trinity and Process, we’ll show how Greg’s present position amounts to an abandonment of his views in Trinity and Process in which he argues that the relations between Father, Son, and Spirit are essential and necessary and as such can’t be broken, ruptured or vacated by any experience of the world. For example, he says (Trinity and Process, p. 381, n. 64):

“The metaphysical necessity of God’s self-relationality means, I believe, that it is not possible to conceive of the death of the Son as anything other than an expression of the intense love of God’s inner life. This paradox shall be discussed shortly, but it presently needs to be said that this means that all talk about a ‘breakdown of the relationship that constitutes the very life of the Trinity’ such as we find (for example) in Moltmann is, if taken literally, strictly impossible….”

That’s a mouthful, but what Greg is expressing here is the Orthodox belief in the indissoluble relations of Father, Son and Spirit. The triune relations are eternal and necessary and thus are not world-dependent. What they are essentially can’t be emptied or vacated at will. But it certainly looks from Greg’s recent video blog that he now believes the eternal Son vacates his experience of loving relationship with the Father. The Son is ‘separated from’ the Father. The question becomes, Is what Greg’s saying now an abandonment of his views in Trinity and Process? We think so. Is it an implicit abandonment of God’s essential triune actuality? We think so. Greg will surely insist that God is essentially triune and can never become otherwise, but nevertheless the Son is actually separated from the Father. This leads to his conclusion that the actual separation of the Son from the Father must be in some mysterious way their actual unity. Does this work? We think not.

We want to argue that in order for Greg to maintain this, he has to abandon a ‘relational’ metaphysic (a view of God’s essential divine nature as irreducibly relational) for a ‘substance’ metaphysic, something he explicitly advises us not to do in the same video blog. Greg is now (unknowingly) committed to a ‘substance’ understanding of divine reality because he no longer views God’s triune actuality as the actual, conscious, experience of shared loving identity between Father, Son and Spirit. On the contrary, Greg now holds that the Son ceases to share in and be constituted by this experience, and this is only possible if something other than actual, experienced relations accounts for God’s unity. It is now this “something” and not the actual experience of divine persons-in-relation which bears the necessary attributes of God and constitutes his unity. What might that something be? Whatever it is, it isn’t ‘personal relations’ (i.e., the actual experienced enjoyment of the begetting, receiving and sharing of loving personhood). It can only be some divine “substance” or “stuff” out of which God might be said to be made and which is more fundamental to God and God’s unity than the actual enjoyment of loving relations, something more fundamental than conscious experience itself. Grounding God’s unity in this “something” (other than the actual experienced enjoyment of the Three) is what seems now to have transformed Greg’s view of God from an essentially ‘relational’ to an essentially ‘substance’ view. God is essentially something other than the conscious, experienced enjoyment of triune love.

Not good news.

How happy is God?

Golden buddha handsWe’d like to focus our admiration of Orthodoxy on what is believed by open theists to be perhaps the most egregious disfigurement of the biblical portrayal of God, the Orthodox doctrine of apatheia (pronounced [ap-uh-thee-uh], from the negating a- [“without”] + pathos [“passion”] and most often translated into English with ‘impassibility’). Open theists all (with the exception of this blog and perhaps John Sanders) understand apatheia to be the denial of emotions in God. “After all,” one prominent open theist told me, “That’s what the word means—‘a’ negates ‘pathos’. No feeling. No emotions in God.”

We’d like to go on record as saying that if the Orthodox doctrine means what open theists generally understand it to mean, namely, that God is void of all emotion, bereft of all enjoyment whatsoever, then we won’t be defending Orthodoxy on this point. But our understanding is that by apatheia the Orthodox do not refer in any simplistic sense to a denial of emotion in God. Things really are a bit more complicated and nuanced than that. Our suspicions that apatheia may not be contrary to open theism’s core convictions as open theists assume were confirmed when we read open theist John Sanders’ clarification on his own understanding of the Fathers on apatheia. John writes:

“…it is clear that when the fathers said God was impassible they did not intend to rule out that he has emotions or that he is affected by and responds to us.”

