I gotta have my orange juice.

Jesu, Juva

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-20)

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Speaking of interpretive maximalism, although I’ve worked my way through James Jordan’s complete audio collection, I haven’t gone through many of the written works that are part of this collection. Hierodula prompted me to read Jordan’s “Law of Forbidden Mixtures” this week.

A couple of choice quotes:

Refusal to permit a penitent sinner back into the congregation is a trespass against God’s holy people (2 Sam. 14:13; cp. 2 Cor. 2:6-8)

With the coming of the New Covenant, and of the Holy Spirit, it would seem that far from mixtures being prohibited, they are encouraged. We now live in an age of greater holiness, and we are encouraged to be holy. In fact, though, the laws of mixtures have simply expired with the transformation of the Old Covenant into the New, and so the fact that we are holy does not mean we are commanded or even encouraged to make mixtures. Nevertheless, the fact that we can make mixtures, breed mules, wear mixed cloth, plant beans in our orchards, etc., is a testimony to the coming of the new age of holiness. 

There is still very careful boundary keeping, of course. Believers are not to marry unbelievers, and church discipline is a vital part of preserving the peace and purity of Jesus’s bride.

The way out of hierodula’s conundrum may be this: if you consent to live so close to God, know that you are experiencing a precious blessing and therefore incurring for yourself a greater judgment if you do not repent. In the new covenant you are graciously permitted to continue temporarily in this blessing, but do not allow it to give you a sense of false security.

If we understand the potency of the gospel and the almost contagious nature of holiness (vs. death), how can we not be paedobaptists?

When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.” Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction. And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My clothes?” (Mark 5:27–30, NKJV)

For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. (1 Cor. 7:14, NKJV)

Israel’s Iron Dome has been in the news lately. Although the technology is pretty cool, I still think the name suffers from a tremendous lack of historical awareness.

‘​And after all this, if you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. ​I will break the pride of your power; ​​I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. (Leviticus 26:18–19, NKJV)

Duane Garner comments on Daniel 6: “The men who wrote this law are not after men who keep their ideas to themselves.” Lord, help us to be men who do not keep our ideas to ourselves!

I reflected briefly on David’s linking worship and warfare in Psalm 144. At the time, David’s use of “hand” is what struck me the most. But Duane Garner points out that David speaks of fingers as well, and points out that there is a correlation between fingers plucking bow strings and strings of harp and lyre.

Likewise, I think we could speak of how well someone aims their harp and lyre.

If you are conducting dollar cost averaging, or rebalancing, or both, and believe in the long term viability of an investment—isn’t it interesting that you are cheering to see your investment lose apparent value in the short term?

Written by Scott Moonen

May 15, 2021 at 10:05 pm

Interpretive maximalism

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While he does not prefer the term, James Jordan describes and defends the notion of interpretive maximalism, an approach to reading scripture that seeks to wring every last drop of life-giving water from the Bible’s cloth. Jordan also gives a good defense of his approach to structural-symbolic-typological reading of the Bible in chapter 3 of his outstanding book, Through New Eyes.

Jordan has many contemporary reformed friends and colleagues who appreciate this approach. Gary DeMar relies on Jordan. Vern Poythress has related thoughts in his book Symphonic Theology, and takes a similar approach in his book The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses. Peter Leithart takes the same approach; here are some thoughtful quotes from Leithart’s recent commentary on Revelation. (It’s such a thrilling thought to me that we must read Revelation neither in light of today’s newspaper nor yesterday’s newspaper, but in light of the Bible’s own language.) Kevin DeYoung writes that “every word in the Bible is in there because God wanted it there.” (Taking God at His Word, 118) Another contemporary biblical theologian doing great work in this area is L. Michael Morales; I highly recommend his book Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?

Many people are unfamiliar with this approach and are somewhat taken aback by it. Here are several reasons why I believe that a kind of interpretive maximalism must be a part of our diligent searching of the scriptures.

