I gotta have my orange juice.

Jesu, Juva

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-9)

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Some reflections inspired by Leithart, Meyers, and Roberts’ conversation “What is a Prophet“—Every visionary house of God is a blueprint from God that guides the work and worship of his people. We naturally think of this with the plans for the tabernacle that Moses received from God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 26:30) and the plans David received from God for the temple (1 Chronicles 28:19); there was a physical building to be built in order for worship to begin. But this is equally true of Ezekiel’s visionary temple (a picture of God’s church in the return from exile) and John’s visionary temple (a picture of God’s church in the new covenant), even though these temples do not have a direct physical manifestation. God gave these visions to Ezekiel and to John not merely to inspire his people to trust and marvel at the work he would do in these new covenants, but to instruct his people in the work that they must do; they are simultaneously prophecy and commission. Returning to Ezekiel 43:

“Son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the pattern. And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple and its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, its entire design and all its ordinances, all its forms and all its laws. Write it down in their sight, so that they may keep its whole design and all its ordinances, and perform them. This is the law of the temple: The whole area surrounding the mountaintop is most holy. Behold, this is the law of the temple.” (Ezekiel 43:10–12, NKJV)

Thus: if the church’s worship does not immanentize the book of Revelation, then we ought to be ashamed.

It is also fascinating to think that the way a nation and church treats its prophets is how God will ultimately treat that nation, unless it repents. If you throw faithful pastors into prison, then you are surely destined for bondage.

The evil will bow before the good,​​
And the wicked at the gates of the righteous. (Proverbs 14:19, NKJV)

From this week’s To the Word reading:

Then Zerah the Ethiopian came out against them with an army of a million men and three hundred chariots, and he came to Mareshah. So Asa went out against him, and they set the troops in battle array in the Valley of Zephathah at Mareshah. And Asa cried out to the LORD his God, and said, “LORD, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O LORD our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!”So the LORD struck the Ethiopians before Asa and Judah, and the Ethiopians fled. (2 Chronicles 14:9–12)

Apropos being snatched from a snare, our church submitted this contribution to the Psalm 124 project. As Revelation shows us, worship is warfare!

It is well known that no such bricolage is complete without an impromptu aerial edition:

Silencing the enemy and avenger!

Girard anticipated by several centuries:

We believe and confess that Jesus Christ,
in whom the law is fulfilled,
has by his shed blood
put an end to every other shedding of blood,
which anyone might do or wish to do
in order to atone or satisfy for sins. (Belgic Confession, Article 34)

If ever there was proof that the emperor had no clothes:

Written by Scott Moonen

February 26, 2021 at 5:38 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-8)

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This week’s readings in the revised common lectionary included 2 Kings 2:1–12 and Mark 9:2–9. Elijah accomplishes an exodus from Israel, and Elisha receives a double portion (the firstborn’s portion) of Elijah’s spirit. Jesus meets with Elijah, and we know from the parallel passage in Luke 9:31 that Jesus speaks of his exodus which was our salvation. And the church, through her apostles, saw him when he ascended. Thus, we receive the firstborn portion of his Spirit.

This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.

For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself:​

​‘​The LORD said to my Lord,
​​“Sit at My right hand,
​​Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” ’

Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. (Acts 2:32–36, NKJV)

Wisdom is a qualification for church office:

Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. (Acts 6:3, NKJV)

I have for some time had a chuckle at how we used to sing “Blow the trumpet in Zion” with an attitude of rejoicing rather than alarm. Clearly the context in Joel 2 is one of alarm: “Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble . . . Who can endure it? . . . Turn to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. . .” The army referred to is not God’s people, but is sent to chasten his people. Joel himself cries “Alas! . . . O LORD, to you I cry out.”

And yet, it is a great relief to the faithful that God’s church is purified. Those who are hidden in him need not fear his discipline. And the result of God’s judgment is rejoicing and great blessing: “Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice . . . be glad then, you children of Zion, ​​and rejoice in the LORD your God . . . And it shall come to pass afterward​​ that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.” And after judgment has begun at the house of God, he will vindicate his people by judging the nations: “I will also gather all nations, ​​and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; ​​and I will enter into judgment with them there​​ on account of my people, my heritage Israel.”

God’s people pray for and welcome his judgment (e.g., Psalm 7), rejoicing in it together with all of creation, as in Psalm 96 and 1 Chronicles 16:

Let the heavens rejoice and the earth exult, let the sea and its fullness thunder.
Let the field be glad and all that is in it, then shall all the trees of the forest joyfully sing
before the LORD, for He comes, He comes to judge the earth.
He judges the world in justice and peoples in His faithfulness. (Psalm 96:11–14, Robert Alter)

Asher and I attended the Wake County Republican party Fuquay region meeting last weekend. In spite of this being an odd–numbered year, there are 44 positions of various kinds within Wake county that will be up for election.

