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Posts tagged "Low Anthropology"

We're All Right? Phil Harvey Spector, “Sign of the Times”, and the Horror of Pop

We’re All Right? Phil Harvey Spector, “Sign of the Times”, and the Horror of Pop

The following was written by our friend, Rachel Gaffin. A version of this article was originally published in The Ruckus last September.

The year my brother Richard discovered rock and roll, his Christmas gifts shared a common theme: one uncle bought him a giant red Visual Dictionary of Rock and Roll; another bought him a set of AC/DC boxers. At the time a wide-eyed ten-year-old, I watched my brother the way he watched videos of Hendrix wailing out “The Star-Spangled Banner” in ’69: with reverence and a burning desire to imitate. Since the boxers weren’t exactly accessible, I turned instead to the…

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Consider the Grasshopper

Consider the Grasshopper

There are more than 11,000 species of grasshopper. The Acrididae family comprises about 10,000 of those species, accounting for nearly all grasshoppers in the United States. They’re harmless creatures, really. Plant-eaters, the lot of them, and many produce a gentle, familiar sound by rubbing the ridges of their hind legs against the edges of their forewings. They come in different shapes and sizes, and the color schemes on different species range from bland to beautiful.

Locusts, on the other hand, are not so meek. In fact, they exhibit terrible hostility and wreak legendary devastation. Often, where they go, famine and death…

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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!

Low Anthropology Is My Love Language

Low Anthropology Is My Love Language

Often, when I try to explain what Mockingbird is I am faced with the daunting task of articulating a “low anthropology”. That is, an unflattering view of humanity. People accuse me of being negative or of losing sight of the fact that human beings are “mostly good.” So I pause and consider their opinions. And then I start to judge them for having those opinions. “How naïve” I say to myself. Then I realize I’m sinning in the middle of a theological discussion. Which brings me back to square one: low anthropology it is.

Recently, I met a lovely person who…

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The Dodgers Went Swimming (and We Would Too)

The Dodgers Went Swimming (and We Would Too)

Major league baseball, perhaps more other professional sports, has intricacies that are taken very seriously. This manifested itself last week, when various Los Angeles Dodgers players began to celebrate their win against the Arizona Diamondbacks by jumping into the pool at Chase Field, home of the D-Backs. The Dodgers’ victory over the Diamondbacks clinched the NL West, which is a feat worth celebrating, for sure.

There has been lots of talk about the Dodgers’ celebratory actions, of course, most of which seeks to answer the question as to whether or not it’s worth getting upset over, or is it just not worth all…

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Need Self-Improvement? Just Read the Signs!

Need Self-Improvement? Just Read the Signs!

It’s pretty common here at Mockingbird to find a sympathetic review of recent findings from the worlds of sociology and psychology. There’s often a lot to like as these fields frequently help to illuminate somewhat obtuse theological concepts like the problem of the law and the bound will. But this compatibility between theology and the social sciences is self-selected, meaning there’s a great deal out there that isn’t worth reading. A recent article on Wired by Thomas Goetz highlighting the value of immediate feedback is a prime example of this latter category. It’s a well argued article and the…

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Low Anthropology According to John Darnielle

One of my favorite bands, The Mountain Goats, has gotten a lot of love from Mockingbird in the past; John Darnielle has a way of expressing low anthropology like few other songwriters that I listen to. His songs about dysfunctional couples are particularly good, in my opinion, and while “No Children” is a fan favorite (and for good reason), I personally really love the less celebrated “Fault Lines” off of 2002’s All Hail West Texas (as an unrelated sidenote, the disc itself is blank except for the irreverant/amusing: “Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess: West Texas! West…

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Does Being Sad, Or Complaining, Make You Smarter?

Does Being Sad, Or Complaining, Make You Smarter?

I saw this last night over on Marginal Revolution – a financial blog I read from time to time and thought I’d post it. Made me think about the book On Being a Theologian of the Cross. One of the complaints I often hear when talking about a “Low Anthropology” or expecting people to behave in selfish and self-seeking ways (as our default) vs. assuming that people are inherently “good” is that I’m too pessimistic. Granted my hope is in something much greater, more real and more hopeful than “ethics,” but how it often plays out on the ground (particularly…

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Fear

Fear

It is not hard to recognize the reality of fear in our world today. Just watching the stock market on a daily basis attests to the environment of fear in which we live. People are scared that they might lose their jobs, their homes, their retirement, and so on.

The worst thing about fear is the fact that it is self-perpetuating; it has a snowball effect. Once fear gets rolling in an economy, or a community, or in your own mind it is impossible to stop. Before you know it you are overcome and it…

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