I gotta have my orange juice.

Jesu, Juva

By faith, not by sight

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I read and enjoyed Gaffin’s By Faith, Not by Sight recently. I think that he could have gone a little farther towards finding multi-perspectival resolutions, but I am generally very appreciative of the book. Some choice quotes:

Since the goal of redemption is union with the risen Lord, there seems little doubt that, if Paul has a center to his order of salvation, it is this doctrine. When other applied blessings, such as justification or sanctification, are made central, there are inevitably deleterious consequences for the Christian life, whereby incipient forms of antinomianism and legalism creep in. For example, a certain Lutheran view that justification precedes sanctification, so that it causes union with Christ and sanctification, ends up attributing to justification a renovative/transformative element. The notion that one applied benefit can cause another applied benefit has always perplexed me. But when union with Christ structures the whole of applied redemption, the aforementioned errors are dealt with better. This has to do with the fact that Christ’s person, not simply his work or his applied benefits, must have the preeminence. Indeed, the gift of Christ’s person is a greater gift to us than his benefits. As many of our finest divines have vigorously argued, there exists a priority of Christ’s person over his work. Union with Christ helps us to keep this salient fact in mind. We are not simply recipients of his benefits; we also belong to him. (Mark Jones, Foreword, p. x)

One important methodological consideration is that, with all due attention being given to his immediate historical context, including relevant extracanonical texts and materials, in interpreting [Paul’s] letters the context that is not only primary but privileged is the canonical context. (10)

All along I have been speaking of Paul’s “theology” and referring to him as a “theologian.” For many, that will not be a problem, but this way of speaking warrants some clarification, since for some it is questionable at best. The perceived danger here is that we will, as it could be put, “drag Paul down to our level.” . . . What offsets this leveling danger is appreciating Paul’s identity as an apostle, at least if we understand apostleship properly. . . . Regarding [his] authority, the apostle is as Christ himself.

Paul the theologian, then, is Paul the apostle. That points to the God-breathed origin and authority of his teaching, its character as the word of God. It highlights the radical, categorical difference there is between his theology and post-apostolic theology. His teaching, along with the teaching of the other biblical writers, is Spirit-borne, canonical, and foundational. (14-15)

Increasingly over the course of the last century, to fill out this brief historical sketch, a new consensus concerning Paul emerged across a broad front in biblical studies. This happened in tandem with a reassessment of the kingdom proclamation of Jesus. It is now widely maintained that the controlling focus of Paul’s theology, as for Jesus before him, is eschatology—or what is equivalent for some, redemptive history (historia salutis). Specifically, the center of his theology has been recognized to be the death and resurrection of Christ in their eschatological significance.

In my view, this basic conclusion is sound and, by now, well established. (29)

The center of Paul’s soteriology, then, at the center of his theology as a whole, is neither justification by faith nor sanctification, neither the imputation of Christ’s righteousness nor the renewing work of the Spirit. To draw that conclusion, however, is not to decenter justification (or sanctification), as if justification is somehow less important for Paul than it is for the Reformers. Justification is supremely important; it is absolutely crucial in Paul’s “gospel of salvation” (cf. Eph. 1:13). If his teaching on justification is denied or distorted, it ceased to be gospel; there is no longer saving “good news” for guilty sinners. But no matter how close justification is to the heart of Paul’s gospel, in our salvation there is an antecedent consideration, a reality that is deeper, more fundamental, more decisive, more crucial: Christ and our union with him, the crucified and resurrected, the exalted, Christ. Union with Christ by faith—that is the essence of Paul’s ordo salutis.

At the opening of Book 3 of his Institutes of the Christian Religion and controlling all that he has to say about “the way” of salvation—that is, its personal, individual appropriation, including what he will eventually say about justification—Calvin writes, “First, we must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us.” (49-50)

[Some have observed] that Paul’s exhortations to the church as a whole, his ethics of the Christian life in their entirety, can be summed up in the epigram, “Become what you are.” This is helpful, but by itself it carries a liability that can render it decidedly unhelpful (suggesting some form of personal autonomy), unless it is read with an all-encompassing Christological gloss, “Become what you are in Christ.” (80)

The point here is that “the path of good works runs not from man to God, says Paul, but from God to man.” [quoting Berkouwer] Ultimately, in the deepest sense, for Paul “our good works” are not ours, but God’s. They are his work, begun and continuing in us, his being “at work in us, both to will and to do what pleases him” (Phil. 2:13). That is why, without any tension, a faith that rests in God the Savior is a faith that is restless to do his will. (88)

