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Archive for the ‘Miscellany’ Category

Metábasis eis állo génos (2–3)

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Mark Horne surfaces a thought–provoking quote from James Jordan, pointing out, as he says on Twitter, that “the law led to wisdom because it was public property.”

Jordan frequently points out that the head–heel typology instructs us in how to live by faith. It may appear that the wicked are well coordinated while the church and the righteous walk with a limp. However, by faith we recognize that the head of the wicked has been crushed, cast down, bound. And while the church’s heel is wounded, she reigns together with her head at this very moment.

My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God. . . .

So you will walk in the way of the good
and keep to the paths of the righteous.
For the upright will inhabit the land,
and those with integrity will remain in it,
but the wicked will be cut off from the land,
and the treacherous will be rooted out of it. (Proverbs 2, ESV)

I think there is something to this:

I’m slowly working to decouple myself from Google, and plan to document the process on my other blog.

It is a family tradition to watch The Lord of the Rings movies in the wintertime, and we just finished this week. This year I hope to work through the books as well. One thing struck me this time through: Gandalf brought three eagles to rescue Frodo and Sam. Jackson has one of these eagles carry both Gandalf and a hobbit, but Tolkien is more vague. This makes me wonder if Jackson, or Tolkien, or both, intended to show that Gandalf hoped Gollum might have been saved.

‘Twice have you borne me, Gwaihir my friend,’ said Gandalf. ‘Thrice shall pay for all, if you are willing. You will not find me a burden much greater than when you bore me from Zirak-zigil, where my old life burned away.’

‘I would bear you,’ answer Gwaihir, ‘whither you will, even were you made of stone.’

‘Then come, and let your brother go with us, and some other of your folk who is most swift! For we have need of speed greater than any wind, outmatching the wings of the Nazgûl.’

‘The North Wind blows, but we shall outfly it,’ said Gwaihir. And he lifted up Gandalf and sped away south, and with him went Landroval, and Meneldor young and swift. And they passed over Udûn and Gorgoroth and saw all the land in ruin and tumult beneath them, and before them Mount Doom blazing, pouring out its fire.

. . .

And so it was that Gwaihir saw them with his keen far-seeing eyes, as down the wild wind he came, and daring the great peril of the skies he circled in the air: two small dark figures, forlorn, hand in hand upon a little hill, while the world shook under them, and gasped, and rivers of fire drew near. And even as he espied them and came swooping down, he saw them fall, worn out, or choked with fumes and heat, or stricken down by despair at last, hiding their eyes from death.

Side by side they lay; and down swept Gwaihir, and down came Landroval and Meneldor the swift; and in a dream, not knowing what fate had befallen them, the wanderers were lifted up and borne far away out of the darkness and the fire. (The Return of the King, 227–229)

I’ve always been intrigued by churches that choose not to register as a corporation. If you belong to such a church, your charitable contributions are likely still deductible on your income tax. See:

For subscribers of The Theopolitan, Peter Leithart summarizes Rich Lusk on James Jordan on the Bethlehem star: it is Yahweh’s glory cloud. Lusk points out the movement of the cloud, the host of angels appearing to the shepherds, and Jesus’s tabernacling among us. I conclude, therefore, that stars are angels.

“In our world,” said Eustace, “a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.”

“Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is, but only what it is made of.” (C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader)

He counts the number of the stars,
to all of them gives names. (Psalm 147:4, Robert Alter)

I had forgotten that company originates from bread–together. How beautiful!

Charlotte and Asher made these handy deadlift stands. They’ve lasted over a year now!

You’ve probably seen this. But it has been delighting me this week:

Written by Scott Moonen

January 16, 2021 at 7:19 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2–2)

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I received Rod Dreher’s Live Not by Lies as a Christmas present, and finished it this week. It’s outstanding, as, of course, is Solzhenitsyn’s original essay. (How striking that he would admonish us even to “immediately walk out of a meeting, session, lecture, performance or film showing if [one] hears a speaker tell lies, or purvey ideological nonsense or shameless propaganda.”) Here are my favorite quotes from the book:

“The question is, which is going to win: fear, or courage?” [Jan Šimulčik] says. “In the beginning, it was mostly a matter of fear. But once you started experiencing freedom—and you felt it, you felt freedom through the things you did—your courage grew. We experienced all this together. We helped one another to gradually build up the courage to do bigger things, like join the Candle Demonstration.”

“With this courage also developed our sense of duty, and our need to be of service to other people,” the historian continues. “We could see the products of our work. We could hold these samizdat books in our hands, and we could see that people really read them and learned from them. We saw what we did as service to God and service to people. But it took years for us to see the fruit of our labor and to see our communities grow.” (168)

[Franišek] Mikloško’s close association with secular liberal writers and artists helped him to understand the world beyond church circles and to think critically about himself and other Christian activists. And, he says, liberal artists were able to perceive and describe the essence of communism better than Christians—a skill that helped them all survive, even thrive, under oppression. (175)

“I’ve been thinking a lot about fear, as such,” [Maria Wittner] says. “What is fear? Someone who is afraid is going to be made to do the most evil things. If someone is not afraid to say no, if your soul is free, there is nothing they can do to you.”

The old woman looks at me across her kitchen table with piercing eyes. “In the end, those who are afraid always end up worse than the courageous.” (188)

My pastor preached from Revelation 12 this week and argued that the archangel Michael is Jesus. An interesting additional proof of this is the quote from Zechariah 3:2 in Jude 9. Whom Zechariah identifies as Yahweh and the angel of Yahweh, Jude identifies as Michael, “who is like God.”

