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Archive for September 2021

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-39)

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In Exodus 10 we see that God requires little ones at his worship-feast. In Exodus 14 we further see that you are to be baptized (c.f., 1 Corinthians 10, Psalm 77) before appearing at the worship feast. This is confirmed elsewhere, e.g., Numbers 19.

Exodus 12 is the only time that Passover was celebrated from house to house rather than at God’s own house. The wilderness wanderings served as a total re-centering and re-prioritization of Israel and her houses around and toward God’s house. Acts seems to show us a similar progression, starting with meetings from “house to house” in Acts 2.

Jesus’s statement that “I tell you not to resist an evil person” in Matthew 5 is provocative. Scripture certainly allows some kinds of defense and resistance, but Jesus is concerned about the manner and limitations of this. Calvin in his commentary on this passage helpfully expresses this in terms of retaliation, that is, returning evil for evil:

There are two ways of resisting: the one, by warding off injuries through inoffensive conduct; the other, by retaliation. Though Christ does not permit his people to repel violence by violence, yet he does not forbid them to endeavor to avoid an unjust attack. The best interpreter of this passage that we can have is Paul, who enjoins us rather to “overcome evil by good” (Romans 12:21) than contend with evil-doers. We must attend to the contrast between the vice and the correction of it. The present subject is retaliation. To restrain his disciples from that kind of indulgence, he forbids them to render evil for evil. He afterwards extends the law of patience so far, that we are not only to bear patiently the injuries we have received, but to prepare for bearing fresh injuries. The amount of the whole admonition is, that believers should learn to forget the wrongs that have been done them, — that they should not, when injured, break out into hatred or ill-will, or wish to commit an injury on their part, — but that, the more the obstinacy and rage of wicked men was excited and inflamed, they should be the more fully disposed to exercise patience.

One other helpful category here is whether the offense is merely against ourselves as individuals (or whether we are reacting to it as such) or if there is a broader principle of needing to protect our neighbor and his property and privilege, or especially to protect those for whom we are responsible. “Do you do well to be angry?” is a helpful test. You do find ways to resist when the military draft comes for your daughters.

I’m intrigued enough by Michael O’Fallon that I began listening to his podcast this week. We’ll see how it goes. I’m also enjoying working through Michael Foster’s County Before Country conference recordings.

Even Americans are faced today with the problem of a bureaucracy, a brain trust, a centre of civil prerogative. Now, no seed can spring from a sterile tree. Red tape, bureaucracy, brain trust, central power are all very well for purposes of academic discussion, but they cannot produce branches, because their trunk is dry and sapless. (Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Out of Revolution, 361)

Luther separated the Middle Ages and the modern era because he believed in the fruits of time: The Gospel preceded the political reality; the pulpit of the university trained boys of twenty so that, as men of fifty, they might run the government. In other words: Luther changed the Church from a neighbour in space to a prophet in time. The Church was to be not a hundred steps from the palace or the town-hall, but a hundred hours or days or months ahead of what was transacted in either of those houses.

As a symbol of this relation, the Lutheran closed his church during the week. It was open only on Sunday because then the “Donnerwort of Eternity” could break in upon the temporal and secular world. The pulpit being a prophetic voice, sowing the future by its preaching of the pure Gospel, the “Katheder” of a German university was surrounded with all the halo of a sacrament. (Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Out of Revolution, 412)

Written by Scott Moonen

September 24, 2021 at 10:39 pm

Reason

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In clearing up the underbrush of privilege and prejudice, liberalism or rationalism was convinced that it held in its hand the naked truth, undisguised, unstained by dogma or tradition. Reason discovering nature can test everything by experiment. There is no room for traditional habits: fashion takes the place of habit. But it is precisely fashion which enslaves Reason. The philosophizing mind has its prison of sensuality and drudgery exactly like a pupil of the Jesuits or a child in a backwoods village. Its fairy-tale and its prejudice are not dependent upon miracles or dogmas or incense or witchcraft, but the apparatus of Reason is subject to the same laws of sensuous disguise as any other part of the human soul. Superstition sends us to the medicine man, physical pain to the physician. We have a native sense that urges us on toward Reason and Philosophy: this sense is curiosity. Without a sense for novelty, no thinker can succeed or affect the life of the community. The self-indulgence of Reason is its predilection for the new. The newspaper is the true expression of this quality of philosophical perception, the sensuous form which enables man to recollect truth in its disguise as news. New facts and new ideas inflame our imagination. Without this flame the best idea, the wisest thought, remains useless. Any influence upon our senses is useless so long as our senses do not react. Indifference is a state of perfect equilibrium. When we feel neither cold nor warm, our internal thermometer is not registering anything. As long as we feel neither joy nor pride, our emotional system is quiescent. Philosophy has recognized the external dependence of all our senses. It is aware that they are all based on impressions, and react to influences from outside.

