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    The Door and the Stories We Tell: Reviewing Game of Thrones

    The Door and the Stories We Tell: Reviewing Game of Thrones

    Spoiler Alert for those who have not yet seen this past week’s episode of Game of Thrones (Season 6, Episode 5).

    A drunk King Robert gallivants across a wooden stage, two conspicuous stagehands tracking his movements with a poorly-painted backdrop of woods behind him, setting the scene. Bawdiness, drinking jokes, and other low-comedy staples ensue, until dunderhead Ned Stark, idiot/villein Northern companion of the lecherous Robert, tries to grab the Throne for himself, until Joffrey, Cersei, and Littlefinger intervene to keep the pretender from taking power.

    Last night’s Game of Thrones episode was brilliant in lots of ways, but from a…

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    Kierkegaard on the (Lost) Offense of Christianity

    Kierkegaard on the (Lost) Offense of Christianity

    [T]ake away the possibility of offense, as they have done in Christendom, and the whole of Christianity is direct communication; and then Christianity is done away with, for it has become an easy thing, a superficial something which neither wounds nor heals profoundly enough; it is the false invention of human sympathy which forgets the infinite qualitative difference between God and man.

    -Søren Kierkegaard, “The Offence,” Training in Christianity

    Kierkegaard handles the problem of the “messianic secret” still, to me, better than almost anyone. That secret is the question of why Jesus, after healing people, often tells them to tell no one….

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    Good News at World’s End: Grace in Eschatology

    Good News at World’s End: Grace in Eschatology

    Welcome to another preview of a conference breakout session. Join us at Mockingbird NYC: Relief, now just three weeks away! April 14-16.

    We’ve noted before the phenomenon of the surging popularity of apocalyptic film and television (and video-games!), whether it’s zombies, nuclear war, epidemics, or whatever else that causes a breakdown in the fabric of normal society. The appeal certainly springs in part from our highly technological, highly intellectualized culture’s feeling of alienation from the physical, embodied world, where courage and sweat and muscle are the orders of the day. Certainly too they channel fears about threats to our safe, well-ordered…

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    From the Archives: Projecting Our Way Through Holy Week

    From the Archives: Projecting Our Way Through Holy Week

    The friendly overtures of a person whom we no longer love, overtures which strike us, in our indifference to her, as excessive, would perhaps have fallen a long way short of satisfying our love. Those tender speeches, that invitation or acceptance, we think only of the pleasure which they would have given us, and not of all those speeches and meetings by which we would have wished to see them immediately followed, which we should, as likely as not, simply by our avidity for them, have precluded from ever happening. So that we can never be certain that the good…

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    Checking in with the Church (2015 Edition)

    Checking in with the Church (2015 Edition)

    “If we had some bruallki, we could have bruallki and Menkooro—if we had some Menkooro.”

    That famous quip from the Star Wars expanded universe (Zahn) pretty much captures the church situation. The grass often looks greener in other traditions (Eastern Orthodoxy: Iconology! Aesthetics!), and sometimes it’s easy, standing within a tradition, to appreciate how it’s evolved, often to the point it would be almost unrecognizable to adherents past. Add to that that the best solution to today’s most pressing theological problem is likely tomorrow’s heresy, and you’ve got a complicated, no-win situation. But it’s worth looking back and checking in on,…

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    Die heilige Nacht (Triptychon). 1888/89

    From the Archives: Reflections on Memory and the First Christmas

    Memory and imagination work to give us experiences outside of the present moment, whether through recorded sensations (the low lights and taste of dinner yesterday), images of things past (the 2014 State of the Union on Youtube), or stringings-together of bare words: “at that time a decree went out…” We’re indisputably determined by our own pasts and our relation to them, and Christianity makes the distinct claim that we’re fundamentally determined by another’s past, a story we remember at this particular time of year. Though our past(s) – and our relations to the past, are opaque, I think one of…

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    Another Week Ends: More Thoughts on Charleston, Papal Sustainability, NPR Snobbery, Holy Metal, and Delinquent Ethicists

    Another Week Ends: More Thoughts on Charleston, Papal Sustainability, NPR Snobbery, Holy Metal, and Delinquent Ethicists

    1. As a follow-up to the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston last week, the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan points out the extraordinary character of the community’s response:

    [In the courtroom, victims’ family members] spoke of mercy. They offered forgiveness. They invited the suspect, who was linked in by video from jail, to please look for God.

