Theology
Jesus: Not Quite Your All-American Hero

Jesus: Not Quite Your All-American Hero

Babe Ruth taught me one thing: “Remember, kid,” he said, “there’s heroes, and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die. Follow your heart, kid, and you’ll never go wrong.” All right, sure… maybe that was the not-so-historical Great Bambino from The Sandlot talking, but still, his advice has stuck with me since I was a wee lad. I believe it was my freshman year of high school that I heard Chad Kroeger of Nickelback opine, “They say that a hero can save us, I’m not gonna stand here and wait.” And I’ll never be able to expunge from…

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Gerhard Forde Doesn’t Shore Up the Old Adam, But Kills Him

Here is a drastic parting of the ways with a theology of glory. The Christ of the Cross takes away the possibility of doing something. The theologian of glory might be able to follow to the point of accepting the truth that Christ has fulfilled all things, but then that will have to be used as a motivational tool to make sure the law gets its due. The point is precisely that the power to do good comes only out of this wild claim that everything has already been done. The language has to break out into preaching. Never mind that when we look to ourselves we find no sign of good works. Never mind our fears and our anxieties. We are looking in the wrong place. Look to Christ! He has done it all. Nothing will be gained by trying to shore up the Old Adam. Christ leaves nothing for the Old Adam and Eve to do. The old can only be killed by the law, not given artificial respiration by recourse to it… To the theologian of the cross the language of grace and faith must be pushed absolutely to this length – until it kills the old and raises the new.

-Gerhard O. Forde, On Being a Theologian of the Cross

Hopelessly Devoted: Mark Chapter Ten Verses Thirty Five to Forty Five

Hopelessly Devoted: Mark Chapter Ten Verses Thirty Five to Forty Five

This morning’s devotion comes from the Reverend Doctor Dave Johnson.

…And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able”… (Mark 10:35-45, ESV)

A couple of years ago I read a book by John Maxwell called Failing Forward, which is about moving forward when things in our lives do not go…

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Crazy Eyes Explains Atonement in Thirty Seconds

I can’t say that everything in the second season of Orange is the New Black has been this good (please, Jenji, accept this plea not to jump the Weeds shark), but this definition of love–from the adopted sociopath inmate Suzanne, aka “Crazy Eyes”–is probably one of the best hermeneutics of Romans 5:8 I’ve seen on television.

It’s like you become more you, which normally is like…[sound effect]…but now it’s okay, because the person, like, whoever, they chose to take all that on, all that weird stuff, whatever’s wrong, bad, or hiding in you, suddenly it’s all right. And you don’t feel like such a freak anymore.

Runners up: I have to say that Piper’s isn’t bad either: “It’s like coming home.” Or Sister Jane: “Love is light. Acceptance. Fire.” Or the hilarious Flaca y Maritza, who describe love as a chocolate pudding bath, with the Smiths playing “There Is a Light that Never Goes Out.” And there’s pizza, too.

Seven Signs Romans 7 Applies to You Perfectly (Look at Number 4!)

Seven Signs Romans 7 Applies to You Perfectly (Look at Number 4!)

You know you didn’t want to click this. You saw it and let out a wail of despair that Mockingbird is resorting to “click-bait” headlines, but you saw the adorable puppy as the featured image and clicked anyway. So now here you are.

“Click-bait” is a tactic used by all different kinds of websites (perfected by Buzzfeed and Upworthy) to inflate page views and Facebook shares. These raw statistics make a site more attractive to advertisers and drive revenue for a site. I’ve definitely succumbed to these. They aren’t inherently bad, but when I waste away a good chunk of my…

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Thomas Cranmer’s Gospel of Divine Allurement – Ashley Null

The fun never ends! Here’s Dr. Null’s presentation from our NYC Conference, which was delivered immediately after Tim Kreider’s. It was quite dramatic:

Thomas Cranmer’s Gospel of Divine Allurement ~ Ashley Null from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Is It My Fault? Shedding Light in the Darkness of Domestic Violence

Is It My Fault? Shedding Light in the Darkness of Domestic Violence

Justin and Lindsey Holcomb have done it again. As with their earlier work on sexual assault, Rid of My Disgrace, their most recent book Is It My Fault?: Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence, goes where most Christian authors can’t or won’t go. Justin and Lindsey have the unique pastoral ability–and the theology to back it–to shine a light in the darkest of human experiences: abuse from the hands of another human. Truly, the Holcombs are lights in the darkness.

The book is broken into three sections, four if you count the substantial appendices. The Holcomb’s first move is…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Twenty Five Verses Fourteen through Thirty

Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Twenty Five Verses Fourteen through Thirty

July 7′s devotion comes, ironically enough, from our returning honeymooner himself, Ethan Richardson. To order The Mockingbird Devotional, look no further than here.

