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Jesu, Juva

Archive for the ‘Quotations’ Category

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-40)

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Obeying the second greatest commandment becomes a lot clearer when it moves from the realm of risk and anxiety to a clear and present need. The next year might give most of us the opportunity to swallow our pride and help someone in need—whether that means helping someone who lost their job for not taking the therapeutics, or helping someone else who suffered unexpected side effects because they did.

My friend John has been encouraging me to read Michael Heiser, and perhaps I will sometime soon. I enjoyed this interview with Heiser and also this interview with Christopher Kou where he briefly mentions Heiser. This statement from Heiser struck me:

Stop presuming that there’s a spiritual battle only when you see something bizarre. You are being duped. You are being trained to only take the spiritual world seriously when something strange blows up in your face, or when you see or hear some strange story. That’s a distraction.

I also appreciated this Theopolis episode with Ken Myers, where he refers eloquently to the “worldlessness of faith and godlessness of the world.” Make postmillennialism great again!

Girard describes the church as the “scapegoat of last resort.” This leads me to think that, in a way, the Christian is the peak of intersectionality: the one identity that is the derision of every other identity.

I finished this week Elsie Anne McKee’s Elders and the Plural Ministry. She set herself the task of understanding Calvin’s doctrine of eldership in the context of both preceding and subsequent teaching. She summarizes her findings as follows:

The idea of offices in Paul’s lists of charismatic leaders, and the idea that some of these gifts are no longer present or necessary in the contemporary church, seem to twentieth-century readers the most difficult problems in the Reformed claim to base a plurality of ministries on scripture. In fact, however, neither of these issues appears completely new or even particularly remarkable, in view of the preceding exegetical tradition. There is no doubt that Reformed theologians, influenced by other non-scriptural factors, developed and adapted tradition. The same is true of their (more creative) predecessors. The Reformed school of interpretation is more striking, though, because of its coherence and its use of exegesis to serve a clear theological purpose.

What is probably the most innovative aspect of the Calvinist exegesis of Rom. 12:6-8 and 1 Cor. 12:28 is the lay status of certain ecclesiastical offices. Although this is commonly recognized as one of the most important features of Reformed teaching on the ministry, very few seem to realize that this is also the really shockingly new factor introduced into the interpretation of their biblical texts by Reformed theologians. Innovation does not mean, however, that there was no basis in the tradition for interpreting certain offices as non-clerical. The exegetical tradition of Rom. 12:6-8 and 1 Cor. 12:28 included the possibility of interpreting some of the names in Paul’s lists as civil rulers or temporal tasks, although most leaders and functions were read as ecclesiastical. This is particularly true of Romans, but some similar comments are found in the exegesis of First Corinthians. (190)

Here are some quotes she cited. I believe most of the translations are hers:

Governors [1 Cor. 12:28] were, I believe, elders chosen from the people, who were charged with the censure of morals and the exercise of discipline along with the bishops. For one cannot otherwise interpret his statement, “Let him who rules act with diligence” [Rom. 12:8, cf. Vg.]. Each church, therefore, had from its beginning a senate, chosen from godly, grave, and holy men, which had jurisdiction over the correcting of faults. (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.3.8)

For this purpose courts of judgment were established in the church from the beginning to deal with the censure of morals, to investigate vices, and to be charged with the exercise of the office of the keys. Paul designates this order in his letter to the Corinthians when he mentions offices of ruling [1 Cor. 12:28]. (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.11.1)

What are these [helps]? The care of the weak. Is this, I ask, a gift (charism)? Certainly, to protect and to distribute spiritual things is a gift from God. Moreover he also clearly calls many of our excellent actions “charismata”, not wishing us to be discouraged, but showing that we always need the help of God, and instructing us so that we may be grateful, thus making us more eager, and exciting our feeling for these good deeds. (Chrysostom, MPG 61.266)

He said “helpers”, and he understands deacons of the poor, i.e., administrators, or all those who assist in ecclesiastical business. However, Ambrose has called gubernatores those “who serve as an example to men to restrain them in spiritual and moral matters”, such ones as elders, presbyters, supervisors of Christian discipline, moral censors. (Bullinger, Commentary on Paul’s Epistles)

What single person could fulfill all these various functions of a good pastor? From the beginning of the church, therefore, the Holy Spirit chose to add to the administrators of Word and Sacraments (namely, the chief presbyters and bishops) also other men chosen from the body of the church, serious and skilled in the gift of governing, who would help the ministers of the Word to care for individuals, and to restrain them and encourage them in the teaching of Christ, 1 Cor. 12:28 (Bucer, De Regno Christi, 5.15)

In the letter to Timothy, also [Paul] distinguishes two kinds of presbyters: those who labor in the Word, and those who do not carry on the preaching of the Word yet rule well [1 Tim. 5:17]. By this latter sort he doubtless means those who were appointed to supervise morals and to use the power of the keys. (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1543 edition, 4.11.1)

We have already seen that St. Paul speaks of the elders who labor in the Word of God, and then he adds others, and says (of all of whom he speaks) that “they should preside well”. It follows then that there were elders who were not preachers, who did not have the office of teaching or announcing the Word of God. And what did they do? They watched over morals to rebuke those who sinned and to prevent public scandals, so that there might be an authority established on behalf of all the church. When there was some crime, such as tumult or quarreling or theft or fraud or violence or injury or fornication, these elders were to be vigilant to attend to such vices, as indeed the church had given them this supervision. Now seeing this is so, who among us will dare to oppose the order of the Holy Spirit? (Works of Calvin 53)

Let us note, as has been stated before, that it is an honorable office to govern the church of God. . . What then is this dignity? It is not the way of presiding which princes and lords have, but it is like a service. Let us glory then in serving the flock committed to us, because (as I have already mentioned) it is impossible for us to serve God unless we dedicate ourselves to the service of His people. But we must also know that honor is joined with this service. (Works of Calvin, 53)

To govern well His church, God wished there also to be people to govern, and that those should be elected who were of good and holy life, who had already acquired some authority and also had prudence to equip them for such a charge. (Works of Calvin, 53)

For God does not work the way men do. We on our side can elect one to hold the office of magistrate, another to be a preacher, but we cannot give them what is necessary (to do the job). For we do not create a new person of the one we raise to honor; he always remains what he was, as far as we are concerned. And when there is an election, each person votes. So, the one chosen is in office, but nevertheless he always remains the person he was. It is the same with pastors; we can well elect a man who will be more a beast. For we cannot make him be formed as he ought to be. But when elections proceed from God, and He presides over them, then there are gifts joined by an inseparable bond to the tasks. (Works of Calvin, 51).

