D. W. Snoke explains six points of CALVINism. Here they are in brief:
(1) Comprehensive Brokenness
(2) Absolute Sovereignty
(3) Lifegiving Union
(4) Verified Atonement
(5) Irresistible Grace
(6) Never-Ending Adoption
Read the rest here.
D. W. Snoke explains six points of CALVINism. Here they are in brief:
(1) Comprehensive Brokenness
(2) Absolute Sovereignty
(3) Lifegiving Union
(4) Verified Atonement
(5) Irresistible Grace
(6) Never-Ending Adoption
Read the rest here.
The good news of Jesus Christ crucified and risen is a liberating message, and author Owen Strachan wants that news to embolden and fortify every area of your life. His new book is Risky Gospel: Abandon Fear and Build Something Awesome. The already good title is followed by a subtitle that clarifies the book’s focus. Owen writes with a loaded laptop, and his aim is precise. God has not called us to fear but to lay it all on the line for the glory of His name.
Owen isn’t saying the “Gospel=What We Do.” The work of Christ flows in the veins of each chapter, for Owen knows that the good news is not about us. But when we embrace this good news, we are not left unchanged. We have a new identity, for the Last Adam has raised us from deadness in sin, and we are called to a new life, to follow Jesus–and to live faithfully for the glory of Jesus is a radical life.
Owen talks about this radical life with the right nuances. Each chapter beckons the reader to see another component of our lives in the gospel’s light. We need risky faith, risky identity, risky spirituality, risky families, risky work, risky church, risky evangelism, risky citizenship, and risky failure. In the opening pages, Owen speaks frankly about our tendencies to play it safe, to not make waves, to buckle under cultural pressure. Owen calls it like he sees it: “This is decaf faith. And that means the people around us, those we should lead and influence to live on mission for the living Messiah, who reigns in heaven, live decaf lives” (17).
Risky Gospel is a summons to courageous living, and the timing of its message couldn’t be any better. The impetus for Christian faithfulness cannot be the applause of the world. “God’s awesomeness should propel our faithfulness” (29). In Christ we have “empowered dependence” (63). Apart from Jesus we’re left with vain ambitions, but the gospel is a theology of hope! What is “gospel risk”? Simply this: “trading in small things that produce a shallow, defeated life for the life shaped by the gospel, one devoted to God and his glory” (66). From the beginning of the Bible, God has called His people to exercise dominion, and Owen unpacks how we consciously apply gospel-dominion to all areas of life. Hence his subtitle: Abandon Fear and Build Something Awesome.
God is the ultimate Builder; so as people made in His image, we build (66-67). And for God-honoring dominion, we need discipline, not the low-bar pursuit of comfort and selfishness. “You could think of our selfish pursuits in this way: they are false gospels” (75). The true gospel reorients our lives, reminds us of what matters, and blows our minds with the reality that God’s glory and fame must be paramount for the worshiper. What should our lives be characterized by? Gospel-driven discipline (77). We need discipline to grow in holiness and to fight the battle against sin. Does this mean a life of legalism? No! “Here’s the difference between soul-crushing legalism and gospel-driven discipline: legalism tricks you into thinking that certain actions will justify you, or give you righteous standing with God, while gospel-driven discipline makes no such error. It’s grounded in the gospel, in the power of Christ’s cross and resurrection. It’s motivated not by fear or pride, but by the joy set before us that comes from honoring the Lord and doing his will” (88).
Strong families don’t happen without risk. “The Christian family is all about the glory of God and the spiritual health of the family’s members. It is about togetherness and joy grounded in the Lord. It is pursuing something far greater than an impressive pedigree, major high school sports accomplishments, or wealth” (99). That, friends, is radical! Living in glad submission to the world’s true Lord is counter-cultural foolishness in the eyes of some. In a land where marriage is denigrated and children are aborted, disciples of Jesus should make it their task to build biblical manhood and womanhood into their lives.
