I gotta have my orange juice.

Jesu, Juva

Archive for the ‘Miscellany’ Category

Metábasis eis állo génos (12)

leave a comment »

What is Canada doing right about forest management? Or addressing arson? Or both? Maybe all is well as long as Trudeau remains in power?

This was thought provoking:

Man, Peterson’s 12 Rules is not very good. His view of the world is that of a scared little boy. It’s this terrible brutal scary place but you’ve got to overcome your fear of it or you’ll be paralyzed. It makes sense that this would resonate with men primarily raised by women.

Raise your sons to be explorers, adventurers, overcomers, and conquerors. Tell them that though there is wildness and danger in this world, God still made it for us to subdue and rule.

There are “dragons” in the world… The mother says be careful, son. The father says bring back the head of a dragon, son.

— Michael Foster [1], [2], [3]

My mind immediately jumped to “This is my Father’s world.” We are sons of the king (Matthew 17:24ff) and heirs of this world (Romans 4:13). ND Wilson recently had similar bracing words (thanks to Brad for the find) on how we should live in 2020 or any year whatsoever.

I saw Trump compared to king Saul this week as a self-important godless failure. Perhaps Trump thinks of himself as a king David. (I suspect it’s a typical serpentine slander that there are many evangelicals who think of Trump as a David.) I think it is better to think of him as a potential Nebuchadnezzar or Pharaoh. We don’t trust in chariots or horses, but we can pray that God will send bad dreams, or use him to protect us from a Zedekiah or a famine.

Big Eva would have us believe it is a tortured question whether to serve Zedekiah or Nebuchadnezzar. (I realize all of the ways the analogy is imperfect, but let the reader understand.) After all, who is to say which chariot or horse God will use? (O Keller!) But it is only tortured if you love the glory that comes from man. Gotta appear thoughtful, and make sure your name is not in the papers for the Wrong Reasons™ (O Greear!). It’s going to keep getting worse, you know, all because we thought we should pay attention to the serpentine slander. That is a treadmill that keeps going faster and faster.

I’m so grateful that John MacArthur hasn’t paid attention to any of it. God is the one who checks to see if our hands and heart are clean, not the accuser.

Mark Horne was on Canon Calls this week to discuss the book of Proverbs and his recent book. Check it out.

I had a couple of occasions to revisit Matthew 18 this week. I’m freshly struck by the interconnectedness of this chapter on body life. It especially struck me that little children are present all the way up through verse 14. Although verses 3 and 4 invite us to expand the application beyond children, certainly the first application is to children. I was previously aware of that for verses 7–9, but not for verses 10–14; these two passages form a kind of mirror image to one another: don’t lead children into temptation, but preserve and protect them.

I hold that most passages and parables like this are to be read first as a critique of the shepherds of Israel. Thus, the leaders of Israel failed utterly in their role as shepherds to the children, and sheep, of Israel (see also Matthew 23:13–15). Moving to application, I’ve long held that verses 1–9 urge us to paedobaptism and paedocommunion. But I think this application continues into verses 10–14. So far from chasing down our little ones, evangelicalism has for a very long time been chasing them away from the table.

I remarked briefly on Biblical chronology last week. My reference to Paul’s 14 years is an insight from James Jordan, of course. I checked to see whether Jordan had anything to say about Tiberius or the 46 years, but found nothing. Interestingly, he did observe that there were likely 46 years between Josiah seeking God’s face (2 Chron 34:3) and the destruction of Jerusalem. If so, that is a neat mirror image to the 46 years in John 2.

I also mentioned Jephthah’s daughter. There is an interesting parallel in the story of Abraham and Isaac, where God commands Abraham to conduct just such an offering-up. God’s substitution for Isaac I think shapes how we want to read this word going forward into Jephthah’s case. I looked at the law for other connections, but in my brief search I found only mention of enemies devoted to God (destroyed) or gifts (which are redeemed).

I finished Leithart’s Theopolitan Reading. One more quote:

If you don’t know Adam thoroughly, you won’t spot the meaningful variations on the theme. You won’t recognize Noah as an improved Adam. You won’t realize that Yahweh’s promises to make Abraham “fruitful” is a promise to fulfill Adam’s vocation in Abraham’s seed. You won’t see the Adamic features of Aaron the priest. You won’t sense that Solomon has what Adam doesn’t, namely, knowledge of good and evil. You won’t recognize the prophets as Adams who have reached a stage of maturity that Adam never reached.

Most importantly, if you misconstrue how Jesus is the Last Adam, you’ll miss the heart of the gospel. You might think Jesus comes to whisk us from earth to heaven. In fact, the gospel presents Jesus as the Last Adam, who has fulfilled the human vocation and is now fulfilling it on earth, by His Spirit, through the church. If your palate isn’t trained to savor the Adams of the Bible, you won’t have any good sense of who you are: a priest, king, and prophet, co-member of a community of priests, kings, and prophets joined to the great Priest, King, and Prophet. (93)

Written by Scott Moonen

September 18, 2020 at 10:36 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (11)

leave a comment »

Shall we call the rona the Y2k20 bug?

It’s not too late to join the To The Word reading plan. Psalm 119 is such a wonderful way to begin and end a reading plan! I’m taking this opportunity to read Everett Fox’s Schocken Bible wherever it satisfies the readings. No translation is perfect, but I love Fox’s translation philosophy. It’s the only translation I’ve found that handles Jephthah and his daughter properly; from Judges 11:

Now there came upon Yiftah the rushing-spirit of YHWH;
he crossed over to Gil’ad and Menashe,
and he crossed over to Mitzpe of Gil’ad, and from Mitzpe of Gil’ad
he crossed over to the Children of Ammon.
And Yiftah vowed a vow to YHWH and said:
If you will give, yes, give the Children of Ammon into my hand,
it will be: the one going out who goes out of the doors of my
    house to meet me, when I return in peace from the Children of Ammon
shall be YHWH’s
and shall be offered up by me as an offering-up!

Thus she went up to serve at the tabernacle, like the women of Exodus 38:8.