Best Nextdoor post ever: I know this isn’t a copperhead.

Written by Scott Moonen

October 2, 2021 at 9:03 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-39)

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In Exodus 10 we see that God requires little ones at his worship-feast. In Exodus 14 we further see that you are to be baptized (c.f., 1 Corinthians 10, Psalm 77) before appearing at the worship feast. This is confirmed elsewhere, e.g., Numbers 19.

Exodus 12 is the only time that Passover was celebrated from house to house rather than at God’s own house. The wilderness wanderings served as a total re-centering and re-prioritization of Israel and her houses around and toward God’s house. Acts seems to show us a similar progression, starting with meetings from “house to house” in Acts 2.

Jesus’s statement that “I tell you not to resist an evil person” in Matthew 5 is provocative. Scripture certainly allows some kinds of defense and resistance, but Jesus is concerned about the manner and limitations of this. Calvin in his commentary on this passage helpfully expresses this in terms of retaliation, that is, returning evil for evil:

There are two ways of resisting: the one, by warding off injuries through inoffensive conduct; the other, by retaliation. Though Christ does not permit his people to repel violence by violence, yet he does not forbid them to endeavor to avoid an unjust attack. The best interpreter of this passage that we can have is Paul, who enjoins us rather to “overcome evil by good” (Romans 12:21) than contend with evil-doers. We must attend to the contrast between the vice and the correction of it. The present subject is retaliation. To restrain his disciples from that kind of indulgence, he forbids them to render evil for evil. He afterwards extends the law of patience so far, that we are not only to bear patiently the injuries we have received, but to prepare for bearing fresh injuries. The amount of the whole admonition is, that believers should learn to forget the wrongs that have been done them, — that they should not, when injured, break out into hatred or ill-will, or wish to commit an injury on their part, — but that, the more the obstinacy and rage of wicked men was excited and inflamed, they should be the more fully disposed to exercise patience.

One other helpful category here is whether the offense is merely against ourselves as individuals (or whether we are reacting to it as such) or if there is a broader principle of needing to protect our neighbor and his property and privilege, or especially to protect those for whom we are responsible. “Do you do well to be angry?” is a helpful test. You do find ways to resist when the military draft comes for your daughters.

I’m intrigued enough by Michael O’Fallon that I began listening to his podcast this week. We’ll see how it goes. I’m also enjoying working through Michael Foster’s County Before Country conference recordings.

Even Americans are faced today with the problem of a bureaucracy, a brain trust, a centre of civil prerogative. Now, no seed can spring from a sterile tree. Red tape, bureaucracy, brain trust, central power are all very well for purposes of academic discussion, but they cannot produce branches, because their trunk is dry and sapless. (Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Out of Revolution, 361)

Luther separated the Middle Ages and the modern era because he believed in the fruits of time: The Gospel preceded the political reality; the pulpit of the university trained boys of twenty so that, as men of fifty, they might run the government. In other words: Luther changed the Church from a neighbour in space to a prophet in time. The Church was to be not a hundred steps from the palace or the town-hall, but a hundred hours or days or months ahead of what was transacted in either of those houses.

As a symbol of this relation, the Lutheran closed his church during the week. It was open only on Sunday because then the “Donnerwort of Eternity” could break in upon the temporal and secular world. The pulpit being a prophetic voice, sowing the future by its preaching of the pure Gospel, the “Katheder” of a German university was surrounded with all the halo of a sacrament. (Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Out of Revolution, 412)

Written by Scott Moonen

September 24, 2021 at 10:39 pm

Reason

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In clearing up the underbrush of privilege and prejudice, liberalism or rationalism was convinced that it held in its hand the naked truth, undisguised, unstained by dogma or tradition. Reason discovering nature can test everything by experiment. There is no room for traditional habits: fashion takes the place of habit. But it is precisely fashion which enslaves Reason. The philosophizing mind has its prison of sensuality and drudgery exactly like a pupil of the Jesuits or a child in a backwoods village. Its fairy-tale and its prejudice are not dependent upon miracles or dogmas or incense or witchcraft, but the apparatus of Reason is subject to the same laws of sensuous disguise as any other part of the human soul. Superstition sends us to the medicine man, physical pain to the physician. We have a native sense that urges us on toward Reason and Philosophy: this sense is curiosity. Without a sense for novelty, no thinker can succeed or affect the life of the community. The self-indulgence of Reason is its predilection for the new. The newspaper is the true expression of this quality of philosophical perception, the sensuous form which enables man to recollect truth in its disguise as news. New facts and new ideas inflame our imagination. Without this flame the best idea, the wisest thought, remains useless. Any influence upon our senses is useless so long as our senses do not react. Indifference is a state of perfect equilibrium. When we feel neither cold nor warm, our internal thermometer is not registering anything. As long as we feel neither joy nor pride, our emotional system is quiescent. Philosophy has recognized the external dependence of all our senses. It is aware that they are all based on impressions, and react to influences from outside.

