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When John Locke Turned Gospel Into Law

When John Locke Turned Gospel Into Law

It’s no secret that here at Mockingbird we like to talk about how the themes of Law and Grace play out in everyday life, so much, in fact, that there’s now a Mockingbird publication which bears its namesake.

When we say “law”, we tend to mean that the posture of the...

“When I Run, I Feel His Pleasure”, and Sometimes I’m Just Pleasant

“When I Run, I Feel His Pleasure”, and Sometimes I’m Just Pleasant

I was talking about the film “Secretariat” with a friend recently, and I remember him saying “I’m not really into horse movies”. That made me laugh. It’s like saying “I’m not into books about turtles”. It just seems to be an odd thing to be averse to. Anyway, I guess...

Distinguishing Between Law and Gospel: A Brief Guide

Distinguishing Between Law and Gospel: A Brief Guide

This handy guide comes from the first appendix to our newest book, Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints), coauthored by Will McDavid, Ethan Richardson, and David Zahl. Hope you enjoy:

The distinction between law and gospel is the highest art in Christendom –Martin Luther

A strong belief of Luther, and those who...

Inside The Forgiveness Issue (Opener and Table of Contents)

Inside The Forgiveness Issue (Opener and Table of Contents)

As Father’s Day rolls around, so does our Forgiveness Issue (purely coincidental). Here’s a teaser to the Fifth Issue of The Mockingbird–the Opener as well as the Table of Contents. Subscriptions and orders can be placed here.

A Cop Out in the Woods

It turns out writing about forgiveness is hard. Maybe...

Focus Focus Focus! The Law of Attention in an Age of Distraction

Focus Focus Focus! The Law of Attention in an Age of Distraction

Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write: You know you’re watching something good when it forces you to shelve your laptop. This was certainly the case this past Sunday evening, during the finale of a certain HBO fantasy drama. There are plenty of reasons why Game of Thrones gets...

The Real Value of Justification By Faith (For Fragile and Broken Souls)

The Real Value of Justification By Faith (For Fragile and Broken Souls)

I’m a couple of chapters in to a remarkable new book, Sin Boldly!: Justifying Faith for Fragile and Broken Souls by Ted Peters. It’s an approachable yet meaty treatise on the everyday value of Justification By Faith, what the author calls, “the key that unlocks the prison door, the hand...

Gospel According to Pixar: Inside Out

Gospel According to Pixar: Inside Out

The reviews for Pixar’s latest, Inside Out, are not just hype. I went to see the movie on Tuesday night, and I’m still processing different parts of it, which to me is always the sign of a goodie. It’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from Pixar: appealing to all...

Thou Shalt Prepare for Baby: Law and Grace in Pregnancy for Husband and Wife

Thou Shalt Prepare for Baby: Law and Grace in Pregnancy for Husband and Wife

Tasha Genck Morton is married to Adam Morton and serves as Associate Pastor at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Lancaster, PA. They are due in July.

Adam: I have a confession to make: I have read exactly zero pregnancy or baby books. Occasionally I will pick one up from its resting...

A Response to Charleston: Finding the Gospel at Prayer Vigils

A Response to Charleston: Finding the Gospel at Prayer Vigils

Yesterday, I went to one of the many prayer vigils that happened at African Methodist Episcopal churches all over the country to show support and love for the people tragically killed at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. I’ve been to these kinds of events before. But this one was different...

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Another Week Ends: Conditional Epidemics, Lasting Love Songs, Contextless Forgiveness, Enforced Happiness, Atheist Architecture and John Adams’ Lament

Another Week Ends: Conditional Epidemics, Lasting Love Songs, Contextless Forgiveness, Enforced Happiness, Atheist Architecture and John Adams’ Lament

1. Reporting from the Aspen Festival of Ideas, Connor Friedersdorf briefs us on “How Parents Make High-Achieving Kids Miserable” via a discussion that took place earlier this week between William Deresiewicz and David Brooks on the state/purpose of higher education. The first twelve minutes find Deresiewicz recounting the background of his new book, but once Brooks hits the stage (13 minute mark or so), it really heats up. For instance:

“I see my students burdened by this epidemic of conditional love, where their parents have honed them, and if they decide not to take the job they want, or the major…

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England's Jo Potter (L) consoles teammate Laura Bassett after she scored an own-goal in the last minutes of the game giving Japan the win in their semifinal match at the FIFA Women's World Cup at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Canada on July 1, 2015.   AFP PHOTO/GEOFF ROBINS        (Photo credit should read GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)

The Upside-Down Notion of an “Absolute Hero”

This week’s sports post comes from Mockingbird contributor Jonathan Adams:

Like (I’m sure) many of us, these past few weeks I’ve been dutifully doing something that I literally never do – watching women’s soccer on TV. I’ve been watching the US matches in the World Cup. I don’t claim to know much about soccer, but I concluded after watching the US in their semi-final match against Germany that (to my very untrained eye) the US team is a “team”. They communicate well and seem to have each others’ backs. They’re super fun to watch. And yes, I may have a pink…

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Hidden Holiness: The Experience of Sanctification? – Will McDavid

Carrying on with the videos from our Spring Conferences, here’s Will’s expert exploration of air travel, spiritual and otherwise:

Hidden Holiness: The Experience of Sanctification? – Will McDavid from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Can’t pass up the opportunity to laud our favorite man-from-Macon, who just finished his final week as full-time staff with Mockingbird after three and a half absurdly fruitful years. Will is heading to law school this Fall–an irony not lost on him, believe me–but thankfully staying close and sticking in Charlottesville. So while he’ll still pop up on here from time to time, do say a prayer for the guy, and if you feel inspired, drop a comment below (or shoot him well wishes at mcdavid.will@gmail.com). It’s been such a privilege and joy to have him on the team.

BONUS QUESTION: What’s your favorite McDavid opus? I have too many to list here. But certainly Christian Battle Lines, God Redeems Our Anthropomorphism, Disgruntled Millennials, the Metropolitan review, the NT Wright takedown, Goodhart’s Law, and of course, A Great Prince Died So a Hedge Knight Might Live would make the cut. The Preamar post still gives me a chuckle too – you know, that time Mockingbird became the international connection point for fans of a Brazilian TV show and its creator(s).

The Films of 2015 (So Far)

The Films of 2015 (So Far)

Here’s part one of a cinematic round up from Mbirder Josh Encinias. Part two to be published at the end of December.

I have a confession to make: I see a lot of movies. Mostly older films in New York City’s repertory theaters, but I see my share of new ones. MoviePass makes it possible to feed my growing habit. But it wasn’t always this way. In the mid-2000’s, I quit watching films because I decided an enlightened spirituality shouldn’t be involved with contrivances like film. I wanted the reel deal; life unfiltered.

The veneer of a life unfiltered is purity, or…

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On the Fragile Souls of Imperial Sycophants

Another one from Ted Peters’ Sin Boldly!:

51lU3StHrKL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Measurements, milestones, merits, awards, and orthodoxies rule over our psyches like Caligula ruled Rome. Like sycophants in the emperor’s royal court, we create a fictional public image by bowing and fawning before the ambient opinions of what is acceptable, respectable, admirable, good, just, and true. And in our rare moments of self-bolstering, we assure ourselves that we stand for eternal justice, the unassailable good, and what is absolutely right–what Luther refers to as “the Law.” In doing so, the fragile soul becomes temporarily hidden beneath self-justifying bravado. Nevertheless, fragility is ever present, sapping our soul of honesty, integrity, and authentic caring. To make matters worse, Christian sermonizers–preachers whom Cathleen Falsani calls “spiritual bullies”–man their pulpits like a captain on the bridge; they manipulate our already innate anxieties and turn timidity into terror. The perpetual fear of eternal damnation turns a fragile soul into a petrified self. We fragile ones go through the motions of life, but we don’t really live it.

Romans 8:33b, “God is the one who justifies,” should be heard by us as good news, as grace, as gospel. The gospel is aimed at liberating our selves from fragility and our souls from the endless unrolling of [spiritual] duct tape.” (pgs. 16-17)

Chris Farley and the Tragedy of Splitting

I just watched the trailer for the upcoming Chris Farley documentary and nearly bawled on my desk. His work was a huge part of my childhood and, for my money, there have never been better SNL skits than Matt Foley or funnier movies than Tommy Boy. What a tragic loss.

