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Jesu, Juva

Archive for the ‘Biblical Theology’ Category

By faith, not by sight

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I read and enjoyed Gaffin’s By Faith, Not by Sight recently. I think that he could have gone a little farther towards finding multi-perspectival resolutions, but I am generally very appreciative of the book. Some choice quotes:

Since the goal of redemption is union with the risen Lord, there seems little doubt that, if Paul has a center to his order of salvation, it is this doctrine. When other applied blessings, such as justification or sanctification, are made central, there are inevitably deleterious consequences for the Christian life, whereby incipient forms of antinomianism and legalism creep in. For example, a certain Lutheran view that justification precedes sanctification, so that it causes union with Christ and sanctification, ends up attributing to justification a renovative/transformative element. The notion that one applied benefit can cause another applied benefit has always perplexed me. But when union with Christ structures the whole of applied redemption, the aforementioned errors are dealt with better. This has to do with the fact that Christ’s person, not simply his work or his applied benefits, must have the preeminence. Indeed, the gift of Christ’s person is a greater gift to us than his benefits. As many of our finest divines have vigorously argued, there exists a priority of Christ’s person over his work. Union with Christ helps us to keep this salient fact in mind. We are not simply recipients of his benefits; we also belong to him. (Mark Jones, Foreword, p. x)

One important methodological consideration is that, with all due attention being given to his immediate historical context, including relevant extracanonical texts and materials, in interpreting [Paul’s] letters the context that is not only primary but privileged is the canonical context. (10)

All along I have been speaking of Paul’s “theology” and referring to him as a “theologian.” For many, that will not be a problem, but this way of speaking warrants some clarification, since for some it is questionable at best. The perceived danger here is that we will, as it could be put, “drag Paul down to our level.” . . . What offsets this leveling danger is appreciating Paul’s identity as an apostle, at least if we understand apostleship properly. . . . Regarding [his] authority, the apostle is as Christ himself.

Paul the theologian, then, is Paul the apostle. That points to the God-breathed origin and authority of his teaching, its character as the word of God. It highlights the radical, categorical difference there is between his theology and post-apostolic theology. His teaching, along with the teaching of the other biblical writers, is Spirit-borne, canonical, and foundational. (14-15)

Increasingly over the course of the last century, to fill out this brief historical sketch, a new consensus concerning Paul emerged across a broad front in biblical studies. This happened in tandem with a reassessment of the kingdom proclamation of Jesus. It is now widely maintained that the controlling focus of Paul’s theology, as for Jesus before him, is eschatology—or what is equivalent for some, redemptive history (historia salutis). Specifically, the center of his theology has been recognized to be the death and resurrection of Christ in their eschatological significance.

In my view, this basic conclusion is sound and, by now, well established. (29)

The center of Paul’s soteriology, then, at the center of his theology as a whole, is neither justification by faith nor sanctification, neither the imputation of Christ’s righteousness nor the renewing work of the Spirit. To draw that conclusion, however, is not to decenter justification (or sanctification), as if justification is somehow less important for Paul than it is for the Reformers. Justification is supremely important; it is absolutely crucial in Paul’s “gospel of salvation” (cf. Eph. 1:13). If his teaching on justification is denied or distorted, it ceased to be gospel; there is no longer saving “good news” for guilty sinners. But no matter how close justification is to the heart of Paul’s gospel, in our salvation there is an antecedent consideration, a reality that is deeper, more fundamental, more decisive, more crucial: Christ and our union with him, the crucified and resurrected, the exalted, Christ. Union with Christ by faith—that is the essence of Paul’s ordo salutis.

At the opening of Book 3 of his Institutes of the Christian Religion and controlling all that he has to say about “the way” of salvation—that is, its personal, individual appropriation, including what he will eventually say about justification—Calvin writes, “First, we must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us.” (49-50)

[Some have observed] that Paul’s exhortations to the church as a whole, his ethics of the Christian life in their entirety, can be summed up in the epigram, “Become what you are.” This is helpful, but by itself it carries a liability that can render it decidedly unhelpful (suggesting some form of personal autonomy), unless it is read with an all-encompassing Christological gloss, “Become what you are in Christ.” (80)