Now Reason is exactly the same kind of servant. It serves us well whenever its proper centre is stimulated. It is created and given to us for the purpose of distinguishing between new and old. It begins to move and to be stimulated by sensations which are new, unheard of. Reason is tickled by novelty. The nineteenth century changed the oldest truths into sensational news. We are willing to believe that the wind bloweth where it listeth, or that to him who hath shall be given, if we read it on the front page of our newspaper as the latest cable from Seattle. As the latest news in the newspaper, the oldest truth is welcome to Reason. The Age of Reason reveals truth by proceeding from news to news. It believes that the age of Revelation is gone; it believes in Enlightenment. But it itself is wholly based on Revelation. Reason cannot understand eternity or old age. It scorns tradition, ancien régime, customs, irrational weights or measures. It is clear, precise; but it also destroys everything which cannot be made either bad or happy news. Anything that is not willing to break out or happen or change is hidden to Reason. The nineteenth century forgot all eternal truth which was not ready to step down into the arena of Latest News, telegrams and publicity. A man had to become a sensation lest he be a failure.

. . .

These, then, are the “grandeurs et misères” of the victory of Reason. Reason, abstract and unreal, without roots in the soil, without rhythm in its movements, cannot govern its world without submitting to the directing power of sensation.

Today we are somewhat tired of this self-indulgence of Reason. The titillation of our sense of novelty is expensive and ruinous, because world, facts, truth and values lose their roots in the timeless when they are made to depend upon being rediscovered from time to time. Under the dictatorship of Reason, man begins to live like a solitary and one-celled animal. This unicellular life can get nowhere except by eating and swallowing. Multicellular life can depend upon older achievements without eating and digesting them. The modern society of the nineteenth century kills everything which cannot be swallowed in the form of news and sensations. It is unicellular. Now civilization does not form visible cells; its cells consist of generations, ages, periods. The repressive and outstanding feature of the age of Reason is its “single-aged,” one-generation character. Such an age may go on for two hundred years; but it will always remain a one-generation affair as long as its values depend on reproduction in the form of novelty. We meet reality through various senses. Any sense which states a difference is able to inform us. A consideration of our modern life will reveal how much of its information is based on a mere sense of curiosity. Curiosity arranges the things of the universe according to their quality of being new; and this produces an order of things of remarkable futility. The movie star comes to the foreground, wisdom is ridiculed, forests are sacrificed without a qualm because they grow so slowly, and skyscrapers are adored because they go up so fast. It is a very limited outlook on the universe which we gain through our instruments for news. There are other instruments, like hunger, reverence, patience, faith, which work in a different way and discover very different parts of the world.

The sense of novelty has been organized in the last hundred and fifty years as our main highroad of information. We say: it has been organized. The nineteenth century did not make discoveries or inventions in the same way as any other period of history. It invented the technique of invention; it formulated the methods of discovery. The secret of the French Revolution is the organization of discovery. We no longer stumble from one invention to the next; we have learned to plan our inventions and discoveries.

The sensation of novelty is sanctified by the campaigns carried on in our laboratories into the unknown. But like any sacrament, this one is stained by terrible superstitions. No one wishes to minimize the miracles performed in the laboratory; but we must overcome this appalling destruction of family, discipline, faith, by curiosity and by the growing paralysis of the rest of our senses. Because everybody has been trained in curiosity, most people have neglected their other senses; our deeper, wiser, better and more important links with reality have degenerated under our system of newspapers, radios, phonographs, movies, with their organization of novelty. They are the bane of modern life. The prohibition of news would restore the peace of many families. Truth will die if the masses see it based on nothing but novelty. Truth is not new, it is all around us. It was before we were. The original thinker knows that true originality consists in being as old as creation. (Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Out of Revolution, 248-253)

Rosenstock-Huessy’s comments on the organization of scientific progress call to mind Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Each revolution in history—and doubly so the coming transition from empire to tribe—involves a gestalt shift. Usually this is a generational shift because old wineskins cannot handle new wine. And until it happens, we often cannot see clearly how it will take form, though we know that the old ways will cease to work, things will fall apart, and the new ways will not be exactly like anything that has come before. But what is exciting about this is that, if you are willing to heed the prophets, you can still give your children a head start by freeing them from service to the fashionable–idols and helping them to love what is true and good and beautiful.

Written by Scott Moonen

September 19, 2021 at 2:50 pm

Posted in Books, History, Quotations

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-38)

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Lazy days this week:

Lots of time for swimming and games and reading. Sobering and stirring:

The “elder” is at odds with the “expert.” This is a distinction often ignored by the young and impatient.

The expert deals in information, made more and more abundant by science. The elder deals in wisdom, acquired only through long and patient obedience to law and ideal. The elder is the product of time, the expert the product of training. The elder is reflective, the expert is impulsive. The elder is sensitive to human frailty, especially his own; the expert is cocksure. The elder tends to listen, the expert to assertion. The expert may indeed impress the naive by overwhelming the wise with the quantity of his information—but a Church or a culture which cannot distinguish between the quantitative and the qualitative—between knowledge and wisdom—has not long to flourish. (DeKoster and Berghoef, The Elders Handbook, 223-224)

Faithful plodding:

Often the convert through evangelism comes with a freshness of zeal and ardor which delights those who helped lead him to the Lord. Make special effort to put such enthusiasm to work in the Body along channels for which the convert is qualified. But beware that the warmth of the convert’s new-found faith does not become a cloak for judgment upon the presumably “luke-warm” faith of others. The new-born must always be given to understand that coming into the congregation is but the beginning of an arduous and life-long effort to grow in obedience and sanctity. Not everyone wears, or wants to wear, evidence of the depth of his faith upon his sleeve. It may take a while for the new member to find that out. Be sure that this member realizes that the measure of “success” in Christian progress must be one’s growth from year to year and not some self-made comparison with the growth of others. (DeKoster and Berghoef, The Elders Handbook, 245-246)

Lisa is reading a book which must no longer be named:

“All wars are sacred,” [Rhett] said. “To those who have to fight them. If the people who started wars didn’t make them sacred, who would be foolish enough to fight? But, no matter what rallying cries the orators give to the idiots who fight, no matter what noble purposes they assign to wars, there is never but one reason for a war. And that is money. All wars are in reality money squabbles. But so few people ever realize it. Their ears are too full of bugles and drums and fine words from stay-at-home orators. Sometimes the rallying cry is ‘Save the Tomb of Christ from the Heathen!’ Sometimes it’s ‘Down with Popery!’ And sometimes ‘Liberty!’ And sometimes ‘Cotton, Slavery and States’ Rights!’” (161)

And while this is an important insight, and one which I had never thought to apply to the American Civil War, Rosenstock-Heussy cautions us not to go so far as Rhett; that a love for good things may not sanctify a war or revolution, but may yet warrant one’s involvement in it:

We today are sure that economic forces pull all the wires. Washington was the richest man in the colonies, the Federalists speculated in Western land, the Whigs owned ecclesiastical estates, and the French middle class wished to exploit the farmers. This is all true, but no truer than the fact that economics is part of all our lives every day. Bread and butter is an everyday question. For that very reason it is not the permanent question of history, because history selects one or the other everyday question and makes it the centre of attention for a certain time. History is the passing from one question to another, the putting of different questions at different times.

Because of the very fact that economics is so important all the time, it cannot be the question for every period. History would not be history but a recurrent mechanism if it were one and the same question which raised human fury to the pitch of war or revolution in every age. We vary, the seasons vary, mankind varies in its furies, passions, aims and ends, and the emergencies against which we need government vary likewise. (Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Out of Revolution, 385)

Thus, Rosenstock-Huessy makes the point that even in the most reprehensible and unjustifiable of revolutions, there may be an element of truth that broke through and which we are now free to affirm even if there is a great deal to be discarded. He summarizes (p. 365):

Russia: Every proletarian a capitalist.
France: Every man of talent an aristocrat.
England: Every gentleman a king.
Germany: Every Christian a priest.

He goes on to stress that “the clue to the success of [these] revolutions was that none of them bribed the respective supporters at the price of diminishing the size of the body politic; they all reached out for a political organization bigger than anything attempted before.” (365) As always, he is over generalizing, but there is still a stimulating idea there. I haven’t finished the book, so I can’t say yet where he goes with that. I do believe that he foresees an end to this age of empires, so perhaps an end to revolution, which he acknowledges has a demonic aspect to it.

Jesus doesn’t want you to panic.

Written by Scott Moonen

September 18, 2021 at 9:08 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-34)

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Mark Horne writes about God’s perfect justice and how God acts generationally (part 1, part 2, part 3), concluding as follows (but you should read all three):

We need to distinguish between descendants being affected by the sins of their ancestors and their being guilty of those sins. . . . So yes, sometimes God’s public justice destroys people who didn’t personally commit the injustice. The young and marginal in Sodom and Gomorrah got burned up with the rest. Achan’s family (along with the warriors who first attacked Ai) got destroyed for his sin that some may not have had a part in. Those deaths are punishments of the sinner (Achan and whoever was an accessory) but their personal deaths are justified in Genesis 3, not in what Achan did. Their deaths are, on a personal level, no different than the deaths of Job’s children who were killed because he was righteous.

Three key points to keep in mind are that (1) death comes to all of us in Adam; (2) it is not necessarily judicial (for which see the moving 1 Kings 14:13); and (3) the Bible often hides for us either a distinction that God is making, or at least his reasons for making it. One example of this is the sons of Saul in 2 Samuel 21; it is clear that not all of Saul’s sons are put to death, but we are not let in on the (obviously) righteous distinction that was made. Another example is the family of Korah in Numbers 16; it seems from this passage that God put the entire family to death, but Numbers 26:11 tells us that at least some of Korah’s children were preserved, and it is likely their offspring are the Korahites faithfully serving in God’s house in 1 Chronicles 26 and several of the Psalms.

This is a good time to remember that Jephthah did not offer up his daughter. However, God was righteous in commanding Abraham to offer up Isaac.

I revisited Deuteronomy 20 wanting to decide whether “civilian” was a proper distinction for jus in bello. I’m not sure that it is. At the city level, all of the men of a contumacious city are subject to the sword. I’m not sure to what degree this extends beyond the level of a city; I’m not convinced that Judges 19-21 is a righteous example. It’s also worth reflecting on the typology of trees and thorns; what are fruit trees? Are they women?

I’m so thankful for the elders of the CREC!

The Lord’s table must reflect the diversity of his body (Galatians 2, James 2, 1 Corinthians 11). Now, James teaches the church not to engage in partial social engineering—as if we would fly in someone from Saskatchewan, or work especially hard to bring in a Florida man, or begin conducting our services with Hungarian translation. And since the old covenant was completely torn down in AD 70, the church does not even go “to the Jew first” but to all men. But James does command us to welcome all those whom God sends our way. Therefore it is of utmost urgency that the church baptize her little ones and welcome them to the table. In the new covenant, where holiness and cleanness are now contagious rather than death (Matthew 9, 1 Corinthians 7), our little ones are now more welcome in Jesus than ever before (Mark 10; you can be sure that Jesus’s blessings are not mere platitudes); “your children shall come back” (Jeremiah 31), “they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest . . . for I will forgive their iniquity” (Jeremiah 31, Hebrews 8). If we do not welcome our little ones to their Lord’s table, then we fail to “discern the body [of Christ]” and become “guilty” of his body and blood (“for this reason many are weak and sick”); we are “out of step with the truth of the gospel;” and we “stand condemned” as Peter and the disciples—ultimately teaching the world a lie about the place of little ones in a polis.

