Theology

Paul Tillich Is Simul Justus Et Peccator

Perhaps not quite as salacious as Tillich fans or foes might infer from the title, but here, one of our ‘top three’ favorite heretics (Bultmann and Kuyper – just kidding), contributes this gem on justification from his Systematic Theology:

Justification in the objective sense is the eternal act of God by which he accepts as not estranged those who are indeed estranged from him by guilt and the act by which he takes them into unity with him which is manifest in the New Being of Christ. Justification literally means “making just,” namely, making man that which he essentially is and from which he is estranged. If used in this sense, the word would be identical with Sanctification. But the Pauline doctrine of Justification by grace through faith has given the word a meaning which makes it the opposite pole of Sanctification. It is an act of God which is in no way dependent on man, an act in which he accepts him who is unacceptable. In the paradoxical formula, simul peccator, simul justus, which is the core of the Lutheran revolution, the in-spite-of character is decisive for the whole Christian message as the salvation from despair about one’s guilt. It is actually the only way to overcome the anxiety of guilt; it enables man to look away from himself and his state of estrangement and self-destruction to the justifying act of God. He who looks at himself and tries to measure his relation to God by his achievements increases his estrangement and the anxiety of guilt and despair.

“My Fall My Stay”: Addiction and Low Anthropology

Some more highlights from John Z.’s remarkable Grace in Addiction:

“The only person lacking desperation is the one who does not know herself very well. Usually a few examples of typical, universal human difficulty are enough to ‘raise the bottom’ to the point where the idea of powerlessness will connect with any layperson. Let’s explore some of these…

Like Swiss cheese, people are full of holes. The Twelve Step approach is quick to draw attention to those holes, rather than try to dodge, cover, or counterbalance them. So which weaknesses tend to be present universally? The Big Book provides its own list:

“We had to ask ourselves why we shouldn’t apply to our human problems this same readiness to change our point of view. We were having trouble with personal relationships, we couldn’t control our emotional natures, we were prey to misery and depression, we couldn’t make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we couldn’t seem to be of real help to other people…” (52)

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I have yet to meet the person who cannot identify with a least one of the items on that list. Who, for example, is a stranger to fear? Jesus offered a similar list in his famous Sermon on the Mount, but his list also included anger, lust, and anxiety. These are the “classics”, and they account for much of the content of the day-to-day experience of being human.

Using similar logic, AA would liken sin to sickness. R. C. Sproul voiced this sentiment when he wrote, “We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners.” We would happily extrapolate along those same lines: “we are not alcoholics because we drink uncontrollably; we drink uncontrollably because we are alcoholics.” Have you ever thought of misdoing as a kind of illness? Like an allergy or a virus, self-centeredness cannot easily be mastered or controlled. The good news is that our negative attributes can become a bedrock upon which effective spirituality can be built. Without them, there is no hope for spiritual rejuvenation; in the place of health, there is apparently no need for recovery.

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The realization of our own weakness is so counterintuitive to human nature that the revelation can be rightly ascribed to the divine. A Christian would ascribe this work to the Holy Spirit. The old-fashioned word for it is repentance.

And so it is with the entire progression of AA’s Twelve Steps. As the ego is deflated and self-confidence is discouraged at every turn, something called “faith”, or “God-confidence” miraculously begins to take its place – although it doesn’t appear that way to the subject at first. In Step 12, AA refers to the fruit of this faith as “a spiritual awakening.”

We close this section on Step 1 with an incisive quote from the sixteenth-century English theologian Richard Hooker:

My eager protestations, made in the glory of my ghostly strength, I am ashamed of; but those crystal tears, wherewith my sin and weakness was bewailed, have procured my endless joy; my strength hath been my ruin, and my fall my stay.

Dancing With a Ball and Chain: In Honor of The Civil Wars

Dancing With a Ball and Chain: In Honor of The Civil Wars

Last week the highly-publicized civil war between The Civil Wars came to a not-so-shocking conclusion: They have broken up, for good.

The folk duo went on hiatus in November 2012, cancelling their tour and kicking up a storm of speculation about alleged “internal discord.” The conflict, which remains ambiguous, didn’t prevent the duo from releasing a second and final album last summer. After a year of silence, they once again make headlines only to quash whatever hope remained that they might reconcile and get back on the road. In memoriam: Snafu aside, The Civil Wars made fantastic music.

Although never romantically “together,”…

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New Music: French Style Fur’s Is Exotic Bait

New Music: French Style Fur’s Is Exotic Bait

On the heels of obsessing over Lana Del Rey’s Ultraviolence, Matthew Linder and I found another target for our obsession in French Style Fur’s Is Exotic Bait. The band is made from members of We Barbarians and Cold War Kids, and most of the lyrical content comes straight out of the poetry of Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk and mystic. Here are the results of a conversation surrounding one of the deepest albums we have heard in quite a while.

Matt: So what did you think about “All the Way Down”?

Blake: That track is just so credal. I can’t ignore that…

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Failed Confessions of a Success-o-holic

Failed Confessions of a Success-o-holic

We’re told that learning how to handle failure is an important part of growing up. Yet we do everything we can to make sure our kids never experience it. What did Samuel Beckett actually mean when he told us to “fail better”? And what does it have to do–if anything–with the theology of the cross? All this and (not) much more!

NBW on the God Hanging From the Cross

The first in a series of excerpts from our recent interview with preacher and author Nadia Bolz Weber. The full interview can be found in the new issue of The Mockingbird. Suffice it to say, this is just the tip of the iceberg. 

PT-and-NBWMBIRD: It seems like what you’re describing most churches doing is theology of glory, rather than theology of the cross. Can you describe what you feel the difference is, theologically?

NBW: Yeah, the theology of glory is a lot of times the God that we project and expect. Basically, God is just as fear-mongering and spiteful and violent as we are. And theologians of glory stand above the cross looking down on it, sort of condemning the world.

But theologians of the cross, we see God where we don’t expect it. It is not the God we’ve created in our image. It is this completely unexpected, almost disturbingly counter-intuitive, totally offensive inversion to what we call power. Right? So, that is disturbing. Ultimately, the only thing that can save us is a God we couldn’t just concoct ourselves—a bigger version of us. And this God is not standing over the cross in condemnation of the world but actually hanging from the cross.

I feel like the theology of the cross—this idea that God is most present in human suffering, and these places where we wouldn’t expect any self-respecting God to show up—is uniquely poised to speak to this generation right now… I think people are aware of their suffering. They are aware of the suffering of others, the trauma of modern life, knowing about every single natural disaster and school shootings. They are carrying that around, and I feel like theology of the cross has something to say to that in a way that super-duper, cheerful, positive, human-empowerment Christianity never can.

For more, click here to order or subscribe to The Mockingbird.

Hopelessly Devoted (on Steroids): Leviticus Chapter Twelve Verses One Through Eight

Hopelessly Devoted (on Steroids): Leviticus Chapter Twelve Verses One Through Eight

Sometimes an infant can bring you rest. No I’m not crazy; I have three kids, the youngest born just last October. I did say “sometimes”! Infants in general DO NOT bring you rest, specifically Larkin babies, they love to scream…all day and night. I once wrote a sermon bobbing up and down for two hours to keep the baby asleep…Infants are A LOT of work and rest is not a word associated with them…typically. But sometimes, as a nursing mother, I have certain moments where my baby pins me down to a couch or a bed, rendering me incapable of…

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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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