I gotta have my orange juice.

Jesu, Juva

Archive for the ‘Miscellany’ Category

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

Metábasis eis állo génos (19)

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Clearly there was some organization, funding, purpose, planning, and storytelling that went into this year’s riots. That’s the key information you need in order to understand election fraud right now.

Men are called to be hard in certain ways and soft in other ways. It is never the case that dysfunctional leadership fails by being exclusively hard or soft. Rather, it is hard in the wrong ways and soft in the wrong ways. Often this failing falls out along the axes of Rosenstock–Huessy’s cross of reality: we become soft to the outsider (i.e., unwilling to confront) and hard to the insider; we become hard (unsympathetic) toward the past and soft toward (that is, unwilling to conquer) the future.

It’s not possible to please everyone. That’s a thankless treadmill that we had better not get on in the first place. How can we welcome both the soccer mom who expects everyone to wear masks, and also the middle–aged plumber or car mechanic who is hungry for a handshake, who feels claustrophobic and emasculated and wrung out by all this craziness? Well, Paul has already given us the answer: let each be convinced in his own mind. I am far from having every masking advocate in mind here, but the soccer mom is a fussy legalist and in this case it is she rather than the plumber who needs to be blessed by the good news of a hard word. See also Alastair Roberts and Anthony Bradley. And this goes for more than just masks:

This year has exposed two fundamentally different world views, two different conceptions of unity: one conformist, Procrustean; the other differentiated, cooperative, generative, and diverse. God’s new ways are never quite like his old ways; it is interesting and refreshing to see the pressure cooker’s creating lines of fraternity between dispensationalist, baptist, charismatic, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Calvinist, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox.

But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery—to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. (Galatians 2:3–5 ESV)

However, there is a kind of mask I encourage you to wear. In fact, this is exactly how we discipline ourselves to be soft and hard at the right time.

Sometimes you learn as much by what people don’t say as by what they do say. We can all see what they are hard on, but what are they soft on, and why?

End the Fed:

Indeed, YHWH your God will bless you
as he promised you;
you will cause many nations to give–pledge,
but you will not (have to) give–pledges;
you will rule over many nations,
but over you they shall not rule. (Deuteronomy 15:6–7, Everett Fox)

This passage reminded me of Nehemiah 8:9:

When you finish tithing all the tithe of your produce . . .
you are to say, before the presence of YHWH your God:
. . . I have not eaten of it while in sorrow. (Deuteronomy 26:12–14, Everett Fox)

But this is not to say that there are never legitimate times for tithe–sorrow.

The vindication of Jesus in AD 70 is still an object lesson to us today:

Then shall say a later generation,
your children who arise after you
and the foreigner that comes from a land far–off,
when they see the blows (dealt) this land
and its sicknesses with which YHWH has made–it–sick:
by brimstone and salt, is all its land burnt,
it cannot be sown, it cannot sprout (anything),
there cannot spring up in it any herbage—
like the overturning of Sedom and Amora, Adma and Tzvoyim
that YHWH overturned in his anger, in his venomous–wrath.
Then shall say all the nations:
For what (reason) did YHWH do thus to his land,
(for) what was this great flaming anger?
And they shall say (in reply):
Because they abandoned the covenant of YHWH the God of their fathers
that he cut with them when he took them out of the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 29:21–24, Everett Fox)

How good it is to belong to Jesus:

There is none like God, O Yeshurun,
riding (through) the heavens to your help,
in his majesty in the skies.
A shelter is the Ancient God,
beneath, the arms of the Ageless–One.
He drove out from before you the enemy,
saying, “Destroy!” (Deuteronomy 33:26–27, Everett Fox)

Yet You are the One who took me out of the womb;
You made me trust while on my mother’s breasts.
Upon You I was cast from birth.
From my mother’s womb my Mighty One was You.
Be not far from me, for trouble [is] near;
No one is helping. (Psalm 22:18–23, James Jordan)

Written by Scott Moonen

November 5, 2020 at 8:29 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (18)

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Last week I linked Alastair Roberts’ article on gender and discourse. One proof point for his thesis is how we have come to think our leaders ought to present themselves to us. We would rather have relatable leaders than distant, impenetrable, strong, and assured ones; we have become easily offended by what Edwin Friedman calls the well–differentiated leader. We want our presidents to pay attention to the focus groups, appear on late night talk shows, and tell us whether they wear boxers or briefs. Heaven forbid that they are (or at least fail to pretend that they are not) Machiavellian. I follow James Jordan in believing that Nebuchadnezzar, Artaxerxes–Ahashuerus–Darius–the–Great, Cyrus, the king of Nineveh, Joseph’s Pharaoh, and Constantine were all converted. I sometimes wonder if Trump is as well.