Sanders feels this is good news, for “it enhances the degree to which the openness model agrees with more of the tradition.” We’d like to explore the nature and extent of that agreement in this and future posts.
Our conviction is that the Orthodox doctrine of apatheia is far better understood as “equanimity.” But it’s not difficult to understand why the Fathers, given their challenges would want to express this in negative terms as a- followed by the dysfunction or abuse they wished to dissociate with God. But a wider reading of these same Fathers (which we’ll have occasion to review in future posts) shows they attributed emotions to God with great conviction and consolation.

Open theism has built its case (rightly) on the view that God is love — fundamentally and essentially. But what this entails involves us in some disagreement. Open theists virtually all agree that as ‘love’ God is believed to be emotionally open or ‘vulnerable’ to a suffering world. So God’s—if you’ll permit us to use the phrase—‘emotional life’ is in a state of constant flux between fulfillment and diminishment depending partly upon the well-being of the world. God’s overall “aesthetic satisfaction” (to borrow a phrase from Greg Boyd which we’ll use a lot here) is understood to be the difference of an equation involving both God and world; that is, reasons God has to be joyful and ecstatic minus reasons God has to be sad or diminished. To open theists (with virtually no exceptions) then, ‘vulnerability’ essentially means we get to decide how happy God is. In our view, however, open theism need not adopt this understanding of divine love, and there are good reasons to urge open theists not to move in this direction.

To anticipate many posts to come, let us say that we believe Greg Boyd’s Trinity and Process describes a balanced approach to the excesses of Process theism on the one hand and objectionable aspects of traditional “classical” theism on the other. Take for example a few statements from Trinity and Process (italics ours):

“God experiences Godself with an intensity of aesthetic satisfaction which can under no circumstances conceivably be improved upon.”

“…this God-defining zenith of aesthetic intensity has been constituted in the triune sociality of God from eternity. This is necessary, and as such it is neither increased nor diminished by the contingent and temporal affairs of the world.”

“…this aesthetic satisfaction is the same whether or not there is a non-divine world for God to enjoy. God is no ‘greater’ for fellowshipping with the world, for it is God’s fellowship with Godself, not the world, which constitutes and characterizes the necessary unsurpassability of God’s aesthetic satisfaction. God’s gracious fellowship with the non-divine world simply expresses this primordial eternal fellowship.”

We suspect some will find this surprising given recent statements by Greg (preached and published in various forms) regarding God’s suffering love. The most recent summary of his views are expressed in a ReKnew video blog where at minute 3:50 he says, “The love that unites the triune God is greater than their own enjoyment of that unity” and moments later “The separation of God from God on the Cross represents the perfect unity of God with God.” We hope to show why this ought not to be our view of love.

Obviously there are contexts that qualify everything one says, and in our upcoming treatment of Greg’s work in Trinity and Process we’ll be careful to examine Boyd both then and now, but for now it should be clear that his present position and views on the Trinity (with respect to divine suffering in/with the world) are not what they were when he authored Trinity and Process.

Stay tuned!
(Pictures from here and here.)

God our hope

Some people think that God being their hope
Means God will make things work out
Take all the broken stuff
Fix it,
Then give it back.
God, our cosmic repair man.
And so we hope in God
To do, and fix,
Provide, supply.

But what if God being our hope
Means God remains all we have
When all the stuff is broken and gone
What if having God as our hope
Means having God instead of all else,
Knowing God won’t break
Or rust
Or divorce us
Or leave us?
What if hoping in God means wanting God
And not other things because God alone
Cannot die
Cannot lie
Cannot fail
Will not bail
Doesn’t break or wear out?
What if in the end God doesn’t fix broken things,
But just replaces them?
What if we don’t get things back repaired,
We just get God?

