I gotta have my orange juice.

Jesu, Juva

Archive for the ‘Biblical Theology’ Category

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-39)

leave a comment »

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

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-38)

leave a comment »

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)

leave a comment »

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)

leave a comment »

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

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-35)

with one comment

Lessons learned from René Girard: (1) We all construct our desires and beliefs through imitation and rationalize them later. This is equally true if we think we have outgrown imitation. Since imitation is inescapable, choose carefully whom you imitate. (2) Righteousness and virtue are social. We all acquire righteousness by being joined to the right group and by casting shame on the right scapegoat-victim. Since the pursuit of righteousness is inescapable, make sure you join yourself to King Jesus and cast your guilt and shame on him, rather than envying and despising and biting and devouring one another. (3) Very often the temptation to envy and despise and bite and devour comes with those closest to and most like us, because we must find some small difference that allows us to vaunt over each other. (4) Job is, first and foremost, a type of Jesus.

Lessons learned reflecting on Edwin Friedman: (1) Do not be anxious. (2) Do not get caught up in others’ anxiety. (3) The anxious brother is not a weaker brother toward whom you must adjust your behavior because he is tempted to follow your example into a kind of sin. Rather, he is an immature brother who should be following your example. (4) Anxiety is cancerous. The only way to get rid of it is to cast it up to Jesus, and receive peace coming down from him. (5) Jesus is not anxious! (6) Leaders, parents, etc. can walk in Jesus’s footsteps and be anxiety absorbers and calming peace givers provided that they pass the anxiety on up to him rather than holding on to it. (7) One key way in which a leader or parent absorbs anxiety is simply by their own “gracious stability” (Toby Sumpter) or “calm presence” and “non-anxiety” (Friedman) which has a calming effect. This is how Jesus comforts us. (8) Another way in which we absorb others’ anxiety and help them mature is by mixing our patience and consideration toward them with tough love that allows them to face and overcome their anxieties rather than coddling them. (9) This is how God matures us.

Insights from Eugen Rosenstock–Huessy: (1) People and bodies of people are always stretched out along at least two axes, what ERH calls the “cross of reality”—past and future, in–group and out–group. In terms of a church you could think of these axes as teachers and prophets on the one hand, and discipleship and evangelism on the other hand. It’s fruitful to reflect on what these axes mean for your business (e.g., quality control and research, engineering and marketing) or household. (2) Enduring organizations must strike a balance between all four points of the compass. Mature individuals also need to make provision for a balance, but it is natural to have inclinations and specialties and to make up the differences together with your spouse, family, church, community, etc. In fact there are natural average tendencies for men and women here. (3) In a sense, because there is a tugging in all of these directions, the balance will always be struck by a kind of “tearing,” but the tearing needs to be a gracious giving–honor to one another and not an envious or Satanic competition. Another way of saying this is that for a body of people not to be torn apart by garden–variety differences, we must absorb the tearing into ourselves by following 1 Corinthians 13; our personal preferences and inclinations cannot at every moment be pre–eminent even, and perhaps especially, if we are in a position of leadership. Good leadership begets fruitful work at all points of the compass. (4) Love is the fuel on which the world operates and by which it overcomes entropy. Choose yourself a spouse, church, vocation, etc. and give yourself to that one in a joyful and risky Chestertonian “duel to the death.” (It is truly amazing to listen to a college professor preaching to his students.) (5) History cycles between phases of tribe, nation, and empire; and the next tribal phase is imminent. ERH likes to speak of 500–year patterns, in which case we seem overdue. According to his view, then, we should not expect to see a successor empire like China or Islam or an international banking cabal, but a truly tribal state of the world.

My wife has a rule that she strives to live by and teaches to our daughters: what would a Jane Austen herione do or say? This is a good rule.

In this week’s Theopolitan newsletter, Peter Leithart quotes David Dusenbery reflecting on Justinian’s Institutes. Dusenbery observes that “Justinian inscribes, at the head of his foyer-text to his monumental code of Roman law . . . as a sanctifying and legitimating figure, [our Lord Jesus Christ,] the name of a man who was crucified by a Roman judge as a Roman convict.” Leithart comments that “the invocation of Jesus is at least a standing rebuke to any pretense that Roman law, or any law, automatically secures justice.”

I reflect briefly on the [ab]use of NoSQL. Stick with sonnet form, kids; free verse only brings slavery.