I was struck by the 46 years in John 2. No numerological significance jumps out at me, but the chronology is interesting. The current alternate chronology of 18 BC would put this event in AD 29. That fits with Kostenberger’s suggestion that Jesus began his ministry in AD 29 or 30. However, this is not able to account for Paul’s fourteen years (Galatians 2) which is usually linked to Acts 12:25 and therefore the death of Herod (Acts 12:23) in AD 44. That would put Paul’s conversion (and Jesus’s crucifixion) in AD 30. So, unless we introduce a large gap into Acts 12, it seems we are awaiting an alternate chronology either for the temple and Tiberius, or the death of Agrippa.

Speaking of the fourteen years, which included time in Arabia, it occurs to me that this is a kind of wilderness time for Paul. If 17 is an analog of 70— seven and ten remixed—then 14 is an analog of 40.

Did you know that the Fed now owns nearly a third of all US mortgages? Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. Also, it is definitely time to cancel your Netflix subscription.

Here’s an interesting scenario: what if you waited to ensure good census numbers for your state, then took various executive and economic steps to ensure that the opposing political party middle class fled your state? Why, you’d be sitting fat and happy for the next ten to twelve years, electorally speaking. Now repeat across several key states, and you just might be able to pawn off your financial problems on all of those suckers and losers to boot.

It might actually be a mercy from God if this happened; it could help to ensure that the coming dividing lines formed between states rather than neighbors.

Jamie Soles has a new album: Supplanter. It’s about a great man of faith, a perfect and complete man, who wrestles with man, with God, and with gnostic hermeneutics, and prevails. On this subject, see also Mark Horne and James Jordan.

Mark Horne also has a nice commentary on Mark’s gospel. My pastors are planning to work through Mark this winter and this is a good supplement. Also be sure to check out Mark’s latest book on Proverbs and wisdom.

I’ve been enjoying Peter Leithart’s recent Theopolitan Reading. It is outstanding, a kind of distilled appetizer for Jordan’s Through New Eyes. Some choice quotes:

Different species of animals represent different kinds of people. Kings are supposed to be lions, ferocious protectors of their pride and dangerous to their enemies (Gen 49:9; Rev 5:5). Samson and David demonstrate their prowess by killing lions (Judges 14:5–9; 1 Sam 17:34–37). If they can kill lions, they can successfully battle Philistines. As the lion king, David gathers leonine warriors who share his strength and skill in combat (1 Chr 12:8).

Other men are violent scavengers, jackals who prey on the weak or sneak into abandoned cities to pick through the garbage (Isa 13:22; 34:13). Imagery like this could well be literal. . . When human society breaks down, wild animals move in. But the imagery is also symbolic. When the king is not a lion, predatory men roam freely, preying on their defenseless sheep.

Other people are serpents, who kill with the poison under their tongue (Psa 58:4; 140:3). The righteous who trust in the Lord mimic the Seed of the woman and crush the heads of the serpentine wicked (Gen 3:15; Psa 91:13). Groups of animals represent groups of people, which is why Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David start as shepherds and herdsmen before leading the “flock of God” (cf. Ezek 34:15, 17; Zech 9:16; 1 Pet 5:2). Other groups are like packs of dogs, roaming the streets and baring their teeth against the righteous (Psa 22:16; 59:6, 14). (p. 42)

Many Bible teachers say the number 7 is the number of “fullness.” That may be true but doesn’t tell us much. And it’s the wrong way to read the poetry of Scripture. It’s a move from a concrete number (7) to an abstract quality (“fullness”).

Bible teachers make this move a lot. The desert represents “testing.” Lions represent “strength” or “destructive power.” White symbolizes “purity.” In each case, we move from something we can sense—a place we can survey, a color we can see, a number we can count, an animal that could rip us to shreds—to some quality that we can only think about.

The Bible doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t move from body to mind, or from matter to Spirit, or from concrete to abstract. Instead, the Bible connects one body with another—one thing, event, or person to another. We move from one concrete reality to another to another, seeing each in the light of the others. Scripture doesn’t move us away from our senses but trains them. (p. 45)

At his trial, Pilate presents Jesus to the mobs: “Behold the man” (John 19:5). Behold man. Behold Adam, cursed Adam, shamed Adam, soon-to-be-new Adam, risen in glory. (p. 52)

Written by Scott Moonen

September 11, 2020 at 7:10 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (10)

leave a comment »

Early on, most of the contrarian chatter on the rona was that it was worse than we all thought. I can recall early theories that China’s numbers were way under-represented. Remember the mobile subscriber reports? Perhaps this was fluctuations in gaming all of the mobile advertising and attention-reputation systems. Perhaps some of this was Uighur. But since then, most of the contrarians have focused on ways in which we have tended to overestimate. Antibody studies have consistently showed that the spread was greater than we thought and therefore the risk was less than we thought. We heard of specific accounts of case inflation and death inflation, and wondered at the fact that there seem to be perverse incentives in place for both of those numbers. This week it was interesting to see the CDC numbers showing extraordinarily high levels of co-morbidity. I do not agree with the simplistic claim that we should adjust the death count by 94%, but the numbers were certainly surprising. It was equally interesting to see additional suggestions that PCR results may be exaggerated (with potential for both false positives and also positives for weeks post recovery) but at the same time antibody results may be under-representative. Of course, this is not the final word, but these are interesting developments to me. As always, stay tuned to Alex Berenson if you are also interested in this kind of stuff.

I am no lover of public school, but this tweet caught my attention. Fauci: “asymptomatic transmission has never been the driver of outbreaks.”

I feel more and more that we have collectively decided to drive 25mph just because Miss Daisy is out there on the roads. I’ve been reflecting: what are the long-term implications of this collective insanity, this iatrogenicide if you will, on our institutions and leaders, even if we somehow miraculously agreed to abandon it all tomorrow and pretend that things were back to normal? Friedman would say that we cannot cater to anxiety for the sake of temporary peace and unity without always creating a fragile situation where greater anxiety and greater disunity will ultimately reign. Every parent knows what happens when you coddle anxiety; the tyranny of the weak really is a tyranny. As Wilson says, “there is a difference between deferring to the weaker brothers, on the one hand, and putting them in charge of what the whole church must do.” Girard would say that we cannot play the game of imitation without coming to live on the knife’s edge where one wrong move will bring a wave of scapegoating upon our own heads. If you glance over your shoulder now to imitate others’ “leadership,” you will eventually be running glancing back over your shoulder on a mob.