Egalitarianism flattens not only the sexes but, because of the process Roberts observes, the many different spheres of life. We would do well to rediscover sphere sovereignty. Like any explanatory rubric, it can be taken too far. But it has a lot to offer in this moment, both in terms of the form and purpose and limitations of each sphere, and also how the church ought to speak to each sphere. You could say that it gives us a kind of “threefold division” not only of the law but of the entire Bible and of life itself. For example, the parable of the good Samaritan is not something you would normally preach to the magistrate except in his private capacity. In fact, the parable as originally presented is not even a criticism of private individuals, but rather of church leaders who had deeply confused priorities. There is a time to recognize that there is none righteous and preach the gospel of free grace. There is a time to urge and pray for unity. But at certain times in each sphere of life, those principles serve as a cop-out that whitewashes the sharp distinctions of beauty, truth, or righteousness.

Experts make their money by undermining your confidence in your own judgment. (C. R. Wiley, “Postconstitutional America & the Cult of Expertise”)

I had a chance to listen to Rogan interview Kanye and Jones this week. This was my first encounter with both Rogan and Jones. I enjoyed both interviews.

What would a company of prophets look like—a company of men both grim and joyful? This is a time, to steal an idea from Charles Simeon, of heavy ballast bearing hard against soaring sails of encouragement. Isn’t it interesting that we must have the one in order to fully enjoy and appreciate the other? (Then I recall that Simeon labored for years without the benefit of like–minded brothers!) Sometimes you must march through Moria in order to save the Shire. It is a rich blessing from God if you are able to do it in a fellowship.

Reflecting this week on the events of 2020, including lockdowns, social distancing, masks, riots, and more, I feel again very strongly that we are witnessing a very Girardian moment. Girard explains how a wave of perverse imitation can sweep the globe, to the point where we even imitate our excuses (“science,” “we are all racist”). But then we turn swiftly to ruthlessly scapegoat those who are not caught up in the wave of imitation. This explains why everything in 2020 has been deeply politicized; there is a sharp polarity between this pursuit of dominating perverse unity on the one hand, and the steadfast preservation of basic human dignity and self governance on the other. These are not disagreements between equally reasonable viewpoints.

The engine behind this is a very powerful one: a desire to be justified, and an unwillingness to find justification by exposing our sin and guilt and shame and receiving forgiveness in the blood of the true Scapegoat, then imitating him in discipleship and growth towards self-governing maturity. Instead we project guilt on others and crucify them. This momentarily soothes our consciences, but the relief is only momentary because it is a false justification and we have only added to our sin and guilt in the process. So the next time there is just a little more ruthlessness because there is more sin to be covered up. And this engine is further amplified by both fear and exhilaration when everyone around you is caught up in it as well. This is often tempting for the church, but seeing it clearly and resisting it is a crucial part of not being of the world.

It is right to see the seeds of persecution in 2020 even though the engine has not yet turned its full energy directly on the church. Girard stresses that the church is always the scapegoat of last resort when the cycle reaches its zenith. This is because the church is the bearer of the gospel, which is deeply offensive to everyone caught up in self justification. The church tears down strongholds, which is to say, we uniquely have the ability and responsibility to see and expose and resist this demonic scapegoating process, urging people to repent and find their justification in the true Scapegoat. That automatically begets persecution, although the ultimate fruit of that is going to be the growth and maturation of the church and kingdom, because our message is one of tremendous unearthly power: the one Scapegoat really does cover sins and give life!

So you see, there are good gospel reasons the church ought to purposefully (and cheerfully!) resist walking together with the world in any of the great issues of 2020. There is obvious darkness there to be exposed. And we need to be prepared for this to provoke a crisis point. But this will result in the growth of the kingdom.

I learned this week of the (timely) phrase normalcy bias.

Theopolis Institute published the first edition of their Liturgy and Psalter this week. Their plan is to provide fresh translations, melodies, and chants for every Psalm over the next few years.

Written by Scott Moonen

November 1, 2020 at 4:08 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (17)

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From this week’s reading:

May YHWH bless you and keep you!
May YHWH shine his face upon you and favor you!
May YHWH lift up his face toward you and grant you shalom! (Numbers 6:24-26, Everett Fox)

James Jordan observes this is the only scripturally commanded liturgical blessing (there are of course commanded prophetic blessings, like that of Balaam).

Arise (to attack), O YHWH,
That your enemies may scatter,
That those who hate you may flee before you!
. . .
Return, O YHWH,
(you of) the myriad divisions of Israel! (Numbers 10:35-36, Everett Fox)

Duane Garner points out in surveying Revelation that Israel used the same trumpets as a call to worship and also as a call to war. Worship is warfare!