Written by Scott Moonen

August 28, 2021 at 6:56 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-34)

leave a comment »

Mark Horne writes about God’s perfect justice and how God acts generationally (part 1, part 2, part 3), concluding as follows (but you should read all three):

We need to distinguish between descendants being affected by the sins of their ancestors and their being guilty of those sins. . . . So yes, sometimes God’s public justice destroys people who didn’t personally commit the injustice. The young and marginal in Sodom and Gomorrah got burned up with the rest. Achan’s family (along with the warriors who first attacked Ai) got destroyed for his sin that some may not have had a part in. Those deaths are punishments of the sinner (Achan and whoever was an accessory) but their personal deaths are justified in Genesis 3, not in what Achan did. Their deaths are, on a personal level, no different than the deaths of Job’s children who were killed because he was righteous.

Three key points to keep in mind are that (1) death comes to all of us in Adam; (2) it is not necessarily judicial (for which see the moving 1 Kings 14:13); and (3) the Bible often hides for us either a distinction that God is making, or at least his reasons for making it. One example of this is the sons of Saul in 2 Samuel 21; it is clear that not all of Saul’s sons are put to death, but we are not let in on the (obviously) righteous distinction that was made. Another example is the family of Korah in Numbers 16; it seems from this passage that God put the entire family to death, but Numbers 26:11 tells us that at least some of Korah’s children were preserved, and it is likely their offspring are the Korahites faithfully serving in God’s house in 1 Chronicles 26 and several of the Psalms.

This is a good time to remember that Jephthah did not offer up his daughter. However, God was righteous in commanding Abraham to offer up Isaac.

I revisited Deuteronomy 20 wanting to decide whether “civilian” was a proper distinction for jus in bello. I’m not sure that it is. At the city level, all of the men of a contumacious city are subject to the sword. I’m not sure to what degree this extends beyond the level of a city; I’m not convinced that Judges 19-21 is a righteous example. It’s also worth reflecting on the typology of trees and thorns; what are fruit trees? Are they women?

I’m so thankful for the elders of the CREC!

The Lord’s table must reflect the diversity of his body (Galatians 2, James 2, 1 Corinthians 11). Now, James teaches the church not to engage in partial social engineering—as if we would fly in someone from Saskatchewan, or work especially hard to bring in a Florida man, or begin conducting our services with Hungarian translation. And since the old covenant was completely torn down in AD 70, the church does not even go “to the Jew first” but to all men. But James does command us to welcome all those whom God sends our way. Therefore it is of utmost urgency that the church baptize her little ones and welcome them to the table. In the new covenant, where holiness and cleanness are now contagious rather than death (Matthew 9, 1 Corinthians 7), our little ones are now more welcome in Jesus than ever before (Mark 10; you can be sure that Jesus’s blessings are not mere platitudes); “your children shall come back” (Jeremiah 31), “they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest . . . for I will forgive their iniquity” (Jeremiah 31, Hebrews 8). If we do not welcome our little ones to their Lord’s table, then we fail to “discern the body [of Christ]” and become “guilty” of his body and blood (“for this reason many are weak and sick”); we are “out of step with the truth of the gospel;” and we “stand condemned” as Peter and the disciples—ultimately teaching the world a lie about the place of little ones in a polis.

This is why they look at me with suspicion, seeing me as a sort of sheep in wolf’s clothing. (Conversations with René Girard, 181)

As the scapegoat mechanism has been revealed, we do not return directly to it, that is, we do not directly accuse the victim of having done something. We don’t blame them directly. But the scapegoat mechanism continues to work, though in a different way: the politically correct movement accuses their opponents of creating scapegoats. They accuse them of victimizing others. It’s like Christianity turned upside down: they take whatever is left of Christian influence, whatever is left of Christian language, but to opposite ends, in order to perpetuate the scapegoat mechanism. (Conversations with René Girard, 182)

Christianity never had this goal. It never sought to organize society. (Conversations with René Girard, 182)

Today people in academia are not even trying to be honest. (Conversations with René Girard, 183)

It seems like the ancient, primitive fatalities, temporarily discarded by the light of the prophets and the Gospel, are coming back. In the Bible, the protection of children appears alongside the protection of the handicapped, lepers, cripples. These are the preferential victims of ancient societies, and we understand we must protect them. We still protect crippled people, handicapped people, but in the center of it all we find a sort of cancer growing, which is the return to infanticide. This is a decisive argument, which few people will take into consideration: those who defend abortion are trying to make our society go back to pre-Christian barbarism. (Conversations with René Girard, 184)

This was a fascinating Twitter thread. I recently bought a Berkey filter thinking that the main benefits would be chlorine and fluoride filtering. But it seems like there are more benefits—and also that you might want to consider a filter even if you drink well water.