The point here is that “the path of good works runs not from man to God, says Paul, but from God to man.” [quoting Berkouwer] Ultimately, in the deepest sense, for Paul “our good works” are not ours, but God’s. They are his work, begun and continuing in us, his being “at work in us, both to will and to do what pleases him” (Phil. 2:13). That is why, without any tension, a faith that rests in God the Savior is a faith that is restless to do his will. (88)

On the coherence between [faith and works], it is hard to improve on what J. Gresham Machen writes aphoristically, “As the faith which James condemns is different than the faith that Paul commends, so also the works which James commends are different than the works which Paul condemns.” (118)

Written by Scott Moonen

November 28, 2020 at 1:22 pm

Baptism exhortation (2)

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Amos,

In the New Testament, Peter and Paul speak of two great old–covenant baptisms: the baptism of the flood, and the baptism of the Red Sea crossing.

In both of these, God rained water on his people, and drowned his enemies. Psalm 77 tells of God’s rain at the Red Sea crossing, and Psalm 68—the great battle Psalm of the Huguenots—tells of rain in the wilderness:

O God, when You went forth before Your people,
When You marched through the wilderness:
The world shook;
Indeed, the heavens dripped at the presence of God, the One of Sinai,
At the presence of God, the God of Israel.
A rain of gifts You showered, O God;
Your inheritance, though it languished, You Yourself established.
Your beasts dwelled in it;
You prepared it in Your goodness for the lowly, O God. (Psalm 68:7–10, James Jordan)

So you see that the waters of baptism are a rescue from judgment and death, and they are a source of life and refreshment. But they are also a commissioning, into a priesthood and into an army! As soon as Israel had crossed the Red Sea in battle array, they fought the Amalekites. Likewise, Psalm 68 continues:

My Master gives the word;
The messengers are a great army.
Kings of armies flee; they flee;
And those remaining at home divide the spoil,
Those remaining with the sheepfolds:
A dove’s wings covered with silver,
And her pinions with green–gold.
When the Almighty scattered kings there,
You made it snow on Black Mountain.
O mountain of gods, mountain of Bashan,
O mountain of ridges, mountain of Bashan,
Why your hostility, you mountains of ridges,
Toward the mountain God delighted for His dwelling?
Yes, Yahweh will dwell there endlessly.
The chariots of God are twice myriads,
Thousands upon thousands,
My Master among them,
At Sinai, in the holy place!
You ascended on high;
You captured a captivity;
You took men as gifts—
And even rebels—
In order that Yah, God might dwell. (Psalm 68:11–18, James Jordan)

The same thing happened when Israel crossed the Jordan into the promised land. God brought them safely through waters, circumcised them, and formed them into his own army to conduct a holy war.

Amos, God still has an army that wages holy warfare with the sword of the Spirit: the word of God. God has commissioned you into his service today. You are and will always be a soldier of Jesus. You belong completely to him, and it is good to belong to him. I charge you to serve him faithfully and fearlessly!

See also: Baptism exhortation

Written by Scott Moonen

November 16, 2020 at 3:50 pm

Enchanted

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‘Cause I can see the world is charged
It’s glimmering with promises
Written in a script of stars
And dripping from the prophet’s lips.

Andrew Peterson, “Don’t You Want to Thank Someone

Written by Scott Moonen

November 8, 2020 at 5:15 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (18)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Scott Moonen

November 1, 2020 at 4:08 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (16)

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I wonder if Leviticus 21:4 is another hint, together with Deuteronomy 25, that priest-pastors are levirs, husband–caretakers for God’s people:

He is not to make himself tamei (as) a husband among his people (does), to profane himself. (Leviticus 21:4, Everett Fox)

Whatever resulted in a court of Gentiles—and reluctance to eat together with Gentiles—in second–temple Judaism, it was a perversion of God’s commanded worship. It is true that you could not participate in Passover unless you were circumcised, but the uncircumcised Gentile God-fearer could bring offerings to God, and he could participate in the feast of booths. This perversion is part of the great judgment on the faithless priest–shepherd–husbands of Jesus’s day (e.g., Matthew 23:13-14).

