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Jesu, Juva

Archive for the ‘Current events’ Category

Principalities and powers

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C. S. Lewis’s book, That Hideous Strength, describes a cosmic battle between good and evil played out on the stage of a small British college, with a revived Merlin thrown in for good measure. In Lewis’s story, demonic powers have enthralled many men and women through their various vices. These have been organized in a seemingly good and helpful way, but with the ultimate goal of overpowering and destroying all that is good, true, and beautiful, including and especially the church. The book is an extraordinarily prophetic picture of our time, but it is obscure, and thus underappreciated.

You can see this process at work in how corporate America and our media, including social media, have largely responded to the two great crises of 2020. We see messages being proclaimed that are a combination of true things that the church is normally eager to affirm and protect; yet mixed together with great falsehoods, inconsistencies, and unbelief; and then leveraged with powerful social appeal and pressure.

We love to affirm and preserve and cultivate God’s gifts of life and health, but we refuse loudly to accept that Jesus’s worship is a disposable accessory to modern life. Rather, the church and her worship are the very wellspring of the world’s life. We love to affirm and treasure the image of God in all men and their equal standing before God; but we refuse loudly to accept that human rivalries and pride and history are simplistic; in particular, that the rank evil of abortion can be factored out of the equation; or that men and women can experience any enduring healing, unity, peace, or joy apart from Jesus. (As usual, Doug Wilson has outstanding thoughts on this.) Enduring brotherhood requires a sacrifice for sin, and until we look to Jesus as that sacrifice, we are going to keep on sacrificing one another. The current moment is proof of that demonic cycle.

This does not mean that we cannot have a fruitful public discussion about foolishness, sin, crime, and the lines between them. But it does mean that apart from Jesus and his objective word, this discussion will be hopelessly subjective and muddy. Even the best intentions will lead men to grave mistakes without the proper foundation.

If principalities and powers lie behind an unholy alliance in the world, then we know that they have the goal of enslaving humanity and destroying God’s church. Zeitgeistheim is a prison. It has been amazing this year to watch the emails and tweets of corporate America as they line up for their daily serving of gruel. But the church despises the world’s approval, knowing that whoever is not for Jesus is against him. We cannot have common cause with this world, or even common language: in Jesus, even these words like unity, peace, love, righteousness, justice, and equality take on different meanings than the world perversely assigns to them. But we do warmly and urgently invite the world to experience the unity, peace, and joy that can only be found by coming to Jesus. In coming to Jesus, we repent of our sins and receive genuine, enduring justification for them. But we also repent of the thought that we had anything virtuous in ourselves to commend us to God or to one another.

What is the cash value to our people in recognizing that the current battles are not battles with flesh and blood? First, it gives us insight into Satan’s moda operandi: he seeks to sow suspicion and division, stir up our various lusts, and distract us from simple faithful living; he wants to get our “trust” and “obey” out of order. Second, when the force of this is turned against the church, as it will be, it equips us so that we will not be surprised “that the world hates you,” or surprised “at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you.” Rather, we will “count it all joy.” Third, it spares us from the regret we will experience at that time for having entertained the principalities and powers rather than withstanding them. Fourth, it reminds us that their end will be to bite and devour one another, which gives us both a hope of victory but also a warning of the dangers of dallying with the spirit of the age. Fifth, it directs us to the primary way to wage such battles: the spiritual warfare of worship and prayer in the common life of the church. Sixth, it renders us immune to the world’s attempts at guilt manipulation: our justification is secure in Jesus. Finally, it equips and reminds us to minister the one gift that the world needs: true justification in Jesus from all guilt and sin.

Written by Scott Moonen

June 6, 2020 at 7:34 am

Social justification

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Every time a like flies across the screen, a soul from purgatory springs!

Written by Scott Moonen

June 3, 2020 at 8:26 am

Posted in Current events

Plus ça change

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King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. . . And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace” . . .

Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “. . . There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. . . “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3 ESV)

Corporate America is tripping over one another to play the trigon right now and receive their Girardian fake justification. I can hardly believe I am saying this about a different issue in only a week’s time, but the church—the house of love himself—has no need to answer Nebuchadnezzar in this matter as well; let the one who abhors abortion cast the first stone.