(Tom Belt)

Whatcha reading? 1

9780521538459A couple of weeks ago I ran across Chris Emerick’s (Strayer University) paper (presented at the 42nd annual meeting of the Society of Pentecostal Studies last month in Seattle) titled “Conversation, Being, and Trinity: Toward a Trinitarian Hermeneutical Linguistic Ontology.” I know I know. Titles. Wow. What would Freud say, right? Anyhow, it was a great paper. And in it Emerick appropriates Oliver Davies’ work in The Creativity of God: Word, Eucharist, Reason (Cambridge, 2004) which I ordered and am just into. I thought I’d share a bit from his introduction that leads me to suspect he’ll have something helpful to say regarding God’s transcendence of the world. Can’t wait.

The second element in this middle section of the book is the use of a theory of the text in order to conceptualise the relations between the divine speaking and the world. The world stands to the divine originary breath/speaking as a written text does to the voice of its author(s). This parallel has a double value. In the first place it offers a model of the coinherence of God and the world which reproduces many aspects of the medieval system of analogy without, however, employing the Aristotelian model of causality which postulates a similarity between cause and effect. And secondly, while a theory of the cosmic text is not explicitly present in Scripture, it is deeply consonant with a scriptural account of the world. Texts, like bodies, are voice-bearing, and when the author entrusts their voice to a text, it undergoes a kind of alienation as the context of the speech passes from an intimate, oral medium to one that is objectified in the visibility of the written word. The text itself thus becomes a modality of embodiedness: a voice-bearing corpus of deferred, or replicated, presence. The author now knows that from now on their voice can only be received through an extensive act of interpretation. The authorial voice remains in the text, to be heard and understood, but only indirectly and through the interpretive imagination of others. The world is much like this in its relations to God. It demands to be understood and known by a community of human interpreters. Most fundamentally, the divine voice (and will) can be and frequently is entirely misunderstood and abused by its human interpreters. The divine voice, or breath, which is entrusted to the text of the world becomes estranged within the medium of the text. It is this that leads to the second cycle of divine creativity, which is the repristination of the text of the world. In this section of the book, I develop a pneumatology which understands the Holy Spirit to be the continuing presence of the divine breath/voice in the world—the world-text’s memory of its origin in God—and the Son to be the redemptive and sacrificial sounding again of the divine speaking within the text, as the retrieval of the world-text back into the flux of originary Trinitarian speech.

God asleep in the storm

In this fourth and last of our introductory series we’d like to describe the path along which a conversation between open theism and Orthodoxy might be fruitfully pursued. It’s a tough gig, getting someone like Jazz pianist Mark Kramer in a conversation with the classical master Mozart (you should listen to Kramer’s CD Mozart Jazz Symphony — pretty awesome). Can the themes and melodies of Orthodoxy be honorably played by Jazz theologians? That’s part of what An Open Orthodoxy exists to explore.

RembrandtThere is in our view a fundamental theological question that stands behind all the popular disagreements that pop up between open theism and Orthodoxy. Some of those popular disagreements include God’s relationship to time, his immutability, his impassibility, etc. It seems to us that these and other disagreements turn upon the more fundamental question of divine transcendence, and not just what its proper sense is, but more importantly why a proper sense of transcendence matters. For the Orthodox, the what and the why of transcendence are the same. This gets lost on open theists who have argued — rather simplistically we think — that the Fathers were steeped in the Hellenistic philosophical notion that necessary existence is absolutely unchanging, and so they were essentially Neo-Platonist philosophers who married their philosophical assumptions to the Christian faith and the latter got largely corrupted.

The more we (Dwayne and I) listen to Orthodoxy, however, the more we perceive relevant difference between the Fathers and Neo-Platonists, and the more we hear the Fathers talk about why transcendence matters, what values they are attempting to express and promote when they describe God as above or beyond time or as apathos (which despite it etymology does not mean unfeeling), the more those values seem to us to be good and right. And though we’ll postpone to future posts the details of these questions, for now we can say that

…the fundamental theological question which stands behind all the relevant standard disagreements between open theism and Orthodoxy has to do with one’s understanding of and motivation for embracing or rejecting the reality one believes is named by the word “transcendence.”

