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    David Bentley Hart, on Grace Beyond Supply and Demand

    An excerpt from David Bentley Hart’s provocative new book, That All Shall Be Saved. As this chapter’s title suggested, he’s “Doubting the Answers,” and he’s giving us something to think about:

    … for Christian thought in general, the question of one’s just deserts before God is irrelevant—as it was, for instance, for the woman taken in adultery. If what the New Testament says about God is true, then it is God’s will not to repay us according to our merits, but simply to claim for himself those of his creatures who had been lost in slavery to death. I remain convinced that no one, logically speaking, could merit eternal punishment; but I also accept the obverse claim that no one could merit grace. This does not mean, however, that grace must be rare in order to be truly gracious, as so many in the infernalist party so casually assume it must. Grace universally given is still grace. A gift made to everyone is no less a gift, and a gift this is intrinsically precious need not be rare to be an act of the highest generosity. Conversely, that gift becomes no more precious—indeed, it becomes much less so—if it is certified in its value by being distributed only parsimoniously. Our very existence is an unmerited gift, after all (unless, of course, there really is an eternal hell, in which case it is also, and perhaps preponderantly, an unmerited brutality). More to the point, if Paul is right, then—whereas natural justice is wholly concerned with matters of law and proportional consequences—the supernatural justice revealed in Christ consists in God’s victory over all the powers that separate his creation from him, and to that degree is as “unjust” as any other act of wholly unmerited mercy is. (52)

    Sarah Coakley, Against “Sweaty Pelagianism”

    Why are we talking so much about bodies? Not just Christians, but everyone. Whether it’s our devotion to workouts and dieting, our “gender trouble” and overwrought attempts at sexual ethics, our reproductive anxieties, our reckoning with racial histories, our climate emergency, or some other perplexity, the fleshiness of our lives stands front and center in […]

    The “Insane Refusal to Accept Help” – Kierkegaard and the Demoniac

    What episode from the Gospels fascinates you? For John Kaag, it’s the Gerasene Demoniac. Even now, after leaving his churchy childhood and growing up into an agnostic professor of philosophy, that story still holds his focus. Apparently it’s grabbed Mockingbird’s attention, too, since the story has appeared a couple of times here on the site. […]

    Dickinson on Labor Day

    I tie my Hat—I crease my Shawl—
    Life’s little duties do—precisely—
    As the very least
    Were infinite—to me—

    I put new Blossoms in the Glass—
    And throw the old—away—
    I push a petal from my gown
    That anchored there—I weigh
    The time ’twill be till six o’clock
    I have so much to do—
    And yet—Existence—some way back—
    Stopped—struck—my ticking—through—
    We cannot put Ourself away
    As a completed Man
    Or Woman—When the Errand’s done
    We came to Flesh—upon—
    There may be—Miles on Miles of Nought—
    Of Action—sicker far—
    To simulate—is stinging work—
    To cover what we are
    From Science—and from Surgery—
    Too Telescopic Eyes
    To bear on us unshaded—
    For their—sake—not for Ours—
    Twould start them—
    We—could tremble—
    But since we got a Bomb—
    And held it in our Bosom—
    Nay—Hold it—it is calm—

    Therefore—we do life’s labor—
    Though life’s Reward—be done—
    With scrupulous exactness—
    To hold our Senses—on—

    (#522, Franklin Variorum 1998)

    Merton, Depression, and Therapy

    I’m an individualist who protects himself with information. That’s what the Enneagram tells me, or what my friends who’ve studied it tell me it tells me. I used to resent personality tests—you can’t put me in a box!—but then the personality test explained why I resented them in the first place—because I want to be […]

    This is How 30 Preschoolers and a Friend Helped Me Through a Crush and an Existential Crisis

    Ruby slouched in a corner, bottom lip bulging. The droves of other 2- to 7-year-olds ignored her, since a distressed child was more common than a calm one. I hesitated to speak, anticipating the melodrama that was about to erupt. Then it began: Me: Ruby, what’s wrong? Ruby: I want that toy. M: What toy? […]

    Who Wrote Gullible on the Ceiling? On Mesmerism, Debunking, and Belief

    On a blog like this one, we think about belief a lot. Belief as a comfort, as a maker of meaning, as a fragile gift, as an absence. By which we mainly mean belief in the Gospel. Let’s shift focus for a moment to consider this orientation of the mind (and heart) from a slightly […]

    Its Radiant Affliction: #Blessed by Empire, Wounded by God

    On the day when The weight deadens On your shoulders And you stumble, May the clay dance To balance you. (‘Beannacht,’ John O’Donohue) When my grandmother slanders someone, she always follows it with benevolence. “He’s dumb as a rock,” she’ll say, “bless his heart.” “She ain’t worth a plugged nickel, bless her heart.” I think […]

    For Walt So Loved the World

    In honor of WW’s 200th birthday, here’s this. I celebrate myself, and sing myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. (1-3) Whitman is my favorite narcissist. His poetry overflows with ego, but instead of being stuffy, his poetic self is so all-embracing, so […]

    Son of Cloud and Being Not-Alone

    Musicians use funny names, sometimes with little rationale. Jonathan Seale has a story for his. When his parents were missionaries in Venezuela, members of the Yukpa tribe gave him the name “Son of Cloud.” Now as an adult, he’s embraced it in his self-titled first album. Seale has been producing for a number of years, […]

    Camp: Notes on Grace

    What does grace look like? If it made a movie or wore a dress, how would you describe it, aesthetically? It might be twee or kitsch, since the Gospel is such a personal message that, in our self-absorption, we often sentimentalize, then mass-produce. It could be sublime, as the drama of salvation involves the darkest […]

    “Good Friday: No Way Out but Straight Through, Jack” – Vicki Hearne

    “Good Friday: No Way Out but Straight Through, Jack”
    by Vicki Hearne (1946-2001)

    It’s like chance, but chance knocks but
    Won’t open the door, and here’s
    A greater thing than we have
    Ever done (before we learn
    What we are doing). The god
    Will become so resplendent
    With wounds our eyes must dazzle,

    But now our hands hold aloft
    The spears that dance in the light
    From the hillside. Ecstasy,
    Even, should not distract us:
    The flesh must be opened full
    To the light and wait, bleeding
    In welcome. And in welcome

    The elegant wounds will close
    With all of us safe inside.
    But we are not now to know
    With Whom we trifle, not yet
    To ask forgiveness lest we
    Not plunge the gleaming weapons
    Heartily. Grief will give wings

    And song reveal the purple
    Gold, the burnished ground, the flame.


    featured image: Cross with arma Christi, wood cross, Joaquín López Antay, Fowler Museum at UCLA.