This quotation highlights another interesting bit of biblical theology. Many people, Calvin included, believe that Michael is disputing about the body of the man Moses. However, the quote from Zechariah makes clear that what was in dispute was the Old Testament church. This church was the body of Moses in the same sense that we are the body of Jesus. Some more evidence for this reading is the fact that Israel was baptized into Moses (1 Corinthians 10:2).

It is so interesting to me that one of the reasons God restrains wicked rulers is to preserve his people in faithfulness. It is true that there are such great examples of faithfulness in times of persecution, but we also pray and thank God for cutting persecution short for the sake of bruised reeds and faintly burning wicks:

Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion never shaken, settled forever.
Jerusalem, mountains around it, and the LORD is around His people now and forevermore.
For the rod of wickedness will not rest on the portion of the righteous,
so that the righteous not set their hands to wrongdoing.
Do good, O LORD, to the good and to the upright in their hearts.
And those who bend to crookedness, may the LORD take them off with the wrongdoers. Peace upon Israel! (Psalm 125, Robert Alter)

Of course, he also uses persecution to strengthen what is weak.

I’ve enjoyed our little project of chanting Psalms as a family this school year. We are now a third of the way through the Psalter! Wherever possible, we are using the Theopolis Liturgy and Psalter, which is marvelous; otherwise we are using Concordia’s ESV Psalter.

How many Christians confess this:

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3 ESV, emphasis added)

Once again, corporate America and the media are pretty much unified in their, ah, brave stands for justice. Even the Wall Street Journal is calling for Trump to resign. What I want to know is why we are only starting to think about this now. There’s quite a few politicians, celebrities, media personalities, corporate leaders, and church leaders whose behavior over the past year year is worthy of resignation. Why, imagine: if Biden and Harris had humbled their own hearts, we might be looking forward to President Gabbard right now.

Related, Aaron Renn is beginning a series considering how and why the Republican party hates your guts.

And yet—be sure to consider also Mark Horne’s exhortation to speak cheerful words to yourself.

I love Ted Kooser’s “Splitting an order”—

I like to watch an old man cutting a sandwich in half,
maybe an ordinary cold roast beef on whole wheat bread,
no pickles or onion, keeping his shaky hands steady
by placing his forearms firm on the edge of the table
and using both hands, the left to hold the sandwich in place,
and the right to cut it surely, corner to corner,
observing his progress through glasses that moments before
he wiped with his napkin, and then to see him lift half
onto the extra plate that he had asked the server to bring,
and then to wait, offering the plate to his wife
while she slowly unrolls her napkin and places her spoon,
her knife and her fork in their proper places,
then smoothes the starched white napkin over her knees
and meets his eyes and holds out both old hands to him.

Thanks to Jon Barach for calling my attention to it.

Written by Scott Moonen

January 8, 2021 at 9:17 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2–1)

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Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!

Although I am convinced that our governor’s executive orders of 2020 have constituted a usurpation of authority, I am grateful that for most of this time he has not bound churches:

Worship, religious, and spiritual gatherings, funeral ceremonies, wedding ceremonies, and other activities constituting the exercise of First Amendment rights are exempt from all the requirements of this Executive Order, notwithstanding any other provision of this Executive Order.

It will go well for North Carolina in the future, not at all because so many of us have slavishly obeyed these orders, but because the church’s weekly ministry on behalf of the world has been preserved:

Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. So now, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD.” (Isaiah 37:14–20, ESV)

This is not true in every place. Pray for the church around the world:

To some degree this situation is the responsibility of the church and a sifting of churches:

Lampstands are being removed where people have feared man and nature rather than God.

Some friends and reflected this week on generational and epochal shifts. As usual, I am short on footnotes, but my recollection of Eugen Rosenstock–Huessy is that he identifies a 500 year pattern cycling between tribe, kingdom, and empire; and says that we should expect the next phase of history to appear tribal. There seems to be a similar pattern in scripture’s covenant cycle as well, with roughly 4–500 years each from Noah to Abraham, Moses, David–Solomon, Cyrus, and Jesus. Daniel speaks of seventy sevens (490), and Ezekiel 4 presents us with a 500–year figure as well (390 years + 40 years + 70 years of exile). In addition, the sins of the Amorites have to ripen for 400–430 years. I’m not sure how to put this together with America’s sins, but maybe it works if we consider it Western sins—or maybe we just have more ripening to do. However, in the life of Israel, at least, child sacrifice was a late–stage judicial hardening, so it seems like our bill is coming due sooner rather than later.

Tyre received 70 years of exile for her sins as well (Isaiah 23:17). James Jordan points out from time to time that places like Gath (through Achish) and Tyre (through Hiram) submitted themselves to Yahweh’s rule in covenanting with David. This could apply to Egypt as well through Solomon. All these therefore received greater blessing and long–term future hope, but and also stricter discipline, since judgment always begins with the household of God. You see both these blessings and curses throughout the prophets.

I’m still learning to “see” corporate versus individual readings of passages. It had never occurred to me until this week that God’s generational visitation in Exodus 34 might be societal and not just individual. In the case of the Amorites (Genesis 15) God seems to be saying that a generation is about 100 years, at least at that time. That kind of makes sense when Jacob is marrying Leah and Rachel at 84 years old, but I wonder why the cycles wouldn’t accelerate later in history as generational gaps shorten.