Now Reason is exactly the same kind of servant. It serves us well whenever its proper centre is stimulated. It is created and given to us for the purpose of distinguishing between new and old. It begins to move and to be stimulated by sensations which are new, unheard of. Reason is tickled by novelty. The nineteenth century changed the oldest truths into sensational news. We are willing to believe that the wind bloweth where it listeth, or that to him who hath shall be given, if we read it on the front page of our newspaper as the latest cable from Seattle. As the latest news in the newspaper, the oldest truth is welcome to Reason. The Age of Reason reveals truth by proceeding from news to news. It believes that the age of Revelation is gone; it believes in Enlightenment. But it itself is wholly based on Revelation. Reason cannot understand eternity or old age. It scorns tradition, ancien régime, customs, irrational weights or measures. It is clear, precise; but it also destroys everything which cannot be made either bad or happy news. Anything that is not willing to break out or happen or change is hidden to Reason. The nineteenth century forgot all eternal truth which was not ready to step down into the arena of Latest News, telegrams and publicity. A man had to become a sensation lest he be a failure.

. . .

These, then, are the “grandeurs et misères” of the victory of Reason. Reason, abstract and unreal, without roots in the soil, without rhythm in its movements, cannot govern its world without submitting to the directing power of sensation.

Today we are somewhat tired of this self-indulgence of Reason. The titillation of our sense of novelty is expensive and ruinous, because world, facts, truth and values lose their roots in the timeless when they are made to depend upon being rediscovered from time to time. Under the dictatorship of Reason, man begins to live like a solitary and one-celled animal. This unicellular life can get nowhere except by eating and swallowing. Multicellular life can depend upon older achievements without eating and digesting them. The modern society of the nineteenth century kills everything which cannot be swallowed in the form of news and sensations. It is unicellular. Now civilization does not form visible cells; its cells consist of generations, ages, periods. The repressive and outstanding feature of the age of Reason is its “single-aged,” one-generation character. Such an age may go on for two hundred years; but it will always remain a one-generation affair as long as its values depend on reproduction in the form of novelty. We meet reality through various senses. Any sense which states a difference is able to inform us. A consideration of our modern life will reveal how much of its information is based on a mere sense of curiosity. Curiosity arranges the things of the universe according to their quality of being new; and this produces an order of things of remarkable futility. The movie star comes to the foreground, wisdom is ridiculed, forests are sacrificed without a qualm because they grow so slowly, and skyscrapers are adored because they go up so fast. It is a very limited outlook on the universe which we gain through our instruments for news. There are other instruments, like hunger, reverence, patience, faith, which work in a different way and discover very different parts of the world.

The sense of novelty has been organized in the last hundred and fifty years as our main highroad of information. We say: it has been organized. The nineteenth century did not make discoveries or inventions in the same way as any other period of history. It invented the technique of invention; it formulated the methods of discovery. The secret of the French Revolution is the organization of discovery. We no longer stumble from one invention to the next; we have learned to plan our inventions and discoveries.

The sensation of novelty is sanctified by the campaigns carried on in our laboratories into the unknown. But like any sacrament, this one is stained by terrible superstitions. No one wishes to minimize the miracles performed in the laboratory; but we must overcome this appalling destruction of family, discipline, faith, by curiosity and by the growing paralysis of the rest of our senses. Because everybody has been trained in curiosity, most people have neglected their other senses; our deeper, wiser, better and more important links with reality have degenerated under our system of newspapers, radios, phonographs, movies, with their organization of novelty. They are the bane of modern life. The prohibition of news would restore the peace of many families. Truth will die if the masses see it based on nothing but novelty. Truth is not new, it is all around us. It was before we were. The original thinker knows that true originality consists in being as old as creation. (Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Out of Revolution, 248-253)

Rosenstock-Huessy’s comments on the organization of scientific progress call to mind Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Each revolution in history—and doubly so the coming transition from empire to tribe—involves a gestalt shift. Usually this is a generational shift because old wineskins cannot handle new wine. And until it happens, we often cannot see clearly how it will take form, though we know that the old ways will cease to work, things will fall apart, and the new ways will not be exactly like anything that has come before. But what is exciting about this is that, if you are willing to heed the prophets, you can still give your children a head start by freeing them from service to the fashionable–idols and helping them to love what is true and good and beautiful.

Written by Scott Moonen

September 19, 2021 at 2:50 pm

Posted in Books, History, Quotations

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-38)

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Lazy days this week:

Lots of time for swimming and games and reading. Sobering and stirring:

The “elder” is at odds with the “expert.” This is a distinction often ignored by the young and impatient.