Public opinion! I don’t know how sociologists define it, but it seems obvious to me that it can only consist of interacting individual opinions, freely expressed and independent of government or party opinion.

So long as there is no independent public opinion in our country, there is no guarantee that the extermination of millions and millions for no good reason will not happen again, that it will not begin any night—perhaps this very night. (Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 3, 92)

I ran across the phrase “coincidence theorist” this week. I like it.

And so,
all who withdraw from the church or do not join it
act contrary to God’s ordinance. (Belgic Confession, Article 28)

Written by Scott Moonen

February 19, 2021 at 10:23 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-7)

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Mark Horne charges us not to have a merely personal relationship with Jesus:

In both the West and the East, people commonly think of the being they call “God” as some sort of vague ghostly force which cannot be approached except through some sort of vague, internal—often called “spiritual”—contemplation. At best, this “God” is considered personal, and the “spiritual” exercise involves verbal communication—prayer. Nevertheless, as important as prayer is, it is hardly an adequate way, by itself, to relate to a real person. Believing in such a God too often resembles a child’s imaginary friend.

In contrast to this popular view, the God presented in the Hebrew–Christian Scriptures is a real person who has real relationships with human beings. More than that, He is a great king over the whole universe (which He made in the first place). People who are rightly related to Him are said to be members of His kingdom, citizens of His commonwealth. . .

I want Christians to know so that they confess the truth: “I have a public relationship with Jesus Christ.”

I found this passage from Dinesen striking:

Virginie looked hard at Elishama, her dark eyes shining. “I suppose that nobody could insult you even if they tried hard?”

Elishama thought her remark over. “No,” he said, “they could not. Why should I let them?”

“And if I told you,” she said, “to go out of my house, you would just go?”

“Yes, I should go,” he said. “It is your house. But when I had gone you would sit and think of the things for which you had turned me out. It is when people are told their own thoughts that they think they are being insulted. But why should not their own thoughts be good enough for other people to tell them?” (Isak Dinesen, “The Immortal Story”)

It is striking on its own as an observation of human nature. But it is doubly striking because Elishama is a serpent–tempter here who is seeking to override Virginie’s conscience. It is her reaction rather than his that is the righteous one.

I don’t always agree with Alan Jacobs but he is always a thought–provoking read. Here he is reflecting on grace and Girardian dynamics:

I think most of our projects of reconciliation, when they exist at all, have it backwards. They want a long penitence at the end of which the offended parties may or may not forgive. I think the Christian account says that forgiveness given and accepted is where reconciliation begins. So if we say we are Christians and want reconciliation but do not put grace, mercy, and forgiveness front and center in our public statements, then we’re operating as the world operates, not as the ekklesia is commanded to. 

Almost four years ago I wrote: “When a society rejects the Christian account of who we are, it doesn’t become less moralistic but far more so, because it retains an inchoate sense of justice but has no means of offering and receiving forgiveness. The great moral crisis of our time is not, as many of my fellow Christians believe, sexual licentiousness, but rather vindictiveness. Social media serve as crack for moralists: there’s no high like the high you get from punishing malefactors. But like every addiction, this one suffers from the inexorable law of diminishing returns. The mania for punishment will therefore get worse before it gets better.”

There is very much going on in Ezekiel 43:15. In this one verse, we see God’s altar named a hearth, and a mountain, and that with four horns. James Jordan writes:

Ezekiel describes an altar in the form of a stepped pyramid. The top section is called “the Mountain of God,” and the platform on top for the fire is called the “hearth.” A literal translation of Ezekiel 43:15 is: “And the Mountain of God: four cubits (high); and from the hearth four horns extend upwards.” While the altar in the Tabernacle did not have this shape, the statement in Ezekiel clearly expresses the theology of the altar (see Diagram 12.8). When God appeared on Mount Sinai, the top was covered with fire and smoke (Exodus 19: 18). We can hardly fail to see the visual association of this with the burning sacrifices on the bronze altar, and the incense on the golden altar. Moreover, altars for sacrifice were generally built on the tops of mountains before the Tabernacle was set up (cf. Genesis 22:9), and during the interregnum between the dissolution of the Tabernacle and the building of the Temple (cf. 1 Samuel 9:12). Thus, the association of altar with holy mountain is fairly pervasive. (James Jordan, Through New Eyes, 158–159)

I introduced the kids to Patrick this week:

Written by Scott Moonen

February 13, 2021 at 8:56 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-6)

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I read and greatly enjoyed Dinesen’s “Babette’s Feast.” I love the tenderness that she shows towards each of her characters. It is one of those transcendent stories that is hard to read aloud without getting misty eyed.

