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Posts tagged "Grace in Practice"

A Clockwork Theology and the Un-Free Will

A Clockwork Theology and the Un-Free Will

A friend recently noted that TV, post-Breaking Bad, seems to be getting more violent. Typically I’d discard this as your run-of-the-mill cantankerous “kids these days” complaint…but somewhere between grimace-inducing episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale and Netflix’s The Keepers, I realized, well, maybe he had a point. Game of Thrones fits the bill. So does HBO’s adaptation of Big Little Lies, which was much darker than its airport-thriller source material. The list goes on.

Considering all this, I was reminded of the landmark violence of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, which I read way back in high school, for a project about banned books. For the (lucky?) uninitiated, it tells the story of a violent young…

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From the Archives: Law and Grace in the Competition of Marriage

From the Archives: Law and Grace in the Competition of Marriage

As with most of the provocative second half of Paul Zahl’s Grace in Practice, the following excerpt goes well beyond abstractions and gets uncomfortably close to the bone–in the best possible way. The language here has to do with marriage, but you could easily substitute a variety of other relational contexts:

Men and women encounter a serpent-ridden wilderness of Eden when they enter into marriage. Competition for need-fulfillment and attention squanders huge amounts of energy in resentment and suppressed antagonism. The nature of the law is to place every single marriage under the Damocles’ sword of needs to be met. The word…

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From Grace in Practice: The Problem with Christianity

Here’s another excerpt from Paul Zahl’s Grace in Practice, from pages 36-38, in the sections entitled “What is Grace?” and “Grace in the New Testament.”

otis-redding-try-a-little-tend-290448In 1965 Joe Meek produced a would-be pop single that was sung by Bobby Rio and The Revelles and was entitled “Value for Love.” It was a great tune, but, like almost everything Joe Meek produced, it only grazed the Top Thirty. The lyrics were wildly false. The singer keeps telling the girl she should go for him because he is “good value for love.” He is “worth” her falling for him. Sure, Bobby Rio! That line never works. It never will. It is all weights and measures. Grace is one-way love.

The one-way love of grace is the essence of any lasting transformation that takes place in human experience. You can find this out for yourself by taking a simple inventory of your own happiness, or the moments of happiness you have had. They have almost always had to do with some incident of love or belatedness that has come to you from someone outside yourself when you were down. You felt ugly or sinking in confidence, and somebody complimented you, or helped you, or spoke a kind word to you. You were at the end of your rope and someone showed a little sympathy. This is the message of Otis Redding’s immortal 1962 song, “Try a Little Tenderness.” […]

One-way love is the change agent in everyday life because it speaks in a voice completely different from the voice of the law. It has nothing to do with its receiver’s characteristics. Its logic is hidden within the intention of its source. Theologically speaking, we can say it is the prime directive of God to love the world in no relation to the world’s fitness to be loved. Speaking in terms of Christian theology, God loves the world in a kind of reverse relationship to its moral unfitness. “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

In the dimension of grace, one-way love is inscrutable or irrational not only because it is out of relation with any intrinsic circumstances on the part of the receiver. One-way love is also irrational because it reaches out to the specifically undeserving person. This is the beating heart of it. Grace is directed toward what the Scripture calls “the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). Not just the lonely, not just the sick and disconsolate, but the “perpetrators,” the murderers and abusers, the people who cross the line. God has a heart — his one-way love — for sinners. This is the problem with Christianity. This piece of logical and ethical incongruity and inappropriateness is the problem with Christianity.

From Grace in Practice: "Grace in Everyday Life"

From Grace in Practice: “Grace in Everyday Life”

The following is an excerpt from pages 73-76 of Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life by Paul F. M. Zahl. Soak it up!

Grace has the power of the mallet. Every other prong and heavy-lifting device that seeks to change people is an expression of law and accomplishes the opposite of what it intends. People fear that grace will give permission to be bad. This is the classic fear: that grace will issue in a license–“007”–to do whatever you want, without consequences.

Yet that never happens! In fact, the opposite happens. When you treat people gracefully, they always end up…

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Check, Please!

Check, Please!