The expert deals in information, made more and more abundant by science. The elder deals in wisdom, acquired only through long and patient obedience to law and ideal. The elder is the product of time, the expert the product of training. The elder is reflective, the expert is impulsive. The elder is sensitive to human frailty, especially his own; the expert is cocksure. The elder tends to listen, the expert to assertion. The expert may indeed impress the naive by overwhelming the wise with the quantity of his information—but a Church or a culture which cannot distinguish between the quantitative and the qualitative—between knowledge and wisdom—has not long to flourish. (DeKoster and Berghoef, The Elders Handbook, 223-224)

Faithful plodding:

Often the convert through evangelism comes with a freshness of zeal and ardor which delights those who helped lead him to the Lord. Make special effort to put such enthusiasm to work in the Body along channels for which the convert is qualified. But beware that the warmth of the convert’s new-found faith does not become a cloak for judgment upon the presumably “luke-warm” faith of others. The new-born must always be given to understand that coming into the congregation is but the beginning of an arduous and life-long effort to grow in obedience and sanctity. Not everyone wears, or wants to wear, evidence of the depth of his faith upon his sleeve. It may take a while for the new member to find that out. Be sure that this member realizes that the measure of “success” in Christian progress must be one’s growth from year to year and not some self-made comparison with the growth of others. (DeKoster and Berghoef, The Elders Handbook, 245-246)

Lisa is reading a book which must no longer be named:

“All wars are sacred,” [Rhett] said. “To those who have to fight them. If the people who started wars didn’t make them sacred, who would be foolish enough to fight? But, no matter what rallying cries the orators give to the idiots who fight, no matter what noble purposes they assign to wars, there is never but one reason for a war. And that is money. All wars are in reality money squabbles. But so few people ever realize it. Their ears are too full of bugles and drums and fine words from stay-at-home orators. Sometimes the rallying cry is ‘Save the Tomb of Christ from the Heathen!’ Sometimes it’s ‘Down with Popery!’ And sometimes ‘Liberty!’ And sometimes ‘Cotton, Slavery and States’ Rights!’” (161)

And while this is an important insight, and one which I had never thought to apply to the American Civil War, Rosenstock-Heussy cautions us not to go so far as Rhett; that a love for good things may not sanctify a war or revolution, but may yet warrant one’s involvement in it:

We today are sure that economic forces pull all the wires. Washington was the richest man in the colonies, the Federalists speculated in Western land, the Whigs owned ecclesiastical estates, and the French middle class wished to exploit the farmers. This is all true, but no truer than the fact that economics is part of all our lives every day. Bread and butter is an everyday question. For that very reason it is not the permanent question of history, because history selects one or the other everyday question and makes it the centre of attention for a certain time. History is the passing from one question to another, the putting of different questions at different times.

Because of the very fact that economics is so important all the time, it cannot be the question for every period. History would not be history but a recurrent mechanism if it were one and the same question which raised human fury to the pitch of war or revolution in every age. We vary, the seasons vary, mankind varies in its furies, passions, aims and ends, and the emergencies against which we need government vary likewise. (Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Out of Revolution, 385)

Thus, Rosenstock-Huessy makes the point that even in the most reprehensible and unjustifiable of revolutions, there may be an element of truth that broke through and which we are now free to affirm even if there is a great deal to be discarded. He summarizes (p. 365):

Russia: Every proletarian a capitalist.
France: Every man of talent an aristocrat.
England: Every gentleman a king.
Germany: Every Christian a priest.

He goes on to stress that “the clue to the success of [these] revolutions was that none of them bribed the respective supporters at the price of diminishing the size of the body politic; they all reached out for a political organization bigger than anything attempted before.” (365) As always, he is over generalizing, but there is still a stimulating idea there. I haven’t finished the book, so I can’t say yet where he goes with that. I do believe that he foresees an end to this age of empires, so perhaps an end to revolution, which he acknowledges has a demonic aspect to it.

Jesus doesn’t want you to panic.

Written by Scott Moonen

September 18, 2021 at 9:08 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-37)

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If you live in the Triangle area, consider joining the churchmen mailing list. There’s a small but growing group of guys who get together from time to time and have also started To the Word together.

This reading plan has us going through Genesis and John at the same time. This led me to reflect on the following sequential pairs: beast/man, Adam/Eve, John-the-witness/Jesus, Jesus/bride. Two of these cases follow the pattern of 1 Timothy 2, where the one who came first has authority over the one who came later. But the other two cases do not. I’m not entirely sure what to make of this, but it seems possible that we could say: (1) there is a natural order or authority from God-to-man and then from image-of-God to all-creation; but (2) where things are of the same kind, there is a natural order or authority from first-to-last, from alpha-to-omega. In the case of Adam and Eve, the fact that man and woman are of the same kind is well understood. But in the case of the eternal bride, the church, it is a great surprise and wonder that God would raise her up to be co-regent with his son.

