I gotta have my orange juice.

Jesu, Juva

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As this pandemic and pandemonium forces our churches to close, and we gather in homes instead, I agree with Ben Zornes that we should not be taking the Lord’s Supper from house to house. I have written on this previously, and also stressed that the command to discern Jesus’s body applies directly to our receiving one another in corporate worship.

This does not mean that Jesus is not with us when we gather! Where two or three gather, he is with us (Matthew 18:20) by his Spirit. But it does mean that there is a kind of famine of God’s special presence and feast, as I have written in support of weekly communion.

The church doesn’t need to be disobeying civil orders right now. And livestreaming music and teaching is a blessing; so is gathering in smaller groups as we are able. It’s just that these things do not constitute covenant renewal, the “sacrifice of praise” before the throne as the ekklesia–assembly–body–bride. It is not true that our individual intercession is cut off. But it is true that the church’s heightened corporate and covenantal intercession, our role as Esther herself, has been cut off.

How should we understand this partial famine? For one, with the church’s intercession cut off, with an end to offering up a memorial of Jesus’s death (1 Cor 11), there is no more covenantal covering for God’s long-stored wrath toward the evils of our cavalier modern world such as abortion. This covering has allowed a merciful window for repentance, but now we should not be surprised to see God’s avalanche gather momentum, exactly and precisely because he hears and does not forget both corporate and individual prayers and cries.

But we also need to consider that judgment begins with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17), just as it did most dramatically in the first century. This event is not an attack by the world against the church; it is something God has brought about, and he is certainly disciplining us, removing unfaithful lampstands.

With that in mind, the letters to the churches in Revelation are especially timely for the church to consider. With allowances for over-simplification:

  • Is our love for the world eclipsing our love for Jesus? (Ephesus) Are we dallying with the world? (Pergamum) Are we tolerating those who dally with the world? (Thyatira) It does seem that our love for the world and its ways is about to be sifted. Have we been faithful to tithe?
  • Be faithful and do not fear (Smyrna)
  • Hold fast; trust and obey (Philadelphia)
  • Correct your works: repent and be fruitful (Sardis, Laodicea)

One aspect of treasuring Jesus over the world is to cultivate a better sense of just what it is we have lost in this time. Woe to me that I stay home! (Psalm 120:5) Be glad to go to Jesus’s house! (Psalm 122:1) May all who hate the church be put to shame! (Psalm 129:5) How good and pleasant is our unity! (Psalm 133:1) We are a thousand times more blessed to dwell in God’s house than anywhere else! (Psalm 84)

Finally, with respect to the evil of abortion, have we been complicit in telling lies to the world about the true value of children by failing to discern our little ones to be among the body of Christ? “That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” (1 Cor 11:30) It is amazing to me that God has orchestrated this so that little ones are not dying!

O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore. (Psalm 131 ESV)

Written by Scott Moonen

March 23, 2020 at 6:32 pm


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Truths turn into dogmas the instant that they are disputed. Thus every man who utters a doubt defines a religion. And the scepticism of our time does not really destroy the beliefs, rather it creates them; gives them their limits and their plain and defiant shape. We who are Liberals once held Liberalism lightly as a truism. Now it has been disputed, and we hold it fiercely as a faith. We who believe in patriotism once thought patriotism to be reasonable, and thought little more about it. Now we know it to be unreasonable, and know it to be right. We who are Christians never knew the great philosophic common sense which inheres in that mystery until the anti–Christian writers pointed it out to us. The great march of mental destruction will go on. Everything will be denied. Everything will become a creed. It is a reasonable position to deny the stones in the street; it will be a religious dogma to assert them. It is a rational thesis that we are all in a dream; it will be a mystical sanity to say that we are all awake. Fires will be kindled to testify that two and two make four. Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in summer. We shall be left defending, not only the incredible virtues and sanities of human life, but something more incredible still, this huge impossible universe which stares us in the face. We shall fight for visible prodigies as if they were invisible. We shall look on the impossible grass and the skies with a strange courage. We shall be of those who have seen and yet have believed.

Chesterton, Heretics

Written by Scott Moonen

September 2, 2019 at 5:03 pm


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Speaking of how the effects of the gospel can dissipate, René Girard writes:

All our resistance is turned against the light that threatens us. It has revealed so many things for so long a time without revealing itself that we are convinced it comes from within us. We are wrong to appropriate it. We think we are the light because we witness it. (Girard, The Scapegoat, 205)

Written by Scott Moonen

May 27, 2017 at 2:56 pm


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What follows are some random thoughts relative to the legalization of homosexual marriage in the United States.

As I wrote a year and a half ago, Jesus’s own thoughts on matters like sex, shrimp and sacrifice are a matter of public record. Jesus’s church rightfully shares his judgment on all sexual sin. More than that, the church is called to disciple the nations, “teaching them to observe all that [Jesus] commanded” (Matthew 28:19-20). The church calls upon all rulers to obey God and “punish those who do evil and . . . praise those who do good” (1 Peter 2:14) — not the reverse. A necessary part of this is to rightfully judge evil and good, so that we do not “call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20).

Adam Ford makes helpful clarifications about the non-hateful Christian response, along with some wise insight into how much love is really being conveyed by all these rainbows everywhere. It is partly because a Christian fervently hopes to share a table at the heavenly feast with his opponents that he strenuously opposes their position. It is because a Christian has already wholly set aside her will to autonomous self-determination that she believes there is any possibility of inviting others to join herself in doing so.

In all this, the West is moving towards a Girardian dénouement. All individuals and societies must be justified. They will either be justified by God or must justify themselves. Self-justification takes place only by scapegoating others. It is clear that the new normal is not a classically liberal mutual understanding but is seeking to justify itself by scapegoating those who are opposed to it. There is no category for opposition other than “hatred,” and the cure for such hatred begins with steep fines. To their credit, some activists recognize this dangerous path; Camille Paglia has long been just such a breath of fresh air.

In some ways this is just one of many other ways in which Jesus’s church has been and will be scapegoated. But we all know that scapegoating does not end with steep fines; it must progress to the “death” of the scapegoat in order to feel wholly self-justified; otherwise the scapegoat is a constant bit of sand in the teeth reminding society that it is not justified. And this is also why the scapegoating can become such a pile-on—everyone desires to be justified. Scapegoating is a powerful agent of unification, surpassed only by Jesus the great scapegoat himself. All this is why everything must come to a crisis. Because of the power of unity and justification, the crisis must be almost as drunkenly, giddily grotesque as Lewis’s That Hideous Strength.

The crisis can be resolved either by the “death” of the scapegoat (e.g., as with the church under communism in the past century) or the “death” of the society (in repentance, as with Jonah’s Nineveh). Even in the death of the church there is great hope for the church because that is always the seedbed of future growth of Jesus’s kingdom. Scapegoating does not produce either enduring unity or enduring justification, and society will continue its search until it finds permanent justification in Jesus. So whatever may come, the church can continue to confidently call people to repentance, and confidently endure any kind of suffering knowing that Jesus will cause it to bear fruit.

It is important, however, that the church does not justify the scapegoating. We must be like Job before his scapegoating “friends.” We are confident we are justified; and in this matter we are in the right and we are not actually filled with hatred, full stop. It must be clear that the scapegoating is unjustifiable. It can even be made clear where and how the scapegoaters and their scapegoating are ridiculous. Scapegoating is shameful in itself and it always exists to cover up more shame—shame that has a proper covering only in repentance and the death of king Jesus.

Lastly, here are some bracing thoughts from Toby Sumpter. In the meantime, carry on singing the Psalms!

Written by Scott Moonen

July 3, 2015 at 3:44 pm

True spirituality

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We have a tendency to regard the truly spiritual as that which is most contemplative and peaceful. Consequently, we bemoan the many mundane and frustrating distractions that tear us away from spiritual things.

It is true that we will enjoy mountaintop experiences where we meet with Jesus and are refreshed by him. In fact, we are privileged to meet with him in this way every Lord’s day. However, consider this description of what it means to be spiritual:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. — Galatians 5:22-26

There is no better time to practice this than when we feel distracted, frustrated, unspiritual. It is little work to be patient when we are surrounded by peace and quiet, but it is great work to cultivate patience when we are beset by storms. In a sense, the time that we feel the least spiritual is our greatest opportunity to be spiritual — not by escape, nor by stoicism, but by walking in faith and in the fruit of the Spirit. Not that this is easy: it requires constant death to ourselves, regular repentance and renewal of our faith.