On the coherence between [faith and works], it is hard to improve on what J. Gresham Machen writes aphoristically, “As the faith which James condemns is different than the faith that Paul commends, so also the works which James commends are different than the works which Paul condemns.” (118)

Written by Scott Moonen

November 28, 2020 at 1:22 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (22)

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Aaron Renn issued a podcast episode evaluating Tim Keller, and I think he is largely correct. I appreciate how far he goes to honor Keller. His observations seem to me representative of much of evangelicalism today: the old ways are ceasing to work, and old wineskins—even those for whom we have the greatest affection and appreciation—will burst.

I’ve been saying that the new wineskins of faithful churches will serve as a kind of lifeboat or ark to carry Christianity forward into the next age, an age which Eugen Rosenstock–Huessy tells us will be tribal rather than imperial. And while this is true in one sense, faithful churches are also, just like Noah, God’s courageous advance guard:

But the plan not complex; it is simply the practice of plodding faithfulness. The advance guard conducts very much of its warfare using trumpets and song. Andrew captures some other important elements:

Also: don’t give those children over to the pagan schools.

I finally had a chance to catch up on Mars Hill Audio Journal #148 from September. Jeffrey Bilbro offered the delightful phrase faithful creativity. Proper creativity is bound. It is not only constrained to be beautiful, but also true and good.

Speaking of podcasts and creativity, N. D. Wilson has started a podcast. We are definitely in a podcast bubble right now, but I think this one is going to be worth a listen.

We took wine in communion this week. It was a second time for me, having once partaken of wine from a common cup at St. Matthews, Bayswater. But it was the first time for the rest of us: “Daddy, I almost gagged on the wine.”

Although I’ve felt sympathetic to the argument that Paul is the author of Hebrews for awhile, I finally took the time to read Wilson’s arguments for Pauline authorship. In a nutshell, he argues first from 2 Peter 3:15 that Hebrews is the only known candidate for a letter to “you,” that is to the diaspora; and second from the fact that its inclusion in the canon was largely based on the assumption of Pauline authorship. I think the idea that it is a transcribed Pauline sermon is interesting.

Recent listening:

I enjoyed reading “The Forgotten Man” at the suggestion of my friend Ben. Apparently Sumner is the origin of the phrase, using it in a very different sense from FDR. Some choice quotes:

There can be no civil liberty anywhere unless rights are guaranteed against all abuses, as well from proletarians as from generals, aristocrats, and ecclesiastics. . . .

Who elected such representatives? We did. How can we get bad law-makers to make a law which shall prevent bad law-makers from making a bad law? That is, really, what we are trying to do. If we are a free, self-governing people, all our misfortunes come right home to ourselves and we can blame nobody else. . . .

I have said already that if you learn to look for the Forgotten Man and to care for him, you will be very skeptical toward all philanthropic and humanitarian schemes. It is clear now that the interest of the Forgotten Man and the interest of “the poor,” “the weak,” and the other petted classes are in antagonism, In fact, the warning to you to look for the Forgotten Man comes the minute that the orator or writer begins to talk about the poor man. That minute the Forgotten Man is in danger of a new assault, and if you intend to meddle in the matter at all, then is the minute for you to look about for him and to give him your aid. Hence, if you care for the Forgotten Man, you will be sure to be charged with not caring for the poor. Whatever you do for any of the petted classes wastes capital. If you do anything for the Forgotten Man, you must secure him his earnings and savings, that is, you legislate for the security of capital and for its free employment; you must oppose paper money, wildcat banking and usury laws and you must maintain the inviolability of contracts. Hence you must be prepared to be told that you favor the capitalist class, the enemy of the poor man. (William Sumner)

Sumner verges a bit libertarian for my taste, loving contracts rather than covenants, for example, and identifying freedom a bit closely with agency. But he still has wisdom for us, as do other men like Bastiat and Sowell. Sumner’s argument reminds me of Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson, a lesson that extends well beyond economics. Plus ça change, . . .

Speaking of the law of unintended consequences, Alex Berenson has finally published part 3 of Unreported Truths, on the subject of masks. I think I have the ability to loan these three installments at least once through Kindle; let me know if you’d like to tolle lege, and I’ll see if I can help!

