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Jesu, Juva

Archive for August 2020

Metábasis eis állo génos (9)

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Happy birthday to my brother Jonathan! He writes:

Christians today (who make up the church, the body of believers around the world) are priests to God and men, in the sense that we minister to God and to each other (1 Peter 2, Hebrews). These priestly duties resemble, although in a much truer and deeper sense, the priestly duties of the Jewish priests in the Old Covenant (Leviticus 8-10). There was a clear pattern established that included daily/weekly activities which relate to us in the church in gathering, worship, prayer, proclamation of the Word, and communion (Hebrews 7-8). This is the whole argument upon which the commonly-quoted statement “Do not forsake meeting together” is built (Hebrews 10). There are important priestly duties that Christians must participate in to obey our great High Priest, Jesus, and to partake in His blessings. As the old saying goes, going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, but you can’t be a Christian if you don’t go to church. There’s much to be said here, but this lengthy point relates to churches refusing to close for extended periods in response to COVID-19, because obeying God is more important than obeying man, especially if man’s rules are inconsistent and/or illogical.

Yes! The only thing I would add is that our priestly duty is also a ministry to the world, for the life of the world.

Perhaps you didn’t know, but the CDC considers masks insignificant to assessing your risk of exposure. They also consider that “most people will have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care and may not need to be tested.” I have no plans to get tested if I experience an ordinary fall or winter cold.

Keep an eye on Alex Berenson’s Day of Normality. I’m thinking of a picnic at Hilltop-Needmore Park, which we have done from time to time throughout this season, but I’m open to other possibilities!

I’ve been chuckling for a few days over this summary of Tenet: “With its international locations and stunt set pieces along with all the temporal weirdness, it’s actually quite like a Bond film called No Time To Die To Time No.” I’m looking forward to watching it.

Earlier this year, Michael Foster characterized 2020 as an audition for future leadership. Big Eva continues to fail their audition. Doug Wilson similarly indicates that the question is not only to patiently persuade here and now, but even more a question of “who will be listened to after the panic is gone.” But this is a timeless truth; Kipling reminds us that, “if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs . . . you’ll be a Man, my son!” There is a kind of witness that has only temporary credibility, losing all credibility in the end.

Speaking of all this, Chadwick Boseman sounds like he was the real deal. Be like Chadwick Boseman.

One of the ways that I like to summarize Edwin Friedman is to say that fathers and leaders are “anxiety eaters.” Friedman would say that a good leader has acquired a kind of practiced immunity to anxiety. But Christians have an additional weapon: we serve the great anxiety eater on whom we are invited to cast all our cares. I’ve always loved the way Toby Sumpter put this in his essay, Free to carry more.

I loved this essay as well: A pandemic observed. We are physical beings but also social and spiritual beings. Any accounting we give of risk and potential, truth and love must address our whole persons. This has implications for things like lockdowns and masking, especially in worship but also in the public space. I have seen people linking lockdowns and masks to the sixth commandment, but we ought to connect them to the ninth as well, since we are equally at risk of spreading lies and fear, mistrust and suspicion. I mean to some extent lies about the effectiveness of lockdowns and masks, and the appropriateness of their being forced upon us; but I am thinking much more of lies about what kind of beings we are, what ekklesia and koinania and philadelphos are, what kind of story we live in, and how now we should live.

I take great issue with this. Don’t be distracted by the hats; it’s all about beards:

I wrote last week of a functional “real absence” view of the Lord’s supper. Although the phrase “real presence” means different things to different people, there are a few ways that I like to think of it:

