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Archive for April 2021

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-16)

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More Schmemann:

Baptism is forgiveness of sins, not their removal. It introduces the sword of Christ into our life and makes it the real conflict, the inescapable pain and suffering of growth. It is indeed after baptism and because of it, that the reality of sin can be recognized in all its sadness, and true repentance becomes possible. Therefore, the whole of the Church is at the same time the gift of forgiveness, the joy of the “world to come,” and also and inescapably a constant repentance. The feast is impossible without the fast, and the fast is precisely repentance and return, the saving experience of sadness and exile. The Church is the gift of the Kingdom—yet it is this very gift that makes obvious our absence from the Kingdom, our alienation from God. It is repentance that takes us again and again into the joy of the Paschal banquet, but it is that joy which reveals to us our sinfulness and puts us under judgment. (For the Life of the World, 79)

I read Jerry Bowyer’s The Maker Versus the Takers this week. He offers fascinating commentary on Jesus’s words and ministry in light of the first century economic context. Some quotes:

What you will see is Jesus confronting the takers of wealth, not the makers of it. He did this with such vigor and clarity, the ruling class who lived and worked in that nation’s capital saw Him as a threat to their system of economic extraction. That’s why they instigated His judicial execution by the Roman state. Elites failed to heed Jesus’s warnings about the ways in which the capital city and its ruling political/religious elite were courting disaster. Eventually, the economic problems Jesus warned about led to an economic collapse and the destruction of the capital city, Jerusalem (xiii)

Commenting on Exodus 18:

The people were to choose political leaders who hated dishonest gain. Why? Because political office by its very nature tempts one to dishonest gain. It is such a powerful factor so singularly connected with the nature of politics that it is one of only three qualifications for public office listed by Jethro (Moses adds wisdom and discernment) and the only negative qualification mentioned. That is to say, it is the only character flaw that is singled out in the qualifications for political office, which suggests that, at least in the eyes of Jethro, it is the quintessential political temptation. (50-51)

Commenting on Matthew 18:

If I tell you a story about someone who is $22 trillion in debt, then it is sensible to see this as an analogy (and parables are analogies) for a national debt. And it is likewise sensible, even without everything I’ve already told you about the seventy sevens and the debt rules and all the rest, to see this as a story about the combined debt of a nation over several years. . . . Israel continued their disobedience by continuing to shake the poor for debts that should have been released under the Torah. . . (81-82)

Bowyer recognizes the story of the rich man and Lazarus as a story about the temple and priesthood. The rich man wears purple and fine linen; rejoices literally “by lamp;” and has five brothers (evidently this is historically significant). And, significantly, we know that the actual priesthood was not persuaded by the resurrection of an actual Lazarus:

But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus. (John 12:10-11, NKJV)

They are not all Israel who are of Israel:

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “that I will punish all who are circumcised with the uncircumcised—Egypt, Judah, Edom, the people of Ammon, Moab, and all who are in the farthest corners, who dwell in the wilderness. For all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.” (Jeremiah 9:25-26, NKJV)

How interesting, then, that God commanded the circumcision of infants.

Jeremiah was the proximate fulfillment of Isaiah’s suffering servant. His ministry is a great foreshadowing of Jesus’s ministry. Jeremiah ministers at the end of the first seventy sevens, the beginning of the exile:

Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,” says Yahweh. (Jeremiah 7:11, NKJV)

Now in the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month (which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, who served the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He burned the house of the LORD and the king’s house; all the houses of Jerusalem, that is, all the houses of the great, he burned with fire. And all the army of the Chaldeans who were with the captain of the guard broke down all the walls of Jerusalem all around. (Jeremiah 52:12-14, NKJV)

Jesus comes to inspect his house at the end of Daniel’s seventy sevens. This time no stone will be left upon one another. Ezekiel, too (the earlier son of man), is a foreshadowing of Jesus’s ministry and AD 70. God does not take it lightly when his church is faithless:

Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations where they are carried captive, because I was crushed by their adulterous heart which has departed from Me, and by their eyes which play the harlot after their idols; they will loathe themselves for the evils which they committed in all their abominations. (Ezekiel 6:9, NKJV)

And this is how we ought to take it:

Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub, where it had been, to the threshold of the temple. And He called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer’s inkhorn at his side; and Yahweh said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it.” (Ezekiel 9:3-4, NKJV)

To wit:

Now, we check back in on [mother Israel in Revelation] 17, and we find out that she’s riding around in the wilderness on the back of the beast. She’s not making war with the beast; she’s in league with the beast! She’s drinking the blood of the martyrs; she’s made up like a prostitute. She’s not engaged in warfare; she’s in communion with the dragon: she’s made a treaty with him, and she’s not protecting her holy offspring; she’s not defending them: she’s eating her young.

And you’re not alone if you’re shocked and revolted by this image. Even John has a hard time keeping it together when he sees this. (Duane Garner, “The beast’s warfare on the woman.”)