Written by Scott Moonen

June 2, 2020 at 9:12 pm

You will recognize them by their fruits

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In my preceding pamphlet I had no occasion to condemn the peasants, because they promised to yield to law and better instruction, as Christ also demands (Matt. 7:1). But before I can turn around, they go out and appeal to force, in spite of their promises, and rob and pillage and act like mad dogs. From this it is quite apparent what they had in their false minds, and that what they put forth under the name of the gospel in the Twelve Articles was all vain pretense. In short, they practice mere devil’s work, and it is the arch-devil himself who reigns at Mühlhausen [a reference to Münzer], indulging in nothing but robbery, murder, and bloodshed; as Christ says of the devil in John 8:44, “he was a murderer from the beginning.” Since, therefore, those peasants and miserable wretches allow themselves to be led astray and act differently from what they declared, I likewise must write differently concerning them; and first bring their sins before their eyes, as God commands (Isa. 58:1; Ezek. 2:7), whether perchance some of them may come to their senses; and, further, I would instruct those in authority how to conduct themselves in this matter.

Luther, Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants

Written by Scott Moonen

June 1, 2020 at 7:02 am

Love in the time of Chinese flu

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Now is a good time for the church to remember our call to unity. But we’ve all seen unity used as a cover to downgrade truth, righteousness, and genuine love. So it is equally a good time to be cautious about how that unity is urged and achieved.

As a practical example, I can show love for my brother Tom by standing six feet away from him and being charitable and gracious towards his reasons for wanting to exercise caution. But is there any situation whatsoever where my brotherly love for Tom restrains me from hugging Joe?

This article by Brett McCracken is typical of some of the poorly framed calls to unity nowadays. Ironically, you could say that Brett is insufficiently nuanced, or perhaps that his indecisive nuance is insufficiently masculine or fatherly.

Brett makes a simple but common category mistake: the man of weak conscience and the anxious man are not necessarily the same. As Friedman stresses, and as any good parent knows, our goal for the anxious is not to keep them from falling into sin, but to provide them enough firmness and exposure to mature. To be clear: I do not mean to imply that everyone taking precautions is anxious, nor do I mean to imply that that the best medicine is always to confront someone’s anxiety head-on.

However, anxiety is sin. And that leads us to another of Brett’s mistakes, which is to leave out almost entirely the category of the prophetic. He does want us to be faithful to the gospel, but there are many other points at which truth, righteousness, and beauty call for taking a loyal stand. Such a stand may appear to some to lack the humility and patience that Brett stresses. Brett himself makes the mistake of opposing confidence and humility; contrast this with Paul who exhorts us to be convinced about disputable matters, and we all remember Chesterton’s cutting insight on the true meaning of humility. And of course Brett himself is confident; we expect no less of someone writing to urge the church how to behave. Prophets know that their message can and must be grounded on a better sort of humility and patience and love. Every good parent knows that firmness is compatible with these things, and even Brett is exercising a kind of mollified firmness toward the prophet; the problem is that he is equating agreeable unity with true unity and thereby pointing his firmness in the wrong direction. It is easy to take a stand on yesterday’s issues, and for peace, but difficult and unpopular to take a stand on today’s issues.

Today’s issues are no small matter because they hinge on a number of points that do call for our loyalty: the priority of God’s call to worship in the heavenly assembly; truth; a biblical approach to quarantine, including a biblical value for livelihood and work; a biblical understanding of spheres of authority and their requirements and limits; and a wise, fatherly, and firm response to the truly infectious sin of anxiety. Surprisingly, these points all in fact involve a love for our neighbor, a placing “the interests of others above the self” as Brett rightly appeals but too narrowly applies. In addition to the more popular truths of humility and patience, the church has the solemn responsibility to proclaim these truths as well. With our childlike faith, we ought always to be in the vanguard of the children who expose the emperor’s lack of clothing.

We will surely be worshipping together in ten years’ time and with even closer bonds of unity in Jesus our king. Holding that anticipation over all is a good way to frame the great patience and love we exercise today even in our firmness. We are loyal to truth, righteousness, beauty, and to one another.

Written by Scott Moonen

May 16, 2020 at 10:24 am

Assembly

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But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22–24 ESV)

The church is not analogous to a movie theater or sporting event. The church is analogous to the general assembly. Where the general assembly can meet to conduct business, the church must also be meeting to conduct business with her king. The life of the world depends upon this.