The church is the society that, by keeping on repenting week by week, year after year, is able to experience thousands of generations of fruitfulness.

I want to learn sometime what happened in the years preceding 1917 Russia (where the rule of communism was roughly 70 years) and 1930s Germany. We have the impression that things progressed quickly there but I suspect there is more to it, including some kind of long compromise or complicity in the churches. In his recent book Live Not by Lies, Rod Dreher points to some social and cultural factors in these downfalls (pp. 30ff), although these still seem to me to be downstream from the church’s rule of the world: (1) loneliness and social atomization, (2) losing faith in hierarchies and institutions, (3) desire to transgress and destroy, (4) propaganda and the willingness to believe useful lies, (5) a mania for ideology, and (6) a society that values loyalty more than expertise.

Hear this: Jesus is king.

The reason [the church is] a third thing, a tertium quid, is because it was the first thing. (C. R. Wiley, “Ecology and the Libel of Christianity“)

From the almost–tempted–to–wear–a–mask department:

I was reminded recently of St. Anne’s Pub, who at one time carried on a ministry similar to Ken Myers’s Mars Hill Audio. Their 2005 issue “Leading our little ones to Christ” was helpful to me as part of my conversion to paedobaptism and paedocommunion. They interview Vern Poythress, whose articles on Indifferentism and Rigorism and Linking Small Children with Infants are also very helpful introductions.

Oops, it looks like my future is not so bright:

Written by Scott Moonen

January 1, 2021 at 9:01 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (26)

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Vrolijk Kerstfeest!

This post marks six months—twenty–six weeks—of this weekly bricolage. (Twenty–seven weeks if you count the final occasional edition of “Various.”) Glancing at the archive index, it looks like this month also marks two and a half years of monthly posting of one kind or another. Most of those are quotes, and for that time period many of them are from Eugen Rosenstock–Huessy.

You can, of course, get this delivered to you by email (see subscription button to the right) or by RSS reader (I like Feedly, but I wonder what you recommend). It’s a good discipline to write regularly. I’d like to see more writing from you in 2021, even if—perhaps especially if—it is mostly just your favorite quotes and poems and articles. And even if it is just once a month. Send links, please.

I picked up my title from Rosenstock–Huessy, who uses it in his course Cross of Reality, and translates it as transgression into another domain: the fallacy of transferring concepts blindly from one domain to another. It seems a fitting acknowledgement that I’m often writing at the margin of my education and experience, but not my curiosity and convictions.

I had about a quarter of our 2019 pictures left to sift through and upload this week, plus about half of our 2020 pictures. That was quite an exercise! For 2021 I plan to treat picture–sifting as an idle phone activity to be pursued alongside Twitter browsing.

I’ve joked for awhile that EDR and similar systems like CrowdStrike or Carbon Black would become Skynet. Or, more likely, a tool of international espionage and cyber–warfare. It doesn’t feel good to be vindicated. (Now imagine someone accomplishing this with a major browser or password manager application.) Complex and highly interconnected systems are difficult to make stable, resilient, or secure; and cannot possibly be made anti-fragile. (This is a lesser reason why I miss my old pickup truck.) I’m not very excited about Kubernetes for the same reason. It’s also partly why I’m not very excited about artificial intelligence; but additionally because analysis of data, whether by machine or by human, does not automatically involve either wisdom or decisiveness (see also Edwin Friedman and Nassim Taleb).

And if Rosenstock–Huessy is right, the coming turning of the age will be a turning from the big to the small, from empire to tribe. Perhaps that is still a hundred years away, or perhaps it is just one disastrous computer incident away.

Hallelujah.
Sing to the LORD a new song, His praise in the faithful’s assembly.
Let Israel rejoice in its Maker, Zion’s sons exult in their king.
Let them praise His name in dance, on the timbrel and lyre let them hymn to Him.
For the LORD looks with favor on His people, He adorns the lowly with victory.
Let the faithful delight in glory, sing gladly on their couches.
Exultations of God in their throat and a double–edged sword in their hand,
to wreak vengeance upon the nations, punishment on the peoples,
to bind their kings in fetters, and their nobles in iron chains,
to exact from them justice as written—it is grandeur for all His faithful.
Hallelujah. (Psalm 149, Robert Alter)

I now forget who reminded me of this, but as much as we love to think about the incarnation at Christmas, we ought to be celebrating it on March 25 as well.

C. R. Wiley and friends reflected on human scale recently. Wiley says that “we actually live in a world where our institutions dwarf us, make us feel insignificant and small, and reinforce that by, well, not being responsive to us.” Wiley quotes Leon Krier, who asserts that submissiveness is generally the human response to tyranny rather than primarily the cause of it, because (quoting Wiley quoting Krier quoting Boswell), “when the mind knows it cannot help itself by struggling, it quietly and patiently submits to whatever load is laid upon it.” I’m not sure that is always true, because classic conservatism recognizes that an undisciplined people does require external discipline—and if we do not discipline ourselves then God will do so in judgment. But in any case, this is an interesting corollary to the statement that evil prevails when good men do nothing. It also parallels Solzhenitsyn’s “Live Not By Lies.” And yet, I wonder: how shall I balance this against providing for my family, against being wise as a serpent, against the call to be a living dog rather than a dead lion (Ecclesiastes 9:4)? A partial answer is that we also live not by fear, of any kind.