Ron DeSantis is on a roll:

Marxism is the opiate of the masses, fed to them by fascism. Actual fascism, mind you. But see also: Tu quoque.

God is sharpening the antithesis, testing to see whether his church and her shepherds will stand loyal to him and contra mundum. And this is in part a result of our failures to do so until now. Such times lend clarity to matters of first importance.

“And it shall come to pass at that time
​​That I will search Jerusalem with lamps,
​​And punish the men
​​Who are settled in complacency,
Who say in their heart,
​‘​The LORD will not do good,
​​Nor will He do evil.’
​​Therefore their goods shall become booty,
​​And their houses a desolation;
​​They shall build houses, but not inhabit them;
​​They shall plant vineyards, but not drink their wine.” (Zephaniah 1:12–13)

Such times inevitably contract our sphere of cooperation outside the church. In all times the church never cooperates or sympathizes with: serpents and demons; accusers of the bretheren; scapegoaters; Amalekites and Canaanites; worshippers of Ashtoreth and Moloch; Jezebel; and the N. I. C. E.

Praise God for faithful Lutherans who recognize the antithesis:

And don’t forget that God not only gave us the imprecatory Psalms, but he also commanded us to sing them (Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16).

Scott: What is distinctive about the space bar?
Ivy: Oh! There are no distinctions between words without it!
Scott: Oh. That’s much better than what I was thinking: the drinks are out of this world.

It’s been a long time since I used a trackball. Sometimes I still miss my old Trackman Vista:

If you have the thing on the right, you want to get yourself the thing on the left. It’s a Lock-Jaw collar.

Written by Scott Moonen

February 6, 2021 at 8:47 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-5)

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Through his disobedience and discipline, Jonah became an accidental evangelist to the mariners:

Therefore they cried out to Yahweh and said, “We pray, O Yahweh, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O Yahweh, have done as it pleased You.” So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared Yahweh exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to Yahweh and took vows. (Jonah 1:14–16)

Maybe God will do the same with the modern evangelical church. This past year has been the year we built our own houses and abandoned God’s:

In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of Yahweh came by Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, saying, “Thus speaks Yahweh of hosts, saying: ‘This people says, “The time has not come, the time that Yahweh’s house should be built.” ‘ ” Then the word of Yahweh came by Haggai the prophet, saying, “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?” Now therefore, thus says Yahweh of hosts: “Consider your ways! “You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but you are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; And he who earns wages, Earns wages to put into a bag with holes.” Thus says Yahweh of hosts: “Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,” says Yahweh. “You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?” says Yahweh of hosts. “Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house. Therefore the heavens above you withhold the dew, and the earth withholds its fruit. (Haggai 1:1–10)

We violated the fourth commandment by elevating our own hearth fires above God’s:

Now while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation. They put him under guard, because it had not been explained what should be done to him.

Then Yahweh said to Moses, “The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” So, as Yahweh commanded Moses, all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him with stones, and he died. (Exodus 31:12–17)

And yet, God will use all this for the salvation of many rather than a few:

​“Indeed He says,
​‘​It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
​​To raise up the tribes of Jacob,
​​And to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
​​I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles,
​​That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”
​​Thus says Yahweh,
​​The Redeemer of Israel, their Holy One,
​​To Him whom man despises,​​
To Him whom the nation abhors,​​
To the Servant of rulers:​​
“Kings shall see and arise,
​​Princes also shall worship,​​
Because of the LORD who is faithful,​​
The Holy One of Israel;
​​And He has chosen You.” (Isaiah 49:6–7)

Pray especially for the work God is doing in China and in the Muslim world.

“Yet the number of the children of Israel​​
Shall be as the sand of the sea,​​
Which cannot be measured or numbered.​​
And it shall come to pass
​​In the place where it was said to them,​
‘​You are not My people,’
​It shall be said to them,​
Sons of the living God.’
​​Then the children of Judah and the children of Israel​​
Shall be gathered together,​​
And appoint for themselves one head;​​
And they shall come up out of the land,​​
For great will be the day of Jezreel!” (Hosea 1:10–11)

To the Word has us in the Book of the Twelve right now. One thing that has struck me repeatedly this time through the Bible is the extent of God’s dealings with kings and nations. This is not a minor theme in the Bible.

