I gotta have my orange juice.

Jesu, Juva

Archive for the ‘Quotations’ Category

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-25)

leave a comment »

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

leave a comment »

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

leave a comment »

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

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-12)

with one comment

I listened to Nevin’s The Anxious Bench recently on a friend’s recommendation and appreciated it. Nevin twice uses the striking phrase “justification by feeling rather than faith.” Here is a longer section I enjoyed:

Christ lives in the Church, and through the Church in its particular members; just as Adam lives in the human race generically considered, and through the race in every individual man. This view of the relation of the Church to the salvation of the individual, exerts an important influence, in the case before us, on the whole system of action, by which it is sought to reach this object.

Where it prevails, a serious interest will be taken in the case of children, as proper subject for the Christian salvation, from the earliest age. Infants born in the Church, are regarded and treated as members of it from the beginning, and this privilege is felt to be something more than an empty shadow. The idea of infant conversion is held in practical honor; and it is counted not only possible but altogether natural, that children growing up in the bosom of the Church, under the faithful application of the means of grace, should be quickened into spiritual life in a comparatively quiet way, and spring up numerously, “as willows by the water–courses,” to adorn the Christian profession, without being able at all to trace the process by which the glorious change has been effected. Where the Church has lost all faith in this method of conversion, either not looking for it at all, or looking for it only in rare and extraordinary instances, it is an evidence that she is under the force of a wrong religious theory, and practically subjected, at least in some measure, to the false system whose symbol is the Bench. If conversion is not expected nor sought in this way among infants and children, it is not likely often to occur. All is made to hang methodistically on sudden and violent experiences, belonging to the individual separately taken, and holding little or no connection with his relations to the Church previously. Then as a matter of course, baptism becomes a barren sign, and the children of the Church are left to grow up like the children of the world, under general most heartless, most disastrous neglect. . . .

Thus due regard is had to the family, the domestic constitution, as a vital and fundamental force, in the general organization of the Church. . . . (John Williamson Nevin, The Anxious Bench, Chapter 7, 130–132)

For many years I was a non–practicing paedobaptist and paedocommunionist because I wished to continue in the particular weekly fellowship where God had placed me. Although my littles did not partake of the supper, I always involved them in such a way as to stress their participation in Jesus. We would speak something like this:

Q: What does the bread signify?
A: Jesus’s body
Q: Where is Jesus’s body?
A: We are Jesus’s body
Q: Thank you Jesus for making me a part of your family!
A: Thank you Jesus for making me a part of your family!
Q: What does the cup signify?
A: Jesus’s blood
Q: What does Jesus’s blood do for us?
A: It covers our sins!
Q: Thank you Jesus for covering my sins with your blood!
A: Thank you Jesus for covering my sins with your blood!
Q: Isn’t it good to be forgiven?
A: Yes!

The key to unlocking the book of Job is to see that Job is, first of all, a type of Jesus, complete with a Luke 2:52 and Hebrews 2:10 arc. Then it becomes clear how to understand Job as a type of the church and of the righteous man.

The book of Job is, in effect, an immense psalm. (René Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, 117)

This perspective helps us to recognize that, among Job’s friends, even Elihu is not representing the voice of wisdom. It is right for God’s people to wrestle with him:

​​“Look, in this you are not righteous.
I will answer you,
​​For God is greater than man.
​​Why do you contend with Him?
​​For He does not give an accounting of any of His words. (Elihu, Job 33:12–13, NKJV)

And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.”
But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” (Genesis 32:26, NKJV)

Mark Horne argues that Proverbs is consistent with Job and Ecclesiastes in presenting a vision of a world where wisdom does not appear always to bear fruit. On reflection, I wonder why this has not seemed blindingly obvious to me until now. Certainly if the world appeared to function by sowing and reaping in a coin–operated fashion, God would not need to spend such time exhorting me to live by wisdom, nor would I be so readily tempted to forsake it. He intends for us to grow year by year in patience and faith and wisdom.

​​For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
​​But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
​​Though it tarries, wait for it;
​​Because it will surely come,
​​It will not tarry.
​​“Behold the proud,
​​His soul is not upright in him;
​​But the just shall live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:3–4)

Andrew Isker is blogging through James Jordan’s outstanding book Through New Eyes, which you should read. Elsewhere Andrew summarizes his choice of name, The Boniface Option. What a thrilling thing to say: Jesus Christ is God, ____ is not!