First, we know that God is the supreme poet and artist. We should expect to find him always doing something deeply beautiful and intricate and artistic in his revelation.

Second, we know that other ancient writing relies on dense interconnected structures involving things like chiasms, typology, and even numerology. We are unfamiliar with it only because we have perverse modern affordances that allow us to be lazy and effusive in our writing and thinking. Thus, multi-faceted writing is likely not just something God was doing completely independently of his human instruments, but normally with their awareness. Writers of scripture were largely members of a highly trained scribal class: the rocket scientists and brain surgeons of their day. It’s intriguing that the apostles dedicated themselves to the ministry of the word (Acts 6), which must have included the writing of the word.

Third, we begin with the perspicacity of scripture and also hold to the analogy of faith; scripture interprets scripture rather than contradicting it. Our reading begins with what is plain, and is disciplined and directed by what Scripture has already taught us. We are delighted to discover things that draw us further up and further in, and we wholly reject any kind of undirected and undisciplined speculation. What we should see in scripture is multiple complementary, interconnected, reinforcing layers—something like layers of transparent anatomy diagrams—rather than the alien interruptions of a prisoner sending contradictory Morse code signals with his eyelids. We are meant to have a feeling of increasing cognitive rest, of weird things falling into a pleasant harmony, of things coming into increasing focus; not a feeling of a detective’s crazy wall. This is not to say that we can’t experience gestalt shifts along the way, but we accept them only when they are compelling, only when we can “see it on every page.”

Fourth, Scripture does this everywhere. For example, Matthew 2:15 refers to something that is not obviously a prophecy. There is a puzzle here we are meant to figure out. Why does Matthew link this with Jesus’s entering Egypt? God links tabernacles and temples with Jesus’s body (John 2), with the individual human body (1 Corinthians 3, 6), and the corporate body (Ephesians 2); he tells us that altars are miniature mountains (Ezekiel 43:15).

Fifth, God explicitly tells us that he does this; e.g., Prov. 25:2. He charges us to chase him and wrestle with him. He gives us exact dimensions of buildings that were never meant to be built and then explicitly tells us there are theological and moral implications for us to work out (Ezek. 43:10). Paul even seems to suggest that the symbolic meaning of a passage is its first meaning in 1 Cor 9:9–10. (Incidentally, I think Paul’s reading works even in its original context; Deuteronomy 25:4 seems obviously connected with the immediately following passage on the levirate system, which taken together with Paul teaches us to think of pastors as a kind of temporary levirate husband for the church.) Peter behaves similarly in Acts 10, where he concludes that the primary purpose of laws of cleanness was to reveal something about the great cleansing accomplished by Jesus.

Sixth, we already recognize this. We agree with Peter and the author of Hebrews that ceremonial laws all speak to the work of Jesus and the formation and worship of his church. We are appropriately intrigued to find thirty pieces of silver here and there; we find sevens and twelves provocative (and should learn to find seventies provocative as well). We know that human marriage is a type (Eph. 5:32), which appropriately leads us to consider how each of the ten commandments also and necessarily refer to Jesus, and to consider how the Song of Songs also and necessarily refers to Jesus. We already recognize the challenge of seeing Jesus everywhere in Scripture. We must grow in recognizing all such hidden treasures.

Seventh, this is consistent with God’s trinitarian nature. We should expect to find him successfully accomplishing multiple related and uncontradictory things at once.

Eighth, related to the last, we are convinced that God is always working to his glory whenever he is also working for something else, such as our good. Every speck of dust, every jot and tittle, in the end strains for God’s glory. There are no errant words in scripture; as Jordan says, God does not waste his breath with needless detail.