Dominion also includes our vocation, Owen says, for we are gospel entrepreneurs! (120). Christians should steward their talents and earnings wisely and faithfully, avoiding the twin errors of prosperity theology and poverty theology. “Find work where you can, and do it to the best of your ability….Remember that all conscionable work is honorable to the Lord” (128). Your place of work, as taxing as it can be at times, must never subvert or replace the place of worship. Believers need the body of Christ. “God loves the local church. He made it, after all. It’s his brainstorm” (141). Dominion in our discipleship will include service to others. “This is a crucial point: if we say we want to serve the Lord, then we shouldn’t excuse ourselves from the church. We should see the local church as the first place we go when we want to honor him by service” (146).
Understanding the risky gospel will mean remembering that all of life is witness. Through your church and work, Owen calls us to be bold for Christ (172). We should live with a mind awakened to the global mission work of the gospel (174-75). As we think about the redeeming love of Christ, we will be empowered to love our neighbors near and far, those next door or across the world. Our love and actions should consist of “winsome courage” (193). This courage means we must prepare ahead of time to face suffering. The risky gospel is not a sedative to pain or an escape hatch from struggle. The “world-shaking power of Christ’s death and resurrection” means that in Him we are more than conquerors, and “that’s a transformative reality….It changes things for you and me–for every single Christian” (207).
Owen Strachan is a brilliant thinker and gifted writer. Risky Gospel is his effort to cast gospel-light on our “ordinary” lives. It’s his summons–or, more accurately, his highlighting of the Bible’s summons–to do all you do for the glory of God’s fame, to build and exercise dominion for the sake of His name. The lordship of Jesus should be the joy of every believer, and we should eagerly ask, “What should this area or that issue look like under Christ’s reign?” Owen interweaves his own experiences, the stories of others, and spot-on analogies along the way. His tone is winsome, yet he pulls no punches when it counts. His style is accessible, yet showcases the transcendent power of the gospel. The gospel is power, overcoming fear and shame and selfishness. When you finish this book, you’ll want to go build something awesome.
Check out Owen’s blog and his other books. He is a professor at Boyce College, executive director of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and elder at Kenwood Baptist Church. Follow him on Twitter at @ostrachan
I’m grateful to Thomas Nelson for sending me a review copy of Risky Gospel, in exchange for an unbiased review.
Below are some random observations about the genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17. I’m trying to sort through which observations are truly significant and may be part of Matthew’s design that the readers should discern. I welcome any feedback you may have about the points.
(1) There are 41 generations listed from (and including) Abraham to Jesus.
The reason this is important to observe is Matthew’s comment in 1:17: “So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.” Why does Matthew say the third group had fourteen generations when he only listed thirteen? I’ve read some answers to this question, but for now I’m just mentioning the issue.
(2) The middle name in the list of 41 generations is Uzziah. I don’t know if this matters at all. But with an odd number of generations, I thought it might be interesting to count to the 21st name and see who’s situated in the center. Would there be any justification for posting a chiasm out of this genealogy? It is interesting to me that the third name from the top (Matt 1:2) and the third from the bottom (Matt 1:15) is Jacob. While those names would match in chiastic form, it is difficult to find compelling matches after that. But if you do find a chiasm appealing, what’s the point of Uzziah occupying the center?
(3) Various commentators suggest the sources of Matthew’s genealogy to be Ruth 4:18-22 and 1 Chronicles 2 — 3. In 1 Chronicles 2, various women are mentioned as well as their descendants, perhaps showing precedent for what Matthew did in his inclusion of four Old Testament women. Tamar’s name appears in 1 Chronicles 2:4. Bathsheba (or Bath-shua) appears in 1 Chronicles 3:5.
(4) If Matthew relied on the genealogies in Ruth 4 and 1 Chronicles 2 — 3, he inserted two female names–Rahab and Ruth–and used a circumlocution (“the wife of Uriah”) for a third (Bathsheba). Perhaps Matthew logically inserts Ruth’s name because of the Ruth 4 genealogy. She is clearly the husband of Boaz in the genealogy there. The inclusion of Rahab is especially interesting, then, since there is neither a reason from Ruth nor a precedent in 1 Chronicles 2 — 3 to use it.
