My Audio Recording Studio

Having hosted podcasts for nearly seven years, I’m often asked about my studio setup. So I figured I would assemble the details in one place for the sake of convenience.

For several years my go-to microphone has been the Shure SM7B, a great little cardioid mic that has never let me down. It’s versatile and sharp. For fun I’ve experimented with slightly more expensive mics — specifically the ElectroVoice RE20, and once had a chance to play around with the classic NPR mic, the Neumann U87 — but I always return, more happy than ever, to my Shure SM7B, mounted to my right on a Auray BAE-2X broadcast arm.

The analogue mic runs directly to a Cloudlifter activator for a signal boost, digitized in a Scarlett 2i4 USB interface, and then into my MacBook Pro, and to my LG 34-inch curved ultrawide monitor, perfect for linear audio editing.

Software wise, my channel mapping is handled by Loopback to direct incoming audio from Facetime and Skype for recording. All recordings and edits are done in Adobe Audition CC.

I use Audio-Technica ATH-M50x studio headphones. And, finally, when I record, I set up some affordable acoustic panels around my setup.

That’s it. It may look complex on first glance, but it’s streamlined and dependable for what I need.

What do you use? And how can I improve my setup?

The Voice of God to the Silent Agony

In The Prophets, rabbi Abraham Heschel (1907–1972) makes a compelling case that God’s prophets in the Old Testament were not merely carriers of the inspired word, they were also agents of divine passion. To the degree that “the characteristic of the prophets is not foreknowledge of the future, but insight into the present pathos of God” (298). Now that’s an overstated contrast, but you get the point. The message of the prophets exceeded what matter-of-fact language alone could contain, and this is because “the prophet hears God’s voice and feels His heart” (31). Thus, the prophets carry God’s word in God’s emotion. The two are inseparable.

Building from this pathos, Heschel addresses the nature of injustice that caught the attention of the Prophets and brought forth their prophetic ire —

The world is a proud place, full of beauty, but the prophets are scandalized, and rave as if the whole world were a slum. They make much ado about paltry things, lavishing excessive language upon trifling subjects. What if somewhere in ancient Palestine poor people have not been treated properly by the rich? So what if some old women found pleasure and edification in worshiping ‘the Queen of Heaven’? Why such immoderate excitement? Why such intense indignation? . . .

Indeed, the sort of crimes and even the amount of delinquency that fill the prophets of Israel with dismay do not go beyond that which we regard as normal, as typical ingredients of social dynamics. To us a single act of injustice — cheating in business, exploitation of the poor — is slight; to the prophets, a disaster. To us injustice is injurious to the welfare of the people; to the prophets it is a deathblow to existence: to us, an episode; to them, a catastrophe, a threat to the world. . . .

The prophet is a man who feels fiercely. God has thrust a burden upon his soul, and he is bowed and stunned at man’s fierce greed. Frightful is the agony of man; no human voice can convey its full terror. Prophecy is the voice that God has lent to the silent agony, a voice to the plundered poor. (3–6)

Above all, Heschel writes, “the prophets remind us of the moral state of a people. Few are guilty, but all are responsible” (19).

Thinking and the “Violent Visual Impact”

Jacques Ellul, The Humiliation of the Word (Eerdmans, 1985), page 221:

We are arriving at a purely emotional stage of thinking. In order to begin reacting intellectually, we need the stimulus of an image. Bare information or an article or book no longer have any effect on us. We do not begin reflecting on such a basis, but only with an illustration. We need violent visual impact if thought is to be set in motion. When we jump from image to image, we are really going from emotion to emotion: our thought moves from anger to indignation, from fear to resentment, from passion to curiosity. In this manner our thought is enriched by diversity and multiple meaning but is singularly paralyzed with respect to its specific efficacy as thought.

John Webster’s 2007 Lectures (Remastered)

Update: Per an original publishing agreement with John Webster, the remastered and downloadable mp3s must be removed from the site. I believe the Henry Center will be replacing their streaming audio files with my versions here. In light of this request, the publisher tells me they remain hopeful that these lectures will emerge in published form. This morning they tell me: “Eerdmans had a contract with Prof. Webster to publish the lectures, was in touch with him about revisions prior to his passing, and hopes to be able to bring the book out within a couple of years.”

The inaugural Kantzer Lectures, delivered by theologian John Webster between September 11–17, 2007 at the Carl F. H. Henry Center — are now legendary. Two close friends who attended the week tell me it was unforgettable.

The lectures, “Perfection & Presence: God with Us, According to the Christian Confession,” were to be edited into a final book form. But when Dr. Webster suddenly passed away two years ago, a little under a month shy of his 61st birthday, his ministry came to an end, and the hopes of the 2007 lectures becoming a book seemed to die, too.

What remains are the recordings.

The official description for the event states:

In the inauguration of the Kantzer Lectures series, distinguished Professor John Webster delivers a rich reflection upon the perfections and presence of God. The question at the center of this lectures series is the nature of human fellowship with God. The Investigation of the nature of this fellowship entails for Webster, a comprehension of the divine perfections and their relation to the Trinitarian relations and missions. From the nature of God, the Trinitarian relations and the nature of Divine presence more generally, it can then be understood more clearly what scripture means when it speaks of the Word becoming flesh. Webster offers, therefore, an extensive reflection upon the human history of the divine Word and the nature of his presence in the flesh. Finally, Webster moves to discuss the nature of the resurrected and exalted Lord’s presence, a presence manifest in his Lordship over his creatures and in the practices and Sacraments of the holy church.