To ask a question using David Hart’s phrasing (The Beauty of the Infinite, p. 294), Do God and the world constitute between them a single order of content and explication? Is there an overarching category of ‘being’ underneath which both God and creation are subsumed? Orthodoxy’s answer is clearly no. Process theology on the other hand does hold that God and world constitute between them a single order of content and explication. Whitehead and Hartshorne held that God should not be thought of as the exception to our metaphysical principles, but as the chief exemplification of those principles.

Here’s the thing. This is at the heart of the conversation between open theists, who intentionally or not, informed or not, stand within the Process answer to this question, and the Orthodox. Even open theists who don’t like Process theism share this Process belief in a single and univocal ontology, a single ‘being’, that embraces and explains both divine and human being, and we suspect this drives open theists’ mistrust of words like ‘mystery’ and ‘transcendence’ when attributed to God. We know this because we were the poster boys for these very suspicions! But today

…we believe one can share a sufficiently Orthodox view on transcendence — that is, one can agree with Hart that God and world do not constitute between them a single order of ‘being’ — and still be an open theist.

And we think this because — give us a drum roll — in Trinity and Process Greg Boyd arrives as an open theist at just such a conception of divine transcendence. So the paths along which open theists and Orthodoxy might profitably pursue a conversation all begin and end in the what and the why of transcendence.

1363717251651_cachedA final word about the painting that accompanies this post, Rembrandt’s ‘The Storm on the Sea of Galilee’ (1633). His only seascape. It depicts Christ being awakened by his disciples (one of whom is the artist, a self-portrait) in the middle of a life-threatening storm. Matthew and Mark both mention the peculiar fact that Jesus was sleeping during the storm. Mark even tells us where Jesus was sleeping—in the stern on a cushion. Ah, shades of transcendence. God at rest in the storm. God at peace, untroubled and undefined by the storms of Creation. It’s hard to miss.

Unfortunately this Rembrandt and twelve other beautiful works (totaling 500M in losses, the biggest art theft in history) were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990 and have yet to be recovered. The empty frames you see are those of the missing paintings and still hang in their original places in the Museum — waiting, hoping to be recovered.

There’s a poetry to enjoy here. We’re suggesting that in some respects open theism is an empty frame hanging beautifully on the wall. Truth about God is comprehended, contained, even “framed” you might say. But you sense something is missing. What’s missing, we believe, is a concept and a language for expressing the createdness of the world and the consequent transcendence of God. Open theism came into existence partly as a protest to a package of divine attributes that include ‘transcendence’ and ‘mystery’, and open theists continue to be suspicious. But we hope this conversation will be a new and safe place to explore the options.

(Rembrandt photo from here and Joshua Reynolds empty frames pic from here.)

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me the sinner

st_mosesDwayne here. Guess I’m up. So here I go…

I was raised in a Southern Baptist church, long on belief and very short on any decent understanding of my own Christian tradition, or any other for that matter. As a matter of fact, I left the Church shortly after going to Texas A&M University for my undergraduate studies. Nearing the end of those studies, I had what I can only call my ‘Damascus Road’ experience, after which I had decided Christ had called me to do something. I was lead towards seminary (and more student debt!). During my time at Oral Roberts School of Theology and Missions, I towed Millard Erickson’s Evangelical stance, down the line. I must be very honest. During this time things like Church tradition, the Ecumenical Creeds, and the Fathers were peripheral to me. All I really wanted to do was finish my MDiv with the basic necessities I needed to do some practical ministry. Cyril, the Gregories and the like were merely what I needed to get through to pursue my true goal. It was also during my seminary work that I moved from being a Calvinist double-predestinarian towards open theism. It was Greg Boyd’s Trinity and Process that made it possible. Like Tom, my focus was largely post-Reformation and American Evangelical thought. Frankly, I spent a lot of time and energy being condescendingly dismissive of much Church tradition and the contexts in which I found myself didn’t really help that tendency.

