Theology

Old Persuasive Words: Seven Common Theology Phrases That Should Be Used More Precisely

Old Persuasive Words: Seven Common Theology Phrases That Should Be Used More Precisely

In honor of our upcoming merger with Buzzfeed (just kidding), there are a few very commonly used, but imprecisely defined, Christian words which could stand some rethinking in how we use them.

Redemption – Often you hear questions like, “Can ____ be redeemed?” or ask questions like, “How will God redeem that job, that relationship, that bad decision? Will God redeem the suffering caused by Kim Jong-Un?” Or, at one dinner, “Can competition be redeemed?” The word means something like paying a price to buy back someone who is a slave or indebted, clearing their debt from one’s own store. A…

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“I Can Feel It Coming in the Air Tonight, Oh Lord”: Frank Darabont’s The Mist (2007)

“I Can Feel It Coming in the Air Tonight, Oh Lord”: Frank Darabont’s The Mist (2007)

The fourth and final installment of Ian Olson & I’s Halloween series for Mbird focuses on Frank Darabont’s 2007 adaptation of a Stephen King novella, The Mist—which has been spoken about briefly before. The film stars Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden & Andre Braugher.

Blake:

The Mist is a throwback 60’s style creature flick where a group of people are trapped in a grocery store surrounded by a strange, dense mist that came in after an intense storm the night before. If that was not weird enough for the poor captives, those who try to escape the store into the mist seem…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Second Corinthians Chapter Twelve Verse Nine

This morning’s jolt of java comes from the one and only John Zahl.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV)

You want to be in control, but you are not. Because of this, the heart-felt experience of faith will always entail a kind of personal deconstruction, rather than some kind of building up. The more you get to know the God who loves sinners, the more you will see your own need for Him.

Sometimes people ask God to build in them all the things that they think they need in order to face life successfully. He will do no such thing! Why would He turn you into a vessel that has no need for Him? Faith means trusting Him to be all the things you need Him to be, despite your own inadequacies, and, for that matter, in light of the fact that you don’t actually know what you need or what success actually looks like. He won’t give you strength; He will be your strength. God deconstructs. God intervenes. God prevents.

coffeewithjesus715

Hopelessly Devoted: Second Corinthians Chapter One Verse Nineteen and Twenty

Hopelessly Devoted: Second Corinthians Chapter One Verse Nineteen and Twenty

Back from Texas, here’s yesterday morning’s devotion, just a day late. It comes from Paul Walker.

For all the promises of God find their Yes in Him. (2 Corinthians 1:19-20, ESV)

“Yes” is a gracious word. Yes, please come in. Yes, please stay for dinner. Yes, I would love to go with you. Yes, of course, take all the time you need.

“No” is a forbidding word. No, you may not come. No, there isn’t room for you. No, I’m too busy. No, it was due yesterday.

Human beings are both Yes and No. Most children learn to nod “yes” and shake their…

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These Are a Few of My Favorite Atheists: Thomas Nagel

These Are a Few of My Favorite Atheists: Thomas Nagel

More Dr. Michael Nicholson goodness on his favorite atheists series! Check out last week’s pre-Camus for an introduction to the series.

Thomas Nagel (1937 – )

Thomas Nagel had me at, “I confess to an ungrounded assumption of my own, in not finding it possible to regard the design alternative as a real option. I lack the sensus divinitatis that enables—indeed compels—so many people to see in the world the expression of divine purpose as naturally as they see in a smiling face the expression of human feeling” (Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False,…

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Fideism, H.R. Niebuhr, and More ‘Cultural Engagement’

Fideism, H.R. Niebuhr, and More ‘Cultural Engagement’

I was encouraged last week to see an article on cultural engagement get some commentary. At Christianity Today, Alissa Wilkinson’s article on “Lazy Cultural Engagement” was dead-on, providing a more personal/vocational take and bringing in the helpful and germane framework of content and form. At ThinkChristian, Josh Larson’s commentary was also helpful, if a little divergent from our take:

In a broad sense, I agree with what both of these folks have to say. Certainly, as McDavid suggests, Christians are needed as critics outside of our Christian subculture. (I’m grateful to have other outlets where I can do that.) And Wilkinson’s call to…

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Ebola, “Friends” and the Reasons We Give

Ebola, “Friends” and the Reasons We Give

Tim Keller has said that a Christian is someone who knows that they need to repent not only for the wrong things they do, but for the reasons they do the right things. That is to say, whatever we do, no matter how seemingly altruistic, almost always has some sort of selfish motivation mixed in – as Joey points out to Phoebe in “The One Where Phoebe Hates PBS” (or so my wife tells me). Who would’ve thought that Joey Tribbiani would subscribe to what Calvin (following Sts. Augustine and Paul) called “total depravity”?

