1. Hopefully you got a chance to read our recent e-newslettter. We made a number of announcements about upcoming events and projects, including our next Spring Conference in NYC, which will happen from April 19-21, 2012, and at which none other than Michael Horton has agreed to be our keynote speaker! Needless to say, we are super excited. For those of you unfamiliar with Dr. Horton, our friend Tullian Tchividjian has posted a superb four-part interview with him over at The Gospel Coalition, in which the distinction between the Law and the Gospel is hashed out at considerable length, among other things. Their entire discussion is very much worth reading, especially for those of you that are theologically inclined. Some of my favorite quotes came in part three:

Tullian: I once heard a preacher say that the law sends us to Christ for justification and then Christ sends us back to the law for sanctification. This seems to indicate a law-gospel-law paradigm. Thoughts?

Horton: …The danger of law-gospel-law, though, is that it can turn the gospel into a means to a supposedly greater end. The gospel becomes a brief rest stop where God is good, Christ is sufficient, justification is complete, and then we leave it behind on our steep ascent of sanctification. The gospel always has the last word over a believer. Always.

Tullian: The other day I quoted Tim Keller who said that some people claim that to constantly be striking a ‘note of grace, grace, grace’ in our sermons is not helpful in our culture today because legalism is not the problem, license is. But Keller points out that unless you critique moralism, many irreligious people won’t know the difference between moralism and what you’re offering…

Horton: Again, I’m not sure that the problem is either legalism or license: those are categories of a largely Christian culture, that thinks in theological categories. Our default setting is always legalism: the assertion of our own goodness. However, the reference point in our world today is no longer God, much less heaven or hell. It’s the “heaven” of personal peace and affluence and the “hell” of meaningless nihilism. “Legalism” in our culture today often takes the secular form of climbing the corporate ladder while trying to raise a family and own three homes, with anxiety about which call to return and which song to download.

Speaking of high-quality, grace-centered interviews, as far as I can tell, the one we posted with Robert Farrar Capon this morning is his first since the brilliant one he did with Tim Brassell in 2004. If you’ve never read it, run don’t walk (and inwardly digest).

2. A provocative piece appeared this past week on the CNN Belief Blog by Marya Hornbacher entitled, “My Faithlessness: The Athiest Way Through Alcoholics Anonymous.” There’s a lot to take issue with, but her conclusion is striking, ht MB&DM:

Like anything else, I came into being by the chance, consist mostly of water, am composed of cells that can be reduced and reduced, down to the quarks and leptons and so forth, that make up matter and force. If you broke down all matter, the atom or my body, you’d arrive at the same thing: what scientists call one strange quark, with its half-integer spin.

And I find that not only fascinating but wondrous, awe-inspiring and humbling.

I believe that the most important spiritual principle of AA is humility. The recognition that we are flawed, that we can and must change and that our purpose not only in sobriety but in life is to be of service to others.

3. On the social science tip, a new study show that, allegedly, “One in 25 Business Leaders May Be a Psychopath,” ht TB.

4. The New York Review of Ideas posted a great piece on the religion of Oprah Winfrey, “O Sister, What Art Thou?.” They take Kathryn Lofton’s book Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon,” which we’ve referenced before, as their primary jumping-off point.

5. An interesting article by Bill Simmons on Grantland comparing perceptions of success in Hollywood vs. professional sports. The urge to assess is a human constant, but its rigor apparently varies depending on sort of data that’s available. One never really knows where one stands in the movie biz – its “law” is slippery and amorphous – as opposed to the major leagues, which is more cut-and-dry, and therefore less oppressive, ht EKR.

6. On a rather serious note, Denville, NJ, home of our very own Nick Lannon, was one of the towns most devastated by Hurricane Irene, with more and more reports coming in of destroyed homes and flooded businesses. If you’d like to help with the relief effort, send a contribution to “Township of Denville Social Services” (more info here). Alternatively, you could also send a check to Nick’s church, The Church of the Savior, and they can disperse it.

7. In pop culture, as if the Star Wars fans out there haven’t suffered enough in recent years, it appears that George Lucas has made a few more “updates” for the Blu-Ray release of the series… The A/V Club upped the ante by highlighting a statement Lucas made before Congress in 1988 that has to be seen to be believed.

8. In music, The Beach Boys announced the tracklist to the Smile Sessions box, due Nov 1st, i.e. exactly 60 days (and counting) from today.

9. Finally, in television, a quick recommendation for those of you who’re still recuperating from the initially-promising-but-ulimately-ridiculous first season of The Killing: The BBC crime series Luther (sadly no relation!), starring Idris Elba AKA Stringer Bell, is streaming on Netflix and it’s a white-knuckle experience to say the least, ht CB. Not for the squeamish – serial killer storylines abound – but the show achieves the moral complexity and multi-dimensional characters that The Killing was going for, minus the tedium and distracting plotholes. Elba’s John Luther is an instant addition to the canon of great TV detectives, a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Jack Bauer and, yes, Jimmy McNulty.

BONUS TRACK: I’ve been listening to Pete Townshend’s amazing Lifehouse demos all week. If you’ve never heard the original “Teenage Wasteland” (not “Baba O’Riley”), here’s your chance. Bear in mind that it was conceived as the opening of an enormous Logan’s Run-like sci-fi rock opera film. The first video is his 1970 demo, which I prefer, and the second is a performance from way back in Y2K: