1. Another scorcher from our 2011 NYC conference speaker Mark Galli entitled “Evangelizing Ourselves”, in which he unwittingly sums up much of our operating philosophy:

How do we talk about our faith without making others feel denigrated or angry? For one, we can talk about our faith so that everyone feels equally denigrated and equally inflamed!… So that everyone—even the Christian—recognizes his or her sinfulness…[and his or her] desperate need of a savior. If we can do that, a couple of remarkable things will happen. First, we will recognize afresh that we’re not talking about our religion versus their religion, not about how we are right and they are wrong…, not about how we are righteous and they are not… At the same time, we will also see a merciful divine hand extended to all of us, like the hand that Jesus used to grab and raise up the lame man… When we all will hear afresh the invitation that comes to any who are weary and heavy laden, that there is a yoke that can give us rest and a peace that passes understanding.

Let me suggest, in fact, that whenever we communicate to non-Christians that we have found it and that they have not, that we have been chosen and that they have not… —whenever we assume that stance, consciously or not, we are communicating something other than the gospel, the Good News.
Should we not preach this gospel as if we also need to hear and accept it daily? And if so, can we ever preach to others a gospel that does not apply equally to us? Can we see, then, how if we preach this gospel, it will be nigh impossible for anyone to dodge the message by charging us with self-righteousness? 

p.s. We are pleased to announce that the 2011 Conference theme will be “Grace for Today: Freedom in a Culture of Control”. Pre-registration begins in the new year.

2. Some illuminating and even sympathetic thoughts on hermeneutics from Jay-Z himself in the New Yorker’s absorbing write-up of Decoded:

Too often, hip-hop’s embrace of crime narratives has been portrayed as a flaw or a mistake, a regrettable detour from the overtly ideological rhymes of groups like Public Enemy. But in Jay-Z’s view Public Enemy is an anomaly. “You rarely become Chuck D when you’re listening to Public Enemy,” he writes. “It’s more like watching a really, really lively speech.” By contrast, his tales of hustling were generous, because they made it easy for fans to imagine that they were part of the action. “I don’t think any listeners think I’m threatening them,” he writes. “I think they’re singing along with me, threatening someone else. They’re thinking, Yeah, I’m coming for you. And they might apply it to anything, to taking their next math test or straightening out that chick talking outta pocket in the next cubicle.” 

Speaking of hermeneutics (and communication, and evangelism, and preaching, and living, and loving, etc), if you haven’t gotten your hands on Paul Zahl’s preaching seminar from Pensacola yet, you are truly missing out! I may be biased, but this blogger feels it represents his most important new material since Grace in Practice. We’ve made it available on a Radiohead-style, donate-what-you-want/can basis.

3. A fascinating primer on paradox by Graham Priest in the NY Times, in particular how Aristotle’s principle of noncontradiction is currently under attack from Dialetheism, the idea that certain paradoxes can, in fact, be true. One particularly fine paragraph for all you apologists out there:

“The fact that it is rational to accept some contradictions does not mean that it is rational to accept any contradiction. If the principle of noncontradiction fails, then contradictions cannot be ruled out by logic alone. But many things cannot be ruled out by logic alone, though it would be quite irrational to believe them. The claim that the earth is flat is entirely consistent with the laws of logic. It’s crazy for all that. And no one has yet mastered the trick of being in two places at the same time, as both we and the prosecutor know.”

4. A moderately interesting article in USA Today about inflated numbers of self-reported church attendance, “God Knows, We Lie About Going to Church” (ht JS).

5. In the Nazareth-department, from Salon, a serious look at the appealing vulnerability of Susan Boyle, evidenced most recently in her aborted performance last week on The View. Let’s face it – it’s near impossible not to feel for Boyle, who once referred to fame as “a demolition ball,” and, despite the record sales numbers, continues to seem very much like a “woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown.” (ht JD).

6. Old news by now, but Gizmodo’s write-up of the recent NASA discoveries is worth reading. Still not sure what the ramifications are. Anyone?

7. Media-wise, Friday Night Lights‘ 5th season may have started out a little Luke-warm, esp with the Julie stuff, but with the last few episodes it has upped the Gospel ante so much (which is really saying something after the season 4 finale) that it may well go down as the most Grace-centered television of… all time. I mean it. Sample Coach-ism from the most recent episode: “Success is not a goal. It’s a byproduct.” And I just can’t say enough good things about this current season of Community (trampolines, anyone?! sheet fort city?! claymation next week?!). I’m also eating up the behind-the-scenes photos coming from the Muppet set.

8. Finally, to read the Mockingbird year-end appeal letter, go here! For a physical copy (with the slick new design), sign up here.