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Archive for July 2020

Metábasis eis állo génos (4)

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LinkedIn told me in 2012 that my LinkedIn Premium free trial offer expired soon. I was excited at the possibility, but alas, they did not keep their word, and I have received many more such offers over the years, including another one this week.

Last weekend I deplored Andy Stanley’s reopening decision and was waiting to hear The Summit’s plans. This week they announced they are also not meeting corporately for the rest of the year. Have we forgotten the very meaning of ekklesia?! Are we not the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven?! The falling–apart of all the big things is approaching faster than I expected; a year ago I put BigEva on a ten–year timetable. I had in mind creeping wokeness when I wrote that, not a doubling down (O Paul Tripp!), much less an anxious, managerial, focus–group–tested abandonment of ekklesia altogether. It’s blustery out there, but ordinary, small, boring, plodding, faithful churches know just how to minister fruitfully in a good wind like this, even if we have to reckon with sailing into it. At the same time, as more and more big things fall apart, we also need to be working on strengthening bonds between fellow local churches.

By contrast, John MacArthur takes an admirable stand.

John McLeod does an outstanding and stirring job summarizing the tithe. The main thing I want to add is that there is a connection between the tithe and the tribute offering, or minchah. We see this in that firstfruits could be in the form of a minchah (Leviticus 2, Numbers 28) and also since the twice–daily (Exodus 29, Numbers 28) and weekly (Leviticus 23, Numbers 28) minchah were probably formed from the tithes that Israel brought to God’s house. Tribute is an ordinary and necessary part of God’s order of worship. We might even gather from this regular service of bread an argument for weekly communion (see number 3), another confirmation that our tithing and feasting and worshipping are always ever so tightly coupled. This, taken together with Deuteronomy 16:16 and 1 Corinthians 16:2, is why I strive to bring a weekly tithe.

And of course you can see how the importance of keeping this, our good lord’s weekly throneroom–assembly–feast, informs my opinion about closing the church’s doors.

As Oliver O’Donovan pointed out in The Desire of the Nations, “we must look to the horizon of God’s redemptive purposes if we are to grasp the full meaning of political events that pass before our eyes.” On that horizon is the unification of all things in Christ (Eph. 1:9f.), a unity contradicted by all stoking of animosity and vengeance. But unity pursued without Christ is likewise a violation of God’s purposes. Before him alone, every knee shall bow.

Lessons about justice and human dignity that the Church presents to the world are only intelligible in light of the whole Christian message. Checking our theology at the door when we speak of matters of public significance—silencing the claim that Christ is King—may satisfy the segregational rules of liberalism, but then, O’Donovan warns, “the democratic ‘creed’, not the Gospel, becomes the heart of the church’s message to the state.” (Ken Myers, Mars Hill Audio summer fundraising letter)

“Courage, friends,” came Prince Rilian’s voice. “Whether we live or die Aslan will be our good lord.” (C. S. Lewis, The Silver Chair)

I’ve been working through Absalom’s conspiracy in 2 Samuel. There is some fascinating typology and biblical theology in here! I’ve previously mentioned that there are two obvious baptisms in this passage, including the baptism of little ones. It seems to me that John is consciously playing on this episode in his account of the crucifixion and resurrection. I am sure that I am barely scratching the surface here, but consider: (1) David and Jesus both cross the brook Kidron. (2) Caiaphas is a kind of Absalom, the son of the house usurping the master of the house. (3) Judas is a kind of Ahithophel–advisor to the priests, even to the point of hanging himself, and the ESV’s footnotes even acknowledge this similarity in Matthew. This episode does not occur in John, however, so it may be that Annas fills the shoes of Ahithophel in John’s account. (4) John enters Caiaphas’s house, so he could be a kind of Hushai in this account. Alternately, his and Peter’s entering Caiaphas’s house could mirror Jonathan and Ahimaaz spying for David. (5) Even the humorous episode of Ahimaaz outrunning the Cushite is reproduced in John’s outrunning Peter. There even is a possibility that, like Ahimaaz, John is of a priestly family. (6) Peter’s fishing expedition mirrors the elders of Judah crossing the Jordan to welcome David back. As above, this is a kind of baptism into David, into Jesus. (7) There are of course a few interesting reversals or twists. Absalom violates ten of David’s concubines and David withdrew from them. Jesus’s disciples are scattered at his crucifixion, and John 20:19ff allows for a reading where Jesus visits ten of them (if you assume it is the twelve minus Judas and minus Thomas as we later learn). (8) In a sense, the fact that Caiaphas and Annas live while Jesus dies is the opposite of David’s account. However, in reality, in his resurrection Jesus enters into transfigured life, into the new creation, his kingdom; and Caiaphas and Annas are excluded from all this.

Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. (Hebrews 13:13 ESV)

I’m also fascinated by Chimham. From Jeremiah 41 we learn that David’s gift to him may have been an inn. Is this by any chance the place at which, but not in which, Jesus was born?

Written by Scott Moonen

July 25, 2020 at 9:04 am

Metábasis eis állo génos

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I mentioned previously Toby Sumpter’s phrase “cheerfully difficult.” This is another way of saying “happy warrior.” Crucially, the happy warrior is characterized by joy and laughter; he is not anxious.

Speaking of Toby, I reread Lewis’s space trilogy earlier this year. It occurs suddenly to me that the vision of dominion–maturity set for Tor and Tinidril and their generations is the exact picture of what Sumpter sees laid out for us in God’s wrestling with Job. I commend this reading of Job to you, as well as the Girardian reading.

Duane Garner reflects on the key differences between God’s law and the laws of tyrants. God’s law is limited and actually establishes freedom and agency. God is in the business of multiplying agency and authority and dominion. Godly leaders follow this pattern (this is the mission of parenting in a nutshell), while tyrants are in the business of limiting and collecting authority.

I’m sure you don’t need my encouragement to read Doug Wilson’s or Mark Horne’s latest.

May all our sons follow in the footsteps of this manly lad. I dare you to read it without getting a little misty eyed.

We took a trip to Pennsylvania and New York recently. It was fascinating to compare them with Wake County. From afar, we have only been aware of how draconian Pennsylvania and New York have been with their ‘rona restrictions, including the requirement for us to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival. But our observations on the ground were that compliance with these restrictions was far less than we see here in North Carolina’s capital county. To me this seems to correlate (hear me carefully) with red–county–blue–state and blue–county–red–state. Or, levels of affluence and their corresponding priorities and affordances. Not coincidentally, on our visit I learned of the widespread sanctuary county movement.

Also, the Pennsylvania firefly experience beats the North Carolina experience, hands down. We all know that our childhood houses are bigger in memory than in reality, but in this case childhood memories proved completely factual.

I’ve only caught snippets of Tucker the last couple months, and have been intrigued, so I watched an extended speech from last year. Very impressed; you should watch it too.

Ivy asked me why I think the end is not near (courtesy Duane Garner for that phrase). In a nutshell: First, I say this because God promised to be faithful to thousands of generations, and if he owns the cattle on many thousands of hills and not just a thousand hills (Google tells me there are over a million mountains in the world), it seems we should think he intends to be faithful to at least a few thousand generations. Second, God intends for the leaven of the gospel to disciple the nations themselves. This is not just the conversion of the nations (Nineveh shows that he can accomplish this quickly), but their discipleship, their maturation. We expect the process of faith’s maturation to be slow because part of it is the acquisition of patience, of a long time sense (Hebrews 11). (Now put that in your eschatolegislative agency–multiplying pipe and smoke it.) Finally, and similarly, from 1 Corinthians 15, we know that Jesus will not return in order to reign, but rather that he is reigning now and will return only after his enemies have been subdued by the gospel, and then he will give the kingdom to his Father. It is not beyond him to accomplish this quickly, but if you compare this with Hebrews 2 and elsewhere, I think we should expect this spiritual warfare to be a long and sacrificial leavening process. See also: Parousia.

