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Jesu, Juva

Metábasis eis állo génos (18)

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Last week I linked Alastair Roberts’ article on gender and discourse. One proof point for his thesis is how we have come to think our leaders ought to present themselves to us. We would rather have relatable leaders than distant, impenetrable, strong, and assured ones; we have become easily offended by what Edwin Friedman calls the well–differentiated leader. We want our presidents to pay attention to the focus groups, appear on late night talk shows, and tell us whether they wear boxers or briefs. Heaven forbid that they are (or at least fail to pretend that they are not) Machiavellian. I follow James Jordan in believing that Nebuchadnezzar, Artaxerxes–Ahashuerus–Darius–the–Great, Cyrus, the king of Nineveh, Joseph’s Pharaoh, and Constantine were all converted. I sometimes wonder if Trump is as well.

Egalitarianism flattens not only the sexes but, because of the process Roberts observes, the many different spheres of life. We would do well to rediscover sphere sovereignty. Like any explanatory rubric, it can be taken too far. But it has a lot to offer in this moment, both in terms of the form and purpose and limitations of each sphere, and also how the church ought to speak to each sphere. You could say that it gives us a kind of “threefold division” not only of the law but of the entire Bible and of life itself. For example, the parable of the good Samaritan is not something you would normally preach to the magistrate except in his private capacity. In fact, the parable as originally presented is not even a criticism of private individuals, but rather of church leaders who had deeply confused priorities. There is a time to recognize that there is none righteous and preach the gospel of free grace. There is a time to urge and pray for unity. But at certain times in each sphere of life, those principles serve as a cop-out that whitewashes the sharp distinctions of beauty, truth, or righteousness.

Experts make their money by undermining your confidence in your own judgment. (C. R. Wiley, “Postconstitutional America & the Cult of Expertise”)

I had a chance to listen to Rogan interview Kanye and Jones this week. This was my first encounter with both Rogan and Jones. I enjoyed both interviews.

What would a company of prophets look like—a company of men both grim and joyful? This is a time, to steal an idea from Charles Simeon, of heavy ballast bearing hard against soaring sails of encouragement. Isn’t it interesting that we must have the one in order to fully enjoy and appreciate the other? (Then I recall that Simeon labored for years without the benefit of like–minded brothers!) Sometimes you must march through Moria in order to save the Shire. It is a rich blessing from God if you are able to do it in a fellowship.

Reflecting this week on the events of 2020, including lockdowns, social distancing, masks, riots, and more, I feel again very strongly that we are witnessing a very Girardian moment. Girard explains how a wave of perverse imitation can sweep the globe, to the point where we even imitate our excuses (“science,” “we are all racist”). But then we turn swiftly to ruthlessly scapegoat those who are not caught up in the wave of imitation. This explains why everything in 2020 has been deeply politicized; there is a sharp polarity between this pursuit of dominating perverse unity on the one hand, and the steadfast preservation of basic human dignity and self governance on the other. These are not disagreements between equally reasonable viewpoints.

The engine behind this is a very powerful one: a desire to be justified, and an unwillingness to find justification by exposing our sin and guilt and shame and receiving forgiveness in the blood of the true Scapegoat, then imitating him in discipleship and growth towards self-governing maturity. Instead we project guilt on others and crucify them. This momentarily soothes our consciences, but the relief is only momentary because it is a false justification and we have only added to our sin and guilt in the process. So the next time there is just a little more ruthlessness because there is more sin to be covered up. And this engine is further amplified by both fear and exhilaration when everyone around you is caught up in it as well. This is often tempting for the church, but seeing it clearly and resisting it is a crucial part of not being of the world.

It is right to see the seeds of persecution in 2020 even though the engine has not yet turned its full energy directly on the church. Girard stresses that the church is always the scapegoat of last resort when the cycle reaches its zenith. This is because the church is the bearer of the gospel, which is deeply offensive to everyone caught up in self justification. The church tears down strongholds, which is to say, we uniquely have the ability and responsibility to see and expose and resist this demonic scapegoating process, urging people to repent and find their justification in the true Scapegoat. That automatically begets persecution, although the ultimate fruit of that is going to be the growth and maturation of the church and kingdom, because our message is one of tremendous unearthly power: the one Scapegoat really does cover sins and give life!

So you see, there are good gospel reasons the church ought to purposefully (and cheerfully!) resist walking together with the world in any of the great issues of 2020. There is obvious darkness there to be exposed. And we need to be prepared for this to provoke a crisis point. But this will result in the growth of the kingdom.

I learned this week of the (timely) phrase normalcy bias.

Theopolis Institute published the first edition of their Liturgy and Psalter this week. Their plan is to provide fresh translations, melodies, and chants for every Psalm over the next few years.

Written by Scott Moonen

November 1, 2020 at 4:08 pm

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