This is why they look at me with suspicion, seeing me as a sort of sheep in wolf’s clothing. (Conversations with René Girard, 181)

As the scapegoat mechanism has been revealed, we do not return directly to it, that is, we do not directly accuse the victim of having done something. We don’t blame them directly. But the scapegoat mechanism continues to work, though in a different way: the politically correct movement accuses their opponents of creating scapegoats. They accuse them of victimizing others. It’s like Christianity turned upside down: they take whatever is left of Christian influence, whatever is left of Christian language, but to opposite ends, in order to perpetuate the scapegoat mechanism. (Conversations with René Girard, 182)

Christianity never had this goal. It never sought to organize society. (Conversations with René Girard, 182)

Today people in academia are not even trying to be honest. (Conversations with René Girard, 183)

It seems like the ancient, primitive fatalities, temporarily discarded by the light of the prophets and the Gospel, are coming back. In the Bible, the protection of children appears alongside the protection of the handicapped, lepers, cripples. These are the preferential victims of ancient societies, and we understand we must protect them. We still protect crippled people, handicapped people, but in the center of it all we find a sort of cancer growing, which is the return to infanticide. This is a decisive argument, which few people will take into consideration: those who defend abortion are trying to make our society go back to pre-Christian barbarism. (Conversations with René Girard, 184)

This was a fascinating Twitter thread. I recently bought a Berkey filter thinking that the main benefits would be chlorine and fluoride filtering. But it seems like there are more benefits—and also that you might want to consider a filter even if you drink well water.

Written by Scott Moonen

August 20, 2021 at 6:56 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-33)

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Now is the time for states, counties, and municipalities to be enacting a great many sanctuary laws. You may have heard of this in relation to the second amendment, but we need to expand the idea to cover abortion, mask mandates, lockdowns, and vaccine mandates.

I’m in favor of the following tests for political office: (1) familiarity with the Bible, (2) familiarity with René Girard, and (3) familiarity with Edwin Friedman. I think this would solve a lot of problems.

There is one place where social distancing is against the law: the Lord’s weekly supper (Gal. 2). There is neither masked nor unmasked, vaccinated nor unvaccinated, but Christ is all and in all. Greet one another with a holy kiss. And go do likewise at your own tables and workplaces.

We saw a velvet ant on a walk yesterday; I had never seen or heard of them before. They are actually wasps, and are sometimes called “cow killers,” not because their sting is dangerous but because it is painful:

James Jordan writes about long-haul postmillenialism:

As an orthodox, Bible-believing Christian who has been a postmillennialist for nearly twenty years, I think about this when I look at the postmillennial resurgence in America today. Is it going to be a true, Biblical postmillennialism? Will it have room for Ecclesiastes? Will it have room for cross-bearing? Will it see that for us God really is incomprehensible, though not inapprehensible? Will it be clay in the Master’s hand?

I do think that some day we will be wrestling with the chains of Pleiades and the cords of Orion.

I am not necessarily hostile to all the things which I do not mention in my writing. (Conversations with René Girard, 60)

Nothing would be easier [than to put humanity back on the right path] if we wanted to do it: but we don’t want to. To understand human beings, their constant paradox, their innocence, their guilt, is to understand that we are all responsible for this state of things because, unlike Christ, we’re not ready to die. (Conversations with René Girard, 73)

Revelation is dangerous. It’s the spiritual equivalent of nuclear power.

What’s most pathetic is the insipidly modernized brand of Christianity that bows down before everything that’s most ephemeral in contemporary thought. Christians don’t see that they have at their disposal an instrument that is incomparably superior to the whole mishmash of psychoanalysis and sociology that they conscientiously feed themselves. It’s the old story of Esau sacrificing his inheritance for a plate of lentils.

All the modes of thought that once served to demolish Christianity are being discredited in turn by more “radical” versions of the same critique. There’s no need to refute modern thought because, as each new trend one-ups its predecessors, it’s liquidating itself at high speed. . . . For a long time, Christians were protected from this insane downward spiral and, when they finally dive in, you can recognize them by their naïve modernist faith. They’re always one lap behind. They always choose the ships that the rats are in the midst of abandoning.

They’re hoping to tap into the hordes of people who have deserted their churches. They don’t understand that the last thing that can attract the masses is a Christian version of the demagogic laxity in which they’re already immersed. (Conversations with René Girard, 77)

Once the Soviet state is created, the Marxists see first of all that the wealth is drying up and then that economic equality doesn’t stop the various kinds of discrimination, which are much more deeply ingrained. Then, because they’re utopians, they say: “There are traitors who are keeping the system from functioning properly”; and they look for scapegoats. In other words, the principle of discrimination is stronger than economics. It’s not enough to put people on the same social level because they’ll always find new ways of excluding one another. In the final analysis, the economic, biological, or racial criterion that is responsible for discrimination will never be found, because it’s actually spiritual. Denying the spiritual dimension of Evil is as wrong as denying the spiritual dimension of Good. (Conversations with René Girard, 82)

I think the reason we talk so much about sex is that we don’t dare talk about envy. The real repression is the repression of envy. (Conversations with René Girard, 100)

What people call the partisan spirit is nothing but choosing the same scapegoat as everybody else. (Conversations with René Girard, 133)

We have experienced various forms of totalitarianism that openly denied Christian principles. There has been the totalitarianism of the Left, which tried to outflank Christianity; and there has been totalitarianism of the Right, like Nazism, which found Christianity too soft on victims. This kind of totalitarianism is not only alive but it also has a great future. There will probably be some thinkers in the future who will reformulate this principle in a politically correct fashion, in more virulent forms, which will be more anti-Christian, albeit in an ultra-Christian caricature. When I say more Christian and more anti-Christian, I imply the future of the Amit-Christ. The Anti-Christ is nothing but that: it is the ideology that attempts to out christianize Christianity, that imitates Christianity in a spirit of rivalry. (Conversations with René Girard, 141)

Written by Scott Moonen

August 13, 2021 at 3:27 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-31)

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We just got back from vacation visiting family in Minnesota. We saw lots of corn and soybeans, admired the strange beauty of wind turbines, did lots of hiking and a little running and biking, swam and fished in the Mississippi, ate at a county fair, and played very much Dominion.