  1. From reading John 6:53ff, whether or not you share my belief that Jesus and John are purposely referring to the supper, believers must agree that some kind of feasting on Jesus is inescapable.
  2. We are actually not surprised that Jesus is present in the supper, since he is always present when we gather (Matthew 18:20), and since we are always present with him for Lord’s day worship (Hebrews 12). Of course he is present: he is seated at the head of the table!
  3. Jesus is present in the supper because it is a memorial, and every memorial summons the king to preside in evaluation and judgment.
  4. We have been mistaken all this time hunting for Jesus in the nouns of bread and wine. We should have looked for him in the verbs, in our doing this in faith.
  5. Actually, there is one noun where Jesus is present: one another. We discern his body by discerning one another to be members of that body (1 Cor 11–12, etc.). Richard Hooker writes that “The Real Presence of Christs most Blessed Body and Blood, is not therefore to be sought for in the Sacrament, but in the worthy Receiver of the Sacrament.”
  6. Calvin writes, “For unless we would charge God with deceit, we will never presume to say that he holds forth an empty symbol. Therefore, if by the breaking of bread the Lord truly represents the partaking of his body, there ought to be no doubt whatever that he truly exhibits and performs it. The rule which the pious ought always to observe is, whenever they see the symbols instituted by the Lord, to think and feel surely persuaded that the truth of the thing signified is also present. For why does the Lord put the symbol of his body into your hands, but just to assure you that you truly partake of him? If this is true let us feel as much assured that the visible sign is given us in seal of an invisible gift as that his body itself is given to us.”

Consider all of the tremendous imitative energy that 2020 has produced in executive orders and decrees and scapegoating. This Girardian energy seems on a hair trigger to swivel toward the church, which Girard observes is how the powers and principalities always work. It’s interesting to me to consider whether the end result this time is the exposure and confusion and flight of the wicked; or persecution. An important question is whether this moment is a “deception of the nations” which Satan is currently bound from conducting. Maybe this is not primarily Satan’s work but rather the first stage of God’s own decisive work in sending judicial confusion and hardening. Pray for the sound of marching in the balsam trees (1 Chron 14) and for hornets (Deut 7:20, etc.)!

I wrote of the authorship of God last week. A friend pointed out that scripture doesn’t really speak this way, speaking instead of God’s creative–providential work, whether as potter or similar (Ephesians 1, Colossians 1, Proverbs 8, Job, etc.). There’s also a theme of God’s creation–providence as a speech act (Genesis 1, Hebrews 1, perhaps Psalm 19, and then we have the profound presence of both Word and Spirit–breath everywhere). So, to distill this, creation–providence is beyond authorial on God’s part: it is continuously, intimately, exultingly, and life–givingly performative. One thing that’s appealing about this is that this seems to capture both God’s transcendence and his immanence and incarnation.

Written by Scott Moonen

August 29, 2020 at 9:54 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (8)

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A week at the beach with cousins:

This afforded some time for Solzhenitsyn:

But there is a limit, and beyond it one is no longer willing, one finds it too repulsive, to be a reasonable little rabbit. And that is the limit beyond which rabbits are enlightened by the common understanding that all rabbits are foredoomed to become only meat and pelts, and that at best, therefore, one can gain only a postponement of death and not life in any case. That is when one wants to shout: “Curse you, hurry up and shoot!”

It was this particular feeling of rage which took hold of Vlasov even more intensely during his forty-one days of waiting for execution. In the Ivanovo Prison they had twice suggested that he write a petition for pardon, but he had refused.

But on the forty-second day they summoned him to a box where they informed him that the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet had commuted the supreme measure of punishment to twenty years of imprisonment in corrective-labor camps with disenfranchisement for five additional years.

The pale Vlasov smiled wryly, and even at that point words did not fail him:

“It is strange. I was condemned for lack of faith in the victory of socialism in our country. But can even Kalinin himself believe in it if he thinks camps will still be needed in our country twenty years from now?” (The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 1, 455)

After all, we have gotten used to regarding as valor only valor in war (or the kind that’s needed for flying in outer space), the kind which jingle-jangles with medals. We have forgotten another concept of valorcivil valor. And that’s all our society needs, just that, just that, just that! That’s all we need and that’s exactly what we haven’t got. (The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 1, 462)

I haven’t found a video with all three verses, but isn’t this deeply wonderful:

Thanks to Uri Brito for the find. I must say, this is far better than Toto’s version, which unfortunately is making the rounds of my household.

