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Archive for the ‘Biblical Theology’ Category

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-29)

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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

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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)

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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

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-27)

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I reflected last week on suffering as a special mission. Gene Wolfe’s great short story “Westwind” is a wonderful picture of this. In fact, in Wolfe’s story, you could say that some kind of suffering or deformity is the special mark of all of God’s secret agents. It is their admission ticket to all the places.

I’m still lagging behind on podcasts. My employer promises that we will be back in the office on September 7 but hasn’t announced protocols. I’m not inspired to any kind of optimism by the ridiculous protocols that are in force right now. But although I remain behind in other podcasts, I am caught up on the Theology Pugcast. Recent episodes prompted me to think:

  • There is a natural analogy between the mimesis:poeisis spectrum and grammar:dialectic:rhetoric, and also priest:king:prophet.
  • Late modernism professes the old and outworn idea that Christianity is an old and outworn idea. Because of the activity of the Holy Spirit, we know that Christianity is neither exclusively old, nor outworn, nor merely an idea.

Doug Wilson confirms my hunch that he is not opposed to blasphemy law, only its hasty introduction.

God’s rating system is a twelve-star system:

Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.” (Genesis 37:9, NKJV)

Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. (Revelation 12:1, NKJV)

Speaking of twelve, it appears twice in Mark 5:

Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years . . . Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age. (NKJV)

As Mark Horne suggests, there is clearly meant to be a link between these women. Twelve years must also be significant, though I’m not sure how, other than to say that there is a deadness in Israel, in the old twelve.

In Mark 12, the Sadducees try to entrap Jesus:

Then some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him; and they asked Him, saying: “Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man’s brother dies, and leaves his wife behind, and leaves no children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife; and dying, he left no offspring. And the second took her, and he died; nor did he leave any offspring. And the third likewise. So the seven had her and left no offspring. Last of all the woman died also. Therefore, in the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be? For all seven had her as wife.” (Mark 12:18–23, NKJV)

It never occurred to me until now to read this in a corporate–covenantal register. Since pastor–shepherds are levirs, we could read this as a subtle jockeying for heavenly status as the disciples themselves did in chapter 10. Jesus’s response then is consistent with what we see elsewhere in scripture (e.g., 1 Corinthians 6, Ephesians 1, Revelation) in that man is elevated to a position in God’s heavenly court.

Jesus answered and said to them, “Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. But concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ ? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. You are therefore greatly mistaken.” (Mark 12:24–27, NKJV)

Written by Scott Moonen

July 3, 2021 at 3:14 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-26)

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Mark Horne reflects on how Job’s suffering and vindication is applicable for us, concluding that:

Staying loyal while suffering is subduing the earth and taking dominion over it. Job had faithfully maintained his own integrity [so] God could entrust him with more.

Mark’s reflections on suffering have led me to frame the idea that suffering is a kind of “special mission” for sons who are otherwise free (Matthew 17:26, Ezra 7:24). Certain kinds of suffering are even honored with a special office in the kingdom (James 5:14).

René Girard likes to talk about how Jesus changed the scapegoating process forever. But Mark’s reflections on Job make me think that there are lesser ways that all other scapegoating—and suffering—transforms human suffering forever, because it opens our eyes to God’s ways and fuels our faith. (Contra the way Girard sometimes speaks, Jesus was not the first scapegoat to deny his guilt, though he is still the perfect scapegoat.)

Jesus suffered in a particular way so that we would never have to suffer in that way, if we receive the gift of his suffering. But so did Jacob. And so did Job. And so did David, and Paul, and a glorious company of such witnesses who are all our brothers in arms. Likewise any suffering we experience is a gift to our brothers and sisters and neighbors and children, so that they will not suffer in that particular way either, if they receive the gift of our suffering.

Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy likewise speaks of the hoary head and how God intends for it to be identified by a surplus of attachment. With wisdom and experience and suffering come the ability to give, to love, to protect, to attach to others with no expectation of giving or love or attachment in return. We have of course all seen examples of the hoary head that has grown bitter by life’s suffering and is unable to give and love freely and generously. But God intends for us to transform our life and suffering into the ability to give and love so freely as he himself has done for us. I think of Shasta’s experience and how this is meant not just to carry us to old age, but to characterize our old age:

Shasta’s heart fainted at these words for he felt he had no strength left. And he writhed inside at what seemed the cruelty and unfairness of the demand. He had not yet learned that if you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one. (C. S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy)

Re-baptizers are the real ones who treat baptism as sacerdotal magic. Think of it: what other human rituals require a sprinkling of the magical fairy dust of deepest earnest self-reflection and sincerity to activate them? Re-baptizers clearly think that baptism “works,” and are dead set on getting the magic right.

Of course, it is important to be obedient in the matter of covenant signs.

And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.” (Genesis 17:14, NKJV)

A year of weekly bricolage in the hopper!

Written by Scott Moonen

June 25, 2021 at 7:37 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-25)

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I’ve long held this passage—along with many other passages in the gospels—was part of God’s covenant lawsuit against Israel leading up to AD 70:

“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.” (Matthew 12:43–45, NKJV)

But I had no idea how deeply true that was. Until recently I had never read any Josephus, but David Chilton reprints sections from Josephus in his book Paradise Regained. It is astonishing how demonic and self-immolating the death throes of the old covenant were.

Jesus answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?” . . . Then his disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that The Gospel Coalition was offended when they heard this saying?” . . . So Jesus said, . . . “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to associate with rubes does not defile a man.” (Matthew 15:12, adapted)

I wrote that if you are dollar cost averaging, it is kind of exciting when the price of a good investment drops: this is an opportunity to buy low.

This can be a helpful way (i.e., not in any way minimizing grieving, etc.) to process setbacks in other areas of life. Sometimes a setback doesn’t increase your purchasing power, and sometimes it does (practiced muscles bounce back faster; our prayers are more potent when we are brought low; and there are special and real blessings for those who are mourning, suffering, or sick), but in all cases the intrinsic value of what we are working towards remains unchanged, whether it be personal fitness, the fruit of the Spirit, our family, or Jesus’s church. And in many cases we even have a promise that our labor is not in vain, or that there is a guaranteed return—the victory of the church and her discipleship of the nations is assured.

So, buy low!

But buy high as well; these investments require active maintenance, so that while we cannot allow ourselves to be tempted by discouragement, neither can we allow ourselves to be tempted to rest on our laurels.

I recently read Lusk’s excellent essay on nature and regeneration. I appreciate his care to understand the meaning of nature, and his emphasis, together with Jordan and Leithart, on the central importance of relationships and especially God’s continual work for, to, and in us in our salvation. I’ve written briefly on this: In the regeneration, Regeneration redux, In the regeneration (2).

Today the nationalists in many countries are preparing a revolution, the right kind of revolution, against the Hydra of Marxism. Nobody seems afraid of starting a revolution. It is always astonishing to find bankers, scholars, parsons, enthusiastically awaiting a new revolution without divining the satanic character of all revolutions, whether it come from the left or from the right. . . . Conservatives now insist on being as revolutionary as anybody and defy those who might call their undertaking reactionary. The principle of revolution no longer distinguishes the radical half of mankind alone. It animates the ranks of conservatism as well. Law, Legitimacy, Loyalty, have lost their flavour. Employers, lawyers, gentlemen, generals, admirals, begin to think in terms of revolution. (Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Out of Revolution, 16)

Aslan has removed the gift of speech from the Woke; and so they bray and roar and hoot all the louder. (John C Wright)

I appreciated Eric Conn’s interview of Rory Groves, author of Durable Trades. Asher’s reading the book right now and I’m excited to read it when he is done.