A programming friend cautioned me to beware the IDEs of March. I am unconcerned since I use the magnificent Roman editor 6.

Written by Scott Moonen

March 19, 2021 at 9:21 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-8)

with one comment

This week’s readings in the revised common lectionary included 2 Kings 2:1–12 and Mark 9:2–9. Elijah accomplishes an exodus from Israel, and Elisha receives a double portion (the firstborn’s portion) of Elijah’s spirit. Jesus meets with Elijah, and we know from the parallel passage in Luke 9:31 that Jesus speaks of his exodus which was our salvation. And the church, through her apostles, saw him when he ascended. Thus, we receive the firstborn portion of his Spirit.

This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.

For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself:​

​‘​The LORD said to my Lord,
​​“Sit at My right hand,
​​Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” ’

Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. (Acts 2:32–36, NKJV)

Wisdom is a qualification for church office:

Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. (Acts 6:3, NKJV)

I have for some time had a chuckle at how we used to sing “Blow the trumpet in Zion” with an attitude of rejoicing rather than alarm. Clearly the context in Joel 2 is one of alarm: “Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble . . . Who can endure it? . . . Turn to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. . .” The army referred to is not God’s people, but is sent to chasten his people. Joel himself cries “Alas! . . . O LORD, to you I cry out.”

And yet, it is a great relief to the faithful that God’s church is purified. Those who are hidden in him need not fear his discipline. And the result of God’s judgment is rejoicing and great blessing: “Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice . . . be glad then, you children of Zion, ​​and rejoice in the LORD your God . . . And it shall come to pass afterward​​ that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.” And after judgment has begun at the house of God, he will vindicate his people by judging the nations: “I will also gather all nations, ​​and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; ​​and I will enter into judgment with them there​​ on account of my people, my heritage Israel.”

God’s people pray for and welcome his judgment (e.g., Psalm 7), rejoicing in it together with all of creation, as in Psalm 96 and 1 Chronicles 16:

Let the heavens rejoice and the earth exult, let the sea and its fullness thunder.
Let the field be glad and all that is in it, then shall all the trees of the forest joyfully sing
before the LORD, for He comes, He comes to judge the earth.
He judges the world in justice and peoples in His faithfulness. (Psalm 96:11–14, Robert Alter)

Asher and I attended the Wake County Republican party Fuquay region meeting last weekend. In spite of this being an odd–numbered year, there are 44 positions of various kinds within Wake county that will be up for election.

Public opinion! I don’t know how sociologists define it, but it seems obvious to me that it can only consist of interacting individual opinions, freely expressed and independent of government or party opinion.

So long as there is no independent public opinion in our country, there is no guarantee that the extermination of millions and millions for no good reason will not happen again, that it will not begin any night—perhaps this very night. (Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 3, 92)

I ran across the phrase “coincidence theorist” this week. I like it.

And so,
all who withdraw from the church or do not join it
act contrary to God’s ordinance. (Belgic Confession, Article 28)

Written by Scott Moonen

February 19, 2021 at 10:23 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-7)

with one comment

Mark Horne charges us not to have a merely personal relationship with Jesus:

In both the West and the East, people commonly think of the being they call “God” as some sort of vague ghostly force which cannot be approached except through some sort of vague, internal—often called “spiritual”—contemplation. At best, this “God” is considered personal, and the “spiritual” exercise involves verbal communication—prayer. Nevertheless, as important as prayer is, it is hardly an adequate way, by itself, to relate to a real person. Believing in such a God too often resembles a child’s imaginary friend.

In contrast to this popular view, the God presented in the Hebrew–Christian Scriptures is a real person who has real relationships with human beings. More than that, He is a great king over the whole universe (which He made in the first place). People who are rightly related to Him are said to be members of His kingdom, citizens of His commonwealth. . .

I want Christians to know so that they confess the truth: “I have a public relationship with Jesus Christ.”

I found this passage from Dinesen striking:

Virginie looked hard at Elishama, her dark eyes shining. “I suppose that nobody could insult you even if they tried hard?”

Elishama thought her remark over. “No,” he said, “they could not. Why should I let them?”

“And if I told you,” she said, “to go out of my house, you would just go?”

“Yes, I should go,” he said. “It is your house. But when I had gone you would sit and think of the things for which you had turned me out. It is when people are told their own thoughts that they think they are being insulted. But why should not their own thoughts be good enough for other people to tell them?” (Isak Dinesen, “The Immortal Story”)

It is striking on its own as an observation of human nature. But it is doubly striking because Elishama is a serpent–tempter here who is seeking to override Virginie’s conscience. It is her reaction rather than his that is the righteous one.

I don’t always agree with Alan Jacobs but he is always a thought–provoking read. Here he is reflecting on grace and Girardian dynamics:

I think most of our projects of reconciliation, when they exist at all, have it backwards. They want a long penitence at the end of which the offended parties may or may not forgive. I think the Christian account says that forgiveness given and accepted is where reconciliation begins. So if we say we are Christians and want reconciliation but do not put grace, mercy, and forgiveness front and center in our public statements, then we’re operating as the world operates, not as the ekklesia is commanded to. 

Almost four years ago I wrote: “When a society rejects the Christian account of who we are, it doesn’t become less moralistic but far more so, because it retains an inchoate sense of justice but has no means of offering and receiving forgiveness. The great moral crisis of our time is not, as many of my fellow Christians believe, sexual licentiousness, but rather vindictiveness. Social media serve as crack for moralists: there’s no high like the high you get from punishing malefactors. But like every addiction, this one suffers from the inexorable law of diminishing returns. The mania for punishment will therefore get worse before it gets better.”

There is very much going on in Ezekiel 43:15. In this one verse, we see God’s altar named a hearth, and a mountain, and that with four horns. James Jordan writes:

Ezekiel describes an altar in the form of a stepped pyramid. The top section is called “the Mountain of God,” and the platform on top for the fire is called the “hearth.” A literal translation of Ezekiel 43:15 is: “And the Mountain of God: four cubits (high); and from the hearth four horns extend upwards.” While the altar in the Tabernacle did not have this shape, the statement in Ezekiel clearly expresses the theology of the altar (see Diagram 12.8). When God appeared on Mount Sinai, the top was covered with fire and smoke (Exodus 19: 18). We can hardly fail to see the visual association of this with the burning sacrifices on the bronze altar, and the incense on the golden altar. Moreover, altars for sacrifice were generally built on the tops of mountains before the Tabernacle was set up (cf. Genesis 22:9), and during the interregnum between the dissolution of the Tabernacle and the building of the Temple (cf. 1 Samuel 9:12). Thus, the association of altar with holy mountain is fairly pervasive. (James Jordan, Through New Eyes, 158–159)

I introduced the kids to Patrick this week:

Written by Scott Moonen

February 13, 2021 at 8:56 am

The Lost Supper

with 3 comments

I recently read, and greatly appreciated, Matthew Colvin‘s book The Lost Supper. Colvin builds his understanding of the Lord’s supper on a thesis earlier offered by Robert Eisler and David Daube. He summarizes the puzzle he is seeking to unlock with an opening quote from Daube:

“Jesus could not at the same time have introduced both the general idea of eating a cake of unleavened bread as the Messiah and the specific identification of that cake with himself. That is just not how rites come into being.” This is an important difference between [Daube’s] view and most Christian understandings of the eucharist and Last Supper: many Christians have a view of the effect of Jesus’ words of institution that actually renders them incomprehensible to the disciples in the Upper Room. (Colvin, 37)

Colvin and Daube are not arguing that we must backdate the modern Seder into the first century. But they are arguing—compellingly—that the first century Passover must have had Messianic echoes that reverberate today in both the Eucharist and the Seder. Colvin summarizes his conclusion as follows:

Thus, as we also found in the case of the words over the bread, we discover that Jesus’ words about the wine are more concerned with using the Passover to speak to his disciples about his own impending death and its significance within Israel’s story than they were about explaining the metaphysical relation of the bread and wine to his body and blood. His words over the bread identify himself as Israel’s Messiah; his words over the cup are a way of indicating that he will offer himself as a sacrifice, a new Passover lamb to accomplish a new Exodus; and that this will bring about the coming Kingdom of God. Messiah, new Exodus, and coming Kingdom: this is a deeply Jewish set of meanings for these rituals, full of the themes that were on every mind and heart at Passover. Jesus in the Last Supper is doing what we should expect for a Jewish Messiah’s last meal with his disciples; he is doing exactly what Jews have always done with the food and drink of the Passover: make them tell the story of God and Israel—past, present, and future—and by ritual participation inscribe themselves in that story, in those events. (Colvin, 92)