In spite of BigEva’s complicity in enabling evil, much of the evangelical church is simply unprepared for the next decade. Who knew that we actually needed to warn our people, and brace our own selves, against great evil? Who knew that lies would be so sugar–coated and so popular? Churches that are expecting vaccines to return everything to normal are in for a big surprise. God has only just begun his work of sifting and winnowing. He is sharpening the antithesis.

And though there seemed to be, and indeed were, a thousand roads by which a man could walk through the world, there was not a single one which did not lead sooner or later either to the Beatific or the Miserific Vision. (C. S. Lewis, Perelandra, chapter 9; also see Sharper)

Fortunately, we have the opportunity right now to repent and study harder for the next exam! In Jesus, and through his church, death is no longer contagious: life is!

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.”

“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Revelation 22:1–7, ESV)

Childermas, the feast of the innocents, is the original sanctity of life day. I realized this week that these young men show up again—as part of the host under the altar:

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. (Revelation 6:9–11, ESV)

One of the things that their blood and their prayers accomplish is our release from Abraham’s bosom:

And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” (Revelation 14:13, ESV, emphasis added)

By the end of this heavenly liturgy, their prayers have helped to bring about the destruction of God’s and their enemies. God has judged and de–created the old covenant world, and these young men have been released to stand face to face with him in the freedom of the glory of the sons of God:

After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
for his judgments are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

Once more they cried out,

“Hallelujah!
The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” ( Revelation 19:1–3, ESV)

Written by Scott Moonen

December 25, 2020 at 7:27 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (25)

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I learned from James Jordan this week that “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is based on the O Antiphons!

I mentioned servant leadership recently, and of course we must not forget diaconal leadership (Matthew 20:28, Luke 20:27), but we should also speak of steward leadership:

The master commended the dishonest steward for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. (Luke 16:8, ESV modified)

And even of the striking slave leadership of pastors and elders:

But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ (Luke 14:16–17, ESV modified)

Aaron Renn provides interesting food for thought in his tribute to and critical evaluation of Tim Keller. This is a helpful way to process the dispute between Abraham Kuyper’s followers and Klaas Schilder: namely, that these two men wrote in different times! This enables us, with Van Til, to appreciate the work of both men. Keller is a kind of Kuyper: a brilliant and godly man, and helpful for his time; but with the coming of compromise and downgrade and bald opposition from the world, Kuyper’s (and now Keller’s) old ways ceased to work. It is not as if Kuyper and Keller do not emphasize the antithesis—far from it!—but Schilder was clearly right to do so in a new and radical way, and thus became a man helpful for his own time. I previously reflected critically on Schilder here and here, but given our current turning of the age I ought to revisit him more receptively.

There is something about our current need for radical antithesis that is so well suited to our fundamentalist baptist brothers. May God use the despised young–earth yokels of the world (among whom I count myself) to put to shame the worldly wise! Keep your eyes on Founder’s Ministries, who have been doing a good work for some time, and continue to develop and expand it.

This moment requires us to be devoted to truth. But God has always required this. Truth saves lives . . .

Taste and see that Yahweh is good!
Happy is the mighty man who takes refuge in Him.
Fear Yahweh, his holy ones,
Because there is no lack for those who fear Him.
Young lions have grown poor and hungry;
But the seekers of Yahweh do not lack any good.

Come, sons! Listen to me!
The fear of Yahweh I will teach you.
Who is the man who desires life,
Who loves days in which to see good?
Preserve your tongue from evil
And your lips from speaking deceit.
Turn from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it. (Psalm 34:8–14, James Jordan)

. . . but a failure to be devoted to truth results in the removal of lampstands:

And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” (Luke 17:37, ESV)

I’m not interested in shofars or dispensationalism, but Christian nationalism and postmillennialism are good things, wrongly maligned. Christian progressivism is the real danger of our day.

You should read Mark Horne’s latest, and then get yourself a copy of Solomon Says.

I miss my truck:

Wrath of Gnon is always teaching me something new and beautiful:

A friend sent me this fascinating series of three videos. Perhaps you will enjoy them as much as I did:

Written by Scott Moonen

December 18, 2020 at 11:23 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (24)

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You should consider following Roger Scruton Quotes and the Roger Scruton Legacy Foundation. These introduced me to his lovely 2001 article “Becoming a Family.” Some choice quotes:

Sometimes we [Roger and his wife Sophie] embark on a quarrel, but there is neither winner nor loser, because we are one thing, not two, and any attack on the other becomes an attack on oneself. All the matters over which people like us are supposed to argue—money, freedom, visits, friends, hobbies, tastes, habits—become occasions for a deeper cooperation. What we have discovered through marriage is not the first love that induced it but the second love that follows, as the vow weaves life and life together. Western romanticism has fostered the illusion that first love is the truest love, and what need has first love of marriage? But an older and wiser tradition recognizes that the best of love comes after marriage, not before. . . .

The new curriculum, which has both the aim and the effect of cutting off children from their parents, making them unlovable to adults and the exclusive property of the state, springs from the minds of people who are themselves, for the most part, childless. It would be better, it seemed to us, for Sam [their son] to be sent down a coal mine, there to encounter the real world of adults, than to go through the complete course in demoralization that our rulers require. Even the private schools must follow the National Curriculum, which has been carefully devised to remove all the knowledge that Sophie and I value and to substitute the “life skills” needed in an urban slum. . . .

