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Jesu, Juva

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-24)

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Everett Fox translates the word for altar as slaughter-site:

If an offering-up is his near-offering, from the herd,
(then) male, wholly-sound, let him bring-it-near,
to the entrance of the Tent of Appointment let him bring-it-near,
as acceptance for him, before the presence of YHVH.
He is to lean his hand on the head of the offering-up,
that there may be acceptance on his behalf, to effect-ransom for him.
He is to slay the herd-animal (for sacrifice) before the presence of YHVH,
and the Sons of Aharon, the priests, are to bring-near the blood
and are to dash the blood against the slaughter-site, all around,
that is at the entrance of the Tent of Appointment. (Leviticus 1:3-5, Everett Fox)

But this forces him to choose something else for incense altar; he translates altar there simply as site:

Then the priest is to put some of the blood on the horns of the site of fragrant smoking-incense, before the presence of YHVH,
that is in the Tent of Appointment;
as for all the (rest of the) blood of the bull, he is to pour it out at the foundation of the slaughter-site of offering-up
that is (at) the entrance of the Tent of Appointment. (Leviticus 4:7, Everett Fox)

By contrast, Jordan uses communion-site for altar:

If his Nearbringing is an Ascension from the herd,
a perfect male shall he bring him near.
To the forecourt of the Tent of Meeting he shall bring him near,
for his acceptance before Yahweh.
And he shall lean his hand on the head of the Ascension,
and he will be accepted for him to cover him.
And he shall slaughter the son of the herd before Yahweh.
And Aaron’s sons the palace-servants shall bring near the blood.
And they shall dash the blood on the Communion Site round about that is at the forecourt of the Tent of Meeting.
(Leviticus 1:3-5, James Jordan)

(Alter, however, uses altar.)

I am not qualified to judge between these options, but Jordan’s appeals to me greatly, and the fact that it allows for the more straightforward “communion-site of incense” is a nice result. Incense, of course, is the communion of prayer (Revelation 5, 8).

The Byzantine texts use Christ rather than the Alexandrian Him in Philippians 4:

But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:10-13, NKJV)

Both the preceding context and the use of Christ lead me to read this in a totus Christus fashion. Very much of the way that Jesus strengthens us to do all things is through the work of his Spirit in his church toward us.

Wilson’s recent reflections on our mass panic are good. We are right now in the eye of the storm, and widespread repentance for church closures and for binding of consciences is still necessary to prepare for future battles and victory.

Whatever the long-term effects of the so-called vaccines, I think this will be both an opportunity for the church to care for those who are injured, as well as another way in which the need to repent for failures to shepherd will become crystal clear. I wonder whether the next stage of the storm will be an external one that affects all churches, or if it will be an internal one that shakes only those churches and denominations that have let down their guard.

I’m not entirely in agreement with Wilson’s account of free speech and blasphemy. Here are some observations and qualifications, perhaps many of which Wilson would agree with:

  1. The prohibition on fraternization with Canaanites did not extend to Gentiles in general, who were welcome to offer sacrifices (Numbers 15) and participate in the feast of booths (Deuteronomy 16). Israel’s excessive fastidiousness here is one of their great failures of mission and was in fact demonic.
  2. Christians’ company with idolaters is a separate category from Christians’ company with idolatry (i.e., the table of demons) and also from the magistrate’s dealing with public idolatry.
  3. The power of the gospel does not negate lesser tactics against evil including the second use of the law.
  4. I have great difficulty with Wilson’s main argument. If I substitute murder for blasphemy the argument seems to me the same, perhaps even more urgent on Wilson’s principles. Does wisdom require us to conduct a moratorium of a few centuries on capital punishment? On the one hand, I would be glad to start vaccinating and exiling capital offenders to Canada and Australia if I could have the lives of millions of babies in exchange. On the other hand, God has seen fit to entrust this responsibility to men since the time of Noah. The righteous magistrate ought not to flinch or be wiser than God in punishing evil and rewarding good.
  5. In fact there is a symmetry between the first and the sixth commandments, part of a well-known symmetry between the first and second sets of five commandments (e.g., see Jordan’s Covenant Sequence in Leviticus and Deuteronomy).
  6. In a nation that constitutionally confesses the supreme lordship of Jesus, how is public blasphemy not the highest form of treason or sedition?
  7. When we are given the opportunity, certainly we would start small. God will give us the words to speak at that time, but it seems reasonable to me that only clear and public blasphemy would be forbidden; normal standards of evidence would apply; repentance would be required only for the blasphemy having been public; repentance would be accepted at face value; contumacy would be the final offense rather than blasphemy; and exile would be a reasonable option at first. How is this not better than saying we must take it slow and wait a little longer for the leaven to work?
  8. Of course, wisdom right now involves living rightly in a time when we have not been brought before kings and rulers. In fact, as I think about Daniel’s own time of preparation, this underscores the need to thoroughly reject the ways of the world, and highlights the church’s great present failure to do so.