    There was no rage, no accusation—just broken hearts undefended and presented for the world to see. They sobbed as they spoke.

    “I just wanted everybody to know, to you, I forgive you,” said the daughter of Ethel Lance, killed in the shooting. “You took something very precious…

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    Reviewing True Detective: “The Western Book of the Dead”

    Reviewing True Detective: “The Western Book of the Dead”

    I welcome judgment.

    [Spoilers follow.] The opener of season 2 for HBO’s newest flagship seemed to do everything it could to distance itself from the expectations and tone of its first season. Where once we had the show’s reflective, philosophical voice from the haunted, brilliant, and wise Rustin Cohle, we get comic musings from a fraudish guru: “When we see the universe from God’s eyes” (to paraphrase), “it is meaningless… but God would not create a meaningless universe. Hold these ideas as true and equal.”

    On the other end of the spectrum, Farrell’s sad musings – “Astronauts don’t even go to the…

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    Parables and the Difficulty of Direct Communication

    Parables and the Difficulty of Direct Communication

    When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that

    “they may indeed look, but not perceive,

    and may indeed listen, but not understand;

    so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.” ’

    He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is…

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    Bayer on Law, Gospel, and Justification

    From Oswald Bayer’s interpretation of Martin Luther’s Theology, pages 228-9:

    “The effect that the law creates is not surprising. One has no trouble understanding what it means to rely on oneself and on one’s own deeds; the action-consequences relationship has its own logic. But the gospel is absolutely, completely incomprehensible. That God rescues one from, and brings one safely through, the deserved judgment is a miracle. Law and gospel cannot be plausibly intertwined together; their existence is hard and fast in opposition to each other. The gospel is literally a paradox: it stands against that which the sinner can reasonably expect; it stands against damnation.

    It is thus not surprising that the communion between the sinning human being and the God who justifies through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit is incomprehensible; it is stupefying – astonishing – which does not lead one to be calm and at peace. Rather, it is described by Luther as a ‘stupendumduellum – as a  duel that arouses astonishment, as a duel like the one Jacob engaged in at Jabbok (Gen. 32). That this deadly confrontation between God and humanity is a ‘happy exchange,’ is a miracle. The one who has escaped from judgment and death cannot be sufficiently astounded about this.

    ‘The love of God does not find one worthy of its love to be present already, but [first] creates it.’ In this sense God is ‘God and no mortal’ (Hos. 11:9). For: ‘human love comes for the one who holds another worthy of love [already].’ (Luther, WA 1:354.35f). By contrast, the justification of the ungodly  (Rom 4:5) is nothing less than the resurrection of the dead and the creation out of nothing (4:17).”

    Thoughts on the S—- Word and Left-Handed Power

    Thoughts on the S—- Word and Left-Handed Power

    You guessed it – secularization! There was that recent Pew survey release showing that 78% of Americans identified as Christians in 2007, but only 70% in 2014. DZ’s already covered that topic pretty well, and the stats are disheartening, but it’s worth thinking about some possible silver linings.

    First, from a Law/Gospel perspective, pressure engenders rebellion, so it’s nice that Christianity is less mandatory than before. The people I know least receptive to religion of any kind are megachurch children or people who went to (the wrong kind of) Catholic gradeschool. As long as Christianity’s a cultural status quo, people can…

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    Another Week Ends: More Underachieving Males, Baffling Temptations, Upper East Side Claustrophobia, John Gray, Star Wars, and Vocation

    Another Week Ends: More Underachieving Males, Baffling Temptations, Upper East Side Claustrophobia, John Gray, Star Wars, and Vocation

    1. After Dave’s post on male problems this week, The Economist published a long-form essay about the plight of blue-collar men in the West. The pay for men with only a high-school diploma fell by 21% (real terms) between 1979 and 2013, as one of the clear male advantages is brawn, which is less relevant than ever when it comes to earnings. Moreover, these men may not have studied feminism in college, but they’ve found themselves in a world increasingly affected by it:

    Their ideas of the world and their place in it are shaped by old assumptions about the special role and status due…

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