YHWH spoke to Moshe, saying:
Speak to Aharon and to his sons and to all the Children of Israel, and say to them:
Any-Man, any-man of the House of Israel or of the sojourners in Israel
that brings-near his near-offering—including any of their vow-offerings or including any of their freewill-offerings that they bring-near to YHWH, as an offering-up— (Leviticus 22:17-18, Everett Fox, emphasis added)

Every native is to sacrifice these thus,
to bring-near a fire-offering of soothing savor for YHWH.
Now when there sojourns with you a sojourner,
or (one) that has been in your mids, throughout your generations,
and he sacrifices a fire-offering of soothing savor for YHWH;
as you sacrifice (it), thus is he to sacrifice (it).
Assembly!
One law for you and for the sojourner that takes-up-sojourn,
a law for the ages, throughout your generations:
as (it is for) you, so will it be (for) the sojourner before the presence of YHWH.
One instruction, one regulation shall there be for you
and for the sojourner that takes-up-sojourn with you! (Numbers 15:13-16, Everett Fox)

The pilgrimage-festival of Sukkot / Huts you are to observe for yourself, for seven days,
at your ingathering, from your threshing-floor, from your vat.
You are to rejoice on your festival,
you, your son, and your daughter,
your servant and your maid,
the Levite,
the sojourner, the orphan and the widow that are within your gates. (Deuteronomy 16:13-14, Everett Fox)

Thanks to my friend Nathan for this great quote from Thomas Boston:

Christians should wisely observe [God’s] providences . . . Because they are always perfect works. They will abide the strictest search and the most narrow inquiry, Deut. 32:4. Whatever faults we find with them, as we do many, it is for want of due observation. But at length he shall gain that testimony and recantation, ‘He hath done all things well,’ Mark 7:37. In these his works no flaw is to be found, no mistake; nothing too much, nothing too little; nothing too soon done, nothing too late done; nothing misplaced, nothing in or over; nay, nothing done that is not best done; nothing that man or angel could make better. The world will startle at this as a paradox: but faith will believe it, on the solid ground of infinite wisdom, though sense contradict it, Isa. 38:8, Jer. 12:1. O that they who will debate this truth would come near and observe.

This is a neat converse of iron and bronze:

Now if, after all that, you do not hearken to me,
I will continue to discipline you, sevenfold, for your sins—
I will break your fierce pride!
I will give your heavens to be like iron, and your earth like bronze, . . . (Leviticus 26:18–19, Everett Fox)

But it shall be:
If you do not hearken to the voice of YHWH your God,
by taking-care and by observing all his commandments and his laws
that I command you today,
then there will come upon you all these curses, and overtake you: . . . .
The heavens that are above your head will become bronze,
and the earth that is beneath you, iron. (Deuteronomy 28:15, 23, Everett Fox)

I always thought that it betrayed a deep misunderstanding—of God’s word and his ways—for modern Israel to name their air defense system Iron Dome. Much like how we used to sing “they rush on the city . . .” with such oblivious gusto.

Leviticus 27 is not a later addition or afterthought to the book. One reason we know this is that there are credible chiasms where it fits well. Also, if we take Leviticus as a covenant document, this chapter fits perfectly in the “succession” section of the pattern, immediately following the “oath” or “sanctions” section. Leviticus would be incomplete without making plans for the sustaining of the sanctuary.

To the Word took us through Ephesians this week. Some reflections, past and present: (1) There is a very real shadow government that determines everything that takes place (Eph. 1:20–23), and we are privileged to participate in it by our prayers and worship (Eph. 2:6). (2) Once you see that Ephesians 2 is primarily about historia salutis rather than ordo salutis, it is difficult to unsee it. (3) The mystery here and elsewhere in the Bible is that of Daniel’s stone cut by no human hand: Jesus would inaugurate a new kingdom that would not be Israel über alles, but would rather supersede all other kingdoms. (4) There is a counterfeit and impotent stone, uncut by hand, reputed to be from the heavens, right there in Ephesus! (Acts 19:35) (5) Jesus’s giving gifts is not Paul misquoting David through the Septuagint; it is a brilliant application of totus Christus: what Jesus receives he shares with his bride. (6) You can find echoes of all ten commandments in the book. (7) The identity between covetousness and idolatry (here, as in Colossians) is profound and important. (8) It is interesting to me that the word itself is an offensive weapon (the sword of the Spirit), but faith in that word is a defensive weapon. I suppose that we must trust the Spirit to make the word powerful in and toward others, but we also have some direct responsibility to cultivate its power within ourselves.

Hindsight is 20/20, isn’t it? Making room for Lenin, Stalin, and Mao is a sin (even if a foolish and unwitting one), and certainly a disqualification for leadership.