(5) In using 1 Chronicles 2 — 3, Matthew knew that the name Bathsheba (or Bath-shua) was in 1 Chronicles 3:5 but didn’t use it. Instead he referred to Bathsheba as “the wife of Uriah.” Why? I find Luz’s explanation most likely: “Tamar was Aramaic, Rahab a Canaanite and Ruth a Moabite. All three were non-Israelites. Bathsheba, on the other hand, was an Israelite who only became a non-Israelite through her marriage to the Hittite Uriah. This explains why she is not mentioned by her own name” (The Theology of the Gospel of Matthew, 26). So Bathsheba may have been a Jewish lady, given the fact that 1 Chronicles 3:5 says she is “the daughter of Ammiel.” Matthew, in order to emphasize her mixed marriage, refers to Uriah as “the Hittite.” Some scholars say Matthew uses a circumlocution for Bathsheba’s name because he wants to draw attention to the fact that she had been married to Uriah when she slept with David. That argument goes in tandem with the view that the common denominator of all four Old Testament women is their sexual indecency, but I recently explained why I don’t think that’s the unifying factor. Matthew has a Gentile emphasis to make.
(6) Matthew sees these women as providentially located at important stages in Israel’s history. In other words, it seems these four ladies are strategically located. If not, why include four women and not just two or three? Why even bother with Bathsheba? Why insert Rahab when no previous genealogy used her? Because of the sources Matthew used, there was already reason enough to include Tamar and Ruth, and two Gentiles surely would have made his point of Gentile emphasis. But if we look at the time periods these names apply to, we may discern the importance Matthew sees for including all four Old Testament women. Tamar, in her union with Judah, is associated with the age of the patriarchs (for Judah is the son of Jacob) and the Twelve Tribes (of which Judah is one). Rahab is associated with the conquest in the book of Joshua. Ruth’s story takes place in the period of the judges when Israel had no king and did what was right in their own eyes. Bathsheba’s life takes place in the days of King David, the most important of all Israel’s kings. These significant time periods–patriarchs and tribes, conquest, judges, kingship–may provide a clue as to why Matthew included the particular women he did.
(7) The Law, Prophets, and Writings all find representation in these four Old Testament women. Tamar is in the Law, Rahab and Bathsheba are in the Prophets, and Ruth is in the Writings. Is this significant at all? If only one woman could fit into each part of the Tanak, I’d find this more compelling, but the Prophets has two (Rahab and Bathsheba).
(8) All the Old Testament women in the genealogy lived prior to the kingdom’s division. The last one mentioned is “the wife of Uriah,” and the kingdom was still united at that point. Is it significant that no Old Testament women are mentioned in the genealogy after Israel divides?
(9) The three section-endings may be designed to highlight three crucial facts. The first section (Abraham to David) ends with kingship in the Promised Land, the second section (David to the exile) ends with exile from the land and a kingdom destroyed, and the third section (the exile to Jesus) ends with the return from the greatest exile. Jesus came as the son of Abraham and son of David to lead a new exodus from sin and death, and in so doing he would be the Davidic king with eternal rule. Kingship established, kingdom destroyed, True King arrives with eternal kingdom.
(10) The order of the names in Matthew 1:1 is reversed as the genealogy is unpacked. Many scholars acknowledge this. Matthew 1:1 has the names Jesus, David, and Abraham, and when the genealogy itself commences, first up is Abraham (1:2) and later David (1:6) and finally Jesus (1:16-17).
(11) The phrase “and his brothers” occurs twice. The first occurrence of “and his brothers” is in Matthew 1:2 in the phrase “Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.” The first occurrence is probably a summary of 1 Chronicles 2:1-2 as Judah’s line is about to be given. The second occurrence of “and his brothers” is in Matthew 1:11 in the phrase “Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers.” This second occurrence is probably a summary of 1 Chronicles 3:15-16. Put another way, Matthew’s use of 1 Chronicles 2 — 3 is probably what leads him to insert the phrase “and his brothers” twice in his genealogy (cf. Matt 1:2, 11).