Being a college student means asking for separate checks at restaurants. Generally, my friends and I wait until the end of the meal to say, “Oh yea, could you split those up by the way? Yeah that’d be great, thanks,” as if it was an afterthought and the waiter/waitress had no idea what was coming all along. In truth, splitting up checks is pretty annoying. It means more buttons pressed and cards swiped and pens gathered, and I do often feel pangs of guilt asking servers to do it. But generally they’re accommodating, and they know what to expect when…

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Political Age Gaps and Grace in Cooking in My Grandmother's Ravioli

Political Age Gaps and Grace in Cooking in My Grandmother’s Ravioli

The Pew Research Center recently released a study that showed results of something that I think we all have known anecdotally for a while: there is a significant and seemingly growing age gap between the two political poles in America. The study shows that the youngest generation, Millenials (18-33 years old in 2014), are increasingly more Democratic or liberal and the oldest generation, Silents (69-86 years old in 2014), are increasingly more Republican or conservative. Somewhat surprisingly, the study points out that this has not always been the case: two decades prior in 1994, the youngest generation leaned conservative and…

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Another Week Ends: Exotic Magi, Histories of Christmas, More Elves on Shelves, Rand Reviews Children's Movies, and More Messes of Help

Another Week Ends: Exotic Magi, Histories of Christmas, More Elves on Shelves, Rand Reviews Children’s Movies, and More Messes of Help

Housekeeping thing: a few copies of A Mess of Help sent out had lots of 5s in their tables of contents. Let us know if you got one of those, and we’ll send a new one.

1. As we’re getting into the Christmas spirit, The Economist makes a surprising contribution with a survey of the Magi’s reception history. Apparently the men were likely astrologers/sages of some sort, but people found kings more appealing. In medieval times, some strange theologians talk about massive royal retinues encamped outside Bethlehem, etc. And in other strains of the tradition, they were bumbling traveler types, something in between the…

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Ray Rice and the Perils of Relative Righteousness

Ray Rice and the Perils of Relative Righteousness

This Ray Rice saga doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and it just keeps getting more interesting. Just yesterday (Friday September 19th) ESPN’s Outside the Lines released a report of the long, detailed timeline of events from the original incident right up until Roger Goodell’s press conference yesterday. It’s a fascinating account of the NFL’s behind-the-scenes PR spin machine, complete with new revelations (Ravens’ coach John Harbaugh wanted to release Ray Rice back in the spring?) and some of the thought process behind the original 2 game suspension.

It’s this last aspect of the story that I find to be most…

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Another Week Ends: Grand Theft Auto, Angry Net Users, One Way Love, Self-Helpy Great Books, Anti-Altruistic Kickstarters, and More Breaking Bad

Another Week Ends: Grand Theft Auto, Angry Net Users, One Way Love, Self-Helpy Great Books, Anti-Altruistic Kickstarters, and More Breaking Bad

1. For starters, Grand Theft Auto V is out! (If you need a strong case for dabbling in it, go here). Kill Screen posted a doozie of a review, provocatively titled, “Grand Theft Auto 5 channels the violent, lonely minds of men, especially mine“, ht SZ:

I shudder with recognition… at the bleeding edge of reality in Grand Theft Auto V. I am both delighted and disturbed by how much I see elements of myself, and of everyone I know, in the narratives of the three protagonists: Michael, Franklin Clinton and Trevor Philips.

That statement doesn’t look too good, for my health or for…

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Healthy Hearts, Smoldering Resentments, and the Starting Point of Compassion

Healthy Hearts, Smoldering Resentments, and the Starting Point of Compassion

Given the popularity of the section we posted from Paul Zahl’s Grace in Practice a few weeks ago on Competition in Marriage, here’s one that’s bound to be a little less popular… 😉 It can be found under the rather unsexy heading of “The Relation of the Un-Free Will to Compassion”–and yet it is one of the most important passages in the book, spelling out much of what lies behind this site’s focus on human limitation, i.e. its relation to love:

Perhaps the man you live with is smoldering with resentment. Most of his resentments are founded on half-facts and subjectivity….

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Law and Grace in the Competition of Marriage

Law and Grace in the Competition of Marriage

Hard to believe we’ve never posted this section from Paul Zahl’s Grace in Practice before. As with most of the provocative second half of that book, it goes well beyond abstractions and gets uncomfortably close to the bone–in the best possible way. The language here has to do with marriage, but you could easily substitute a variety of other relational contexts:

Men and women encounter a serpent-ridden wilderness of Eden when they enter into marriage. Competition for need-fulfillment and attention squanders huge amounts of energy in resentment and suppressed antagonism. The nature of the law is to place every single marriage…

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Another Week Ends: Book Cover Identities, Soul Toupées, Profumo's Turn, More Superheroes, and Grace in Practice

Another Week Ends: Book Cover Identities, Soul Toupées, Profumo’s Turn, More Superheroes, and Grace in Practice

1. Tim Kreider strikes again! Over at The New Yorker, he doubts whether people should ever design their own book cover. As good as some of Malcolm Gladwell’s material can be, his covers are the gold standard in marketing and catering to expectations. See, for instance, the Malcolm Gladwell Book Generator, and you’ll see what he means (Stretch: What George Takei, the Boston Celtics, and a Toaster Oven Have in Common). Anyway, Kreider’s insights, as usual, go a bit deeper, ht LL:

There’s often an embarrassing disconnect between how people try to present themselves and how they’re actually perceived, which is why they…

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