I mentioned recently that the meaning of worshipping in Spirit is to do so as the body of Jesus—the church—in his presence. I cited Revelation 1 as an example, but we see this expression in association with worship–fellowship with God as early as Genesis 3:

And they heard the sound of Yahweh God walking in the garden in the spirit of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Yahweh God among the trees of the garden. (Genesis 3:8, NKJV adjusted and emphasis added)

Speaking of worship, if you are in the Raleigh area, please join me for this year’s rescheduled worship and liturgy conference with Peter Leithart. As a foretaste, consider what he has to say about liturgy and joy.

Isn’t it about time that we impeached Woodrow Wilson? Although we may not be able to prevent him from voting, we need to make sure that he never holds office again.

When they were excavating around the legs of Ozymandias, archaeologists found two disposable face masks.

I learned this week that Babette’s Feast originated as an Isak Dinesen short story! I’ve ordered myself a copy, and am looking to resume our family tradition of watching the movie on super bowl Sunday this year.

Written by Scott Moonen

January 30, 2021 at 8:30 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-4)

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James Jordan points out that we commonly misread Matthew 28:

This is the actual command of the Great Commission: Disciple all nations. Jesus might have said, “disciple the world,” but that might have implied that nations are to disappear. He might have said, “disciple individuals” or “families,” but that might have implied that nations as such are not to be discipled. The phrase “disciple the all nations” clearly means the whole world, and embraces individuals and families as well.

This has a number of implications for us. First, we ought to have faith that this is something the church can accomplish, because all authority has been given to Jesus. Second, we ought to have faith that this is something the church will accomplish, because all authority has been given to Jesus. Third, the church is always already discipling the nations. Duane Garner observes that:

God has placed His Church in a position of leadership over the world and has ordered things in such a way that the Church is set at the vanguard of culture and society. The world sits down-stream from the Church so that whatever we pour in the water up here flows out into the world way down there, for better or for worse.

See also James Jordan’s further comments on the principle that the church is the center and ruler of the world. One of our contemporary failures has to do with narrowing our understanding of God’s work in the world from one of dominion, conquest, and redemption to focus exclusively on redemption.

You know that when the world bows in glad unison to the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, Aslan has them right where he wants them. It is a good time to pray that God will send bad dreams, and wise counselors, to people in positions of power and authority around the world.

In this week’s issue of The Theopolitan, Peter Leithart briefly reviews Kyle Pasewark’s A Theology of Power. He writes that:

Power isn’t domination but, for Luther, God’s power is His “communication of efficacy” (198). . . [God] exercises power by empowering. . . Power as “communication of efficacy” is more coherent than power as external domination or the ability to do what one wills. Power-as-domination is ultimately self-contradictory.

The primary purpose of power and authority and rule are to beget and bestow power and authority and rule. This is an apt summary of parenting, pastoring, and even rightly exercised political power:

So Judah and Israel dwelt in security,
each one beneath his vine and beneath his fig tree,
from Dan to Be’er–Sheva,
all the days of Shelomo (1 Kings 5:5, Everett Fox, Hebrew numbering, emphasis added)

Alex is thinking about the ‘rona here, but this is true at many more levels:

It seems that we may be in the process of adjusting PCR cycle counts downward. You heard it here first, folks: a joint Nobel Prize in Medicine for Biden and Fauci for extraordinary efforts to “eradicate” the ‘rona.

You should follow Jack Posobiec.

Written by Scott Moonen

January 24, 2021 at 6:46 am

The Lost Supper

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I recently read, and greatly appreciated, Matthew Colvin‘s book The Lost Supper. Colvin builds his understanding of the Lord’s supper on a thesis earlier offered by Robert Eisler and David Daube. He summarizes the puzzle he is seeking to unlock with an opening quote from Daube:

“Jesus could not at the same time have introduced both the general idea of eating a cake of unleavened bread as the Messiah and the specific identification of that cake with himself. That is just not how rites come into being.” This is an important difference between [Daube’s] view and most Christian understandings of the eucharist and Last Supper: many Christians have a view of the effect of Jesus’ words of institution that actually renders them incomprehensible to the disciples in the Upper Room. (Colvin, 37)

Colvin and Daube are not arguing that we must backdate the modern Seder into the first century. But they are arguing—compellingly—that the first century Passover must have had Messianic echoes that reverberate today in both the Eucharist and the Seder. Colvin summarizes his conclusion as follows:

Thus, as we also found in the case of the words over the bread, we discover that Jesus’ words about the wine are more concerned with using the Passover to speak to his disciples about his own impending death and its significance within Israel’s story than they were about explaining the metaphysical relation of the bread and wine to his body and blood. His words over the bread identify himself as Israel’s Messiah; his words over the cup are a way of indicating that he will offer himself as a sacrifice, a new Passover lamb to accomplish a new Exodus; and that this will bring about the coming Kingdom of God. Messiah, new Exodus, and coming Kingdom: this is a deeply Jewish set of meanings for these rituals, full of the themes that were on every mind and heart at Passover. Jesus in the Last Supper is doing what we should expect for a Jewish Messiah’s last meal with his disciples; he is doing exactly what Jews have always done with the food and drink of the Passover: make them tell the story of God and Israel—past, present, and future—and by ritual participation inscribe themselves in that story, in those events. (Colvin, 92)

This idea that a ritual is a removal from time, a participation in both the past and future, is key to Colvin’s understanding. He quotes Alastair Roberts:

Much as in the case of a Passover meal, a memorial of a past deliverance anticipates future salvation and each repetition re-establishes us within musical cycles of memory and hope. It repeatedly stabilizes us by restoring us to Christ’s decisive, once-for-all, action in the past, and destabilizes us by exposing us to the fecundity of the future that this action opened. It ties together founding action with the anticipation of final judgment. (Colvin, 82, quoting Alastair Roberts, A Musical Case for Typological Realism)

Colvin rejects mere real presence in favor of robust participation:

Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples on Passover, far from culminating in a sacramental “real presence,” begins with presence and moves from presence to something higher. The disciples have Jesus “present”—sitting in front of their eyes—but they still do not understand who he is or how they are to relate to him. . . .

In [Luke’s] narrative, the presence of Christ is not effected by the eating of the bread (still less by “consecration” of it); indeed, the resurrected Jesus appeared and was bodily present to his disciples on the road to Emmaus only in order to bring about the disciples’ participation in his new life, which is the life of the renewed Israel, the climax and fulfillment of Israel’s story. The goal is participation, not “presence.” (Colvin, 97-98)

Colvin’s project is very similar to that of Leithart with baptism: he understands the spiritual activity of the Lord’s supper to run along thoroughly corporate, social, and physical lines. It is a bodily activity as well as a mental one:

According to the Westminster Larger Catechism’s formulations, it is a positively daunting feat of reverence and emotions, requiring 14 different mental acts beforehand, another 13 during the Supper, and another 7 if they judge themselves to have partaken successfully, or 5 if unsuccessfully! Astonishingly, the Westminster Divines do not actually state that those “that receive the sacrament” must eat and drink the bread and wine. Every action specified in Q. 174 (as well as those in Q. 171 and 175) is something Christians do with their minds. By contrast, all of the commands of Jesus concerning the Supper—”take, eat, drink, do this”—are things that Christians do with their bodies. (Colvin, 100)

Thus, for Colvin, failure to discern the body is not a cerebral but rather a thoroughly public and corporate and social matter, consistent with much of the rest of 1 Corinthians:

The form this condemnation took is also the same as in the Exodus: supernaturally inflicted death. “Because of this [failure to draw the boundaries of the people of God properly], many among you are weak and sick and some are asleep [i.e. dead].” (11:30) If we are looking for a mechanism by which the eucharist operates, I submit that we have found it here: the communal meal, as an acted sharing in the salvific sacrificial death of the Messiah, marks the people of God as the ones who are to be spared God’s deadly judgment, leaving those outside the Christian community exposed to that wrath. It is inflicted by God’s own power.

This modus operandi should look familiar to us. In Exodus 11:4-7, YHWH announces that the Passover will work the same way. . . . The discrimen, the means by which this difference [between the Egyptians and Israel] is marked, is the ritual meal itself. (Colvin, 128)

The supper therefore naturally functions as a memorial to God rather than a mere reminder to ourselves:

Was Israel also commanded to remember? To be sure, and all the rituals of Passover to this day are aimed at inscribing the Exodus indelibly in the consciousness of every Jewish child. Yet in Egypt, it was not the Israelites’ consciousness, but the Lord’s response to his own commanded memorial (zeker) that effected salvation for the Israelites and destruction for their enemies. In Paul’s understanding, the eucharist operates not by the followers of Jesus thinking about it, but because it marks them as the people defined by Jesus’ sacrificial death, which God remembers and honors and to which he responds with action in history. (Colvin, 133)

All of this is simply a function of how meals work:

Paul’s arguments by analogy with pagan sacrifices (1 Cor. 10:20) and with Jewish sacrifices in the Temple (1 Cor. 10:19) are only possible if the eucharist works the way other meals work. What is special about it is not the way it connects its participants to a person, but the person to whom it connects them. (Colvin, 137)

Thus, the supper is a participation-communion-koinonia, side by side with all of God’s people, both in the past events of the crucifixion and resurrection, but also in our future resurrection and glorification. But this is only a specific instance of what happens throughout the entire service of covenant renewal worship. On the Lord’s day, together with all the Lord’s people, we really are caught up out of time and into the heavens. The bread and wine that we consume are heavenly–spiritual bread and wine; not just a foretaste of the coming feast, but an actual distribution of it. And all this is precisely what it means to worship in Spirit (John 4, Revelation 1).

