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Theology

The Indefatigable Regret of the Sham Existence

The Indefatigable Regret of the Sham Existence

“The sinner’s relationlessness and the judgment of God’s wrath upon the sinner which takes place in and with sin is not revealed, however, as sin is enacted but only as it were in retrospect, within the brackets of the revelation of the righteousness of God in the gospel. Only in the one who knew no sin and yet was made sin for us (2 Cor 5.21) is the sinner revealed in relationlessness and sin. That Jesus Christ was made sin for us by God means that the destruere et in nihilum redigere which is enacted in and with our sin is revealed…

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How Hans Urs von Balthasar Stopped Up His Ears

An incisive passage from Hans Urs Von Balthasar’s Heart of the World, ht Clayton Hornback:

heart-of-the-worldI’ve been a person who has fulfilled his religious obligations. I am a practicing Christian. I am a good Catholic. Sundays I’ve always been in church. I’ve made my Easter duty. I’ve paid my tithes. I’ve given my alms. I’ve always said my morning and evening prayers. I have always been to confession and they’ve always been valid. I have made my nine First Fridays (which, after all, have given me a kind of insurance before God, sanctioned by the Church). I’ve gone to Communion every Sunday. I’ve communicated daily.

‘I have, I have’. What I’ve done with my religion is raised up walls against God. By my practices I have stopped up my ears to God’s call. Quietly, imperceptibly, everything which could have been life has become a mechanism behind which my soul has laid itself to rest.

The Great Dissolving (According to Karl Holl)

The Great Dissolving (According to Karl Holl)

A few passages from Karl Holl’s classic “The Distinctive Elements in Christianity” (1937) that will never lose their urgency:

Jesus preaches a God who wants to have dealings with sinful men, a God to whom he who has sunk deep stands, in certain circumstances, especially near. And Jesus does not do this from undue consideration for weakness. His preaching begins with the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, which implies at the same an imminent ruthless judgment…

Jesus regards the will to forgiveness as rooted in God’s very innermost being.

He dealt a blow at everything that earnest ethical thinking about the relation…

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Religious Experts vs. the Cross: On Reading the Book of Job

Religious Experts vs. the Cross: On Reading the Book of Job

In the first chapter of Fleming Rutledge’s impressive book, The Crucifixion, she explains that modern Christianity shares the same widespread rival as early Christianity: gnosticism. She doesn’t mince words bringing the dusty historical term back down to the ground: “All the various forms of gnosticism are grounded in the belief that privileged spiritual knowledge is the way of salvation.” With one swoop of the vested arm, Rutledge knocks down the pawns of self-help, educated elitism, not to mention a massive percentage of the modern-day Christian church—in short, “religion”. To cherry-pick some of her key remarks on this subject:

Defining this philosophy is no…

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Some Very Helpful Words from RFC

Some Very Helpful Words from RFC

I was on duty for the 7am chapel service at my church this morning and wasn’t quite sure what to say, especially since the Gospel reading contained Jesus’ famously opaque words about “salt of the earth” (Mt 5.13). I had a copy of Robert Farrar Capon’s Kingdom, Grace, Judgment on my desk, and looked to see what wisdom he might offer. As usual, RFC was enormously helpful, both for those of us who are feeling like “winners” and “losers” today, who feel “dead” and “alive.”

Consider the imagery. Salt seasons and salt preserves, but in any significant quantity, it is not of itself edible, nourishing,…

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Consider the Grasshopper

Consider the Grasshopper

There are more than 11,000 species of grasshopper. The Acrididae family comprises about 10,000 of those species, accounting for nearly all grasshoppers in the United States. They’re harmless creatures, really. Plant-eaters, the lot of them, and many produce a gentle, familiar sound by rubbing the ridges of their hind legs against the edges of their forewings. They come in different shapes and sizes, and the color schemes on different species range from bland to beautiful.

Locusts, on the other hand, are not so meek. In fact, they exhibit terrible hostility and wreak legendary devastation. Often, where they go, famine and death…

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“Young, Scrappy, and Hungry”:  The Restless Hearts of Hamilton, Bruce Springsteen, and St. Augustine

“Young, Scrappy, and Hungry”: The Restless Hearts of Hamilton, Bruce Springsteen, and St. Augustine

This one comes to us from Nancy Ritter. 

If you had told me in 2010 that in six years I would spend my Saturday nights watching a documentary on a musical about Alexander Hamilton or cheering its star Lin-Manuel Miranda as he hosted SNL, I would have scoffed at you. I was in high school when a friend showed me the video of the Pulitzer Prize-winning star performing at the White House for the Obamas, rapping about the life of Alexander Hamilton. I had been raised on 1776 and was consequently a loyal John Adams girl.

“I’m not into it,” I told her….

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God as a Magnifying Mirror of Me: On American Folk Religion

God as a Magnifying Mirror of Me: On American Folk Religion

At the end of August, I shared a quote from sociologist Zygmunt Bauman in which he described social media networks and various communities in our day as reflections of the individual. That is, we contemporary Americans tend to seek out communities and people that help express our inner selves more visibly to the wider world. Like my new iPhone 7, J.Crew shirt, and selvedge denim jeans reveal something about their owner, so in much the same way are my networks and circle of friends an extension of my inner ego. And if Bauman is correct in that observation, then might it be that God is…

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Bringing You the Gospel (Pt 45)

My wife and I have been admiring the interesting English translations we’ve read in Indonesia this last week. Not that we’re judging — most people we meet speak 2+ languages, and we’re barely making it with one. But this sign in a Bali gift shop was too perfect not to post, an unintentionally profound take on “You Break It, You Buy It.”

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When Your Popularity Arc Takes a “Nosedive”

When Your Popularity Arc Takes a “Nosedive”

Last year’s Technology Issue published a list of TV Techno-Fables, the first show on the list being Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker’s exceedingly bleak anthology series, which just released its third season on Netflix this month. In the list we discussed that, despite The Twilight Zone comparison often thrown at Black Mirror, the show “does not contain a whiff of Rod Serling’s compassionate humanism.” In other words, if the show is as prophetic as it often feels, Brooker sees no hope entering the equation.

That was all before Season 3, though! Most things have not changed. As with all Black Mirror episodes,…

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Attachment Theory and Your Relationship With God

Attachment Theory and Your Relationship With God

Another sampler from the Mental Health Issue! Here’s a doozie from psychologist Bonnie Poon Zahl about the meaning of ‘attachment theory’ and its implications for the ways we talk about our faith. Of course, this is only to whet your appetite…

I am a psychologist of religion. This means that I use tools from psychological science to study, empirically, the manifold expressions of religion and spirituality in human lives. I am most interested in how people understand and relate to God, and in my research I adopt the methodological naturalism that is expected in my discipline; I try to understand people’s religious…

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How to Snub Christ (According to Martin Luther)

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.