This idea that a ritual is a removal from time, a participation in both the past and future, is key to Colvin’s understanding. He quotes Alastair Roberts:

Much as in the case of a Passover meal, a memorial of a past deliverance anticipates future salvation and each repetition re-establishes us within musical cycles of memory and hope. It repeatedly stabilizes us by restoring us to Christ’s decisive, once-for-all, action in the past, and destabilizes us by exposing us to the fecundity of the future that this action opened. It ties together founding action with the anticipation of final judgment. (Colvin, 82, quoting Alastair Roberts, A Musical Case for Typological Realism)

Colvin rejects mere real presence in favor of robust participation:

Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples on Passover, far from culminating in a sacramental “real presence,” begins with presence and moves from presence to something higher. The disciples have Jesus “present”—sitting in front of their eyes—but they still do not understand who he is or how they are to relate to him. . . .

In [Luke’s] narrative, the presence of Christ is not effected by the eating of the bread (still less by “consecration” of it); indeed, the resurrected Jesus appeared and was bodily present to his disciples on the road to Emmaus only in order to bring about the disciples’ participation in his new life, which is the life of the renewed Israel, the climax and fulfillment of Israel’s story. The goal is participation, not “presence.” (Colvin, 97-98)

Colvin’s project is very similar to that of Leithart with baptism: he understands the spiritual activity of the Lord’s supper to run along thoroughly corporate, social, and physical lines. It is a bodily activity as well as a mental one:

According to the Westminster Larger Catechism’s formulations, it is a positively daunting feat of reverence and emotions, requiring 14 different mental acts beforehand, another 13 during the Supper, and another 7 if they judge themselves to have partaken successfully, or 5 if unsuccessfully! Astonishingly, the Westminster Divines do not actually state that those “that receive the sacrament” must eat and drink the bread and wine. Every action specified in Q. 174 (as well as those in Q. 171 and 175) is something Christians do with their minds. By contrast, all of the commands of Jesus concerning the Supper—”take, eat, drink, do this”—are things that Christians do with their bodies. (Colvin, 100)

Thus, for Colvin, failure to discern the body is not a cerebral but rather a thoroughly public and corporate and social matter, consistent with much of the rest of 1 Corinthians:

The form this condemnation took is also the same as in the Exodus: supernaturally inflicted death. “Because of this [failure to draw the boundaries of the people of God properly], many among you are weak and sick and some are asleep [i.e. dead].” (11:30) If we are looking for a mechanism by which the eucharist operates, I submit that we have found it here: the communal meal, as an acted sharing in the salvific sacrificial death of the Messiah, marks the people of God as the ones who are to be spared God’s deadly judgment, leaving those outside the Christian community exposed to that wrath. It is inflicted by God’s own power.

This modus operandi should look familiar to us. In Exodus 11:4-7, YHWH announces that the Passover will work the same way. . . . The discrimen, the means by which this difference [between the Egyptians and Israel] is marked, is the ritual meal itself. (Colvin, 128)

The supper therefore naturally functions as a memorial to God rather than a mere reminder to ourselves:

Was Israel also commanded to remember? To be sure, and all the rituals of Passover to this day are aimed at inscribing the Exodus indelibly in the consciousness of every Jewish child. Yet in Egypt, it was not the Israelites’ consciousness, but the Lord’s response to his own commanded memorial (zeker) that effected salvation for the Israelites and destruction for their enemies. In Paul’s understanding, the eucharist operates not by the followers of Jesus thinking about it, but because it marks them as the people defined by Jesus’ sacrificial death, which God remembers and honors and to which he responds with action in history. (Colvin, 133)

All of this is simply a function of how meals work:

Paul’s arguments by analogy with pagan sacrifices (1 Cor. 10:20) and with Jewish sacrifices in the Temple (1 Cor. 10:19) are only possible if the eucharist works the way other meals work. What is special about it is not the way it connects its participants to a person, but the person to whom it connects them. (Colvin, 137)

