We’re humbled (by which I mean, deeply flattered) to offer up this generous contribution from Prof. Matthew Milliner, who also happens to be speaking at our upcoming NYC Conference (4/27-29):
I imagine there are some enthusiastic Mockingbird recruits out there, but I feel drafted. Visiting the Limelight Marketplace – a onetime church turned legendary nightclub turned bourgeois boutique (which advertises a “slice of heaven” from its gourmet pizza shop) – was my Protestant rock bottom. Limelight is not far from where I had attended Father Richard John Neuhaus’ funeral, who had been keen (as he was everyone) to see me come…
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Get your elbows up! Watch the ball! Bend your knees! Be a hitter! Keep your elbows down! Choke up on the bat! Jump on that fastball! Wait for your pitch!
I remember standing in that little league batter’s box, with coaches and random parents and teammates all yelling their well-meaning directives to me at the same time. And I wanted to please them all. I wanted with all my 9 year old body to actualize all their shouted instructions simultaneously — even when they contradicted one another. But most of the time, I felt practically paralyzed by their imperatives. The…
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When I realized the law was one thing, and the gospel another, I broke through and was free. – M. Luther
1. Believe it or not, this week marks not only 499 years since the Protestant Reformation kicked off, but one year since The Mockingcast did. Coincidence?! You decide… In commemoration of both anniversaries (but mainly the former one), we put together a special episode. Scott, Sarah and myself open the festivities before handing the mic to Duo Dickinson and Paul Zahl for an extended reflection on the meaning of the day. Click here to listen.
2. Over at 1517 Project, our friend Scott Keith put together a super accessible guide to “Just What Are the Five Solas of The Reformation”. A great refresher for today.
3. Be sure to take a gander at Nick Lannon’s wonderful “Merry Halloween” post if you haven’t recently. A seasonal favorite for sure. Click here to peruse our Martin Luther archive, too.
4. On the grace-in-practice front, pretty amazing to read about Pope Francis’ trip to Sweden to celebrate the 500th Anniversary.
5. Mark your calendars for October 19-21, which is when the Here We Still Stand: A Reformation Conference takes place in San Diego. I’ll be there, and hope you will be too.
6. Don’t forget the Luther Insult Generator.
More as the day progresses.
P.S. Huge thank you to all those who helped make this past weekend’s conference in Oklahoma City such a beautiful time! Recordings will be available soon.
As the countdown to Reformation Day (10/31) continues, a quick word from the Great Reformer’s commentary on Galatians:
Men fast, pray, watch, suffer. They intend to appease the wrath of God and to deserve God’s grace by their exertions. But there is no glory in it for God, because by their exertions these workers pronounce God an unmerciful slave driver, an unfaithful and angry Judge. They despise God, make a liar out of Him, snub Christ and all His benefits; in short they pull God from His throne and perch themselves on it.
Calling all Mockingbirds! Attention, all Mockingbirds!
Adam and Eve in excellent company
Run Don’t Walk to the Martin Luther exhibition at the Morgan Library in New York. And first let’s get a couple of details straight. The Morgan is at the corner of 36th Street and Madison Avenue, which is exactly six blocks south of Grand Central Station. You can check out the opening hours on line, and the Morgan is only closed Mondays. Also, it’s a great place to go to the bathroom — always an issue in New York — and the cafe is excellent, and never crowded. Plus,…
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Some years ago I had a simple plan for my life. Step 1: head to grad school to learn a bit of theology. Step 2: acquire degrees. Step 3: teach for a living. Forgive my youthful naivete regarding the academic job market. My plan failed, but not for that reason. Neither was I derailed by the process of earning degrees; I proved an able student, did earn one degree, and may yet grab another. But that didn’t matter very much. No, I failed at Step 1, because I presumed it possible to learn something of God by devoting myself to that project, as if I were studying…
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Some wise words for Reformation Day from The Rev. Dr. Stephen Tyng, who served as rector of St. George’s Episcopal Church in New York City (where we hold our Spring conferences) from 1845-1878:
It is true, you are required to repent of sin; and to obey the commands of God, in a new life of holiness. But these are the results of faith. You can have no repentance unto salvation, without believing in him whom you have pierced, who is exalted to bestow it. You cannot obey a single command, but by his power dwelling within you. All these gracious dispositions and habits are fruits of the Holy Spirit; and are so far from being any preceding qualification by which you obtain salvation, that they are themselves a part, and a most important part, of that very salvation, which is offered you freely in the Lord Jesus Christ, as the purchase of his obedience and death. “He that hath the son, hath life;” and all the traits and attributes, and acts of life, flow out from it.
“We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.”
Human reason can think only in terms of the Law. It mumbles: “This I have done, this I have not done.” But faith looks to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, given into death for the sins of the whole world. To turn one’s eyes away from Jesus means to turn them to the Law…
On the question of justification we must remain adamant, or else we shall lose the truth of the Gospel. It is a matter of life and death. It involves the death of the Son of God, who died for the sins of the world. If we surrender faith in Christ, as the only thing that can justify us, the death and resurrection of Jesus are without meaning; that Christ is the Savior of the world would be a myth. God would be a liar, because He would not have fulfilled His promises. Our stubbornness is right, because we want to preserve the liberty which we have in Christ. Only by preserving our liberty shall we be able to retain the truth of the Gospel inviolate.
Some will object that the Law is divine and holy. Let it be divine and holy. The Law has no right to tell me that I must be justified by it. The Law has the right to tell me that I should love God and my neighbor, that I should live in chastity, temperance, patience, etc. The Law has no right to tell me how I may be delivered from sin, death, and hell. It is the Gospel’s business to tell me that. I must listen to the Gospel. It tells me, not what I must do, but what Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has done for me.
However much attention it once received, “Pascal’s Wager” doesn’t seem to get much traction in today’s God debate/discourse. I’m referring to the idea put forth by the 18th century Jansenist sage Blaise Pascal that belief in God is a good “bet”–there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain from taking the leap of faith. In other words, the real question is not why a person should believe in God so much as why not. I can only presume the argument was more captivating in a pre-digital age than it is now.
If I were to theorize about the reasons for the…
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This cracked me up, though who knows if it’s the equivalent of 16th century hearsay/urban legend. It’s a story that Martin Luther tells (Luthers Schriften, herausg. von Walch. XV, 446) about Johann Tetzel, the Dominican friar who served as the Grand Commissioner of Indulgences at the turn of the 16th Century in Germany, the man most often cast as the villain in the Luther story:
After [Johann] Tetzel had received a substantial amount of money at Leipzig, a nobleman asked him if it were possible to receive a letter of indulgence for a future sin. Tetzel quickly answered in the affirmative, insisting, however, that the payment had to made at once. This the nobleman did, receiving thereupon letter and seal from Tetzel. When Tetzel left Leipzig the nobleman attacked him along the way, gave him a thorough beating, and sent him back empty-handed to Leipzig with the comment that this was the future sin which he had in mind. Duke George at first was quite furious about this incident, but when he heard the whole story he let it go without punishing the nobleman.
Episode 195: Shag (The Movie)
That’s a great little movie, from 1989. But I’m afraid it’s going to get banned one of these days, by the Ministry of Truth. Right from the “get go”, there’s an image in it that’s distressing today.
Which gives me a chance to talk Christianly about how to deal with
distressing or upsetting material? Do you rid yourself of it by burning it? By hauling it down and cutting it up, and “take out the paper and the trash” (The Coasters, 1958)? Ecrasez l’infame!?
I don’t think that works. (Wish it did.) The averse material, if it touches something…
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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).”