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Jesu, Juva

Archive for the ‘Biblical Theology’ Category

Conceal

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In his lectures on Exodus, Jim Jordan mentions his (then) recent interview with the science fiction and fantasy novelist Gene Wolfe:

“Wolfe’s most striking piece of fiction so far is a set of five novels which are in continuation with one another called The Book of the New Sun. It’s real complex and there’s been a lot of analysis saying ‘What did he mean by this? What’s really going on in this chapter?’ and so forth.

“I asked him about it. ‘Are you trying to confuse the reader?’ He said, ‘No, I always leave enough clues and you have to find them.’ He said, ‘Remember: I worked on this for five or six years, so I had a lot of time to put in everything I wanted and to get it the way I wanted it to be.’ He rewrote it five times before it was done.

“Now the reader doesn’t usually take that much time. It’s true of Wolfe’s books—as one reviewer put it: ‘If you buy a novel by Gene Wolfe, you really get about four novels because you can read it over and over and get all kinds of new things out of it each time, so it’s a good investment.’

“But I was struck by the fact that he said: ‘I had five years to work on this and to get things exactly the way I wanted it and to rework this and to get the story exactly the way I wanted it, to make some things clear, to obscure some things, and to put challenges before the reader.’

“And I thought, ‘Well, God had eternity to put things in the Bible and there are plenty of things in the Bible that are clear to us and then there are things that are puzzles.’ The Book of Proverbs says, ‘The glory of God is to conceal a matter and the glory of kings is to search it out.’

Jordan goes on to mention that when Moses, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, preaches the sermon we call Deuteronomy, he has been meditating on Genesis and Exodus and Leviticus for thirty-eight years. If we haven’t done that, we can’t really expect Deuteronomy to be crystal clear to us on a first reading:

“Moses has done that for 38 years. You and I haven’t. Now he puts Deuteronomy down, and what is Deuteronomy? It’s the fruit of 38 years of reflection on all the details in Exodus and Leviticus.

“To understand Deuteronomy really well, we would need to understand everything in Exodus and Leviticus and then we’d have to think about how they go together in a real life context for a long time. Then you’d be in a position to understand what was in Moses’ mind when he wrote Deuteronomy.

“That’s not to say that we can’t get anything out of Deuteronomy. But it is to say that there’s some complicated things in here that a lot of people haven’t gotten and that we’re not going to get today either.

“But it illustrates just how rich this book is, because Deuteronomy is the culmination of the first five books of the Bible. Everything is rolled together in Deuteronomy as a result of Moses’ reflections, under divine inspiration. So we shouldn’t expect it to be completely transparent.”

Source: John Barach

Written by Scott Moonen

April 14, 2019 at 4:51 pm

Eucharist

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We consecrate the things we receive by prayer, the word of God, by thanksgiving. Everything we touch becomes holy if we receive it with gratitude, with the word of God, and prayer: our food becomes holy food for holy people if we give thanks; our friends and family are holy to us; our talents are holy to us; . . . the material goods we receive are holy as we receive them with thanksgiving.

As we are giving thanks for everything in all circumstances we are consecrating the world, which means we are laying God’s claim on everything. When something is holy, it doesn’t belong to us; if I receive food and I give thanks to God for it, that means this is now God’s food, and I better use it the way God wants me to. That means, among other things, that I better share it, because that’s part of what God wants me to do with my food: it’s not just mine anymore; I’ve consecrated it to God.

Everything you give thanks for—every person, every circumstance you give thanks for, every material good you give thanks for—you are laying God’s claim on that thing, you are extending God’s rule over the world by acts of thanksgiving. . . .

Receiving something with thanksgiving also means to ask how can this thing, this person, this circumstance, how can this thing which I’ve consecrated to God by thanksgiving, how can that become, as it were, food that I can share with others? And this, I think, helps us to see how . . . we can respond with gratitude [for] even the bad things that happen in our lives: . . . you’re looking for ways to break out those circumstances as bread, to make them nourishing for other people. . . . How can you turn that into eucharist, a shared meal? . . .

We can also give thanks in bad circumstances, because thanksgiving is proleptic; we give thanks before the deliverance comes. David does this constantly: he’s surrounded by enemies, but then he gives God thanks even though he’s not yet rescued. We celebrate the Lord’s supper in the midst of our enemies; the Lord sets his table in the midst of our enemies. He sets us a table of thanksgiving when he hasn’t yet fulfilled all his promises, and yet we’re giving thanks to him for fulfilling all his promises.