Written by Scott Moonen

August 20, 2021 at 6:56 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-30)

leave a comment »

Baptism is an announcement of adoption; it is no surprise, then, that it is a conferral of glory and honor:

For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (2 Peter 1:17, NKJV)

The Byzantine reading of this passage (“Greeks” rather than “they”) clears up a confusion for me:

Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. But Gallio took no notice of these things. (Acts 18:17, NKJV)

I was confused because it seemed as if the Jews were beating one of their own. It’s certainly possible that God sent them into a judicial confusion, but the Greeks doing so makes a little more sense. However, Calvin points out that this is likely the same Sosthenes as 1 Corinthians 1. Perhaps this provocation is related to his conversion. Also, the fact that the church met next to the synagogue (Acts 18:7) is significant to 1 Corinthians 14 and the identity of the unbeliever.

Garrett Soucy comments on the turning of the age:

Churches are not only closing, but they are also thriving, and this for the simple reason that if ministers of God can tell the people what is happening around them and interpret the story for them in light of the Word of God, the hungry will rightly believe that they have found a people with wine and bread to spare. We are entering an era of preaching . . . not an era of celebrity preaching, or internet preaching . . . but of local preaching. It must not simply be an expository analysis of a text, but a deep understanding of the Word and a proclamation of the cross of Christ in the event of eating. We must be men, not only of math, but of myth. Is there a chief in the house? There is a story that needs interpreting, but first it needs a telling.

Many men have been influential in my turn to what you might call an objective covenant theology. I count Doug Wilson, Mark Horne, James Jordan, and Peter Leithart among the most significant influences. But before spending much time with them I read Geerhardus Vos’s Biblical Theology, and I think that he, together with a little bit of Van Til, set all the conditions in place for my theological avalanche.

Here is the summary of Vos I wrote sixteen years ago. These are the points that stick in my mind the most today:

  • Vos makes a point of stressing that the effect of the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil is not magical. I think I am borrowing from other writers than Vos to call the results “judicial,” but the thought that sacramental obedience and disobedience is not magical but is an ordinary working out of our standing before God is significant. For example, as I remark above, to be baptized is to receive an objective declaration from God through his church.
  • The unity of God’s work in history through his covenants, and especially the gracious nature of every covenant, is profoundly important.
  • The fact that the old covenants are not only shot through with grace, but also founded on faith in the work of Jesus, and involve the life-giving work of the Spirit, is also profoundly important. This casts the old covenants in a very different light.

‘The counsel of Gandalf was not founded on foreknowledge of safety, for himself or for others,’ said Aragorn. ‘There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark. (Tolkien, The Two Towers)

Written by Scott Moonen

July 24, 2021 at 6:23 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-29)

leave a comment »

Another pair of things that we must hold together is the distinction between sin and foolishness, or between salvation and maturity.

It is possible to fail to hold these things together rightly by calling foolishness a sin. But it is also possible to fail by exonerating foolishness; it isn’t sin, so shouldn’t we lighten up? No; God considers that to be fully righteous is to be wise:

​​The mouth of the righteous speaks wisdom,
And his tongue talks of justice.
​​The law of his God is in his heart;
​​None of his steps shall slide. (Psalm 37:30–31, NKJV)

Satan is glad to confuse the church in many different ways, but one significant way he is attacking the evangelical church today is to accommodate and even glorify foolishness and immaturity. This has a veneer of plausibility since we want the hypothetical immature Christian to really enjoy the forgiveness they have in Jesus. But we also want them to mature, and calling them to wisdom and maturity does not call their salvation into question—rather, it calls them to make the most of their salvation and Savior.

Foolishness may not be a sin, but its careful cultivation definitely is. No one is ever static; if we become practiced in foolishness, sin will be the resultant fruit. Likewise if we accommodate foolishness, accommodation of sin is not far behind. The tyranny of the weak may earn us the quick approval of the world, but at the cost of our saltiness and the approval of our Savior.