Thus, the supper is a participation-communion-koinonia, side by side with all of God’s people, both in the past events of the crucifixion and resurrection, but also in our future resurrection and glorification. But this is only a specific instance of what happens throughout the entire service of covenant renewal worship. On the Lord’s day, together with all the Lord’s people, we really are caught up out of time and into the heavens. The bread and wine that we consume are heavenly–spiritual bread and wine; not just a foretaste of the coming feast, but an actual distribution of it. And all this is precisely what it means to worship in Spirit (John 4, Revelation 1).

Colvin closes with helpful practical thoughts on the Lord’s supper today. I largely agree with him, although I think that treating the supper as a feast should not lead us to make much of a common cup. He does not take up a critique of the pious notion of withdrawing oneself temporarily from the supper as a kind of contrition, but I think his principles warrant against that powerfully.

I’ve argued previously for real presence along several lines, but I take greatly to heart Colvin’s charge to think in terms of participation-communion-koiononia rather than mere presence.

However, my friend Randy also cautions that we have a sure hope even if bread and wine are taken away from us:

But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4 ESV)

Incidentally, as part of his argument, Colvin also makes a fascinating point about the Lord’s prayer. He argues that the entire prayer has an eschatological bent, including the petition for bread:

[This word] is thus “the coming bread,” the eschatological bread. . . . Thus, the force of the word is to make the petition a request for “the bread of tomorrow” or the eschatological bread. (Colvin, 57-58)

Written by Scott Moonen

January 19, 2021 at 11:14 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2–2)

leave a comment »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How many Christians confess this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Jon Barach for calling my attention to it.

Written by Scott Moonen

January 8, 2021 at 9:17 pm

The forest passage

leave a comment »

I happened to read Jünger’s The Forest Passage on the heels of Tolkien’s Smith of Wootton Major. The similarities and differences are striking. Jünger has a helpful assessment of the modern world, and a longing for Faerie, but Tolkien has more to teach us about Faerie and how it relates to the natural world. Both men seem to consider it a lonely task. It may be so at times, but it ought not to be so normally.

Jünger is not nearly supernatural enough, although he realizes that sometimes we really must live contra mundum:

All this [power] only seems to have been given to remote places and times. In reality, it is concealed in every individual, entrusted to him in code, so that he might understand himself, in his deepest, supra–individual power. This is the goal of every teaching that is worthy of the name. Let matter condense into veritable walls that seem to block all prospects: yet the abundance is closest at hand, for it lives within man as a gift, as a time–transcending patrimony. It is up to him how he will grasp the staff: to merely support him on his life path, or to serve him as a scepter. (Jünger, The Forest Passage, 47)

He does recognize the church is the normal keeper of sacred truth, that it fails at times in this, and that we may not satisfy our spiritual longing in whatsoever way we please:

One might say that a certain definite quantity of religious faith always exists, which in previous times was legitimately satisfied by the churches. Now, freed up, it attaches itself to all and everything. This is the gullibility of modern man, which coexists with a lack of faith. He believes what he reads in the newspaper but not what is written in the stars. (Jünger, The Forest Passage, 60)

He mistrusts institutionalized medicine and public health:

Avoiding doctors, trusting the truth of the body, and keeping an ear open to its voice: this is the best formula for the healthy. This is equally valid for the forest rebel, who must be prepared for situations in which any sickness—aside from the deadly ones—would be a luxury. Whatever opinion one may hold of the world of health plans, insurance, pharmaceutical firms, and specialists, the person who can dispense with all of this is the stronger for it.