…He who had received the one talent came forward, saying, “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.”But his master answered him, “You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed?…” (Matthew 25:14-30, ESV)

A common reading…

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On the Divine Injunction to Just Relax

On the Divine Injunction to Just Relax

Was delighted to be asked to contribute a guest post to Amy Julia Becker’s Thin Places blog over at Christianity Today last week, something dealing with the topic of Sabbath rest. Those who read the whole thing may notice a few, er, congruencies with past Mbird posts, but I was pleased with how it turned out. Here are a few paragraphs from the second half:

Talk to a member of the “greatest generation” about their childhood Sundays and they will invariably relate youthful frustrations about Sabbath prohibitions. They will tell about blue laws. About no baseball on Sunday. No…

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A Few Words on the Paradox of Christian Living

Another set of quotes from Mark Seifrid’s phenomenal essay about Romans 7, found here:

shazam“As weak and fallen human beings we are bound to have a lord. It is not in our power to choose that lord. We do not make Christ our Lord. Rather, God in grace has given us Christ as our saving Lord…

The apostle does not think in terms of the transformation of the fallen human being–at least not in the way we usually conceive of “transformation”–but of our being created anew by the saving power of God in Christ… All growth and progress are a growth in faith, which in the changing circumstances of life grasps Christ and what God has done in him…

Christian faith, by virtue of its confession of Christ, remains sober and realistic about the limits of progress. We are called to reject all idealistic fantasies and to accept the painful and humbling truth that we–both individually and corporately–remain sinners so long as we remain in this body and life. Indeed, we must delight in being sinners: not sinning, nor in being sinners per se, but in the painful yet joyful confession of being sinners who live under the saving lordship of Christ. Our weakness is more than matched by Christ’s strength.

Progress in Christian living is thus paradoxical. We go forward by ever going back to Christ crucified and risen for us. Christian growth often is construed as a gradual, upward path to sanctification. This picture is false and unbiblical. It implicitly carries us away from Christ and the liberation from ourselves that only his cross and resurrection can give. We are not called to progress in ourselves away from Christ but to progress in Christ away from ourselves–away from the fallen reality that determines us as children of Adam. All progress is a return to the beginning of the Christian life, where it enters more deeply into the wonder of God’s love in Christ in the face of our sin and misery. The “flesh” can neither be reformed nor rehabilitated. It must be crucified.”

P.S. This version truly smokes:

The Logic of Grace and the Exclusivity of Meaning

The Logic of Grace and the Exclusivity of Meaning

I was a bit surprised, reading Bulfinch’s Mythology yesterday, to discover an interesting ‘allegorizing’ move in the Greek myth of a river-god, Achelous, losing his horn. Hercules and Achelous, the story goes, were wrestling for the right to wed Dejanira, a beautiful woman. Achelous transforms into various creatures, including a snake, in his attempt to best Hercules, and Hercules subdues them all. Finally, Achelous transforms into his last remaining form, a bull, and Hercules rips off one of his horns, which becomes ‘Cornucopia’, the horn of plenty. Then things get interesting – as Bulfinch notes,

The ancients were fond of finding a…

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NBW on How the Light Gets Out

Those who’ve just received the new issue of know that it includes a fascinating interview with preacher/ pastor/author Nadia Bolz-Weber. We’ll be posting some excerpts once our esteemed magazine editor returns from honeymooning, but if her words have left you wanting more, here’s an excerpt from an incredibly powerful sermon she gave earlier this year on Matthew 5:13-14, ht LM:

nbwIt’s so easy for us to default to hearing Jesus’ sermon on the mount as pure exhortation. As though he is giving us a list of things we should try and be so we can be blessed – be meeker, be poorer, and mournier a little more and you will meet the conditions of earning Jesus’ blessing. But the thing is, it’s hard to imagine Jesus exhorting a crowd of demoniacs and epileptics to be meeker…

I [used to think] that to be the light of the world, to let your light so shine before men, you have to be whole, be strong, be perfect. That special class of people I’ll never belong to. But perhaps this is when we best listen to the words of the prophet Leonard Cohen: “Ring the bells that still can ring/ Forget your perfect offering/ There’s a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in.” In other words, it is exactly at our points of weakness, of pain, of brokenness, of insufficiency that force us, like those who originally followed Jesus, to stand in the need of God. To stand in the need of the true light.

So perhaps those cracks… made from bad choices, from anxiety and depression, from addiction, from struggle and remorse, maybe those cracks are what lets the light of God’s love in. And maybe those same cracks are also how the light gets out.

We perhaps should not miss the fact that Jesus does not say “here are the conditions you must meet to be the salt of the Earth.” He does not say, here are the standards of wholeness you must fulfill in order to be light for the world. He looks out into the crowd of people in pain, people who have been broken open – those cracks that let in and let out the Light, who have the salt of sweat and tears on their broken bodies, and says you ARE salt. You. You are light. You have that of God within you, the God whose light scatters the darkness. Your imperfect and beautiful bodies are made of chemicals with holiness shining in it… you are made of dust and the very breath of God.

In other words, you are a broken jerk and Jesus trusts you. Don’t wait until you feel as though you have met the conditions of being holy. Trust that Jesus knows what he is doing. And that you already are salt and light and love and grace. Don’t try and be it. Know that you already are.