Peter Leithart reflects on the life of the early church:

Let’s live in such a way that — even when they don’t show it — the people cannot help but esteem us highly.

Peter goes on to offer some helpful diagnostic questions for the past year and a half.

Duane Garner exhorts us to take worship seriously:

We worship as if the world depended upon it, because it does! It is the most important event of the week, and the future of the world depends upon it. In worship, each week we strike a heavy blow against the dominion of darkness . . . We beat it back in worship. And then we go out all week collecting the fruit of that victory that God works on our behalf when we humble ourselves and submit to him. So when you come, understand that this is what we’re doing: we’re interceding for the world, and we’re beating back the kingdom of Satan.

My friend Nathaniel posted this recently:

I was homeschooled from second grade through senior year of high school. Like Nathaniel, I’m so glad for my parents’ example in pursuing what they believed to be right in spite of its being an uphill effort. It looks increasingly like the future is going to bring some more pioneering work for Christians, and I’m very grateful to have my parents’ example and foundation to build upon!

Bitcoin is interesting to watch. I’m increasingly sympathetic with Nassim Taleb’s conclusion that its long term value is zero. But so are many of the works of man, and consider how much gold now lies at the bottom of the ocean. Yet in the meantime, there are lots of interesting speculative and political considerations. I found myself wondering this week how quickly El Salvador’s digital stockpile would be stolen. Then this article caught my attention, as did the SEC lawsuit against Coinbase. It will certainly remain interesting to watch!

I was trying to think of a good picture of a happy warrior, and the image on this page came to mind. You should laugh like this. And you should listen to this excellent audio magazine issue as well!

It’s all in Girard:

Written by Scott Moonen

September 11, 2021 at 8:43 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-36)

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Join me!

Daniel’s vision in Daniel 8 contains a ram and a goat; it’s strange to see sacrificial animals as symbols for Gentile kings and powers. The ram symbolizes Persia; I wonder if it is a positive image since Cyrus is a messianic figure (Isaiah 45:1) and this ram does not devour God’s people. However, the goat symbolizes Greece, and it attacks God’s people “because of transgression.” We speak sometimes of the bowls in Revelation as being priestly bowls “returned to sender;” I wonder if the goat is a similar image, the annual scapegoat being returned to sender after years of faithless offerings. So, it turns out that Azazel is in Greece!

The name Elisha means “God is salvation” and the name Joshua means “Yahweh is salvation.” The name “Jesus” is a form of “Joshua,” and Joshua is a clear type of Jesus. But so is Elisha, whose name is just a further small step away from Jesus.

And, it turns out, to be buried with him is also to be raised.

Then Elisha died, and they buried him. And the raiding bands from Moab invaded the land in the spring of the year. So it was, as they were burying a man, that suddenly they spied a band of raiders; and they put the man in the tomb of Elisha; and when the man was let down and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet. (2 Kings 13:20-21, NKJV)

Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:3-11, NKJV)

Mark Horne writes:

You arrive be realizing you haven’t arrived. Figuring out how to put others interests before your own not only takes sanctification but also wisdom. To do that without bitterness. Without ambition. Without being presumptuous or patronizing. It takes ongoing attention and prayer. Even Paul doesn’t want to claim he has arrived except that he realizes how to go forward.

Darwin and Marx reverse Anselm; in their reckoning of the world, gray goo (q.v.) is that than which none greater can be conceived. All the eloquence of the Sagans and Tysons is just opium for the masses, a smokescreen to cover for the fact that gray goo and heat death are the great telos of stardust.

But the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” There is one than whom none greater can be conceived whose favor you need not vie for and which lasts a lifetime, and who is a boundless source, leading to both a present and a telos that no mind has ever conceived.

A lot of conservatism is about taking a Washington process—legislation—and moving it two degrees, another two degrees, oh no it comes back. Whereas a workable model, no matter how small, is far more influence in the long run than just moving that Maginot line back a couple of meters in one direction in Washington. Because that can go viral. (Jerry Bowyer)

I wonder, did our military leave behind any cryptography devices in Afghanistan?

I had to reinstall Windows 10 on our PC this week, and together with that reinstalled our copy of Office 2003. To my surprise, it installed just fine. There were a few minor glitches updating it, but it got there in the end. Not too bad for an eighteen-year-old program.

Written by Scott Moonen

September 4, 2021 at 2:44 pm