The way of nature
and the way of grace
“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.”
– Flannery O’Connor.
In the film, Tree of Life, one of Terrence Malick’s characters says in voiceover, “The nuns taught us there are two ways through life, the way of Nature and the way of Grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow.”
But choosing is tough. Even when walking the way of grace you do it right alongside the way of nature.
Jesus referred to that as being in the world, but not of the world. And it’s a specialized balancing act, not one we always get right. At least I don’t.
So my musings here will be about that awkward negotiation between nature and grace, knowing that, as Flannery O’Connor said, we are inclined to resist grace because it hurts to be changed. But in the long run, bottom line, Jesus is king and following the way of grace leads us deeper into the world he’s creating for us.
You probably won’t agree with everything I say, but I’m trying to stimulate a positive, generative conversation. And starting conversations is a good thing, if you ask me. Right?
So join me as I share my thoughts, excerpt my upcoming writing, launch debates and generally rabble-rouse, all in a genuine attempt to figure out what the reign of King Jesus looks like in earthy, real terms, right here, right now.
After a terrorist attack in the West, it’s not uncommon to hear the parents of the attacker reveal how shocked they were to discover their son or daughter had become radicalized via the Internet. Muslim families are regularly counselled to put in place safeguards to...read more
There is a strange contradiction at work in the American evangelical soul. I see it emerge every time there’s a discussion about either gun control or public protest. And as one who has promoted the benefits of strict gun control and who has been involved in my fair...read more
You might have seen various conservative Christian bloggers and websites reporting on Bart Campolo’s recent announcement that progressive Christians are on the road toward atheism. Bart Campolo is a “humanist chaplain” at the University of Southern California, where...read more
Watching One Love, the concert for those affected by the recent terrorist bombing in Manchester, was a strangely quasi-religious experience, and a fascinating insight into the secular rituals that have come to define public mourning in the secular West. Scheduled on a...read more
They’re both Christian footballers and they’re both known for kneeling on the field, although for very different reasons. One grew up the son of Baptist missionaries to the Philippines. The other was baptized Methodist, confirmed Lutheran, and attended a Baptist...read more
Feminists: "A strange sub-strata of women with a peculiar inferiority complex" That isn't a quote from some ignorant, aging Fox News commentator. It's from one of the rising young stars of the conservative movement, writer Daisy Cousens. In this week's edition...read more
When Christ disarmed Peter in the garden, he disarmed all Christians and cursed the works of the sword for ever after. ~ Tertullian I’d never heard of Dave Daubenmire before this week. All I know is he’s a former football coach-turned-evangelist who has gained...read more
Uh-oh, it looks like it’s Jen Hatmaker’s turn. The protectors of orthodoxy appear to have drawn a bead on her as they did on Rachel Held Evans, Rob Bell and Brian McLaren before her. And it’s getting ugly. Not only are they repudiating her views on various issues...read more
In America and Ireland, the touchstone of public outrage about same-sex marriage seems to have been wedding cake bakers. In Australia, perhaps fittingly, its brewers. Recently, an Australian beer company appeared to sponsor a debate between two politicians arguing for...read more
Recently, I’ve been blogging about how to “read” your context, to understand your neighborhood and to join God in what is going on there. I've been exploring the work of Michael Mata, professor of Transformational Urban Leadership at Azusa Pacific University in Los...read more
I was chatting to a young(ish) Baptist minister recently who was trying to recruit me to support a particular campaign he was developing (that’s not important right now). What intrigued me was that, as he was pitching his idea to me, he casually mentioned that he just...read more
How do you get to know the city you’re in? In recent posts I’ve been exploring a number of areas every church should examine in order to understand their neighbors better. I’ve referred to it as listening to your city in the same way as a doctor uses a stethoscope to...read more
Culture & Politics
Some years ago I was on a speaking tour in North Carolina. A local pastor was driving me to my various engagements, and one day he casually asked me, “What do you guys do about your black problem down there in Australia?” “Our black problem?” I enquired. “Oh, you mean...read more
“The existence of nuclear weapons in the world is a grave threat to peace and we need to abolish them.” ~ Archbishop Joseph Takami of Nagasaki As the world teeters yet again on the precipice of nuclear war, it has astounded me to hear that one Christian leader...read more
Are you a Somewhere or an Anywhere? Last years Brexit vote stunned many pundits and social commentators, who struggled to explain how it could have happened. But one of them, author David Goodhart has come up with an intriguing explanation for the deep divisions in...read more
Entry into the City was painted by Californian artist John August Swanson in 1990. It’s one of those enormous pictures where the artist utilizes both vertical space and depth in order to fill the canvas with a host of people, many of them alluding to some hidden...read more
You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. (Mt 20:25) It was abundantly clear from the US presidential campaign that Donald Trump is very close to his kids. Their affirmation of his...read more
“I will cry out like a woman in labor, I will gasp and pant,” declares Yahweh. Isaiah 42:14 It is the stunning announcement that God, groaning like a woman in labor, will soon give birth to new life. It’s an unexpected metaphor for God because in the ancient...read more
Art & Popular Culture
The man's name is Juan. He finds the boy hiding in an abandoned apartment and takes him home and feeds him. The boy won't speak. He doesn't speak because no one ever listens to him. Not the other boys who bully him and call him "faggot". Not his crack-addicted mother....read more
As you probably know by now, Rogue One is about a small band of rebels, part of the larger Rebel Alliance, who try to steal the design plans for a super-weapon called the Death Star. Even if you’re not that into Star Wars films (which I’m not) you’d enjoy it. It’s...read more
The final entry in my series of reflections based on ten of the greatest Christmas artworks of all time. Merry Christmas to you all! 10 THE FLIGHT TO EGYPT Artwork: Rest on the Flight to Egypt - Orazio Gentileschi, Birmingham Art Gallery Reading: Matthew...read more
I’m a 20-year veteran of the academy, but I still don’t call myself an academic. On my immigration forms I write “teacher” in the occupation box.
I’ve taught at Morling College in Sydney that whole time and am currently the head of the missiology department there.
My doctorate examined a mission-shaped approach to being and doing church, and I’ve written a bunch of books in that field. Some of them have even been popular. Thank you if you bought one.
I enjoy music by guys who can’t sing that great (Dylan, Cohen, Cave), hiking the national parks of North America (15, so far), and reading Flannery O’Connor. I’ve seen every film made by the Cohen Brothers and Stanley Kubrick and I still hold out hope that Terrence Malick has one more masterpiece in him.
I helped launch the Small Boat Big Sea community in Manly. I co-founded the Forge mission training network. I have won camel races in Kazakhstan, cliff-diving competitions in Thailand, and chess tournaments at the Kremlin. And I have spoken with Elvis (not all this might be true).
And through it all I have been loved by an amazing woman who has stood by me for over 30 years and whose capacity for endurance seemingly knows no bounds, my wife, Caz (this part is definitely true!).
Books by Mike
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