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Posts tagged "Luther"

Law and Gospel in Luther and Paul

Law and Gospel in Luther and Paul

A theological tour de force by none other than Charis Hamiltonius:

You may not have heard, but the 500th anniversary of the unofficial start of the Protestant Reformation happened recently. Praise of Luther and his theology took my Twitter feed by storm as every theology nerd weighed in on the merits of Luther and the significance of the Reformation. This post aims to assess one of Luther’s central themes—his theology of Law and Gospel—and the relative value of his reading of Paul. Some find a great deal to appreciate about Luther’s reading of Paul, while others find less textual support.

The…

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Day One of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature (AARSBL)

Day One of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature (AARSBL)

For anyone studying the Bible, theology, or religion, the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature (AARSBL) is the go-to conference to learn about the latest and greatest in current research. Several thousand scholars from all around the world descend upon an unsuspecting city’s conference center and hotels. This year Boston was the site. The AARSBL is the one time that usually introverted academics become social: seeing old friends and renewing professional acquaintances. Paper topics given are as wide as you can imagine, ranging from studies of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas to the controversy over the Luther…

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Another Week Ends: Greenblatt's Eden, Fidget-Spinning, Fake News Biases, Mandatory Euphoria, and A Horse Named Grace

Another Week Ends: Greenblatt’s Eden, Fidget-Spinning, Fake News Biases, Mandatory Euphoria, and A Horse Named Grace

1. Well, you just can’t make this up. An urban cowboy riding through the gang-ridden streets of Fresno, California, preaching the gospel of Jesus? On a horse named Grace? Aeon covered the story here, with a video. This below is not the full video, but you’ll get the picture. Totally cool.

2. Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt is working on a new book project about the legacy of Adam and Eve, which led to his New Yorker piece this week on Augustine, a less-than-judicious reading of the man he claims “invented sex” (and sex as sin) to the literary world. Greenblatt argues…

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Flipping Rest into Work, Grace into Law

Flipping Rest into Work, Grace into Law

This post comes to us from Samuel Son.

Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand. Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath. – Mark 3:1-2 (New Living Translation)

No story gets me more steamed than this one of the Pharisees salivating because Jesus is about to heal a man on the Sabbath; it gives them the ammunition to finally “nail” Jesus with a Sabbath infraction, a serious charge. Jesus knows they are springing…

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From the Archives - Coping with Our Failure to Be Happy: Moral Palliatives vs Repentance

From the Archives – Coping with Our Failure to Be Happy: Moral Palliatives vs Repentance

Well, we’re probably nearing our yearly limit for writing about anxiety, but great articles on the subject have been irrepressible. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that our increasing need to self-actualize, and increasing avenues for doing so, is a root behind the contemporary epidemic of nerves that had 1 in 5 American adults on anti-anxiety or antidepressant meds in 2011, numbers which have presumably risen since. An organization called the ADAA (anxiety and depression, etc) reported that almost one-third of the nation’s health bill is caused by anxiety disorders. You could reasonably ask to vet the numbers there, but even…

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Another Week Ends: Bad Luck, Egyptian Daggers from Outer Space, Piety Vacuums, The Golden Calf of College, Eulogy-Virtues, Spiritual Shins, and Baptist Justice

Another Week Ends: Bad Luck, Egyptian Daggers from Outer Space, Piety Vacuums, The Golden Calf of College, Eulogy-Virtues, Spiritual Shins, and Baptist Justice

Click here to listen to this week’s episode of The Mockingcast, which features an interview with author and film critic Alissa Wilkinson.

1. This week New York Magazine covered the fascinating tug-of-war between meritocracy and luck in modern culture. Entitled, “Why Americans Ignore the Role of Luck in Everything,” the article discusses the inflammatory remarks of Robert Frank, an economist at Cornell, who said that luck plays a more important role in success than we like to think.

The article explores what luck is and why we tend to react so negatively to any serious mention of it. First of all, because we don’t know…

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From a Beggar Across the Atlantic

From a Beggar Across the Atlantic

This post was written by our Mockingfriend Anna Nott. 

I’ve been listening to The Barr Brothers lately, a folk quartet from Montreal. They consist of harpist Sarah Page, pianist/composer Andres Vial, and the [actual] Barr brothers: drummer/producer Andrew, and guitarist/singer Brad. They have this song, “Beggar In the Morning,” which starts with:

Steady woman won’t you come on down
I need you right here on the ground.
I’ve walked the outskirts of this town
been terrorized by what I’ve found.

As with most well-written (read: ambiguous) lyrics, these words are relatable, speaking in particular to the five months (so far) that I’ve spent living in Besançon,…

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Some Things Can't Be Solved: The Formation of the New Detective

Some Things Can’t Be Solved: The Formation of the New Detective

They all think any minute I’m going to commit suicide. What a joke. The truth of course is the exact opposite: suicide is the only thing that keeps me alive. Whenever everything else fails, all I have to do is consider suicide and in two seconds I’m as cheerful as a nitwit. But if I could not kill myself–ah then, I would. I can do without nembutal or murder mysteries but not without suicide. – Walker Percy, The Moviegoer

The detective narrative has evolved drastically since Doyle’s unflinching genius, Sherlock Holmes, and his uncanny ability to solve the most baffling crimes with little…

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From the Forgiveness Issue: 11 Special Portraits of Forgiveness in Film

From the Forgiveness Issue: 11 Special Portraits of Forgiveness in Film

This list, from the Rev. JAZ, is our first free peek at our summer issue. If you’d like to order a copy, check them out here. 

Les Miserables In any version, this is the gold standard. You know the scene: Jean Valjean steals the Bishop’s silver in the middle of the night. When the police bring him back to the Bishop’s house to answer for his stash, the Bishop adds two silver candlesticks to the bag full of stolen property, and then dismisses the police. “Today I bought your soul.”

The September Issue (2009) A fine documentary about the ins and outs…

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When John Locke Turned Gospel Into Law

When John Locke Turned Gospel Into Law

It’s no secret that here at Mockingbird we like to talk about how the themes of Law and Grace play out in everyday life, so much, in fact, that there’s now a Mockingbird publication which bears its namesake.

When we say “law”, we tend to mean that the posture of the self in some way fails to be truly at rest. As the Glossary puts it,

In practice… the requirement of perfect submission to the commandments of God is exactly the same as the requirement of perfect submission to the innumerable drives for perfection that drive everyday people’s crippled and crippling lives…

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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).”

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!