To wit:

One of the things that is valuable about Daniel and other books of the exilic period is the perspective it gives us on exile. Christians often think of exile as the state of the Christian church at all times in all places; it’s a pilgrim church, it’s always small and beleaguered; it’s always a minority and oppressed. And this is part of a picture that is skeptical about any notion of Christendom, any kind of public role for the church or power for the church.

It’s important in looking at the actual exile in the Old Testament, that although Israel is in fact under another a foreign power, scattered, captured and transported to a new place: The main people we know from the exilic period are people who rise to great prominence within different empires. . . . Daniel and his friends are in high positions in Nebuchadnezzar’s court; Daniel remains or comes back to a high position by the time the Persians take over; Esther and Mordecai are in high positions in the Persian empire; Nehemiah is there before the king of Persia; and Ezra is at least known to the Persian king because he commissions him to go back to Jerusalem. So all of the prominent people we know in exile are people who are new Josephs that ascend within the exile.

That gives a different picture than many people have of what exile involves. There is a certain kind of weakness involved in being an exilic people, but the Lord regularly puts chosen people in high positions in order to accomplish his purposes—particularly to protect and guard his people, but accomplish other purposes too.

That’s an important component of the exilic situation that we don’t want to miss. (Peter Leithart, The Theopolis Podcast, lightly edited)

I’ve been reminded a few times this month of the importance of this:

The first one to plead his cause seems right,
​​Until his neighbor comes and examines him. (Proverbs 18:17, NKJV)

Amos and Annie are interested in military time. I can remember being fascinated by it at their age. Yesterday I overheard an excited conversation: “Annie, military time makes you be so smart.”

Bravo Steak-umm:

“Considering the evidence, it shouldn’t be necessary for [the jury] to retire.” (the character of Thomas Cromwell in A Man for All Seasons)

Written by Scott Moonen

April 17, 2021 at 6:32 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-15)

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More Schmemann:

It sounds like a paradox, but the basic religion that is being preached and accepted as the only means of overcoming secularism is in reality a surrender to secularism. This surrender can take place—and actually does—in all Christian confessions . . . . For the surrender consists not in giving up creeds, traditions, symbols and customs (of all this the secular man, tired of his functional office, is sometimes extremely fond), but in accepting the very function of religion in terms of promoting the secular value of help, be it help in character building bpeace of mind, or assurance of eternal salvation. It is in this “key” that religion is preached to, and accepted by, millions and millions of average believers today. . . . But if this is religion, its decline will continue . . . (109)

The Church is the sacrament of the Kingdom—not because she possesses divinely instituted acts called “sacraments,” but because first of all she is the possibility given to man to see in and through this world the “world to come,” to see and to “live” it in Christ. It is only when in the darkness of this world we discern that Christ has already “filled all things with Himself” that these things, whatever they may be, are revealed and given to us full of meaning and beauty. A Christian is the one who, wherever he looks, finds Christ and rejoices in Him. And this joy transforms all his human plans and programs, decisions and actions, making all his mission the sacrament of the world’s return to Him who is the life of the world. (113)

Other choice quotes from the upcoming conference readings:

Order is an outward thing. Be it as good as it may, it can fall into misuse. Then it is no longer order but disorder. So no Order has any intrinsic worth of its own, as hitherto the Popish Order has been thought to have. But all order has its life, worth, strength, and virtue in right use; else it is worthless and fit for nothing. God’s Spirit and grace be with us all. Amen. (Luther, “The German Mass and Order of Divine Service”)

We also had to read Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry:

Baptism is an unrepeatable act. Any practice which might be interpreted as “re–baptism” must be avoided. (4)

Churches which have insisted on a particular form of baptism or which have had serious questions about the authenticity of other churches’ sacraments and ministries have at times required persons coming from other church traditions to be baptized before being received into full communicant membership. As the churches come to fuller mutual understanding and acceptance of one another and enter into closer relationships in witness and service, they will want to refrain from any practice which might call into question the sacramental integrity of other churches or which might diminish the unrepeatability of the sacrament of baptism. (5)

In order to overcome their differences, believer baptists and those who practise infant baptism should reconsider certain aspects of their practices. The first may seek to express more visibly the fact that children are placed under the protection of God’s grace. The latter must guard themselves against the practice of apparently indiscriminate baptism and take more seriously their responsibility for the nurture of baptized children to mature commitment to Christ. (6)

This reminds me of Poythress’s very helpful article, “Indifferentism and Rigorism.”