The trailer revealed that this poor man fell victim to what some have called “splitting”: the living of two lives, ever more separated – one an idealized, “super” version of self and the other a dark brew of one’s less admirable traits (what Paul Zahl refers to as “the boys in the basement”). Chris Farley always had to be “Chris Farley.” He couldn’t find a space to let down, tell the truth, not be funny,  and even as the expectations on his better self ramped up, the appetites of his shadow self increased in step, and finally claimed him. No one can be “on” all the time.

Chris was killed by the law of fame, and not God’s Law, but the lesson still holds. As long as we attempt to find approval and peace by living up to some unattainable ideal, we will inevitably split. The hope of the Gospel is that our darker self will be brought into the light, where it can be forgiven, loved, embraced, and integrated. Only grace moves us towards wholeness, a miracle which Christopher Crosby Farley never experienced.

July Playlist

New York Tenements and the Green, Green Grass of Home

New York Tenements and the Green, Green Grass of Home

As a young person in New York City, one of my favorite spots was the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. Through touring actual old tenement apartments, the museum tells the difficult and often tragic story of 19th century immigrants to Manhattan.

I loved it because it felt like they were telling my story. As strange as it may sound, when we moved to the Big Apple I felt as though I had landed on another planet. At the time I was a 24 year old befuddled Mississippian who cried (often) standing in front of Subway maps.

Of course, my problems…

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2015 Kanuga Renewal Conference: Rest

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An enormous thanks to all those who make last week’s Renewal Conference at Kanuga happen. It was such a joy and privilege to be asked to provide the content, and spend a week with such a wonderful group of people (in such a beautiful place). Best of all, the time itself proved genuinely restful for all involved. The recordings of the main sessions are now up on The Mockingpulpit as well as the Recordings page, but for those who would rather stream or download directly from here, you’re in luck.

1. Rest for the Restless – David Zahl

2. Christian Obstacles to Rest – Jacob Smith

3. Rest in the Bible, part 1 – Jady Koch

4. Rest in the Bible, part 2 – Jady Koch

5. How Rest Is Applied – Jacob Smith

6. The Life of Rest – David Zahl

7. Closing Question and Answer Session – DZ, JS & JDK

Don’t Tell Anyone – Tony Hoagland

Don’t Tell Anyone – Tony Hoagland

We had been married for six or seven years
when my wife, standing in the kitchen one afternoon, told me
that she screams underwater when she swims—

that, in fact, she has been screaming for years
into the blue chlorinated water of the community pool
where she does laps every other day.

Buttering her toast, not as if she had been
concealing anything,
not as if I should consider myself

personally the cause of her screaming,
nor as if we should perform an act of therapy
right that minute on the kitchen table,

—casually, she told me,
and I could see her turn her square face up
to take a gulp of oxygen,

then down…

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The Scandal of One Way Love: A Few Thoughts About My Friend Tullian

The Scandal of One Way Love: A Few Thoughts About My Friend Tullian

What a week to have been away. I was on the road to Kanuga when I got the news of Tullian Tchividjian’s resignation from Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and the shuttering of doors at Liberate.

As long-time readers know, Tullian has been one of Mockingbird’s most ardent fans for many years, as well as a dear personal friend. He’s spoken at a couple of our conferences, and we’ve worked together closely on a number of projects. So the news about this sudden reversal is saddening on several levels, predominantly because I/we know so many of the people involved, and none of…

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Mining Netflix: Masculinity Surrenders to a Force Majeure

Mining Netflix: Masculinity Surrenders to a Force Majeure

Nearly a year ago, NPR released an article entitled The New American Man Doesn’t Look Like His Father where they examined the shift in American masculinity over the past fifty years. There were, of course, both positive and negative findings. For example, postmodern boys and young men have an increased respect for gender equality, but they also are far more likely to dropout of college or choose not to attend at all. A far more alarming, but not entirely surprising, section in the write-up comes in a quote from Stony Brook University sociologist and director of the Center for the Study of…

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