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    What Plato and Aristotle Did Not Know (But Luther Did)

    Two more remarkable passages from Steven Paulson’s Luther for Armchair Theologians:

    51N4yVb4VNL._SY445_Faith in Christ’s promise, not works of the law, alone saves. But we will have to be very careful, since the word “faith” is one of the most abused words in our vocabulary. It does not mean for Luther “accepting,” or “deciding for,” or “committing oneself for Christ,” or any of the misuses this word has received. Faith is perfect passivity for Luther–being done unto by God, or simply suffering God. It is literally being put to death as a sinner and raised as a saint, which is decidedly God’s own act through preached words. This is a teaching that Plato and Aristotle did not know… (pg. 51-52)

    Salvation is not the progress of a spiritual athlete for whom practice in the law makes perfect. It is not even like a sick person getting well on the medicine of grace, for those pictures of Christian living leave Christ on the sidelines while human free will takes center stage. Such notions leave Christ idle, displacing him by the star of that drama, the free will that dreams of becoming ever more holy under the law. Why then the cross? Did Christ come simply to remind people of the law that Moses already gave, or even to give an improved version of the tablets of stone? Is Christ to be patient while you try to solve the puzzle of God’s law? The story of scripture, Luther begins to understand, is not how we make our way up the mountain by getting grace and then topping it off with love and works. Scripture is the story of how God came down to meet us–while we were yet sinners. Christ is the mover and the shaker, the active subject, the star of the show. And when Christ comes the law ends. Luther coined a phrase–crux sola nostra theologia (the cross alone is our theology)–and put it in capital letters to stand out boldly as the chief truth he found while lecturing on Psalms for the first time. (pg. 62-63)

    No Hands Are Clean But Christ's: Phil Klay's Redeployment

    No Hands Are Clean But Christ’s: Phil Klay’s Redeployment

    “Twenty centuries of Christianity,” I said. “You’d think we’d learn.” I fingered the small cross. “In this world, He only promises we don’t suffer alone.”

    -Phil Klay, Redeployment

    2014’s National Book Award winner is an unusual one in several ways. First, it is not a novel but a collection of short stories. Its author is part of a new generation of writers who served in the War on Terror. And finally it goes beyond a simple celebration of the ‘other 1%,’ Americans who serve in the armed forces, and looks deeply and with a tone both tragic and colloquial into the moral…

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    Two Notes, Not One

    Another quote from Steven Paulson’s Luther for Armchair Theologians:

    “When a tone-deaf person sings, it can be painful to hear. But if you have to listen to theologians who know only the one note of the law, it is not only painful but deadly. They like to describe the big picture of God’s plan as a test to see whether you will pass. They explain God’s mind or the order of God’s plan for salvation and how you can fit in if you follow the rules of the game that God plays. Then the church and its leaders act as referees deciding who is in and who is out of salvation by passing some test. Thinking this way makes it impossible to grasp what Luther is saying when he distinguishes law and gospel as what is old and done for and what is newly arriving with Jesus Christ…[Law and Gospel are] two notes, not one.”

    John Gardner's Grendel and the Incisive Power of Fiction

    John Gardner’s Grendel and the Incisive Power of Fiction

    Stars, spattered out through lifeless night from end to end, like jewels scattered in a dead king’s grave, tease, torment my wits toward meaningful patterns that do not exist.

    -From John Gardner’s Grendel

    When I first picked up John Gardner’s novel Grendel, I expected a quirky, fun read; something along the lines of Gregory Maguire’s bestseller turned Broadway hit Wicked that creatively reimagines the Wizard of Oz. What I got was something starkly different. This is not to say Grendel isn’t frequently funny, it certainly is. And like Wicked, Grendel is told from the antagonist’s perspective, by the monster of Beowulf’s heroic…

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    Tom Brady Cheats (Death)

    Tom Brady Cheats (Death)

    [Americans] have a pagan cult of health, of skill, of strength; they temper and refine the precious instrument of will in muscle; and obliged, by their insatiable appetite for dominance, to cultivate all human activities with obsessive energy, they build an athlete’s torso in which to shelter the heart of free man.

    -José Enrique Rodo, Ariel (1900)

     

    Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable…

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    Eliot’s Journey of the Magi and Our Discomfort with Choosing Another Way in 2015

    Eliot’s Journey of the Magi and Our Discomfort with Choosing Another Way in 2015

    Journey of the Magi

    T.S. Eliot

    ‘A cold coming we had of it,
    Just the worst time of the year
    For a journey, and such a long journey:
    The ways deep and the weather sharp,
    The very dead of winter.’
    And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
    Lying down in the melting snow.
    There were times we regretted
    The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
    And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
    Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
    and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
    And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
    And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
    And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
    A hard time we had…

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    Wallace Stevens, Phish, and the Importance of Silliness

    Wallace Stevens, Phish, and the Importance of Silliness

    Oh out near Stonehenge, I lived alone
    Oh out near Gamehendge, I chafed a bone
    Wilson, King of Prussia, I lay this hate on you
    Wilson, Duke of Lizards
    I beg it all true for you

    …You got me back thinkin’ that you’re the worst one
    I must inquire, Wilson
    Can you still have fun?!

    -‘Wilson,’ Phish

    Let be be finale of seem.
    The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

    -From ‘The Emperor of Ice-Cream,’ Wallace Stevens

     

    Everyday we take ourselves too seriously. But at this point, we’ve earned that right. We have studied, sweat, strived, and achieved our whole lives. Not only that but we’re conditioned to know intuitively that…

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    House of Yoga, Church of CrossFit: Filling the Spiritual Void With Exercise

    House of Yoga, Church of CrossFit: Filling the Spiritual Void With Exercise

    Fight club isn’t about winning or losing fights. Fight club isn’t about words. […] There’s hysterical shouting in tongues like at church, and when you wake up Sunday afternoon you feel saved.

    -Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

    In an effort to fill the void, many Americans are beginning their search not in the pew but in the gym. Intense forms of exercise, from CrossFit to Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts, have grown tremendously in popularity. Some gyms attempt to directly adapt “combat sports” to a more fitness-friendly environment: “cardio kick boxing” for the stay at home dad, mitt work and sparring for the…

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