YHWH spoke to Moshe, saying:
Make yourself two trumpets of silver,
of hammered-work you are to make them;
they are to be for you for calling-together the community
and for (signaling) the marching of the camps. (Numbers 10:1-2, Everett Fox)

I now know that a writer cannot afford to give in to feelings of rage, disgust, or contempt. Did you answer someone in a temper? If so, you didn’t hear him out and lost track of his system of opinions. You avoided someone out of disgust—and a completely unknown personality slipped out of your ken—precisely the type you would have needed someday. But, however tardily, I nonetheless caught myself and realized I had always devoted my time and attention to people who fascinated me and were pleasant, who engaged my sympathy, and that as a result I was seeing society like the Moon, always from one side.

But just as the moon, as it swings slightly back and forth (“libration”), shows us a portion of its dark side too—so that chamber of monstrosities disclosed people unknown to me. (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 2, 268)

Nassim Taleb would approve:

Over the years I have had much occasion to ponder this word, the intelligentsia. We are all very fond of including ourselves in it—but you see not all of us belong. In the Soviet Union this word has acquired a completely distorted meaning. They began to classify among the intelligentsia all those who don’t work (and are afraid to) with their hands. . . . And yet the truth is that not one of these criteria permits a person to be classified in the intelligentsia. If we do not want to lose this concept, we must not devalue it. The intellectual is not defined by professional pursuit and type of occupation. Nor are good upbringing and a good family enough in themselves to produce an intellectual. An intellectual is a person whose interests in and preoccupation with the spiritual side of life are insistent and constant and not forced by external circumstances, even flying in the face of them. An intellectual is a person whose thought is nonimitative. (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 2, 280-281)

With apologies to Keller and Piper (my friend Mark Horne has a very helpful response to Piper), it can’t be simultaneously true that voting is important but also that reasonable Christians may differ about almost every possible vote. At this moment, the fact of Christians differing does not imply its necessity. Rather, it means that many Christians are in want of discipleship. It is not true that it is debatable which of the two ways (largely) in front of us have a reasonable possibility of enacting neighbor love (Keller) or destruction (Piper). Although I appreciate them, Keller and Piper are too kind to a great and demonic evil. By demonic, of course I mean things that are so evil they did not even enter into God’s mind:

I do not want you to be participants with demons. (1 Corinthians 10:20 ESV)

But the way this is going down is also evil. Maybe Romans 13 will help us know what to do.

Note also that Christian discipleship is different from how the world works. Christian discipleship is imitative, and is generative of more rule and dominion. Worldly rule is not imitative (do as I say, not as I do), and it is restrictive not only of others’ leadership and dominion, but even of basic agency. Worldly rule treats adults as perpetual children; Christian discipleship graduates baptized infants into dominion-wielding adults who are fruitful and multiply.

For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” (1 Corinthians 3:19 ESV)

It is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of Citizens, and one of the noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it. (James Madison)

There are different ways the world has of going about this. In the past, tyranny might be concentrated in a few individuals, but today’s soft despotism is much more diffuse and sMothering. Reaching back four years, Alastair Roberts had profound insights into one facet of what is driving this enormous shift in the nature of discourse, not only in politics, but in the business world and even the church. Of course, as Anthony Bradley observes, women need not be present in the room in order for them to dominate the conversation.

There are complicated bedfellows in this discourse. At a populist level, egalitarianism is now seen as an unquestioned simple good. On the one side, the radical left has long been driving this as part of their larger agenda, thus revealing that the principalities and powers are behind it. On the other side, it is enabled in the church by thin complementarians who limit Scripture’s voice to the spheres of home and church, and who therefore could agree with Roberts’ observations but not his value judgment.

I mentioned Protestant resistance theory last week. Apropos this, my friend Brad points to Trewhalla’s recent book, The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates; and the inimitable Glenn Sunshine is publishing a new survey on this topic, Slaying Leviathan. So many books, so little time!

This was a cute parable:

I say it is cute because Terry and Wrath have their hermeneutics all wrong; cars are only the tip of the iceberg. The real question is this: would you give up your smartphone, Netflix, Prime, Spotify, and your college degree if you could bring sixty-one million babies back? Yes, Amen!

I know that Wrath would heartily agree with me, though:

I’ve been thinking about prophetic speech lately. I wonder that cessationists have any problem with prophecy. We all believe that the preaching of the word of God is the word of God, and yet no one is worried whether sermons are an attack on the inspiration of scripture.

I’ve mentioned before Jordan’s observation that the chief role of prophet seems to be to stand in the heavenly council as God’s friend, receiving revelation from him (Amos 3:7) and wrestling with him (as Abraham the prophet—Genesis 20:7, Moses, Habakkuk, etc.). The prophet then goes out into the world to speak God’s new creation into existence. Often this involves teaching people how repentance will enable them to pass through the death of the old creation into new life. I love how Toby Sumpter helps us to understand the book of Job as Job’s own maturation through suffering into prophethood.

