Back to School: Apps to Help You Work Well (Part 2)

Last week I surveyed five apps to increase your productivity while at university. I continue this week with five more. Do feel free to offer your suggestions in the comments below!

6) WordPress– If you are going to maintain a blog, WordPress is probably the best platform to use. Even its free tier offers beautiful themes, a nice user interface, and sophisticated publishing tools. I do think it is a good idea most Ph.D. students to maintain a somewhat regular blog during their studies. An excellent blog can present your research to an audience outside of your university. It can also help you develop as a writer; composing short pieces forces you to learn how to be concise.


We’re productive! Photo Credit: Breezeworks

7) Be Focused Pro-I highlighted in a previous post how I use the Pomodoro method when I write. I use Be Focused Pro to track my Pomorodo cycles. Many apps can do this, but I like Be Focused Pro because it keeps all of my devices in sync via the cloud and it has a clean interface.

8) Day One-I maintained a personal journal during my time as a pastor. I started the practice again once I moved into year three of my Ph.D. My journal is called simply the Accountability Journal, and it resides in my Day One account. Day One is an elegant journalling program for Mac and iOS that can record text, pictures, and even health data. Every evening I write a summary of what I accomplished on that day in my office. I record the positives to encourage myself to keep going. I also record the negatives (e.g., if I was distracted by the internet). I have found that this exercise helps me develop into the person I wish to become. It is also surprisingly encouraging. On days that I beat myself up for not accomplishing more, a quick flip through my journal reminds me of what all I have been doing.

9. Scrivener-Scrivener features very sophisticated composition and editing tools. There is a lot to like about the program, but I have found its learning curve quite steep. I also remain suspicious over how accurately it exports its files into Microsoft Office. It is still worth a look, though. If you write often you will likely appreciate many of its features.

10.Productive-Recognizing the power of habit is one of the best ways to be productive. Productive keeps track of all of the habits you would like to develop in your life. In my case, it reminds me in the morning to go to the gym, read my Bible, and spend time with a theology text not directly related to my thesis. In the evening, it reminds me to write in my Accountability Journal.

Bonus: Leaf (Mac) or Feedly (iOS)- A robust RSS reader can come in handy if you follow blogs or listen to podcasts. These apps organize RSS feeds very well. Also worthy of note is Pocket, an app that saves articles that you find on the internet so that you might read them later.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Back to School: Apps to Help You Work Well

School is back in session, and it is time to consider the most beneficial apps for productivity. Many of us now have access to apps that can help us work hard and play hard during term time. Here are five of my favorites in no particular order. I will offer another five next week.

1. f.lux—We all know how uncomfortable our eyes feel when we stare at a computer screen in the dark. Research has shown that the glow from a screen can even interfere with the natural rhythms of our bodies and cause us to have an inability to sleep. F.lux automatically adjusts your screen when the sun begins to set. In short, it allows you to work late without getting a headache or bloodshot eyes. This app is especially helpful to those us of who live in Scotland during the winter season. The sun begins to set here a little after 3:30pm!

2. Duet—Research has shown that people who work with two monitors are typically more productive than those who only use one. There have been several times in which I have wished that I had two monitors. This desire usually occurs when I want to look at a large PDF file and a Word Doc simultaneously; it has also occurred when I want to have Apple Music of Facebook running on one side of the screen and my work on the other. 😉 Duet is a poor man’s second monitor. If you plug your iPad into your Mac, it will transform your iPad instantly into a second desktop. It is very helpful when you are working with many files at one time.

3. EverNote-I am quite the Evernote fanatic. Yes, the company raised its prices recently. Yes, apps like OneNote from Microsoft are nipping at its heels. And, yes, EverNote as an organization has experienced a crisis of leadership as of late. Still, in my mind, there is no better app for document storage and organization. I happily pay the annual fee—even with the price increase. I wrote a blog on my use of EverNote as a Ph.D. student here. Do give this app a careful look; even the free version is very powerful. I quite honestly cannot imagine doing my work without it.

