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Archive for September 2020

Metábasis eis állo génos (13)

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To the Word took us through Exodus this week. The portrait of leaders hardening their hearts, and God displaying his power and glory for the sake of his people, sure is encouraging. The fickleness of God’s people is also an interesting reminder.

Notice what is sin (translation Everett Fox):

But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had stopped,
he continued to sin: he made his heart heavy-with-stubbornness, his and his servants’.
Pharaoh’s heart remained strong-willed, and he did not send the Children of Israel free,
as YHWH had spoken through Moshe. (Exodus 9:34-35)

Take careful note that part of that hardness was excluding Israel’s children from the worship–feast (Exodus 10).

The 400 and 430 years of Israel’s time in exile is interesting. It is obvious that the numbers date back into the time of Abraham, since Moses’s mother was a daughter of Levi. As Jordan suggests, the numbers have to do with a time in a land under Egyptian hegemony and not just an actual stay in Egypt. See Biblical Horizons vol. 6 no. 6 for some brief references.

It’s also important to keep in mind the reason that Israel had become slaves in Egypt. They had forsaken Yahweh:

So-now,
hold YHWH in awe and serve him in integrity and trust;
remove the gods whom your fathers had served across the River and in Egypt
and serve YHWH! (Joshua 24:14, Everett Fox)

Why didn’t Scalia receive universal acclaim? You know, I’m sure that his dying wish was for one of his clerks to succeed to the court.

Big Eva and RINOs would have us evaluate the world upside down. In a magistrate, what matters is not that they are personally nice, but that they rule justly. It is of little consequence that they were a nice and interesting neighbor, or that they were a courageous crusader for what they believed to be right. Rather: were they actually right?

Let’s survey some scripture. It is true that we are not to be glad at calamity (Prov. 17:5) or rejoice when our enemy falls (Prov. 24:17). And yet it is also true that we plead for God to break the teeth of the wicked, and rejoice in God’s vengeance (Psalm 58); the righteous bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked (Psalm 58, 68); there are shouts of gladness when the wicked perish (Prov. 11:10); the wise king laughs at and mocks the willful fool (Prov. 1:26ff); we celebrate the death of wicked baby killers in song (Ex. 15); and celebrate this with feasting (Esther 9:16ff). This rejoicing carries into the church’s worship and into eternity (Rev. 19).

We have to do the hard work of harmonizing these verses. As to calamity, it is clear that this refers to a general calamity. So we are not glad to see the destruction of Portland and California even though we could all see it coming and it is a comeuppance for God’s enemies. As to enemies falling, that seems to be a warning to a king not to lift up his heart like Nebuchadnezzar. It is possible still for a leader to humbly rejoice in God’s work in bringing down the wicked; the song of Moses seems like a happy way to harmonize this.

The shaking of the foundations and the planting of a little worshiping community: that’s the same thing. The planting of a little worshiping community is a strike at the foundations of a pagan city like Philippi. — Peter Leithart, emphasis added

Wiley and friends covered Leaf by Niggle recently, an enjoyable discussion. While it’s interesting to reflect on how the works of our hands endure in time and eternity, certainly the chief of those is our children. This is especially interesting in Tolkien’s case, as his son Christopher became the means of preserving much of Tolkien’s artistic work. And although Niggle did not have any children, his work is also reflected in the preservation of Parish. Parish himself was a gift.

Naturally, after reflecting on Niggle, you must read “The best introduction to the mountains.”