Written by Scott Moonen

June 19, 2021 at 3:45 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-24)

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Everett Fox translates the word for altar as slaughter-site:

If an offering-up is his near-offering, from the herd,
(then) male, wholly-sound, let him bring-it-near,
to the entrance of the Tent of Appointment let him bring-it-near,
as acceptance for him, before the presence of YHVH.
He is to lean his hand on the head of the offering-up,
that there may be acceptance on his behalf, to effect-ransom for him.
He is to slay the herd-animal (for sacrifice) before the presence of YHVH,
and the Sons of Aharon, the priests, are to bring-near the blood
and are to dash the blood against the slaughter-site, all around,
that is at the entrance of the Tent of Appointment. (Leviticus 1:3-5, Everett Fox)

But this forces him to choose something else for incense altar; he translates altar there simply as site:

Then the priest is to put some of the blood on the horns of the site of fragrant smoking-incense, before the presence of YHVH,
that is in the Tent of Appointment;
as for all the (rest of the) blood of the bull, he is to pour it out at the foundation of the slaughter-site of offering-up
that is (at) the entrance of the Tent of Appointment. (Leviticus 4:7, Everett Fox)

By contrast, Jordan uses communion-site for altar:

If his Nearbringing is an Ascension from the herd,
a perfect male shall he bring him near.
To the forecourt of the Tent of Meeting he shall bring him near,
for his acceptance before Yahweh.
And he shall lean his hand on the head of the Ascension,
and he will be accepted for him to cover him.
And he shall slaughter the son of the herd before Yahweh.
And Aaron’s sons the palace-servants shall bring near the blood.
And they shall dash the blood on the Communion Site round about that is at the forecourt of the Tent of Meeting.
(Leviticus 1:3-5, James Jordan)

(Alter, however, uses altar.)

I am not qualified to judge between these options, but Jordan’s appeals to me greatly, and the fact that it allows for the more straightforward “communion-site of incense” is a nice result. Incense, of course, is the communion of prayer (Revelation 5, 8).

The Byzantine texts use Christ rather than the Alexandrian Him in Philippians 4:

But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:10-13, NKJV)

Both the preceding context and the use of Christ lead me to read this in a totus Christus fashion. Very much of the way that Jesus strengthens us to do all things is through the work of his Spirit in his church toward us.

Wilson’s recent reflections on our mass panic are good. We are right now in the eye of the storm, and widespread repentance for church closures and for binding of consciences is still necessary to prepare for future battles and victory.

Whatever the long-term effects of the so-called vaccines, I think this will be both an opportunity for the church to care for those who are injured, as well as another way in which the need to repent for failures to shepherd will become crystal clear. I wonder whether the next stage of the storm will be an external one that affects all churches, or if it will be an internal one that shakes only those churches and denominations that have let down their guard.

I’m not entirely in agreement with Wilson’s account of free speech and blasphemy. Here are some observations and qualifications, perhaps many of which Wilson would agree with:

  1. The prohibition on fraternization with Canaanites did not extend to Gentiles in general, who were welcome to offer sacrifices (Numbers 15) and participate in the feast of booths (Deuteronomy 16). Israel’s excessive fastidiousness here is one of their great failures of mission and was in fact demonic.
  2. Christians’ company with idolaters is a separate category from Christians’ company with idolatry (i.e., the table of demons) and also from the magistrate’s dealing with public idolatry.
  3. The power of the gospel does not negate lesser tactics against evil including the second use of the law.
  4. I have great difficulty with Wilson’s main argument. If I substitute murder for blasphemy the argument seems to me the same, perhaps even more urgent on Wilson’s principles. Does wisdom require us to conduct a moratorium of a few centuries on capital punishment? On the one hand, I would be glad to start vaccinating and exiling capital offenders to Canada and Australia if I could have the lives of millions of babies in exchange. On the other hand, God has seen fit to entrust this responsibility to men since the time of Noah. The righteous magistrate ought not to flinch or be wiser than God in punishing evil and rewarding good.
  5. In fact there is a symmetry between the first and the sixth commandments, part of a well-known symmetry between the first and second sets of five commandments (e.g., see Jordan’s Covenant Sequence in Leviticus and Deuteronomy).
  6. In a nation that constitutionally confesses the supreme lordship of Jesus, how is public blasphemy not the highest form of treason or sedition?
  7. When we are given the opportunity, certainly we would start small. God will give us the words to speak at that time, but it seems reasonable to me that only clear and public blasphemy would be forbidden; normal standards of evidence would apply; repentance would be required only for the blasphemy having been public; repentance would be accepted at face value; contumacy would be the final offense rather than blasphemy; and exile would be a reasonable option at first. How is this not better than saying we must take it slow and wait a little longer for the leaven to work?
  8. Of course, wisdom right now involves living rightly in a time when we have not been brought before kings and rulers. In fact, as I think about Daniel’s own time of preparation, this underscores the need to thoroughly reject the ways of the world, and highlights the church’s great present failure to do so.