Many churches have given up so many things they once claimed to cherish and even to be commanded by God. Whatever happened to the regulative principle? In many decisions, the fear of God was exchanged for the fear of man and fear of the unknown. Churches know that Friedman and Girard are not just describing natural processes, but that we are always sowing into a future where God himself ensures that reaping and judgment will take place. Judgment begins with the household of God, and he judges leaders with a greater strictness. Churches and leaders that have decided, contrary to God’s word, that they still have the authority to close doors and tables to hungry sheep, must continue to experience shaking from God until they repent. God is not mocked, and salt that has lost its saltiness is good for nothing except to be thrown out and trampled. As things stand right now, I believe that even if all of this were to stop tomorrow, we would not be making a fresh and exciting start, emerging stronger than ever, etc.; but rather experiencing the eye of the hurricane.

But enough about the rona. Wow, Big Eva. Are Tripp and Duncan going to repudiate Eric Mason? I am not surprised by Stetzer, but Ortlund? Funny, though: I launched into Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel recently, expecting to enjoy it, but was deeply disappointed. However, I now realize that I had confused Raymond Ortlund with Rob Rayburn. Forgive me, Rob.

Apropos all of 2020, Satan always couches his lies in a partial truth.

This was a great testimony of conducting disagreement as a happy warrior!

Would you join me in the To The Word Bible reading challenge? It starts on Monday!

Written by Scott Moonen

September 5, 2020 at 6:49 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (9)

leave a comment »

Happy birthday to my brother Jonathan! He writes:

Christians today (who make up the church, the body of believers around the world) are priests to God and men, in the sense that we minister to God and to each other (1 Peter 2, Hebrews). These priestly duties resemble, although in a much truer and deeper sense, the priestly duties of the Jewish priests in the Old Covenant (Leviticus 8-10). There was a clear pattern established that included daily/weekly activities which relate to us in the church in gathering, worship, prayer, proclamation of the Word, and communion (Hebrews 7-8). This is the whole argument upon which the commonly-quoted statement “Do not forsake meeting together” is built (Hebrews 10). There are important priestly duties that Christians must participate in to obey our great High Priest, Jesus, and to partake in His blessings. As the old saying goes, going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, but you can’t be a Christian if you don’t go to church. There’s much to be said here, but this lengthy point relates to churches refusing to close for extended periods in response to COVID-19, because obeying God is more important than obeying man, especially if man’s rules are inconsistent and/or illogical.

Yes! The only thing I would add is that our priestly duty is also a ministry to the world, for the life of the world.

Perhaps you didn’t know, but the CDC considers masks insignificant to assessing your risk of exposure. They also consider that “most people will have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care and may not need to be tested.” I have no plans to get tested if I experience an ordinary fall or winter cold.

Keep an eye on Alex Berenson’s Day of Normality. I’m thinking of a picnic at Hilltop-Needmore Park, which we have done from time to time throughout this season, but I’m open to other possibilities!

I’ve been chuckling for a few days over this summary of Tenet: “With its international locations and stunt set pieces along with all the temporal weirdness, it’s actually quite like a Bond film called No Time To Die To Time No.” I’m looking forward to watching it.

Earlier this year, Michael Foster characterized 2020 as an audition for future leadership. Big Eva continues to fail their audition. Doug Wilson similarly indicates that the question is not only to patiently persuade here and now, but even more a question of “who will be listened to after the panic is gone.” But this is a timeless truth; Kipling reminds us that, “if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs . . . you’ll be a Man, my son!” There is a kind of witness that has only temporary credibility, losing all credibility in the end.

Speaking of all this, Chadwick Boseman sounds like he was the real deal. Be like Chadwick Boseman.

One of the ways that I like to summarize Edwin Friedman is to say that fathers and leaders are “anxiety eaters.” Friedman would say that a good leader has acquired a kind of practiced immunity to anxiety. But Christians have an additional weapon: we serve the great anxiety eater on whom we are invited to cast all our cares. I’ve always loved the way Toby Sumpter put this in his essay, Free to carry more.

I loved this essay as well: A pandemic observed. We are physical beings but also social and spiritual beings. Any accounting we give of risk and potential, truth and love must address our whole persons. This has implications for things like lockdowns and masking, especially in worship but also in the public space. I have seen people linking lockdowns and masks to the sixth commandment, but we ought to connect them to the ninth as well, since we are equally at risk of spreading lies and fear, mistrust and suspicion. I mean to some extent lies about the effectiveness of lockdowns and masks, and the appropriateness of their being forced upon us; but I am thinking much more of lies about what kind of beings we are, what ekklesia and koinania and philadelphos are, what kind of story we live in, and how now we should live.

I take great issue with this. Don’t be distracted by the hats; it’s all about beards:

I wrote last week of a functional “real absence” view of the Lord’s supper. Although the phrase “real presence” means different things to different people, there are a few ways that I like to think of it:

  1. From reading John 6:53ff, whether or not you share my belief that Jesus and John are purposely referring to the supper, believers must agree that some kind of feasting on Jesus is inescapable.
  2. We are actually not surprised that Jesus is present in the supper, since he is always present when we gather (Matthew 18:20), and since we are always present with him for Lord’s day worship (Hebrews 12). Of course he is present: he is seated at the head of the table!
  3. Jesus is present in the supper because it is a memorial, and every memorial summons the king to preside in evaluation and judgment.
  4. We have been mistaken all this time hunting for Jesus in the nouns of bread and wine. We should have looked for him in the verbs, in our doing this in faith.
  5. Actually, there is one noun where Jesus is present: one another. We discern his body by discerning one another to be members of that body (1 Cor 11–12, etc.). Richard Hooker writes that “The Real Presence of Christs most Blessed Body and Blood, is not therefore to be sought for in the Sacrament, but in the worthy Receiver of the Sacrament.”
  6. Calvin writes, “For unless we would charge God with deceit, we will never presume to say that he holds forth an empty symbol. Therefore, if by the breaking of bread the Lord truly represents the partaking of his body, there ought to be no doubt whatever that he truly exhibits and performs it. The rule which the pious ought always to observe is, whenever they see the symbols instituted by the Lord, to think and feel surely persuaded that the truth of the thing signified is also present. For why does the Lord put the symbol of his body into your hands, but just to assure you that you truly partake of him? If this is true let us feel as much assured that the visible sign is given us in seal of an invisible gift as that his body itself is given to us.”