Written by Scott Moonen

September 26, 2020 at 8:15 am

Enough

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Brothers! People! Why has life been given you? In the deep, deaf stillness of midnight, the doors of the death cells are being swung open—and great–souled people are being dragged out to be shot. On all the railroads of the country this very minute, right now, people who have just been fed salt herring are licking their dry lips with bitter tongues. They dream of the happiness of stretching out one’s legs and of the relief one feels after going to the toilet. In Orotukan the earth thaws only in summer and only to the depth of three feet—and only then can they bury the bones of those who died during the winter. And you have the right to arrange your own life under the blue sky and the hot sun, to get a drink of water, to stretch, to travel wherever you like without a convoy. So what’s this about unwiped feet? And what’s this about a mother–in–law? What about the main thing in life, all its riddles? If you want, I’ll spell it out for you right now. Do not pursue what is illusory—property and position: all that is gained at the expense of your nerves decade after decade, and is confiscated in one fell night. Live with a steady superiority over life—don’t be afraid of misfortune, and do not yearn after happiness; it is, after all, all the same: the bitter doesn’t last forever, and the sweet never fills the cup to overflowing. It is enough if you don’t freeze in the cold and if thirst and hunger don’t claw at your insides. If your back isn’t broken, if your feet can walk, if both arms can bend, if both eyes see, and if both ears hear, then whom should you envy? And why? Our envy of others devours us most of all. Rub your eyes and purify your heart—and prize above all else in the world those who love you and who wish you well. Do not hurt them or scold them, and never part from any of them in anger; after all, you simply do not know; it might be your last act before your arrest, and that will be how you are imprinted in their memory! (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 1, 591–592)

Written by Scott Moonen

September 19, 2020 at 6:10 pm

Posted in Quotations

Metábasis eis állo génos (12)

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What is Canada doing right about forest management? Or addressing arson? Or both? Maybe all is well as long as Trudeau remains in power?

This was thought provoking:

Man, Peterson’s 12 Rules is not very good. His view of the world is that of a scared little boy. It’s this terrible brutal scary place but you’ve got to overcome your fear of it or you’ll be paralyzed. It makes sense that this would resonate with men primarily raised by women.

Raise your sons to be explorers, adventurers, overcomers, and conquerors. Tell them that though there is wildness and danger in this world, God still made it for us to subdue and rule.

There are “dragons” in the world… The mother says be careful, son. The father says bring back the head of a dragon, son.

— Michael Foster [1], [2], [3]

My mind immediately jumped to “This is my Father’s world.” We are sons of the king (Matthew 17:24ff) and heirs of this world (Romans 4:13). ND Wilson recently had similar bracing words (thanks to Brad for the find) on how we should live in 2020 or any year whatsoever.

I saw Trump compared to king Saul this week as a self-important godless failure. Perhaps Trump thinks of himself as a king David. (I suspect it’s a typical serpentine slander that there are many evangelicals who think of Trump as a David.) I think it is better to think of him as a potential Nebuchadnezzar or Pharaoh. We don’t trust in chariots or horses, but we can pray that God will send bad dreams, or use him to protect us from a Zedekiah or a famine.

Big Eva would have us believe it is a tortured question whether to serve Zedekiah or Nebuchadnezzar. (I realize all of the ways the analogy is imperfect, but let the reader understand.) After all, who is to say which chariot or horse God will use? (O Keller!) But it is only tortured if you love the glory that comes from man. Gotta appear thoughtful, and make sure your name is not in the papers for the Wrong Reasons™ (O Greear!). It’s going to keep getting worse, you know, all because we thought we should pay attention to the serpentine slander. That is a treadmill that keeps going faster and faster.

I’m so grateful that John MacArthur hasn’t paid attention to any of it. God is the one who checks to see if our hands and heart are clean, not the accuser.

Mark Horne was on Canon Calls this week to discuss the book of Proverbs and his recent book. Check it out.

I had a couple of occasions to revisit Matthew 18 this week. I’m freshly struck by the interconnectedness of this chapter on body life. It especially struck me that little children are present all the way up through verse 14. Although verses 3 and 4 invite us to expand the application beyond children, certainly the first application is to children. I was previously aware of that for verses 7–9, but not for verses 10–14; these two passages form a kind of mirror image to one another: don’t lead children into temptation, but preserve and protect them.

I hold that most passages and parables like this are to be read first as a critique of the shepherds of Israel. Thus, the leaders of Israel failed utterly in their role as shepherds to the children, and sheep, of Israel (see also Matthew 23:13–15). Moving to application, I’ve long held that verses 1–9 urge us to paedobaptism and paedocommunion. But I think this application continues into verses 10–14. So far from chasing down our little ones, evangelicalism has for a very long time been chasing them away from the table.

