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Archive for the ‘Miscellany’ Category

Metábasis eis állo génos

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Desiring God is faring better than TGC at being sons of Issachar. As an essayist at least, Greg Morse is a more admirable man than Shai Linne. Greg’s insight is applicable in so many other contexts too; do not assume why someone is not . . . or is . . . wearing a mask. Speaking of masks, some helpful thoughts from Toby Sumpter on being cheerfully difficult, and likewise from Doug Wilson. Meanwhile, Alex Berenson continues to go to bat for Team Reality.

This week was the first time that AAA did not bother to ask us if we were in a safe place (after a long hold, I must add). Instead they asked us if they were in a safe place if we or anyone we knew had symptoms.

Food for thought:

Doesn’t Vincent Cassel remind you of Joel Osteen? And Philip Sasser?

Mark Horne is thinking about hereditary guilt and the character of God:

I quoted this passage in full because there’s no way to summarize its passion. It is one of the most moving declarations in all Scripture.

To just mention one point in case it is relevant: notice how keenly God’s mind is set on not finding a reason to punish people. The idea that he would remember a person’s ancestors so that he could punish a descendant who had not continued in the sinful behavior is abhorrent to him.

Go and do likewise. You should abhor such slanders against God’s character as well.

I spoke recently of our time in Egypt. We should think of the history of Israel as our history. This is true because we have been grafted into a tree while other branches have been broken off (Romans 11). Abraham is now our father (Romans 4:11–12). The church is the actual continuation of this history; what remains in modern Judaism is just that: a modern–gnostic corruption of the true faith.

Alan Jacobs reflects on the humanities:

Here’s how we’ll know that things have gotten really bad in our society: People will start turning to Homer and Dante and Bach and Mozart. Czeslaw Milosz—like Kołakowski, a Pole, perhaps not a trivial correspondence—wrote that “when an entire community is struck by misfortune, for instance, the Nazi occupation of Poland, the ‘schism between the poet and the great human family’ disappears and poetry becomes as essential as bread.”

I’m still reflecting on what a treasure of spiritual formation the Psalms are to us. The Psalms present us with a grand category including the wicked, sinner, scoffer, enemy, evildoer, boastful, liar, rebel, fool. This category stands over against the righteous, godly, innocent. These categories are overwhelmingly used by David and his great host, yet they are virtually absent from our speech and prayer and song. Why?

I’ve also been reflecting on the role of the prophet in ushering in a transformation, a new creation. Rich Bledsoe has some helpful thoughts on this. As James Jordan says, the prophet’s main role is not merely to speak God’s words to the people; that is an essentially priestly role (c.f., Ezra–Nehemiah). Rather, the prophet’s role is to stand in the heavenly council and speak, pray, or even wrestle with God as in the case of Abraham, Moses, and Habakkuk. Out of this, the prophet sees and speaks into existence a new creation. The future that prophets speak into existence is an inevitable one; the repentance and faithfulness that prophets often call us to is not the way to avoid a future (in some cases it is delayed), but the way to pass into it as through death and resurrection.

The connection to Kuhn is insightful. Is the prophet ever anything other than a Cassandra? Maybe, but only if it is the king himself who heeds the prophet, often after a bad dream, eating grass, or reading an old book (but: Nineveh’s king simply heeds the prophet!).

More often, the gestalt shift requires the passing of a generation. Thus: spiritual formation! Three cheers for thoroughgoing covenant renewal worship, weekly and robust communion, Psalm singing, and baptized babies!

Written by Scott Moonen

July 9, 2020 at 10:02 pm

Posted in Miscellany, Quotations

Metábasis eis állo génos

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Richard Bledsoe writes of New York City as a Babylon. I identify the Babylon of Revelation with Jerusalem rather than Rome; i.e., a false church rather than outright paganism. Interestingly, Bledsoe sees the modern city as being built on a kind of Christian heresy. What good is salt that has lost its savor?

I am reading The Gulag Archipelago:

Duane Garner points out that “Jesus is the heart of flesh; the law is the heart of stone.”

Looks like the Bee beat me to the punch. They are on quite a roll lately.

Doug Wilson is also on a roll. And it isn’t even November! These ten–year–old theses on the kindness of Christ from Wilson’s church are well done.

John Barach has me listening to the Tallest Man on Earth. I’m actually taller than he is, so I must be the tallest man in the galaxy.

Anthony Bradley is also on a roll talking about fatherhood lately.

