I gotta have my orange juice.

Jesu, Juva

Archive for the ‘Quotations’ Category

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-12)

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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)

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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)

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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

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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)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How many Christians confess this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Jon Barach for calling my attention to it.

Written by Scott Moonen

January 8, 2021 at 9:17 pm

The forest passage

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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

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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

Metábasis eis állo génos (24)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some quotes:

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Scott Moonen

December 12, 2020 at 5:08 pm

By faith, not by sight

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I read and enjoyed Gaffin’s By Faith, Not by Sight recently. I think that he could have gone a little farther towards finding multi-perspectival resolutions, but I am generally very appreciative of the book. Some choice quotes:

Since the goal of redemption is union with the risen Lord, there seems little doubt that, if Paul has a center to his order of salvation, it is this doctrine. When other applied blessings, such as justification or sanctification, are made central, there are inevitably deleterious consequences for the Christian life, whereby incipient forms of antinomianism and legalism creep in. For example, a certain Lutheran view that justification precedes sanctification, so that it causes union with Christ and sanctification, ends up attributing to justification a renovative/transformative element. The notion that one applied benefit can cause another applied benefit has always perplexed me. But when union with Christ structures the whole of applied redemption, the aforementioned errors are dealt with better. This has to do with the fact that Christ’s person, not simply his work or his applied benefits, must have the preeminence. Indeed, the gift of Christ’s person is a greater gift to us than his benefits. As many of our finest divines have vigorously argued, there exists a priority of Christ’s person over his work. Union with Christ helps us to keep this salient fact in mind. We are not simply recipients of his benefits; we also belong to him. (Mark Jones, Foreword, p. x)

One important methodological consideration is that, with all due attention being given to his immediate historical context, including relevant extracanonical texts and materials, in interpreting [Paul’s] letters the context that is not only primary but privileged is the canonical context. (10)

All along I have been speaking of Paul’s “theology” and referring to him as a “theologian.” For many, that will not be a problem, but this way of speaking warrants some clarification, since for some it is questionable at best. The perceived danger here is that we will, as it could be put, “drag Paul down to our level.” . . . What offsets this leveling danger is appreciating Paul’s identity as an apostle, at least if we understand apostleship properly. . . . Regarding [his] authority, the apostle is as Christ himself.

Paul the theologian, then, is Paul the apostle. That points to the God-breathed origin and authority of his teaching, its character as the word of God. It highlights the radical, categorical difference there is between his theology and post-apostolic theology. His teaching, along with the teaching of the other biblical writers, is Spirit-borne, canonical, and foundational. (14-15)

Increasingly over the course of the last century, to fill out this brief historical sketch, a new consensus concerning Paul emerged across a broad front in biblical studies. This happened in tandem with a reassessment of the kingdom proclamation of Jesus. It is now widely maintained that the controlling focus of Paul’s theology, as for Jesus before him, is eschatology—or what is equivalent for some, redemptive history (historia salutis). Specifically, the center of his theology has been recognized to be the death and resurrection of Christ in their eschatological significance.

In my view, this basic conclusion is sound and, by now, well established. (29)

The center of Paul’s soteriology, then, at the center of his theology as a whole, is neither justification by faith nor sanctification, neither the imputation of Christ’s righteousness nor the renewing work of the Spirit. To draw that conclusion, however, is not to decenter justification (or sanctification), as if justification is somehow less important for Paul than it is for the Reformers. Justification is supremely important; it is absolutely crucial in Paul’s “gospel of salvation” (cf. Eph. 1:13). If his teaching on justification is denied or distorted, it ceased to be gospel; there is no longer saving “good news” for guilty sinners. But no matter how close justification is to the heart of Paul’s gospel, in our salvation there is an antecedent consideration, a reality that is deeper, more fundamental, more decisive, more crucial: Christ and our union with him, the crucified and resurrected, the exalted, Christ. Union with Christ by faith—that is the essence of Paul’s ordo salutis.

At the opening of Book 3 of his Institutes of the Christian Religion and controlling all that he has to say about “the way” of salvation—that is, its personal, individual appropriation, including what he will eventually say about justification—Calvin writes, “First, we must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us.” (49-50)

[Some have observed] that Paul’s exhortations to the church as a whole, his ethics of the Christian life in their entirety, can be summed up in the epigram, “Become what you are.” This is helpful, but by itself it carries a liability that can render it decidedly unhelpful (suggesting some form of personal autonomy), unless it is read with an all-encompassing Christological gloss, “Become what you are in Christ.” (80)

The point here is that “the path of good works runs not from man to God, says Paul, but from God to man.” [quoting Berkouwer] Ultimately, in the deepest sense, for Paul “our good works” are not ours, but God’s. They are his work, begun and continuing in us, his being “at work in us, both to will and to do what pleases him” (Phil. 2:13). That is why, without any tension, a faith that rests in God the Savior is a faith that is restless to do his will. (88)

On the coherence between [faith and works], it is hard to improve on what J. Gresham Machen writes aphoristically, “As the faith which James condemns is different than the faith that Paul commends, so also the works which James commends are different than the works which Paul condemns.” (118)

Written by Scott Moonen

November 28, 2020 at 1:22 pm

Enchanted

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‘Cause I can see the world is charged
It’s glimmering with promises
Written in a script of stars
And dripping from the prophet’s lips.

Andrew Peterson, “Don’t You Want to Thank Someone

Written by Scott Moonen

November 8, 2020 at 5:15 pm