I remarked briefly on Biblical chronology last week. My reference to Paul’s 14 years is an insight from James Jordan, of course. I checked to see whether Jordan had anything to say about Tiberius or the 46 years, but found nothing. Interestingly, he did observe that there were likely 46 years between Josiah seeking God’s face (2 Chron 34:3) and the destruction of Jerusalem. If so, that is a neat mirror image to the 46 years in John 2.

I also mentioned Jephthah’s daughter. There is an interesting parallel in the story of Abraham and Isaac, where God commands Abraham to conduct just such an offering-up. God’s substitution for Isaac I think shapes how we want to read this word going forward into Jephthah’s case. I looked at the law for other connections, but in my brief search I found only mention of enemies devoted to God (destroyed) or gifts (which are redeemed).

I finished Leithart’s Theopolitan Reading. One more quote:

If you don’t know Adam thoroughly, you won’t spot the meaningful variations on the theme. You won’t recognize Noah as an improved Adam. You won’t realize that Yahweh’s promises to make Abraham “fruitful” is a promise to fulfill Adam’s vocation in Abraham’s seed. You won’t see the Adamic features of Aaron the priest. You won’t sense that Solomon has what Adam doesn’t, namely, knowledge of good and evil. You won’t recognize the prophets as Adams who have reached a stage of maturity that Adam never reached.

Most importantly, if you misconstrue how Jesus is the Last Adam, you’ll miss the heart of the gospel. You might think Jesus comes to whisk us from earth to heaven. In fact, the gospel presents Jesus as the Last Adam, who has fulfilled the human vocation and is now fulfilling it on earth, by His Spirit, through the church. If your palate isn’t trained to savor the Adams of the Bible, you won’t have any good sense of who you are: a priest, king, and prophet, co-member of a community of priests, kings, and prophets joined to the great Priest, King, and Prophet. (93)

Written by Scott Moonen

September 18, 2020 at 10:36 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (11)

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Shall we call the rona the Y2k20 bug?

It’s not too late to join the To The Word reading plan. Psalm 119 is such a wonderful way to begin and end a reading plan! I’m taking this opportunity to read Everett Fox’s Schocken Bible wherever it satisfies the readings. No translation is perfect, but I love Fox’s translation philosophy. It’s the only translation I’ve found that handles Jephthah and his daughter properly; from Judges 11:

Now there came upon Yiftah the rushing-spirit of YHWH;
he crossed over to Gil’ad and Menashe,
and he crossed over to Mitzpe of Gil’ad, and from Mitzpe of Gil’ad
he crossed over to the Children of Ammon.
And Yiftah vowed a vow to YHWH and said:
If you will give, yes, give the Children of Ammon into my hand,
it will be: the one going out who goes out of the doors of my
    house to meet me, when I return in peace from the Children of Ammon
shall be YHWH’s
and shall be offered up by me as an offering-up!

Thus she went up to serve at the tabernacle, like the women of Exodus 38:8.

I was struck by the 46 years in John 2. No numerological significance jumps out at me, but the chronology is interesting. The current alternate chronology of 18 BC would put this event in AD 29. That fits with Kostenberger’s suggestion that Jesus began his ministry in AD 29 or 30. However, this is not able to account for Paul’s fourteen years (Galatians 2) which is usually linked to Acts 12:25 and therefore the death of Herod (Acts 12:23) in AD 44. That would put Paul’s conversion (and Jesus’s crucifixion) in AD 30. So, unless we introduce a large gap into Acts 12, it seems we are awaiting an alternate chronology either for the temple and Tiberius, or the death of Agrippa.

Speaking of the fourteen years, which included time in Arabia, it occurs to me that this is a kind of wilderness time for Paul. If 17 is an analog of 70— seven and ten remixed—then 14 is an analog of 40.

Did you know that the Fed now owns nearly a third of all US mortgages? Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. Also, it is definitely time to cancel your Netflix subscription.