Isn’t it interesting that we love the beginning of Psalm 139 but not so much the end?

Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain.
Do I not hate those who hate you, O Yahweh?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies. (Psalm 139:19–22)

Something is out of balance if we struggle to find appropriate objects for this prayer, or, worse, struggle to see it as appropriate at all. Somewhat related, I was reflecting on Ruth this week:

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. (Ruth 1:16 ESV)

Isn’t it remarkable that conversion and loyalty to God is inseparable from conversion and loyalty to God’s people? Ruth and Naomi remind me as well of of Jacob’s blessing Pharaoh in spite of the few and evil days of his life. Isn’t it equally remarkable that these testimonies of God’s faithfulness and purpose in suffering would result in robust conversion?

Sadly, in days when suffering and sacrifice are rare, a husband is not always a protection against this:

But refuse to enroll younger widows . . . They learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. (1 Timothy 5:11–13 ESV)

Fascinating: the lost colony was never lost, just not found.

Way too many good tweets this week to do a practical roundup. You should follow: Hans Fiene, Michael Foster, Andrew Isker, Alex Berenson.

If a church sees new visitors during this season of rona, is it really wise to encourage them to return to their original home when it is all over? Why would you encourage someone to return to shepherds who practically abandoned them? Related, I wonder if the church is experiencing a rise in separations and divorces in this year of spiritual distancing. Body must body!

Also related, it seems to me that we have developed today a functional theology of the “real absence” of Jesus at his covenant meal. The Lord’s supper is no longer seen as an entry into the heavenly marriage supper, nor even a joyful and eucharistic foretaste of it. This explains why the supper is often so bland and solemn and infrequent. But it also explains how we have arrived at the conclusion that our own absence at that meal is a matter of little consequence.

Considering also how we arrive at the supper, I’m intrigued by the fact that the Lord’s prayer does not open with an early confession of sin. In fact, its appeal for forgiveness does not even really constitute a confession. Although repentance is a way of life for the Christian, and is liturgically appropriate, repentance is not the fundamental flavor of that festive life.

Speaking of the marriage supper, last week I mentioned Galileo. Considering the book of Revelation, and both our present worship and eternity, it is clear that in the most important sense of the word, the earth is the center of the universe.

Written by Scott Moonen

August 21, 2020 at 9:09 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (7)

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Please accept this friendly reminder that the CDC considers your risk for the ‘rona to be negligible until you have spent at least fifteen minutes within six feet of someone who is symptomatic or pre-symptomatic. I know firsthand of multiple cases where spouses have not contracted the virus from one another. It’s still so strange to me that we are valuing self-preservation over natural affection right now.

Lisa reports that mask compliance in Dunn is much lower than in Fuquay. My theory of county color holds.

Please also accept this friendly reminder that slavery still exists in the United States.

Chicks for sale. Resistance is futile:

And the onions and the figs are coming in!

Doug Wilson has a good word about John MacArthur and the binding of the conscience. Apropos MacArthur, I ran across this great clip this week:

So they feared Yahweh but also served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away. (2 Kings 17:33)

For a class at church, I’ve had the occasion to read Grudem’s material on creation and providence. A few things stand out to me.

First, there is (unsurprisingly) more to the story of Galileo than popular history lets on. There is certainly ugly church politics, but it is a story of science vs. science and Christian vs. Christian rather than a story of science vs. boorish religion. Here is some interesting reading on how the science vs. science was not settled. On Christian vs. Christian, Galileo seems to have loved the church and been a staunch believer in the inspiration and inerrancy of scripture, so he is not a very sympathetic character for the new atheists.