A society which doesn’t burn witches is the exception. In order to invent science, in my view, you have to stop burning witches first. You don’t stop burning witches because you have invented science. No. It’s for religious reasons you stop burning witches. (Conversations with René Girard, 22)

We live in a world today, especially in the humanities, where the very notion of truth has become the enemy. The idea is you must have plurality. So, today, the interest of plurality takes precedence over the search for truth. You have to say ahead of time that you don’t believe in truth. In most of the circles in which I move, decency is equated with a skepticism verging on nihilism. Engineers know there are solutions that work and solutions that don’t work. Well, in the humanities, we are also looking feverishly for solutions but we are not supposed to find any. In intellectual life today, there is a sort of paralysis, because people are so afraid of not being nice enough to each other—you know, offending the opinion of the next fellow, that they’ve given up the search for truth very often. Or they regard it as evil in itself, which I think is wrong. Do you see what I mean? It’s going too far the other way. They are so afraid of dogmatism that they prefer to reject all possible beliefs. The number one imperative is the avoidance of conflict. We can only succeed through sterility. (Conversations with René Girard, 22–23)

A religion of the innocent victim, a religion that goes against the immemorial tradition of sacrifice in human culture, will produce a lot of hypocrisy, a lot of false compassion, a lot of resentment, as Nietzsche says, as soon as it is imperfectly embraced. Given the imperfection of real human beings, it is more or less certain that Christianity will be imperfectly embraced.

The terrible error of Nietzsche was to see these faults in our world not merely as the illegitimate child but as the father and creator of the biblical religions. You cannot have a parody of the victim’s truth before the genuine article has first appeared into he world. This truth appears nowhere in mythology, it appears only in the gospels and “prophetic” text of the Bible.

Nietzsche correctly saw that the Christian world had weakened and interiorized revenge rather than given it up entirely, as recommended by the gospels. The medicine he proposed was worse than the disease. It was to go back to real revenge, which is a little bit like bluing yourself up because you have a mosquito biting you, or something like that. I think that resentment, hypocrisy, negative feelings in our society can be very dangerous, but they are nothing compared with the potential of destruction with real revenge. And now we can see it. (Conversations with René Girard, 26)

[Interviewer] the Bible is ignored, and as you said before, it has become another form of sacrifice.

Yes, that’s right, the expulsion of the text. It’s especially true in universities. Or, the text is sometimes regarded in a very fetishistic way. . . .

Totalitarian societies are regressive in their very effort to get rid of the sacred through violent means. They tend to damage seriously the independent judicial institutions. They need scapegoats much more than we do. The trials in which the victim is forced to confess publicly are extremely significant. Their purpose is to restore the unity of the community through a unanimous condemnation of the victim, which is the very essence of “scapegoating.” (Conversations with René Girard, 29)

Deconstruction is the ultimate democratization of romantic singularity. Let us all cling to difference and be “ourselves.” It might even provide us with the fifteen minutes of fame that Andy Warhol has promised to each one of us. A world in which difference as difference is the ultimate intellectual fetish must be a world in which imitation and the pressure for conformity are irresistible. (Conversations with René Girard, 52)

Mimetic rivalry hides behind ideas, of course, and many people confuse it with a war of ideas, but it is really something else. But even if people still believe in the ideas currently fashionable, they are not existentially attached to them in the manner that they were in the past. Our ideas are less and less lovable and, as a result, they are no longer loved. . . .

I do not agree that ideas and beliefs are the real cause of violence. Religious beliefs, especially. It is fashionable, nowadays, to say that religion is extremely violent and the real cause of most wars. Both Hitler and Stalin were hostile to religion and they killed more people than all past religious wars combined. When Yugoslavia started to fall apart, there were dark hints once again that the true culprit was religion. Since then, I have not seen one single piece of evidence that religion has anything to do with the various abominations that are going on there. If we had more genuine religion, we would have less violence. This is what most ordinary people still believe, and, as a rule, when the ordinary people and the intellectuals do not agree, it is safer to go with ordinary people. (Conversations with René Girard, 56)

Written by Scott Moonen

August 1, 2021 at 7:47 am

Posted in Miscellany, Quotations

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-25)

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I’ve long held this passage—along with many other passages in the gospels—was part of God’s covenant lawsuit against Israel leading up to AD 70:

“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.” (Matthew 12:43–45, NKJV)

But I had no idea how deeply true that was. Until recently I had never read any Josephus, but David Chilton reprints sections from Josephus in his book Paradise Regained. It is astonishing how demonic and self-immolating the death throes of the old covenant were.

Jesus answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?” . . . Then his disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that The Gospel Coalition was offended when they heard this saying?” . . . So Jesus said, . . . “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to associate with rubes does not defile a man.” (Matthew 15:12, adapted)

I wrote that if you are dollar cost averaging, it is kind of exciting when the price of a good investment drops: this is an opportunity to buy low.

This can be a helpful way (i.e., not in any way minimizing grieving, etc.) to process setbacks in other areas of life. Sometimes a setback doesn’t increase your purchasing power, and sometimes it does (practiced muscles bounce back faster; our prayers are more potent when we are brought low; and there are special and real blessings for those who are mourning, suffering, or sick), but in all cases the intrinsic value of what we are working towards remains unchanged, whether it be personal fitness, the fruit of the Spirit, our family, or Jesus’s church. And in many cases we even have a promise that our labor is not in vain, or that there is a guaranteed return—the victory of the church and her discipleship of the nations is assured.

So, buy low!

But buy high as well; these investments require active maintenance, so that while we cannot allow ourselves to be tempted by discouragement, neither can we allow ourselves to be tempted to rest on our laurels.