My son, if sinners entice you,
do not consent.
If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood;
let us ambush the innocent without reason;
like Sheol let us swallow them alive,
and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
we shall find all precious goods,
we shall fill our houses with plunder;
throw in your lot among us;
we will all have one purse”—
my son, do not walk in the way with them;
hold back your foot from their paths,
for their feet run to evil,
and they make haste to shed blood. (Proverbs 1:10–16, ESV)

This is a year the evangelical church will look back upon with great regret. In so many ways, we have redoubled our effort to appear respectable to the world, and unsurprisingly we have been played. But friendship with the world is enmity with God. There is a slow-motion coup being attempted in the United States, under cover of a thin veneer of righteous platitudes and bald-faced deception. Many people in our bureaucracy, politics, journalism, media, entertainment, and big tech are well overdue for their stay in prison. And this is not just about the bloodletting of babies but also the grooming of our neighbors’ sons and daughters, and the general bloodletting of our neighbors’ households and livelihoods. To make room for this coup is to actually disobey Romans 13, grossly; to hate our neighbor grossly; and to disqualify ourselves from leadership. You know that they will not be satisfied with the heads of inconvenient troublemakers (aren’t all prophets inconvenient?) like Wilson and Gagnon and Baucham. No, they will also come for Greear and Chandler and Thabiti and even Mason—the omelet must have its stooges—and eventually for you and me. Bezhmenov, McCarthy, Solzhenitsen, and many others are being vindicated before our eyes.

Of course, you have to observe flesh and blood rather than chapter and verse to discern that I am right and Keller is wrong, to discern that our political future is not a simple and neutral debate over which reasonable people may disagree. I was going to say that it requires wisdom to see where this is going, but that is not really true: it is already out in the open, unmasked, so to speak, and brazen. And this is why identifying this evil is a qualification for leadership; the fact that the line separating good and evil passes through our own hearts does not acquit us of this responsibility, but simply requires us to overcome that evil too. A pastor–husband must know what needs to be done, and he may not fear seeming unloving when this requires him to speak words of warning in actual love.

And yet we are happy warriors; we are ministers and officers of such a shadow government, and the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh:

Why do nations conspire,
And peoples murmur a vain thing?
Positioned are earth’s kings,
And rulers take counsel together,
Against Yahweh,
And against His anointed;
Saying, “Let us break Their chains,
And throw off of us Their ropes!”
The One enthroned in the heavens laughs;
My Master scoffs at them! (Psalm 2:1-10, James Jordan)

God is doing a good work of exposing and testing and tempering right now. May we be strengthened, purified, and proven true!

C. R. Wiley and friends recently provided a delightful encouragement to study Protestant resistance theory from, of all quarters, a Roman Catholic. Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos is in my reading queue after Solzhenitsyn.

The Theopolis conversation on the manosphere and the church is complete. I encourage you to read all of the articles.

Roundup:

Written by Scott Moonen

October 16, 2020 at 5:58 pm

Seventy

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Genesis 10, Everett Fox translation:

Now these are the begettings of the sons of Noah,
Shem, Ham, and Yefet.
Sons were born to them after the Deluge.
The Sons of Yefet are Gomer and Magog, Madai, Yavan and Tuval, Meshekh and Tiras.
The Sons of Gomer are Ashkenaz, Rifat, and Togarma.
The Sons of Yavan are Elisha and Tarshish, Cittites and Dodanites.
From these the seacoast nations were divided by their lands,
each one after its own tongue:
according to their clans, by their nations.
The Sons of Ham are Cush and Mitzrayim, Put and Canaan.
The Sons of Cush are Seva and Havila, Savta, Ra’ma, and Savtekha;
the Sons of Ra’ma—Sheva and Dedan.
Cush begot Nimrod; he was the first mighty man on earth.
He was a mighty hunter before YHWH,
therefore the saying is:
Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before YHWH.
His kingdom, at the beginning, was Bavel, and Erekh, Accad and Calne, in the land of Shinar;
from this land Ashur went forth and built Nineveh—along with the city squares and Calah,/ and Resen between Nineveh and Calah—that is the great city.
Mitzrayim begot the Ludites, the Anamites, the Lehavites, the Naftuhites,/ the Patrusites, and the Casluhites, from where the Philistines come, and the Caftorites.
Canaan begot Tzidon his firstborn and Het,/ along with the Yevusite, the Amorite and the Girgashite,/ the Hivvite, the Arkite and the Sinite,/ the Arvadite, the Tzemarite and the Hamatite.
Afterward the Canaanite clans were scattered abroad.
And the Canaanite territory went from Tzidon, then as you come toward Gerar, as far as Gaza, then as you come toward Sedom and Amora, Adma, and Tzevoyim, as far as Lasha.
These are the Sons of Ham after their clans, after their tongues, by their lands, by their nations.
(Children) were also born to Shem,
the father of all the Sons of Ever (and) Yefet’s older brother.
The Sons of Shem are Elam and Ashur, Arpakhshad, Lud, and Aram.
The Sons of Aram are Utz and Hul, Geter and Mash.
Arpakhshad begot Shelah, Shelah begot Ever.
Two sons were born to Ever:
the name of the first one was Peleg/Splitting, for in his days the earth–folk were split up,
and his brother’s name was Yoktan.
Yoktan begot Almodad and Shelef, Hatzarmavet and Yera,/ Hadoram, Uzal and Dikla,/ Oval, Avimael and Sheva,/ Ofir, Havila, and Yovav—all these are the Sons of Yoktan.
Now their settlements went from Mesha, then as you come toward Sefar, to the mountain–country of the east.
These are the Sons of Shem after their clans, after their tongues, by their lands, after their nations.
These are the clan–groupings of the Sons of Noah, after their begettings, by their nations.
From these the nations were divided on earth after the Deluge.

Written by Scott Moonen

October 16, 2020 at 9:47 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (15)

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We recently spent a week at the beach with our small group. It’s hard to pick a highlight. Good food, great fellowship. One thing I enjoyed was getting introduced to the game Dominion. Ironically, I had received this game as a gift last year but hadn’t yet had a chance to play it. It’s now a regular part of our rotation!

I reflected on voting this week. It occurs to me that another way to express the value of voting is to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I would certainly appreciate a great many of my neighbors voting a certain way; I ought to do the same for them.

Speaking of voting, my friend Brad pointed out that child sacrifice is unusual in having a judgment on its even being countenanced:

Now if the People of the Land should hide, yes, hide their eyes from that man
when he gives of his seed to the Molekh, by not putting him to death,
I myself will set my face against that man and against his clan,
and will cut off him and all who go whoring along with him, to whore after Molekh,
from amid their kinspeople. (Leviticus 20:4–5, Everett Fox)

Aaron Renn of The Masculinist newsletter has started a podcast. I appreciated his recent episode reflecting on dangers and temptations in how we attempt to reach the culture.

I’ve been freshly struck reading through Exodus and Leviticus at the importance of worshipping God according to his word.

Now Aharon’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, took each-man his pan,
and, placing fire in them, put smoking-incense on it,
and brought-near, before the presence of YHWH, outside fire,
such as he had not commanded them.
And fire went out from the presence of YHWH
and consumed them, so that they died, before the presence of YHWH.
Moshe said to Aharon:
It is what YHWH spoke (about), saying:
Through those permitted-near to me, I will be-proven-holy,
before all the people, I will be-accorded-honor!
Aharon was silent. (Leviticus 10:1-3, Everett Fox)

Moshe and Aharon were returned to Pharaoh,
and he said to them:
Go, serve YHWH your God!
—Who is it, who is it that would go?
Moshe said:
With our young ones, with our elders we will go,
with our sons and with our daughters,
with our sheep and with our oxen we will go—
for it is YHWH’s pilgrimage-festival for us.
He said to them:
May YHWH be thus with you, the same as I mean to send you free along with your little-ones!
You see—yes, your faces are set toward ill!
Not thus—go now, O males, and serve YHWH, for that is what you (really) seek!
And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s face.

YHWH said to Moshe:
Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locust-horde,
and it will ascend over the land of Egypt, consuming all the plants of the land, all that the hail allowed to remain. (Exodus 10:8-12, Everett Fox)

I mentioned Exodus 22:5 and willful spreading of fire among thorns (i.e., wicked men) recently. The spreading of fire is at the same time a judgment from God upon a land that cultivates wicked men.