The kids said that one of their friends had come up with the idea of “birthday verses” and that it had something to do with “modular.” “I think my verse was something in Song of Solomon.” I told them that I thought I knew what he was doing, and after a minute pulled up Ezekiel 11:8. “Oh, that’s it! I guess it wasn’t Song of Solomon.”

We made use of ChipDrop recently. I’m very pleased with the service!

Written by Scott Moonen

November 28, 2020 at 8:23 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (21)

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Everett Fox suggests that in Judges 5, there is a connection between the stars and the flooding of the Kishon; the stars are to be seen as a source of rain. This makes the victory over Sisera a kind of baptism–flood!

Kings came, they waged battle,
then they waged battle, the kings of Canaan,
at Ta’nakh, by Megiddo’s waters—
profit of silver they took none.
From the heavens the stars waged battle,
from their courses they waged battle with Sisera.
The Wadi Kishon swept away [the foe],
the ancient wadi, the Wadi Kishon,
—May my being bless them with strength! (Judges 5:19–22, Everett Fox)

I love this verse. Jamie Soles has made it the theme of several serpent–songs:

So perish all your enemies, O YHWH,
but let those who love you
be like the emergence of the sun in its might! (Judges 5:31a, Everett Fox)

The left-handedness of Eglon and the men of Benjamin was apparently trained:

And the Children of Israel cried out to YHWH,
so YHWH raised up a deliverer for them:
Ehud son of Gera, a Binyaminite,
a man restricted in his right hand.
And the Children of Israel sent a tribute-gift by his hand to Eglon king of Moav. (Judges 3:15, Everett Fox)

Fox comments:

[“Restricted”] probably refers to their training, leading to the capability of fighting with either hand (Halpern). The Binyaminites are known in the Bible as talented warriors.

Strangely, I’m reminded by this of Vladimir Putin.

Aaron Renn is producing more interesting content at The Masculinist; he’s added to his mailing list a blog and a podcast.

One of the differences between an enchanted vision of the world and a modern spiritual vision of the world is that the enchanted vision identifies multiple themes in scripture. In addition to understanding redemption as a primary theme, we also see equally important themes of maturation and of holy warfare. As usual, I take this from James Jordan.

The Great Reset is not a conspiracy theory. It is so open that it is not even really a conspiracy. See also: Our greatest responsibility; Build back better. However, don’t forget Revelation 20:3! Aslan is on the move. In Jesus we are saved and the principalities and powers have already been disarmed and put to shame:

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Colossians 2:13–15, ESV)

If you live in Wake County, NC, your library membership includes Overdrive benefits. Most books available to Wake County on Overdrive have a limited number of copies, meaning that you may have to wait your turn. Lewis’s space trilogy, however, is available unlimited!

I misread “editable file” this week as “edible file.” I wonder how that would work. Something like a fortune cookie, I think.

I don’t take the same implication from this that Taleb does, but his tweet is still a delightful confluence of people and ideas. Our pediatrician told us that his simple secret to not getting sick was washing his hands and not touching his face:

Rectitude matters:

“As for you, son of man, describe to the house of Israel the temple, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and they shall measure the plan. And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, that is, its whole design; and make known to them as well all its statutes and its whole design and all its laws, and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe all its laws and all its statutes and carry them out.” (Ezekiel 43:10–11, ESV)

I still maintain that the keys to understanding 2020 are Girard:

and Friedman:

People today often suppose that the early years of a person’s Christian pilgrimage are the difficult ones, and that as you go on in the Christian life it gets more straightforward. The opposite is frequently the case. Precisely when you learn to walk beside Jesus, you are given harder tasks, which will demand more courage, more spiritual energy. (N. T. Wright, Mark for Everyone; source: John Barach)

John Ahern and David Erb discuss Praetorius and church music.

Written by Scott Moonen

November 22, 2020 at 8:22 am

Baptism exhortation (2)

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Amos,

In the New Testament, Peter and Paul speak of two great old–covenant baptisms: the baptism of the flood, and the baptism of the Red Sea crossing.