(12) The second section of Matthew’s genealogy is comprised of kings. This fact contrasts with the first (1:1-6) and third (1:12-16) sections. When Matthew mentions David, he calls him “the king,” and from then on, in the second section, the names are all kings.
Do you have other observations about the genealogy? Do any or all of these observations have merit? Are there any that are just plain crazy?
In the genealogy of Matthew 1:2-16, the writer lists four women prior to Mary: Tamar (Matt 1:3), Rahab (1:5), Ruth (1:5), and the wife of Uriah (1:6).
There is no consensus among scholars as to what unites them. Do they each contribute something different to the genealogy? Is their association with sexual indecency the factor that brings them together for Matthew’s purpose(s)? Is their Gentile identity just as–if not more than–likely the common factor?
Since Matthew didn’t list prominent Jewish women, the inclusion of these four is most certainly not random. And if a common denominator exists among them, then Matthew isn’t so much emphasizing their different contributions as much as what they share in common. So what do they share?
Sexual indecency seems to be a strong contender. In Genesis 38, Tamar dressed like a harlot and seduced her father-in-law Judah. In Joshua 2, we discover Rahab had been a prostitute. In 2 Samuel 11, Bathsheba–”the wife of Uriah” (Matt 1:6)–commits adultery with King David. But what about Ruth? Some scholars imply premarital indecency between her and Boaz, but other scholars dispute this. Still, a strength of the “sexual indecency” common denominator is that the fifth woman (Mary) finds herself in a situation where others might charge her with sexual indecency (cf. Matt 1:18-19). But only three of the four OT women had clear instances of immorality in their past. Ruth’s case is, as I mentioned, disputed, and Mary did not commit any fornication with Joseph. Furthermore, Jewish tradition held the four women in higher regard, so their names wouldn’t have necessarily evoked sexual sin. As R. T. France observes in his NICNT commentary on Matthew’s Gospel, “In Jewish tradition Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth were regarded as heroines, and it is David rather than Bathsheba who is stigmatized for their adultery” (37). In the NT, for example, Rahab is an model of faith (cf. Heb 11:31; Jam 2:25).
The factor most likely uniting the four women is their Gentile background. Rahab and Tamar were Canaanites, Ruth was a Moabite, and Bathsheba was married to a Hittite. I think Ulrich Luz is right: “Matthew . . . was intent on ensuring that four Gentile women appeared in Jesus’ line of descent. In doing so he clearly sent a signal. The universalist perspective, the inclusion of the Gentile world, must have been important to him” (The Theology of the Gospel of Matthew, 26). Other features in Matthew’s Gospel support the emphasis on Gentile background. First, Matthew’s genealogy begins in 1:2 with Abraham (not Adam), who heard God’s agenda to bless all families of the earth through him (cf. Gen 12:2-3). Second, after Jesus is born, wise men (Gentiles!) search for the child and offer him treasures (cf. Matt 2:1-2, 10-11). Third, Matthew’s Gospel ends with a Great Commission to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19-20). These are a few examples that show Matthew highlighting Gentile inclusion in God’s mission through Jesus.
In summary, Matthew included four OT women in his genealogy. He didn’t include names like Sarah or Rebekah. He included ladies who had some unsavory episodes in their past, but the reason for their inclusion lay elsewhere. These women–Ruth, Rahab, Tamar, and Bathsheba–were heroines. What united them was most likely their Gentile background, an emphasis important to Matthew’s Gospel and evident in its opening chapter.
We’re in recovery mode, and we want links to read. What are we recovering from? Classes are speeding toward final exams, for many folks graduation draweth nigh, the smell of intellectual rigor still lingers in the air from the ETS-IBR-SBL blitzkrieg, and our bodies are still coping from what we did to them on Thanksgiving. So what do you need? Links, of course, and a slew of them. That’s where I come in. Below you will find a litany of resources from people of various denominations, backgrounds, and theological positions. It’s a carnival–the biblical studies kind–so hold on tight and enjoy the brain-feast.