Consider all of the tremendous imitative energy that 2020 has produced in executive orders and decrees and scapegoating. This Girardian energy seems on a hair trigger to swivel toward the church, which Girard observes is how the powers and principalities always work. It’s interesting to me to consider whether the end result this time is the exposure and confusion and flight of the wicked; or persecution. An important question is whether this moment is a “deception of the nations” which Satan is currently bound from conducting. Maybe this is not primarily Satan’s work but rather the first stage of God’s own decisive work in sending judicial confusion and hardening. Pray for the sound of marching in the balsam trees (1 Chron 14) and for hornets (Deut 7:20, etc.)!

I wrote of the authorship of God last week. A friend pointed out that scripture doesn’t really speak this way, speaking instead of God’s creative–providential work, whether as potter or similar (Ephesians 1, Colossians 1, Proverbs 8, Job, etc.). There’s also a theme of God’s creation–providence as a speech act (Genesis 1, Hebrews 1, perhaps Psalm 19, and then we have the profound presence of both Word and Spirit–breath everywhere). So, to distill this, creation–providence is beyond authorial on God’s part: it is continuously, intimately, exultingly, and life–givingly performative. One thing that’s appealing about this is that this seems to capture both God’s transcendence and his immanence and incarnation.

Written by Scott Moonen

August 29, 2020 at 9:54 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (8)

leave a comment »

A week at the beach with cousins:

This afforded some time for Solzhenitsyn:

But there is a limit, and beyond it one is no longer willing, one finds it too repulsive, to be a reasonable little rabbit. And that is the limit beyond which rabbits are enlightened by the common understanding that all rabbits are foredoomed to become only meat and pelts, and that at best, therefore, one can gain only a postponement of death and not life in any case. That is when one wants to shout: “Curse you, hurry up and shoot!”

It was this particular feeling of rage which took hold of Vlasov even more intensely during his forty-one days of waiting for execution. In the Ivanovo Prison they had twice suggested that he write a petition for pardon, but he had refused.

But on the forty-second day they summoned him to a box where they informed him that the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet had commuted the supreme measure of punishment to twenty years of imprisonment in corrective-labor camps with disenfranchisement for five additional years.

The pale Vlasov smiled wryly, and even at that point words did not fail him:

“It is strange. I was condemned for lack of faith in the victory of socialism in our country. But can even Kalinin himself believe in it if he thinks camps will still be needed in our country twenty years from now?” (The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 1, 455)

After all, we have gotten used to regarding as valor only valor in war (or the kind that’s needed for flying in outer space), the kind which jingle-jangles with medals. We have forgotten another concept of valorcivil valor. And that’s all our society needs, just that, just that, just that! That’s all we need and that’s exactly what we haven’t got. (The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 1, 462)

I haven’t found a video with all three verses, but isn’t this deeply wonderful:

Thanks to Uri Brito for the find. I must say, this is far better than Toto’s version, which unfortunately is making the rounds of my household.

Isn’t it interesting that we love the beginning of Psalm 139 but not so much the end?

Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain.
Do I not hate those who hate you, O Yahweh?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies. (Psalm 139:19–22)

Something is out of balance if we struggle to find appropriate objects for this prayer, or, worse, struggle to see it as appropriate at all. Somewhat related, I was reflecting on Ruth this week:

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. (Ruth 1:16 ESV)

Isn’t it remarkable that conversion and loyalty to God is inseparable from conversion and loyalty to God’s people? Ruth and Naomi remind me as well of of Jacob’s blessing Pharaoh in spite of the few and evil days of his life. Isn’t it equally remarkable that these testimonies of God’s faithfulness and purpose in suffering would result in robust conversion?

Sadly, in days when suffering and sacrifice are rare, a husband is not always a protection against this:

But refuse to enroll younger widows . . . They learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. (1 Timothy 5:11–13 ESV)

Fascinating: the lost colony was never lost, just not found.

Way too many good tweets this week to do a practical roundup. You should follow: Hans Fiene, Michael Foster, Andrew Isker, Alex Berenson.

If a church sees new visitors during this season of rona, is it really wise to encourage them to return to their original home when it is all over? Why would you encourage someone to return to shepherds who practically abandoned them? Related, I wonder if the church is experiencing a rise in separations and divorces in this year of spiritual distancing. Body must body!

Also related, it seems to me that we have developed today a functional theology of the “real absence” of Jesus at his covenant meal. The Lord’s supper is no longer seen as an entry into the heavenly marriage supper, nor even a joyful and eucharistic foretaste of it. This explains why the supper is often so bland and solemn and infrequent. But it also explains how we have arrived at the conclusion that our own absence at that meal is a matter of little consequence.

Considering also how we arrive at the supper, I’m intrigued by the fact that the Lord’s prayer does not open with an early confession of sin. In fact, its appeal for forgiveness does not even really constitute a confession. Although repentance is a way of life for the Christian, and is liturgically appropriate, repentance is not the fundamental flavor of that festive life.

Speaking of the marriage supper, last week I mentioned Galileo. Considering the book of Revelation, and both our present worship and eternity, it is clear that in the most important sense of the word, the earth is the center of the universe.

Written by Scott Moonen

August 21, 2020 at 9:09 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (7)

leave a comment »

Please accept this friendly reminder that the CDC considers your risk for the ‘rona to be negligible until you have spent at least fifteen minutes within six feet of someone who is symptomatic or pre-symptomatic. I know firsthand of multiple cases where spouses have not contracted the virus from one another. It’s still so strange to me that we are valuing self-preservation over natural affection right now.

Lisa reports that mask compliance in Dunn is much lower than in Fuquay. My theory of county color holds.

Please also accept this friendly reminder that slavery still exists in the United States.

Chicks for sale. Resistance is futile:

And the onions and the figs are coming in!