Gerhard Forde on What Matters

From the brilliant Gerhard Forde’s sermon on Galatians 6, found in his work on the Captivation of the Will:

For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. Peace and mercy be upon all who who walk by this rule, upon the Israel of God.

-Galatians 6:15-16

Captivation-of-the-Will-Forde-Gerhard-O-9780802829061“The God of all grace and mercy whose intention it is to relate to us through faith and trust has (you might say) two big problems with us – both of which destroy the relationship God purposes.

One is quite obvious. It is the problem designated by ‘uncircumcision,’ or the problem of our lawlessness, our existence among the lesser breeds without the law, our immorality and waywardness and heedlessness, even our temptation to boast in it. We are all aware enough of such things to acknowledge the problem and to recognize that it destroys faith and trust.

But the other problem is more subtle, and mostly hidden from us, especially at this place. It is really the main one that Paul wrestles with in his letters. It is the problem of the ‘circumcision,’ the problem of our lawfulness, our morality, our holiness, our so-called sanctification, our do-it-yourself religions, and all of that. What we don’t see is that the ‘circumcision’ destroys the relationship of faith and trust as surely as the ‘uncircumcision.’

So now God has acted finally in this very proclamation by his apostles to have his way with us. God has taken the whole business out of our hands. Neither your lawlessness nor your lawfulness, you immorality nor your morality, your unholiness nor your holiness – none of it matters a bit now, but a new creation. Indeed, in most radical fashion, Paul announces not only that it no longer matters but that it is now exposed as sin! ‘The scripture consigned all things – good and bad! – to sin, that what was promised to faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.’ ‘Whatever is not of faith is sin’ (Gal 3:22; Rom 14:23). All escape routes shut down. There is nothing to be done now but just listen. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision count for anything, but a new creation. Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule.”

The Theological Mis-Commitment Behind Our Exhaustion

The Theological Mis-Commitment Behind Our Exhaustion

Some salient thoughts on rest and restlessness from Walter Brueggemann’s new booklet, Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now. He may skirt what we might call an overly gracious view of the Law, putting an uncomfortable amount of onus for current restlessness on external circumstances (rather than locating the roots within), but still, the core diagnosis strikes me as a valid one:

The alternative on offer [in the Sabbath] is the awareness and practice of the claim that we are situated on the receiving end of the gifts of God. To be so situated is a staggering option,…

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Notes from the Panopticon: A Solution Outside the Field of Battle

Paul F.M. Zahl speaks, from years of theological accomplishment and pastoral experience, on religion that works, from PZ’s Panopticon: An Off-the-Wall Guide to World Religion. Readers should note that we’ve just released an updated version of PZP which includes a few minor revisions, tighter formatting, no typos, etc. Be sure to check out the reviews on Amazon–they’re flattering to say the least!

“Whatever is true about my apparent self, which could be called my “ego”, it is highly resistant, or better, obdurate. It doesn’t like to be told what it should want or what it should do. It doesn’t like to go along with anyone else’s bright ideas.

theater-of-blood-still-444x250

Religions that are about subduing that particular driver—“They call me Baby Driver”—fail. Or at least they fail to do what they have set themselves up to do. No matter how noble they sound in maxim and aphorism, no matter how lofty their goals in terms of personal and social improvement, and high-mindedness, they don’t work. Their problem is that they are trying to revive a patient, as we now see him, who is struggling against the inevitable, which is death, down in the operating theater. The “drowning pool” of failed efforts to re-animate the dead cannot be allowed to become the prime theater of life. If you think it is the scene of life’s real action—and resolution—then it will turn into Vincent Price’s Theatre of Blood (1973).

A religion that works needs to be a religion that is not having to work “over-time” to conquer the unconquerable. You could say that a religion which works has to have different raw material than the human “self” who is involved in a life-long action to deny and postpone the inevitable. Religion that works, in other words, is a question of “if you can’t stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen.” I am talking about religion as flight, not fight.

At first hearing, this sounds like cowardice, the opposite of religion as good works, social improvement, and engaged optimism. But religion with those outstanding positive themes, when it is not anchored to the fact of death, and the near-death which permeates life, fails to deliver, by which I mean, “deliver us from evil” and help us face death. Practical religion takes the measure of the ego’s impossible situation, and locates the solution to it outside the field of battle. As Gerald Heard put it, “The verb to escape is clear enough—it means to leave a position which has become impossible.”

True Detective 1x08 - Form and Void - Detective Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey), Detective Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson)

The panopticon of life cannot be in the hands of the struggler down in ICU. He or she is losing the fight. There is no way under the sun by which the ego-life on that flat surface will be able to carry on forever, no matter what. It is too late for the extinguishing self to understand what is going on with it. All he and she can do is “keep on dancing (dancin’ and a prancin’, doing the jerk)” (The Gentrys, 1965), until they just collapse upon the ground.

The man on the ceiling [who is near death, out-of-body in the operating room] is the one with the panopticon, not the man below. It is always too late for the man below. The raw material of him can’t respond to treatment. It is the man on the ceiling to whom the religions of the world have got to have something to say. He is the man on the moon.”

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