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From the Forgiveness Issue: A Q&A with Philip Yancey

From the Forgiveness Issue: A Q&A with Philip Yancey

For this fifth issue of the magazine, we had the privilege of talking to author and journalist Philip Yancey about the message of grace in today’s churches. We also got a chance to re-print a small sample of his most recent book Vanishing Grace: What Ever Happened to the Good News?.

To order a copy of The Forgiveness Issue, look no further than here. There’s more where this comes from. 

In May of 2015, the Pew Research Center released its latest findings on the “changing religious landscape” of the United States. According to the survey, 70% of Americans identified as Christian in 2014,…

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Hidden Holiness: The Experience of Sanctification? – Will McDavid

Carrying on with the videos from our Spring Conferences, here’s Will’s expert exploration of air travel, spiritual and otherwise:

Hidden Holiness: The Experience of Sanctification? – Will McDavid from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Can’t pass up the opportunity to laud our favorite man-from-Macon, who just finished his final week as full-time staff with Mockingbird after three and a half absurdly fruitful years. Will is heading to law school this Fall–an irony not lost on him, believe me–but thankfully staying close and sticking in Charlottesville. So while he’ll still pop up on here from time to time, do say a prayer for the guy, and if you feel inspired, drop a comment below (or shoot him well wishes at mcdavid.will@gmail.com). It’s been such a privilege and joy to have him on the team.

BONUS QUESTION: What’s your favorite McDavid opus? I have too many to list here. But certainly Christian Battle Lines, God Redeems Our Anthropomorphism, Disgruntled Millennials, the Metropolitan review, the NT Wright takedown, Goodhart’s Law, and of course, A Great Prince Died So a Hedge Knight Might Live would make the cut. The Preamar post still gives me a chuckle too – you know, that time Mockingbird became the international connection point for fans of a Brazilian TV show and its creator(s).

On the Fragile Souls of Imperial Sycophants

Another one from Ted Peters’ Sin Boldly!:

51lU3StHrKL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Measurements, milestones, merits, awards, and orthodoxies rule over our psyches like Caligula ruled Rome. Like sycophants in the emperor’s royal court, we create a fictional public image by bowing and fawning before the ambient opinions of what is acceptable, respectable, admirable, good, just, and true. And in our rare moments of self-bolstering, we assure ourselves that we stand for eternal justice, the unassailable good, and what is absolutely right–what Luther refers to as “the Law.” In doing so, the fragile soul becomes temporarily hidden beneath self-justifying bravado. Nevertheless, fragility is ever present, sapping our soul of honesty, integrity, and authentic caring. To make matters worse, Christian sermonizers–preachers whom Cathleen Falsani calls “spiritual bullies”–man their pulpits like a captain on the bridge; they manipulate our already innate anxieties and turn timidity into terror. The perpetual fear of eternal damnation turns a fragile soul into a petrified self. We fragile ones go through the motions of life, but we don’t really live it.

Romans 8:33b, “God is the one who justifies,” should be heard by us as good news, as grace, as gospel. The gospel is aimed at liberating our selves from fragility and our souls from the endless unrolling of [spiritual] duct tape.” (pgs. 16-17)

2015 Kanuga Renewal Conference: Rest

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An enormous thanks to all those who make last week’s Renewal Conference at Kanuga happen. It was such a joy and privilege to be asked to provide the content, and spend a week with such a wonderful group of people (in such a beautiful place). Best of all, the time itself proved genuinely restful for all involved. The recordings of the main sessions are now up on The Mockingpulpit as well as the Recordings page, but for those who would rather stream or download directly from here, you’re in luck.

1. Rest for the Restless – David Zahl

2. Christian Obstacles to Rest – Jacob Smith

3. Rest in the Bible, part 1 – Jady Koch

4. Rest in the Bible, part 2 – Jady Koch

5. How Rest Is Applied – Jacob Smith

6. The Life of Rest – David Zahl

7. Closing Question and Answer Session – DZ, JS & JDK

The Mockingbird Issue 5 Out Now!

The Forgiveness Issue is here! Order your (boyfriend’s, stepdad’s, daughter’s) copy today! To check out the Opener and Table of Contents, click here.