The experts who greeted our educational plans with such outrage were, after all, the voice of our modern culture—the very same culture that has shaped the educational system and set up the state in opposition to the family. It is only since becoming part of a family that I have fully gauged the depth and seriousness of this opposition. The family has become a subversive institution—almost an underground conspiracy—at war with the state and the state-sponsored culture. . . .

Because there is no going back to Jane Austen’s world, we take refuge in the belief that every aspect of it reflects some arbitrary cultural imperative, with nothing due to permanent human nature. By extending cultural relativism even into those spheres where it is not culture but nature that determines what we do, we deceive ourselves into accepting—but with anxiety—a situation so novel that our ancestors never even thought to guard against it: the situation in which men and women are exchangeable in all their social roles and all their spheres of action.

Lots of reflection this week on the understandably complex relationship between China and the US. I appreciate the reporting of Jack Posobiec and the reflections of Michael Foster and Jamie Soles.

I think we are to see a hint of David’s census in Luke 2: the days of Jerusalem and Rome are numbered from this point.

I’ve been reflecting on why so many cosmopolitan Christians are so compliant with our current tyrannies. A lot has to do with public education (c.f., Scruton), but there is a theological angle as well. Sinclair Ferguson makes the striking point in his book The Whole Christ that the legalist and the antinomian share the same world view at root. It is right to repudiate legalism and preach God’s free grace, but Ferguson shows us that we can preach grace in such a way that we are not actually set into humanity’s maturity, into the freedom of the glory of the sons of God.

I am not saying that we become consciously antinomian, but we are functionally so. And of course this is a tendency rather than an outright error. One way the tendency expresses itself is to consider that we are somehow principally saved by merit, even the merit of Jesus. Or we may consider that it is the Son who saves us from the Father’s wrath, rather than the Trinity saving us from the wrath of the Trinity. Another way the tendency expresses itself is to consider that justification is merely forensic, without being caught up in a wholly covenantal context. Or we may resonate deeply with Luther’s statement that the Christian is a “perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject of all, subject to all,” yet find it hard to believe that we are also a “perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.”

The outcome of this is that we come to believe that God is, in the words of the wicked servant of Luke 19, severe, taking what he does not deposit and reaping what he does not sow. Even though in his great love and mercy he has saved us from his severity, we believe that severity is still a primary feature of his character and of the nature of the world, somehow counterbalanced or overruled by his love and mercy; rather than severity’s being a conditional expression of covenantal lovingkindness, covenantal blessing and curse.

The result is that the functional antinomian can feel quite comfortable with legalism, conformity, or even tyranny in certain areas of life.

I asked Lisa what she would write if she had time to blog. She has read a number of Christian biographies recently and wishes to urge others to do so as well. Some good examples are God’s Smuggler, Evidence Not Seen, and The Hiding Place. From books like these, she has been greatly encouraged in boldness and resistance to tyranny. One thing that struck her is that these great heroes of the faith disobeyed in both big and little things. Another thing that struck her is how precious and important worship is to God’s people, and what great lengths people went to in order to participate in worship.

I’m so grateful for all of the Psalms we have learned, many from Jamie Soles. I have been singing this one off and on this week:

Gods you may be, but just sentences do you speak?
Uprightly do you judge, O sons of Adam?
No, in heart injustices you devise;
On the earth the violence of your hands you weigh out.

Estranged are the wicked from the womb;
They go astray from the belly, speaking lies.
They have venom like venom of a serpent.

Like a deaf cobra that stops up its ear,
So that it does not hear the voice of charmers,
However skillful the enchanter may be.

O God, shatter their teeth in their mouth;
The fangs of the young lions tear out, Yahweh!
Let them vanish like waters that flow away of themselves!

When he aims his arrows, let them be circumcised,
Like a slug, melting away as he moves,
Like a woman’s miscarriage that never sees the sun.

Before your pots can feel the thorn,
Whether green or dry, He will whirl him away.
Glad will be the righteous when he sees the vengeance;
His feet he will bathe in the blood of the wicked.
And men will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous;
Surely there is a God who judges on earth!” (Psalm 58, James Jordan)

Asher and I are listening to Perelandra. This is my third time through, and the first time I caught that McPhee makes a brief appearance in chapter 3! Speaking of the trilogy, it seems that the macrobes may be at work.

Some quotes:

“I’ll tell you how I look at it. Haven’t you noticed how in our own little war here on earth, there are different phases, and while any one phase is going on people get into the habit of thinking and behaving as if it was going to be permanent? But really the thing is changing under your hands all the time, and neither your assets nor your dangers this year are the same as the year before.” (Lewis, Perelandra, chapter 2, p. 24)

“Do you feel quite happy about it?” said I, for a sort of horror was beginning once more to creep over me.

“If you mean, Does my reason accept the view that he will (accidents apart) deliver me safe on the surface of Perelandra?—the answer is Yes,” said Ransom. “If you mean, Do my nerves and my imagination respond to this view?—I’m afraid the answer is No. One can believe in anaesthetics and yet feel in a panic when they actually put the mask over your face. I think I feel as a man who believes in the future life feels when he is taken out to face a firing party. Perhaps it’s good practice.” (Lewis, Perelandra, chapter 2, p. 27)

You need to get yourself something from the Walking Crab. Amen!

Scott: The weird thing about The Snowman movie is . . .
Lisa: The boy doesn’t put on any underpants.
Scott: Oh, I was thinking that some of the architecture looked too Russian for an English setting.

