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About Todd Brewer

PhD student in New Testament at Durham University in the UK. Ordained clergyman. Husband. I have a love for all things alt-rock, Pixar, football (American style), hockey, poetry, and good, short literature. On Twitter @toddhbrew

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    The Way to God Is the Way Into Darkness: Bultmann on Hope and the Cross

    Another appropriate Easter quote comes from a sermon on Lamentations 3:22-41, found in Rudolf Bultmann’s sermon collection, This World and Beyond:

    imageThe way to God leads not to hell but through hell, or, in Christian terms through the cross. It leads us not to hopelessness but to a hope which transcends all human hope; and we must silence all human hope, if that divine hope is to dawn for us.

    We must make this clear to ourselves: for man as he is, laden with wishes and plans, with longings and hope — and this means for us all, we who form our dream pictures as to how our life should go according to our desire and will — for all of us the way to God is the way into that darkness which for us means hell…. the breath of the Lord can sweep away everything of ours in a second and for our eyes there is nothing left but comfortless waste. That is the meaning of God: His majesty annihilates whatever stands independently. His word is a word that slays.

    This hell we must traverse; before the life of the resurrection stands the cross. “It is the essence of God” says Luther, “first to destroy what is in us before He bestows on us His gifts.” (p 233)

    James, an “Epistle of Straw”? Not So Fast!

    James, an “Epistle of Straw”? Not So Fast!

    Whenever I read the letters of Paul and his great doctrine of justification by faith, there is always lurking in the background the problem posed by the Epistle of James and its not-so-apparent direct refutation of Paul. And in any discussion of justification by faith there always lurks the specter of James, always calling into question whether Paul was really correct in his understanding. Admittedly, for the longest time I never quite knew what to make of James 2, and its contradiction of Paul’s thesis that Abraham the ungodly was justified by faith, without works (Romans 4). It was Martin…

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    The Top (Mockingbird) Theology Books of 2014

    The Top (Mockingbird) Theology Books of 2014

    Some years of theology publications are better than others, and to be honest the crop has not been so plentiful this year. But the books that have come out are pretty fantastic, and well worth a read.

    The Second Letter to the Corinthians by Mark Seifrid. This is not your normal commentary! Rather than retreading ad nauseum all of usual topics commentaries cover like authorship, dating, provenance, Greek parsings etc., Seifrid’s main purpose is to explicate Paul’s theological logic throughout the book. The Paul that emerges is one of real theological breadth and profound commitment to the grace of God in…

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    Martin Luther Opens the Book (and Finds the Gift)

    In honor of Reformation Day, another quote from the Great Reformer’s “A Brief Instruction on What to Look for and Expect in the Gospels” (1521):

    IMG_6341“When you open the book containing the Gospels and read or hear how Christ comes here or there, or how someone is brought to him, you should therein perceive the sermon or the Gospel through which he is coming to you, or you are being brought to him. When you see how he works, however, and how he helps everyone to whom he comes or who is brought to him, then rest assured that faith is accomplishing this in you and that he is offering your soul exactly the same sort of help and favor through the gospel. If you pause here and let him do you good, that is, if you believe he benefits and helps you, then you really have it. Then Christ is yours, presented to you as a gift.”

    Ray Rice and the Perils of Relative Righteousness

    Ray Rice and the Perils of Relative Righteousness

    This Ray Rice saga doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and it just keeps getting more interesting. Just yesterday (Friday September 19th) ESPN’s Outside the Lines released a report of the long, detailed timeline of events from the original incident right up until Roger Goodell’s press conference yesterday. It’s a fascinating account of the NFL’s behind-the-scenes PR spin machine, complete with new revelations (Ravens’ coach John Harbaugh wanted to release Ray Rice back in the spring?) and some of the thought process behind the original 2 game suspension.

    It’s this last aspect of the story that I find to be most…

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    The Adventures of the Holy Ghost: “Clarity”

    Yet another delightful internet find, this time via former Conference Speaker, Francis Spufford. It’s the comic strip, “The Adventures of the Holy Ghost”, humorously featuring the third-person of the trinity personified in ghostly form. There are a number of highlights, but I found the below, “Clarity”, to be pretty spot on take on Luke 18:

    HG comic

    Bonus: check out this gem as well! The rest of John hendrix’s work looks pretty amazing too.