In both of these, God rained water on his people, and drowned his enemies. Psalm 77 tells of God’s rain at the Red Sea crossing, and Psalm 68—the great battle Psalm of the Huguenots—tells of rain in the wilderness:

O God, when You went forth before Your people,
When You marched through the wilderness:
The world shook;
Indeed, the heavens dripped at the presence of God, the One of Sinai,
At the presence of God, the God of Israel.
A rain of gifts You showered, O God;
Your inheritance, though it languished, You Yourself established.
Your beasts dwelled in it;
You prepared it in Your goodness for the lowly, O God. (Psalm 68:7–10, James Jordan)

So you see that the waters of baptism are a rescue from judgment and death, and they are a source of life and refreshment. But they are also a commissioning, into a priesthood and into an army! As soon as Israel had crossed the Red Sea in battle array, they fought the Amalekites. Likewise, Psalm 68 continues:

My Master gives the word;
The messengers are a great army.
Kings of armies flee; they flee;
And those remaining at home divide the spoil,
Those remaining with the sheepfolds:
A dove’s wings covered with silver,
And her pinions with green–gold.
When the Almighty scattered kings there,
You made it snow on Black Mountain.
O mountain of gods, mountain of Bashan,
O mountain of ridges, mountain of Bashan,
Why your hostility, you mountains of ridges,
Toward the mountain God delighted for His dwelling?
Yes, Yahweh will dwell there endlessly.
The chariots of God are twice myriads,
Thousands upon thousands,
My Master among them,
At Sinai, in the holy place!
You ascended on high;
You captured a captivity;
You took men as gifts—
And even rebels—
In order that Yah, God might dwell. (Psalm 68:11–18, James Jordan)

The same thing happened when Israel crossed the Jordan into the promised land. God brought them safely through waters, circumcised them, and formed them into his own army to conduct a holy war.

Amos, God still has an army that wages holy warfare with the sword of the Spirit: the word of God. God has commissioned you into his service today. You are and will always be a soldier of Jesus. You belong completely to him, and it is good to belong to him. I charge you to serve him faithfully and fearlessly!

See also: Baptism exhortation

Written by Scott Moonen

November 16, 2020 at 3:50 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (20)

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While I have strong opinions about masks and mask mandates, this is far from being the main issue; our total submission to Jesus is. But they are a revealing bellwether. The best bellwether, of course, is abortion.

This year has been a powerful indictment of public schooling (let the reader understand). America is quite the international and historical laughingstock right now, although we have much company as we sail with sheets to the wind. Even the venerable Vatican has joined us on our aimless voyage.

I find it interesting that Girard does not believe that Satan is a personality. Instead, he identifies Satan with the process of scapegoating. Girard is wrong to deny the personhood of Satan, but right to identify a Satanic–demonic involvement in scapegoating, even the scapegoating of Jesus (e.g., Colossians 2:15). It is right to see the involvement of the accuser–tempter in scapegoating, even where it is initiated by Christians (consider the Satanic inciting of 1 Chronicles 21:1).

Part of resisting and exposing our culture’s late-stage decadence is identifying this sort of evil and demonic activity; we cannot be cautious or nice towards it. As part of this, we are seeing in the evangelical church right now a growing divide between what you might call an enchanted worldview and a spiritual worldview. The enchanted worldview believes in God’s overwhelming work in and through secondary causes; while the spiritual worldview tends to focus on our individual and immediate relationship with God, while largely considering the natural realm an indifferent matter. But just because something is a matter of secondary importance does not make it a matter of no importance.

The most important thing you can do in your life is give your life to Jesus Christ. The second thing is to make sure you can do the first thing. (Charlie Kirk)

I’ve been reflecting on how to convey what Edwin Friedman means by anxious leadership. He does not mean emotionally anxious, although that can accompany it. One possible way of expressing this is fussy leadership, obtrusive leadership, or even leadership that transgresses into another domain. It is similar to what R. C. Sproul means by “tyranny of the weak;” it is an excessive concern for the weak, anxious, or immature, employed as a kind of curb or constraint against those who are mature. Out in the world this looks like a hunt for bias, for the toxic. Within the church this looks like a hunt for pride. The result is a kind of Procrustean bed, or more accurately Harrison Bergeron. Ironically, by protecting the weak and anxious and immature from any inconvenience whatsoever—by fully enabling them to be their authentic selves—they are prevented from maturing.

There are a variety of ways of developing this thought. It is interesting to consider that anxious and non-anxious leadership often fall out along feminine and masculine lines. Also, it is interesting to consider the nature of wisdom. Wisdom is a navigation of tradeoffs, a choice between competing goods. Sometimes wisdom discovers a third way, but more often wisdom involves the rejection of one good for the sake of another, a choice to be hard toward one good and soft toward another.