Written by Scott Moonen

December 12, 2020 at 5:08 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (23)

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As it turns out, there is a kind of servant leadership that is quite alright:

YHWH said to Shemuel:
Until when will you keep on mourning to Sha’ul,
when I myself have rejected him from reigning as king over Israel?
Fill your horn with oil and go:
I am sending you to Yishai the Bet-Lehemite,
for I have seen among his sons a king for me.
Shemuel said:
How can I go?
If Sha’ul were to hear, he would kill me!
YHWH said:
A she-calf of the herd you are to take in your hand,
and you are to say:
It is to sacrifice to YHWH [that] I have come.
Then you are to invite Yishai for the sacrificial-meal,
And I myself will make known to you what you are to do:
You are to anoint for me the one that I tell you. (1 Samuel 16:1–3, Everett Fox, emphasis mine)

Twitter brought me a supposed Solzhenitsyn quote and an Orwell quote that I would love to share. But as far as I can tell both quotes are fake. However that may be, this is not:

And not only socialists were now politicals. The politicals were splashed in tubfuls into the fifteen-million-criminal ocean, and they were invisible and inaudible to us. They were mute. They were muter than all the rest. Their image was the fish.

The fish, symbol of the early Christians. And the Christians were their principal contingent. Clumsy, semiliterate, unable to deliver speeches from the rostrum or compose an underground proclamation (which their faith made unnecessary anyway), they went off to camp to face tortures and death—only so as not to renounce their faith! They knew very well for what they were serving time, and they were unwavering in their convictions! They were the only ones, perhaps, to whom the camp philosophy and even the camp language did not stick. And were these not politicals? Well, you’d certainly not call them riffraff.

And women among them were particularly numerous. The Tao says: When faith collapses, that is when the true believers appear. Because of our enlightened scoffing at Orthodox priests, the squalling of the Komsomol members on Easter night, and the whistles of the thieves at the transit prisons, we overlooked the fact that the sinful Orthodox Church had nonetheless nurtured daughters worthy of the first centuries of Christianity—sisters of those thrown to the lions in the arenas.

There was a multitude of Christians: prisoner transports and graveyards, prisoner transports and graveyards. Who will count those millions? They died unknown, casting only in their immediate vicinity a light like a candle. They were the best of Russia’s Christians. The worst had all . . . trembled, recanted, and gone into hiding. (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 2, 309–310)

Church and Harris Teeter and Home Depot have lulled me into a false sense of quasi-normalcy. Much to my surprise, apparently the NC DMV has been in tailspin for months! Right now many offices are closed, incidental closures are being announced on a daily basis, appointments are strictly required, phones are simply not being answered, and all available appointments are at least six weeks away.

No, the old proverb does not lie: Look for the brave in prison, and the stupid among the political leaders! (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 2, 317)

Although Anthony Bradley regularly reminds us that Walter Williams is not . . . was not . . . a Christian, I nevertheless pray that his soul found rest in Jesus.

Prior to capitalism, the way people amassed great wealth was by looting, plundering and enslaving their fellow man. Capitalism made it possible to become wealthy by serving your fellow man. (Walter Williams, Capitalism and the Common Man)

Overheard on Webex (which now allows you to press Space to talk):

Participant 1: gives status update
Participant 2: Shhhhhhhhhhhh
Participant 1: Is someone trying to shush me?
Participant 2: Ha! I was muted, but I started blowing out my keyboard and it must have unmuted me.

This is a delightful combination of levity and medieval plague-defying throwback. Almost I am tempted to wear a mask:

Mark Horne shared this fascinating article on barbell training:

Instead of slowly dwindling, . . . our death can be like a failed last rep at the end of a final set of heavy squats. We can remain strong and vital well into our last years, before succumbing rapidly to whatever kills us. Strong to the end.

That, my friends, is Big Medicine.

And he wrote this helpful article. I still think there is a good chance that the fraud can be overcome, but of course we do not place our hope in that.

For the look on [Judah’s] faces bears witness against them;
they proclaim their sin like Sodom;
they do not hide it.
Woe to them!
For they have brought evil on themselves.
Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them,
for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.
Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him,
for what his hands have dealt out shall be done to him. (Isaiah 3:9–11, ESV)

Maranatha!—

Written by Scott Moonen

December 4, 2020 at 8:55 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (22)

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Aaron Renn issued a podcast episode evaluating Tim Keller, and I think he is largely correct. I appreciate how far he goes to honor Keller. His observations seem to me representative of much of evangelicalism today: the old ways are ceasing to work, and old wineskins—even those for whom we have the greatest affection and appreciation—will burst.

I’ve been saying that the new wineskins of faithful churches will serve as a kind of lifeboat or ark to carry Christianity forward into the next age, an age which Eugen Rosenstock–Huessy tells us will be tribal rather than imperial. And while this is true in one sense, faithful churches are also, just like Noah, God’s courageous advance guard:

But the plan not complex; it is simply the practice of plodding faithfulness. The advance guard conducts very much of its warfare using trumpets and song. Andrew captures some other important elements:

Also: don’t give those children over to the pagan schools.

I finally had a chance to catch up on Mars Hill Audio Journal #148 from September. Jeffrey Bilbro offered the delightful phrase faithful creativity. Proper creativity is bound. It is not only constrained to be beautiful, but also true and good.

Speaking of podcasts and creativity, N. D. Wilson has started a podcast. We are definitely in a podcast bubble right now, but I think this one is going to be worth a listen.