Calvin has an interesting take on God’s exercising his sovereignty in the world by means of angels. From his commentary on Ezekiel 1:

. . . it seems to me sufficiently plain, that God signifies angelic inspiration by the four cherubim, and extends it to the four regions of the earth. Now:, as it is equally clear that no creature moves by itself, but that all motions are by the secret, instinct of God, therefore each cherub has four heads, as if it were said that angels administer God’s empire not in one part of the world only, but everywhere; and next, that all creatures are so impelled as if they were joined together with angels themselves. . . . Since, then, there exists no fixed condition of the world, but continual changes are discerned, the Prophet joins the wheels to the angels, as if he would assert that no changes occur by chance, but depend upon some agency, viz., that of angels; not that they move things by their inherent power, but because they are, as we have said, God’s hands. . . . [T]he Stoics fancied that fate arose from what they called a connection of causes. But God here teaches his people far otherwise, viz., that the changes of the world are so connected together, that all motion depends upon the angels, whom he guides according to his will.

In biblical theology, the eye is often the source of light. This potentially sheds light on exposing the works of darkness:

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says:​

​​“Awake, you who sleep,
​​Arise from the dead,
​​And Christ will give you light.” (Ephesians 5:8–14, NKJV)

The King James Version instead uses “reprove.” The eyes are not just a source of light but the organs of judgment. Instead of merely speaking, the eyes declare.

Does your world view deny to the government the possibility of evangelical obedience?

Written by Scott Moonen

April 9, 2021 at 7:12 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-14)

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O sacred Heel sore wounded!

Part of the assigned reading for the upcoming Theopolis regional course on worship is Schmemann’s For the Life of the World. Searching for an audiobook, I was pleased to find that Ken Myers recorded it recently! Peter Leithart says that he rereads this book regularly. Speaking of re–reads, Doug Wilson places That Hideous Strength high on his own list.

Some choice quotes from Schmemann:

Sunday therefore was not a “sacred” day to be “observed” apart from all other days and opposed to them. It did not interrupt time with a “timeless” mystical ecstasy. It was not a “break” in an otherwise meaningless sequence of days and nights. By remaining one of the ordinary days, and yet by revealing itself through the Eucharist as the eighth and first day, it gave all days their true meaning. (52)

“There is but one sadness,” said Leon Bloy, “that of not being a saint.” (54)

This brings to mind James Jordan’s great statement that a saint is someone who has sanctuary access, access to the feast.

We are not “nice” Christians come apart from the ugly world. If we do not stand precisely as representatives of this world, as indeed the world itself, if we do not bear the whole burden of this day, our “piety” may still be pious, but it is not Christian. (61)

Schmemann makes much of the fixed day, the statu die. This makes me reflect on Paul’s sermon in Athens somewhat differently:

“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30–31, NKJV)

There are layers to the day of the Lord. The church’s worship on the day of the Lord is simultaneously an announcement of the judgment of the world and a visitation of that Lord to his house, but also a temporary suspension of full judgment thanks to the priestly intercessory ministry of the church. But God’s bride calls upon him both for mercy and judgment, and God will not humor hardened hearts indefinitely:

At the banquet of wine the king said to Esther, “What is your petition? It shall be granted you. What is your request, up to half the kingdom? It shall be done!” Then Esther answered and said, “My petition and request is this: If I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, then let the king and Haman come to the banquet which I will prepare for them, and tomorrow I will do as the king has said.” (Esther 5:6–8, NKJV)

Nathan Zekveld helpfully asks: are we instituting new purity laws, writing that, “As a pastor, I have seen increasingly that people need in-person worship and contact.”

​This people honors Me with their lips,
​​But their heart is far from Me.
​And in vain they worship Me,
​​Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. (Mark 7, Matthew 15, Isaiah 29)

Similar comments from a Russian Orthodox priest:

In Scripture, hiding one’s face always means, shame, distrust, unfavorable position, division and separation. Our Loving God has invited us to the feast, and if we come to the Lord’s Supper with fear that He will infect us with any kind of disease, and we demonstrate it by wearing a mask, we will insult Him in front of everyone.

I appreciated J. D. Vance’s recounting of his conversion and Mark Horne’s reflections on kingship and the crown of thorns.

James Jordan reminds us that God’s ways are higher than our ways:

Christ has created a heavenly host, and “host” means “army,” to accomplish His purpose of transforming the world. That army does not consist only of “sharp young single men and women.” Nor does it consist only of ostensibly “epistemologically self-conscious thoroughly Reformed theonomic postmillennialists.” This army includes mentally retarded people, feeble old people, hurt people, suicidal people, weak people, sinful people, people with minds warped by error, and much, much more. To the human eye, this army is not much to look at. It doesn’t look very tough compared to the kind of militant activism the communist party can sometimes command. It may not measure up to Douglas Hyde’s Dedication and Leadership, and it may not conform to the latest standards of “discipleship.” It is, however, the only army God has ever called into being. All the rest are only substitutes and counterfeits.

Last Saturday we were surprised to find one of our hives swarming, less than a month after installing it from nucleus! Asher did an outstanding job capturing it, and now we have a third hive. This week we scrambled to get them well established as well as preparing to give our other hives some more elbow room.

Which meant assembling many of these:

Written by Scott Moonen

April 2, 2021 at 3:04 pm