Friday, May 22, 2020

Breathing exercises to fight COVID-19

(This is a serious blog post for once)

Today I learnt from the BBC that “those with the most severe form of the disease have extremely low numbers of an immune cell called a T-cell”.[1] This T-cell, otherwise known as T lymphocytes, drop drastically in COVID-19 patients, as observed by scientists from the Francis Crick Institute, King’s College London and Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital. As the BBC summary states:

In a microlitre (0.001ml) drop of blood, normal healthy adults have between 2,000 and 4,000 T-cells, also called T lymphocytes. The Covid patients the team tested had between 200-1,200.

Research at Columbia University seems to dovetail well with these findings.[2] Prof Adrian Hayday (Crick Institute) hopes to treat lymphocytes reduction with Interleukin 7, and I hope this succeeds. But the reason for noting these issues is to draw attention to the practice of intermittent hypoxia, which, according to one scientific paper,[3] measurably increases lymphocytes. After 30 minutes, it can be measured. After 7 hours, the increase seems to be around 500 (in a microlitre drop of blood).

As you can see from “Study Design and Training Procedure” in the essay, “Voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system”, the programme is simple. Apart from cold exposure and meditation, the breathing exercises are straightforward. Take in roughly 30 large breaths of air into the lungs, then exhale and hold your breath for as long as you comfortably can do so. Repeat this three to five times daily. Here’s a video/audio example of how to do this, and it is very easy:

The woo woo often associated with such things understandably make eyes roll. Or it comes across as a plain creepy; I totally get that. So, and if you are like me, simply suspend your disbelief for a bit. If you aren’t like me and love all the woo woo, good for you, weirdo!

To what extent these exercises maintain increased lymphocytes over extended periods, whether other factors mitigate against this, etc., are questions that need to be explored. But as a) few seem to be talking about this association and, b), intermittent hypoxia is easy to achieve with a few breathing exercises, I thought I’d point out these connections as – who knows – it might save lives.

If you know anyone who knows what they are talking about (!), please ask them to point out the problems with the reasoning above, disabuse me of my confidence and I will delete or at least update this post.

Until then, I will continue with the 3-5 rounds of Wim-Hof inspired breathing exercises to generate intermittent hypoxia. And I would encourage you to do the same, with the hope that it increases (and maintains the increase) of T lymphocytes, which could be the key to fighting the most severe forms of COVID-19.

(My apologies for failing to include full bibliographical information in the footnotes. But life is short and I couldn’t be bothered.)

[1] “Coronavirus: Immune clue sparks treatment hope”, by Victoria Gill & Rachael Buchanan,, accessed 22/05/20
[2] “T cells found in coronavirus patients ‘bode well’ for long-term immunity”, by Mitch Leslie,, accessed 22/05/20
[3] “Voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system and attenuation of the innate immune response in humans”, by Matthijs Kox, Lucas T. van Eijk, Jelle Zwaag, Joanne van den Wildenberg, Fred C. G. J. Sweep, Johannes G. van der Hoeven, and Peter Pickkersa,, accessed 22/05/20.

See also:

“Hypoxia and hypoxia-inducible factors as regulators of T cell development, differentiation, and function”, by Eóin N. McNamee, Darlynn Korns Johnson, Dirk Homann, and Eric T. Clambey,, accessed 22/05/20

“The trinity of COVID-19: immunity, inflammation and intervention”, by Matthew Zirui Tay, Chek Meng Poh, Laurent Rénia, Paul A. MacAry & Lisa F. P. Ng,, accessed 22/05/20

Friday, January 10, 2020

IM Christof Sielecki's Keep it Simple 1.d4

Riesner's Messias Jesus

I am delighted to hear of Prof. Rainer Riesner's forthcoming book, Messias Jesus, for which more information can be found here.

He kindly sent me an interview with, which you can read below.