Finally, the church has a long history of symbolic and typological interpretation. Certainly church history also shows the possibility of error, and this carries into the present. Although Jordan takes care to marshal enough evidence that I am usually convinced, not everyone is equally careful or convincing. For example, although I appreciate some insights from Ray Sutton and Michael Bull, at times they seem to me to be operating without a safety net. However, abusus non tollit usum! There is treasure to be found in this search. Michael Bull exhorts us that “the purpose of identifying [patterns] in the Scriptures is not to ignore their obvious message in favor of a hidden one. It is a foundation for interpreting them correctly so we can better understand the temptation and suffering we experience, and better obey God’s glorious purposes for us in Christ.” (Bible Matrix, 32)

Written by Scott Moonen

May 11, 2021 at 7:02 pm

Posted in Biblical Theology

Covenant sentence

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In his book That You May Prosper, Ray Sutton identifies five common aspects of God’s covenants, and shows how these aspects are frequently used to structure Biblical texts. We see the “cash value” of this when it gives us a deeper insight into Biblical passages: for example, Michael Bull observes this pattern in the book of Revelation and deftly rebuts the hyper-preterist reading of Revelation.

In some ways the five-point covenant model is a fresh insight, but in other ways it is just putting a name on inescapable aspects of relationships and communication, especially between a superior and an inferior, a creator and a creature. In that vein, and with tongue somewhat in cheek, I present the five-point covenant model of the English sentence.

First, let’s review the diagram of a typical sentence:

Now we apply the five-point covenant model to this sentence:

  • Transcendence: The subject of this sentence is the transcendent initiator of all action.
    • Hierarchy: The indirect object is the dependent receiver of the subject’s speech and action, blessing and curse.
      • Ethics: The verb expresses the communication and action that extend from the subject to the indirect object, which comprises laws, commands or covenant conditions.
    • Oath (Sanctions): The direct object signifies the blessings and curses that the subject is offering to the indirect object.
  • Succession: The object of the preposition describes the outcome, the future goal of the subject’s covenantal actions.

Our sentence diagram now looks like this:

Depending on how you react to Sutton’s approach, you may either feel that this proves that it is truly a hammer seeking to turn everything into a nail, or else that this validates his approach by showing it is a simple taxonomy of unavoidable aspects of covenantal relation and communication. Thus, as Gary North observed in his publisher’s preface to Sutton’s book, these five points serve equally well as a framework for understanding political theory.

Written by Scott Moonen

May 10, 2021 at 4:51 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-19)

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It took me over nine months, but I’ve finished The Gulag Archipelago. Some quotes from the end of Volume 3:

Let us put it generally: if a regime is immoral, its subjects are free from all obligations to it. (Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 3, 394)

A fish does not campaign against fisheries—it only tries to slip through the mesh. (452)

But then, only those who decline to scramble up the career ladder are interesting as human beings. Nothing is more boring than a man with a career. (455)

All you freedom–loving “left–wing” thinkers in the West! You left laborites! You progressive American, German, and French students! As far as you are concerned, none of this amounts to much. As far as you are concerned, this whole book of mine is a waste of effort. You may suddenly understand it all someday—but only when you yourselves hear “hands behind your backs there!” and step ashore on our Archipelago (518)

Kings multiply kingship:

And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, each man under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan as far as Beersheba, all the days of Solomon. (1 Kings 4:25, NKJV)

So do deacons multiply deaconship:

And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. (Acts 6:5–6, NKJV)

Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert. So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning. . . . (Acts 8:26–28, NKJV)

By contrast, rulers that stifle their people are cutting off their own arms:

​In a multitude of people is a king’s honor,​​
But in the lack of people is the downfall of a prince.​ (Proverbs 14:28, NKJV)

Daniel’s behavior under the decree of Darius (Daniel 6) is calculated specifically to avoid even the public appearance of breaking covenant with God. If someone spied on our front doors for the past year, what would they see? Could they convict us of faithfulness to worship God?

In the ark of the covenant were hidden some of God’s treasures: his ten words, heavenly bread, and Aaron’s rod of authority. Access to God and his treasures was restricted:

Then He struck the men of Beth Shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD. He struck fifty thousand and seventy men of the people, and the people lamented because the LORD had struck the people with a great slaughter. (1 Samuel 6:19, NKJV)

It is hard to forget the corresponding scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Today it is God’s church where his treasures are hidden. In a sense, these treasures are available to all who approach humbly, but there is still a great judgment upon those who treat the ark of the church without such humility. Zechariah captures this dichotomy dramatically. Everyone stands in one relation or another to the new Jerusalem:

And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.