I previously suggested that Christians should normally think of ourselves as righteous. But, you say, “none is righteous, no, not one!” Well, Paul is actually making a pointed accusation against his contemporaries when he asserts this in Romans 3. He is quoting from Psalm 14, where David goes on to say that “God is with the generation of the righteous.” Paul is not making a universal statement as we so often assume, but rather arguing that the old covenant church was faithless to God and are therefore not counted righteous. Christians should think of ourselves as righteous, because God preserves us in the very covenant that makes sacrificial provision for our righteousness.

I recently revisited part of Calvin’s Institutes, book 1. I’m impressed with how boldly and unapologetically he speaks to the unbeliever, as if God dealt with rebellion in laughter and derision. Calvin is operating out of very psalmic categories; from the very first moment with him, you know that God demands the bending of your knee:

At this day, however, the earth sustains on her bosom many monster minds—minds which are not afraid to employ the seed of Deity deposited in human nature as a means of suppressing the name of God. Can any thing be more detestable than this madness in man, who, finding God a hundred times both in his body and his soul, makes his excellence in this respect a pretext for denying that there is a God? He will not say that chance has made him differ from the brutes that perish; but substituting nature as the architect of the universe, he suppresses the name of God.

Contra Calvin, I did find some evidence of Keller’s city–gospel at work! Perhaps if I read just a couple Bible verses I will know how to live as salt and light, and discover the exact pressure point to winsomely command the city’s repentance and obedience.

Andy Stanley is not reopening until 2021. The Summit still hasn’t announced their plans but remains closed through tomorrow at least. Now, work with me for a minute. Paul says that the law of muzzling an ox was written for our benefit rather than the ox (1 Cor 9:8ff), and links this not only to apostles but also to elders (1 Tim. 5:17–18). Looking back to Deuteronomy 25, we see that this command is juxtaposed to the law of the levir. Taking Paul into account, it seems plain to me that this law was not written for the benefit of the ox, but for the levir. Consider: treading is a readily understood metaphor for sexual relations, and therefore it is apparent that God wishes for the levir to enjoy the temporary use of the inheritance (i.e., eat the produce) until the child possesses it.

What this means is that Paul is building on this metaphor to identify the apostle and elder as a kind of levir. The elder is, quite unsurprisingly, a surrogate husband for the church while her Husband is in abstentia: appointed to care for the bride and raise up her offspring into their maturity and inheritance.

What will the Husband have to say to these men who have failed to gather His bride for her appointed feasts with Him? Are there not very few greater goods than His feasts, for which many Christians around the world still literally risk their lives each week to attend? And consider this: at least in the Corinthians’ case, the feasts were themselves a cause of death and the answer was to keep the feast aright (1 Cor 11), that is, with the utmost brotherly love. Thus: you should flee for the time being to the pure countryside air and its churches if necessary, but the feast will go on here for all who remain, and even if they wish to bring veiled faces.

Keep the feast! This is a crucial part of our being warriors full of joy and laughter.

Written by Scott Moonen

July 19, 2020 at 9:24 am

Metábasis eis állo génos

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Desiring God is faring better than TGC at being sons of Issachar. As an essayist at least, Greg Morse is a more admirable man than Shai Linne. Greg’s insight is applicable in so many other contexts too; do not assume why someone is not . . . or is . . . wearing a mask. Speaking of masks, some helpful thoughts from Toby Sumpter on being cheerfully difficult, and likewise from Doug Wilson. Meanwhile, Alex Berenson continues to go to bat for Team Reality.

This week was the first time that AAA did not bother to ask us if we were in a safe place (after a long hold, I must add). Instead they asked us if they were in a safe place if we or anyone we knew had symptoms.