Perhaps the best summary is to compare this to Wilson’s approach to abortion. It is true that we are all incrementalists. But when it comes to both abortion (sixth commandment) and blasphemy (first commandment), let us also be smashmouth about it.

Tim Nichols writes on 1 John:

Church is a hospital. We take in the sick, the wounded, the broken. It’s just unseemly to complain that someone’s bleeding on the Emergency Room floor again—that’s what it’s for! That’s what we are for: to hear the truth of our sins and failures, and assure one another of God’s cleansing mercy. So go forth into the body, and tell the truth. Trust Jesus: He will take care of the sin. 

I wrote briefly on CEOs and acting. I did not mean, of course, to imply that CEOs must not be actors; we are always already actors. Rather, leaders must be acting out of a well-defined center of principle and integrity.

Written by Scott Moonen

June 13, 2021 at 6:52 am

Mission

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My favorite quotes from Peter Leithart’s Theopolitan Mission:

The principle of ministry in the church is simple: “Let all things be done for edification” (1 Cor 14:26). This is the rule: Do everything you do to complete Christ’s body. (39)

Macedonians make a koinonia contribution to poor saints in Jerusalem (Rom 15:26). As Paul sees it, they don’t throw money at a problem from a distance. Rather, their generous gifts overcome distance, joining Macedonian Gentiles and Jerusalem Jews in one fellowship of the Spirit. Material gifts have a quasi-sacramental power to join the members of the church into one body. (50)

A church isn’t carrying out the mission of Jesus if it doesn’t gather on the Lord’s Day at a common table. (54)

Conflict is no accident, nor is it avoidable. Suffering is the only path into the kingdom, an inevitable part of mission. (71)

Like the ark, the church receives and preserves the treasures of the world (Rev 21:24) so they can be purged, transfigured, and brought out again to adorn creation. As worlds collapse, the world’s riches are kept safe in the ark of the church. All things are gathered into the church so that all things can disembark into a new creation. Noah performs this magic only once, but Jesus does it continuously. Treasures flow continuously into the ark of Christendom. The church has received the treasures of Greek and Roman art, philosophy, and politics, to purify them and bring them to fulfillment. It will plunder the gold of China, Japan, and India, of the Masai and Zulu, of Arabia and Iraq and Afghanistan. Treasures from the city of man enter the city of God so they can return to the city of man, renewed. The city of man enters the ark of God so it can become more perfectly what it’s supposed to be, more perfectly an image of heavenly Jerusalem.

The church pilots the world. What happens in the holy church guides what happens outside. If the church is unfaithful, leaves her first love, and turns to false teachers, Jesus will move the lampstand and abandon the house (Rev 2-3). If the church keeps her lamps burning, continuously supplied by the oil of the Spirit, the world will be full of light. (79)

I wonder sometimes if any of my international colleagues are secret brothers and sisters.

Transformed by the Eucharist, our making is freed from pure utility and functionality. Utility is good. A woodworker makes tables for meals, weavers make cloth for clothing, metalworkers make wires for electricity and rebar to strengthen walls. All these forms of making have practical ends. But when we make in order to offer our fruit to God in praise, we transcend mere usefulness. The cobbler doesn’t just cover bare feet; he cobbles for the glory of God. At the same time, the sanctuary frees us from the sterile circularity of making for its own sake, the effete snobbery of “art for art’s sake.” Making Eucharistically, a craftsman makes for God. “Art for art’s sake” is a sign of decadence. It’s a symptom of the decay of liturgy. (88-89)

A flood is coming. It’s already sweeping away the world as we know it. The world we know will be submerged as the Lord turns the world upside down and gives it a sharp shake (Hag 2:6-7).