Here’s an interesting scenario: what if you waited to ensure good census numbers for your state, then took various executive and economic steps to ensure that the opposing political party middle class fled your state? Why, you’d be sitting fat and happy for the next ten to twelve years, electorally speaking. Now repeat across several key states, and you just might be able to pawn off your financial problems on all of those suckers and losers to boot.

It might actually be a mercy from God if this happened; it could help to ensure that the coming dividing lines formed between states rather than neighbors.

Jamie Soles has a new album: Supplanter. It’s about a great man of faith, a perfect and complete man, who wrestles with man, with God, and with gnostic hermeneutics, and prevails. On this subject, see also Mark Horne and James Jordan.

Mark Horne also has a nice commentary on Mark’s gospel. My pastors are planning to work through Mark this winter and this is a good supplement. Also be sure to check out Mark’s latest book on Proverbs and wisdom.

I’ve been enjoying Peter Leithart’s recent Theopolitan Reading. It is outstanding, a kind of distilled appetizer for Jordan’s Through New Eyes. Some choice quotes:

Different species of animals represent different kinds of people. Kings are supposed to be lions, ferocious protectors of their pride and dangerous to their enemies (Gen 49:9; Rev 5:5). Samson and David demonstrate their prowess by killing lions (Judges 14:5–9; 1 Sam 17:34–37). If they can kill lions, they can successfully battle Philistines. As the lion king, David gathers leonine warriors who share his strength and skill in combat (1 Chr 12:8).

Other men are violent scavengers, jackals who prey on the weak or sneak into abandoned cities to pick through the garbage (Isa 13:22; 34:13). Imagery like this could well be literal. . . When human society breaks down, wild animals move in. But the imagery is also symbolic. When the king is not a lion, predatory men roam freely, preying on their defenseless sheep.

Other people are serpents, who kill with the poison under their tongue (Psa 58:4; 140:3). The righteous who trust in the Lord mimic the Seed of the woman and crush the heads of the serpentine wicked (Gen 3:15; Psa 91:13). Groups of animals represent groups of people, which is why Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David start as shepherds and herdsmen before leading the “flock of God” (cf. Ezek 34:15, 17; Zech 9:16; 1 Pet 5:2). Other groups are like packs of dogs, roaming the streets and baring their teeth against the righteous (Psa 22:16; 59:6, 14). (p. 42)

Many Bible teachers say the number 7 is the number of “fullness.” That may be true but doesn’t tell us much. And it’s the wrong way to read the poetry of Scripture. It’s a move from a concrete number (7) to an abstract quality (“fullness”).

Bible teachers make this move a lot. The desert represents “testing.” Lions represent “strength” or “destructive power.” White symbolizes “purity.” In each case, we move from something we can sense—a place we can survey, a color we can see, a number we can count, an animal that could rip us to shreds—to some quality that we can only think about.

The Bible doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t move from body to mind, or from matter to Spirit, or from concrete to abstract. Instead, the Bible connects one body with another—one thing, event, or person to another. We move from one concrete reality to another to another, seeing each in the light of the others. Scripture doesn’t move us away from our senses but trains them. (p. 45)

At his trial, Pilate presents Jesus to the mobs: “Behold the man” (John 19:5). Behold man. Behold Adam, cursed Adam, shamed Adam, soon-to-be-new Adam, risen in glory. (p. 52)

Written by Scott Moonen

September 11, 2020 at 7:10 pm

Do Not Be Ashamed

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You will be walking some night
in the comfortable dark of your yard
and suddenly a great light will shine
round about you, and behind you
will be a wall you never saw before.
It will be clear to you suddenly
that you were about to escape,
and that you are guilty: you misread
the complex instructions, you are not
a member, you lost your card
or never had one. And you will know
that they have been there all along,
their eyes on your letters and books,
their hands in your pockets,
their ears wired to your bed.
Though you have done nothing shameful,
they will want you to be ashamed.
They will want you to kneel and weep
and say you should have been like them.
And once you say you are ashamed,
reading the page they hold out to you,
then such light as you have made
in your history will leave you.
They will no longer need to pursue you.
You will pursue them, begging forgiveness.
They will not forgive you.
There is no power against them.
It is only candor that is aloof from them,
only an inward clarity, unashamed,
that they cannot reach. Be ready.
When their light has picked you out
and their questions are asked, say to them:
“I am not ashamed.” A sure horizon
will come around you. The heron will begin
his evening flight from the hilltop.