4. OmniFocus-I greatly appreciate David Allen’s Getting Things Done program. I wrote a blog on its value for Ph.D. students here. The popularity of Allen’s approach has led to the creation of a large number of productivity apps built around the insights featured in his system. OmniFocus is the most powerful of these. It can manage multiple projects, different due dates and deferral dates, track the various contexts in which you perform your work, and even offer a weekly review so that you can monitor your progress. It has a steep learning curve; if you are looking for just a simple to-do list then you will probably want to try a different app. If you have a lot on your plate, though, then you will find this app tremendously helpful.

5. Grammarly—This software can perform sophisticated proofreading and even plagiarism detection. It is much more advanced than the grammar tools built into Microsoft Office. I use it mainly for the quick pieces that I write—emails, blog posts, messages that I send out as an adjunct professor—and prefer to take a more old-fashioned approach with my thesis. I do find it helpful, though. Even the free version will offer quality advice concerning your writing.

Do you have any favorite apps that you wish to recommend? What helps you with your work (or play)?

Posted in PhD Productivity | 2 Comments

How I Saved Myself From Social Media and Made My iPhone Actually Useful

I was likely one of the first people in America to buy an iPhone. I waited in line for hours in front of the Apple Store at the Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh, NC to buy one on release day. The first iPhone was surprisingly limited; it could not send MMS (picture texts), could not connect to 3G data, and could not run any apps other than those pre-installed on the system. At around $700 (if my memory is correct), it was a huge—and probably ridiculous—investment for a young seminary student.


One device to rule them all

I realized not long after its purchase that the device, despite its limitations, was changing how I lived and even how I thought. I would look at it as soon as there was any pause in my life—waiting in lines, sitting on buses, escaping from boring conversations (to my shame), etc. My interest in the phone grew with each new model; as the data speeds increased, as social media came into existence, and as the popularity of the app store grew, I found myself more and more addicted to my phone. Not to make things sound too dramatic, but eventually I realized that it had become the master in the relationship in many important ways.

I took several steps this summer to free myself from both my phone and social media. I want to be as productive as possible, but I found that frequent use of my phone hindered productivity. I want to be content in life, but I found that gazing into the social media pages of other people prevented that from happening. I know one person who became so disgusted with it all that he took all of the apps off of his phone—including his email app! I did not go that far, but I am glad I took the steps that I did. Below is what I would recommend to anyone who believes that they are spending too much unprofitable time on their smartphone.

First, name it for what it is. Take all of your social media apps and place them in a folder entitled Time Waste. Move that folder to a not very prominent location. I still look at social media on occasion, and I still believe it has some value, but for me much of it truly was becoming a waste of time. I no longer give it the attention I once did.IMG_1622

I further recommend establishing the goal of not looking at your phone between the hours of 8pm and 8am (activating Airplane Mode works well). Doing so helps you devote more time to reading, family, and basic work around the house. It saves you from the constant pinging of incoming emails and from becoming curious about what might be happening on Twitter or Facebook (I’ll take a good guess: it is probably some crazy political debate. I say that as someone who has unintentionally started a few).

IMG_1620Second, create a folder entitled Quick Reads. Place in it apps that will be profitable alternatives to social media. I use a RSS reader that I employ to follow theology blogs, an app entitled Pocket that saves essays and articles that I find online, and an older app by the name of Readtime that curates reading material based on how much time you have available. I also include an online magazine named Productive!; it was developed by the creator of Nozbe.

So, I still look at my phone while I am doing such things as waiting in a line or sitting on a bus (not during a conversation!), but I do not look at social media. I use my phone for good—reading and keeping up with developments in my field—and my time is not squandered.

What tactics do you use to maintain self-discipline in this area? Have you found yourself moving away from the tyranny of the telephone?

*Some of these ideas I originally found on this website:

Posted in PhD Productivity | 2 Comments

Baptist Catholicity: An Introductory Bibliography

I briefly mentioned a few works on Baptist catholicity in my previous blog post. Here I offer a more detailed bibliography for those who are interested in the subject. Enjoy! I do not intend this list to be exhaustive; I only wish to highlight books and articles that I have found especially interesting and helpful. Do feel free to offer suggestions, though. I would love to receive your feedback.



Broadway, Mikael N., Cutis W. Freeman, Barry Harvey, James Wm. McClendon, Jr., Elizabeth Newman, and Philip E. Thompson. “Re-envisioning Baptist Identity: A Manifesto for Baptist Communities in North America.” Perspectives in Religious Studies 24, no. 3 (Fall 1997): 303–310.

