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Posts tagged "Grace in Practice"


From the Archives: Law and Grace in the Competition of Marriage

As with most of the provocative second half of Paul Zahl’s Grace in Practice, the following excerpt goes well beyond abstractions and gets uncomfortably close to the bone–in the best possible way. The language here has to do with marriage, but you could easily substitute a variety of other relational contexts: Men and women encounter a […]

From Grace in Practice: The Problem with Christianity

Here’s another excerpt from Paul Zahl’s Grace in Practice, from pages 36-38, in the sections entitled “What is Grace?” and “Grace in the New Testament.”

otis-redding-try-a-little-tend-290448In 1965 Joe Meek produced a would-be pop single that was sung by Bobby Rio and The Revelles and was entitled “Value for Love.” It was a great tune, but, like almost everything Joe Meek produced, it only grazed the Top Thirty. The lyrics were wildly false. The singer keeps telling the girl she should go for him because he is “good value for love.” He is “worth” her falling for him. Sure, Bobby Rio! That line never works. It never will. It is all weights and measures. Grace is one-way love.

The one-way love of grace is the essence of any lasting transformation that takes place in human experience. You can find this out for yourself by taking a simple inventory of your own happiness, or the moments of happiness you have had. They have almost always had to do with some incident of love or belatedness that has come to you from someone outside yourself when you were down. You felt ugly or sinking in confidence, and somebody complimented you, or helped you, or spoke a kind word to you. You were at the end of your rope and someone showed a little sympathy. This is the message of Otis Redding’s immortal 1962 song, “Try a Little Tenderness.” […]

One-way love is the change agent in everyday life because it speaks in a voice completely different from the voice of the law. It has nothing to do with its receiver’s characteristics. Its logic is hidden within the intention of its source. Theologically speaking, we can say it is the prime directive of God to love the world in no relation to the world’s fitness to be loved. Speaking in terms of Christian theology, God loves the world in a kind of reverse relationship to its moral unfitness. “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

In the dimension of grace, one-way love is inscrutable or irrational not only because it is out of relation with any intrinsic circumstances on the part of the receiver. One-way love is also irrational because it reaches out to the specifically undeserving person. This is the beating heart of it. Grace is directed toward what the Scripture calls “the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). Not just the lonely, not just the sick and disconsolate, but the “perpetrators,” the murderers and abusers, the people who cross the line. God has a heart — his one-way love — for sinners. This is the problem with Christianity. This piece of logical and ethical incongruity and inappropriateness is the problem with Christianity.

From Grace in Practice: “Grace in Everyday Life”

The following is an excerpt from pages 73-76 of Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life by Paul F. M. Zahl. Soak it up! Grace has the power of the mallet. Every other prong and heavy-lifting device that seeks to change people is an expression of law and accomplishes the opposite of what it […]

Check, Please!

Being a college student means asking for separate checks at restaurants. Generally, my friends and I wait until the end of the meal to say, “Oh yea, could you split those up by the way? Yeah that’d be great, thanks,” as if it was an afterthought and the waiter/waitress had no idea what was coming […]

Political Age Gaps and Grace in Cooking in My Grandmother’s Ravioli

The Pew Research Center recently released a study that showed results of something that I think we all have known anecdotally for a while: there is a significant and seemingly growing age gap between the two political poles in America. The study shows that the youngest generation, Millenials (18-33 years old in 2014), are increasingly […]

Another Week Ends: Exotic Magi, Histories of Christmas, More Elves on Shelves, Rand Reviews Children’s Movies, and More Messes of Help

Housekeeping thing: a few copies of A Mess of Help sent out had lots of 5s in their tables of contents. Let us know if you got one of those, and we’ll send a new one. 1. As we’re getting into the Christmas spirit, The Economist makes a surprising contribution with a survey of the Magi’s reception history. […]

Ray Rice and the Perils of Relative Righteousness

This Ray Rice saga doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and it just keeps getting more interesting. Just yesterday (Friday September 19th) ESPN’s Outside the Lines released a report of the long, detailed timeline of events from the original incident right up until Roger Goodell’s press conference yesterday. It’s a fascinating account of the NFL’s […]

Another Week Ends: Grand Theft Auto, Angry Net Users, One Way Love, Self-Helpy Great Books, Anti-Altruistic Kickstarters, and More Breaking Bad

1. For starters, Grand Theft Auto V is out! (If you need a strong case for dabbling in it, go here). Kill Screen posted a doozie of a review, provocatively titled, “Grand Theft Auto 5 channels the violent, lonely minds of men, especially mine“, ht SZ: I shudder with recognition… at the bleeding edge of reality […]

Healthy Hearts, Smoldering Resentments, and the Starting Point of Compassion

Given the popularity of the section we posted from Paul Zahl’s Grace in Practice a few weeks ago on Competition in Marriage, here’s one that’s bound to be a little less popular… 😉 It can be found under the rather unsexy heading of “The Relation of the Un-Free Will to Compassion”–and yet it is one […]

Law and Grace in the Competition of Marriage

Hard to believe we’ve never posted this section from Paul Zahl’s Grace in Practice before. As with most of the provocative second half of that book, it goes well beyond abstractions and gets uncomfortably close to the bone–in the best possible way. The language here has to do with marriage, but you could easily substitute […]

Another Week Ends: Book Cover Identities, Soul Toupées, Profumo’s Turn, More Superheroes, and Grace in Practice

1. Tim Kreider strikes again! Over at The New Yorker, he doubts whether people should ever design their own book cover. As good as some of Malcolm Gladwell’s material can be, his covers are the gold standard in marketing and catering to expectations. See, for instance, the Malcolm Gladwell Book Generator, and you’ll see what he means […]

Moral Failures, Half-Way Love, and the Wonder of Imputation

Heidelberg Catechism (1563) Question 60: How are you righteous before God? Only by true faith in Jesus Christ: that is, although my conscience accuses me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil; yet God, without any […]