The Spirit is not opposed to the physical and the natural; the Spirit is opposed to the flesh, that which is of sin and death. As we walk in repentance and faith, the Spirit brings resurrection life to the physical and the natural, to the very messy moments of our daily life.

See also:

Written by Scott Moonen

March 16, 2013 at 9:20 am

Posted in Commentary


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Creationists insist that the amazing world of the Bear Hunt sprung up ex nihilo for the purpose of telling a beautiful story.

But we know better. By Scientific observation and inductive reasoning we can prove the existence of enormous negative page numbers. We know that inductive reasoning functions as incontestable proof, because we are the keepers and guardians of the sacred truth that all worlds are impersonal machines and not stories. Worlds have no plots, and are filled only with particles, not characters. Creationists are stupid. So are all authors, artists, composers and poets — they are all conspiring in a tremendous lie about worlds and Science (all rise!).

Written by Scott Moonen

August 28, 2012 at 8:55 am

The economic argument for the existence of God

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I’ve just finished the book Freakonomics, and it was very interesting and thought-provoking. Seeing how an economist approached life’s situations and problems made me wonder if we could construct an economic argument (speaking in broad terms of cost and incentive rather than merely money) against atheism and for God’s existence. By its nature such an argument wouldn’t be conclusive, but then most arguments for God’s existence function that way — encouraging the faithful but not sealing the deal for non-believers. Here’s how I think we could develop such an argument:

  1. Let’s assume for a moment that there is no God. Does this fit the data that we see? Disregarding the conventional wisdom that religion is an “opiate,” I think we can actually argue that if there is no God, religion is economically unsustainable. If there is no God and man has evolved, then belief in God and the practice of religion consist entirely of costs and no incentives (since there is no God responding to your prayers, nor providing any future hope or joy or reward). This creates a powerful incentive not to believe in God — it is a perfect waste of time and energy. From an economic standpoint we would hardly expect religion to have developed in the first place, and from both an economic and evolutionary standpoint we would hardly expect religion to persist. As supporting evidence, monkeys in zoos don’t form cargo cults; instead, it seems quite obvious that if they worship anything, it is simply themselves. But if monkeys are so sensible about how much of an economic and evolutionary waste religion is, why do so many humans practice religion? Our hypothesis (there is no God) simply does not fit the data.

  2. Let’s assume for a moment that there is a God and that man is uniquely created to fellowship with and worship God. The atheist is quick to point out that this hypothesis does not fit the data either; where are all the indications of God’s fellowshipping with man? Why does God allow such confusion among men as to who God is and how to fellowship with him? Putting aside for a moment the fact that we see God’s fingerprints everywhere, let’s agree with the atheist that if our hypothesis were true we would very much expect to fellowship with God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.

  3. But now let’s assume that there is a God, that man is uniquely created to fellowship with and worship him, but that there is some estrangement between man and God. This, then, seems to explain the data! The fingerprints of God can be identified in his careful and thoughtful design of the world. Our being created for the unique purpose of fellowship can be seen in the fact that humans alone are able to reason and communicate. There is now a great economic incentive to believe in God, since there is great joy and blessing to be had as his children; and in fact, it is precisely where Christianity has most flourished that civilization and freedoms have most thrived. Yet this estrangement also creates a great economic incentive to disbelieve in God, or to fabricate one’s own gods and religion, which explains the great confusion man has about God. This estrangement suggests that God might allow himself to be hidden from our sight to a certain degree, but also that he might be working to reconcile us to him — so there is even a suggestion of the gospel!

There are, of course, ways that this argument needs to be further developed. More work needs to be done to demonstrate that religion truly has no economic incentive if God does not exist. And we have assumed one type of God here (a personal and good and gracious God who pursues fellowship with man), but the atheist will be quick to point out that this is a fallacy of limited choice; perhaps there is another type of God who delights in causing chaos — does this explanation fit the data? To the Christian it is certain that it would not, but for apologetic purposes this argument must be developed.

And of course, we should not see God as a mere hypothesis. Stay tuned for Friday’s quote.

Written by Scott Moonen

June 13, 2007 at 5:02 am

Posted in Commentary