I’m generally not wearing a mask, although it felt deliciously transgressive to wear one into the ABC store. It seems to me the argument for masks doesn’t adequately account for the entire landscape of qualifications and tradeoffs. Taleb and many others are still carrying the banner for masks as a kind of “fat tail” circuit breaker, and I respect that as long as it remains a personal choice. It is safer to drive 25mph, and I realize that we still don’t have a good understanding of the possibilities of asymptomatic transmission. But government mandates for masks, as well as community policing (#wearadamnmask) seem sinister. The CDC continues to consider your risk negligible until you have spent fifteen minutes within six feet of someone who is symptomatic or pre-symptomatic. Of course, that guidance could change tomorrow just like so much else has.

In my last post I recommended some articles from James Jordan. Among those articles, he summarized what he later came to call his “laws of psalmody.” Recovering the Psalms is important because they are a great means of spiritual warfare. They are also a great means of spiritual formation. We often forget that we can bring our tears to God; that we can pray for judgment–justice as well as for mercy, which means that we not only pray for but even delight in the destruction of God’s enemies; and that God has been savingly at work in the hearts of our children since before they were born.

I worked my way through the James Jordan complete audio collection over the course of five years, and it is some of the best money I have ever spent. Let me know if this interests you and I will see what I can do to whet your appetite. And if your appetite is whetted, I have an agreement to redistribute it at a discount.

My family has been blessed to learn many Psalms from Jamie Soles. He is one of several artists, ministries, and projects that I support. This list also includes:

My brother-in-law wrote a book! Another brother-in-law is taller than me, so he might possibly be the tallest man in the universe.

Lisa: “What’s going to happen to New York City?”
Me: “It’s going to bring the gospel to Tim Keller.”

Written by Scott Moonen

July 3, 2020 at 3:33 pm

Posted in Miscellany

Various

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Some very important information on North Carolina real estate.

I’m fiddling with Asher’s and Charlotte’s Rubik’s cube this afternoon and had to lookup my cheat sheet. I can solve two thirds of the cube from memory, but that last slice is hard.

I’m a preterist, and I think this number refers to the Herodian high priests leading up to AD 70. However, I still got a kick out of this mask design. In order to buy and sell, you know:

An inspiration to authoritarian leaders and Karens everywhere:

Read this man. He is underappreciated.

Remember the potency of saying “I love you.”

Don’t let the Marxists distract you from the matteringness of Chinese churches. Remember your Psalms.

A word to princes: if you cut off your people, you are cutting off your own hands and feet (Proverbs 14:28). Long live the deplorables, and may God send as many or more church planters to serve them as to serve The City™:

Lots of things are out of kilter right now in the world. We seem to have trouble knowing the purpose of babies, boys and girls, skin pigment, magistrates, corporations, history, the church. You might say this is a dislocation of everyone’s worship and loyalty, and that is true. But there is more to be said.

G. K. Chesterton may not have actually said that “I am” what is wrong with the world, but we can all believe that he might have said it. And it is true. This is especially a dislocation of the evangelical church’s worship and loyalty. It is a principle that judgment begins with God’s house (1 Peter 4:17) and that when a man’s ways please God, his enemies are at peace with him (Proverbs 16:7). Worship is the best national defense, and you can see the counterexample repeated throughout the book of Judges. Joshua 24:14 springs on us the surprise that our fathers fell into idolatry in Egypt. Now we understand how and why we became slaves in Egypt!

Some thirty years ago now, James Jordan had some helpful things to say about this. He reminds us that wisdom is a precondition for dominion, the church is the real shadow government of the world, and offers some very practical thoughts on how the greater evangelical church has failed and can recover. Peter Leithart has some complementary (and complimentary) thoughts on additional practical things pastors can be doing.

Wilson also reminds us that we have an easy way to identify the sons of Issachar in this moment; did they see it coming? Think about this: happy warrior Wilson has a chapter on fruitfulness in his marriage book, while Tim Keller does not, giving instead a tithe of his book to singleness! Keller might be solid on matters of first importance, but in spite of his winsomeness (rather, because of it) he is not the tip of the spear. Our culture’s center will not hold because Jesus is not at the center. While we are full of gratitude for the gift of our roots, we can’t spend our greatest energy trying to help keep it all together, or be mollifying partners with the culture as men like Keller and Greear do. That failing strategy is partly why we are here now. Instead we remember the antithesis, declaring unapologetically that Jesus is the center. God has fixed a day on which he will judge the world by this man. Hear him!

Written by Scott Moonen

June 28, 2020 at 3:59 pm

Wiser than God

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The world scoffs at how God’s word makes allowance for any kind of slavery whatsoever. But there are still about half as many slaves now in the United States as there were at the time of the American Civil War.

The world professes to care about black lives, and chides the church for its supposed lack of love. But there are still about half as many black babies murdered annually in the United States [1] [2] as the annual death rate of Hitler’s concentration camps.