Cross, Anthony R. Baptism and Baptists: Theology and Practice in Twentieth-Century Britain. Paternoster Biblical and Theological Monographs. Carlisle: Paternoster, 2000.

———. Recovering the Evangelical Sacrament: Baptisma Semper Reformandum. Eugene: Pickwick, 2013.

Cross, Anthony R. and Philip E. Thompson, eds. Baptist Sacramentalism. Studies in Baptist History and Thought, vol. 5. Carlisle: Paternoster, 2003.

———. eds. Baptist Sacramentalism 2. Studies in Baptist History and Thought, vol. 25. Carlisle: Paternoster, 2008.

Emerson, Matthew Y. and R. Lucas Stamps. “Baptists and the Catholicity of the Church: Toward an Evangelical Baptist Catholicity.” The Journal of Baptist Studies 7 (2015), 42–66.

Fiddes, Paul. S. “Learning From Others: Baptists and Receptive Ecumenism.” Louvain Studies 33, nos. 1–2 (2008): 54­–73.

———. Tracks and Traces: Baptist Identity in Church and Theology. Studies in Baptist History and Thought, vol. 13. Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2003.

Fiddes, Paul, Brian Haymes, and Richard Kidd. Baptists and the Communion of the Saints: A Theology of Covenanted Disciples. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2014.

Finn, Nathan A. “Contesting Catholicity: Some Conservative Reflections on Curtis Freeman’s Theology for ‘Other Baptists,”’ Southeastern Theological Review 6, no. 2 (2015): 151–170.

Fowler, Stanley K. More Than a Symbol: The British Baptist Recovery of Baptismal Sacramentalism. Studies in Baptist History and Thought, vol. 2. Carlisle: Paternoster, 2002.

Freeman, Curtis. “A Confession for Catholic Baptists.” In Ties that Bind: Life Together in the Baptist Vision, ed. Garry A. Furr and Curtis W. Freeman, 83–97. Macon: Smyth & Helwys, 1994.

———. Contesting Catholicity: Theology for Other Baptists. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2014.

George, Timothy. “An Evangelical Reflection on Scripture and Tradition.” Pro Ecclesia 9, no. 2 (Spring 2000): 184–207.

———, ed. Evangelicals and the Nicene Faith: Reclaiming the Apostolic Witness. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011.


Photo: Wipf & Stock

Goodliff, Andrew. “Towards a Baptist Sanctoral?” Journal of European Baptist Studies 13, no. 3 (May 2013): 24–30.

Harmon, Steven R. Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future: Story, Tradition, and the Recovery of Community. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2015.

———. “’Catholic Baptists’ and the New Horizon of Tradition in Baptist Theology.” In New Horizons in Theology, ed. by Terrence W. Tilley, 117­­–143. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2005.

———. Towards Baptist Catholicity: Essays on Tradition and the Baptist Vision. Studies in Baptist History and Thought, vol. 27. Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2006.

Holmes, Stephen R. Listening to the Past: The Place of Tradition in Theology. Carlisle: Paternoster; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002.

Jorgenson, Cameron. H. “Bapto-Catholicism: Recovering Tradition and Reconsidering the Baptist Identity.” Ph.D. diss., Baylor University, 2008.

Monck, Thomas, et al. “An Orthodox Creed.” Transcribed by W. Madison Grace II. Southwestern Journal of Theology 48, no. 2 (Spring 2006): 133–182.

Thompson, Philip E. “Re-Envisioning Baptist Identity: Historical, Theological, and Liturgical Analysis.” Perspectives in Religious Studies 27, no. 3 (2000): 287–302.

Ward, Roger E. and Philip E. Thompson. Tradition and the Baptist Academy. Studies in Baptist History and Thought, vol. 31. Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2011.


Posted in Baptist Catholicity | 1 Comment

Baptist Catholicity: A Brief Intro

I recently read a Baptist theologian bemoan the fact that every systematic theology he read by a Baptist featured no serious engagement with the great tradition. This theologian further stated that every lecture he attended whilst a student at a Baptist seminary was similarly deficient. I cannot speak for his experience, but I suspect he is not the first


Photo Credit: Orthodox Road

person to make such claims. Baptists are not exactly known for their catholicity.