ETS / IBR / SBL
Mike Bird wrote some funny stuff before the meetings began, and it’s still worth reading even though they’re over!
Helpful for future meetings are these thoughts from Fred Sanders on how to give a conference paper (just between you and me, pretend the 2011 date is really 2013).
ANE / OT / INTERTESTAMENTAL LIT
James M. Hamilton’s essay “The Seed of the Woman and the Blessing of Abraham” is now available for free in Spanish.
Genesis 3 always deserves stimulating engagement, and in this video, D. A. Carson teaches on the temptation of Adam and Eve.
Mike Heiser writes about Yahweh and Satan in Samuel and Chronicles.
Joel Watts uploaded his SBL paper for all to read: “Working on a Building: Mark’s Correspondence to Daniel’s Structure.” [This link could just as well go in the NT section below.]
Robert Holmstedt linked to his SBL paper on the linguistic profile of the book of Esther.
Since 2014 is only weeks away, you’re probably already planning books you’d like to read, so why not add the Pseudepigrapha to the list? The literature was important for the intertestamental period, and Joseph Kelly has organized a way to read the Pseudepigrapha in a year.
Danny Zacharias tells us about the articles and reviews in the latest Journal of Hebrew Scriptures.
Jim West raves about a collection of Jewish texts now available online.
Suzanne McCarthy writes about the end of time and space.
Rusty Osborne links to his Tyndale Bulletin article on the early messianic afterlife of Ezekiel 17:22-24.
Is Job 1:21 good theology? Some may say no, but Andy Naselli says yes and explains why.
Abram K-J asks, “Who is Isaiah’s shepherd of the sheep?”
Bob McDonald writes about violence and Psalms.
Daniel Motley provided his 60-page annotated bibliography of the personification of Wisdom (with a focus on Proverbs 1-9).
Interested in the book of Hosea? Claude Mariottini has put together some studies on it.
LANGUAGE / TEXTUAL CRITICISM
Are you aware of the international journal Biblical and Ancient Greek Linguistics, edited by Stanley Porter? Well now you are.
Scot McKnight interacts with N. T. Wright’s statements on translating christos.
John Dyer posted a free Bible Web App that engages the original languages.
NT / PATRISTICS
Phillip Long writes about Pauline authorship and Ephesians.
Ray Van Neste assesses Schleiermacher on the authorship of 1 Timothy.
The new website DeRouchie & Meyer is devoted to Old and New Testament scholarship that bridges the gap between the academy and church ministry.
Preston Sprinkle continues his blog series on homosexuality and the Bible with a post on Romans 1.
Nicholas Batzig discusses three views on Romans 2:13. From his concluding thoughts: “While it has lost traction in recent years, ‘the hypothetical view’ offers, in my opinion, the strongest defense of the overall context of Romans 1:18-3:20.”
Craig Evans engages the notion that Jesus never existed.
David Capes gives reasons why we should marvel at the genealogy in Matthew 1.
Margaret Mowczko writes about how the word “likewise” may affect certain NT passages about women. She also discusses Philip and his prophesying daughters in the book of Acts.
Daniel Wallace writes on a bibliology grounded in christology.
Scot McKnight says that the Sermon on the Mount is the gospel.
Andrew Perriman raises important questions about the “coming” of the Son of Man.
Jerome Murphy-O’Connor died November 11, 2013.
Peter Kirby wants you to know about chasing Hegesippus. Then move on from there to Peter’s article on leadership terms in early Christian writings. And when you’re finished with that, he also has a table of self-identifications in early Christian writings.
BOOK REVIEWS / INTERVIEWS
In his new book The Historical David: The Real Life of an Invented Hero, author Joel Baden argues that David has been greatly misunderstood and caricatured, and he explains more about the book in this interview led by Jonathan Merritt.
Larry Hurtado engages Andrew Lincoln’s book Born of a Virgin? Reconceiving Jesus in the Bible, Tradition and Theology.