Second, concerning creationism, I believe that the universe is roughly 6000 years old. Of course the universe has the appearance of age; doesn’t any work of art? It is true that not all genealogies capture every generation for theological reasons, but it seems clear to me that the genealogies with years and ages attached are given to us as real chronological markers in addition to their theological significance. And it is far from a hill to die on, but I especially love the idea that we will celebrate 6000 AM in 2070 AD. (James Jordan has done extensive and compelling work on this; here is a brief summary.) Grudem seems to prefer an age of 10 to 20 thousand years, while holding it lightly. What I’m especially struck by is his insistence that “neither [the young or old earth view] is certain” which he links with a call for “much more humility.” Of course we may not despise one another, but here our classic evangelical confusion between pride and conviction rears its head again.

To judge between “A”, “not-A” and “be not proud,” it is not enough to simply observe the configuration of the debate; we must assess the truth of each claim. Grudem knows how to do this on matters where he is convinced; he is obviously gracious in the matter of Calvinism vs. Arminianism, but makes no appeal to humility there.

Actually, knowing only the configuration of the debate, we should probably be prepared to rule against “be not proud or self-righteous.” It is true, but it is also a truism, and one which applies to all three parties. Remember that Paul wants us to be both convinced and humble in our disagreements (Romans 14). Too often, we stop at “just be humble” and remain unwilling to adjudicate the truth; the man who does this is not only failing to be convinced in his own mind but is also unwilling to allow others the privilege of being convinced. Worse, in doing this, he is giving error the same standing as truth. Sproul, again:

Finally, I appreciated Grudem’s work on predestination. I’m freshly struck that one of the best ways to show how Arminian arguments fall flat against Calvinism is to show how they fall flat against human authorship. Consider that: (1) We would not be surprised or confused if Frodo stomped his foot and insisted he was completely free to choose whether to destroy the ring. (2) We would never blame Tolkien for the great wrongs committed by Sauron. (3) We gladly affirm that Sauron deserved punishment for those wrongs. (4) And in fact we praise Tolkien highly for writing a beautiful story in which justice is done. (5) We would not at all be surprised to find Tolkien weeping at the outcome of Sauron’s destruction; loving his own creation and even responding to the very things he has decreed.

In short, the Arminian does not stop to consider what it really means that God is transcendent (just as Tolkien is transcendent to Frodo and Sauron). But on the flip side we can’t lose sight of God’s immanence, either. That’s something Tolkien couldn’t do!

I’m also enjoying Solzhenitsyn. This week’s quotes:

But . . . for mercy one must have wisdom. This has been a truth throughout our history and will remain one for a long time to come. (The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 1, 271)

There is a simple truth which one can learn only through suffering: in war not victories are blessed but defeats. Governments need victories and the people need defeats. Victory gives rise to the desire for more victories. But after a defeat it is freedom that men desire—and usually attain. A people needs defeat just as an individual needs suffering and misfortune: they compel the deepening of the inner life and generate a spiritual upsurge. (The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 1, 272)

But I had begun to sense a truth inside myself: if in order to live it is necessary not to live, then what’s it all for? (The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 1, 280)

Written by Scott Moonen

August 14, 2020 at 6:38 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (6)

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Cooper extended North Carolina’s phase 2. And Lee County caved as well. Meanwhile, I read and greatly appreciated Alex Berenson’s Unreported Truths, volume 1 and volume 2. I appreciate that he does not varnish estimates and readily admits where he was wrong. His sources are plentiful and far from arcane. Quoting a 2006 paper by Dr. Donald Henderson:

Experience has shown that communities faced with epidemics or other adverse events respond best and with the least anxiety when the normal social functioning of the community is least disrupted.

It is odd and interesting that Europe is not gripped by confusion quite as much as we are. Over there you see thoughtful critique of the value of masks and lockdowns (e.g., Netherlands, Switzerland), but here the public voices and socialmarms stand together with their scorn and tar and feathers ready for folks like Berenson. Berenson recognizes there is more going on here than careful, reasoned debate:

But the most likely explanation is the simplest. Faced with a risk of hundreds of thousands or millions of deaths, the public health experts who for decades had counseled patience and caution flinched. They found they could not live with acknowledging how little control they or any of us had over the spread of an easily transmissible respiratory virus. They had to do something—even if they had been warning for decades that what they were about to do would not work and might have terrible secondary consequences.