I recently read Lusk’s excellent essay on nature and regeneration. I appreciate his care to understand the meaning of nature, and his emphasis, together with Jordan and Leithart, on the central importance of relationships and especially God’s continual work for, to, and in us in our salvation. I’ve written briefly on this: In the regeneration, Regeneration redux, In the regeneration (2).

Today the nationalists in many countries are preparing a revolution, the right kind of revolution, against the Hydra of Marxism. Nobody seems afraid of starting a revolution. It is always astonishing to find bankers, scholars, parsons, enthusiastically awaiting a new revolution without divining the satanic character of all revolutions, whether it come from the left or from the right. . . . Conservatives now insist on being as revolutionary as anybody and defy those who might call their undertaking reactionary. The principle of revolution no longer distinguishes the radical half of mankind alone. It animates the ranks of conservatism as well. Law, Legitimacy, Loyalty, have lost their flavour. Employers, lawyers, gentlemen, generals, admirals, begin to think in terms of revolution. (Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Out of Revolution, 16)

Aslan has removed the gift of speech from the Woke; and so they bray and roar and hoot all the louder. (John C Wright)

I appreciated Eric Conn’s interview of Rory Groves, author of Durable Trades. Asher’s reading the book right now and I’m excited to read it when he is done.

Written by Scott Moonen

June 19, 2021 at 3:45 pm

Mission

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My favorite quotes from Peter Leithart’s Theopolitan Mission:

The principle of ministry in the church is simple: “Let all things be done for edification” (1 Cor 14:26). This is the rule: Do everything you do to complete Christ’s body. (39)

Macedonians make a koinonia contribution to poor saints in Jerusalem (Rom 15:26). As Paul sees it, they don’t throw money at a problem from a distance. Rather, their generous gifts overcome distance, joining Macedonian Gentiles and Jerusalem Jews in one fellowship of the Spirit. Material gifts have a quasi-sacramental power to join the members of the church into one body. (50)

A church isn’t carrying out the mission of Jesus if it doesn’t gather on the Lord’s Day at a common table. (54)

Conflict is no accident, nor is it avoidable. Suffering is the only path into the kingdom, an inevitable part of mission. (71)

Like the ark, the church receives and preserves the treasures of the world (Rev 21:24) so they can be purged, transfigured, and brought out again to adorn creation. As worlds collapse, the world’s riches are kept safe in the ark of the church. All things are gathered into the church so that all things can disembark into a new creation. Noah performs this magic only once, but Jesus does it continuously. Treasures flow continuously into the ark of Christendom. The church has received the treasures of Greek and Roman art, philosophy, and politics, to purify them and bring them to fulfillment. It will plunder the gold of China, Japan, and India, of the Masai and Zulu, of Arabia and Iraq and Afghanistan. Treasures from the city of man enter the city of God so they can return to the city of man, renewed. The city of man enters the ark of God so it can become more perfectly what it’s supposed to be, more perfectly an image of heavenly Jerusalem.

The church pilots the world. What happens in the holy church guides what happens outside. If the church is unfaithful, leaves her first love, and turns to false teachers, Jesus will move the lampstand and abandon the house (Rev 2-3). If the church keeps her lamps burning, continuously supplied by the oil of the Spirit, the world will be full of light. (79)

I wonder sometimes if any of my international colleagues are secret brothers and sisters.

Transformed by the Eucharist, our making is freed from pure utility and functionality. Utility is good. A woodworker makes tables for meals, weavers make cloth for clothing, metalworkers make wires for electricity and rebar to strengthen walls. All these forms of making have practical ends. But when we make in order to offer our fruit to God in praise, we transcend mere usefulness. The cobbler doesn’t just cover bare feet; he cobbles for the glory of God. At the same time, the sanctuary frees us from the sterile circularity of making for its own sake, the effete snobbery of “art for art’s sake.” Making Eucharistically, a craftsman makes for God. “Art for art’s sake” is a sign of decadence. It’s a symptom of the decay of liturgy. (88-89)

A flood is coming. It’s already sweeping away the world as we know it. The world we know will be submerged as the Lord turns the world upside down and gives it a sharp shake (Hag 2:6-7).

It’s not the end of everything. Creation will survive, and civilization will be reborn. Jesus will steer the ark of his church through the storm. As the clouds gather, as the thunder begins to roll, as the deluge crashes down, we’re called to continue the often-imperceptible work of building the ark of Jesus. With our lives scripted by the Scriptures that reveal the Christ, we cling to the apostolic gospel, gather to break bread, share our material and Spiritual gifts, offer a continuous sacrifice of prayer and song. We preach the good news in false churches and public squares, endure the rage of the mob, suffer with Jesus so we may share His glory. We confront idols and demons and call all men from darkness to light, from Satan to the living God (Acts 26:18). In the Last Adam, we’re made right-makers, grateful makers whose making is an act of worship. Some will slip, lizard-like, into palaces (Prov 30:28) and gain a hearing before Prime Ministers and Presidents.

As we do these things, we preserve the treasures of the past and, by the alchemy of the Spirit, transfigure ancient treasures into new. When the storm is over and the flood waters recede, we’ll have and be the seeds of a new creation. We’ll flow like living water to fertilize the wasteland.

If you’re a Christian, that’s what you’re doing. Your life may not look like a big deal. You’re kind to your neighbors, serve your brothers and sisters in church, gather each week to receive God’s Word and God’s Bread. You train and teach your children as disciples; you love your husband or wife. You’re an honest and productive employee, an attentive employer, an entrepreneur or bureaucrat in a well-established institution. You do and make, but no one notices. . . .

You feel invisible, but that’s an optical illusion. You’re participating in the biggest project imaginable. You’re joining with millions of others to build the self-building ark of Jesus. Through your witness and labor, a new world is taking form. You’re fighting the battle of the ages. You’re constructing the city of God among the cities of men in order to transform the cities of men to become more like the city of God. Nothing is small in the kingdom of Jesus.

