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Posts tagged "Law and Gospel"

It's Gospel Law the Way Down

It’s Gospel Law the Way Down

I woke up yesterday morning feeling like I had time traveled 10 years back into the wonderful world of mockingbird.blogspot.com. Back then, a group of us were invited by David Zahl to start up a blog dedicated to the exposition of justification by faith alone as understood through the hermeneutical lens of the distinction between law and Gospel. This was not our first attempt at blogging, but it was different in that, as I wrote in a 2008 post, “Can’t See the Forest for the Blogs,”

Most theological blogs that I’ve found, like many political ones, are so rife with acrimony…

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The Law, the Gospel, and Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints)

The Law, the Gospel, and Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints)

I probably heard the gospel many times during my childhood, but it didn’t register until I was a junior in college. When it finally grabbed my attention one fall night outside Gorin’s ice cream shop in the Five Points South neighborhood of Birmingham, Alabama, I saw my need to be rescued from my sin. I was with a friend who was a Christian when all of the puzzle pieces fit together. She prayed for me and with me after I acknowledged the fact that my efforts to perform and get my act together would never meet God’s expectations of holiness….

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Performance, Death, and Grace in Sing

Performance, Death, and Grace in Sing

Buster Moon desperately wants to save his theater… and himself. When he was a young koala, his parents took him to see a stage production in which a sensational Suffolk sheep named Nana Noodleman (voiced by Jennifer Hudson) sang about ‘finding a way home’ and ‘carrying a weight’ as she gracefully performed an operatic rendition of the Beatles’ Golden Slumber. That moment convinced him that the theater would not only become his career aspiration, but his very identity and legacy in the world. Sing, directed by Garth Jennings and starring Matthew McConaughey in the lead role as Buster, aptly demonstrates…

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A Gracious Misdirection: Humor as a Fruit of the Gospel

The following is excerpted from the “Fruits of the Gospel” chapter in Mockingbird’s Law & Gospel: A Theology for Sinners and Saints, available on Amazon or through our own store, here

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If the Gospel is ever experienced for the ridiculous good news that it is, then laughter is soon to follow it. And this is mostly because humor is, in part, an expression of relief. Steve Brown describes it perfectly in his story about a woman who, after years of hiding a moment of infidelity from her husband, suddenly feels the (spontaneous!) need to admit it to him. Though nervous, she decides to do it.

“I saw her the next day, and she looked fifteen years younger. ‘What happened?’ I asked. ‘When I told him,’ she exclaimed, ‘he replied that he had known about the incident for twenty years and was just waiting for me to tell him so he could tell me how much he loved me!’ And then she started to laugh. ‘He forgave me twenty years ago, and I’ve been needlessly carrying all this guilt for all these years!’ Perhaps you are like this woman who had been forgiven and didn’t know it.”[1]

Her laughter is the laughter of the forgiven. It stems from a simultaneous flood of relief (“He forgave me twenty years ago!”) and a corresponding lack of self-seriousness (“How ridiculous that I carried this around for so long?”). A sense of humor comes from the ridiculousness of your happy outcome, and the fact that it had nothing to do with you.

Humor and hyperbole are, then, delicate ministers of God’s good relief. In various ways, either through satire or self-deprecation, humor is a way of uncoupling the truth from its sting. It is a way of including oneself on the wrong side of the righteousness equation. It is a delightful willingness to be wrong, because you can afford to be. It also allows us the privilege of disarming the stings against us, to find humor in things around us that might have offended or wounded us before.

Humor can also be used as a form of gracious misdirection. It is a chance for the forgiven to put on a clown suit in love, for the sake of deflecting another’s judgment. This is precisely what Christ does for the woman caught in adultery, lining out a distracting drawing in the sand for her team of accusers (Jn 8:6). If we are so lucky, we experience the same willingness to play the fool, to feel the great pricelessness of God’s wonderful gift, and thus to ham it up at no cost to anyone.

In the realm of the Law, we must keep face. In the realm of the Gospel, we can laugh at our own faces in the mirror. In the realm of the Law, we must tediously craft emails with the right balance of seriousness and brevity. In the realm of the Gospel, we’re free to say precisely the ridiculous thing that comes to mind, without fear of what brand of trouble our words may bring. While the Law incites us to point our fingers at others in blame, the Gospel provokes us to return the pointing finger back to our chest, and shrug our shoulders, and laugh at the absurdity.[2]

[1] “The Laughter of God,” When Being Good Isn’t Good Enough (Keylife, 2014).

[2] Surely humor is part of what is meant by the meaning of pure love “casting out fear” (1 Jn 4:18). When we are out of the realm of fear, we are into the realm where self-ridicule is easy.

Buy your copy of Law & Gospel here!

Bad People in The Good Place

In case you missed it during the Olympics, NBC will have a new Thursday night sitcom this fall: The Good Place (I went to high school with Michael Schur!). It’s about an abominable woman (Kristin Bell), who, by some cosmic error, ends up in Heaven.