It ends with this citation: "Es ist historisch möglich zu wissen, wer Jesus war und was er wollte".
What do you think: is it possible? What does it mean for historians to know who someone is? I'm very much looking forward to reading this one as Rainer is not only a deeply learned scholar from whom I have learned much, but also a terrific person to know.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Der Theologe Karl Barth - Podcast

A nice little podcast with a line-up of theologians, including Barth himself. It was broadcast by "Evangelische Perspektiven" of Bayern 2. Yes, it's almost a year old, but worth a listen. Plus, if you fancy practising your German...

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Pauline Dogmatics: The Triumph of God's Love

Seeing as it is now on Amazon, the Eerdmans site and so on, I'll paste it here. This is my blurb for Douglas Campbell's forthcoming, Pauline Dogmatics: The Triumph of God's Love. I know it'll make some of your eyes roll, but 'here I stand' and all that:
Pauline Dogmatics is quite simply the most enjoyable biblical or theology related book I have ever read, and I consider it to be the best book on Pauline theology ever written. A superlative endorsement like this would make me cynical too, but I mean it. This is theology written not simply about Paul, but with Paul, under Paul, illuminating Paul, which reaches beyond the cerebral assault into my own life and practices with unnerving immediacy. And its penny-drop-moment-o-meter is off the scale! This is a dazzling Pauline dogmatics, animated by what matters most: the reality of God in Christ. As such it yields astonishing results. Prepare to have your minds scrambled, interpretive tables overturned, your exegetical hair ruffled, and your theological horizons blow apart. With unique insight, Campbell slam-dunks the most important thing to get right when reading Paul, and he then pushes this through in what can only be called joyful directions. Utterly. Brilliant.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Denutjobifying Barth

I bequeath the world a gift: denutjobifying

I want to write a book for no other reason than to bring it into theological parlance.

Denutjobifying Barth: A Modern Biblical Scholar Encounters Barth's Romans Commentary.

Anyway, the last post outlined some twenty problems biblical scholar may find with Barth's Romans commentary.

In the three videos below I "stand with Barth", so to speak, and present reasons why Barth's commentary makes a good deal more sense than my colleagues in the guild of biblical studies may care to admit.

It runs as follows:
  • Matters of Style (the first video)
  • Matters of Exegesis (second video)
  • and Wider themes (third and final video)
The final video in this series will ask what Barth might teach New Testament scholars. 

1) Style

2) Exegesis 

3) Wider themes

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Encountering the otherness of Barth, Part Three: Why New Testament scholars might think Barth's commentary is RUBBISH!

This is the third part of a short video series in which I present my paper, "Encountering the otherness of Barth: A New Testament scholar reads Der Römerbrief chapters 8-16".*

Here I showcase some of the problems biblical scholars may have with Barth's commentary. The structure of this list of over twenty objections broadly follows Barth's commentary, with a few asides on meta-issues.

The next video will present some responses to these concerns and ask what Barth might teach contemporary biblical scholarship.

*It was delivered at the Barth Graduate Student Colloquium in August 2019 (

Friday, September 20, 2019

Encountering the otherness of Barth, Part Two: Bible scholars read Romans 8-16

This is the second part of a short video series in which I present my paper, "Encountering the otherness of Barth: A New Testament scholar reads Der Römerbrief chapters 8-16".*

Instead of diving straight into the problems with Barth's commentary, I first establish what questions biblical scholars might seek to answer, thereby clarifying the contrast. So, in this video, I outline the kinds of concerns biblical scholars might have when reading Romans 8-16. I don't bother detailing everything, obviously, nor do I canvas all the hermeneutical possibilities.  But the video hopefully gives the gist of how commentary writers in the world of biblical studies might approach the text.

The next- and longest - video will showcase some of the problems biblical scholars may have with Barth's commentary.

The fourth will present some responses to these concerns and ask what Barth might teach contemporary biblical scholarship.

*It was delivered at the Barth Graduate Student Colloquium in August 2019 (

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Introduction: Encountering the otherness of Barth

This is the introductory video in a three-part series in which I present my paper, "Encountering the otherness of Barth: A New Testament scholar reads Der Römerbrief chapters 8-16".

The second - and longest - video will showcase some of the problems biblical scholars may have with Barth's commentary.