Friedman and Girard strike again. MacArthur, on the other hand, is not an anxious leader. His interview with Eric Metaxas is great:

May God grant him great success in his legal battle. In this good work he is not only providing a fatherly covering for his own people, but also for many other churches.

In contrast with MacArthur, consider now the scenario where a pastor and worship team gather together to make a video recording or conduct a live stream. If, unlike MacArthur, they choose to override people’s own risk decisions and refuse admission to the congregation, it seems to me they are guilty of 1 Corinthians 11, where “each one goes ahead with his own meal,” doing so without “discerning the body.” And just as in Galatians 2, it seems to me that they “stand condemned” and are “not in step with the truth of the gospel.”

I do not say that the whole body must gather at one time and place (though I think it best by far) but at least there should be actual appointed smaller bodies if there is any gathering at all. The Greears and Stanleys of today need not copy MacArthur exactly, but as those who will have to give an account they should consider their plans very carefully.

And if we have failed in today’s temptation, the church is guaranteed an opportunity to try again when normal fall and winter sniffles knock on our door. Sickness is an unfortunate but a normal part of life. Preparing ourselves to handle this well is actually a great pastoral service to people; remember carefully what Dr. Henderson wrote above.

We must hold to what we have quoted from Paul [Romans 10:17]—that the church is built up solely by outward preaching, and that the saints are held together by one bond only: that with common accord, through learning and advancement, they keep the church order established by God [cf. Ephesians 4:12]. It was especially to this end that, as I have said, in ancient times under the law all believers were commanded to assemble at the sanctuary. For while Moses speaks of God’s dwelling place, at the same time the place where God has put the memory of his name he calls the “place of God’s name” [cf. Exodus 20:24]. He plainly teaches thereby that there can be no use of the place apart from the doctrine of godliness. Doubtless for the same reason David complains with great bitterness of spirit that he has been barred from the Tabernacle through the tyranny and cruelty of his enemies [Psalm 84:2-3]. To many this seems almost a childish complaint, for to be denied access to the Temple would be a very slight loss, and would destroy but little pleasure, provided other delights were still at hand. Nevertheless, he laments that he burns, is tormented and well-nigh consumed, with this single trouble, vexation, and sorrow. Surely, this is because believers have no greater help than public worship, for by it God raises his own folk upward step by step. (Calvin, Institutes, 4.1.5)

Consider these outstanding lemmas on liberty from Doug Wilson.

Is it you, you troubler of America? (everyone, including BigEva, to the church)

I watched this movie with the big kids this week. So good:

Some interpretive maximalist food for thought:

Peano arithmetic to own the commies! Also, I heartily affirm that leaves are green in summer:

I appreciated Relevant’s interview of Gladwell from a few years back.

The kids started back to home schooling this week. We now have three in high school! Since I’m working from home still, I’ve started up a daily Psalm chant. I’m fairly new to chanting and delighted with the raw shanty-like feel. We’re using the Concordia ESV Psalter. But the Theopolis Institute is also undertaking a fresh translation and composition of Psalm chants over the next couple years. Join me in support of them!

Written by Scott Moonen

August 7, 2020 at 9:07 pm

Adventure

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We are reading The Last Battle aloud. Some choice quotes:

Jewel, to Tirian: “Farewell. We have known great joys together. If Aslan gave me my choice I would choose no other life than the life I have had and no other death than the one we go to.”

Jill, to Eustace: “I’d rather be killed fighting for Narnia than grow old and stupid at home and perhaps go about in a bath-chair and then die in the end just the same.”

Jewel, to Tirian’s little band: “Nothing now remains for us seven but to go back to Stable Hill, proclaim the truth, and take the adventure that Aslan sends us.”

Written by Scott Moonen

August 5, 2020 at 10:30 pm

Posted in Quotations, Vocation

Not at all an enchanting smell

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“Come, all of you. Put away these childish tricks. I have work for you all in the real world. There is no Narnia, no Overworld, no sky, no sun, no Aslan. And now, to bed all. And let us begin a wiser life tomorrow. But, first, to bed; to sleep; deep sleep, soft pillows, sleep without foolish dreams.”