Food for thought:

Doesn’t Vincent Cassel remind you of Joel Osteen? And Philip Sasser?

Mark Horne is thinking about hereditary guilt and the character of God:

I quoted this passage in full because there’s no way to summarize its passion. It is one of the most moving declarations in all Scripture.

To just mention one point in case it is relevant: notice how keenly God’s mind is set on not finding a reason to punish people. The idea that he would remember a person’s ancestors so that he could punish a descendant who had not continued in the sinful behavior is abhorrent to him.

Go and do likewise. You should abhor such slanders against God’s character as well.

I spoke recently of our time in Egypt. We should think of the history of Israel as our history. This is true because we have been grafted into a tree while other branches have been broken off (Romans 11). Abraham is now our father (Romans 4:11–12). The church is the actual continuation of this history; what remains in modern Judaism is just that: a modern–gnostic corruption of the true faith.

Alan Jacobs reflects on the humanities:

Here’s how we’ll know that things have gotten really bad in our society: People will start turning to Homer and Dante and Bach and Mozart. Czeslaw Milosz—like Kołakowski, a Pole, perhaps not a trivial correspondence—wrote that “when an entire community is struck by misfortune, for instance, the Nazi occupation of Poland, the ‘schism between the poet and the great human family’ disappears and poetry becomes as essential as bread.”

I’m still reflecting on what a treasure of spiritual formation the Psalms are to us. The Psalms present us with a grand category including the wicked, sinner, scoffer, enemy, evildoer, boastful, liar, rebel, fool. This category stands over against the righteous, godly, innocent. These categories are overwhelmingly used by David and his great host, yet they are virtually absent from our speech and prayer and song. Why?

I’ve also been reflecting on the role of the prophet in ushering in a transformation, a new creation. Rich Bledsoe has some helpful thoughts on this. As James Jordan says, the prophet’s main role is not merely to speak God’s words to the people; that is an essentially priestly role (c.f., Ezra–Nehemiah). Rather, the prophet’s role is to stand in the heavenly council and speak, pray, or even wrestle with God as in the case of Abraham, Moses, and Habakkuk. Out of this, the prophet sees and speaks into existence a new creation. The future that prophets speak into existence is an inevitable one; the repentance and faithfulness that prophets often call us to is not the way to avoid a future (in some cases it is delayed), but the way to pass into it as through death and resurrection.

The connection to Kuhn is insightful. Is the prophet ever anything other than a Cassandra? Maybe, but only if it is the king himself who heeds the prophet, often after a bad dream, eating grass, or reading an old book (but: Nineveh’s king simply heeds the prophet!).

More often, the gestalt shift requires the passing of a generation. Thus: spiritual formation! Three cheers for thoroughgoing covenant renewal worship, weekly and robust communion, Psalm singing, and baptized babies!

Written by Scott Moonen

July 9, 2020 at 10:02 pm

Posted in Miscellany, Quotations

Truth (3)

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See also: Truth (1), Truth (2), Creed

Written by Scott Moonen

July 7, 2020 at 7:38 am

Posted in Quotations

Turmoil

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We have to remind our readers once again that this chapter does not attempt by any means to list all the waves which fertilized Gulag—but only those which had a political coloration. And just as, in a course in physiology, after a detailed description of the circulation of the blood, one can begin over again and describe in detail the lymphatic system, one could begin again and describe the waves of nonpolitical offenders and habitual criminals from 1918 to 1953. And this description, too, would run long. It would bring to light many famous decrees, now in part forgotten (even though they have never been repealed), which supplied abundant human material for the insatiable Archipelago. One was the Decree on Absenteeism. One was the Decree on Production of Bad Quality Goods. Another was on samogon [moonshine] distilling. Its peak period was 1922—but arrests for this were constant throughout the twenties. And the Decree on the Punishment of Collective Farmers for Failure to Fulfill the Obligatory Norm of Labor Days. And the Decree on the Introduction of Military Discipline on Railroads, issued in April, 1943—not at the beginning of the war, but when it had already taken a turn for the better.