    Excursions & Arrivals, by Brett Foster

    SEMITRUCKS1

    Excursions & Arrivals

    The sign at the corner of the property
    at the foot of the driveway—”No
    eighteen wheelers allowed in the church
    parking lot”—may be exactly the confirmation
    I needed that I am currently passing
    by a Baptist church a little to the south
    of Chattanooga. Was it a recurring problem
    that led to its posting? Did the congregation
    rebel or reach the proverbial tipping point?
    Even so, I’d like to think they would make
    an exception, that every once in a great
    while they might wave the driver toward them
    with his truckload of passengers battered
    bruiseful by all of the loveless difficulties
    that make up so very much of this life,
    not pallets of freight they’d come to expect
    but many blemished ones hungry to the point
    of being famished, urgent for the Son
    rising with his big paper-carrier’s bag
    of good news and promises or even simple
    reassurances like, You are not going
    to perish now, or You are mightily
    welcomed here, even though you’re fully
    known here
    , and so on. Against hope, I hope
    sometimes that those Baptists are smiling
    as they direct the eighteen-wheeler’s driver
    forward, forward with the bird’s-wing flutters
    of their sweet, inviting hands, as if saying
    Pull yourself on in here now, buddy.
    You take up as many spaces as you need
    ,
    while already his long trailer is being
    unlatched and its metal door rolled up
    so as to let that Tennessee light pour in,
    clarifying its darkened conveyances,
    especially brightened on Sunday morning
    as I imagine it now, while driving slowly
    on Spring Creek Road south of Chattanooga.

    The above appears in the Mar/Apr issue of Books and Culture (and online here). For more from B&C, see here.

    Ferrari Buyers in Search of Love: from The Philosopher’s Mail

    Ferrari Buyers in Search of Love: from The Philosopher’s Mail

    If you haven’t yet found it, I highly recommend the new UK site The Philosopher’s Mail. It’s a news site, much like the tabloid-heave Daily Mail, but it’s written entirely by philosophers. Think celebrity gossip and pop culture news with a reflective and entertaining twist, with stories like: “Love shortage drives Shia LaBeouf nuts” or “Larry Page, Google CEO, tortures us with his jeans“. Brilliant, but funny stuff right?

    Today’s article, “200mph Ferrari California launched. Buyers not greedy show offs, just vulnerable fragile big infants in need of affection” struck me as particularly Mockingbird worthy.

    We know, because we hear it so…

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    Buying Bathmats for the Traumatized

    Buying Bathmats for the Traumatized

    Many pastors, especially of the mainline and Catholic varieties, are required as part of their training to do a brief internship at a hospital serving as a chaplain to the sick and dying. Oh how I wish I had read the recent blog post by Catherine Woodiwess and the accompanying op-ed by David Brooks that appeared today in The NY Times before I stumbled through my own hospital rotation a few years back! It would have saved me (and more importantly the patients I visited) a good deal of unnecessary grief.

    Woodiwess offers a few bullet-point reflections on her own trauma…

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    The Top Theology Books of 2013

    The Top Theology Books of 2013

    In keeping with our year-end tradition, here is a list of the top Mockingbird theology books of 2013 – and I must say it’s been quite the year! For fun, I’ve categorized them according to the most fitting high school stereotypes.

    The Jocks (Books by Superstar Scholars)

    Justification Reconsidered: Rethinking A Pauline Theme by Stephen Westerholm – A great introduction to the recent debate on the doctrine of Justification (specifically the New Perspective on Paul). Westerholm looks at several prominent figures in the field (Stendahl, Dunn, Wright, Campbell) and provides a stirring defense of a “Lutheran” Paul.

    Justification and the Gospel: Understanding the…

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    Grace in Practice in “It’s a Wonderful Life”

    Grace in Practice in “It’s a Wonderful Life”

    It’s that time of year again! The time when you break out those old classic Christmas movies and watch them by the fireside while drinking hot cocoa and basking in the nostalgia of the season. And there’s perhaps no more quintessential Christmas movie than Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” – a must see.

    Before seeing it recently (on the big screen, no less), I had always remembered it as a movie that gives you that warm assurance that life is worth living. George is a man at the end of his rope when he’s given a divine vision of…

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    Mondays with Mandelstam: “Rough Draft” (1937)

    Mondays with Mandelstam: “Rough Draft” (1937)

    Here, in the final installment of “Mandelstam”, we end roughly where we began, with the poem echoed by Christian Wiman in his outstanding book “My Bright Abyss”. Wiman was my gateway into Mandelstam and his translation has proved to be both thoughtful and moving. This poem also serves as a excellent summary of Mandelstam and his quest to find light amid the darkness.

    “Rough Draft” (1937)

    Provisionally, then, and secretive,
    I speak a truth whose time is not:

    It lives in love and the pain of love,
    In sweat, and the sky’s playful vacancy.

    A whisper, then, a purgatorial prayer,
    A testament of one man,…

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