Doug Wilson has a good word about John MacArthur and the binding of the conscience. Apropos MacArthur, I ran across this great clip this week:

So they feared Yahweh but also served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away. (2 Kings 17:33)

For a class at church, I’ve had the occasion to read Grudem’s material on creation and providence. A few things stand out to me.

First, there is (unsurprisingly) more to the story of Galileo than popular history lets on. There is certainly ugly church politics, but it is a story of science vs. science and Christian vs. Christian rather than a story of science vs. boorish religion. Here is some interesting reading on how the science vs. science was not settled. On Christian vs. Christian, Galileo seems to have loved the church and been a staunch believer in the inspiration and inerrancy of scripture, so he is not a very sympathetic character for the new atheists.

Second, concerning creationism, I believe that the universe is roughly 6000 years old. Of course the universe has the appearance of age; doesn’t any work of art? It is true that not all genealogies capture every generation for theological reasons, but it seems clear to me that the genealogies with years and ages attached are given to us as real chronological markers in addition to their theological significance. And it is far from a hill to die on, but I especially love the idea that we will celebrate 6000 AM in 2070 AD. (James Jordan has done extensive and compelling work on this; here is a brief summary.) Grudem seems to prefer an age of 10 to 20 thousand years, while holding it lightly. What I’m especially struck by is his insistence that “neither [the young or old earth view] is certain” which he links with a call for “much more humility.” Of course we may not despise one another, but here our classic evangelical confusion between pride and conviction rears its head again.

To judge between “A”, “not-A” and “be not proud,” it is not enough to simply observe the configuration of the debate; we must assess the truth of each claim. Grudem knows how to do this on matters where he is convinced; he is obviously gracious in the matter of Calvinism vs. Arminianism, but makes no appeal to humility there.

Actually, knowing only the configuration of the debate, we should probably be prepared to rule against “be not proud or self-righteous.” It is true, but it is also a truism, and one which applies to all three parties. Remember that Paul wants us to be both convinced and humble in our disagreements (Romans 14). Too often, we stop at “just be humble” and remain unwilling to adjudicate the truth; the man who does this is not only failing to be convinced in his own mind but is also unwilling to allow others the privilege of being convinced. Worse, in doing this, he is giving error the same standing as truth. Sproul, again:

Finally, I appreciated Grudem’s work on predestination. I’m freshly struck that one of the best ways to show how Arminian arguments fall flat against Calvinism is to show how they fall flat against human authorship. Consider that: (1) We would not be surprised or confused if Frodo stomped his foot and insisted he was completely free to choose whether to destroy the ring. (2) We would never blame Tolkien for the great wrongs committed by Sauron. (3) We gladly affirm that Sauron deserved punishment for those wrongs. (4) And in fact we praise Tolkien highly for writing a beautiful story in which justice is done. (5) We would not at all be surprised to find Tolkien weeping at the outcome of Sauron’s destruction; loving his own creation and even responding to the very things he has decreed.

In short, the Arminian does not stop to consider what it really means that God is transcendent (just as Tolkien is transcendent to Frodo and Sauron). But on the flip side we can’t lose sight of God’s immanence, either. That’s something Tolkien couldn’t do!

I’m also enjoying Solzhenitsyn. This week’s quotes:

But . . . for mercy one must have wisdom. This has been a truth throughout our history and will remain one for a long time to come. (The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 1, 271)

There is a simple truth which one can learn only through suffering: in war not victories are blessed but defeats. Governments need victories and the people need defeats. Victory gives rise to the desire for more victories. But after a defeat it is freedom that men desire—and usually attain. A people needs defeat just as an individual needs suffering and misfortune: they compel the deepening of the inner life and generate a spiritual upsurge. (The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 1, 272)

But I had begun to sense a truth inside myself: if in order to live it is necessary not to live, then what’s it all for? (The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 1, 280)

Written by Scott Moonen

August 14, 2020 at 6:38 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (6)

leave a comment »

Cooper extended North Carolina’s phase 2. And Lee County caved as well. Meanwhile, I read and greatly appreciated Alex Berenson’s Unreported Truths, volume 1 and volume 2. I appreciate that he does not varnish estimates and readily admits where he was wrong. His sources are plentiful and far from arcane. Quoting a 2006 paper by Dr. Donald Henderson:

Experience has shown that communities faced with epidemics or other adverse events respond best and with the least anxiety when the normal social functioning of the community is least disrupted.

It is odd and interesting that Europe is not gripped by confusion quite as much as we are. Over there you see thoughtful critique of the value of masks and lockdowns (e.g., Netherlands, Switzerland), but here the public voices and socialmarms stand together with their scorn and tar and feathers ready for folks like Berenson. Berenson recognizes there is more going on here than careful, reasoned debate:

But the most likely explanation is the simplest. Faced with a risk of hundreds of thousands or millions of deaths, the public health experts who for decades had counseled patience and caution flinched. They found they could not live with acknowledging how little control they or any of us had over the spread of an easily transmissible respiratory virus. They had to do something—even if they had been warning for decades that what they were about to do would not work and might have terrible secondary consequences.

Friedman and Girard strike again. MacArthur, on the other hand, is not an anxious leader. His interview with Eric Metaxas is great:

May God grant him great success in his legal battle. In this good work he is not only providing a fatherly covering for his own people, but also for many other churches.

In contrast with MacArthur, consider now the scenario where a pastor and worship team gather together to make a video recording or conduct a live stream. If, unlike MacArthur, they choose to override people’s own risk decisions and refuse admission to the congregation, it seems to me they are guilty of 1 Corinthians 11, where “each one goes ahead with his own meal,” doing so without “discerning the body.” And just as in Galatians 2, it seems to me that they “stand condemned” and are “not in step with the truth of the gospel.”

I do not say that the whole body must gather at one time and place (though I think it best by far) but at least there should be actual appointed smaller bodies if there is any gathering at all. The Greears and Stanleys of today need not copy MacArthur exactly, but as those who will have to give an account they should consider their plans very carefully.

And if we have failed in today’s temptation, the church is guaranteed an opportunity to try again when normal fall and winter sniffles knock on our door. Sickness is an unfortunate but a normal part of life. Preparing ourselves to handle this well is actually a great pastoral service to people; remember carefully what Dr. Henderson wrote above.