In accordance with the ancient Petrine tradition, these decrees always put in an appearance as the most important element in all our legislation, but without any comprehension of or reference to the whole of our previous legislation. Learned jurists were supposed to coordinate the branches of the law, but they were not particularly energetic at it, nor particularly successful either.

This steady pulse of decrees led to a curious national pattern of violations and crimes. One could easily recognize that neither burglary, nor murder, nor samogon distilling, nor rape ever seemed to occur at random intervals or in random places throughout the country as a result of human weakness, lust, or failure to control one’s passions. By no means! One detected, instead, a surprising unanimity and monotony in the crimes committed. The entire Soviet Union would be in a turmoil of rape alone, or murder alone, or samogon distilling alone, each in its turn—in sensitive reaction to the latest government decree. Each particular crime or violation seemed somehow to be playing into the hands of the latest decree so that it would disappear from the scene that much faster! At that precise moment, the particular crime which had just been foreseen, and for which wise new legislation had just provided stricter punishment, would explode simultaneously everywhere.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago Volume 1, 86–87

Written by Scott Moonen

July 5, 2020 at 4:45 pm

Posted in Quotations

Metábasis eis állo génos

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Richard Bledsoe writes of New York City as a Babylon. I identify the Babylon of Revelation with Jerusalem rather than Rome; i.e., a false church rather than outright paganism. Interestingly, Bledsoe sees the modern city as being built on a kind of Christian heresy. What good is salt that has lost its savor?

I am reading The Gulag Archipelago:

Duane Garner points out that “Jesus is the heart of flesh; the law is the heart of stone.”

Looks like the Bee beat me to the punch. They are on quite a roll lately.

Doug Wilson is also on a roll. And it isn’t even November! These ten–year–old theses on the kindness of Christ from Wilson’s church are well done.

John Barach has me listening to the Tallest Man on Earth. I’m actually taller than he is, so I must be the tallest man in the galaxy.

Anthony Bradley is also on a roll talking about fatherhood lately.

I’m generally not wearing a mask, although it felt deliciously transgressive to wear one into the ABC store. It seems to me the argument for masks doesn’t adequately account for the entire landscape of qualifications and tradeoffs. Taleb and many others are still carrying the banner for masks as a kind of “fat tail” circuit breaker, and I respect that as long as it remains a personal choice. It is safer to drive 25mph, and I realize that we still don’t have a good understanding of the possibilities of asymptomatic transmission. But government mandates for masks, as well as community policing (#wearadamnmask) seem sinister. The CDC continues to consider your risk negligible until you have spent fifteen minutes within six feet of someone who is symptomatic or pre-symptomatic. Of course, that guidance could change tomorrow just like so much else has.

In my last post I recommended some articles from James Jordan. Among those articles, he summarized what he later came to call his “laws of psalmody.” Recovering the Psalms is important because they are a great means of spiritual warfare. They are also a great means of spiritual formation. We often forget that we can bring our tears to God; that we can pray for judgment–justice as well as for mercy, which means that we not only pray for but even delight in the destruction of God’s enemies; and that God has been savingly at work in the hearts of our children since before they were born.

I worked my way through the James Jordan complete audio collection over the course of five years, and it is some of the best money I have ever spent. Let me know if this interests you and I will see what I can do to whet your appetite. And if your appetite is whetted, I have an agreement to redistribute it at a discount.

My family has been blessed to learn many Psalms from Jamie Soles. He is one of several artists, ministries, and projects that I support. This list also includes:

My brother-in-law wrote a book! Another brother-in-law is taller than me, so he might possibly be the tallest man in the universe.

Lisa: “What’s going to happen to New York City?”
Me: “It’s going to bring the gospel to Tim Keller.”

Written by Scott Moonen

July 3, 2020 at 3:33 pm

Posted in Miscellany