“Now therefore do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man. You will know what you ought to do to him, and you shall bring his gray head down with blood to Sheol.” (1 Kings 2:9, ESV, emphasis added)

David Remnick writes of Solzhenitsen in 1994:

Back in the study, I asked Solzhenitsyn about his relations with the West. He knew that things had gone wrong, but had no intention of making any apologies. “Instead of secluding myself here and writing ‘The Red Wheel,’ I suppose I could have spent time making myself likable to the West,” he said. “The only problem is that I would have had to drop my way of life and my work. And, yes, it is true, when I fought the dragon of Communist power I fought it at the highest pitch of expression. The people in the West were not accustomed to this tone of voice. In the West, one must have a balanced, calm, soft voice; one ought to make sure to doubt oneself, to suggest that one may, of course, be completely wrong. But I didn’t have the time to busy myself with this. This was not my main goal.” . . .

“Do not help us. Fine. But, at least, don’t help dig our graves.” . . .

“You see, the whole atrocity of Communism could never be accommodated by the Western journalistic mind. . . . Most Americans understood what I was saying, even if the press did not. The press did not understand, because it did not want to and because I had criticized them. But how can I not criticize the press? How can the press aspire to true power? No one elected it. How can it aspire to an equal level with the three branches of government?”

Set against a long backdrop of younger–brother stories, the story of the prodigal son is quite unusual. In spite of the sin of the younger brother, the older brother’s participation in the covenant is still tied up in his welcoming his younger brother. You see, nothing that I write above should be taken as remotely defending pride, or encouraging disregard for one another. I am only urging against excessive and especially selective concern about these things. While we do not put to death being convinced in our own minds, we must put pride to death.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30, ESV)

This week’s twitter roundup:

Click through to read Bnonn’s entire thread:

Written by Scott Moonen

November 14, 2020 at 7:47 am

Slow and steady

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Written by Scott Moonen

November 9, 2020 at 9:39 pm

Posted in Current events

Enchanted

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‘Cause I can see the world is charged
It’s glimmering with promises
Written in a script of stars
And dripping from the prophet’s lips.

Andrew Peterson, “Don’t You Want to Thank Someone

Written by Scott Moonen

November 8, 2020 at 5:15 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (19)

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Clearly there was some organization, funding, purpose, planning, and storytelling that went into this year’s riots. That’s the key information you need in order to understand election fraud right now.

Men are called to be hard in certain ways and soft in other ways. It is never the case that dysfunctional leadership fails by being exclusively hard or soft. Rather, it is hard in the wrong ways and soft in the wrong ways. Often this failing falls out along the axes of Rosenstock–Huessy’s cross of reality: we become soft to the outsider (i.e., unwilling to confront) and hard to the insider; we become hard (unsympathetic) toward the past and soft toward (that is, unwilling to conquer) the future.

It’s not possible to please everyone. That’s a thankless treadmill that we had better not get on in the first place. How can we welcome both the soccer mom who expects everyone to wear masks, and also the middle–aged plumber or car mechanic who is hungry for a handshake, who feels claustrophobic and emasculated and wrung out by all this craziness? Well, Paul has already given us the answer: let each be convinced in his own mind. I am far from having every masking advocate in mind here, but the soccer mom is a fussy legalist and in this case it is she rather than the plumber who needs to be blessed by the good news of a hard word. See also Alastair Roberts and Anthony Bradley. And this goes for more than just masks:

This year has exposed two fundamentally different world views, two different conceptions of unity: one conformist, Procrustean; the other differentiated, cooperative, generative, and diverse. God’s new ways are never quite like his old ways; it is interesting and refreshing to see the pressure cooker’s creating lines of fraternity between dispensationalist, baptist, charismatic, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Calvinist, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox.

But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery—to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. (Galatians 2:3–5 ESV)

However, there is a kind of mask I encourage you to wear. In fact, this is exactly how we discipline ourselves to be soft and hard at the right time.

Sometimes you learn as much by what people don’t say as by what they do say. We can all see what they are hard on, but what are they soft on, and why?

End the Fed:

Indeed, YHWH your God will bless you
as he promised you;
you will cause many nations to give–pledge,
but you will not (have to) give–pledges;
you will rule over many nations,
but over you they shall not rule. (Deuteronomy 15:6–7, Everett Fox)

This passage reminded me of Nehemiah 8:9:

When you finish tithing all the tithe of your produce . . .
you are to say, before the presence of YHWH your God:
. . . I have not eaten of it while in sorrow. (Deuteronomy 26:12–14, Everett Fox)

But this is not to say that there are never legitimate times for tithe–sorrow.