It’s not the end of everything. Creation will survive, and civilization will be reborn. Jesus will steer the ark of his church through the storm. As the clouds gather, as the thunder begins to roll, as the deluge crashes down, we’re called to continue the often-imperceptible work of building the ark of Jesus. With our lives scripted by the Scriptures that reveal the Christ, we cling to the apostolic gospel, gather to break bread, share our material and Spiritual gifts, offer a continuous sacrifice of prayer and song. We preach the good news in false churches and public squares, endure the rage of the mob, suffer with Jesus so we may share His glory. We confront idols and demons and call all men from darkness to light, from Satan to the living God (Acts 26:18). In the Last Adam, we’re made right-makers, grateful makers whose making is an act of worship. Some will slip, lizard-like, into palaces (Prov 30:28) and gain a hearing before Prime Ministers and Presidents.

As we do these things, we preserve the treasures of the past and, by the alchemy of the Spirit, transfigure ancient treasures into new. When the storm is over and the flood waters recede, we’ll have and be the seeds of a new creation. We’ll flow like living water to fertilize the wasteland.

If you’re a Christian, that’s what you’re doing. Your life may not look like a big deal. You’re kind to your neighbors, serve your brothers and sisters in church, gather each week to receive God’s Word and God’s Bread. You train and teach your children as disciples; you love your husband or wife. You’re an honest and productive employee, an attentive employer, an entrepreneur or bureaucrat in a well-established institution. You do and make, but no one notices. . . .

You feel invisible, but that’s an optical illusion. You’re participating in the biggest project imaginable. You’re joining with millions of others to build the self-building ark of Jesus. Through your witness and labor, a new world is taking form. You’re fighting the battle of the ages. You’re constructing the city of God among the cities of men in order to transform the cities of men to become more like the city of God. Nothing is small in the kingdom of Jesus.

There’s nothing to fear. We live in joy and expectant hope. Jesus is in the boat, and He calms the seas. The Carpenter of Nazareth will pilot his ark until it rests on a new Ararat, a new Eden, the garden-city where the river of life flows. (100-101)

Written by Scott Moonen

June 4, 2021 at 10:19 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-23)

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God’s people bring-near near-bringings as we approach him. But God also brings-near something to his house:

Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
the holiness of your temple! (Psalm 65:4, ESV)

I have beheld frAgile release planning, and it looks something like this when you don’t have a well-ordered backlog:

I wrote a couple of blog posts on bringing your team back to the office. Of course Nassim Taleb and Edwin Friedman come up. This is is a startling insight from Taleb:

Written by Scott Moonen

June 4, 2021 at 9:58 pm

The Fruit of Our Lips

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I read Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy’s The Fruit of Our Lips recently and appreciated it. I’ve already shared one quote on prophecy. Here are some others that provoked me:

The “four gospels” . . . can prove one thing: the Word changed the world of the mind once and for all. In antiquity, a book was closed to all other books; an ancient school of philosophy was closed to all other schools; a book had a beginning and an end, two covers contained it. That is not true of the four gospels. They respond to a dead-end, to an end of the world. They move through time, and when they end, they have scarcely begun. At the end of all four gospels, John says that the whole universe isn’t big enough to contain all the books that could be written about Jesus. That sounds fantastic, but after all, today even this chapter of mine bears witness to the fact that John’s cheerful confidence was well-founded. (72)

In his gospel, Matthew progresses from speaking as a Jew to speaking as a non-Jew—the text is plain. In his first chapter, Matthew begins: “This is the book of the birth of Jesus the Christ, the son of David, the Son of Abraham.” In the same first chapter, verse 21, we read: “Jesus shall free his people from their sins.” Obviously, we are in Israel, for Matthew seems to see no necessity to explain the “his” in “his people” at all. But by the 28th and final chapter, Matthew’s eloquence has carried him beyond the Jewish world. When he comes to reporting the machinations of the priests and elders among the Jews, he writes, “this [has been] common talk among the Jews to this day” [28:15]. Here the Jews are no longer divided into those who believe in Christ and those who do not; the Jews, as Jews, are outside Matthew’s family. The fence between them and Matthew is infinitely higher in the 28th chapter than in the first. The outpouring of his experiences, his memories, and his notes changed the writer’s own mind. . . . The wisdom of our tradition consists in the fact that in the first gospel a man writes himself out of Israel by writing up Jesus. Thus, he makes real, makes visible, to his readers that to write “about Jesus” means to reduce the Bible to the Old Testament. That could never have been achieved with argument. . . . An Evangelist is a man who, by speaking of Jesus, changes his own mind and, because he is in the process himself, leads others into the same process. Matthew’s gospel institutes a process whose power changes the face of the world—and of Israel—for Christianity is the world as it always was, plus Jesus’ death. (74-75)