Each lecture, and the preceding chapel message, have been remastered. Volume levels (which were a mess, and progressively became worse as the series progressed), have been fixed and amplified. The traveling microphone during open Q&As, sometimes used and sometimes ignored, created another host of audio leveling problems, all fixed and leveled out.

Here are the remastered MP3s:

0: Chapel Message on Mercy
1: Introduction
2: God’s Perfect Life
3: God Is Everywhere but Not Only Everywhere
4: Immanuel
5: The Presence of Christ Exalted
6: He Will Be With Them


Religious Atheism

Psalm 14:1 —

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
there is none who does good.

James Luther Mays, Psalms, Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (1994), pages 81–82:

The sentence seems to say that atheists are silly and atheism is frivolous. We know that in our culture that is not so. The denial of the existence of God is made by serious and honest people. In the society that this psalm describes, however, nabal does not mean things like dumb, inept, silly, clown, buffoon. Rather, the term designates a person who decides and acts on the basis of the wrong assumption. . . . A nabal is a person who, whether shrewd or powerful, makes a mistake about reality.

The “foolishness” with which the psalm is concerned is to say in one’s heart there is no God. That may sound as though the psalmist lived in a secular society and endured atheists who denied the existence of God. But the rest of the psalm makes it clear that the problem is not a reasoned intellectual argument against the existence of God but conduct based on the private assumption that human beings are not held accountable by God.

The psalmist reasons from the way people act to the way they think.

If people enact life in corrupt and perverse ways (vv. 1–3), do not pray to God in their need but live by preying on others (v. 4), then they are denying the reality of the LORD, the God of exodus and the covenant and the prophets. . . . It does not address, therefore, the phenomenon of modern atheism directly. But the “atheism” it does uncover is more dangerous, insidious, and general because it is a reasoning that can be found, as the prophets and Jesus insisted, in the hearts of the religious as well as the secular.

The psalm is not concerned with the question of whether people accept the existence of a supreme being. It is concerned with whether people acknowledge the reality of the LORD, the God of Israel, by calling on the LORD in need and seeking the LORD in the decisions of life.

Indeed, this “no God” as “no culpability” line of thinking is more flagrantly connected in Psalm 10:4,13.

Can I? Should I?

After centuries of deadly attacks by unseen bacterial pathogens, the long history of pandemics has now largely ended, replaced by our postmodern rival — psychological disorders.

This becomes a sweeping metaphor behind every essay by philosopher Byung-Chul Han. “Neurological illnesses such as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), borderline personality disorder (BPD), and burnout syndrome mark the landscape of pathology at the beginning of the twenty-first century,” he writes. “They are not infections, but infarctions; they do not follow from the negativity of what is immunologically foreign, but from an excess of positivity” (Burnout, 1).

Throughout his works, he uses this internal-compulsion principle in diagnosing our digital habits, work patterns, and social relationships. In the workplace, for example, he contrasts allo-exploitation (other-exploitation), when workers are coerced by external threats; with auto-exploitation (self-exploitation), when workers refuse to stop working from inner compulsion, having been conditioned by performance/achievement culture.

It applies to social media. Whereas we were once private citizens, keeping the details of our lives within a rather small and confidential sphere, we now digitally self-disclose far more willingly, autoilluminating the digital panopticon (Swarm, 72). No one compels us to share our lives online, we’re driven by an inner urgency that we rarely question until we are once again reminded that our data is at least being used against us in targetting our appetites, making us porous to carefully chosen new consumables.

Essentially this transition from external-compulsion to inner-compulsion is rooted in a move from disciplinary society to achievement society. “Achievement society is wholly dominated by the modal verb can — in contrast to disciplinary society, which issues prohibitions and deploys should. After a certain point of productivity, should reaches a limit. To increase productivity, it is replaced by can. The call for motivation, initiative, and projects exploits more effectively than whips and commands. As an entrepreneur of the self, the achievement-subject is free insofar as he or she is not subjugated to a commanding and exploiting Other. . . . Auto-exploitation proves much more efficient than allo-exploitation because it is accompanied by a feeling of liberty. This makes possible exploitation without domination” (Agony, 9).

Achievement society becomes doping society (Burnout, 30). As “the achievement-subject competes with itself; it succumbs to the destructive compulsion to outdo itself over and over, to jump over its own shadow. . . . Achievement society is the society of self-exploitation. The achievement-subject exploits itself until it burns out” (Burnout, 46). Fundamentally this burnout is a failure of discipline, to decide what is of importance and what is of no importance. “When it is no longer possible to decide what is of importance, then everything loses importance” (Scent, 25).

In our lives, preserving the unimportant is essential to prioritizing the important. Preserving the no protects the yes, as it protects the Subject from burnout. Because “if one had only the power to do (something) and no power not to do, it would lead to a fatal hyperactivity” (Burnout, 24).

Byung-Chul Han is too anti-capitalist to agree with him at every point, but because of his differences, he is for me, page-for-page, one of the most stimulating non-Christian modern authors I engage. And for me he’s a model of concise writing. Here’s a selection of my favorite essays —