There is a death of an era upon us; the old ways are no longer working, certainly outside the church, and in some ways within the church (to the extent we have become gnostic). God has given us the job of reflecting how to pass through to the other side, and how to bring as many as we can on our lifeboat-arks.

But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. (Jude 17–23 ESV)

The prophet thus must be a keen student of God and his word and his ways in the world. Speaking for myself, I have found James Jordan to be the single greatest teacher of the word. Through New Eyes is a good introduction, although his lectures are the real treasure trove. In the way of the world, René Girard and Edwin Friedman have been tremendously helpful to me in understanding human nature and relationships. Please comment to share what you have found helpful in these areas!

One other kind of prophecy seems to be simple singing, and we see this show up in several places in the Old Testament. I think this is the key to unlocking how 1 Corinthians 11 relates to 1 Corinthians 14 without resorting to extrabiblical supposition and handwaving. I hope to write on head coverings and silence in church at another time.

Considering God’s ways in the world, it’s reassuring to know that the wicked will eventually be caught in their own trap, will bite and devour one another. Plunderers may prosper for a time (here’s looking at you, Yelp), but unjust gain takes away the life of its possessors. I mention Yelp only as one small example:

You should listen to Mark Horne’s sermon on walking wise:

This is beautiful. Oktavist was a new term for me:

I forgot to mention that the Lutherans are doing good work in the public square too!

Written by Scott Moonen

October 24, 2020 at 10:25 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (16)

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I wonder if Leviticus 21:4 is another hint, together with Deuteronomy 25, that priest-pastors are levirs, husband–caretakers for God’s people:

He is not to make himself tamei (as) a husband among his people (does), to profane himself. (Leviticus 21:4, Everett Fox)

Whatever resulted in a court of Gentiles—and reluctance to eat together with Gentiles—in second–temple Judaism, it was a perversion of God’s commanded worship. It is true that you could not participate in Passover unless you were circumcised, but the uncircumcised Gentile God-fearer could bring offerings to God, and he could participate in the feast of booths. This perversion is part of the great judgment on the faithless priest–shepherd–husbands of Jesus’s day (e.g., Matthew 23:13-14).

YHWH spoke to Moshe, saying:
Speak to Aharon and to his sons and to all the Children of Israel, and say to them:
Any-Man, any-man of the House of Israel or of the sojourners in Israel
that brings-near his near-offering—including any of their vow-offerings or including any of their freewill-offerings that they bring-near to YHWH, as an offering-up— (Leviticus 22:17-18, Everett Fox, emphasis added)

Every native is to sacrifice these thus,
to bring-near a fire-offering of soothing savor for YHWH.
Now when there sojourns with you a sojourner,
or (one) that has been in your mids, throughout your generations,
and he sacrifices a fire-offering of soothing savor for YHWH;
as you sacrifice (it), thus is he to sacrifice (it).
Assembly!
One law for you and for the sojourner that takes-up-sojourn,
a law for the ages, throughout your generations:
as (it is for) you, so will it be (for) the sojourner before the presence of YHWH.
One instruction, one regulation shall there be for you
and for the sojourner that takes-up-sojourn with you! (Numbers 15:13-16, Everett Fox)

The pilgrimage-festival of Sukkot / Huts you are to observe for yourself, for seven days,
at your ingathering, from your threshing-floor, from your vat.
You are to rejoice on your festival,
you, your son, and your daughter,
your servant and your maid,
the Levite,
the sojourner, the orphan and the widow that are within your gates. (Deuteronomy 16:13-14, Everett Fox)

Thanks to my friend Nathan for this great quote from Thomas Boston:

Christians should wisely observe [God’s] providences . . . Because they are always perfect works. They will abide the strictest search and the most narrow inquiry, Deut. 32:4. Whatever faults we find with them, as we do many, it is for want of due observation. But at length he shall gain that testimony and recantation, ‘He hath done all things well,’ Mark 7:37. In these his works no flaw is to be found, no mistake; nothing too much, nothing too little; nothing too soon done, nothing too late done; nothing misplaced, nothing in or over; nay, nothing done that is not best done; nothing that man or angel could make better. The world will startle at this as a paradox: but faith will believe it, on the solid ground of infinite wisdom, though sense contradict it, Isa. 38:8, Jer. 12:1. O that they who will debate this truth would come near and observe.

This is a neat converse of iron and bronze:

Now if, after all that, you do not hearken to me,
I will continue to discipline you, sevenfold, for your sins—
I will break your fierce pride!
I will give your heavens to be like iron, and your earth like bronze, . . . (Leviticus 26:18–19, Everett Fox)

But it shall be:
If you do not hearken to the voice of YHWH your God,
by taking-care and by observing all his commandments and his laws
that I command you today,
then there will come upon you all these curses, and overtake you: . . . .
The heavens that are above your head will become bronze,
and the earth that is beneath you, iron. (Deuteronomy 28:15, 23, Everett Fox)

I always thought that it betrayed a deep misunderstanding—of God’s word and his ways—for modern Israel to name their air defense system Iron Dome. Much like how we used to sing “they rush on the city . . .” with such oblivious gusto.