The third will present some responses to these concerns and ask what Barth might teach contemporary biblical scholarship.

The paper was originally delivered at the Barth Graduate Student Colloquium in August 2019 (

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Blogging through Markus Gabriel's Why the World Does Not Exist Pt. 7

This post completes my summary of Gabriel's first chapter. His introduction is summarised in four parts, all of which can be read here.

Markus Gabriel, Gregory S. Moss, trans., Why the World Does Not Exist (Cambridge: Polity, 2015)

Chapter I. What is this Actually: the World?

You and the Universe


“The World is Everything that is the Case”

What is the world? What is this totality to which we refer to with the word “world”? Clearly it is not simply the totality of objects in the world, but also the relation between objects, their particular way of interacting with one another and so on. Ludwig Wittgenstein saw this at the beginning of his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (see Gabriel, 33):
I The world is everything that is the case.
II The world is the total of facts, not of things.
“A fact is something that is true of something”, defines Gabriel (33). Once again, Gabriel establishes his point with a thought experiment: “Let us assume that only things exist, but no facts. In that case, nothing would be true about these things. For such truths would be facts” (33). Moreover, in certain scenarios there may be facts but no things (consider “barren nothingness” for example). It follows from all of this that the world is the totality of objects and facts. But there is more, because “object domains” also exist, including the object domain of the universe. Remembering Gabriel’s refutation of materialism, he means by “object domain” not merely objects that can be studied by the natural sciences. Indeed, there are several domains of objects, indicating that there are ontological provinces.

But are these “ontological provinces” real? Or are they merely tricks of human speech? Is the distinction between the object domain of art history, for example, a different ontological province from the chemical and molecular constitution of pieces of art that can be studied in a laboratory? Maybe there are, then, no object domains in reality?

To answer this objection, Gabriel’s argument becomes a little more complex. First, he raises the notion of ontological reduction which is “undertaken when one discovers that an allegedly objective domain of discourse is – basically – mere idle talk” (234). He proffers the example of witches spoken about in Pope Innocent VIII’s bull. Now we know that these documents merely tell us something about the beliefs of mediaeval Catholics, they don’t give factual knowledge of witches casting successful spells and such like (37). In order, then, to understand that papal bull, some measure of ontological reduction is inevitable, which means that for many object domains an “error theory” is required, one which “points out the systematic error in a domain of discourse and traces this back to a series of erroneous assumptions” (38).

But, and this is key, this all means that we “cannot simply ontologically reduce all of the diverse object domains to a single one”. In order to do this one must help oneself to a particular method, which in turn assumes that there are several object domains, thereby refuting itself (see 38). The desire to reduce everything to one domain is too ambitious, simplistic and … lazy. It simply doesn’t follow that “all object domains are only human projections” (39).


This discussion naturally leads back to Gabriel’s opening criticism of constructivism, particularly the assumption that “we cannot discover any fact ‘in itself’” (39). He elaborates upon his rejection of constructivism at this point by sharpening the constructivist case. So he turns to “registries”, that “selection of premises, media, methods, and materials employed for the sake of acquiring knowledge and processing information” (235). Of course, there are very different registries. So, when one reads a poem, one could deploy registries that are structural, psychoanalytic, political and so on, all of which mean that we “register something differently” depending on the registry adopted. In other words, whatever humanly devised register is used will determine what is known. What is more, brain research has been used to endorse what Gabriel calls neuroconstructivism.

The problems with all of this, however, are manifold. False conclusions are drawn, such as the claim that because human registries shape what is known, the facts must also be human projections. Facts remain facts irrespective of human perspective. What is more, if the neuroconstructivist case were to be believed, it immediately refutes itself as a theory claiming to state truth. Rather than offering a claim about reality as such, the neuroconstructivist theory must also remain a simulation, and literally a brainless one at that (see pp. 42-43). Better is to accept that “the conditions of the process of knowing are to be differentiated from the conditions of the known” (43-44).