And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, on them there will be no rain. If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the LORD strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. (Zechariah 14:16–19, NKJV)

But as long as it is today there is still an opportunity:

Fill their faces with shame,​
That they may seek Your name, O LORD. (Psalm 83:16, NKJV)

The Mars Hill Audio Journal volume 150 was recently released. Myers interviews David Smith on the use of technology. David observes that “technology is making it easier for us to communicate at a distance and harder for us to communicate when we’re close to each other.”

I worked at Kmart:

Written by Scott Moonen

May 7, 2021 at 9:41 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-18)

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Ezekiel relates inheritance laws to the prince in the restoration covenant:

‘Thus says the Lord Yahweh: “If the prince gives a gift of some of his inheritance to any of his sons, it shall belong to his sons; it is their possession by inheritance. But if he gives a gift of some of his inheritance to one of his servants, it shall be his until the year of liberty, after which it shall return to the prince. But his inheritance shall belong to his sons; it shall become theirs. Moreover the prince shall not take any of the people’s inheritance by evicting them from their property; he shall provide an inheritance for his sons from his own property, so that none of My people may be scattered from his property.” ’ (Ezekiel 46:16–18, NKJV)

The new covenant brings many changes, including the maturation of man, a progression towards the ultimate disappearance of the sea (Revelation 21:1) rather than the sweeting of an inland sea (Ezekiel 47), and a collapse of both prince and priest into the person of Jesus.

We also see the priesthood and sonship–kingship of all believers; Jew and Gentile have been fashioned into one man. Since we are now Mephibosheths made into sons of God, I wonder if this gives us a framework for the transfiguration of the jubilee year (Leviticus 25). At least within the household of God, deeding of property could be considered either to be an inheritance from the king, or else to be the transfer of city property, since the church is the city of God, meaning that there could be no right of redemption more than a year. But before selling property to an unbeliever, we might consider if we could lease it instead, or sell it to a believer. A Christian nation might even allow a right of redemption that didn’t fall along family lines but along covenant lines.

The righteous man is planted by rivers of water (Psalm 1:3). Jesus himself is living water (John 4), but so are all his people (John 7:38). One of the ways in which we are planted by rivers of living water, then, is that we are water and refreshment to one another. We do not stand with the ungodly, sinners, and scornful (Psalm 1:1), but rather in the congregation of the righteous (Psalm 1:5).

God measures two or three times, and cuts once:

“And this is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of each word. MENE: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it; TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting; PERES: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.” (Daniel 5:25-28, NKJV)

God’s warnings and judgments are conducted with two or three witnesses, and so must be man’s.

For some time now, thanks to James Jordan and Peter Leithart, I’ve understood atonement–kaphar as covering, and taught my children as much. But L. Michael Morales comments that:

While the precise understanding of the Hebrew verb kipper, typically translated ‘atone’, has been complicated by its possible roots and cognates, its scriptural usage implies a twofold meaning: ransom from death and purification from pollution—both functions being involved by varying degrees in atonement, according to context.

An Arabic cognate, now generally rejected, suggests the meaning ‘cover’ or ‘hide’, an Akkadian and Aramaic root suggests ‘wipe off’, while the Hebrew noun kōper, which probably gave rise to the denominative piel form kipper, signifies ‘ransom'(R. L. Harris 1961; Feder 2010). Scriptural usage typically signifies the outcome or effect (‘purify’, ‘atone’, ‘expiate’) rather than the manner (‘wipe’, ‘rub’, ‘cover’, etc.). (Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord, 125)

It was encouraging last weekend to hear Leithart affirm the sense of covering. Clearly the sense of the word is somewhat broader, including some sense of appeasement and restitution. However, its use in Genesis 6:14 really does seem to bring in a sense of covering.