There’s nothing to fear. We live in joy and expectant hope. Jesus is in the boat, and He calms the seas. The Carpenter of Nazareth will pilot his ark until it rests on a new Ararat, a new Eden, the garden-city where the river of life flows. (100-101)

Written by Scott Moonen

June 4, 2021 at 10:19 pm

The Fruit of Our Lips

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I read Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy’s The Fruit of Our Lips recently and appreciated it. I’ve already shared one quote on prophecy. Here are some others that provoked me:

The “four gospels” . . . can prove one thing: the Word changed the world of the mind once and for all. In antiquity, a book was closed to all other books; an ancient school of philosophy was closed to all other schools; a book had a beginning and an end, two covers contained it. That is not true of the four gospels. They respond to a dead-end, to an end of the world. They move through time, and when they end, they have scarcely begun. At the end of all four gospels, John says that the whole universe isn’t big enough to contain all the books that could be written about Jesus. That sounds fantastic, but after all, today even this chapter of mine bears witness to the fact that John’s cheerful confidence was well-founded. (72)

In his gospel, Matthew progresses from speaking as a Jew to speaking as a non-Jew—the text is plain. In his first chapter, Matthew begins: “This is the book of the birth of Jesus the Christ, the son of David, the Son of Abraham.” In the same first chapter, verse 21, we read: “Jesus shall free his people from their sins.” Obviously, we are in Israel, for Matthew seems to see no necessity to explain the “his” in “his people” at all. But by the 28th and final chapter, Matthew’s eloquence has carried him beyond the Jewish world. When he comes to reporting the machinations of the priests and elders among the Jews, he writes, “this [has been] common talk among the Jews to this day” [28:15]. Here the Jews are no longer divided into those who believe in Christ and those who do not; the Jews, as Jews, are outside Matthew’s family. The fence between them and Matthew is infinitely higher in the 28th chapter than in the first. The outpouring of his experiences, his memories, and his notes changed the writer’s own mind. . . . The wisdom of our tradition consists in the fact that in the first gospel a man writes himself out of Israel by writing up Jesus. Thus, he makes real, makes visible, to his readers that to write “about Jesus” means to reduce the Bible to the Old Testament. That could never have been achieved with argument. . . . An Evangelist is a man who, by speaking of Jesus, changes his own mind and, because he is in the process himself, leads others into the same process. Matthew’s gospel institutes a process whose power changes the face of the world—and of Israel—for Christianity is the world as it always was, plus Jesus’ death. (74-75)

Where in Matthew a worldly process makes all mankind Jews, in Luke the same process makes Rome into Jerusalem. So here too we miss the sense of the scripture if we treat it as “material.” Its purpose is to force us to our own change of mind. No Communist is as thorough a materialist as the biblical critics have been. (77)

This is a fascinating observation:

We may say too that the climax of Peter’s self-denial is that Mark is not allowed to give the name “Peter” to one of the two disciples who see the risen Christ in Emmaus, even though Paul bluntly declares that Peter was the first who saw the risen Lord (1 Cor 15:5). . . (83)

What is the beginning and the end of speech? The beginning of a human breath discloses the time and place of a particular act of the spirit. End and beginning bring inspiration down to earth; the end and beginning of any book tell you if it is true or not. This truth is a threefold truth: a word may be true in its content; it may secondly be true enough to prove the author right; and finally it may be so true that it forces the next speaker to respond and speak in turn.

Shakespeare compelled Milton to swerve out of the path of earlier poetry because his language was so perfect that Milton complained (“On Shakespeare,” 1630). The Church has lived on in the truth of the facts told in the “four gospels”; Christians in their own lives have lived on in the truth of the men who told them. (110-111)

The word “freedom” must never replace the experience of liberation, the word “good” must never replace the experience of getting better. Today it is the particular curse of the educated that “kindness” so often replaces the passionate need to love, as “adjustment” replaces the experience of personal commitment. (116)

The price of freedom is threefold: time, life, and substance. All three must be given freely to achieve great ends. Where not even one of these three powers is given freely, freedom becomes an empty word. Freedom’s way into the world consists of the investment of these three forms of capital in the service of a new love, a new faith, or a new hope. . . .

The relationship between freedom and law is absolute; no one unwilling to pay the price may enjoy freedom. He who is not willing to marry, cannot and can never know what full love between the sexes can be. He who is not willing to suffer for the truth, can never know what the truth is. He who does not defend his country will not and shall never understand what freedom is though not everything that calls itself a fatherland is one. (119)

In the year 38 A.D. all twelve apostles lived as a closed corporation in Jerusalem. The Lord had granted them all their powers as one inseparable common hand, and when Matthew picked up his pen, he could only do so as their secretary. Today’s criticism arises from the hell of individualism that has ruled since the Enlightenment, so it sees individual Evangelists wandering around like will o’ the wisps in the swamp. Oh, each one of them spoke in the name of all the apostles—most of all the latecomers, Matthew and Paul! . . . .

They are all of one mind. The genealogy in Matthew is no more “Mattheine” than the prologue to John is “Johannine.” They all believed themselves to be sinners and righteous like everyone else, and only together to be worthy of the healing power of the spirit. This way we can arrive at a sensible dating fo the gospels. They are not cheats with prophecies invented after the fact; they are not forgeries with a purpose. The gospels actually accuse the authors or their protectors of the weaknesses to which they fell victim, and they all go back to the most intimate community of the apostles with each other. Matthew wrote for the twelve while they were still together, and I still hope to see the day an honest Bible critic recognizes in these twelve years in Jerusalem, from the crucifixion to Peter’s departure, their Lord Jesus’ greatest achievement of genius. (121-122)

Written by Scott Moonen

May 31, 2021 at 8:57 am

Posted in Bible, Books, Quotations