To the world, justice is not as important as getting one over on God. Since God’s justice is perfect and complete, this is a bigger and more pressing problem for the world than it realizes. God has no case to answer for either his justice (Romans 1–2) or his love (Romans 5).

In God and his law, we finally have a proper foundation that allows us to talk about all kinds of things, including police and prison reform; red and yellow, black and white; quantitative easing; just war; and so much more. There are six things Yahweh hates, seven that are an abomination to him; and one that never entered into his mind.

We may even discover that God’s law is more freeing than man’s.

Written by Scott Moonen

June 13, 2020 at 4:30 pm

Posted in Commentary, Miscellany

Masks

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See also: Real Presence

Written by Scott Moonen

May 21, 2020 at 6:28 am

Posted in Humor, Miscellany

Scruples

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Returning to the question from my earlier post:

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?

The late R. C. Sproul has an interesting lecture that he entitled The Tyranny of the Weaker Brother. He says:

No, as soon as the weaker brother tried to enforce his weakness as the law of the church, the gospel was threatened. And now rather than deny his own Christian liberty, the Apostle Paul fought tooth and nail against the tyranny of the weaker brother. As soon as somebody has that scruple by which their conscience bound to themselves tries to go beyond themselves and make it the rule of the church, they must be resisted. They must not be allowed to establish laws where God has left us free. . . . Ask yourself, do you impose rules and regulations in your church where God has left people free?

Sproul’s approach is weakened (ha!) by treating this as a case of a stronger and weaker brother, rather than treating it as a case of two strong brothers. Thus, I would rather speak of the tyranny of the legalist, or of the anxious. However, we are accustomed to using “weak” in this way and, terminology aside, this is still a good framework for processing such cases. Consistent with Paul’s entire teaching and behavior, Christian brothers, in love, are to give deference to one another, up to the point where a brother (or his advocate) seeks to use this “weakness” (actual or otherwise) as a means of “strength” to bind another brother’s conscience. It is love, too, that resists such binding.

Fortunately, my social distancing brothers are neither weak nor legalistic nor tyrannical. So I am hugging and handshaking a bunch of people now, and not hugging or handshaking another bunch of people. I love them all dearly.

Written by Scott Moonen

May 20, 2020 at 10:54 pm

Posted in Miscellany, Quotations

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

Klaas Schilder

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Schilder’s response was not to plead submission in the name of Romans 13. Other churches, like the Netherlands Reformed congregations, reluctantly did. Schilder constantly opposed the Nazis, one of his final articles having the headline, “Leave your hiding-place. Don your uniform.” Schilder appealed to international law to oppose them, and he used his pen constantly, especially from May to August 1940 to point out the anti-Christian ideology of national socialism. The magazine had earlier been put on the black list in Germany and censored, but in Holland it was sold at station kiosks. The last straw was when he wrote in that “Don your uniform” article in August 1940 these words, “Authority and power, fortunately, remain two different things. Eventually the antichrist shall keep the latter and the church the former. And after that, the day of the great harvest comes. Come, Lord of the harvest, yes come quickly, come over the English Channel and over the Brenner Pass, come via Malta and Japan, yes, come from the ends of the earth, and bring along your pruning-knife, and be merciful to your people; it is well authorised, but only through you, through you alone, at your eternal good pleasure.”

Geoff Thomas, Banner of Truth, January 1999

Written by Scott Moonen

April 27, 2020 at 8:36 am

Posted in History, Miscellany

Van Til

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Kees [Cornelius] loved the soil. That was a characteristic he never lost. Even in older years he enjoyed that. He always loved to visit farming country and to see what was being done in the production of crops. At his home at 16 Rich Avenue in Flourtown, he always had a large garden from which they ate all summer and canned much of what that garden produced. . . .

My Mother was very concerned about having such a great man be with us for several weeks. What would he be like and what would his demands be? That question was answered the first morning after breakfast when Oome [Uncle] Kees got up from the table and picked up the dishes, walked into the kitchen, put on my Mother’s apron and began doing the dishes. This we later learned was a task he joyfully did in his own home, chattering as he worked. My Mother knew then, Oome Kees was a very down to earth person and would fit into the family well. . . .

As mentioned above, Oome Kees loved the farm. When he was at our house, at least every week he would go with my grandfather to see what the sons and son-in-laws were doing each of the farms. My grandfather probably never had more than a sixth grade education but he was well read and would discuss with Oome Kees those developments which were taking place in the Netherlands and the development in the thinking of G. C. Berkouwer. Grandpa was aware of the thesis of Dr. Alexander de Jong and wanted to discuss it with Oome Kees. These discussions were a regular occurrence between these two as they did “roadside farming.”

Robert den Dulk, Banner of Truth, March 2001

Written by Scott Moonen

April 27, 2020 at 8:29 am

Posted in Miscellany

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