Leviticus 27 is not a later addition or afterthought to the book. One reason we know this is that there are credible chiasms where it fits well. Also, if we take Leviticus as a covenant document, this chapter fits perfectly in the “succession” section of the pattern, immediately following the “oath” or “sanctions” section. Leviticus would be incomplete without making plans for the sustaining of the sanctuary.

To the Word took us through Ephesians this week. Some reflections, past and present: (1) There is a very real shadow government that determines everything that takes place (Eph. 1:20–23), and we are privileged to participate in it by our prayers and worship (Eph. 2:6). (2) Once you see that Ephesians 2 is primarily about historia salutis rather than ordo salutis, it is difficult to unsee it. (3) The mystery here and elsewhere in the Bible is that of Daniel’s stone cut by no human hand: Jesus would inaugurate a new kingdom that would not be Israel über alles, but would rather supersede all other kingdoms. (4) There is a counterfeit and impotent stone, uncut by hand, reputed to be from the heavens, right there in Ephesus! (Acts 19:35) (5) Jesus’s giving gifts is not Paul misquoting David through the Septuagint; it is a brilliant application of totus Christus: what Jesus receives he shares with his bride. (6) You can find echoes of all ten commandments in the book. (7) The identity between covetousness and idolatry (here, as in Colossians) is profound and important. (8) It is interesting to me that the word itself is an offensive weapon (the sword of the Spirit), but faith in that word is a defensive weapon. I suppose that we must trust the Spirit to make the word powerful in and toward others, but we also have some direct responsibility to cultivate its power within ourselves.

Hindsight is 20/20, isn’t it? Making room for Lenin, Stalin, and Mao is a sin (even if a foolish and unwitting one), and certainly a disqualification for leadership.

My son, if sinners entice you,
do not consent.
If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood;
let us ambush the innocent without reason;
like Sheol let us swallow them alive,
and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
we shall find all precious goods,
we shall fill our houses with plunder;
throw in your lot among us;
we will all have one purse”—
my son, do not walk in the way with them;
hold back your foot from their paths,
for their feet run to evil,
and they make haste to shed blood. (Proverbs 1:10–16, ESV)

This is a year the evangelical church will look back upon with great regret. In so many ways, we have redoubled our effort to appear respectable to the world, and unsurprisingly we have been played. But friendship with the world is enmity with God. There is a slow-motion coup being attempted in the United States, under cover of a thin veneer of righteous platitudes and bald-faced deception. Many people in our bureaucracy, politics, journalism, media, entertainment, and big tech are well overdue for their stay in prison. And this is not just about the bloodletting of babies but also the grooming of our neighbors’ sons and daughters, and the general bloodletting of our neighbors’ households and livelihoods. To make room for this coup is to actually disobey Romans 13, grossly; to hate our neighbor grossly; and to disqualify ourselves from leadership. You know that they will not be satisfied with the heads of inconvenient troublemakers (aren’t all prophets inconvenient?) like Wilson and Gagnon and Baucham. No, they will also come for Greear and Chandler and Thabiti and even Mason—the omelet must have its stooges—and eventually for you and me. Bezhmenov, McCarthy, Solzhenitsen, and many others are being vindicated before our eyes.

Of course, you have to observe flesh and blood rather than chapter and verse to discern that I am right and Keller is wrong, to discern that our political future is not a simple and neutral debate over which reasonable people may disagree. I was going to say that it requires wisdom to see where this is going, but that is not really true: it is already out in the open, unmasked, so to speak, and brazen. And this is why identifying this evil is a qualification for leadership; the fact that the line separating good and evil passes through our own hearts does not acquit us of this responsibility, but simply requires us to overcome that evil too. A pastor–husband must know what needs to be done, and he may not fear seeming unloving when this requires him to speak words of warning in actual love.

And yet we are happy warriors; we are ministers and officers of such a shadow government, and the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh:

Why do nations conspire,
And peoples murmur a vain thing?
Positioned are earth’s kings,
And rulers take counsel together,
Against Yahweh,
And against His anointed;
Saying, “Let us break Their chains,
And throw off of us Their ropes!”
The One enthroned in the heavens laughs;
My Master scoffs at them! (Psalm 2:1-10, James Jordan)

God is doing a good work of exposing and testing and tempering right now. May we be strengthened, purified, and proven true!

C. R. Wiley and friends recently provided a delightful encouragement to study Protestant resistance theory from, of all quarters, a Roman Catholic. Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos is in my reading queue after Solzhenitsyn.

The Theopolis conversation on the manosphere and the church is complete. I encourage you to read all of the articles.