Perhaps the best summary is to compare this to Wilson’s approach to abortion. It is true that we are all incrementalists. But when it comes to both abortion (sixth commandment) and blasphemy (first commandment), let us also be smashmouth about it.

Tim Nichols writes on 1 John:

Church is a hospital. We take in the sick, the wounded, the broken. It’s just unseemly to complain that someone’s bleeding on the Emergency Room floor again—that’s what it’s for! That’s what we are for: to hear the truth of our sins and failures, and assure one another of God’s cleansing mercy. So go forth into the body, and tell the truth. Trust Jesus: He will take care of the sin. 

I wrote briefly on CEOs and acting. I did not mean, of course, to imply that CEOs must not be actors; we are always already actors. Rather, leaders must be acting out of a well-defined center of principle and integrity.

Written by Scott Moonen

June 13, 2021 at 6:52 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-23)

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God’s people bring-near near-bringings as we approach him. But God also brings-near something to his house:

Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
the holiness of your temple! (Psalm 65:4, ESV)

I have beheld frAgile release planning, and it looks something like this when you don’t have a well-ordered backlog:

I wrote a couple of blog posts on bringing your team back to the office. Of course Nassim Taleb and Edwin Friedman come up. This is is a startling insight from Taleb:

Written by Scott Moonen

June 4, 2021 at 9:58 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-22)

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A year ago we were ignoring the fussy Dolores Umbridges of the world and obeying high king Jesus’s call to assemble for the life of the world. There is no spiritual warfare more important than this. I’m so grateful for this time together, and I think we will look back on it as a real gift from God that we could practice faithful Christian living in what Aaron Renn calls the “negative world.” And be sure to keep up your prayers for pastors and churches elsewhere who are not experiencing such a gentle ride.

Q: Where has God commanded the blessing?
A: The mountains of Zion (Psalm 133:3).
Q: Where is that?
A: In the assembling of his church (Hebrews 12:18-24).

The baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 is fascinating. It occurs without great fanfare compared to that of Cornelius, which comes in a later chapter. So: perhaps the eunuch was a Jew, or had become a proselyte and not merely a God-fearer by virtue of, er, circumcision. (Or perhaps the passage is simply dischronologized; James Jordan notes that, in terms of the Joshua-Acts parallels, this passage links with Joshua’s conquest of the southern lands in Joshua 10.) I wonder if this is the very first baptism of someone who would have had some kind of excluded status in the old world, who is nevertheless welcomed into the new priesthood without any change in their outward condition.

You’ve probably watched this, but if not, you should at least grab the first few minutes. Here is the article by Mallory Millett that Sumpter cites. Although these things have really gone to seed, they are not new:

My friend Randy shared a fascinating story of cream and tea. Generally I try to put my cream in first as this saves me from stirring my coffee. But the idea that it enhances the flavor of the cream is interesting to me. However, I don’t think I can tell the difference!

