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Posts tagged "Reformation"


No, Actually, I Don’t Work Out: Good News for Unwilling Hearts (A DC Conference Preview)

I don’t have any acquired tastes. I don’t drink coffee, or smoke a pipe, or do anything else that I didn’t like the first time. And no, actually, I don’t work out, either. I used to think that I was just weak…but now I’ve realized that while I am weak, I’m not just weak. I am also human.

Thomas Cranmer, the English Reformer and first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury, knew a lot about this connection between weakness and humanity. When he was formulating the theological expressions of the post-Reformational church in England, he realized that the old way—which, of course, remains the predominant way—of thinking about the human person was completely backward and insufficient to explain the struggles of real life.

So, as a good reformer might, he reformed it.

I’m so looking forward to Mockingbird’s Washington DC conference at the end of this month (Oct 27-28), celebrating 500 years of grace, the anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. My talk is entitled “No Actually, I Don’t Work Out: Good News for Unwilling Hearts” and in it, I’ll attempt to translate the Reformation insight about the human person—that we are way more bound and twisted than we ever thought we were—into Good News for sinful people 500 years later. To do it, I’ll talk about a couple of episodes from the life of the Apostle Peter, discuss the (very real) Crotchety Associate Rector Syndrome, lament the fact that gyms have mirrored walls, fix WWJD bracelets, and confess weakness in the face of Oreos and General Tso’s Chicken. Through all that—and the Reformational lens—a portrait will appear: a savior God who came to Earth, not waiting for the weak to become strong or for the sinners to become saints…a Christ who came to set the captives free.

Click here to register for our Fall Conference in DC on October 27-28—you won’t want to miss it!

Pobody’s Nerfect: On Performance Anxiety and (Not) Giving Advice from the Pulpit

With both the Reformation’s quincentennial kickoff and our DC conference mere weeks away, we’ve put our feelers out for all things smacking of the reason for the season, that “harsh doctor,” Martin Luther. Today we were pleased to find just that from our friend Phillip Cary, who is featured in the latest issue of First Things. Below I’ve re-posted a handful of memorable excerpts from his piece “Luther at 500” (ht RS):

The great pastoral aim of Luther’s doctrine of justification is to free us from the kind of performance anxiety that arises whenever our salvation depends in any way on us, our hearts, our will, or our doings. For anything we do is something about which we can ask, “Am I doing it well enough?” And for Luther the answer is always “not well enough to save you from damnation.” No act of our free will, and hence no decision of ours, is an exception to this rule…

How we have always been justified by faith alone is best seen in light of Luther’s distinction between law and Gospel. Both the law of God and the Gospel of Christ are God’s word, but the former only gives us instructions while the latter gives us Christ. For the law tells us what to do, but the Gospel tells us what Christ does. The distinction grows out of Augustine’s insistence, in his great treatise On the Spirit and the Letter, that telling us to obey the law of love does not help us do it from the depths of our hearts; only the grace of Christ can give us such a heart. Luther merely adds: The place to find the grace of Christ is in the Gospel of Christ.

A great many preachers, Protestant as well as Catholic, overlook the distinction between law and Gospel, thinking they can change people’s lives by giving them practical advice—as if telling them how to be inwardly transformed could help them do it. Augustine already knew better. Luther’s addition to Augustine’s insight is merely the glad recognition that there is indeed something preachers can do to help us be transformed: Instead of advice, they can give us Christ.

Catch more of this gospel-centered good news with Mocking-friends from all over on October 27-29 in Washington, DC. You can register for the conference here—hope to see you soon!

Is There Any Comfort? Remembering the Reformation 500 Years Later

Is There Any Comfort? Remembering the Reformation 500 Years Later

We are now less than a month out from our upcoming conference in D.C.! Come celebrate 500 years of grace with us, October 27-29—you can register here.

With the Reformation on the brain, here is a fantastic piece written by our friend, Jonathan A. Linebaugh.

In 1519, Thomas Bilney sat in a small Cambridge college with a book in his hands. It had been two years since a German monk named Martin Luther was said to have nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the church door in Wittenberg—hammer blows that were later remembered as the start of the Reformation and were rumored to have shaken…

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We Are All Henry VIII, or, Why the Reformation Is More Than Rome

We Are All Henry VIII, or, Why the Reformation Is More Than Rome

The following comes to us from Cal Parks and is based upon material found in John Schofield’s Philip Melanchthon and the English Reformation (75-77).

This year is the 500th anniversary of the so-called beginning of the Reformation, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church. While a rather common and innocuous act (this was a way of inviting scholarly debate), it hit at a truly critical moment in European affairs, both spiritual and temporal. This event has become immortalized as a myth, and as a historian by trade, I tend to scoff at such reductions and over-simplifications…

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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!”

A Reformational History of the English Reformation, Part 1

A Reformational History of the English Reformation, Part 1

In eager anticipation of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation (not to happen, incidentally, for another five years), we’re doing a short, slightly speculative series on a Reformational history of the English Reformation. It also doubles as a book review of Hilary Mantel’s fantastic, Booker-winning Wolf Hall, the source for a fair amount of the detail here:

King Henry the VIII had earned the title “Defender of the Faith” for his jeremiads against the burgeoning Lutheran movement in central Europe. God-fearing in a quite literal way, it seems he valued theology highly, was constantly nervous about the threat of divine…

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Another Year Ends: Xmas Wars, Twitter Blues, Reznor's Recovery, Hume's Legacy, Bad Seeds, Scrooge Syndrome, and Mbird Subscriptions

Another Year Ends: Xmas Wars, Twitter Blues, Reznor’s Recovery, Hume’s Legacy, Bad Seeds, Scrooge Syndrome, and Mbird Subscriptions

1. You can’t blame Matt Zencey for trying to put the “war on Christmas” in perspective over at The Huffington Post, recalling the 18th century Puritan campaign against the holiday. While contextually more than a little glib – apples and oranges and all that (our cultural conflict has two equally doctrinaire opponents, theirs had one, and arguments could be made for casting the pilgrims as the corollary to either). Still, the historical details are undeniably interesting:

The Puritans who landed at Plymouth Rock knew how to wage war on Christmas: They banned it. As historian Stephen Nissenbaum documents in his 1997…

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