His thought experiment, begun on page 41, draws attention to the rather mundane experience of sitting on a train and recognising that new passengers are boarding. This is used in order to expose the constructivist error, for passengers would have boarded the train whether someone observe them doing so or not. Their boarding remains, in other words, a fact. But this rather routine experience is helpfully used to question another constructivist claim, that “the interpretation of what is to be interpreted (an astronomical image, a literary text, a piano sonata) is much more complex than an everyday scene at the platform station” (44). But he rightly points out that even this – for some – daily experience involves complex and advanced epistemological apparatus, for “[n]o other animal on this planet is in the condition to know that passengers are boarding the train, because no other animal has the concept of trains or passengers” (44).

Philosophers and Physicists

This positions Gabriel to get straight to the point: because the world “has to be divided into domains” (which is what this section of the chapter has sought to defend), we are now in a position to ask what is meant by “the world”. It is, Gabriel claims, neither the totality of things nor the totality of facts; “it is the domain in which all existing domains are found” (45). Gabriel’s thesis is thus simply that all “there is no such thing as the domain of all domains” (45).

This leads Gabriel to finish chapter one by refuting other accounts of the world, the whole. Stephen Hawking wrongly assumes that “the world” is synonymous with the universe, but this is a position that has already been amply refuted by Gabriel in the introduction. While one might allow such philosophical illiteracy from a scientist, even Jürgen Habermas has succumbed, becoming “overawed” by modern natural science such that he can speak of the world as a “regulative idea” as the “sum total of all that is knowable”, as the “totality of objects” (citing Habermas, 47). But if the world were the totality of objects, facts would not exist! This absurd position is compounded with the realisation that not all facts are knowable, something underscored by Heisenberg’s famous uncertainty principle. There are objects that disappear (or change) whenever one observes them, thus refuting Habermas’s central contention about “the world”. No, the world is rather the domain of all domains (Heidegger).

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Saturday, September 14, 2019

Bullet chess - testing the embedding code

Pick up and read

UPDATE: a pre-pub version of Rob's article is now available online, here.

Last year Michael McClymond published a learned and exhaustive contribution to debates surrounding Christian universalism, The Devil's Redemption. (Also, check out McClymond's impressive CV on his faculty page, containing a remarkable list of publications)

But do check out Roberto De La Noval's extremely incisive critical review of McClymond's book, here. Mark my words: Rob is one of the very brightest theological stars on the horizon. But you all need to know that I knew him before he was famous :-)

Universalism is a hot subject at the moment, what with the release of David Bentley Hart's That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation, which argues that "if Christianity taken as a whole is indeed an entirely coherent and credible system of belief, then the universalist understanding of its message is the only one possible" (3). Typical DBH! I'm reading it at the mo, so will reserve judgement. But Douglas Farrow set my corner of the internet on fire by publishing his critical review of DBH's argument here.

But there is more, for the massively learned Ilaria Ramelli also published A Larger Hope?, Volume 1
Universal Salvation from Christian Beginnings to Julian of Norwich. She argues that Christian theology was the first to proclaim the salvation of all, and, contra McClymond, that the reasons for doing so were deeply christological.

To blog or not to blog

Blog of course.

Besides, any fancy "I'm not blogging anymore" seems melodramatic.

So, I'm going to return to that running book review of Markus Gabriel's Why the World Does Not Exist (Cambridge: Polity, 2015) started back in ... 2016.

Not that many will read it, I realise that, but I have selfish reasons. Namely, I suspect that New Realism may have something to offer crucial debates surrounding the relationship between theology and history. Well that's my hunch, anyway.

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Chrisendom best five books of 2018 awards

This is a definitive list of the best books of 2018 as I have read everything published. Yep, all of it. From Japanese poems, through theological text books, geological studies in Chinese, every Reddit or Facebook or blog post, DVD player installation instruction manuals, chess books on pawn and bishop endings, you name it: I read it all. Every word.

And this, my friends, is the very best of 2018.

5) The Chord Hugo 2 Amp and Digital to Analog Converter Instruction Manual (£0.00).