This plays out in many different ways. Even if we granted for the sake of argument all of the antecedents in this list, none of the consequents follow:

  • Someone might at some time be permitted to wear this outfit; therefore it is good for me to wear it here and now
  • Someone might at some time be permitted to send their children to public school; therefore it is good for me to do so
  • At times a wife and mother might be permitted to work outside the home; therefore it is good for me to do so
  • Churches at some times might be permitted to close their doors on Sunday; therefore it is good for us to do so now
  • Jesus might permit us to wear masks in worship; therefore it is good for me to do so
  • Jesus might permit us to delay the baptism of our children; therefore it is good for me to do so
  • Jesus understands that at times his church may not be able to celebrate his supper every week; therefore it is good for us to do so
  • Jesus understands that at times his church may not be able to use wine in celebrating his supper; therefore it is good for us to do so
  • Someone might at some time be permitted to stay home from church; therefore it is good for me to do so today

What is permissible, what is good, and what is best are not the same. This is applicable within the church, but also for parents; we are responsible to disciple our children to maturity. As Sproul points out, Paul’s principle is not merely one of accommodating the weak brother. Paul’s goal for us and for the weak brother is to avoid that which is unprofitable, to edify:

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. (1 Corinthians 10:23, NKJV)

There is an infantile kind of mere Christianity that is content to remain mere; let us instead be the kind that runs—and invites!—further up and further in.

I mentioned that suffering and deformity were the special mark of God’s secret agents. Luther describes how God presents himself to us through a variety of masks; in the same way, we are often the mask of God toward others.

Overheard on Slack:

GM Steve.
Oops wrong channel… anyway if you are Steve, good morning.

Written by Scott Moonen

July 18, 2021 at 1:17 pm

Federal vision

with 2 comments

A friend passed along this article by Steven Wellum from last April on the federal vision.

In theology there are a great many pairs and triads of truths that we hold in harmony: for example, there is one God who exists in three persons; Jesus is fully God and fully man; we are justified by faith alone, but the faith by which we are justified is not alone; we have been saved (Romans 8:24, Ephesians 2:5-8), we are being saved (1 Corinthians 1:18, 15:2), and we will be saved (Romans 5:9, 1 Corinthians 3:15). Here are two beautiful examples of this theological harmony from the Westminster confession:

God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. (WCF 3.1)

God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification: nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit does, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them. (WCF 11.4)

I love the phrases that John Frame and Vern Poythress use to describe this multifaceted way of thinking: perspectival theology and symphonic theology. There are always many things going on at once in God’s revelation and his works.

Of course, from time to time theology goes lopsided and we must take up a defense of one or another of the voices in each harmony. Trinitarian heresies are a particular great example of this. At other times we must defend the harmonies themselves from the idea that clarity is unimportant, lest they become a muddy theological mush where nothing really matters.

Sadly, it is also a temptation to become overscrupulous and suspicious of one another. Someone who loves the beauty of salvation by faith alone and grace alone may be veering antinomian, or they may be rejoicing in real truth. Someone who considers God’s commandments to be sweeter than honey may be a budding legalist, or they may be rejoicing in real truth that lights the way of life. There are real battles to be fought against antinomianism and legalism; and it is even true that someone may be falling into error unwittingly and in spite of good intentions, and need rescue from it; but there is also real delight to be had in drinking deeply of both the freedom of grace and the perfection of God’s law. Knowing which situation we are dealing with calls for wisdom.

I think that a failure to read one another charitably—the instinct to jump to “either-or” rather than “both-and”—is involved in much of the controversy surrounding Norman Shepherd, the New Perspective, and the Federal Vision. Even if one does not fully accept any of these as a whole package, I believe they have made a valuable contribution to theology.