A dubious development to be wary of in the highest degree is the constantly increasing influence that the state is beginning to have on health services, usually under philanthropic pretexts. Moreover, given the widespread release of doctors from their doctor–patient confidentiality obligations, a general mistrust is also advisable for consultations; it is impossible to know which statistics one will be included in—also beyond the health sector. All these healthcare enterprises, with poorly paid doctors on salaries, whose treatments are supervised by bureaucracies, should be regarded with suspicion; overnight they can undergo alarming transformations, and not just in the event of war. It is not inconceivable that the flawlessly maintained files will then furnish the documents needed to intern, castrate, or liquidate. (Jünger, The Forest Passage, 68–69)

In fact, even if public health functions according to the best intentions, it can backfire on us:

Naturally, the catastrophes result in tremendous callings. When a ship goes down, its dispensary sinks with it. Then other things become more important, such as the ability to survive a few hours in icy water. A regularly vaccinated and sanitized crew, habituated to medication and of high average age, has a lower chance of survival here than a crew that knows nothing of all this. A minimal mortality rate in quiet times is no measure of true health; overnight it can switch into its opposite. It is even possible that it may generate previously unknown contagions. The tissue of the people weakens, becomes more susceptible to attack. (Jünger, The Forest Passage, 70)

Neither is democracy a cure–all:

It is disquieting how concepts and things often change their aspects from one day to the next and produce quite other results than those expected. It is a sign of anarchy.

Let us take, for example, the rights and freedoms of individuals in relation to authority. Though they are defined in the constitution, we will clearly have to reckon with continual and unfortunately also long–term violations of these rights, be it by the state, by a party that has taken control of the state, a foreign invader, or some combination of these. Moreover, the masses, at least in this country, are barely still able to perceive constitutional violations as such. Once this awareness is lost, it cannot be artificially recuperated.

Violations of rights can also present a semblance of legality, for example when the ruling party achieves a majority sufficient to allow constitutional changes. The majority can simultaneously be in the right and do wrong—simpler minds may not grasp this contradiction. Even during voting it is often difficult to discern where the rights end and the force begins.

The abuses can gradually intensify, eventually emerging as open crimes against certain groups. Anyone who has observed such acts being cheered on by the masses knows that little can be undertaken to oppose them with conventional means. (Jünger, The Forest Passage, 70–71)

Jünger cautions us not to over–much love our lives (c.f., Rev. 12:11) or our possessions:

Anyone who has lived through the burning of a capital or the invasion of an eastern army will never lose a lively mistrust of all that one can possess in life. This is an advantage, for it makes him someone who, if necessary, can leave his house, his farm, his library, without too much regret. He will even discover that this is associated with an act of liberation. Only the person who turns to look back suffers the fate of Lot’s wife. (Jünger, The Forest Passage, 89)

And has insight into the machinations of envy:

As there will always be natures who overestimate possessions, so there will never be a lack of people who se a cure–all in dispossession. Yet a redistribution of wealth does not increase wealth—rather it increases its consumption, as becomes apparent in any managed forest. The lion’s share clearly falls to the bureaucracy, particularly during those divisions where only the encumbrances are left over—of the shared fish only the bones remain. (Jünger, The Forest Passage, 89)

Written by Scott Moonen

December 28, 2020 at 2:21 pm

Posted in Quotations

Do this

leave a comment »

John Barach writes:

The (Admittedly Oversimplistic) History of the Lord’s Supper:

Jesus: “Do this….”
The Church: “Let’s try this instead.”

Examples:

Jesus: “Sit down.” (The Greek indicates reclining, normal festal posture.)
The Church: “Let’s kneel.” Or: “Let’s stand.”

Jesus: Two prayers of thanksgiving, one for the bread, one for the wine.
The Church: One prayer.

Jesus: Giving thanks (which is what “blessed” means).
The Church: Petition, asking God to do something.

Jesus: Everyone eats the bread first. Only then is the wine handed out.
The Church: Some people start drinking wine before others have had bread.

Jesus: Wine.
The Church: No wine. For centuries, church members get communion in one kind (bread) only. But today, wine gets replaced with grape juice.

Jesus: Everyone eats the bread first. Only then is the wine handed out.
Someone: “Hey! I know! Let’s DIP the bread in the wine!”

Scripture: Feast.
The Church: “Let’s make it mournful and sad. Maybe make the building dark.”

Scripture: Feast.
The Church: “Let’s teach everyone to close their eyes and think their own thoughts as if they were all alone in the building.”

Scripture: Break bread on the first day.
The Church: “Let’s not do it very often.”

Jesus passed around the bread and the wine so that, say, the bread went to John and then to Peter and then to Judas and then to Levi and so on.
The Church: Every member must receive from the hand of the pastor.

See also: The Lord’s table

Written by Scott Moonen

December 27, 2020 at 6:29 am