Colvin closes with helpful practical thoughts on the Lord’s supper today. I largely agree with him, although I think that treating the supper as a feast should not lead us to make much of a common cup. He does not take up a critique of the pious notion of withdrawing oneself temporarily from the supper as a kind of contrition, but I think his principles warrant against that powerfully.

I’ve argued previously for real presence along several lines, but I take greatly to heart Colvin’s charge to think in terms of participation-communion-koiononia rather than mere presence.

However, my friend Randy also cautions that we have a sure hope even if bread and wine are taken away from us:

But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4 ESV)

Incidentally, as part of his argument, Colvin also makes a fascinating point about the Lord’s prayer. He argues that the entire prayer has an eschatological bent, including the petition for bread:

[This word] is thus “the coming bread,” the eschatological bread. . . . Thus, the force of the word is to make the petition a request for “the bread of tomorrow” or the eschatological bread. (Colvin, 57-58)

Written by Scott Moonen

January 19, 2021 at 11:14 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2–3)

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Mark Horne surfaces a thought–provoking quote from James Jordan, pointing out, as he says on Twitter, that “the law led to wisdom because it was public property.”

Jordan frequently points out that the head–heel typology instructs us in how to live by faith. It may appear that the wicked are well coordinated while the church and the righteous walk with a limp. However, by faith we recognize that the head of the wicked has been crushed, cast down, bound. And while the church’s heel is wounded, she reigns together with her head at this very moment.

My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God. . . .

So you will walk in the way of the good
and keep to the paths of the righteous.
For the upright will inhabit the land,
and those with integrity will remain in it,
but the wicked will be cut off from the land,
and the treacherous will be rooted out of it. (Proverbs 2, ESV)

I think there is something to this:

I’m slowly working to decouple myself from Google, and plan to document the process on my other blog.

It is a family tradition to watch The Lord of the Rings movies in the wintertime, and we just finished this week. This year I hope to work through the books as well. One thing struck me this time through: Gandalf brought three eagles to rescue Frodo and Sam. Jackson has one of these eagles carry both Gandalf and a hobbit, but Tolkien is more vague. This makes me wonder if Jackson, or Tolkien, or both, intended to show that Gandalf hoped Gollum might have been saved.

‘Twice have you borne me, Gwaihir my friend,’ said Gandalf. ‘Thrice shall pay for all, if you are willing. You will not find me a burden much greater than when you bore me from Zirak-zigil, where my old life burned away.’

‘I would bear you,’ answer Gwaihir, ‘whither you will, even were you made of stone.’

‘Then come, and let your brother go with us, and some other of your folk who is most swift! For we have need of speed greater than any wind, outmatching the wings of the Nazgûl.’

‘The North Wind blows, but we shall outfly it,’ said Gwaihir. And he lifted up Gandalf and sped away south, and with him went Landroval, and Meneldor young and swift. And they passed over Udûn and Gorgoroth and saw all the land in ruin and tumult beneath them, and before them Mount Doom blazing, pouring out its fire.

. . .

And so it was that Gwaihir saw them with his keen far-seeing eyes, as down the wild wind he came, and daring the great peril of the skies he circled in the air: two small dark figures, forlorn, hand in hand upon a little hill, while the world shook under them, and gasped, and rivers of fire drew near. And even as he espied them and came swooping down, he saw them fall, worn out, or choked with fumes and heat, or stricken down by despair at last, hiding their eyes from death.

Side by side they lay; and down swept Gwaihir, and down came Landroval and Meneldor the swift; and in a dream, not knowing what fate had befallen them, the wanderers were lifted up and borne far away out of the darkness and the fire. (The Return of the King, 227–229)

I’ve always been intrigued by churches that choose not to register as a corporation. If you belong to such a church, your charitable contributions are likely still deductible on your income tax. See:

For subscribers of The Theopolitan, Peter Leithart summarizes Rich Lusk on James Jordan on the Bethlehem star: it is Yahweh’s glory cloud. Lusk points out the movement of the cloud, the host of angels appearing to the shepherds, and Jesus’s tabernacling among us. I conclude, therefore, that stars are angels.