We must hold to what we have quoted from Paul [Romans 10:17]—that the church is built up solely by outward preaching, and that the saints are held together by one bond only: that with common accord, through learning and advancement, they keep the church order established by God [cf. Ephesians 4:12]. It was especially to this end that, as I have said, in ancient times under the law all believers were commanded to assemble at the sanctuary. For while Moses speaks of God’s dwelling place, at the same time the place where God has put the memory of his name he calls the “place of God’s name” [cf. Exodus 20:24]. He plainly teaches thereby that there can be no use of the place apart from the doctrine of godliness. Doubtless for the same reason David complains with great bitterness of spirit that he has been barred from the Tabernacle through the tyranny and cruelty of his enemies [Psalm 84:2-3]. To many this seems almost a childish complaint, for to be denied access to the Temple would be a very slight loss, and would destroy but little pleasure, provided other delights were still at hand. Nevertheless, he laments that he burns, is tormented and well-nigh consumed, with this single trouble, vexation, and sorrow. Surely, this is because believers have no greater help than public worship, for by it God raises his own folk upward step by step. (Calvin, Institutes, 4.1.5)

Consider these outstanding lemmas on liberty from Doug Wilson.

Is it you, you troubler of America? (everyone, including BigEva, to the church)

I watched this movie with the big kids this week. So good:

Some interpretive maximalist food for thought:

Peano arithmetic to own the commies! Also, I heartily affirm that leaves are green in summer:

I appreciated Relevant’s interview of Gladwell from a few years back.

The kids started back to home schooling this week. We now have three in high school! Since I’m working from home still, I’ve started up a daily Psalm chant. I’m fairly new to chanting and delighted with the raw shanty-like feel. We’re using the Concordia ESV Psalter. But the Theopolis Institute is also undertaking a fresh translation and composition of Psalm chants over the next couple years. Join me in support of them!

Written by Scott Moonen

August 7, 2020 at 9:07 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (5)

leave a comment »

I learned this week that raw meat is not soaking in blood. What I have called blood is actually water and myoglobin rather than hemoglobin. This clarifies Acts 15 for me and I repent of having tried blood sausage once. (Seriously.)

Ahh, Steve:

Lots of county fairs cancelled too. The only one around here that I can find that hasn’t decided yet is the Lee Regional Fair, which I’m keeping my eyes on. Something tells me my new motto, “don’t stretch the curve into the next decade,” isn’t about to catch on.

I commented on the Summit’s 2020 meeting plans last week. Greear portrayed it as a return to a house church model. I’m skeptical this is just a further ecclesiological decline, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work. So: are they appointing elders? Are these elders leading each little body in weekly worship, including participation in the table? If not, then what you have is κοινωνία, which may be truly wonderful, but not ἐκκλησία. And if it is not church, you should be honest and admit that what you are conducting is really a famine or exile from the house and worship of God.

Hence the form of the Church appears and stands forth conspicuous to our view. Wherever we see the word of God sincerely preached and heard, wherever we see the sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ, there we cannot have any doubt that the Church of God has some existence. . . Wherefore let these marks be carefully impressed upon our minds, and let us estimate them as in the sight of the Lord. There is nothing on which Satan is more intent than to destroy and efface one or both of them. . . (Calvin, Institutes, Book 4, Chapter 1)

But equally:

How perilous, then, nay, how fatal the temptation, when we even entertain a thought of separating ourselves from that assembly in which are beheld the signs and badges which the Lord has deemed sufficient to characterize his Church! We see how great caution should be employed in both respects. . . we must in this case be no less careful to avoid the imposture than we were to shun pride and presumption in the other.

When we say that the pure ministry of the word and pure celebration of the sacraments is a fit pledge and earnest, so that we may safely recognize a church in every society in which both exist, our meaning is, that we are never to discard it so long as these remain, though it may otherwise teem with numerous faults. Nay, even in the administration of word and sacraments defects may creep in which ought not to alienate us from its communion. . . Our indulgence ought to extend much farther in tolerating imperfection of conduct. . . If the Lord declares that the Church will labor under the defect of being burdened with a multitude of wicked until the day of judgment, it is in vain to look for a church altogether free from blemish (Mt.13). (Calvin, Institutes, Book 4, Chapter 1)

I’ve always thought of serve in Joshua 24 as primarily meaning obey, and it certainly means no less. But it struck me freshly this week that the semantic range also includes worship (e.g., as in Exodus 10):

“Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:14–15 ESV)

As for me and my household, we will gather with my Lord and his people for his appointed covenant renewal feasts.

Wilson praises MacArthur fittingly. We just finished reading The Silver Chair out loud as a family, so the Puddleglum reference especially tickled me. It is a trenchant observation that our culture has a growing trend of leadership by smothering mothering. Recall this is just what Tocqueville prophesied. It is what I meant by “managerial” and “focus-group-tested” last week, and this “spirit of deep empathy” is widely praised in business today. (How is your employee engagement trending?) But as a primary strategy, this will backfire: we need fathers as well as mothers, especially if we are to mature; and this is in fact just another way of expressing Friedman’s powerful insights concerning dysfunction, anxiety, and maturation. If Wilson and Friedman and Tocqueville are right, unless we come to value and pursue genuine fatherly, masculine leadership, the families, churches, businesses, and cities that we are seeking to cultivate and preserve will ironically become more atrophied and immature and vulnerable.

As Friedman observes, those families, churches, businesses, and cities that resist motherfussing motherhenning may suffer short-term resistance from those who are seeking validation of their own anxieties, but will grow into long-term stability, fruitfulness, and maturity. They might remain small, but they will not be so fragile. As I said last week, the outlook for ordinary, small, faithful churches is bright, even if they stand to temporarily take a membership dip over the next couple years. (But I think any dip will be more than offset by a father-hungry exodus from the motherships.)

And, to be clear, God does not wish fathers or mothers to be anxious, fussy, or exhaustively empathetic. We are speaking here in a kind of shorthand of common distortions of godly femininity, which are kept in check, as Wilson observes, by godly masculinity. We live in such a time that it has become common wisdom that not only CEOs and presidents but even husbands and fathers should cultivate these distortions too.