The vindication of Jesus in AD 70 is still an object lesson to us today:

Then shall say a later generation,
your children who arise after you
and the foreigner that comes from a land far–off,
when they see the blows (dealt) this land
and its sicknesses with which YHWH has made–it–sick:
by brimstone and salt, is all its land burnt,
it cannot be sown, it cannot sprout (anything),
there cannot spring up in it any herbage—
like the overturning of Sedom and Amora, Adma and Tzvoyim
that YHWH overturned in his anger, in his venomous–wrath.
Then shall say all the nations:
For what (reason) did YHWH do thus to his land,
(for) what was this great flaming anger?
And they shall say (in reply):
Because they abandoned the covenant of YHWH the God of their fathers
that he cut with them when he took them out of the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 29:21–24, Everett Fox)

How good it is to belong to Jesus:

There is none like God, O Yeshurun,
riding (through) the heavens to your help,
in his majesty in the skies.
A shelter is the Ancient God,
beneath, the arms of the Ageless–One.
He drove out from before you the enemy,
saying, “Destroy!” (Deuteronomy 33:26–27, Everett Fox)

Yet You are the One who took me out of the womb;
You made me trust while on my mother’s breasts.
Upon You I was cast from birth.
From my mother’s womb my Mighty One was You.
Be not far from me, for trouble [is] near;
No one is helping. (Psalm 22:18–23, James Jordan)

Written by Scott Moonen

November 5, 2020 at 8:29 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (18)

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Last week I linked Alastair Roberts’ article on gender and discourse. One proof point for his thesis is how we have come to think our leaders ought to present themselves to us. We would rather have relatable leaders than distant, impenetrable, strong, and assured ones; we have become easily offended by what Edwin Friedman calls the well–differentiated leader. We want our presidents to pay attention to the focus groups, appear on late night talk shows, and tell us whether they wear boxers or briefs. Heaven forbid that they are (or at least fail to pretend that they are not) Machiavellian. I follow James Jordan in believing that Nebuchadnezzar, Artaxerxes–Ahashuerus–Darius–the–Great, Cyrus, the king of Nineveh, Joseph’s Pharaoh, and Constantine were all converted. I sometimes wonder if Trump is as well.

Egalitarianism flattens not only the sexes but, because of the process Roberts observes, the many different spheres of life. We would do well to rediscover sphere sovereignty. Like any explanatory rubric, it can be taken too far. But it has a lot to offer in this moment, both in terms of the form and purpose and limitations of each sphere, and also how the church ought to speak to each sphere. You could say that it gives us a kind of “threefold division” not only of the law but of the entire Bible and of life itself. For example, the parable of the good Samaritan is not something you would normally preach to the magistrate except in his private capacity. In fact, the parable as originally presented is not even a criticism of private individuals, but rather of church leaders who had deeply confused priorities. There is a time to recognize that there is none righteous and preach the gospel of free grace. There is a time to urge and pray for unity. But at certain times in each sphere of life, those principles serve as a cop-out that whitewashes the sharp distinctions of beauty, truth, or righteousness.

Experts make their money by undermining your confidence in your own judgment. (C. R. Wiley, “Postconstitutional America & the Cult of Expertise”)

I had a chance to listen to Rogan interview Kanye and Jones this week. This was my first encounter with both Rogan and Jones. I enjoyed both interviews.

What would a company of prophets look like—a company of men both grim and joyful? This is a time, to steal an idea from Charles Simeon, of heavy ballast bearing hard against soaring sails of encouragement. Isn’t it interesting that we must have the one in order to fully enjoy and appreciate the other? (Then I recall that Simeon labored for years without the benefit of like–minded brothers!) Sometimes you must march through Moria in order to save the Shire. It is a rich blessing from God if you are able to do it in a fellowship.

Reflecting this week on the events of 2020, including lockdowns, social distancing, masks, riots, and more, I feel again very strongly that we are witnessing a very Girardian moment. Girard explains how a wave of perverse imitation can sweep the globe, to the point where we even imitate our excuses (“science,” “we are all racist”). But then we turn swiftly to ruthlessly scapegoat those who are not caught up in the wave of imitation. This explains why everything in 2020 has been deeply politicized; there is a sharp polarity between this pursuit of dominating perverse unity on the one hand, and the steadfast preservation of basic human dignity and self governance on the other. These are not disagreements between equally reasonable viewpoints.