Further illustrating this point was a recent…

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A Reflection on the Fall, or Sisyphus vs. Jack Vincennes

A Reflection on the Fall, or Sisyphus vs. Jack Vincennes

This is the transcript of a talk given over the weekend by Mbird’s Will McDavid at The Olmsted Salon in NYC, loosely based on our recent Eden and Afterward: A Mockingbird Guide to Genesis. For the audio, go to the Olmsted site here, and to order the book, go here.

I first want to speak a little about why I wrote this book. I think the relative decline of the Christian religion among intellectuals has resulted in a few interesting consequences for the Bible. People now are relatively less likely to study the letters of Paul, in which he lays out much…

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Hopelessly Devoted: First Corinthians Chapter One Verse Two

Hopelessly Devoted: First Corinthians Chapter One Verse Two

This morning’s devotion comes from John Zahl who, as a matter of fact, has a book of sermons coming out next month, called Sermons of Grace. One of these sermons will be featured in the Fall Issue of the magazine.

To the church of God in Corinth… together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours. (1 Corinthians 1:2, NIV)

When I lived in New York City, my roommate and I often found ourselves walking from one place to another at night. Coincidentally, it seemed like every time we did this, a random…

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Riding (Too) High on Christian Imagination

Riding (Too) High on Christian Imagination

Over at the John Jay Institute, there’s a symposium happening on the topic of “Christian imagination.” One of the papers submitted was a guest post by our own Will McDavid. The entire thing is available at their site, here, but an excerpt below:

“James K.A. Smith, a recent lynchpin of smart Evangelicalism in America, has embedded a myth in the conversation about imagination and desire: “compelling visions, over time, seep into and shape our desire and thus fuel dispositions toward them” (Desiring the Kingdom). This idea lay behind Smith’s defense of Christian schools in the wake of a Christianity Today blogger making an…

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Mockingbird: Bringing You the Gospel (pt. 40)

From Lutheran Satire, the funniest apophatic Trinity intro I’ve seen in a while:

Vertical and Horizontal Love in 1 John

After Jim McNeely’s brilliant Romance of Grace, I wasn’t surprised to find his latest work, Grace in Community, bristling with insight and comfort. 1 John is a difficult and sometimes-neglected book, but McNeely sifts through it with responsibility, originality, and a down-to-earth approach. Below, he treats the tricky subject of “vertical” and “horizontal” love – love for God and neighbor, with his trademark honesty about the Law’s demands, leading directly to God’s grace:

Notice  John  unifies  “vertical” love  and  “horizontal”  love.  He  says,  “In  this  is  love,  not  that  we  love  God,  but  that  God  loves  us.”  He  is  talking  about  a  vertical  relationship here,  our  love  for  God.  Yet  he  goes  on  at  length  talking  about  horizontal relationships.  It  is  all  mixed  up.  When  we  have  horizontal  love,  God  is  in  it.  The  moralist  wants  to  split  these  up.  The moralist  wants  to  take the  two  laws  as  separate:  love  God,  love  your  neighbor.  John  bridges  that  gap  with  the  gospel  of  Christ  and  Him  crucified.  God  is  love,  and love  operates  in  community.  He  is  saying,  if  you  separate  these  two,  you  cannot  succeed  at  the  one  and  fail  at  the  other.  The  old  commandment to  love  presses  upon  us  the  obligation  to  love  God  and  neighbor.  You cannot  claim  success  if  you  only  do  one  or  the  other;  you  must  succeed at  both.  Jesus  loved  and  forgave  His  own  murderers  and  obeyed  His  Father  to  the  death.  Either  we  succeed  at  both  or  we  fail  at  both.  It  is  a unity  under  the  old  covenant  as  well  as  under  the  new  covenant.  The  old  covenant  presses  upon  you  the  obligation  to  do  both  and  makes  you  the  source  of  power  for  compliance.  The  new opens  the  door  to  the possibility  to  love,  and  empowers  love  through  the  grace  and  forgiveness and  mercy  which  come  to  us  through  Christ’ʹs  blood.  In  Christ,  we  do not  boast  that  we  know  and  love  God;  we  boast  that  we  cannot  know  and  love  Him,  but  He  knows and  loves  us.  We  do  not  trust  in  ourselves or  our  perfection,  but  in  Him  and  His  perfection.  His  perfection  is  that  though  we  slay  Him,  He  resurrects  to  love  us  still.  His  love  abides,  it  persists.  This  is  the  love  that  He  has  for  us,  and  it  is  the  love  that  is  at  the  heart  of  the  love  that  we  have  for  each  other.