Wendell Berry, Selected Poems of Wendell Berry, 32–33, originally from Openings

Written by Scott Moonen

September 11, 2020 at 9:46 am

Posted in Poetry

Metábasis eis állo génos (10)

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Early on, most of the contrarian chatter on the rona was that it was worse than we all thought. I can recall early theories that China’s numbers were way under-represented. Remember the mobile subscriber reports? Perhaps this was fluctuations in gaming all of the mobile advertising and attention-reputation systems. Perhaps some of this was Uighur. But since then, most of the contrarians have focused on ways in which we have tended to overestimate. Antibody studies have consistently showed that the spread was greater than we thought and therefore the risk was less than we thought. We heard of specific accounts of case inflation and death inflation, and wondered at the fact that there seem to be perverse incentives in place for both of those numbers. This week it was interesting to see the CDC numbers showing extraordinarily high levels of co-morbidity. I do not agree with the simplistic claim that we should adjust the death count by 94%, but the numbers were certainly surprising. It was equally interesting to see additional suggestions that PCR results may be exaggerated (with potential for both false positives and also positives for weeks post recovery) but at the same time antibody results may be under-representative. Of course, this is not the final word, but these are interesting developments to me. As always, stay tuned to Alex Berenson if you are also interested in this kind of stuff.

I am no lover of public school, but this tweet caught my attention. Fauci: “asymptomatic transmission has never been the driver of outbreaks.”

I feel more and more that we have collectively decided to drive 25mph just because Miss Daisy is out there on the roads. I’ve been reflecting: what are the long-term implications of this collective insanity, this iatrogenicide if you will, on our institutions and leaders, even if we somehow miraculously agreed to abandon it all tomorrow and pretend that things were back to normal? Friedman would say that we cannot cater to anxiety for the sake of temporary peace and unity without always creating a fragile situation where greater anxiety and greater disunity will ultimately reign. Every parent knows what happens when you coddle anxiety; the tyranny of the weak really is a tyranny. As Wilson says, “there is a difference between deferring to the weaker brothers, on the one hand, and putting them in charge of what the whole church must do.” Girard would say that we cannot play the game of imitation without coming to live on the knife’s edge where one wrong move will bring a wave of scapegoating upon our own heads. If you glance over your shoulder now to imitate others’ “leadership,” you will eventually be running glancing back over your shoulder on a mob.

Many churches have given up so many things they once claimed to cherish and even to be commanded by God. Whatever happened to the regulative principle? In many decisions, the fear of God was exchanged for the fear of man and fear of the unknown. Churches know that Friedman and Girard are not just describing natural processes, but that we are always sowing into a future where God himself ensures that reaping and judgment will take place. Judgment begins with the household of God, and he judges leaders with a greater strictness. Churches and leaders that have decided, contrary to God’s word, that they still have the authority to close doors and tables to hungry sheep, must continue to experience shaking from God until they repent. God is not mocked, and salt that has lost its saltiness is good for nothing except to be thrown out and trampled. As things stand right now, I believe that even if all of this were to stop tomorrow, we would not be making a fresh and exciting start, emerging stronger than ever, etc.; but rather experiencing the eye of the hurricane.

But enough about the rona. Wow, Big Eva. Are Tripp and Duncan going to repudiate Eric Mason? I am not surprised by Stetzer, but Ortlund? Funny, though: I launched into Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel recently, expecting to enjoy it, but was deeply disappointed. However, I now realize that I had confused Raymond Ortlund with Rob Rayburn. Forgive me, Rob.

Apropos all of 2020, Satan always couches his lies in a partial truth.

This was a great testimony of conducting disagreement as a happy warrior!

Would you join me in the To The Word Bible reading challenge? It starts on Monday!

Written by Scott Moonen

September 5, 2020 at 6:49 am