Andrew Wilson reviewed Book I of Paul and the Faithfulness of God by N. T. Wright, which is Wright’s newest volume in his series Christian Origins and the Question of God. And enjoy Wilson’s story about Sophie meeting PFG. Douglas Moo begins his review of Paul and the Faithfulness of God like this: “Reviewing N. T. Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God is like trying to get a handle on the U.S. tax code.”
Brian Renshaw reviewed Handbook of Women Biblical Interpreters.
Patrick Schreiner thinks you should get the 2nd edition of Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels.
Cody Kingham reviewed The Race Set Before Us by Thomas Schreiner and Ardel Caneday.
Craig Keener reviewed John MacArthur’s Strange Fire.
Brian LePort reviewed Memory, Tradition, and Text: Uses of the Past in Early Christianity, a book edited by Alan Kirk and Tom Thatcher.
Jason Kees reviewed Gene Green’s Jude & 2 Peter.
Abigail Walthausen says “Don’t Give Up on the Lecture.”
If you’re writing your dissertation, I wrote about twelve practices that helped me.
Logos is having a wild Black Friday sale that ends December 2. So you’d better hurry.
In light of his impending death, Rod Decker talks about his presentation “When Your World Crashes Down.”
People come into your life at just the right time. Such is the good and wise providence of God, which brought a man across my path who left this world 50 years ago today on November 22, 1963.
I grew up in church and became a Christian at an early age. In junior high I began to question what I’d been taught, and various doubts plagued me intermittently for years. Was it reasonable to believe in God? How likely was it that Jesus really rose from the dead? What if what I believed was no more true than what someone else believed?
In high school my doubts had not abated–if anything they grew more intense as unbelieving friends asked me perplexing questions that left me thinking, “I’m not sure there’s a good answer to that. Could they be right?” I didn’t share my questions with anyone; I was actually embarrassed by them and felt it must be wrong for believers to ask such probing things.
I was given a copy of Mere Christianity, which was my introduction to this man named C. S. Lewis. It is no understatement to say that God used Mere Christianity to change my life. Here was an author, a former atheist no less, whose brain dispensed compelling reasons and arguments defending Christian teachings. As a teenager I was riveted. I consumed the book and wanted to read and understand more. I worked my way through The Problem of Pain, Miracles, The Screwtape Letters, A Grief Observed, and on and on. Lewis’ way with words was a feast for the eyes and fire for the mind.
Lewis wasn’t perfect, of course, and I don’t agree with every sentence he’s written, but I’m so grateful for him. He helped me understand that God expects us to use our minds to love Him and think about what we believe. Faith is not the enemy of the intellect, nor is thinking the death-knell for dogma. Christianity expects a rigorous use of our minds.
My favorite passage from any fiction I’ve ever read comes from the final lines of the last book in The Chronicles of Narnia. In book seven, entitled The Last Battle, Lewis ends his epic series like this:
And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
I thank God for giving us C. S. Lewis for 64 years. What a blessing his writings continue to be! If you have never read him, I hope you will, and I hope you will choose Mere Christianity first. But don’t stop there. Enter the world of Narnia and believe the truth that Aslan is on the move.
A few days ago I defended my dissertation and received the glorious green light for graduation. Here are 12 practices I employed while writing it. They may not work for everyone, but I benefited from them.
(1) Keep organized notes as you research. Have an ongoing set of Word documents, or have a file in Dropbox ready and waiting, or use some other method, but be as organized as possible from the get-go. Work within categories that make sense to you and that you can navigate when it’s time to relocate that important sentence or source.
(2) Develop a thorough but flexible outline. Thorough, to me, means having not only the chapters in mind but also their divisions–at least with main headings. The rule of thumb is: know where you’re headed! If you have an outline, you can stay the course. For my prospectus, I only had the chapters named and listed. But when it came time to write each dissertation chapter, I developed as detailed an outline as I could. I put all the headings (main and sub and sub-sub) in the document and then filled them in as I wrote. Be flexible with your outline, though, and reorganize or purge as necessary.