Written by Scott Moonen

May 3, 2020 at 1:49 pm

Various

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It is interesting to follow some Chinese flu naysayers and to see the diversity of opinions. The numbers naysayers are particularly interesting. On the one hand, how much did China underreport deaths (why the loss of millions of mobile subscribers)? On the other hand, how much are Western countries with empty hospitals scraping and pinching to come up with flulike death numbers, regardless of actual cause of death? Nassim Taleb reminds us that it is wise to be cautious, and together with Wrath of Gnon suggests that we wear masks until we are sure of the scope and long term effects of this. Ross Douthat agrees we should be cautious but also that lockdowns have gone too far. Alex Berenson has been calling attention to overlooked and misrepresented data. Peter Robinson’s Uncommon Knowledge was an early respectable platform to say we’ve likely been going too far. Doug Wilson provides help processing Romans 13; emergency powers sure are an interesting gray area for a constitutional government, aren’t they? Peter Leithart suggests we think of God’s judgement through the rubric of the ten commandments. And Reformed Books Online has a treasure trove of Reformational quotes on plagues and parishes and pastors and magistrates. What a wonderful concern for pastoral care!

The conspiracy theorists are also interesting. I find it impossible to believe in a global conspiracy. I don’t doubt that there are folks with global schemes, hard at work to take advantage of the situation, but I do doubt that their schemes could possibly come together successfully. For one, it is always the case that wicked men end up biting and devouring each other; no conspiracy can be maintained at such scale. But more importantly, God has declared that Satan would “not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended.” (Rev. 20) How then could the nations be collectively under his sway? So, then, any great global deception and anxious frenzy must instead be a direct judicial punishment from God, rather than being an organized work of Satan that is nevertheless being used by God. It really does seem to me that, far from working through a crafty plan, we are careening from one anxious face-saving measure to the next, each time overcorrecting for our last error lest we be forced to repent instead. But as Leithart points out, the fact that we see God’s hand in this is encouraging indeed.

It is a good time to remember Kipling: “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs . . . you’ll be a Man, my son!”

I confess that I cannot say “Christ is risen!” without thinking of My Big Fat Greek Wedding and “Cheese toast anesti!”

Aaron Renn’s Masculinst newsletter is back! Be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already. He is always a stimulating read; often he has a different but helpful perspective on situations than my own first reaction. In his latest issue, he reminds us that “we can only go forward.” I believe we should evaluate this in light of Rosenstock-Huessy’s observation that the next phase after the oikumenical “big things” that outgrow themselves is a tribal “little and local things” phase. As such, even as individuals and families we should be strategizing how to shrink our dependency on global corporations and trade, and grow the fruitfulness of our homes and communities.

The big kids and I have been doing barbell workouts for a year now! While also continuing with the chin-ups and pull-ups:

Interesting links and reading:

Written by Scott Moonen

April 15, 2020 at 4:42 pm

Moral appeal

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[M]odern ideologies involve definite ethical positions. Though an ideology may actually represent the interests of a particular group in society, it does not function as an expression of desire but as an expression of conscience. The slogan “liberty, equality, fraternity” may have originated in the bourgeoisie’s attempt to gain power at the expense of the privileged noble and clerical classes, but the slogan nonetheless rang out as a moral watchword. It struck men with all the force of an “ought,” an ethical imperative. Modern ideologies appeal to people’s consciences, and those who reject an ideology must rely upon the force of an alternate ideological or moral position or contend with the guilt which results from rejecting the ideological appeal. This is why it is so important for Christians to be able to recognize non–Christian ideologies. If they cannot, they are defenseless against their moral appeal. Christians are among those most susceptible to ideological influence, precisely because of their high level of moral sensitivity.

(Stephen B. Clark, Man and Woman in Christ, 522)

Written by Scott Moonen

March 22, 2019 at 5:32 pm

Truth

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Also, many Communists have interpreted the dialectic as giving them freedom to lie and propagandize with little concern for “truth.” Their ethics are not based on absolute norms, but are historically conditioned. Marxists feel free to do whatever is necessary to advance the Communist society—the society in which justice will prevail. What is true at one stage of the dialectical process or from one perspective in the dialectical conflict is not necessarily true at another stage or from another perspective. Marxists do not entirely reject the concept of objective “truth,” but they define and apply the term in a way that differs drastically from its definition and application in Christian morality. For a Marxist, lying can be permissible—even necessary.

(Stephen B. Clark, Man and Woman in Christ, 516)

Written by Scott Moonen

March 22, 2019 at 5:26 pm

Current events

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Fit to Burst is free for Kindle this weekend. It’s not just for moms!

We’re extremely excited that Jamie Soles’s new album is almost ready!

At the moment there are still about 80 tickets remaining for the Andrew Peterson Christmas concert in Durham. You should join us there.

Written by Scott Moonen

November 21, 2015 at 6:47 pm

Posted in Books, Current events, Music