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.
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I’m in New York City speaking at a conference on how to mobilize a movement of gospel ministry across the city. The audience is full of church planters, clergy, and denominational leaders, all trying to figure out what Christian mission could look like today. The...read more
Last weekend I spent a few days working with a network of churches called COS I Love You (COS is the airport code for Colorado Springs). It’s a partnership between around 35 churches from across the Springs (as the locals call it), and involves them mobilizing...read more
Sure, religious zealots have done some terrible damage throughout history, but some beautiful religious ideas have also shaped history for the better. This post is part of a series looking at some of the ways religion has changed the world. I look at how the...read more
We often hear about all the harm caused by religious people in the name of their religion, but good religious ideas have continually made the world a better place. I can think of plenty of simple religious ideas that have created such a ripple effect that they changed...read more
Recently, I met a gentleman who, upon discovering I taught theology, asked me what was the good of studying religious ideas in our secular world today. When I told him religious ideas have continually made the world a better place, he challenged me to name one. I told...read more
The whole lesson of history is that preaching doesn’t work. – Alan Watts When Alan Watts made that claim in his provocative talk “Preaching is moral violence” he was convinced by his reading of history that no meaningful change in human conduct ever occurs as a...read more
I’m no Star Wars fan. If you ask me, most of those movies are sort of okay. Some are literally unwatchable. So, I find myself on the outer when it comes to fan fights about the minute esoterica of a film series with which I’m not terribly familiar. I don’t care that...read more
Donald Trump. Harvey Weinstein. Kevin Spacey. Bill Cosby. Dustin Hoffman. Bill O’Reilly. Jeremy Piven. Brett Ratner. James Toback. George H W Bush. Hamilton Fish. Black, white, straight, gay, the one thing they all have in common is they are men. They are men who have...read more
It’s greatly concerning to learn that during the very period the church has most aggressively pursued a strategy that emphasizes growth in numbers, it has also seen continued and exponential decline in size. In a previous post, I compared this situation with the...read more
I’ve been watching Ken Burns’ new documentary series, The Vietnam War. It’s ten hours of unrelenting political/military folly and unadulterated human misery. But it's fascinating. I was intrigued to discover in Episode 4 that one of the biggest challenges for US...read more
Yep, you can't make up a headline like that. As the floodwaters unleashed by tropical storm Harvey inundated the suburbs of Houston, one local woman went into labor. As interstates and freeways disappeared under water, Andrea Haley began to experience contractions....read more
Culture & Politics
"It's an 80-percent issue, people want to close down the borders." - Deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley “80 percent of Australians do not support any further spending on foreign aid.” - Australian minister for international development and the Pacific,...read more
It hasn’t been a good week to be a social justice warrior. And I don’t use that term in its pejorative sense. To me, a social justice warrior is what the term suggests at face value, a person committed to fighting for justice. I know Twitter has turned "SJW" into an...read more
When I was a kid, I gave an opposing player some lip on the rugby field and he punched me in the face so hard and so quickly I didn’t even see it coming. One minute I was trash-talking him and the next minute I was on my butt, my head spinning, watching him run back...read more
Why is it that the people most likely to demand that we “keep Christ in Christmas” seem to know so little about the historical birth of Jesus! If they did, they would have no sentimental attachment to traditional nativity scenes and they definitely wouldn’t want to...read more
I have previously blogged about how difficult it’s been for those Christians arguing the case against same-sex marriage because of the difficulty of using evidence from the Bible or our religious tradition in a secular debate. You don’t seem to read or hear many...read more
It’s tempting sometimes to fall into the habit of thinking that God only hears the prayers of those who have achieved some level of holiness above the average. Have you ever found yourself asking your pastor or priest to pray for something as if their prayers are...read more
Art & Popular Culture
I haven’t seen Wonder Woman and I probably won’t. I’m guessing it’s pretty much the same as the other Marvel/DC comic book hero films. As everyone keeps pointing out though, what is different about Wonder Woman is that the lead superhero is woman! Or an Amazon, if...read more
First up, this isn't an anti-Trump post. It's an anti-Marvel one. I want to escape the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And I’m not being ironic, they actually call it that. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a creation of Marvel Studios, which has been churning out superhero...read more
Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist. - Pablo Picasso Vincent Van Gogh is widely known today as a typically eccentric artist. He might not have invented Impressionism, but he was the first to paint stars swirling uncontrollably in the...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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