Roundup:

Written by Scott Moonen

October 16, 2020 at 5:58 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (15)

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We recently spent a week at the beach with our small group. It’s hard to pick a highlight. Good food, great fellowship. One thing I enjoyed was getting introduced to the game Dominion. Ironically, I had received this game as a gift last year but hadn’t yet had a chance to play it. It’s now a regular part of our rotation!

I reflected on voting this week. It occurs to me that another way to express the value of voting is to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I would certainly appreciate a great many of my neighbors voting a certain way; I ought to do the same for them.

Speaking of voting, my friend Brad pointed out that child sacrifice is unusual in having a judgment on its even being countenanced:

Now if the People of the Land should hide, yes, hide their eyes from that man
when he gives of his seed to the Molekh, by not putting him to death,
I myself will set my face against that man and against his clan,
and will cut off him and all who go whoring along with him, to whore after Molekh,
from amid their kinspeople. (Leviticus 20:4–5, Everett Fox)

Aaron Renn of The Masculinist newsletter has started a podcast. I appreciated his recent episode reflecting on dangers and temptations in how we attempt to reach the culture.

I’ve been freshly struck reading through Exodus and Leviticus at the importance of worshipping God according to his word.

Now Aharon’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, took each-man his pan,
and, placing fire in them, put smoking-incense on it,
and brought-near, before the presence of YHWH, outside fire,
such as he had not commanded them.
And fire went out from the presence of YHWH
and consumed them, so that they died, before the presence of YHWH.
Moshe said to Aharon:
It is what YHWH spoke (about), saying:
Through those permitted-near to me, I will be-proven-holy,
before all the people, I will be-accorded-honor!
Aharon was silent. (Leviticus 10:1-3, Everett Fox)

Moshe and Aharon were returned to Pharaoh,
and he said to them:
Go, serve YHWH your God!
—Who is it, who is it that would go?
Moshe said:
With our young ones, with our elders we will go,
with our sons and with our daughters,
with our sheep and with our oxen we will go—
for it is YHWH’s pilgrimage-festival for us.
He said to them:
May YHWH be thus with you, the same as I mean to send you free along with your little-ones!
You see—yes, your faces are set toward ill!
Not thus—go now, O males, and serve YHWH, for that is what you (really) seek!
And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s face.

YHWH said to Moshe:
Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locust-horde,
and it will ascend over the land of Egypt, consuming all the plants of the land, all that the hail allowed to remain. (Exodus 10:8-12, Everett Fox)

I mentioned Exodus 22:5 and willful spreading of fire among thorns (i.e., wicked men) recently. The spreading of fire is at the same time a judgment from God upon a land that cultivates wicked men.

For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. (Hebrews 6:7-8 ESV)

I was also struck by the fact that Leviticus 19 links the fourth and fifth commandments:

Each-man—his mother and his father you are to hold-in-awe,
and my Sabbaths you are to keep:
I am YHWH your God! (Leviticus 19:3, Everett Fox)

and the third, eighth, and ninth commandments:

You are not to steal,
you are not to lie,
you are not to deal-falsely, each-man with his fellow!
You are not to swear by my name falsely,
thus profaning the name of your God—
I am YHWH! (Leviticus 19:11-12, Everett Fox)

This latter association matches Ephesians 4, where lying and stealing are linked with grieving the Spirit.

Yes. As a result of this, the practice of 1 Cor 11 commonly commits the sin rebuked right there in 1 Cor 11! It is precisely failing to discern the body to forbid part of the body access to the table. See also Pharaoh above.

Written by Scott Moonen

October 10, 2020 at 1:13 pm

Pebbles

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Voting in a large-scale first-past-the-post election is not a statistically meaningful action. I didn’t vote in the United States’ 2016 election. I do plan to vote in our 2020 election, but I do so with a sense of proportion that I am not achieving something tangible or practical with my vote.

Far more important is prayer and corporate worship. We have a weekly audience with the king of the universe, a king who works all things according to the counsel of his will!

There is somewhat more significance to boosting than voting, since your words may influence many votes. I plan to vote for Trump in 2020 and I hope that you will as well. If you think this is a strange position for a Christian, Doug Wilson had some helpful thoughts that I encourage you to consider. Voting is, as Gary DeMar says, not a valentine.

Yet it is troubling that Christians are expressing support for Biden and Harris.

This is of course more obvious among liberal Christians, but folks like Greear, Keller, and Tripp are ongoing enablers as well with their smooth words. I was going to quip that it is not enough to be non-gnostic in America today. . . But, sadly, it turns out that these folks are gnostic.

As for Biden and Harris, they are not merely, er, non-life; they are actively anti-life.