(3) When possible, write chapter drafts (or at least chapter chunks) before incorporating secondary sources. Ability to do this may vary with topic and focus. Some parts of my dissertation (such as the survey of research) had to engage with other sources constantly, so citing while writing was required. But I really wanted to develop the arguments of my chapters as much as I could using my independent voice. Most sections of almost every chapter, therefore, came together before footnoting secondary sources.
(4) Find a writing routine and strive to maintain it. At the beginning of the writing process I pulled out my calendar and determined how many pages/words I should pursue each week. This set my pace. I knew I wouldn’t be able to write every day, but most days I managed to get something done. I seemed to work best early in the morning and late at night. During the day proved a challenging time to write, for various reasons. So some days I was up early at 5 am, and other days I was writing late until 2 am. You have to do what works best for you, of course, but disciplining yourself for a routine is the way to keep your writing pace.
(5) Seize unexpected opportunities for more writing or editing. Sometimes an afternoon, or even a whole day, may open up for you to write, so don’t squander unexpected opportunities. Press on and press through! Some paragraphs of my dissertation were written in a moving van (while I was in the passenger seat), and some were written out of state. When I knew I’d have opportunities to sit somewhere and read, I’d bring printed copies of sections to read, edit, and think more about. Make the most of your time! Don’t drive yourself crazy though. Sometimes when time opens up, you need to go with your spouse to the store, build a lego tower with your kid, watch a movie, or read a Harry Potter book.
(6) Write down good thoughts instead of thinking you will remember them later. Sometimes you’ll think of just the way you want to say something, but you’re nowhere near your computer. Prepare for such moments by keeping a piece of paper and pen with you. “I’ll remember that idea later,” you may think, but you may not. Do you have a Smart Phone? Then use a voice recorder for impromptu thoughts, trails to pursue, or other details you won’t want to rack your brain for later.
(7) Keep an up-to-date bibliography. If you use a program that automatically inserts your citations into a Bibliography, then great. Otherwise, you need to keep track somehow of your citations. They are a mountain that grows, and you need to climb it as it does, not wait until the end when you have to wade through your footnotes. I kept a separate document with my developing sources. When I cited something new, I updated the Bibliography. This may be an outdated way of updating a Bibliography, but I didn’t take the time to learn any new tricks (which I probably should have!).
(8) Format major style stuff along the way. I know people may disagree with this and encourage post-writing style adjustments. But notice I said “major style stuff.” What I hate is having to correct something that I did wrong on many pages or even throughout many chapters! So from the beginning I paid special attention to margins, footnotes, proper citation form, and the way headings were formatted. For those things I would rather get them right the first time and thus get them right every time. The more attention you give to style and formatting issues, the less time you will spend reformatting and correcting after the Defense is over. I consider this a good investment!
(9) Read books on writing while you’re writing. Does this seem like a strange suggestion? I benefited from thinking about the craft of writing during the dissertation process. I read Stephen King’s On Writing and Stanley Fish’s How to Write a Sentence. These writers primed the pump. Don’t think of a dissertation as a box you want to check at the end of a program. Give care to its design and flow. You want to be clear and compelling, and reading about writing can help along the way.
(10) Dialogue with others about your topic. We can have goofy thoughts and draw silly conclusions about things, and the sooner someone points that out to us, the better. If you imagine the dissertation process as a conversation, then include trusted dialogue partners. Send them an argument or an excerpt, and be open to feedback. Perhaps no one is better suited for this role than your doctoral supervisor! My supervisor provided timely and thorough feedback on each chapter. For the writing process, no man should be an island.
(11) Read your work aloud. What makes most sense in your head may make less sense in your document. When you’re writing, trust your ear. Don’t just be satisfied with how a chapter reads; be satisfied with how it sounds. Sometimes I’d type something and later ask my wife, “How does this sentence sound to you? What do you hear me saying?”
(12) Allow a time gap between edits of a draft. If you give yourself a time-gap between edits of a chapter, your editing will be more effective. When you finish a draft, let it sit a while (a few days? a week?) and then return to it. Between edits, occupy yourself with other work and writing. This is your brain’s best chance to process your previous writing with a “fresh” read.
Any other writing practices you’d recommend for a dissertation?