One can find in the history of our movement examples to the contrary. The Orthodox Creed used by the General Baptists commended the Apostles’ Creed as well as the Athanasian Creed, and numerous Baptist doctrinal statements have employed the Trinitarian grammar provided by the Patristic Era. John Gill, the theologian I am presently researching, opened his systematic theology by condemning a crude form of biblicism that would reject the importance of the tradition and also by praising the value of the regula fidei in biblical interpretation. The church covenant still in use at the New Road Baptist Church in Oxford, England, reads, “We denominate ourselves a Protestant Catholic Church of Christ.”


Photo Credit: Wipf & Stock

Some contemporary Baptists seek to follow in these footsteps. To offer but a few examples, the publication Re-Envisioning Baptist Identity has created some interest amongst Baptists in the resources of the broader church tradition. Curtis Freeman’s Contesting Catholicity: Theology for Other Baptists seeks to present the Baptist movement as “a community of contested convictions within the church catholic,” a presentation that entails the retrieval of sources both from the Baptist tradition and the church catholic. The works of Steven Harmon, most notably Towards Baptist Catholicity: Essays on Tradition and the Baptist Vision, display a similar aim. Some Southern Baptist theologians have also expressed a desire for greater engagement with the tradition. The Journal of Baptist Studies recently featured several articles that examined the possibility of a Baptist reengagement with the tradition and critiqued Landmarkism.


Photo Credit: Baptist Standard

In my next blog post, I will offer a more extensive bibliography of works on this topic. What suggestions might you have for this list?



*A portion of this blog originates from a paper presentation I offered at the 2016 Baptist Historical Society meeting in Manchester, UK.

Posted in Baptist Catholicity | 1 Comment

Reviewing Helpful Tools for Ph.D. Students: Evernote

For the next several blog posts I will concentrate on some of the tools that I have found helpful in the writing of my Ph.D. thesis. I begin here with Evernote.

If you are not familiar Evernote, the software allows you to clip information you find on the web and to store it for safe keeping. It allows you to do the same for emails in your inbox or even PDFs and Word Docs on your computer.

Evernote Meetup Paris

Evernote Running on iOS (Wikimedia Commons)

While this service does not sound too exciting, when you are working with a lot of information arriving from several different sources it becomes tremendously helpful. In this blog, I will recount how Evernote assisted me in preparing for my upcoming paper presentation at the Baptist Historical Conference in Manchester.

While I was conducting research for my paper, I used the Evernote app on my iPhone to scan portions of books and articles from sources at our university library. Doing so instantly made the text of these documents searchable; it allowed me to search for particular names or concepts across multiple sources quickly. Also, if I found a book that appeared relevant to my work while browsing websites such as Amazon or WorldCat, I used the Evernote browser plug-in to save the bibliographic information. This action allowed me quickly to compile a list of potential sources with almost minimal effort.

When I began to write my paper, I used Evernote as a repository into which I placed my rough drafts and brainstorms. Evernote seems to me somehow less serious than Microsoft Word; I can play with sentences in the software, save them, and not worry about corrupting the more polished version of my paper in Word.


Evernote Smart Notebook

Now that my paper is nearing its completion, I need to start sorting out the logistics of my trip. Today I purchased my train tickets to Manchester. I also received the final draft of the conference schedule. I emailed both documents my Evernote account. Doing so means that I will not have to wonder through my house searching for my tickets or my schedule on the day that I depart; both documents will be there for me as soon as I open the Evernote app on my phone.

While I am traveling on the train, I will be able to review my paper as well as all of the sources that I consulted while writing it with just a few quick taps on my iPad. I will not have to bring with me several different articles or books. I will not even have to search through multiple folders on my Mac. Every resource that I used in the production of my paper will be in one digital place so that I can quickly look over everything and collect my thoughts.

And Repeat
To get a sense of my life, imagine multiple projects such as this one happening simultaneously. While working on this paper, I have also been working on a paper that I am to present at the Ecclesiastical Historical Society the following week. I have my usual thesis work and all of the documents associated with it. I have papers and notes related to the online classes I am teaching for the Baptist College of Florida. I have not even begun to mention here all of the files related to my personal life—passport paperwork for Sophia, digital brochures of places April and I would like to visit, names of books that I would like to read in my (almost nonexistent) spare time, etc.
It is this busyness that makes Evernote indispensable for me. It helps me increase my productivity and not worry about losing information. It helps my typically disorganized self remain on track and feel on top of things. If you do not use Evernote, what software do you like to track documents and notes (OneNote, Apple Notes, etc.)? What have you found helpful?