Keep in mind, of course, that both the vote you approve and the vote you disapprove are insignificant. We do not put our trust in princes (they also are insignificant), and there is absolutely no need to be anxious about the future. We are full of joy! But it still matters before God what we advocate and embrace, and, since God’s world is not gnostic, it also matters very much how we live that out.

I really appreciated how Mark Horne framed voting recently. This seems to me a very helpful way to encourage folks to vote, yet without pretending that it has more tangible and practical value than it does:

My current voting philosophy:

1. Mathematically: voting is stupid. Remember all the science fiction stories about time traveling and the dire consequences that occurred when the past was changed? If you changed every ballot I ever filled out throughout my life to the opposite, nothing would be different. Voting, for an individual, is inconsequential to political outcomes.

2. God answers prayers, sometimes affirmatively. Lines of causation can be obscure just like any case of one friend asking another for a favor. But praying to God for a better future is not stupid, but wise.

3. But all prayer is not equally wise. Praying for a job promotion is usually superior to praying to get a million dollars in the next month. This is because, while prayer does involve wishing for a better future, it also involves interacting with God and how you see him working in the world.

4. So while I pray for a better political society in general, my more specific prayers are usually informed by foreseeable possible outcomes. Just like I pray for my current car to not break down rather than for a new car to appear in my driveway tonight, so I pray for a better candidate to win rather than a perfect candidate who I know is not going to win.

5. And if I’m really praying for a candidate in my district to win, why not express that by voting for him or her? It seems inconsistent to tell God I want someone to win an election and then not bother to express that preference in that election. (It certainly seems crazy to pray for a candidate to win but refuse to vote for him merely because he’s evil and stupid. If you’re worried that God might impose a worse ruler on you, and yet think you’re too “good” to vote for a better—if only less destructive—candidate, how are you not claiming to be holier than God?)

So voting, in my mind, can and should be a kind of prayer that complements the more regular verbal prayers.

Written by Scott Moonen

October 8, 2020 at 9:04 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (14)

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My Soul Among Lions released some older tracks. I love this version of Psalm 23:

Here’s a free tip: if you are designing a screen that says “do not remove card,” make sure that the very next screen says “remove card.” The only change you should consider making to the screen in the meantime is to update some kind of progress meter.

Have you ever been near someone wearing a mask and smelled their breath as they talked to you? I have. True, it may have only been a stale mask. But either way, isn’t this a ridiculous charade?

[Ransom] was only too well aware that such resolutions might look very different when the moment came, but he felt an unwonted assurance that somehow or other he would be able to go through with it. It was necessary, and the necessary was always possible. (C. S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet, 79)

Every Christian man is called to get involved in God’s work in some way. I like to think of it as going into “the family business.” (Richard Phillips, The Masculine Mandate, 49)

Too bad for Soros and Bloomberg (among many others):

When fire breaks out and reaches thorn-hedges, and a sheaf-stack or the standing-grain or the field is consumed,
he is to pay, yes, pay, he that caused the blaze to blaze up. (Exodus 22:5, Everett Fox)

In addition, fighting everywhere, all the time, is likely to distort God’s redemptive intention for the world. As we look at the unbelieving world, we should see it as that which the war is over, and not simply those whom we are fighting with. Who are we fighting against, and who are we fighting for? This is a war of liberation. We are fighting with the slave-masters over their slaves.

Our chief adversary is not flesh and blood. Our chief adversary is made up of principalities and powers, and is a world system that holds millions captive. If we get sucked down into the sin of personal malice, then we have actually been taken captive by the other side. We are not overcoming their ways of accusation, we are surrendering to them. (Doug Wilson, Rules for Reformers)

At the beginning of things, few people realize, or admit, where they are going:

The impression is left that the air of Solovki strangely mingled extreme cruelty with an almost benign incomprehension of where all this was leading, which Solovetsky characteristics were becoming the embryo of the great Archipelago and which were destined to dry up and wither in the bud. After all, the Solovetsky Islands people did not yet, generally speaking, firmly believe that the ovens of the Arctic Auschwitz had been lit right there and that its crematory furnaces had been thrown open to all who were ever brought there. (But, after all, that is exactly how it was!) People there were also misled by the fact that all their prison terms were exceedingly short: it was rare that anyone had a ten-year term, and even five was not found very often, and most of them were three, just three. And this whole cat-and-mouse trick of the law was still not understood: to pin down and let go, and pin down again and let go again. And that patriarchal failure to understand where everything was heading could not have failed entirely to influence the guards from among the prisoners also, and perhaps in a minor way the prison keepers themselves.

No matter how clear-cut the declarations of the class teaching, openly displayed and proclaimed everywhere, that the sole fate the enemy deserves is annihilation—still it was impossible to picture to oneself the annihilation of each concrete two-legged individual possessing hair, eyes, a mouth, a neck and shoulders. One could actually believe that classes were being destroyed, but the people who constituted these classes should be left, shouldn’t they? The eyes of Russians who had been brought up in other generous and vague concepts, like eyes seeing through badly prescribed eyeglasses, could in no wise read with exactitude the phrases of the cruel teaching. Not long before, apparently, there had been months and years of openly proclaimed terror—yet it was still impossible to believe!