The engine behind this is a very powerful one: a desire to be justified, and an unwillingness to find justification by exposing our sin and guilt and shame and receiving forgiveness in the blood of the true Scapegoat, then imitating him in discipleship and growth towards self-governing maturity. Instead we project guilt on others and crucify them. This momentarily soothes our consciences, but the relief is only momentary because it is a false justification and we have only added to our sin and guilt in the process. So the next time there is just a little more ruthlessness because there is more sin to be covered up. And this engine is further amplified by both fear and exhilaration when everyone around you is caught up in it as well. This is often tempting for the church, but seeing it clearly and resisting it is a crucial part of not being of the world.

It is right to see the seeds of persecution in 2020 even though the engine has not yet turned its full energy directly on the church. Girard stresses that the church is always the scapegoat of last resort when the cycle reaches its zenith. This is because the church is the bearer of the gospel, which is deeply offensive to everyone caught up in self justification. The church tears down strongholds, which is to say, we uniquely have the ability and responsibility to see and expose and resist this demonic scapegoating process, urging people to repent and find their justification in the true Scapegoat. That automatically begets persecution, although the ultimate fruit of that is going to be the growth and maturation of the church and kingdom, because our message is one of tremendous unearthly power: the one Scapegoat really does cover sins and give life!

So you see, there are good gospel reasons the church ought to purposefully (and cheerfully!) resist walking together with the world in any of the great issues of 2020. There is obvious darkness there to be exposed. And we need to be prepared for this to provoke a crisis point. But this will result in the growth of the kingdom.

I learned this week of the (timely) phrase normalcy bias.

Theopolis Institute published the first edition of their Liturgy and Psalter this week. Their plan is to provide fresh translations, melodies, and chants for every Psalm over the next few years.

Written by Scott Moonen

November 1, 2020 at 4:08 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (17)

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From this week’s reading:

May YHWH bless you and keep you!
May YHWH shine his face upon you and favor you!
May YHWH lift up his face toward you and grant you shalom! (Numbers 6:24-26, Everett Fox)

James Jordan observes this is the only scripturally commanded liturgical blessing (there are of course commanded prophetic blessings, like that of Balaam).

Arise (to attack), O YHWH,
That your enemies may scatter,
That those who hate you may flee before you!
. . .
Return, O YHWH,
(you of) the myriad divisions of Israel! (Numbers 10:35-36, Everett Fox)

Duane Garner points out in surveying Revelation that Israel used the same trumpets as a call to worship and also as a call to war. Worship is warfare!

YHWH spoke to Moshe, saying:
Make yourself two trumpets of silver,
of hammered-work you are to make them;
they are to be for you for calling-together the community
and for (signaling) the marching of the camps. (Numbers 10:1-2, Everett Fox)

I now know that a writer cannot afford to give in to feelings of rage, disgust, or contempt. Did you answer someone in a temper? If so, you didn’t hear him out and lost track of his system of opinions. You avoided someone out of disgust—and a completely unknown personality slipped out of your ken—precisely the type you would have needed someday. But, however tardily, I nonetheless caught myself and realized I had always devoted my time and attention to people who fascinated me and were pleasant, who engaged my sympathy, and that as a result I was seeing society like the Moon, always from one side.

But just as the moon, as it swings slightly back and forth (“libration”), shows us a portion of its dark side too—so that chamber of monstrosities disclosed people unknown to me. (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 2, 268)

Nassim Taleb would approve:

Over the years I have had much occasion to ponder this word, the intelligentsia. We are all very fond of including ourselves in it—but you see not all of us belong. In the Soviet Union this word has acquired a completely distorted meaning. They began to classify among the intelligentsia all those who don’t work (and are afraid to) with their hands. . . . And yet the truth is that not one of these criteria permits a person to be classified in the intelligentsia. If we do not want to lose this concept, we must not devalue it. The intellectual is not defined by professional pursuit and type of occupation. Nor are good upbringing and a good family enough in themselves to produce an intellectual. An intellectual is a person whose interests in and preoccupation with the spiritual side of life are insistent and constant and not forced by external circumstances, even flying in the face of them. An intellectual is a person whose thought is nonimitative. (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 2, 280-281)

With apologies to Keller and Piper (my friend Mark Horne has a very helpful response to Piper), it can’t be simultaneously true that voting is important but also that reasonable Christians may differ about almost every possible vote. At this moment, the fact of Christians differing does not imply its necessity. Rather, it means that many Christians are in want of discipleship. It is not true that it is debatable which of the two ways (largely) in front of us have a reasonable possibility of enacting neighbor love (Keller) or destruction (Piper). Although I appreciate them, Keller and Piper are too kind to a great and demonic evil. By demonic, of course I mean things that are so evil they did not even enter into God’s mind:

I do not want you to be participants with demons. (1 Corinthians 10:20 ESV)

But the way this is going down is also evil. Maybe Romans 13 will help us know what to do.