“In our world,” said Eustace, “a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.”

“Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is, but only what it is made of.” (C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader)

He counts the number of the stars,
to all of them gives names. (Psalm 147:4, Robert Alter)

I had forgotten that company originates from bread–together. How beautiful!

Charlotte and Asher made these handy deadlift stands. They’ve lasted over a year now!

You’ve probably seen this. But it has been delighting me this week:

Written by Scott Moonen

January 16, 2021 at 7:19 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2–2)

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I received Rod Dreher’s Live Not by Lies as a Christmas present, and finished it this week. It’s outstanding, as, of course, is Solzhenitsyn’s original essay. (How striking that he would admonish us even to “immediately walk out of a meeting, session, lecture, performance or film showing if [one] hears a speaker tell lies, or purvey ideological nonsense or shameless propaganda.”) Here are my favorite quotes from the book:

“The question is, which is going to win: fear, or courage?” [Jan Šimulčik] says. “In the beginning, it was mostly a matter of fear. But once you started experiencing freedom—and you felt it, you felt freedom through the things you did—your courage grew. We experienced all this together. We helped one another to gradually build up the courage to do bigger things, like join the Candle Demonstration.”

“With this courage also developed our sense of duty, and our need to be of service to other people,” the historian continues. “We could see the products of our work. We could hold these samizdat books in our hands, and we could see that people really read them and learned from them. We saw what we did as service to God and service to people. But it took years for us to see the fruit of our labor and to see our communities grow.” (168)

[Franišek] Mikloško’s close association with secular liberal writers and artists helped him to understand the world beyond church circles and to think critically about himself and other Christian activists. And, he says, liberal artists were able to perceive and describe the essence of communism better than Christians—a skill that helped them all survive, even thrive, under oppression. (175)

“I’ve been thinking a lot about fear, as such,” [Maria Wittner] says. “What is fear? Someone who is afraid is going to be made to do the most evil things. If someone is not afraid to say no, if your soul is free, there is nothing they can do to you.”

The old woman looks at me across her kitchen table with piercing eyes. “In the end, those who are afraid always end up worse than the courageous.” (188)

My pastor preached from Revelation 12 this week and argued that the archangel Michael is Jesus. An interesting additional proof of this is the quote from Zechariah 3:2 in Jude 9. Whom Zechariah identifies as Yahweh and the angel of Yahweh, Jude identifies as Michael, “who is like God.”

This quotation highlights another interesting bit of biblical theology. Many people, Calvin included, believe that Michael is disputing about the body of the man Moses. However, the quote from Zechariah makes clear that what was in dispute was the Old Testament church. This church was the body of Moses in the same sense that we are the body of Jesus. Some more evidence for this reading is the fact that Israel was baptized into Moses (1 Corinthians 10:2).

It is so interesting to me that one of the reasons God restrains wicked rulers is to preserve his people in faithfulness. It is true that there are such great examples of faithfulness in times of persecution, but we also pray and thank God for cutting persecution short for the sake of bruised reeds and faintly burning wicks:

Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion never shaken, settled forever.
Jerusalem, mountains around it, and the LORD is around His people now and forevermore.
For the rod of wickedness will not rest on the portion of the righteous,
so that the righteous not set their hands to wrongdoing.
Do good, O LORD, to the good and to the upright in their hearts.
And those who bend to crookedness, may the LORD take them off with the wrongdoers. Peace upon Israel! (Psalm 125, Robert Alter)

Of course, he also uses persecution to strengthen what is weak.

I’ve enjoyed our little project of chanting Psalms as a family this school year. We are now a third of the way through the Psalter! Wherever possible, we are using the Theopolis Liturgy and Psalter, which is marvelous; otherwise we are using Concordia’s ESV Psalter.

How many Christians confess this:

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3 ESV, emphasis added)

Once again, corporate America and the media are pretty much unified in their, ah, brave stands for justice. Even the Wall Street Journal is calling for Trump to resign. What I want to know is why we are only starting to think about this now. There’s quite a few politicians, celebrities, media personalities, corporate leaders, and church leaders whose behavior over the past year year is worthy of resignation. Why, imagine: if Biden and Harris had humbled their own hearts, we might be looking forward to President Gabbard right now.

Related, Aaron Renn is beginning a series considering how and why the Republican party hates your guts.

And yet—be sure to consider also Mark Horne’s exhortation to speak cheerful words to yourself.

