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Reinhold Niebuhr on Obama, the Recession, and Creative Despair

Reinhold Niebuhr on Obama, the Recession, and Creative Despair

[Ed. note: Be sure to read the comments for the, um, commentary.] “[T]he course of history, particularly in the past two centuries, has proved the earlier identification of growth and progress to be false. We have, or ought to have, learned, particularly from the tragedies of contemporary history, that each new development of life, whether in individual or social terms, presents us with new possibilities of realizing the good in history;…

From Reinhold Niebuhr's Introduction to Christian Ethics

A quick one from Obama’s favorite theologian (ht MS): The moral effectiveness of the religious life thus depends upon deeper resources than moral demands upon the will. Whenever the modern pulpit contents itself with the presentation of these demands, however urgent and fervent, it reveals its enslavement to the rationalistic presuppositions of our era. The law of love is not obeyed simply by being known. Whenever it is obeyed at all, it…

Another Week Ends: Dylan, Niebuhr, Star Trek, Stanley Fish and Green Day

Another Week Ends: Dylan, Niebuhr, Star Trek, Stanley Fish and Green Day

1. Bob Dylan’s new record, Together Through Life, has left me a bit cold, which I’m chalking up to the fact that t he lyrics were written with Robert Hunter (of Grateful Dead fame). But in his recent Rolling Stone interview, the master offered some characteristically profound thoughts on his identity: “I’ve never seen [Martin Scorsese’s No Direction Home documentary]. Well, a lot of that footage was gathered up…

All Pride Contains a Hint of Malice

All Pride Contains a Hint of Malice

A nother heartening excerpt from David Brooks’ new work The Second Mountain. Here the Times columnist turns over the definition of grace with a little help from Martin Luther and Reinhold Niebuhr—but with the heavy-lifting from Anne Snyder, Brooks’ erstwhile research assistant, now wife. I was struggling with the concept of surrender and grace. I didn’t like Martin Luther’s idea that you can’t be saved by works, but only by faith. I…

The Cruelty of Righteous People

The Cruelty of Righteous People

Long, lovely quote from Reinhold Niebuhr’s An Interpretation of Christian Ethics (pp. 138-1390): ============== There is no deeper pathos in the spiritual life of man than the cruelty of righteous people. If any one idea dominates the teachings of Jesus, it is his opposition to the self-righteousness of the righteous. The parable spoken unto “certain which trusted in themselves that they are righteous, and despised others”…

Resurrection & The Grace Of Doing Nothing

Resurrection & The Grace Of Doing Nothing

Towards the end of his first missive to the Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul offers a mini tour-de-force in defense of the veracity of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. For Paul this conviction is central not just to the future hope of the people of God but also to orient the pilgrim life of the faithful in this present broken age. “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the…

Another Week Ends: Reddit Confessionals, Influencing Nick Cave, Deciphering Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Gospel-Centrism, Reinhold Bieber, White People Problems, Bat-Staches and Haidt on Colbert

Another Week Ends: Reddit Confessionals, Influencing Nick Cave, Deciphering Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Gospel-Centrism, Reinhold Bieber, White People Problems, Bat-Staches and Haidt on Colbert

1. Last week I mentioned a recent study exploring the physical impact of keeping secrets, and by implication, the biological necessity of confession (to say nothing of absolution). This week, that study has become manifest in an alarming way. A Reddit thread which asked the question, “What Secret Could Ruin Your Life If It Came Out?” has turned into a stomach-churning tour of the darkest recesses of the human heart and experience,…

Another Week Ends: Brooks on the Subconscious and Failure, DFW Studies, Coldplay, Todd Marinovich, Coptic Drama, and Jail for the 99th Time

Another Week Ends: Brooks on the Subconscious and Failure, DFW Studies, Coldplay, Todd Marinovich, Coptic Drama, and Jail for the 99th Time

1. A fascinating article by David Brooks in The New Yorker about “What the Science of Human Nature Can Teach Us.” Bottomline appears to be that people are not the free agents they think they are, the inner life always trumps the outer, and that the subconscious ultimately calls the most important shots in our lives. Also, we are happiest when we are least self-focused: “…we are not primarily the products of our conscious…

Thesis 10 of The Humility Code (and the Scales of the Universe)

Thesis 10 of The Humility Code (and the Scales of the Universe)

As Bryan alluded to in the most recent weekender, David Brooks’ new book The Road to Character hit shelves last week and has been lighting up our social media feeds, as the NY Times columnist tends to do whenever he gets into less topical territory. While the volume itself makes its way to our mailbox, a couple of reviews and write-ups are too tasty not to mention. Brooks has gone on record to state that, “my book is not a…

Kobe Bryant and Urban Meyer - Two Alpha Males Pass in the Night

Kobe Bryant and Urban Meyer - Two Alpha Males Pass in the Night

Kobe Bryant and Urban Meyer – two guys at the top of their sports professions earlier this century (both leading their teams to multiple championships) – were in the news these past few weeks. Meyer, of course, on Monday night became only the 8th coach in NCAA history with three or more National Championships. This was certainly the most improbable of the three as his Ohio State Buckeyes (behind a 3rd string QB) manhandled Oregon by…

Bible Tuesdays: The Serpent in the Wilderness

Bible Tuesdays: The Serpent in the Wilderness

It’s become fashionable in some Protestant circles to talk about inspiring virtue not through dry rules or frustrated self-discipline, but through a vision of the moral life. ‘Living into the Kingdom’, or looking at a beautiful vision of God’s restoration in the eschaton and ‘mapping backwards’ (see Ethan’s TFA piece in The Mockingbird) to see how we act in light of God’s redemption are ideas and phrases enjoying broad use in American…

Another Week Ends: One Way Love, Lutheran Sounding Anglicans, Hard Working Protestants, Prosperity Soporifics, Game of Thrones, Scientism, Camus Texts, and The Blerch

Another Week Ends: One Way Love, Lutheran Sounding Anglicans, Hard Working Protestants, Prosperity Soporifics, Game of Thrones, Scientism, Camus Texts, and The Blerch

1. Very much still reeling from this morning’s news about our hero Robert Farrar Capon, may he rest in peace. In tribute, Justin Holcomb compiled a wonderful list of quotes over on his superb new site. Of course, if anyone should be counted among Father Capon’s spiritual progeny, it is our dear friend Tullian Tchividjian, who posted some of his favorite Caponisms as well. I have it on good authority that Tullian’s forthcoming…