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Jesu, Juva

Archive for May 2020

Pentecost witness

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And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42–47)

Written by Scott Moonen

May 31, 2020 at 2:53 pm

Witness

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When Yahweh restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“Yahweh has done great things for them.”
Yahweh has done great things for us;
we are glad. (Psalm 126:1-3)

Written by Scott Moonen

May 29, 2020 at 12:57 pm

Posted in Biblical Theology

Garden

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Go thee now and subscribe to Alan Jacobs’ newsletter, Snakes & Ladders. From today’s issue, “The Garlands of Repose,” these three beauties:

I’m proud of my young gardener and the firstfruits of her labors:

Written by Scott Moonen

May 25, 2020 at 8:19 am

Posted in Personal, Poetry

In step with the truth of the gospel

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We have seen that Christian love shapes our Christian freedom so that it may never be used to injure or trample a brother (far from that, it must be used to serve our brothers); but also that the gospel shapes our Christian love so that it may never be used to bind a brother. This pair of principles explains why Paul circumcised Timothy and refused to circumcise Titus; it is why in this current moment I will hug Joe and stand six feet away from Tom, in each other’s presence. This is hardly a tightrope walk, though; it is a simple expression of my genuine brotherly love for both of them.

We speak too in this moment of the church’s witness to the world. Just as there are different opinions on the wisdom of my hugging Joe, there are different opinions on what and how the church should be witnessing, and all of them look to Christian love as their basis. How then shall we live?

By way of Greek, our words witness and martyr are the same. This reminds us that our witness may draw favor from some but attack from others. Our faithful witness of the good news that Jesus has all power and authority requires us to resist the tyranny of worldly opinion. This does not mean that we cannot seek the good opinion of our neighbor as we seek his good, but we rightly order our witness by seeking the good opinion of God first. The church’s faithful witness-martyrdom is a powerful statement of whom or what we fear. Wisdom begins with such properly ordered fear (Proverbs 1, 9). With this fear and wisdom, we receive life; without it, only death (Proverbs 8).

All good parents know that there is a species of chasing after our children’s opinion and even their salvation that will end up losing them rather than gaining them. Likewise, there is a way in which proper Christian care and concern for the world contains within it a kind of loving regard and disregard for the world’s perceived fears and felt needs. We have the gift of knowing the world’s true need, which no focus group would ever discover or approve. This loving disregard actually is an effective witness, because the gospel call is an invitation to join us in a rightly ordered fear. Such fear is truly attractive and compelling because of the joy and peace and freedom from fear that it brings. To the degree we fear the disapproval of the world, we lose our gospel savor.

Thus, in love we might wear a mask to deliver food to our neighbor, and warmly welcome our neighbor to church if he wears a mask or wishes to stand at a distance. We may in no wise despise him. But we also do not fear a bad report in the news if, as the church gathers, there are hugs and handshakes among those who have counted the cost.

The world seeks to obtain justification for its guilty conscience by scapegoating others, including and especially the church. Against this, the church faithfully witnesses that justification can only be found in the one true Scapegoat. This empowers us to laugh together with God at the world’s scheming (Psalm 2) and scapegoating and even martyrdom if it comes. There is a sense in which the church, in union with Jesus, holds the world in derision. We certainly do not fear false accusations that Jesus and his church are lacking in love; we have been brought to know and serve love himself. The world’s loves, as well as its fears, are disordered, and in their greatest extremes are all attempts to hide from God. (Let him who abhors abortion cast the first stone at Christ’s precious, precious body.)

There is a kind of catering to public opinion that will compromise our faithful and prophetic witness. By bowing to public opinion, governments and businesses and even some churches are slowly spinning a rope that fickle public opinion will use to hang them tomorrow. Everything the church says and does is in some sense political; we are the heavenly polis breaking into time and the terminal land. In this polis, the one Scapegoat sits enthroned with all power and authority. All other scapegoating is not only vain but evil. By not fearing or giving way to this scapegoating, we empty it of its power. We defeat it by our laughter and worship and joy and feasting. May we be emboldened by the Spirit to witness in the fear of God alone!

Written by Scott Moonen

May 24, 2020 at 3:21 pm

Masks

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See also: Real Presence

Written by Scott Moonen

May 21, 2020 at 6:28 am

Posted in Humor, Miscellany

Christus regnat

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Happy whole burnt offering day, rather, ascension day!

Jesus now reigns where’er the sun does its successive journeys run.

(Although there is nothing outside his control, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him, but we see him crowned with glory and honor.—Heb. 2)

He now reigns in glory, crowned with grace and might. . . He now reigns forever with His chosen bride.