I love Ted Kooser’s “Splitting an order”—

I like to watch an old man cutting a sandwich in half,
maybe an ordinary cold roast beef on whole wheat bread,
no pickles or onion, keeping his shaky hands steady
by placing his forearms firm on the edge of the table
and using both hands, the left to hold the sandwich in place,
and the right to cut it surely, corner to corner,
observing his progress through glasses that moments before
he wiped with his napkin, and then to see him lift half
onto the extra plate that he had asked the server to bring,
and then to wait, offering the plate to his wife
while she slowly unrolls her napkin and places her spoon,
her knife and her fork in their proper places,
then smoothes the starched white napkin over her knees
and meets his eyes and holds out both old hands to him.

Thanks to Jon Barach for calling my attention to it.

Written by Scott Moonen

January 8, 2021 at 9:17 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2–1)

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Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!

Although I am convinced that our governor’s executive orders of 2020 have constituted a usurpation of authority, I am grateful that for most of this time he has not bound churches:

Worship, religious, and spiritual gatherings, funeral ceremonies, wedding ceremonies, and other activities constituting the exercise of First Amendment rights are exempt from all the requirements of this Executive Order, notwithstanding any other provision of this Executive Order.

It will go well for North Carolina in the future, not at all because so many of us have slavishly obeyed these orders, but because the church’s weekly ministry on behalf of the world has been preserved:

Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. So now, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD.” (Isaiah 37:14–20, ESV)

This is not true in every place. Pray for the church around the world:

To some degree this situation is the responsibility of the church and a sifting of churches:

Lampstands are being removed where people have feared man and nature rather than God.

Some friends and reflected this week on generational and epochal shifts. As usual, I am short on footnotes, but my recollection of Eugen Rosenstock–Huessy is that he identifies a 500 year pattern cycling between tribe, kingdom, and empire; and says that we should expect the next phase of history to appear tribal. There seems to be a similar pattern in scripture’s covenant cycle as well, with roughly 4–500 years each from Noah to Abraham, Moses, David–Solomon, Cyrus, and Jesus. Daniel speaks of seventy sevens (490), and Ezekiel 4 presents us with a 500–year figure as well (390 years + 40 years + 70 years of exile). In addition, the sins of the Amorites have to ripen for 400–430 years. I’m not sure how to put this together with America’s sins, but maybe it works if we consider it Western sins—or maybe we just have more ripening to do. However, in the life of Israel, at least, child sacrifice was a late–stage judicial hardening, so it seems like our bill is coming due sooner rather than later.

Tyre received 70 years of exile for her sins as well (Isaiah 23:17). James Jordan points out from time to time that places like Gath (through Achish) and Tyre (through Hiram) submitted themselves to Yahweh’s rule in covenanting with David. This could apply to Egypt as well through Solomon. All these therefore received greater blessing and long–term future hope, but and also stricter discipline, since judgment always begins with the household of God. You see both these blessings and curses throughout the prophets.

I’m still learning to “see” corporate versus individual readings of passages. It had never occurred to me until this week that God’s generational visitation in Exodus 34 might be societal and not just individual. In the case of the Amorites (Genesis 15) God seems to be saying that a generation is about 100 years, at least at that time. That kind of makes sense when Jacob is marrying Leah and Rachel at 84 years old, but I wonder why the cycles wouldn’t accelerate later in history as generational gaps shorten.

The church is the society that, by keeping on repenting week by week, year after year, is able to experience thousands of generations of fruitfulness.

I want to learn sometime what happened in the years preceding 1917 Russia (where the rule of communism was roughly 70 years) and 1930s Germany. We have the impression that things progressed quickly there but I suspect there is more to it, including some kind of long compromise or complicity in the churches. In his recent book Live Not by Lies, Rod Dreher points to some social and cultural factors in these downfalls (pp. 30ff), although these still seem to me to be downstream from the church’s rule of the world: (1) loneliness and social atomization, (2) losing faith in hierarchies and institutions, (3) desire to transgress and destroy, (4) propaganda and the willingness to believe useful lies, (5) a mania for ideology, and (6) a society that values loyalty more than expertise.

Hear this: Jesus is king.

The reason [the church is] a third thing, a tertium quid, is because it was the first thing. (C. R. Wiley, “Ecology and the Libel of Christianity“)

From the almost–tempted–to–wear–a–mask department:

I was reminded recently of St. Anne’s Pub, who at one time carried on a ministry similar to Ken Myers’s Mars Hill Audio. Their 2005 issue “Leading our little ones to Christ” was helpful to me as part of my conversion to paedobaptism and paedocommunion. They interview Vern Poythress, whose articles on Indifferentism and Rigorism and Linking Small Children with Infants are also very helpful introductions.

Oops, it looks like my future is not so bright:

Written by Scott Moonen

January 1, 2021 at 9:01 am