The Prince and the two children were standing with their heads hung down, their cheeks flushed, their eyes half closed; the strength all gone from them; the enchantment almost complete. But Puddleglum, desperately gathering all his strength, walked over to the fire. Then he did a very brave thing. He knew it wouldn’t hurt him quite as much as it would hurt a human; for his feet (which were bare) were webbed and hard and cold-blooded like a duck’s. But he knew it would hurt him badly enough; and so it did. With his bare foot he stamped on the fire, grinding a large part of it into ashes on the flat hearth. And three things happened at once.

First, the sweet, heavy smell grew very much less. For though the whole fire had not been put out, a good bit of it had, and what remained smelled very largely of burnt Marsh-wiggle, which is not at all an enchanting smell. This instantly made everyone’s brain far clearer. The Prince and the children held up their heads again and opened their eyes.

Secondly, the Witch, in a loud, terrible voice, utterly different from all the sweet tones she had been using up till now, called out, “What are you doing? Dare to touch my fire again, mud-filth, and I’ll turn the blood to fire inside your veins.”

Thirdly, the pain itself made Puddleglum’s head for a moment perfectly clear and he knew exactly what he really thought. There is nothing like a good shock of pain for dissolving certain kinds of magic.

“One word, Ma’am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for your supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.”

C. S. Lewis, The Silver Chair, 189-191

Written by Scott Moonen

August 3, 2020 at 8:46 pm

Difficult

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Interviewer: Then is writing easy for you? Or do you find it difficult?

Chinua Achebe: The honest answer is, it’s difficult. But the word difficult doesn’t really express what I mean. It is like wrestling; you are wrestling with ideas and with the story. There is a lot of energy required. At the same time, it is exciting. So it is both difficult and easy. What you must accept is that your life is not going to be the same while you are writing. I have said in the kind of exaggerated manner of writers and prophets that writing, for me, is like receiving a term of imprisonment—you know that’s what you’re in for, for whatever time it takes. So it is both pleasurable and difficult.

The Paris Review, Chinua Achebe, The Art of Fiction No. 139

Written by Scott Moonen

August 2, 2020 at 4:44 pm

Posted in Quotations, Vocation

What a church is

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Written by Scott Moonen

August 2, 2020 at 7:45 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (5)

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I learned this week that raw meat is not soaking in blood. What I have called blood is actually water and myoglobin rather than hemoglobin. This clarifies Acts 15 for me and I repent of having tried blood sausage once. (Seriously.)

Ahh, Steve:

Lots of county fairs cancelled too. The only one around here that I can find that hasn’t decided yet is the Lee Regional Fair, which I’m keeping my eyes on. Something tells me my new motto, “don’t stretch the curve into the next decade,” isn’t about to catch on.

I commented on the Summit’s 2020 meeting plans last week. Greear portrayed it as a return to a house church model. I’m skeptical this is just a further ecclesiological decline, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work. So: are they appointing elders? Are these elders leading each little body in weekly worship, including participation in the table? If not, then what you have is κοινωνία, which may be truly wonderful, but not ἐκκλησία. And if it is not church, you should be honest and admit that what you are conducting is really a famine or exile from the house and worship of God.

Hence the form of the Church appears and stands forth conspicuous to our view. Wherever we see the word of God sincerely preached and heard, wherever we see the sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ, there we cannot have any doubt that the Church of God has some existence. . . Wherefore let these marks be carefully impressed upon our minds, and let us estimate them as in the sight of the Lord. There is nothing on which Satan is more intent than to destroy and efface one or both of them. . . (Calvin, Institutes, Book 4, Chapter 1)

But equally:

How perilous, then, nay, how fatal the temptation, when we even entertain a thought of separating ourselves from that assembly in which are beheld the signs and badges which the Lord has deemed sufficient to characterize his Church! We see how great caution should be employed in both respects. . . we must in this case be no less careful to avoid the imposture than we were to shun pride and presumption in the other.