Where in Matthew a worldly process makes all mankind Jews, in Luke the same process makes Rome into Jerusalem. So here too we miss the sense of the scripture if we treat it as “material.” Its purpose is to force us to our own change of mind. No Communist is as thorough a materialist as the biblical critics have been. (77)

This is a fascinating observation:

We may say too that the climax of Peter’s self-denial is that Mark is not allowed to give the name “Peter” to one of the two disciples who see the risen Christ in Emmaus, even though Paul bluntly declares that Peter was the first who saw the risen Lord (1 Cor 15:5). . . (83)

What is the beginning and the end of speech? The beginning of a human breath discloses the time and place of a particular act of the spirit. End and beginning bring inspiration down to earth; the end and beginning of any book tell you if it is true or not. This truth is a threefold truth: a word may be true in its content; it may secondly be true enough to prove the author right; and finally it may be so true that it forces the next speaker to respond and speak in turn.

Shakespeare compelled Milton to swerve out of the path of earlier poetry because his language was so perfect that Milton complained (“On Shakespeare,” 1630). The Church has lived on in the truth of the facts told in the “four gospels”; Christians in their own lives have lived on in the truth of the men who told them. (110-111)

The word “freedom” must never replace the experience of liberation, the word “good” must never replace the experience of getting better. Today it is the particular curse of the educated that “kindness” so often replaces the passionate need to love, as “adjustment” replaces the experience of personal commitment. (116)

The price of freedom is threefold: time, life, and substance. All three must be given freely to achieve great ends. Where not even one of these three powers is given freely, freedom becomes an empty word. Freedom’s way into the world consists of the investment of these three forms of capital in the service of a new love, a new faith, or a new hope. . . .

The relationship between freedom and law is absolute; no one unwilling to pay the price may enjoy freedom. He who is not willing to marry, cannot and can never know what full love between the sexes can be. He who is not willing to suffer for the truth, can never know what the truth is. He who does not defend his country will not and shall never understand what freedom is though not everything that calls itself a fatherland is one. (119)

In the year 38 A.D. all twelve apostles lived as a closed corporation in Jerusalem. The Lord had granted them all their powers as one inseparable common hand, and when Matthew picked up his pen, he could only do so as their secretary. Today’s criticism arises from the hell of individualism that has ruled since the Enlightenment, so it sees individual Evangelists wandering around like will o’ the wisps in the swamp. Oh, each one of them spoke in the name of all the apostles—most of all the latecomers, Matthew and Paul! . . . .

They are all of one mind. The genealogy in Matthew is no more “Mattheine” than the prologue to John is “Johannine.” They all believed themselves to be sinners and righteous like everyone else, and only together to be worthy of the healing power of the spirit. This way we can arrive at a sensible dating fo the gospels. They are not cheats with prophecies invented after the fact; they are not forgeries with a purpose. The gospels actually accuse the authors or their protectors of the weaknesses to which they fell victim, and they all go back to the most intimate community of the apostles with each other. Matthew wrote for the twelve while they were still together, and I still hope to see the day an honest Bible critic recognizes in these twelve years in Jerusalem, from the crucifixion to Peter’s departure, their Lord Jesus’ greatest achievement of genius. (121-122)

Written by Scott Moonen

May 31, 2021 at 8:57 am

Posted in Bible, Books, Quotations

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-22)

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A year ago we were ignoring the fussy Dolores Umbridges of the world and obeying high king Jesus’s call to assemble for the life of the world. There is no spiritual warfare more important than this. I’m so grateful for this time together, and I think we will look back on it as a real gift from God that we could practice faithful Christian living in what Aaron Renn calls the “negative world.” And be sure to keep up your prayers for pastors and churches elsewhere who are not experiencing such a gentle ride.

Q: Where has God commanded the blessing?
A: The mountains of Zion (Psalm 133:3).
Q: Where is that?
A: In the assembling of his church (Hebrews 12:18-24).

The baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 is fascinating. It occurs without great fanfare compared to that of Cornelius, which comes in a later chapter. So: perhaps the eunuch was a Jew, or had become a proselyte and not merely a God-fearer by virtue of, er, circumcision. (Or perhaps the passage is simply dischronologized; James Jordan notes that, in terms of the Joshua-Acts parallels, this passage links with Joshua’s conquest of the southern lands in Joshua 10.) I wonder if this is the very first baptism of someone who would have had some kind of excluded status in the old world, who is nevertheless welcomed into the new priesthood without any change in their outward condition.

You’ve probably watched this, but if not, you should at least grab the first few minutes. Here is the article by Mallory Millett that Sumpter cites. Although these things have really gone to seed, they are not new:

My friend Randy shared a fascinating story of cream and tea. Generally I try to put my cream in first as this saves me from stirring my coffee. But the idea that it enhances the flavor of the cream is interesting to me. However, I don’t think I can tell the difference!

Written by Scott Moonen

May 29, 2021 at 4:31 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-21)

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Ralph Allen Smith writes that “Steven Weinberg destroyed my faith,” citing Thomas Kuhn as well. (Kuhn is one of my great thrift store finds, right up there with Bastiat.) Kuhn is a kind of secular Van Til, demonstrating that science is always tied up with presuppositional commitments, and that scientific progress occurs by gestalt shifts as much as it does by steady development. A gestalt shift is always a kind of storm: at once exciting, but also frightening and costly—and inevitable. Anyone who has converted to paedobaptism or especially to paedocommunion knows this.

Smith is right that Weinberg’s materialistic vision is a nightmare. Our whole experience confirms that we live in a story.

The preterist recognizes that once–fulfilled scripture is not useless to us; rather, it gives us powerful assurance of God’s faithfulness to his promises, and insight into his ways with his people and in his world. It will be many times fulfilled. For example, Revelation shows us how “things fall apart” when the gospel shines into any new situation. If we consider that one of the primary purposes of “tongues” was to serve as a judicial withdrawal (Isa. 28:11, 1 Cor. 14:21) in the first century, this makes me wonder what the enduring form of that would be.

I’ve long held that Pentecost was the Spirit’s undoing of Babel, not by reversing it, but by subverting and conquering it. While this is true, this judicial aspect of Pentecost means that there was still a kind of judicial confusion God was sending at the same time, to those who refused to walk in step with the Spirit.

What I think this means is that the enduring form of Pentecost is not only the going forth of the word and gospel into every tongue, but also times of confusion especially within God’s church where hardened hearts and old wineskins are not able to hear the Word of God. We are, as Chesterton says, back to first principles: God’s plan for human sexuality, meeting face to face for worship, sitting at table with one another, welcoming our children to that table, and pursuing holiness earnestly.

Meanwhile Big Eva plays footsie with the city world:

‘“And listen, Gandalf, my old friend and helper” he said, coming near and speaking now in a softer voice. “I said we, for we it may be, if you will join with me. A new Power is rising. Against it the old allies and polices will not avail us at all. There is no hope left in Elves or dying Númenor. This then is one choice before you, before us. We may join with that Power. It would be wise, Gandalf. There is hope that way. Its victory is at hand; and there will be rich reward for those that aided it. As the Power grows, its proved friends will also grow; and the Wise, such as you and I, may with patience come at last to direct its courses, to control it. We can bide our time, we can keep our thoughts in our hearts, deploring maybe evils done by the way, but approving the high and ultimate purpose: Knowledge, Rule, Order; all the things that we have so far striven in vain to accomplish, hindered rather than helped by our weak or idle friends. There need not be, there would not be, any real change in our designs, only in our means.” (Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book 2, Chapter 2, “The Council of Elrond,” 272-273)

And all of the great prophets of this past year were cessationists, yet were filled with the Spirit.

The most shameless of biblical criticism’s many impudences is the assumption that the apostles and Evangelists made up the prophecies after the fact—it reduces the foundations of the church to a pack of lies.

Any reader who can remain a layman may read my essay “Ehrlos—Heimatlos” (“Honorless—Homeless”) of 1919, in which I foretold a pseudo–emperor and the destruction of the Jews. From 1918–19 I lived a selfless life, and as Ricarda Huch has said, “Deep within, everyone is prophetic.” These gentlemen who have never prophesied because they were never selfless should not dare to lay a finger on the Evangelists—the four would have gone to the cross themselves before inventing a prophecy after the fact. Biblical criticism accuses these heroes of mortal sin. The correct conclusion from the texts at hand is the opposite: the prophecies made an impression because they bore witness to Jesus’s gift of prophecy. That is why they were kept alive and written down. (Eugen Rosenstock–Huessy, The Fruit of Our Lips, 120–121)

Worship is warfare, and it is thrilling to participate in worship where everyone around you enters into the same martial mindset. Martial worship is nonstop; there is not a single moment where you are not fully engaged, where you could double check whether that buzzing phone is an urgent message.