This is a great over-simplification, but I suggest we could touch on some of the differences Wellum mentions as follows:

  • Credobaptists especially appreciate God’s internal and extraordinary work in a believer, while paedobaptists especially appreciate God’s external and ordinary work in a believer. Credobaptists want to stress the importance of calling our children to faith, while paedobaptists—especially paedocommunionists—want our children to have confidence in Jesus’s glad and ready welcoming of their childlike faith.
  • Contemporary paedobaptists want to be able to say to a brother, “examine yourself as to whether you are in the faith.” Federal vision proponents want to be able to say to a brother, “do not fear, your sins are forgiven, and you are among the elect of God.”
  • “Amber lager” federal vision proponents treasure the initial work of the Spirit in our salvation; “dark stout” federal vision proponents treasure the ongoing work of the Spirit in our salvation especially through the church.
  • The traditional perspective on Paul wants to preserve the truth that salvation by our own obedience or merit is impossible. The new perspective on Paul wants to recognize that other forms of spiritual pride are deadly as well, and maybe we should develop a taxonomy of spiritual pride rather than forcing it all to fit in one box.
  • Those who emphasize the imputation of Jesus’s active obedience rightly want to protect against smuggling our own merit into our salvation. Those who de-emphasize imputation rightly want to remind us that salvation is not a distant impersonal transaction, and remind us that we receive so much more than merit in receiving Jesus himself; as Piper says, “Jesus is the gospel.” See also Packer and Murray effusing on our glorious union with Jesus.
  • Those who emphasize a covenant of works want to preserve the uniqueness of how Jesus redeems us from sin. Those who emphasize a continuity between the covenants want to preserve the truth that every covenant is a gracious, undeserved, unilateral gift from God, whatever its terms or administration, and whether it involves redemption or only testing and maturation. “In everything give thanks.”

Of course, if we are thinking rightly, we appreciate, agree with, and seek to harmonize both poles of each point above. We can appreciate the harmonious voices provided by one another without having to agree with the interpretation of every single scripture, or agree with every single implication and choice of terminology.

Addressing some of Wellum’s specific concerns, I would say:

  • I have read several of the rejections of the federal vision (e.g., PCA, OPC, Guy Waters) and I find they have generally failed to appreciate how federal vision proponents are attempting the kind of gospel-faithful harmonizations that I suggest above. More than that, I think the federal vision proponents have advanced a great deal of evidence that they are continuing in a line of faithful covenant theology, at times even contrary to their opponents (e.g., I think it is a mistake to associate R. Scott Clark with traditional covenant theology).
  • It is inescapable for us to have to develop a theology that harmonizes objectivity and subjectivity, assurance and apostasy, promise and warning. You may not come out of this with a systematic theology that describes two kinds of election (although Calvin does!) but you must have some kind of language for it nonetheless. I believe the federal vision proponents do justice to both sides of these coins while in some cases their opponents do not. In fact, one of the motivations of the federal vision is the desire to speak both promises and warnings with their full force as pastoral wisdom requires.
  • We must admit that modern systematic theology uses “regeneration” in a different way from the Bible and from the reformers. It is perfectly normal for systematic theology to develop precise definitions for words that the Bible uses in a different or broader way (e.g., “salvation”) or for words that do not appear in the Bible at all (e.g., “Trinity”). But in the case of “regeneration,” the waters run deep, because they cover whole the landscape of church, kingdom, covenant, and eschatology. Thus, many will have very different opinions, and this area is ripe for misunderstanding—but I personally find no one advancing the kind of baptismal regeneration that we all rightly reject. On the other hand, it is truly a great and glorious thing for our little ones to be admitted to the covenant and church, to the household of the Spirit—to what some call the regeneration.
  • I am convinced that Jesus wants his little ones to participate in the Supper (Is it not the consistent testimony of the church throughout history that they will be seated at Jesus’s table if they die? Why do we deny them this admission here and now?) but it is strange to me that as a credobaptist Wellum is especially concerned about this. Usually the lack of paedocommunion is a “gotcha” employed by credobaptists against inconsistent paedobaptists.
  • It is a common accusation that paedobaptists import Israel into the church, the old covenants into the new. Far from this, I have found that what they are doing is recognizing just how much new-covenant grace is shot through the old covenants. No one was ever saved apart from faith, grace, Jesus, and the regenerating work of his Spirit. All of these things are fruit of Jesus’s work in the new covenant but were still the only way of salvation in the old covenants. The truly spiritual nature of the old covenants and of circumcision (e.g., Deuteronomy 10:16) should rightly force us to rethink some of the ways we have claimed the new covenant is unique.

I’ve benefited greatly from the work of many of the FV men and have great affection for them. I consider myself a federal vision “dark stout,” but I love my brothers of other persuasions, because they are my brothers and because we believe and hold to a common gospel.