(We are seated with him in the heavenly places in Christ the head-and-body.—Eph. 2)

(Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.—1 Cor. 15)

Written by Scott Moonen

May 21, 2020 at 6:21 am

Scruples

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Returning to the question from my earlier post:

As a practical example, I can show love for my brother Tom by standing six feet away from him and being charitable and gracious towards his reasons for wanting to exercise caution. But is there any situation whatsoever where my brotherly love for Tom restrains me from hugging Joe?

The late R. C. Sproul has an interesting lecture that he entitled The Tyranny of the Weaker Brother. He says:

No, as soon as the weaker brother tried to enforce his weakness as the law of the church, the gospel was threatened. And now rather than deny his own Christian liberty, the Apostle Paul fought tooth and nail against the tyranny of the weaker brother. As soon as somebody has that scruple by which their conscience bound to themselves tries to go beyond themselves and make it the rule of the church, they must be resisted. They must not be allowed to establish laws where God has left us free. . . . Ask yourself, do you impose rules and regulations in your church where God has left people free?

Sproul’s approach is weakened (ha!) by treating this as a case of a stronger and weaker brother, rather than treating it as a case of two strong brothers. Thus, I would rather speak of the tyranny of the legalist, or of the anxious. However, we are accustomed to using “weak” in this way and, terminology aside, this is still a good framework for processing such cases. Consistent with Paul’s entire teaching and behavior, Christian brothers, in love, are to give deference to one another, up to the point where a brother (or his advocate) seeks to use this “weakness” (actual or otherwise) as a means of “strength” to bind another brother’s conscience. It is love, too, that resists such binding.

Fortunately, my social distancing brothers are neither weak nor legalistic nor tyrannical. So I am hugging and handshaking a bunch of people now, and not hugging or handshaking another bunch of people. I love them all dearly.

Written by Scott Moonen

May 20, 2020 at 10:54 pm

Posted in Miscellany, Quotations

Keep my commandments

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God’s laws aren’t at war with each other. God never puts us in a position where we have to break a commandment to love our neighbor. The commandments of God define love for our neighbor. God’s commandments tell us what love looks like.

Duane Garner, If You Love Me

Written by Scott Moonen

May 19, 2020 at 1:25 pm

Never again

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Then one of the demons answered: “Lords, we have been ruined by what we thought would benefit us most. Remember the words of the prophets, who said that the son of God would come down to earth to save the sinners descended from Adam and Eve. And we went and seized those who said that the man who would come to earth would deliver them from the torments of Hell. Everything the prophets said has now come true. He has taken away all those that we had taken hold of, and we are powerless against him. He has taken away from us all those who believe in his special birth, who believe he was born of woman in such a way that we had no part in the event and were not even aware that it was going to happen.”

“Don’t you know, then,” said another, “that he has them washed in water in his name? They are washed in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, so that we can never again have them as we used to. We have now lost them all through this washing, so that we have no power over them unless they choose to come back to us. Thus the man who has taken them away has reduced our power. Moreover he has left ministers on earth who will save them, no matter how great a part they have had in our works; they have but to repent and renounce our works and do as the ministers say. We have thus lost them all. Our Lord has offered them a great spiritual gift: to save mankind, he came to earth and deigned to be born of woman and suffer all the torments of the world; and he was born of woman unbeknownst to us and without committing any sin of the flesh. When at last we came along, we tried and tested him in every way we knew, but he resisted all our efforts and chose instead to die in order to save mankind. He must surely love all men, if he was willing to suffer such great pain to take them away from us. We now have to seek a way to win them back so that they cannot repent or even speak to the ministers who could grant them the pardon that he paid for with his death.”

Then all together they said: “We have lost everything, since he can pardon sinners up to the last moment. Whoever embrace him will be saved. Even someone who has always performed our works is now lost to us if he repents. We have now lost them all.”

From The Prose Merlin, in The Romance of Arthur: An Anthology of Medieval Texts in Translation, p. 307

I find it especially interesting that the author has the demons call Jesus Our Lord.

Written by Scott Moonen

May 16, 2020 at 3:48 pm

The peace of God

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I sometimes wonder whether there is a nuanced difference in scripture’s use of “Jesus Christ” versus “Christ Jesus.” Paul uses both phrases, but is the only one to use the phrase “Christ Jesus.”

Paul is the great apostle of totus Christus, from the very moment of his conversion (“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”). I think it is possible that he means the phrase “Christ Jesus” (over against “Jesus Christ”) in a totus Christus sense that encompasses both the head and the body of Jesus. Thus, we are properly in Christ Jesus only when we are both in Jesus and in his body the church.

If this is true, it lends an interesting layer of meaning to Philippians 4:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7 ESV)

Which is this: God’s peace guarding our hearts and minds is most fully available to us only as we are deeply connected to one another by his Spirit in his church.

Written by Scott Moonen

May 16, 2020 at 10:35 am