We took wine in communion this week. It was a second time for me, having once partaken of wine from a common cup at St. Matthews, Bayswater. But it was the first time for the rest of us: “Daddy, I almost gagged on the wine.”

Although I’ve felt sympathetic to the argument that Paul is the author of Hebrews for awhile, I finally took the time to read Wilson’s arguments for Pauline authorship. In a nutshell, he argues first from 2 Peter 3:15 that Hebrews is the only known candidate for a letter to “you,” that is to the diaspora; and second from the fact that its inclusion in the canon was largely based on the assumption of Pauline authorship. I think the idea that it is a transcribed Pauline sermon is interesting.

Recent listening:

I enjoyed reading “The Forgotten Man” at the suggestion of my friend Ben. Apparently Sumner is the origin of the phrase, using it in a very different sense from FDR. Some choice quotes:

There can be no civil liberty anywhere unless rights are guaranteed against all abuses, as well from proletarians as from generals, aristocrats, and ecclesiastics. . . .

Who elected such representatives? We did. How can we get bad law-makers to make a law which shall prevent bad law-makers from making a bad law? That is, really, what we are trying to do. If we are a free, self-governing people, all our misfortunes come right home to ourselves and we can blame nobody else. . . .

I have said already that if you learn to look for the Forgotten Man and to care for him, you will be very skeptical toward all philanthropic and humanitarian schemes. It is clear now that the interest of the Forgotten Man and the interest of “the poor,” “the weak,” and the other petted classes are in antagonism, In fact, the warning to you to look for the Forgotten Man comes the minute that the orator or writer begins to talk about the poor man. That minute the Forgotten Man is in danger of a new assault, and if you intend to meddle in the matter at all, then is the minute for you to look about for him and to give him your aid. Hence, if you care for the Forgotten Man, you will be sure to be charged with not caring for the poor. Whatever you do for any of the petted classes wastes capital. If you do anything for the Forgotten Man, you must secure him his earnings and savings, that is, you legislate for the security of capital and for its free employment; you must oppose paper money, wildcat banking and usury laws and you must maintain the inviolability of contracts. Hence you must be prepared to be told that you favor the capitalist class, the enemy of the poor man. (William Sumner)

Sumner verges a bit libertarian for my taste, loving contracts rather than covenants, for example, and identifying freedom a bit closely with agency. But he still has wisdom for us, as do other men like Bastiat and Sowell. Sumner’s argument reminds me of Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson, a lesson that extends well beyond economics. Plus ça change, . . .

Speaking of the law of unintended consequences, Alex Berenson has finally published part 3 of Unreported Truths, on the subject of masks. I think I have the ability to loan these three installments at least once through Kindle; let me know if you’d like to tolle lege, and I’ll see if I can help!

The kids said that one of their friends had come up with the idea of “birthday verses” and that it had something to do with “modular.” “I think my verse was something in Song of Solomon.” I told them that I thought I knew what he was doing, and after a minute pulled up Ezekiel 11:8. “Oh, that’s it! I guess it wasn’t Song of Solomon.”

We made use of ChipDrop recently. I’m very pleased with the service!

Written by Scott Moonen

November 28, 2020 at 8:23 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (21)

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Everett Fox suggests that in Judges 5, there is a connection between the stars and the flooding of the Kishon; the stars are to be seen as a source of rain. This makes the victory over Sisera a kind of baptism–flood!

Kings came, they waged battle,
then they waged battle, the kings of Canaan,
at Ta’nakh, by Megiddo’s waters—
profit of silver they took none.
From the heavens the stars waged battle,
from their courses they waged battle with Sisera.
The Wadi Kishon swept away [the foe],
the ancient wadi, the Wadi Kishon,
—May my being bless them with strength! (Judges 5:19–22, Everett Fox)

I love this verse. Jamie Soles has made it the theme of several serpent–songs:

So perish all your enemies, O YHWH,
but let those who love you
be like the emergence of the sun in its might! (Judges 5:31a, Everett Fox)

The left-handedness of Eglon and the men of Benjamin was apparently trained:

And the Children of Israel cried out to YHWH,
so YHWH raised up a deliverer for them:
Ehud son of Gera, a Binyaminite,
a man restricted in his right hand.
And the Children of Israel sent a tribute-gift by his hand to Eglon king of Moav. (Judges 3:15, Everett Fox)

Fox comments:

[“Restricted”] probably refers to their training, leading to the capability of fighting with either hand (Halpern). The Binyaminites are known in the Bible as talented warriors.

Strangely, I’m reminded by this of Vladimir Putin.

Aaron Renn is producing more interesting content at The Masculinist; he’s added to his mailing list a blog and a podcast.

One of the differences between an enchanted vision of the world and a modern spiritual vision of the world is that the enchanted vision identifies multiple themes in scripture. In addition to understanding redemption as a primary theme, we also see equally important themes of maturation and of holy warfare. As usual, I take this from James Jordan.

The Great Reset is not a conspiracy theory. It is so open that it is not even really a conspiracy. See also: Our greatest responsibility; Build back better. However, don’t forget Revelation 20:3! Aslan is on the move. In Jesus we are saved and the principalities and powers have already been disarmed and put to shame:

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Colossians 2:13–15, ESV)

If you live in Wake County, NC, your library membership includes Overdrive benefits. Most books available to Wake County on Overdrive have a limited number of copies, meaning that you may have to wait your turn. Lewis’s space trilogy, however, is available unlimited!

I misread “editable file” this week as “edible file.” I wonder how that would work. Something like a fortune cookie, I think.