Kudos to Django for its dedication to paying down technical debt!

This is interesting:

Written by Scott Moonen

May 22, 2021 at 9:23 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-20)

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Speaking of interpretive maximalism, although I’ve worked my way through James Jordan’s complete audio collection, I haven’t gone through many of the written works that are part of this collection. Hierodula prompted me to read Jordan’s “Law of Forbidden Mixtures” this week.

A couple of choice quotes:

Refusal to permit a penitent sinner back into the congregation is a trespass against God’s holy people (2 Sam. 14:13; cp. 2 Cor. 2:6-8)

With the coming of the New Covenant, and of the Holy Spirit, it would seem that far from mixtures being prohibited, they are encouraged. We now live in an age of greater holiness, and we are encouraged to be holy. In fact, though, the laws of mixtures have simply expired with the transformation of the Old Covenant into the New, and so the fact that we are holy does not mean we are commanded or even encouraged to make mixtures. Nevertheless, the fact that we can make mixtures, breed mules, wear mixed cloth, plant beans in our orchards, etc., is a testimony to the coming of the new age of holiness. 

There is still very careful boundary keeping, of course. Believers are not to marry unbelievers, and church discipline is a vital part of preserving the peace and purity of Jesus’s bride.

The way out of hierodula’s conundrum may be this: if you consent to live so close to God, know that you are experiencing a precious blessing and therefore incurring for yourself a greater judgment if you do not repent. In the new covenant you are graciously permitted to continue temporarily in this blessing, but do not allow it to give you a sense of false security.

If we understand the potency of the gospel and the almost contagious nature of holiness (vs. death), how can we not be paedobaptists?

When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.” Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction. And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My clothes?” (Mark 5:27–30, NKJV)

For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. (1 Cor. 7:14, NKJV)

Israel’s Iron Dome has been in the news lately. Although the technology is pretty cool, I still think the name suffers from a tremendous lack of historical awareness.

‘​And after all this, if you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. ​I will break the pride of your power; ​​I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. (Leviticus 26:18–19, NKJV)

Duane Garner comments on Daniel 6: “The men who wrote this law are not after men who keep their ideas to themselves.” Lord, help us to be men who do not keep our ideas to ourselves!

I reflected briefly on David’s linking worship and warfare in Psalm 144. At the time, David’s use of “hand” is what struck me the most. But Duane Garner points out that David speaks of fingers as well, and points out that there is a correlation between fingers plucking bow strings and strings of harp and lyre.

Likewise, I think we could speak of how well someone aims their harp and lyre.

If you are conducting dollar cost averaging, or rebalancing, or both, and believe in the long term viability of an investment—isn’t it interesting that you are cheering to see your investment lose apparent value in the short term?

Written by Scott Moonen

May 15, 2021 at 10:05 pm

Interpretive maximalism

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While he does not prefer the term, James Jordan describes and defends the notion of interpretive maximalism, an approach to reading scripture that seeks to wring every last drop of life-giving water from the Bible’s cloth. Jordan also gives a good defense of his approach to structural-symbolic-typological reading of the Bible in chapter 3 of his outstanding book, Through New Eyes.

Jordan has many contemporary reformed friends and colleagues who appreciate this approach. Gary DeMar relies on Jordan. Vern Poythress has related thoughts in his book Symphonic Theology, and takes a similar approach in his book The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses. Peter Leithart takes the same approach; here are some thoughtful quotes from Leithart’s recent commentary on Revelation. (It’s such a thrilling thought to me that we must read Revelation neither in light of today’s newspaper nor yesterday’s newspaper, but in light of the Bible’s own language.) Kevin DeYoung writes that “every word in the Bible is in there because God wanted it there.” (Taking God at His Word, 118) Another contemporary biblical theologian doing great work in this area is L. Michael Morales; I highly recommend his book Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?

Many people are unfamiliar with this approach and are somewhat taken aback by it. Here are several reasons why I believe that a kind of interpretive maximalism must be a part of our diligent searching of the scriptures.