Here, too, on the first islands of the Archipelago, was felt the instability of those checkered years of the middle twenties, when things were but poorly understood in the country as a whole. Was everything already prohibited? Or, on the contrary, were things only now beginning to be allowed? Age-old Russia still believed so strongly in rapturous phrases! And there were only a few prophets of gloom who had already figured things out and who knew when and how all this would be smashed into smithereens. (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 2, 45–46)

It turns out that “fascist” has been a very malleable term for quite a long time:

“So you are the Fascists? Are all of you Fascists?” The approaching [prisoners] asked us hopefully. And having confirmed that yes, we were the Fascists—they immediately scurried off and left the scene. There was nothing else about us that interested them.

(We already knew, of course, that “the Fascists” was a nickname for the 58’s, introduced by the sharp-eyed thieves and very much approved of by the chiefs; previously they had well named the 58’s—KR’s [counter revolutionaries]. But then all that had grown stale, and a catchy label was needed.) (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 2, 169)

Written by Scott Moonen

October 3, 2020 at 9:23 pm

Posted in Miscellany, Quotations

Metábasis eis állo génos (13)

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To the Word took us through Exodus this week. The portrait of leaders hardening their hearts, and God displaying his power and glory for the sake of his people, sure is encouraging. The fickleness of God’s people is also an interesting reminder.

Notice what is sin (translation Everett Fox):

But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had stopped,
he continued to sin: he made his heart heavy-with-stubbornness, his and his servants’.
Pharaoh’s heart remained strong-willed, and he did not send the Children of Israel free,
as YHWH had spoken through Moshe. (Exodus 9:34-35)

Take careful note that part of that hardness was excluding Israel’s children from the worship–feast (Exodus 10).

The 400 and 430 years of Israel’s time in exile is interesting. It is obvious that the numbers date back into the time of Abraham, since Moses’s mother was a daughter of Levi. As Jordan suggests, the numbers have to do with a time in a land under Egyptian hegemony and not just an actual stay in Egypt. See Biblical Horizons vol. 6 no. 6 for some brief references.

It’s also important to keep in mind the reason that Israel had become slaves in Egypt. They had forsaken Yahweh:

So-now,
hold YHWH in awe and serve him in integrity and trust;
remove the gods whom your fathers had served across the River and in Egypt
and serve YHWH! (Joshua 24:14, Everett Fox)

Why didn’t Scalia receive universal acclaim? You know, I’m sure that his dying wish was for one of his clerks to succeed to the court.

Big Eva and RINOs would have us evaluate the world upside down. In a magistrate, what matters is not that they are personally nice, but that they rule justly. It is of little consequence that they were a nice and interesting neighbor, or that they were a courageous crusader for what they believed to be right. Rather: were they actually right?

Let’s survey some scripture. It is true that we are not to be glad at calamity (Prov. 17:5) or rejoice when our enemy falls (Prov. 24:17). And yet it is also true that we plead for God to break the teeth of the wicked, and rejoice in God’s vengeance (Psalm 58); the righteous bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked (Psalm 58, 68); there are shouts of gladness when the wicked perish (Prov. 11:10); the wise king laughs at and mocks the willful fool (Prov. 1:26ff); we celebrate the death of wicked baby killers in song (Ex. 15); and celebrate this with feasting (Esther 9:16ff). This rejoicing carries into the church’s worship and into eternity (Rev. 19).

We have to do the hard work of harmonizing these verses. As to calamity, it is clear that this refers to a general calamity. So we are not glad to see the destruction of Portland and California even though we could all see it coming and it is a comeuppance for God’s enemies. As to enemies falling, that seems to be a warning to a king not to lift up his heart like Nebuchadnezzar. It is possible still for a leader to humbly rejoice in God’s work in bringing down the wicked; the song of Moses seems like a happy way to harmonize this.

The shaking of the foundations and the planting of a little worshiping community: that’s the same thing. The planting of a little worshiping community is a strike at the foundations of a pagan city like Philippi. — Peter Leithart, emphasis added

Wiley and friends covered Leaf by Niggle recently, an enjoyable discussion. While it’s interesting to reflect on how the works of our hands endure in time and eternity, certainly the chief of those is our children. This is especially interesting in Tolkien’s case, as his son Christopher became the means of preserving much of Tolkien’s artistic work. And although Niggle did not have any children, his work is also reflected in the preservation of Parish. Parish himself was a gift.

Naturally, after reflecting on Niggle, you must read “The best introduction to the mountains.”

Written by Scott Moonen

September 26, 2020 at 8:15 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (12)

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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