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Posts tagged "A 2017 Conference Breakout Preview"


The Reformation Today: A Conference Breakout Preview

This preview comes to us from the host of this coming weekend’s festivities in NYC, The Rev. Jacob Smith himself.

This breakout is entitled “The Reformation Today” because “Is the Reformation Over?” has already been taken by everyone writing at First Things or The Gospel Coalition. Also, because at Mockingbird we believe the answer to that question is a resounding “NO.”

In order to make my pitch, I believe the shake up at the burger chain Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s has a lot to to say. For seventeen years, Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s defined their business not by amazing fast food burgers (when it comes to fast-food burgers they are the best) but instead by sexy models eating the burgers. Interestingly enough, this actually led to a drop in sales over time. A new ad campaign is throwing all that to the wind, with Carl Sr. coming back to office and taking Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s back to its roots: really, really good burgers and amazing customer service. Is the Reformation Over? It is–if the Reformation has to do with smoke machines or sermons on sex and community development.

As in life, the present is never understood by looking to the future (Carl Jr.).  We understand the present by looking to and understanding the past (Carl Sr.). In this breakout, we will take a trip back to our roots as Reformational Christians, and look briefly at some of the overlap between the English and German Reformations, which all came together in the person of Dr. Robert Barnes. Then using “The Reformation Essays of Dr. Robert Barnes,” we will define and answer the big question at the heart of the Reformation: “How is a person justified before God?” That is the question.  That question will help the church get out of the realm of trying to be cool and get back to the “Carl Sr. of Christianity.” With this question answered, we will examine some important pastoral implication in the midst of real pastoral ministry because when this question of justification is not answered correctly the real power and strength of Christianity is lost. This breakout is for anyone, especially those who are interested in pastoral care and practicing it from a perspective of “by grace alone!”

Greetings from the Upside Down: A Conference Breakout Preview

Kendall Jenner once said, “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” Just kidding! It was Maya Angelou who said that. But now that I have your attention, do you agree? Because I’ve had to give this topic A LOT of thought lately.

My family was recently uprooted from Atlanta to Sydney, Australia because #grace, and the fallout has been…a bit of everything. No demogorgons have shown up, but that hasn’t squelched the similarities with Stranger Things because a) said comparison allows me to equate myself with Barb in our hair color and suffering; and b) this new life in the Down Under feels not totally unlike the Upside Down–absence of Winona Ryder notwithstanding–what with the disorientation, opposing seasons, and strange lighting patterns (aka Daylight Savings flipped).

Kendall Jenner, Winona Ryder, and Barb: is that click-baity enough for you? Well, allow me to further tease that I’ll be providing handy keys on how not to assimilate in a foreign country, embarrassing stories about my (lack of) driving skills and language difficulties, further details of my IKEA breakdown–all as a guide to managing depression: Aussie Edition. But the big kicker will be what home means for those of us torn between an upside-down world and the Upside Down Kingdom. Spoiler alert: tons of ambivalence, a Ron Burgundy reference, cities with oceans attached. Oh, and wine. Lots of wine.

How to Have (Just) One God - A Conference Breakout Preview

How to Have (Just) One God – A Conference Breakout Preview

Perhaps the most basic piece of information about the Christian faith — so basic that in the West it is more assumed than taught, even to the unchurched — is that there is one God. We don’t have to think much about this. When somebody says they are religious, we assume that they believe in one God and not many. People might ask, “Do you believe in God?” or say, “I don’t believe in God,” but the question, “Which of the gods do you believe in?” would take most of us by surprise.

It isn’t only Christians who speak of one…

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Hearing Law, Seeing Gospel: A Mockingbird History of Art – A Conference Breakout Preview

Today’s first conference breakout preview comes to us from Matthew J. Milliner, an associate professor of art history at Wheaton College.

It doesn’t take long at Mockingbird before one hears about… yes, here it comes… Law and Gospel. It is the name of the book after all. And while most of the fun is to be had in observing this versatile skeleton key to the human condition illustrated in everything from Finding Dory to David Bowie, or from Black Mirror to Axl Rose, the original Law/Gospel illustration, of course, came from Martin Luther’s BFF, Lucas Cranach the Elder, as evidenced below. On the left, expectation and obligation – with help from sin and death – send a helpless streaker toward an unwelcome barbeque (that’s Law). On the right, expectation is met by fulfillment. As the good news sinks in, a super-soaker of imputing blood jet streams from a side-wound, while sin and death get busted by a deputized sheep (that’s Gospel).

It would be perfectly serviceable to offer an extended talk on such wonderful illustrations, one of which bedazzles the front of Paul Zahl’s Short Systematic Theology. Cranach, after all, painted several variations, each of which convey different nuances to Law/Gospel dynamic. Nevertheless, addled as I am by the oppressive law of academia, with its merciless demand for originality, I am incapable of delivering something so straightforward, which, at any rate, has been done well in several top-notch publications.

Instead, I thought I’d look to artists from whom one would not expect such a message. Indeed, at the tenth anniversary conference I shall contend the Law/Gospel message can be found concealed in artists a long way from Wittenberg. The thrilling truth of grace emerges in art history just where you’d expect to hear something different (hence my title, “Hearing Law, Seeing Gospel”). What if the dynamic famously painted by Cranach could be found incognito in Orthodox icons, peeking from the unsurpassable achievements of Michelangelo and Pontormo, concealed in Catholic kitsch, even shining through the cult of creativity in contemporary art?

It’s all succinctly conveyed in the witty title, “camouflage Cranach,” really, but my wife said that sounded terrible.

Join us April 27-29 in NYC for the 10th annual Mockingbird conference!

Liars and Madmen and You: The Art of Narrative – A Conference Breakout Preview

Here begins our conference breakout previews–sneak peeks of the various topics we’ll talk about in NYC this April! Check out the conference site for more details

Most people will recognize Stephen King’s It as the one about the killer clown. Which it is. But at 1100 pages, it has to be more than that, you know? In his dedication King writes: “Fiction is the truth inside the lie”—which, I’ll admit, I still don’t fully get—but that’s nevertheless a good place to begin investigating one of It’s running themes: extracting the truth from the lies, particularly the ones we tell ourselves. Centered around a group of raggle-taggle tweens, It is a story about growing up and facing fears, about selectively remembering (and discarding) our early painful memories. What the characters develop, as their first line of defense against the killer clown in question, is an elaborate but ultimately fragile method of narrative construction that carries them into adulthood: Mike Hanlon, one of the story’s protagonists, explains, “We lie best when we lie to ourselves.”

It’s true for all of us. With the recent deluge of social studies concerning #confirmationbias, and with the self-righteousness of American politics cropping up wherever we look—not to mention moral dispatches from Starbucks cups—there’s never been a better time to take a second glance at the stories we tell ourselves. If spun right, “taking control of your narrative” can sound just as liberating as “taking a trip to Aruba”; but the late David Carr, in his memoir, The Night of the Gun, illustrates the exhausting side of this self-embossed coin: “You spread versions of yourself around, giving each person the truth he or she needs—you need, actually—to keep them at one remove.”

So let’s get all our narratives in one place and talk about them, Friday, April 28, 3:30PM, at the 10th Annual Mockingbird Conference. We’ll discuss some of the best stories told by liars and madmen, including some by me and some by you. And—of course—we’ll talk about the great, final page-turner that illuminates the truth about us and pulls us into it, not as tragic heroes but as pardoned villains.

Register for the conference here!