First, we know that God is the supreme poet and artist. We should expect to find him always doing something deeply beautiful and intricate and artistic in his revelation.

Second, we know that other ancient writing relies on dense interconnected structures involving things like chiasms, typology, and even numerology. We are unfamiliar with it only because we have perverse modern affordances that allow us to be lazy and effusive in our writing and thinking. Thus, multi-faceted writing is likely not just something God was doing completely independently of his human instruments, but normally with their awareness. Writers of scripture were largely members of a highly trained scribal class: the rocket scientists and brain surgeons of their day. It’s intriguing that the apostles dedicated themselves to the ministry of the word (Acts 6), which must have included the writing of the word.

Third, we begin with the perspicacity of scripture and also hold to the analogy of faith; scripture interprets scripture rather than contradicting it. Our reading begins with what is plain, and is disciplined and directed by what Scripture has already taught us. We are delighted to discover things that draw us further up and further in, and we wholly reject any kind of undirected and undisciplined speculation. What we should see in scripture is multiple complementary, interconnected, reinforcing layers—something like layers of transparent anatomy diagrams—rather than the alien interruptions of a prisoner sending contradictory Morse code signals with his eyelids. We are meant to have a feeling of increasing cognitive rest, of weird things falling into a pleasant harmony, of things coming into increasing focus; not a feeling of a detective’s crazy wall. This is not to say that we can’t experience gestalt shifts along the way, but we accept them only when they are compelling, only when we can “see it on every page.”

Fourth, Scripture does this everywhere. For example, Matthew 2:15 refers to something that is not obviously a prophecy. There is a puzzle here we are meant to figure out. Why does Matthew link this with Jesus’s entering Egypt? God links tabernacles and temples with Jesus’s body (John 2), with the individual human body (1 Corinthians 3, 6), and the corporate body (Ephesians 2); he tells us that altars are miniature mountains (Ezekiel 43:15).

Fifth, God explicitly tells us that he does this; e.g., Prov. 25:2. He charges us to chase him and wrestle with him. He gives us exact dimensions of buildings that were never meant to be built and then explicitly tells us there are theological and moral implications for us to work out (Ezek. 43:10). Paul even seems to suggest that the symbolic meaning of a passage is its first meaning in 1 Cor 9:9–10. (Incidentally, I think Paul’s reading works even in its original context; Deuteronomy 25:4 seems obviously connected with the immediately following passage on the levirate system, which taken together with Paul teaches us to think of pastors as a kind of temporary levirate husband for the church.) Peter behaves similarly in Acts 10, where he concludes that the primary purpose of laws of cleanness was to reveal something about the great cleansing accomplished by Jesus.

Sixth, we already recognize this. We agree with Peter and the author of Hebrews that ceremonial laws all speak to the work of Jesus and the formation and worship of his church. We are appropriately intrigued to find thirty pieces of silver here and there; we find sevens and twelves provocative (and should learn to find seventies provocative as well). We know that human marriage is a type (Eph. 5:32), which appropriately leads us to consider how each of the ten commandments also and necessarily refer to Jesus, and to consider how the Song of Songs also and necessarily refers to Jesus. We already recognize the challenge of seeing Jesus everywhere in Scripture. We must grow in recognizing all such hidden treasures.

Seventh, this is consistent with God’s trinitarian nature. We should expect to find him successfully accomplishing multiple related and uncontradictory things at once.

Eighth, related to the last, we are convinced that God is always working to his glory whenever he is also working for something else, such as our good. Every speck of dust, every jot and tittle, in the end strains for God’s glory. There are no errant words in scripture; as Jordan says, God does not waste his breath with needless detail.

Finally, the church has a long history of symbolic and typological interpretation. Certainly church history also shows the possibility of error, and this carries into the present. Although Jordan takes care to marshal enough evidence that I am usually convinced, not everyone is equally careful or convincing. For example, although I appreciate some insights from Ray Sutton and Michael Bull, at times they seem to me to be operating without a safety net. However, abusus non tollit usum! There is treasure to be found in this search. Michael Bull exhorts us that “the purpose of identifying [patterns] in the Scriptures is not to ignore their obvious message in favor of a hidden one. It is a foundation for interpreting them correctly so we can better understand the temptation and suffering we experience, and better obey God’s glorious purposes for us in Christ.” (Bible Matrix, 32)

Written by Scott Moonen

May 11, 2021 at 7:02 pm

Posted in Biblical Theology

Covenant sentence

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In his book That You May Prosper, Ray Sutton identifies five common aspects of God’s covenants, and shows how these aspects are frequently used to structure Biblical texts. We see the “cash value” of this when it gives us a deeper insight into Biblical passages: for example, Michael Bull observes this pattern in the book of Revelation and deftly rebuts the hyper-preterist reading of Revelation.