Not surprisingly, the show appears (admittedly from the 2-minute trailer) to propagate the notion that good people go to the “good place” and bad people go to the “bad place” (although I hold out hope that the creator of Parks & Rec and Brooklyn Nine-Nine will be a bit more insightful). Of course, this is the Law, not the Gospel. It is Karma, not Grace. In contrast, the New Testament affirms that the only Good Person went to the bad place so that bad people could go to the good place.

The Short-Term Memory of God: The Gospel According to Finding Dory

The Short-Term Memory of God: The Gospel According to Finding Dory

Finding Dory–Pixar’s latest box office smash–picks up where Finding Nemo left off, a year after that rebellious little clownfish was found and rescued from the dentist’s tank in Sydney, Australia. Nemo’s friend, Dory, a ‘natural blue’ who suffers from short-term memory loss, isn’t adjusting well to daily life in the Great Barrier Reef–she repeatedly stings herself swimming into the sea anemone and regularly disrupts Nemo’s class, and although she has found a place to call home, her memory loss continues to affect her and everyone around her, every moment. In some ways, it consumes her identity so completely that it becomes her.

The…

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Falling from Law

Falling from Law

This one was written by our fallen friend, Julian Brooks.

A few years back I was blindsided by the Gospel of Grace. Things I had heard for years about God’s love and forgiveness started to take on flesh and become more than just recited truths; they became a living person. And that’s when the downward spiral began. I started falling away. Everyone warned me this would happen if I focused too much on God’s love and forgiveness. I just didn’t expect it to happen so fast. The world of control and manipulation around which I had built my life and identity was…

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A Law & Gospel Study Guide!

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For all you sinners (and saints) who can’t get enough of Mockingbird’s soon-to-be classic Law & Gospel, we offer up this free downloadable companion, written by Bryan Jarrell and developed in consultation with the book’s authors. Broken up into six easily digestible lessons, this guide was conceived as an aid in small group discussions and large group teaching series. But it’s also well-suited for individuals seeking deeper interaction with the material.

Find the Law & Gospel study guide here.

The study guide also includes leader’s notes, with additional questions, tips and ideas, to help facilitate discussions.

Find the Law & Gospel leader’s notes here.

And, for additional resources on L&G, check out St. Francis of the Fields’ recordings of their Law & Gospel reading group here.

Another Week Ends: Kanye, Mavis, Scalia, Narcissism, Cancer, and A Saintly Smackdown

Another Week Ends: Kanye, Mavis, Scalia, Narcissism, Cancer, and A Saintly Smackdown

Click here to listen to the accompanying episode of The Mockingcast, which features, among other things, Jacob Smith discussing “A Lenten Theology of the Cross”. 

1. Following the release of Kanye’s new album, The Life of Pablo, which dropped on Valentine’s Day, but which is only available on Tidal, many of us find ourselves once again captivated by Yeezus, one of modernity’s greatest cultural antinomians: In his life, Kanye West has broken so many cultural little-l laws (from portraying himself as Jesus on the cover of Rolling Stone to making such a public spectacle as to get name-called by the POTUS)…

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The Gift That Never Stops Giving

The Gift That Never Stops Giving

A seasonally appropriate excerpt from Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints):

There is no more subversive song than “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” But it’s not subversive for the reasons that religious people usually take issue with Santa, when they lament the commercialization and ‘secularization’ disguised in the detour from Bethlehem to the North Pole. No, that holiday classic is so subversive on account of how effectively it sabotages the beating heart of Christmas, which has to do with giving.

We tell children that Santa Claus comes down the chimney to deliver them presents. To shower them with…

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What About Antinomianism?

What About Antinomianism?

The second appendix to our Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints) book addresses a popular (religious) objection to its contents:

There’s an accusation which sometimes gets leveled against those who stress Christian freedom and forgiveness in lieu of behavior-modification, and who downplay ‘spiritual progress’ as a burdensome distraction from the indiscriminate compassion of grace. The charge is that such people denigrate God’s law, or cast it as ‘bad.’ The formal name for this charge is ‘antinomianism’ (anti=against, nomos=law). The common picture of the antinomian is someone who thinks that, because of Christ’s forgiveness, they can (and will) do…

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Good News in Tayeb Salih's The Wedding of Zein

Good News in Tayeb Salih’s The Wedding of Zein

If you’re currently looking for a good, semi-short work of fiction, I’d recommend The Wedding of Zein by acclaimed Sudanese writer, Tayeb Salih. With a light-hearted spirit reflective of oral tradition, this novella packs some unexpected punches even from the beginning.

The story opens with news spreading person-to-person that the village idiot, Zein, is getting married. The first few scenes are fantastic, both for their folklorish tone but also for their comic illustration of what happens when good news comes to town.

At noon the courtyard of the Intermediate School was quiet and deserted, the students having gone to their classes. From…

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