For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. (Hebrews 6:7-8 ESV)

I was also struck by the fact that Leviticus 19 links the fourth and fifth commandments:

Each-man—his mother and his father you are to hold-in-awe,
and my Sabbaths you are to keep:
I am YHWH your God! (Leviticus 19:3, Everett Fox)

and the third, eighth, and ninth commandments:

You are not to steal,
you are not to lie,
you are not to deal-falsely, each-man with his fellow!
You are not to swear by my name falsely,
thus profaning the name of your God—
I am YHWH! (Leviticus 19:11-12, Everett Fox)

This latter association matches Ephesians 4, where lying and stealing are linked with grieving the Spirit.

Yes. As a result of this, the practice of 1 Cor 11 commonly commits the sin rebuked right there in 1 Cor 11! It is precisely failing to discern the body to forbid part of the body access to the table. See also Pharaoh above.

Written by Scott Moonen

October 10, 2020 at 1:13 pm

Antignostic

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Duane Garner resumed preaching through Revelation. From this week (I elided some words for brevity, but without ellipses):

The Revelation of Jesus confirms to these churches and these Christians in this context that they are on the right side of history, that they are behind the true king of the cosmos. Jesus is king, and Caeser isn’t.

We are in a very similar context today. It’s not our worship of Jesus that brings us in conflict in the sphere of our dealings with other people in our society. Nobody cares about that, it’s not a big deal: it’s our refusal to worship the gods of this age. When you are persecuted for being a Christian, it’s not going to be because you worship Jesus: it’s because you are refusing to bow down to the gods of this age.

If you’re going to be persecuted as a Christian, they’re not going to charge you with being a Christian. They are going to charge you with being a bigot, and a homophobe, and a racist. And as they carry you off, the rest of the evangelical world is going to be cheering, because obviously you are a bigot and a racist and a homophobe.

It’s not about Jesus, it’s not about worship of Jesus: it’s about not worshiping the gods of the age. This book is communicated to people in that same context. John is communicating the centrality and the almighty power of Jesus over all things. Jesus is over all things and Caesar isn’t. The book of Revelation does not teach about a Jesus who is uninvolved in world affairs.

A quiet, passive, internal Christianity is exactly what the kingdoms of this world want. Totalitarian regimes are incredibly compatible with a heart religion. If you want a heart religion that never works itself out in any significant way, if you want me–and–Jesus Christianity: the nations of the world are fine with that. The kind of church that is compatible with the modern state is the kind of church that’s content with sitting at home today. They’re content watching the internet, and they’re content using the Ritz crackers and the Gatorade for communion.

When the church believes that Jesus is not only the future king but the reigning and present king over everything right now, that’s when we come into conflict with the powers of our age.

Jesus deserves our embodied presence, our embodied worship and obedience. That’s when things start to heat up. And this book backs these Christians with a Jesus who is mighty, and victorious, who is regal, who is a conqueror: not just the king of your head or your heart, but the king of everything.

Written by Scott Moonen

October 6, 2020 at 5:58 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (11)

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Shall we call the rona the Y2k20 bug?

It’s not too late to join the To The Word reading plan. Psalm 119 is such a wonderful way to begin and end a reading plan! I’m taking this opportunity to read Everett Fox’s Schocken Bible wherever it satisfies the readings. No translation is perfect, but I love Fox’s translation philosophy. It’s the only translation I’ve found that handles Jephthah and his daughter properly; from Judges 11:

Now there came upon Yiftah the rushing-spirit of YHWH;
he crossed over to Gil’ad and Menashe,
and he crossed over to Mitzpe of Gil’ad, and from Mitzpe of Gil’ad
he crossed over to the Children of Ammon.
And Yiftah vowed a vow to YHWH and said:
If you will give, yes, give the Children of Ammon into my hand,
it will be: the one going out who goes out of the doors of my
    house to meet me, when I return in peace from the Children of Ammon
shall be YHWH’s
and shall be offered up by me as an offering-up!

Thus she went up to serve at the tabernacle, like the women of Exodus 38:8.

I was struck by the 46 years in John 2. No numerological significance jumps out at me, but the chronology is interesting. The current alternate chronology of 18 BC would put this event in AD 29. That fits with Kostenberger’s suggestion that Jesus began his ministry in AD 29 or 30. However, this is not able to account for Paul’s fourteen years (Galatians 2) which is usually linked to Acts 12:25 and therefore the death of Herod (Acts 12:23) in AD 44. That would put Paul’s conversion (and Jesus’s crucifixion) in AD 30. So, unless we introduce a large gap into Acts 12, it seems we are awaiting an alternate chronology either for the temple and Tiberius, or the death of Agrippa.

