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Archive for the ‘Biblical Theology’ Category

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

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-20)

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

A couple of choice quotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Scott Moonen

May 15, 2021 at 10:05 pm

Interpretive maximalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Scott Moonen

May 11, 2021 at 7:02 pm

Posted in Biblical Theology

Covenant sentence

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

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

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

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

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

Our sentence diagram now looks like this:

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

Written by Scott Moonen

May 10, 2021 at 4:51 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-19)

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

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

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

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

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

Kings multiply kingship:

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

So do deacons multiply deaconship:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I worked at Kmart:

Written by Scott Moonen

May 7, 2021 at 9:41 pm