Leithart preached on Acts 2 for us:

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4, NKJV)

The starting of God’s altar-fire occurs at the inauguration of a covenant and is distinct from its continuation. It is no strange thing that a bonfire should flare brilliantly only from time to time, even and especially if it burns continually.

Hirelings flee:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. (John 10:11-13, NKJV)

This makes me wonder: in what sense did the Sadducees and Pharisees flee? It seems from this that it must be possible for shepherds to flee without—at least at first—appearing to abandon their post.

What a glorious statement:

My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also, O king, I have done no wrong before you. (Daniel 6:22, NKJV, emphasis added)

Aaron Renn shares a real lord of the flies story.

Perhaps I was wrong about the census:

“Pennsylvania driver” has for years been exactly the name that Lisa and I give to people who are excessively timid about merging:

Although Nassim Taleb has taught me to look askance at certifications, I am still excited that Asher and I are now certified beekeepers! The next level of certification, journeyman, requires us to have two years of experience.

Written by Scott Moonen

April 30, 2021 at 8:38 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-17)

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Some quotes from Peter Leithart at this weekend’s conference on worship:

There is no worship anywhere in the Bible without food. . . .

The angels who continually sing the sanctus will be happy to have us join in for awhile. . . .

. . . sweet smelling sound . . .

The produce of the land is just as much bread from heaven as manna. . . .

The pathway to kingship is by learning to sing in order to bear bold witness.

James Jordan identifies the resurrection of Ezekiel 37 as a corporate resurrection, and furthermore links it with God’s judgment in Ezekiel 6. It is therefore a much more complex picture of God’s dealings with his church far more than a picture of individual salvation:

The four winds are the human expression of the great Wind of the Spirit; in Hebrew, “spirit” is “breath.” Ezekiel, writing at the same time as Jeremiah, speaks of the four winds in his famous resurrection chapter, Ezekiel 37. There the nation of Israel is pictured as dead corpses scattered all over the valleys below the idolatrous high places. “Can these bones live,” Ezekiel is asked? “Not just any bones, but the bones of the apostates, the idolaters, that God Himself has scattered (Ezekiel 6). Can they live? This passage does not deal with individual resurrection but with the resurrection and restoration of apostate, idolatrous Israel as God’s priest to the nations. Ezekiel is told to prophesy to the bones, that the Breath (Spirit) of God should come upon them. Specifically, Ezekiel is told to say, “Come from the four winds, O Breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.” In other words, Israel will not be restored by some mysterious blast of the Spirit that comes from the clear blue sky. She will be restored when the righteous people, especially the prophets, bring the Spirit to her. It will be the four winds, God’s holy people, who restore Israel after the exile is over. This is a prediction of the events in Zechariah that we have just looked at.

David comments that worship ought not to cost him nothing:

Then the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God with that which costs me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. (2 Samuel 24:24, NKJV)

Then King David said to Ornan, “No, but I will surely buy it for the full price, for I will not take what is yours for the LORD, nor offer burnt offerings with that which costs me nothing.” So David gave Ornan six hundred shekels of gold by weight for the place. (1 Chronicles 21:24–25)

It is not surprising that someone would have multiple names; think of any Russian literature. And the supposed numerical discrepancy here seems easily explained by the fact that Chronicles must record David’s purchase of the entire property rather than just the floor and oxen. But what really strikes me about these verses is the thought that we must always be bringing fresh worship and tribute to God. There is a sense in which we must always be working, not only so that we may eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10), but so that we have actual firstfruits to offer to God.

Although the Lord’s supper is primarily a meal served by Jesus to his bride, I’ve also suggested that we can think of it as a meal presented by the bride to her husband (out of the fullness of his own bounty). There are a few points of evidence for this: first, the entire sacrificial system consisted of savory meals offered to God. Second, memorials in particular are directed to reminding God more than ourselves. Third, grain offerings are invitations to God to visit and inspect his bride. Of course, everything God’s bride offers to him is representative her offering herself, a living sacrifice.