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The Real Value of Justification By Faith (For Fragile and Broken Souls)

The Real Value of Justification By Faith (For Fragile and Broken Souls)

I’m a couple of chapters in to a remarkable new book, Sin Boldly!: Justifying Faith for Fragile and Broken Souls by Ted Peters. It’s an approachable yet meaty treatise on the everyday value of Justification By Faith, what the author calls, “the key that unlocks the prison door, the hand that rips off the blindfold, the aloe that cools the burning gash, and the elixir that tastes of Eden.” To say that it’s shot through with our favorite themes would be a supreme understatement. Moreover, the text bristles with humor and personality, drawing on enormous wells of empathy and even…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Ephesians Chapter One Verses Eighteen and Nineteen

Hopelessly Devoted: Ephesians Chapter One Verses Eighteen and Nineteen

This comes from Mockingbird Magician-in-Chief, Jim McNeely.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might (Ephesians 1:18-19)

Going to the Mountain

A couple of years ago I went with my friend Bart Shadbolt to Baker Lake, which a is an absolutely stunning glacier-fed lake near Bellingham Washington which is…

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Parables and the Difficulty of Direct Communication

Parables and the Difficulty of Direct Communication

When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that

“they may indeed look, but not perceive,

and may indeed listen, but not understand;

so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.” ’

He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is…

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Bayer on Law, Gospel, and Justification

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).”

Inside The Forgiveness Issue (Opener and Table of Contents)

Inside The Forgiveness Issue (Opener and Table of Contents)

As Father’s Day rolls around, so does our Forgiveness Issue (purely coincidental). Here’s a teaser to the Fifth Issue of The Mockingbird–the Opener as well as the Table of Contents. Subscriptions and orders can be placed here.

A Cop Out in the Woods

It turns out writing about forgiveness is hard. Maybe we don’t experience it very much, maybe we haven’t had the words to describe it when we have experienced it, but it certainly seems easiest to picture forgiveness by what it isn’t. And there are plenty of examples. Whole genres of film, drama and music have dealt with narratives of…

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Automatic Transmissions and the Phenomenon of “Miswanting”

Automatic Transmissions and the Phenomenon of “Miswanting”

Nicholas Carr has a new book out, called The Glass Cage: Automation and Us, and he opens it by describing his yearning as a young driver for a car with an automatic transmission. It was a new thing at the time, something which allowed drivers the novel experience of multitasking. Those who had automatics had an extra hand for a coke or an eight-track, and an extra foot for thumping the bass line of their favorite Led Zeppelin cut.

The point that this illustration seems downright prehistoric is intended. It was only 40 years ago. 40 years ago we imagined the future with…

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Distinguishing Between Law and Gospel: A Brief Guide

This handy guide comes from the first appendix to our newest book, Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints), coauthored by Will McDavid, Ethan Richardson, and David Zahl. Hope you enjoy:

The distinction between law and gospel is the highest art in Christendom
–Martin Luther

Mbird LAW AND GOSPEL Cover options4A strong belief of Luther, and those who follow in his footsteps, is that people should not be enticed to church by the Gospel and then, after believing, turn toward self-improvement. The Law always kills, and the Spirit always gives life. This death and resurrection of the believer is not a one-time event, but must be repeated continually: It is the shape of the Christian life. On Sundays, therefore, some form of the Law is ideally preached to kill, and the Gospel to vivify—“the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor 3:6). But in many situations, the Law is mistakenly preached to give life, on the assumption that the believer, unlike the new Christian, has the moral strength to follow the guidelines. This leads to burnout, often producing agnostics or converts to Eastern Orthodoxy. Words like ‘accountability’ or ‘intentionality,’ for example, are sure signs that the letter, rather than the Spirit, is being looked to for life. To help distinguish this form of misguided Law from the Gospel, here’s a handy guide:

1. Listen for a distortion of the commandment: Anytime a hard commandment is softened, such as “Be perfect” (Mt 5:48) to “just do your best,” we’re looking to the Law, not the Gospel, for life.

2. Discern the balance of agency: If you’re in charge of making it happen, it’s misguided Law. If God’s in charge, it’s Gospel. If it’s a mixture, it’s Law.

3. Look for honesty: If you or others either seem ‘A-okay’ or ‘struggling, but…,’ then likely it’s because the Old Adam is alive and well (there will also be a horrible scandal in the next three months). If people are open and honest about their problems, such freedom shows the Gospel is at work.

4. Watch for exhaustion: If the yoke is hard and the burden heavy week after week, then the letter’s probably overpowering the Spirit.

5. Examine the language: If you hear ‘If… then,’ ‘Wouldn’t it be nice…,’ ‘We should all…,’ or anything else that smacks of the imperative voice, it’s implicit works-salvation. If you hear the indicative voice—‘God is…,’ ‘We are…,’ or ‘God will…’—then it’s probably Gospel.

6. Watch for the view of human nature, or anthropology: If human willpower, strength, or effort are being lauded or appealed to, it’s Law. High anthropology means low Christology, and vice-versa.

7. Finally, keep an eye out for the ‘Galatians effect,’ summarized by St. Paul:

Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? Did you experience so much for nothing?—if it really was for nothing. Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? (Gal 3:2-5)

If how you’re approaching or being told to approach Christianity now feels different from “believing what you heard,” we’re in Galatians territory. Christianity is Good News, and it never ceases to be Good News.

Grab your copy of L&G today!