Note also that Christian discipleship is different from how the world works. Christian discipleship is imitative, and is generative of more rule and dominion. Worldly rule is not imitative (do as I say, not as I do), and it is restrictive not only of others’ leadership and dominion, but even of basic agency. Worldly rule treats adults as perpetual children; Christian discipleship graduates baptized infants into dominion-wielding adults who are fruitful and multiply.

For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” (1 Corinthians 3:19 ESV)

It is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of Citizens, and one of the noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it. (James Madison)

There are different ways the world has of going about this. In the past, tyranny might be concentrated in a few individuals, but today’s soft despotism is much more diffuse and sMothering. Reaching back four years, Alastair Roberts had profound insights into one facet of what is driving this enormous shift in the nature of discourse, not only in politics, but in the business world and even the church. Of course, as Anthony Bradley observes, women need not be present in the room in order for them to dominate the conversation.

There are complicated bedfellows in this discourse. At a populist level, egalitarianism is now seen as an unquestioned simple good. On the one side, the radical left has long been driving this as part of their larger agenda, thus revealing that the principalities and powers are behind it. On the other side, it is enabled in the church by thin complementarians who limit Scripture’s voice to the spheres of home and church, and who therefore could agree with Roberts’ observations but not his value judgment.

I mentioned Protestant resistance theory last week. Apropos this, my friend Brad points to Trewhalla’s recent book, The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates; and the inimitable Glenn Sunshine is publishing a new survey on this topic, Slaying Leviathan. So many books, so little time!

This was a cute parable:

I say it is cute because Terry and Wrath have their hermeneutics all wrong; cars are only the tip of the iceberg. The real question is this: would you give up your smartphone, Netflix, Prime, Spotify, and your college degree if you could bring sixty-one million babies back? Yes, Amen!

I know that Wrath would heartily agree with me, though:

I’ve been thinking about prophetic speech lately. I wonder that cessationists have any problem with prophecy. We all believe that the preaching of the word of God is the word of God, and yet no one is worried whether sermons are an attack on the inspiration of scripture.

I’ve mentioned before Jordan’s observation that the chief role of prophet seems to be to stand in the heavenly council as God’s friend, receiving revelation from him (Amos 3:7) and wrestling with him (as Abraham the prophet—Genesis 20:7, Moses, Habakkuk, etc.). The prophet then goes out into the world to speak God’s new creation into existence. Often this involves teaching people how repentance will enable them to pass through the death of the old creation into new life. I love how Toby Sumpter helps us to understand the book of Job as Job’s own maturation through suffering into prophethood.

There is a death of an era upon us; the old ways are no longer working, certainly outside the church, and in some ways within the church (to the extent we have become gnostic). God has given us the job of reflecting how to pass through to the other side, and how to bring as many as we can on our lifeboat-arks.

But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. (Jude 17–23 ESV)

The prophet thus must be a keen student of God and his word and his ways in the world. Speaking for myself, I have found James Jordan to be the single greatest teacher of the word. Through New Eyes is a good introduction, although his lectures are the real treasure trove. In the way of the world, René Girard and Edwin Friedman have been tremendously helpful to me in understanding human nature and relationships. Please comment to share what you have found helpful in these areas!

One other kind of prophecy seems to be simple singing, and we see this show up in several places in the Old Testament. I think this is the key to unlocking how 1 Corinthians 11 relates to 1 Corinthians 14 without resorting to extrabiblical supposition and handwaving. I hope to write on head coverings and silence in church at another time.

Considering God’s ways in the world, it’s reassuring to know that the wicked will eventually be caught in their own trap, will bite and devour one another. Plunderers may prosper for a time (here’s looking at you, Yelp), but unjust gain takes away the life of its possessors. I mention Yelp only as one small example:

You should listen to Mark Horne’s sermon on walking wise:

This is beautiful. Oktavist was a new term for me:

I forgot to mention that the Lutherans are doing good work in the public square too!

Written by Scott Moonen

October 24, 2020 at 10:25 am