564528_144035505768643_939140923_nOver years of online discussions, a lone voice crying in the wilderness kept buzzing in my ear. It was the voice of a gentleman named Bruce Johnson, an art teacher who had done some instruction at Bethel College. Bruce went to a Reformed church but was very learned in Eastern Orthodoxy. He kept talking about these Church Fathers and saints. He kept bothering people with the importance of the Ecumenical Councils. He’d go on and on about the Theotokos. Time and again, Bruce would interrupt my Western rationalistic musings with dollops from people like St. Symeon and Maximus the Confessor. After years of what I harshly perceived to be needling, I remember the day I thought to myself “Let me look at some of this stuff; I mean really look at it.”

And I’m so glad I did.

To this day I consider Bruce Johnson to be my ‘starets’, a person of the Spirit whom God put in my life to help break me from needless ignorance. It is from Bruce that I began reading Timothy (Kallistos) Ware’s The Orthodox Church and The Orthodox Way. And Ancient Faith Radio (the Eastern Orthodox online radio website that Bruce would go on and on about) became one of my favorite listening places and remains so to the present day. I loved listening to Fr. Thomas Hopko, Fr. Stephen Freeman, Mathew Galatin, Frederica Mathewes-Greene, and many others. I still love hearing and reading from the wonderful brothers and sisters there!

In my mind I had always liked the Wesleyan quadrilateral as a theological method. But I came to see that I had only been giving lip-service to the ‘tradition’ aspect of that method. After my exposure to Eastern Orthodoxy, I came to see the beauty and meaning of the triune God depicted in the Seven Ecumenical Councils, particularly the reflections upon Jesus of Nazareth, the God-man. I now have a deep appreciation for the Chalcedonian logos asarkos view of Christ (but that’s for a later time). Later there were different books that influenced me — James R. Payton Jr’s Light from the Christian East, John D. Zizioulas Being As Communion and Alexei Nesteruk’s Light from the East: Theology, Science, and the Eastern Orthodox Tradition.

In my forays into Eastern Orthodoxy I found myself captivated by two concepts — ‘theosis’ and ‘hesychasm’. In these concepts I discovered the process of guarding the heart, a new perception of God, and gradual release into the exciting theandric capacities of being fully human. I have now moved largely away from the rationalistic apologetics mode to being much more comfortable with the mystery of God in a journey on the path of mysticism. (For a great book on Christian mysticism, see An Anthology of Christian Mysticism by Harvey D. Egan.) The Jesus Prayer is now a dearly close friend of mine and has been for some time. Also, John Climacus’ Ladder of Divine Ascent and The Philokalia are a constant inspiration. I admire Maximus the Confessor’s brave stand for the two wills in Christ. And St. Moses the Black is my personal patron saint. After years of living more and more in the streams of Orthodoxy, I’ve come to believe that I am merely a pilgrim on the Way with all of this. And yet I believe in my heart that it is a good and right path. I think my brother Tom would agree with me on that.

Thanks for joining us on our journey together.

(Bruce, if you’re reading this, I just want to say that I thank God for you and love you. Real talk!)

See what’s there

white empty room with opened doorWhile Dwayne puts his post together I wanted quickly to make a few shameless plugs for resources you might find helpful. I have brief introduction to the open view over on Jeff Clarke’s blog and a longer essay at John Sanders’ site. If you’re interested in the practical existential arguments for open theism, check out my Critical Evaluation. And if you’re a heavy lifter and enjoy the philosophical side of things, you can’t do better than Alan Rhoda’s articles. Having cooperated with Alan before, I can’t recommend him enough. We’ve been batting ideas back and forth for so long that there’s a lot of Alan in me. I’ll do my best to reference my indebtedness to him on specifics, but for the record, we’re indebted to Alan big-time. (Image from here.)