By some of the responses I’ve read on my MacArthur post, Daniel should have prayed behind closed doors. (Gary DeMar)

This fellow had a great way of expressing Wilson’s insight that we are subject to manifold authorities, including paper ones.

I’m working through 1 and 2 Kings this week. Random things that stood out to me: (1) The queen of Sheba parallels the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts. Of course, both of them are from the same country; the eunuch in fact serves the queen of Sheba. Both of them are fulfillments of Solomon’s prayer in 1 Kings 8. The first queen is impressed with visible glory (this of course does not mean that she was not converted), while the eunuch is amazed at the sacrificial transfiguring glory of one who temporarily lacked form and majesty and beauty. (2) Elijah turns Ahab’s “troubler of Israel” back upon him. This reminds me of other serpent-accusers who deserved to be hoisted by their own petard: Pharaoh did harm to Abram; both Abraham and Isaac took wise and godly precaution with their respective Abimelechs precisely because of what might have been done to them; Esau sought to trick Jacob; Laban tricked Jacob with wages; and of course many others, including Haman. (3) Take courage; even today God has preserved thousands who have not bowed the knee to idols. (4) Speaking of idols, I’d like to find a politician who will say, “Former men have served scientism and libertinism a little, but I will serve them much.”

Written by Scott Moonen

August 1, 2020 at 9:18 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (4)

leave a comment »

LinkedIn told me in 2012 that my LinkedIn Premium free trial offer expired soon. I was excited at the possibility, but alas, they did not keep their word, and I have received many more such offers over the years, including another one this week.

Last weekend I deplored Andy Stanley’s reopening decision and was waiting to hear The Summit’s plans. This week they announced they are also not meeting corporately for the rest of the year. Have we forgotten the very meaning of ekklesia?! Are we not the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven?! The falling–apart of all the big things is approaching faster than I expected; a year ago I put BigEva on a ten–year timetable. I had in mind creeping wokeness when I wrote that, not a doubling down (O Paul Tripp!), much less an anxious, managerial, focus–group–tested abandonment of ekklesia altogether. It’s blustery out there, but ordinary, small, boring, plodding, faithful churches know just how to minister fruitfully in a good wind like this, even if we have to reckon with sailing into it. At the same time, as more and more big things fall apart, we also need to be working on strengthening bonds between fellow local churches.

By contrast, John MacArthur takes an admirable stand.

John McLeod does an outstanding and stirring job summarizing the tithe. The main thing I want to add is that there is a connection between the tithe and the tribute offering, or minchah. We see this in that firstfruits could be in the form of a minchah (Leviticus 2, Numbers 28) and also since the twice–daily (Exodus 29, Numbers 28) and weekly (Leviticus 23, Numbers 28) minchah were probably formed from the tithes that Israel brought to God’s house. Tribute is an ordinary and necessary part of God’s order of worship. We might even gather from this regular service of bread an argument for weekly communion (see number 3), another confirmation that our tithing and feasting and worshipping are always ever so tightly coupled. This, taken together with Deuteronomy 16:16 and 1 Corinthians 16:2, is why I strive to bring a weekly tithe.

And of course you can see how the importance of keeping this, our good lord’s weekly throneroom–assembly–feast, informs my opinion about closing the church’s doors.

As Oliver O’Donovan pointed out in The Desire of the Nations, “we must look to the horizon of God’s redemptive purposes if we are to grasp the full meaning of political events that pass before our eyes.” On that horizon is the unification of all things in Christ (Eph. 1:9f.), a unity contradicted by all stoking of animosity and vengeance. But unity pursued without Christ is likewise a violation of God’s purposes. Before him alone, every knee shall bow.

Lessons about justice and human dignity that the Church presents to the world are only intelligible in light of the whole Christian message. Checking our theology at the door when we speak of matters of public significance—silencing the claim that Christ is King—may satisfy the segregational rules of liberalism, but then, O’Donovan warns, “the democratic ‘creed’, not the Gospel, becomes the heart of the church’s message to the state.” (Ken Myers, Mars Hill Audio summer fundraising letter)

“Courage, friends,” came Prince Rilian’s voice. “Whether we live or die Aslan will be our good lord.” (C. S. Lewis, The Silver Chair)

I’ve been working through Absalom’s conspiracy in 2 Samuel. There is some fascinating typology and biblical theology in here! I’ve previously mentioned that there are two obvious baptisms in this passage, including the baptism of little ones. It seems to me that John is consciously playing on this episode in his account of the crucifixion and resurrection. I am sure that I am barely scratching the surface here, but consider: (1) David and Jesus both cross the brook Kidron. (2) Caiaphas is a kind of Absalom, the son of the house usurping the master of the house. (3) Judas is a kind of Ahithophel–advisor to the priests, even to the point of hanging himself, and the ESV’s footnotes even acknowledge this similarity in Matthew. This episode does not occur in John, however, so it may be that Annas fills the shoes of Ahithophel in John’s account. (4) John enters Caiaphas’s house, so he could be a kind of Hushai in this account. Alternately, his and Peter’s entering Caiaphas’s house could mirror Jonathan and Ahimaaz spying for David. (5) Even the humorous episode of Ahimaaz outrunning the Cushite is reproduced in John’s outrunning Peter. There even is a possibility that, like Ahimaaz, John is of a priestly family. (6) Peter’s fishing expedition mirrors the elders of Judah crossing the Jordan to welcome David back. As above, this is a kind of baptism into David, into Jesus. (7) There are of course a few interesting reversals or twists. Absalom violates ten of David’s concubines and David withdrew from them. Jesus’s disciples are scattered at his crucifixion, and John 20:19ff allows for a reading where Jesus visits ten of them (if you assume it is the twelve minus Judas and minus Thomas as we later learn). (8) In a sense, the fact that Caiaphas and Annas live while Jesus dies is the opposite of David’s account. However, in reality, in his resurrection Jesus enters into transfigured life, into the new creation, his kingdom; and Caiaphas and Annas are excluded from all this.

Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. (Hebrews 13:13 ESV)

I’m also fascinated by Chimham. From Jeremiah 41 we learn that David’s gift to him may have been an inn. Is this by any chance the place at which, but not in which, Jesus was born?

Written by Scott Moonen

July 25, 2020 at 9:04 am

Metábasis eis állo génos

with one comment

I mentioned previously Toby Sumpter’s phrase “cheerfully difficult.” This is another way of saying “happy warrior.” Crucially, the happy warrior is characterized by joy and laughter; he is not anxious.

Speaking of Toby, I reread Lewis’s space trilogy earlier this year. It occurs suddenly to me that the vision of dominion–maturity set for Tor and Tinidril and their generations is the exact picture of what Sumpter sees laid out for us in God’s wrestling with Job. I commend this reading of Job to you, as well as the Girardian reading.

Duane Garner reflects on the key differences between God’s law and the laws of tyrants. God’s law is limited and actually establishes freedom and agency. God is in the business of multiplying agency and authority and dominion. Godly leaders follow this pattern (this is the mission of parenting in a nutshell), while tyrants are in the business of limiting and collecting authority.

I’m sure you don’t need my encouragement to read Doug Wilson’s or Mark Horne’s latest.

May all our sons follow in the footsteps of this manly lad. I dare you to read it without getting a little misty eyed.

We took a trip to Pennsylvania and New York recently. It was fascinating to compare them with Wake County. From afar, we have only been aware of how draconian Pennsylvania and New York have been with their ‘rona restrictions, including the requirement for us to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival. But our observations on the ground were that compliance with these restrictions was far less than we see here in North Carolina’s capital county. To me this seems to correlate (hear me carefully) with red–county–blue–state and blue–county–red–state. Or, levels of affluence and their corresponding priorities and affordances. Not coincidentally, on our visit I learned of the widespread sanctuary county movement.

Also, the Pennsylvania firefly experience beats the North Carolina experience, hands down. We all know that our childhood houses are bigger in memory than in reality, but in this case childhood memories proved completely factual.

I’ve only caught snippets of Tucker the last couple months, and have been intrigued, so I watched an extended speech from last year. Very impressed; you should watch it too.

Ivy asked me why I think the end is not near (courtesy Duane Garner for that phrase). In a nutshell: First, I say this because God promised to be faithful to thousands of generations, and if he owns the cattle on many thousands of hills and not just a thousand hills (Google tells me there are over a million mountains in the world), it seems we should think he intends to be faithful to at least a few thousand generations. Second, God intends for the leaven of the gospel to disciple the nations themselves. This is not just the conversion of the nations (Nineveh shows that he can accomplish this quickly), but their discipleship, their maturation. We expect the process of faith’s maturation to be slow because part of it is the acquisition of patience, of a long time sense (Hebrews 11). (Now put that in your eschatolegislative agency–multiplying pipe and smoke it.) Finally, and similarly, from 1 Corinthians 15, we know that Jesus will not return in order to reign, but rather that he is reigning now and will return only after his enemies have been subdued by the gospel, and then he will give the kingdom to his Father. It is not beyond him to accomplish this quickly, but if you compare this with Hebrews 2 and elsewhere, I think we should expect this spiritual warfare to be a long and sacrificial leavening process. See also: Parousia.

I previously suggested that Christians should normally think of ourselves as righteous. But, you say, “none is righteous, no, not one!” Well, Paul is actually making a pointed accusation against his contemporaries when he asserts this in Romans 3. He is quoting from Psalm 14, where David goes on to say that “God is with the generation of the righteous.” Paul is not making a universal statement as we so often assume, but rather arguing that the old covenant church was faithless to God and are therefore not counted righteous. Christians should think of ourselves as righteous, because God preserves us in the very covenant that makes sacrificial provision for our righteousness.

I recently revisited part of Calvin’s Institutes, book 1. I’m impressed with how boldly and unapologetically he speaks to the unbeliever, as if God dealt with rebellion in laughter and derision. Calvin is operating out of very psalmic categories; from the very first moment with him, you know that God demands the bending of your knee:

At this day, however, the earth sustains on her bosom many monster minds—minds which are not afraid to employ the seed of Deity deposited in human nature as a means of suppressing the name of God. Can any thing be more detestable than this madness in man, who, finding God a hundred times both in his body and his soul, makes his excellence in this respect a pretext for denying that there is a God? He will not say that chance has made him differ from the brutes that perish; but substituting nature as the architect of the universe, he suppresses the name of God.

Contra Calvin, I did find some evidence of Keller’s city–gospel at work! Perhaps if I read just a couple Bible verses I will know how to live as salt and light, and discover the exact pressure point to winsomely command the city’s repentance and obedience.

Andy Stanley is not reopening until 2021. The Summit still hasn’t announced their plans but remains closed through tomorrow at least. Now, work with me for a minute. Paul says that the law of muzzling an ox was written for our benefit rather than the ox (1 Cor 9:8ff), and links this not only to apostles but also to elders (1 Tim. 5:17–18). Looking back to Deuteronomy 25, we see that this command is juxtaposed to the law of the levir. Taking Paul into account, it seems plain to me that this law was not written for the benefit of the ox, but for the levir. Consider: treading is a readily understood metaphor for sexual relations, and therefore it is apparent that God wishes for the levir to enjoy the temporary use of the inheritance (i.e., eat the produce) until the child possesses it.

What this means is that Paul is building on this metaphor to identify the apostle and elder as a kind of levir. The elder is, quite unsurprisingly, a surrogate husband for the church while her Husband is in abstentia: appointed to care for the bride and raise up her offspring into their maturity and inheritance.

What will the Husband have to say to these men who have failed to gather His bride for her appointed feasts with Him? Are there not very few greater goods than His feasts, for which many Christians around the world still literally risk their lives each week to attend? And consider this: at least in the Corinthians’ case, the feasts were themselves a cause of death and the answer was to keep the feast aright (1 Cor 11), that is, with the utmost brotherly love. Thus: you should flee for the time being to the pure countryside air and its churches if necessary, but the feast will go on here for all who remain, and even if they wish to bring veiled faces.

Keep the feast! This is a crucial part of our being warriors full of joy and laughter.

Written by Scott Moonen

July 19, 2020 at 9:24 am