Speaking of the fourteen years, which included time in Arabia, it occurs to me that this is a kind of wilderness time for Paul. If 17 is an analog of 70— seven and ten remixed—then 14 is an analog of 40.

Did you know that the Fed now owns nearly a third of all US mortgages? Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. Also, it is definitely time to cancel your Netflix subscription.

Here’s an interesting scenario: what if you waited to ensure good census numbers for your state, then took various executive and economic steps to ensure that the opposing political party middle class fled your state? Why, you’d be sitting fat and happy for the next ten to twelve years, electorally speaking. Now repeat across several key states, and you just might be able to pawn off your financial problems on all of those suckers and losers to boot.

It might actually be a mercy from God if this happened; it could help to ensure that the coming dividing lines formed between states rather than neighbors.

Jamie Soles has a new album: Supplanter. It’s about a great man of faith, a perfect and complete man, who wrestles with man, with God, and with gnostic hermeneutics, and prevails. On this subject, see also Mark Horne and James Jordan.

Mark Horne also has a nice commentary on Mark’s gospel. My pastors are planning to work through Mark this winter and this is a good supplement. Also be sure to check out Mark’s latest book on Proverbs and wisdom.

I’ve been enjoying Peter Leithart’s recent Theopolitan Reading. It is outstanding, a kind of distilled appetizer for Jordan’s Through New Eyes. Some choice quotes:

Different species of animals represent different kinds of people. Kings are supposed to be lions, ferocious protectors of their pride and dangerous to their enemies (Gen 49:9; Rev 5:5). Samson and David demonstrate their prowess by killing lions (Judges 14:5–9; 1 Sam 17:34–37). If they can kill lions, they can successfully battle Philistines. As the lion king, David gathers leonine warriors who share his strength and skill in combat (1 Chr 12:8).

Other men are violent scavengers, jackals who prey on the weak or sneak into abandoned cities to pick through the garbage (Isa 13:22; 34:13). Imagery like this could well be literal. . . When human society breaks down, wild animals move in. But the imagery is also symbolic. When the king is not a lion, predatory men roam freely, preying on their defenseless sheep.

Other people are serpents, who kill with the poison under their tongue (Psa 58:4; 140:3). The righteous who trust in the Lord mimic the Seed of the woman and crush the heads of the serpentine wicked (Gen 3:15; Psa 91:13). Groups of animals represent groups of people, which is why Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David start as shepherds and herdsmen before leading the “flock of God” (cf. Ezek 34:15, 17; Zech 9:16; 1 Pet 5:2). Other groups are like packs of dogs, roaming the streets and baring their teeth against the righteous (Psa 22:16; 59:6, 14). (p. 42)

Many Bible teachers say the number 7 is the number of “fullness.” That may be true but doesn’t tell us much. And it’s the wrong way to read the poetry of Scripture. It’s a move from a concrete number (7) to an abstract quality (“fullness”).

Bible teachers make this move a lot. The desert represents “testing.” Lions represent “strength” or “destructive power.” White symbolizes “purity.” In each case, we move from something we can sense—a place we can survey, a color we can see, a number we can count, an animal that could rip us to shreds—to some quality that we can only think about.

The Bible doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t move from body to mind, or from matter to Spirit, or from concrete to abstract. Instead, the Bible connects one body with another—one thing, event, or person to another. We move from one concrete reality to another to another, seeing each in the light of the others. Scripture doesn’t move us away from our senses but trains them. (p. 45)

At his trial, Pilate presents Jesus to the mobs: “Behold the man” (John 19:5). Behold man. Behold Adam, cursed Adam, shamed Adam, soon-to-be-new Adam, risen in glory. (p. 52)

Written by Scott Moonen

September 11, 2020 at 7:10 pm

Witness

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If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you. Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. (Deuteronomy 19:16–21 ESV)

And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. . . . Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” (Mark 14:53–58 ESV)

As James Jordan says, AD 70 was a public vindication of Jesus Christ.

Written by Scott Moonen

June 21, 2020 at 3:20 pm