This one makes you look again at your life, rethink everything you hold dear, that’s how powerful it is (just like the grammar of this sentence). It's short, to the point, brilliant. Chord must have taken a genius poet captive and told her[1] to write magic for their recent DAC, or they’d kill her family. Chord produce the very best audiophile equipment, sure, but you don't want to cross them or they will kill you.

4) 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (£12.99) by Jordan B. Peterson

This. THIS.

Well, it was meh, to be honest, and about as theological determined as our 5th place winner above. It wasn’t banal, exactly, perhaps a bit more interesting than most self-help kinda books, I guess.

Look, in truth I’m only including the book here because its fun to watch the hysterical go into full-scale meltdown mode at the mere mention of his name, convulsing into fits while mouthing with bright red faces and sharply pointed finger “NAAAZIIIII SCCCUUUMMM”, and then all their friends pat them on the back for being such uncompromising keyboard warriors and they end up feeling much better about not being other people.[2] And who wouldn't want to cause all of that?

I am now at least more hesitant to eat lobster.

3) The Gratitude Journal for Women: Find Happiness and Peace in 5 Minutes a Day (£10.29) by Katherine Furman (Author) and Katie Vernon (Illustrator).

All I can say is that I’m very grateful for grateful womxn[3] in my life who keep gratitude journals in order to stay happy. I particularly liked the copious, large flower pictures. Plus, as you would expect, it wasn’t chock full of patronising truisms.

2) Finding Jesus, by Winston Rowntree (£6.33).

This was admittedly published in 2014, but it is a timeless classic. It’s like discernment medicine, making it easy to find Jesus where you might have otherwise lost him. Way better than the Synoptics, it’s top-notch training for the saints.

1) The Day I Emailed Jesus, by Norman Moss / Jesus (for £68.38)

Winning this year, hands down, is Jesus. He’s been busy emailing a bloke called Norman who published a book containing numerous “emails from Jesus”.

[1] You see what I subtly did there? You were expecting a masculine pronoun weren't you, you misogynist pig! I award myself one woke point.
[2] I guess this means my first point gets deleted.
[3] Daaaaammn, me righteous long time!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Eerdmans advent video contribution

But seriously though, here's my Amazon wish list: And although you are not under any formal obligation to purchase me books there, which is to say that it is not strictly a salvation issue, it remains true that it is better to give than receive, which does make your response a matter of proper discipleship / sanctification / maturity.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Sielecki's fantastic Keep It Simple 1.e4

"So I go there, then he goes there, then I go there, and if he goes there then I GET TO HAND HIS ASS TO HIM!"

With Christof's book you may find that there's no need to spike your opponents tea with laxative, no need to deploy the "annoying humming" manoeuvre (which you immediately deny when an arbiter is called, obviously), no need for the old "obsessive J'adoube tick" to disturb your luckless opponent.

You can win by learning good moves.

Indeed, this repertoire is easy to understand and learn because it - by and large - seeks consistency of theme against Black's responses. Sielecki's prose clarifies so much without being verbose, and the lines are detailed enough without overwhelming the reader. Not only do you have the full content of Chessable's version, Christof has now added fully annotated sample games at the end of each section. I'm hoping he produces the same for his 1.c4 repertoire...

Keep it Simple is perhaps the best book of its kind, and I own more than I care to admit.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Two Rules for Being a Man

Following Mike Bird’s 50 Maxims for Being a Man, I’ve been inspired to pen the Chris Tilling Really Very Holy Ministries Two Rules pertaining to the same. Mine are obviously more condensed, more 95 Theses, or even 39 Articles, than Mike’s 2 Kings.

First, congratulations for being a man! Well done, you! But, and this is really important, don’t be a dick about it. Seriously though, this is 1st class stamp level litmus test golden rule wisdom. It’s going to be tough to top this one, actually.

Second, this one hardly needs to be said, but … spend more time thinking about the stuff you want to buy on Black Fridays a couple of days before Black Friday, otherwise things get way too busy when you should be focused on making purchases, and you’ll end up getting overwhelmed thinking about which shopping carts duplicate items and get confused about where you found the cheapest deals, and then you’ll miss the best buys and all because you didn’t plan ahead.