Written by Scott Moonen

May 29, 2021 at 4:31 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-21)

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Ralph Allen Smith writes that “Steven Weinberg destroyed my faith,” citing Thomas Kuhn as well. (Kuhn is one of my great thrift store finds, right up there with Bastiat.) Kuhn is a kind of secular Van Til, demonstrating that science is always tied up with presuppositional commitments, and that scientific progress occurs by gestalt shifts as much as it does by steady development. A gestalt shift is always a kind of storm: at once exciting, but also frightening and costly—and inevitable. Anyone who has converted to paedobaptism or especially to paedocommunion knows this.

Smith is right that Weinberg’s materialistic vision is a nightmare. Our whole experience confirms that we live in a story.

The preterist recognizes that once–fulfilled scripture is not useless to us; rather, it gives us powerful assurance of God’s faithfulness to his promises, and insight into his ways with his people and in his world. It will be many times fulfilled. For example, Revelation shows us how “things fall apart” when the gospel shines into any new situation. If we consider that one of the primary purposes of “tongues” was to serve as a judicial withdrawal (Isa. 28:11, 1 Cor. 14:21) in the first century, this makes me wonder what the enduring form of that would be.

I’ve long held that Pentecost was the Spirit’s undoing of Babel, not by reversing it, but by subverting and conquering it. While this is true, this judicial aspect of Pentecost means that there was still a kind of judicial confusion God was sending at the same time, to those who refused to walk in step with the Spirit.

What I think this means is that the enduring form of Pentecost is not only the going forth of the word and gospel into every tongue, but also times of confusion especially within God’s church where hardened hearts and old wineskins are not able to hear the Word of God. We are, as Chesterton says, back to first principles: God’s plan for human sexuality, meeting face to face for worship, sitting at table with one another, welcoming our children to that table, and pursuing holiness earnestly.

Meanwhile Big Eva plays footsie with the city world:

‘“And listen, Gandalf, my old friend and helper” he said, coming near and speaking now in a softer voice. “I said we, for we it may be, if you will join with me. A new Power is rising. Against it the old allies and polices will not avail us at all. There is no hope left in Elves or dying Númenor. This then is one choice before you, before us. We may join with that Power. It would be wise, Gandalf. There is hope that way. Its victory is at hand; and there will be rich reward for those that aided it. As the Power grows, its proved friends will also grow; and the Wise, such as you and I, may with patience come at last to direct its courses, to control it. We can bide our time, we can keep our thoughts in our hearts, deploring maybe evils done by the way, but approving the high and ultimate purpose: Knowledge, Rule, Order; all the things that we have so far striven in vain to accomplish, hindered rather than helped by our weak or idle friends. There need not be, there would not be, any real change in our designs, only in our means.” (Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book 2, Chapter 2, “The Council of Elrond,” 272-273)

And all of the great prophets of this past year were cessationists, yet were filled with the Spirit.

The most shameless of biblical criticism’s many impudences is the assumption that the apostles and Evangelists made up the prophecies after the fact—it reduces the foundations of the church to a pack of lies.

Any reader who can remain a layman may read my essay “Ehrlos—Heimatlos” (“Honorless—Homeless”) of 1919, in which I foretold a pseudo–emperor and the destruction of the Jews. From 1918–19 I lived a selfless life, and as Ricarda Huch has said, “Deep within, everyone is prophetic.” These gentlemen who have never prophesied because they were never selfless should not dare to lay a finger on the Evangelists—the four would have gone to the cross themselves before inventing a prophecy after the fact. Biblical criticism accuses these heroes of mortal sin. The correct conclusion from the texts at hand is the opposite: the prophecies made an impression because they bore witness to Jesus’s gift of prophecy. That is why they were kept alive and written down. (Eugen Rosenstock–Huessy, The Fruit of Our Lips, 120–121)

Worship is warfare, and it is thrilling to participate in worship where everyone around you enters into the same martial mindset. Martial worship is nonstop; there is not a single moment where you are not fully engaged, where you could double check whether that buzzing phone is an urgent message.

Kudos to Django for its dedication to paying down technical debt!

This is interesting:

Written by Scott Moonen

May 22, 2021 at 9:23 pm