How can we do that? Because his promises are so certain to be fulfilled, because we are so confident that they will be fulfilled, that our deliverance will come whatever form it might take, that we give thanks for it now, before it happens.

Peter Leithart, Continuous Gratitude

Written by Scott Moonen

April 14, 2019 at 4:44 pm

Debt

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The church is a debt-free zone; . . . it’s a zone where every single member has received gifts by the Spirit, gifts that are to be used to benefit the entire body. That’s part of thanks: proper gratitude for the reception of the gift is to use the gift to benefit others. . . . Part of what it means biblically to show gratitude is to use the gifts to benefit and to support and to nourish others.

Everybody in the church is party to this; everyone in the church is gifted, and everyone in the church benefits from all the gifts of everyone. . . There’s no fixed hierarchy in the church; it’s a debt-free zone; it’s a community of mutual giving and receiving, of mutual construction that is all underwritten by the gifts that come from the Father: because the Father is a party to every single gift exchange that exists in the church. . . .

That’s the kind of community where people are free to give, free to receive without being enslaved, free to give even to those who are not very grateful; . . . ; freed up by the gospel, by the knowledge that the Father is the true and absolute patron, that he’s a party to every transaction. That knowledge frees people to give and receive gladly and cheerfully.

Peter Leithart, Jesus the Ingrate

Written by Scott Moonen

April 4, 2019 at 3:08 pm

Inescapable

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Everyone tithes. You tithe to something, just like everybody worships. There are no atheists: everybody worships something; everybody has a god.

In the same way, tithing is an inescapable concept, since the first fruits . . . is either going to go to God or it’s going to go to somebody else. You can give it to yourself, or your creditor, or your vacation savings account, or your recreation. but you’re going to give it to somebody. . . .

The one who gets the fruit of our labor is the one we call god. We give the tithe to the person who we believe has blessed us. And that belongs to no other than our Creator.

Duane Garner, Performing Our Vows

Written by Scott Moonen

March 25, 2019 at 5:11 pm

Life-giving bonds

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The covenant is the happiest place on earth.

Duane Garner, Performing Our Vows

Written by Scott Moonen

March 25, 2019 at 5:03 pm

Resurrection

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Love is a refreshment and almost a kind of resurrection.

—Peter Leithart, commenting on imagery in the Song of Songs, including patterns of seven that hint at new creation, and kisses that evoke, among other things, the breath of life.

Written by Scott Moonen

February 22, 2019 at 9:29 am

Baptism

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. . . of a different kind. Some friends and I have been discussing baptism in or with the Spirit: Pentecostalism vs. charismatic vs. third wave. My view is essentially third wave, as follows.

It’s an interesting academic and biblical theological question to ask what is meant by baptism in the Spirit. But the more crucial question is how we think of our relationship to the Spirit, and how we pray. Should I pray for (1) something that I don’t have; or (2) much, much more of what I do have? Depending on which prayer is “right”, the “wrong” prayer involves some kind of important confusion about either the Spirit’s absence or presence in our lives.

The doctrine of regeneration is an important part of this. It’s interesting to me how the meaning of the term has shifted from the time of the reformation to the present day. For some background and reflections, refer to the following posts:

We can say, then, that regeneration is the continual life-giving procession of the Spirit from Father and Son to us; this is part of our union with Jesus and of his promise to be with us always. From an individual perspective, baptism in the Spirit is therefore the one beginning of or entry into that stream (what we now call regeneration), and filling with the Spirit is an opening of the flood gates. The Spirit is not divided; there is no second stream of the Spirit other than this continual regeneration, no power and joy vs. sanctification (as Martyn Lloyd–Jones would have it). There may be varying sources of the stream, however: direct, through the word, through one another. So our prayer is: more, more!

The reason our experience is different from that of first–century believers is that we don’t set foot in the old covenants first. Contrary to Martyn Lloyd–Jones, there is much in Acts that is unique to the first century, including people’s receiving water baptism who had been saved for many years; going to the Jew first and then to the Gentile; and Nazirite vows.

There is also a corporate meaning of the baptism with the Spirit; the first–century formation of the church out of the ashes of Israel (a la Ezekiel’s bones; a corporate resurrection). This corporate sense points to why we no longer experience or expect tongues of flame today—that was the Spirit’s first setting fire to the altar when the new temple–body is first filled with God’s presence, as happens with every new covenant. As with all altar fires, the Spirit’s fire is now continually present in the temple of God’s church and people.

Written by Scott Moonen

February 3, 2019 at 4:33 pm