When we say that the pure ministry of the word and pure celebration of the sacraments is a fit pledge and earnest, so that we may safely recognize a church in every society in which both exist, our meaning is, that we are never to discard it so long as these remain, though it may otherwise teem with numerous faults. Nay, even in the administration of word and sacraments defects may creep in which ought not to alienate us from its communion. . . Our indulgence ought to extend much farther in tolerating imperfection of conduct. . . If the Lord declares that the Church will labor under the defect of being burdened with a multitude of wicked until the day of judgment, it is in vain to look for a church altogether free from blemish (Mt.13). (Calvin, Institutes, Book 4, Chapter 1)

I’ve always thought of serve in Joshua 24 as primarily meaning obey, and it certainly means no less. But it struck me freshly this week that the semantic range also includes worship (e.g., as in Exodus 10):

“Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:14–15 ESV)

As for me and my household, we will gather with my Lord and his people for his appointed covenant renewal feasts.

Wilson praises MacArthur fittingly. We just finished reading The Silver Chair out loud as a family, so the Puddleglum reference especially tickled me. It is a trenchant observation that our culture has a growing trend of leadership by smothering mothering. Recall this is just what Tocqueville prophesied. It is what I meant by “managerial” and “focus-group-tested” last week, and this “spirit of deep empathy” is widely praised in business today. (How is your employee engagement trending?) But as a primary strategy, this will backfire: we need fathers as well as mothers, especially if we are to mature; and this is in fact just another way of expressing Friedman’s powerful insights concerning dysfunction, anxiety, and maturation. If Wilson and Friedman and Tocqueville are right, unless we come to value and pursue genuine fatherly, masculine leadership, the families, churches, businesses, and cities that we are seeking to cultivate and preserve will ironically become more atrophied and immature and vulnerable.

As Friedman observes, those families, churches, businesses, and cities that resist motherfussing motherhenning may suffer short-term resistance from those who are seeking validation of their own anxieties, but will grow into long-term stability, fruitfulness, and maturity. They might remain small, but they will not be so fragile. As I said last week, the outlook for ordinary, small, faithful churches is bright, even if they stand to temporarily take a membership dip over the next couple years. (But I think any dip will be more than offset by a father-hungry exodus from the motherships.)

And, to be clear, God does not wish fathers or mothers to be anxious, fussy, or exhaustively empathetic. We are speaking here in a kind of shorthand of common distortions of godly femininity, which are kept in check, as Wilson observes, by godly masculinity. We live in such a time that it has become common wisdom that not only CEOs and presidents but even husbands and fathers should cultivate these distortions too.

By some of the responses I’ve read on my MacArthur post, Daniel should have prayed behind closed doors. (Gary DeMar)

This fellow had a great way of expressing Wilson’s insight that we are subject to manifold authorities, including paper ones.

I’m working through 1 and 2 Kings this week. Random things that stood out to me: (1) The queen of Sheba parallels the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts. Of course, both of them are from the same country; the eunuch in fact serves the queen of Sheba. Both of them are fulfillments of Solomon’s prayer in 1 Kings 8. The first queen is impressed with visible glory (this of course does not mean that she was not converted), while the eunuch is amazed at the sacrificial transfiguring glory of one who temporarily lacked form and majesty and beauty. (2) Elijah turns Ahab’s “troubler of Israel” back upon him. This reminds me of other serpent-accusers who deserved to be hoisted by their own petard: Pharaoh did harm to Abram; both Abraham and Isaac took wise and godly precaution with their respective Abimelechs precisely because of what might have been done to them; Esau sought to trick Jacob; Laban tricked Jacob with wages; and of course many others, including Haman. (3) Take courage; even today God has preserved thousands who have not bowed the knee to idols. (4) Speaking of idols, I’d like to find a politician who will say, “Former men have served scientism and libertinism a little, but I will serve them much.”

Written by Scott Moonen

August 1, 2020 at 9:18 am