Wait, got another one

Third, and as I recently learnt, don't feel you need to eat reindeer jerky only during advent just because it feels seasonal. Eat it when you want, and simply because you can. The first steps to alpha male assertiveness - because lobsters - can be small, but you'll be king lobstering in the right direction.

Crikey, got another!

Fourth, sin boldly! Of course, I don't mean literally sin boldly, I mean do righteous stuff boldly. Never sin.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Apostle Paul Charity Foundation - Urgent Request

Was way up north recently, further north even than Derby. What a barren place this far north is - driving through villages I passed so many empty faces, hunched shoulders, purposeless lives, street urchins covered in coal dust, old people watching our car with pleading expressions, grey bricks, small corner shops, brown corduroy trousers and wellington boots covered in actual dirt. No sooner had we passed through one town I found myself mesmerised by field after field of emptiness, dotted with occasional animals. Even the cows had haunted, empty eyes, dammit.

For those of us who live south of the Thames, this is heart-wrenching, and it was all I could do to urge James, my taxi chauffeur, to drive faster. As my shock increased, I just wanted to stop and buy them an avocado latte, offer them stable high-speed fibreoptic broadband, or handout some of my quinoa and pumpkin seed low GI healthy protein salad. But this was beyond my financial means and there is so much need.

So I’ve decided to start a charity fund for the needy up north. Please generously donate and we will see that every one of these people – and that is what they are don’t forget – can to try a taster of the new hemp and chia organic Fregola dish Waitrose are selling at the moment.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

From a "Devotional" I will never publish cos need to keep job etc

Day 4

Character. Not all of us have it. This wouldn’t be a very good devotional if we didn’t think a little about character, ponder how to improve it and look to those who offer us noteworthy examples.

To wit, I turn to a beautiful episode from the life of the greatest theologian of the 20th century, Karl Barth. Pope Pius XII allegedly called him “the greatest theologian since Thomas Aquinas”, whichis quite the admission for a Catholic, to which Barth apparently smiled and responded something about this proving the infallibility of the Pope.

Nice. Man had humour, too.

But Barth, and this is today’s lesson, also knew when to listen to criticism. In this case, his commissioning editors.

To cut a long story short, Barth had a bit of a dispute with a onetime theological friend, some dick called Emil Brunner.

Sadly, Brunner had lost his theological bearings, having begun to sacrifice chickens to Zeus, so Barth wrote a short, sharp response. In one of his less guarded moments he submitted the manuscript to the publishing house, “Theologischer Verlag”, with a bit of a wordy original title. Although admittedly unconfirmed, it ran as follows:

No, an Answer to Brunner, the Privileged Cis White Male with Bad breath and Dandruff Who Can't Get Laid Because His Face Looks Like It Has Been Repeatedly Hit With a Shovel. Sad.

At once, the publishing house advised caution. But despite the fact that Barth’s cause was noble, he was teachable; he listened to critique with humility. He heard the objection and hit the delete button (certainly a skill I have yet to master).

And within days, the book subtitle had been shorted, and it was published simply as No! An Answer to Brunner.

That, my friends, is character.

I think we all know the take-home point today, and it will be worth spelling it out for you to prayerfully ponder:

What book subtitle have you written that needs to be shortened?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Aaaand a carrot

If yesterday's post was a bit of a rhetorical stick, today's is a carrot! Namely, advice to go and have a read of my friend Lucy Peppiatt's Why Study Theology? Reflections for the evangelical charismatic church. She rustles up a bunch of reasons why studying theology is a good thing!

By the way, if you don't yet know her work, go straight to Amazon and do a search, before a can of heavenly smitation gets opened up. Because that's how these things work.

And another by the way, I obvs wasn't trying to say, yesterday, that feelings and emotions are unimportant. My point was precisely to stress the unity of the huperson[1]in their intellectual, emotional, etc. condition.

[1]. This largely defunct blog doesn't really offer the world much (okay, anything), but at least it gives the opportunity to score me a few public woke points in the progressive league tables. Because I’m better than you.