See also my notes on Believer’s Baptism, for which Wellum was a contributor.

Written by Scott Moonen

July 11, 2021 at 3:16 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-28)

leave a comment »

Luke 8 also repeats the double twelve of Mark 5.

The longest chiasm in the world is the one that begins with creation and ends with the consummation of the new creation. One great aspect of this is the divisions of Genesis 1 and their removal in Revelation 21:

  • Division of light and darkness (Genesis 1:3–5)
    • Division of the waters below and the waters above by means of the firmament (Genesis 1:6–8)
      • Division of land and sea (Genesis 1:9–10)
        • History
      • Removal of the sea (Revelation 21:1)
    • Removal of the firmament with the union of heaven and earth (Revelation 21:2–10)
  • Removal of darkness (Revelation 21:22–25)

I’ve tended to associate the sea with the Gentile nations, so the removal of the sea (Revelation 21:1) followed by the continuing of the nations (Revelation 21:24ff) has been puzzling to me. However, my pastor Duane Garner points out that the sea has a wider sense stretching all the way back to Genesis 1:2 of chaos and fearsome forces that include the nations but extend far beyond them. Thus, what is happening in Revelation 21 is the subduing, governing, and harnessing of nations but also of nature itself.

It’s also interesting that it is the three new things that overcame the formlessness and voidness that endure. Darkness preceded light, but light endures. In a way, highest heaven preceded the earth, but the earth endures. The deep preceded the land, but the land endures.

And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4, NKJV)

Also reflecting on Duane’s latest sermon, it seems to me that one way to express the difference between Christian conservationism and humanist environmentalism is the locus of the sacred: is nature itself sacred, or is nature a gift from God that we are to improve and return to him?

It is a small thing, but the fact that the Byzantine text has seventy rather than seventy-two here pleases me:

After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. . . . Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” (Luke 10:1, 17, NKJV)

It is fascinating to me that this passage speaks of a future judgment of Tyre and Sidon (and, linking Matthew 11, Sodom), and yet we have already an unbelievably gruesome past judgment of Jerusalem:

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades. He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.” (Luke 10:13–16, NKJV)

The final judgment is more significant than what you read about in Josephus.

The perception gap quiz is interesting. They tell me my score was perfect. It’s mildly encouraging that public sentiment is not so bad; but that minimizes the antithesis. Things are bad because we don’t bow the knee to king Jesus and violate his law left and right.

I don’t know how that ends. Is it worse than Josephus? And who can tell whether we will experience terrible inflation or extraordinary deflation; or whether we will experience violent disintegration or a pathetic fizzling? And yet, the one thing we must know is that special days of the Lord come from time to time, and the one thing we must do therefore—and for which we have no excuse—is live loyally and faithfully:

Then He also said to the multitudes, “Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it is. And when you see the south wind blow, you say, ‘There will be hot weather’; and there is. Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time? (Luke 12:54–56, NKJV)

We have no excuse if we do not “know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:44).

In this week’s Theopolitan newsletter, Peter Leithart reflects on Peter’s preaching of the Abrahamic promise in Acts 3. Some further reflections:

  • The pattern of blessings to Israel and the nations and Israel shows up again many times; especially Romans 11. Leithart suggests that Acts “recounts the restoration of Israel,” not in entirety but in the main. I favor this preterist reading of Romans 11.
  • This makes me think of the Gibeonites. Canaanite Israel, now a kind of Hagar rather than Sarah, must humble themselves to enter the new Israel that was commissioned to conquer the land and now the world.
  • This also reminds me of David’s ascension. There was an interim period of 7.5 years given to Israel to extend their loyalty to him. This transfer in Jesus’s case is so complete that every Jew must be baptized.
  • This also brings to mind the great baptisms of 2 Sam chapters 15 (perhaps an infant baptism!) and 19, especially since that is a similar case of Israel falling and being resurrected. It is necessary for Israel to “go outside the camp, bearing his reproach” in order to be “united with him in a resurrection like his.”

The only way to be justified is to justify Jesus.

We were wiring up the launch system for our model rocket:

Asher: Did you know that positive is actually negative?
Scott: Well, yes, in a way.
Amos: Wait, so that means positive encouraging K-Love is really negative encouraging K-Love?

Written by Scott Moonen

July 10, 2021 at 9:52 am