I don’t take the same implication from this that Taleb does, but his tweet is still a delightful confluence of people and ideas. Our pediatrician told us that his simple secret to not getting sick was washing his hands and not touching his face:

Rectitude matters:

“As for you, son of man, describe to the house of Israel the temple, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and they shall measure the plan. And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, that is, its whole design; and make known to them as well all its statutes and its whole design and all its laws, and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe all its laws and all its statutes and carry them out.” (Ezekiel 43:10–11, ESV)

I still maintain that the keys to understanding 2020 are Girard:

and Friedman:

People today often suppose that the early years of a person’s Christian pilgrimage are the difficult ones, and that as you go on in the Christian life it gets more straightforward. The opposite is frequently the case. Precisely when you learn to walk beside Jesus, you are given harder tasks, which will demand more courage, more spiritual energy. (N. T. Wright, Mark for Everyone; source: John Barach)

John Ahern and David Erb discuss Praetorius and church music.

Written by Scott Moonen

November 22, 2020 at 8:22 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (20)

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While I have strong opinions about masks and mask mandates, this is far from being the main issue; our total submission to Jesus is. But they are a revealing bellwether. The best bellwether, of course, is abortion.

This year has been a powerful indictment of public schooling (let the reader understand). America is quite the international and historical laughingstock right now, although we have much company as we sail with sheets to the wind. Even the venerable Vatican has joined us on our aimless voyage.

I find it interesting that Girard does not believe that Satan is a personality. Instead, he identifies Satan with the process of scapegoating. Girard is wrong to deny the personhood of Satan, but right to identify a Satanic–demonic involvement in scapegoating, even the scapegoating of Jesus (e.g., Colossians 2:15). It is right to see the involvement of the accuser–tempter in scapegoating, even where it is initiated by Christians (consider the Satanic inciting of 1 Chronicles 21:1).

Part of resisting and exposing our culture’s late-stage decadence is identifying this sort of evil and demonic activity; we cannot be cautious or nice towards it. As part of this, we are seeing in the evangelical church right now a growing divide between what you might call an enchanted worldview and a spiritual worldview. The enchanted worldview believes in God’s overwhelming work in and through secondary causes; while the spiritual worldview tends to focus on our individual and immediate relationship with God, while largely considering the natural realm an indifferent matter. But just because something is a matter of secondary importance does not make it a matter of no importance.

The most important thing you can do in your life is give your life to Jesus Christ. The second thing is to make sure you can do the first thing. (Charlie Kirk)

I’ve been reflecting on how to convey what Edwin Friedman means by anxious leadership. He does not mean emotionally anxious, although that can accompany it. One possible way of expressing this is fussy leadership, obtrusive leadership, or even leadership that transgresses into another domain. It is similar to what R. C. Sproul means by “tyranny of the weak;” it is an excessive concern for the weak, anxious, or immature, employed as a kind of curb or constraint against those who are mature. Out in the world this looks like a hunt for bias, for the toxic. Within the church this looks like a hunt for pride. The result is a kind of Procrustean bed, or more accurately Harrison Bergeron. Ironically, by protecting the weak and anxious and immature from any inconvenience whatsoever—by fully enabling them to be their authentic selves—they are prevented from maturing.

There are a variety of ways of developing this thought. It is interesting to consider that anxious and non-anxious leadership often fall out along feminine and masculine lines. Also, it is interesting to consider the nature of wisdom. Wisdom is a navigation of tradeoffs, a choice between competing goods. Sometimes wisdom discovers a third way, but more often wisdom involves the rejection of one good for the sake of another, a choice to be hard toward one good and soft toward another.

“Now therefore do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man. You will know what you ought to do to him, and you shall bring his gray head down with blood to Sheol.” (1 Kings 2:9, ESV, emphasis added)

David Remnick writes of Solzhenitsen in 1994:

Back in the study, I asked Solzhenitsyn about his relations with the West. He knew that things had gone wrong, but had no intention of making any apologies. “Instead of secluding myself here and writing ‘The Red Wheel,’ I suppose I could have spent time making myself likable to the West,” he said. “The only problem is that I would have had to drop my way of life and my work. And, yes, it is true, when I fought the dragon of Communist power I fought it at the highest pitch of expression. The people in the West were not accustomed to this tone of voice. In the West, one must have a balanced, calm, soft voice; one ought to make sure to doubt oneself, to suggest that one may, of course, be completely wrong. But I didn’t have the time to busy myself with this. This was not my main goal.” . . .

“Do not help us. Fine. But, at least, don’t help dig our graves.” . . .

“You see, the whole atrocity of Communism could never be accommodated by the Western journalistic mind. . . . Most Americans understood what I was saying, even if the press did not. The press did not understand, because it did not want to and because I had criticized them. But how can I not criticize the press? How can the press aspire to true power? No one elected it. How can it aspire to an equal level with the three branches of government?”

Set against a long backdrop of younger–brother stories, the story of the prodigal son is quite unusual. In spite of the sin of the younger brother, the older brother’s participation in the covenant is still tied up in his welcoming his younger brother. You see, nothing that I write above should be taken as remotely defending pride, or encouraging disregard for one another. I am only urging against excessive and especially selective concern about these things. While we do not put to death being convinced in our own minds, we must put pride to death.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30, ESV)

This week’s twitter roundup:

Click through to read Bnonn’s entire thread:

Written by Scott Moonen

November 14, 2020 at 7:47 am