I told you that EDR systems ought to be treated cautiously: Critical cloud bug in VMware Carbon Black.

Some complexity and scale is inescapable, though it ought to involve a loose rather than a tight coupling. In order to scale a group or operation beyond a certain point, it is necessary to delegate responsibility. Delegation presents an opportunity for anxiety, because it means that there are areas of your operation that are outside of your direct knowledge or control. Someone may do something less efficient, different, or outright wrong! But the upside is that they can also be fruitful beyond you, and they may even counterbalance your own mistakes and blind spots. Non-anxious leadership—leadership that multiplies maturity and leadership—has the opportunity to multiply fruitfulness.

Aaron Renn has interesting reflections on the metaphors we use for social scenarios, including race relations. His metaphor of a dysfunctional family is helpful. However, it occurs to me that there is a very specific way in which the tort analogy actually comes back to bite those who are advancing it. Sowell has shown that the liberal project bears significant responsibility for poverty and fatherlessness in the West, by creating immense systems of perverse incentive. Thus: it is the liberal project that owes reparations. I propose we auction off all government agencies and projects created in the last century, pay off debt first, reparations second, and consider the case closed.

For a few years now we have been spraying Talstar insecticide in our yard to deal with mosquitoes, and it was effective. This year, with bees, we are trying an alternate approach, although we may need to step up our indoor treatments as the Talstar also seemed to help with creepy crawlies! Years ago we installed bat houses on the side of our house:

It took three years for the bats to discover it, but they have flourished there now for several years. In spite of that, the Talstar was definitely necessary. This year we are adding the DynaTrap insect trap together with some Octenol attractant. So far it has caught a lot of bugs and very few bees, and I haven’t gotten many mosquito bites. We’ve had dry weather, though, after a long wet season, so I’m not sure we can claim victory over the mosquitoes yet.

Written by Scott Moonen

April 25, 2021 at 8:33 am

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

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-13)

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James Jordan reminds us that Good Friday ends in paradise:

And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43, NKJV)

As far as I can tell, with Blue Letter Bible as my trusty help, Genesis 7:9, 7:15, and 8:9 all use the same preposition with respect to Noah and the ark:

And they went into the ark [in]to Noah, two by two, of all flesh in which is the breath of life. (Genesis 7:15, NKJV)

Participation in the covenant and in salvation is participation in the head, and vice versa. Thus, for each of the three great baptisms (flood, Red Sea, church), we can speak of the body of Christ (e.g., 1 Corinthians 10–12), and the body of Moses (Jude 1:9 corresponding to Zechariah 3:2), and the body of Noah. Participation in the church and participation in Jesus and participation in his salvation are inextricably linked. It’s especially interesting that in Noah’s case the animal kingdom participates in the body that enters into a new creation.

I recently listened to the Pugcast fellows reflecting on Darwinism and its false assumption that life is essentially competitive. This same assumption lies at the root of the Girardian process of envy and imitation and scapegoating. But that is not how my Father’s world works. Because of the processive and productive work of his Spirit—and especially with the breaking in of the new creation, in which life rather than death is contagious—this world is not zero–sum but is super–abundant.

Good poetry is one little gift–proof of this. Here is a clever little poem by Billy Collins: “Workshop” (thanks to Jon Barlow for the find). I also dug up these two wonderful addresses given by Ted Kooser while I was chasing a poem shared by John Barach: Poetry and healing, Keynote address.

It occurred to me recently that I rarely read poems twice, devouring them more than savoring them. But a poem is one of the easiest things to re–read, and a good poem will repay it well.

Beverly Cleary passed this week. May she rest in peace!

My pastor commented recently that the Sabbath is a tithe of our time. Forty days is a tithe of time too.

Alex Berenson published Unreported Truths part 4 this week, on vaccines. It’s concise and compelling; I recommend it if the subject interests you!

Written by Scott Moonen

March 27, 2021 at 10:55 am