Evernote US Website:

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

John Gill, Andrew Fuller, and Adam: Briefly Assessing John Gill’s Remarks on Adamic Inability

Baptists today debate John Gill’s theological identity; specifically, was he or was he not a no-offer Calvinist? Several convictions constituted the no-offer Calvinist position, but one of the most interesting was a belief in Adamic inability. Here I explain Adamic inability and briefly explore Gill’s rather inconsistent remarks concerning it.

No-offer Calvinists such as Joseph Hussey and John Brine argued that before the fall Adam did not possess the ability to believe the Gospel. In his pre-fall state, they reasoned, Adam would have simply had no need to believe the Gospel; sin had not yet entered creation. They then asserted that, if Adam had no ability to believe the Gospel before the fall, then humanity certainly possesses no ability to believe the Gospel after the fall. This rather simple argument became the backbone of much of their no-offer position.


John Gill (Courtesy WikiMedia Commons)

Assessing John Gill’s acceptance of this teaching can be a difficult task. In a sermon entitled Faith in God and His Word he wrote that “man never had in his power to have or to exercise” belief in Christ and that this fact was true even “in the state of innocence.” However, in his tract against Arminianism entitled The Cause of God and Truth he claimed, “That Adam, in a state of innocence, had a power of believing in Christ, and did believe in him as the second Person in the Trinity, as the Son of God, cannot well be denied.”

There appears inconsistency here in Gill’s corpus, and Particular Baptist minister Andrew Fuller offers some insight into how one might interpret these statements. While Fuller referred to Gill occasionally in his important Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, his Reply to Mr. Button features his most substantive remarks on Gill’s belief in Adamic inability. There Fuller explained that during the modern question controversy some hyper-Calvinists such as John Brine “maintained the argument from Adam’s incapacity to believe, yet Dr. Gill, when contending with the Arminians, gave it up.”

Fuller’s conclusion, then, is that Gill simply made contradictory assertions concerning Adam’s ability to believe the Gospel given his various polemical contexts. His reading has plausibility. Gill wrote The Cause of God and Truth when he involved himself in a heated attack on the Arminian theology of Daniel Whitby. It is likely that he moderated his position for rhetorical purposes; he perhaps did not wish to defend this particular conviction in the midst of an important argument over key aspects of Reformed soteriology. In his other works, however, he could espouse Adamic inability with vigor.


Andrew Fuller (WikiMedia Commons)

Interesting then is the fact that, even though Gill rejected Adamic inability in his debate with Whitby, he did not necessarily surrender the no-offer position. In The Cause of God and Truth, he immediately followed his statements concerning Adam with an explanation that, even though a prelapsarian Adam could have believed the Gospel, because of the fall “men have lost the power of believing.” In other words, he quickly shifted the conversation from Adam’s prelapsarian abilities to the inability Adam’s of descendants after the fall. He then provided fairly strong rejection of free Gospel offers. He wrote, “As for those texts of Scripture I know of none, that exhort and command all men, all the individuals of human nature, to repent, and believe in Christ for salvation; they can only, at most, concern such persons who are under the Gospel dispensation; and, in general, only regard an external repentance and reformation, and an historical faith in, or assent to, Jesus as the Messiah.”

According to Gill, universal appeals in Scripture for people to trust in Christ speak primarily of outward moral reform—what he often called legal repentance—and mental assent to the truths of the Gospel. They are not clear exhortations for all people everywhere to trust in Christ; such exhortations cannot exist in the no-offer system.

Work remains for historians to explore in more detail just how Gill developed his no-offer position. It appears that the concept of Adamic inability was a part of his theology in some of his works but that he did not rest his entire argument for no-offer Calvinism upon it. He could still promote a present human inability to believe the Gospel grounded in part in human depravity. Contemporary readers of Gill should remember this point when they read his works.

Posted in Thesis Research | Leave a comment