In some ways the five-point covenant model is a fresh insight, but in other ways it is just putting a name on inescapable aspects of relationships and communication, especially between a superior and an inferior, a creator and a creature. In that vein, and with tongue somewhat in cheek, I present the five-point covenant model of the English sentence.

First, let’s review the diagram of a typical sentence:

Now we apply the five-point covenant model to this sentence:

  • Transcendence: The subject of this sentence is the transcendent initiator of all action.
    • Hierarchy: The indirect object is the dependent receiver of the subject’s speech and action, blessing and curse.
      • Ethics: The verb expresses the communication and action that extend from the subject to the indirect object, which comprises laws, commands or covenant conditions.
    • Oath (Sanctions): The direct object signifies the blessings and curses that the subject is offering to the indirect object.
  • Succession: The object of the preposition describes the outcome, the future goal of the subject’s covenantal actions.

Our sentence diagram now looks like this:

Depending on how you react to Sutton’s approach, you may either feel that this proves that it is truly a hammer seeking to turn everything into a nail, or else that this validates his approach by showing it is a simple taxonomy of unavoidable aspects of covenantal relation and communication. Thus, as Gary North observed in his publisher’s preface to Sutton’s book, these five points serve equally well as a framework for understanding political theory.

Written by Scott Moonen

May 10, 2021 at 4:51 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-19)

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It took me over nine months, but I’ve finished The Gulag Archipelago. Some quotes from the end of Volume 3:

Let us put it generally: if a regime is immoral, its subjects are free from all obligations to it. (Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 3, 394)

A fish does not campaign against fisheries—it only tries to slip through the mesh. (452)

But then, only those who decline to scramble up the career ladder are interesting as human beings. Nothing is more boring than a man with a career. (455)

All you freedom–loving “left–wing” thinkers in the West! You left laborites! You progressive American, German, and French students! As far as you are concerned, none of this amounts to much. As far as you are concerned, this whole book of mine is a waste of effort. You may suddenly understand it all someday—but only when you yourselves hear “hands behind your backs there!” and step ashore on our Archipelago (518)

Kings multiply kingship:

And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, each man under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan as far as Beersheba, all the days of Solomon. (1 Kings 4:25, NKJV)

So do deacons multiply deaconship:

And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. (Acts 6:5–6, NKJV)

Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert. So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning. . . . (Acts 8:26–28, NKJV)

By contrast, rulers that stifle their people are cutting off their own arms:

​In a multitude of people is a king’s honor,​​
But in the lack of people is the downfall of a prince.​ (Proverbs 14:28, NKJV)

Daniel’s behavior under the decree of Darius (Daniel 6) is calculated specifically to avoid even the public appearance of breaking covenant with God. If someone spied on our front doors for the past year, what would they see? Could they convict us of faithfulness to worship God?

In the ark of the covenant were hidden some of God’s treasures: his ten words, heavenly bread, and Aaron’s rod of authority. Access to God and his treasures was restricted:

Then He struck the men of Beth Shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD. He struck fifty thousand and seventy men of the people, and the people lamented because the LORD had struck the people with a great slaughter. (1 Samuel 6:19, NKJV)

It is hard to forget the corresponding scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Today it is God’s church where his treasures are hidden. In a sense, these treasures are available to all who approach humbly, but there is still a great judgment upon those who treat the ark of the church without such humility. Zechariah captures this dichotomy dramatically. Everyone stands in one relation or another to the new Jerusalem:

And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.

And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, on them there will be no rain. If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the LORD strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. (Zechariah 14:16–19, NKJV)

But as long as it is today there is still an opportunity:

Fill their faces with shame,​
That they may seek Your name, O LORD. (Psalm 83:16, NKJV)

The Mars Hill Audio Journal volume 150 was recently released. Myers interviews David Smith on the use of technology. David observes that “technology is making it easier for us to communicate at a distance and harder for us to communicate when we’re close to each other.”

I worked at Kmart:

Written by Scott Moonen

May 7, 2021 at 9:41 pm