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Jesu, Juva

Archive for the ‘Worship’ Category

Metábasis eis állo génos (6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider these outstanding lemmas on liberty from Doug Wilson.

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

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

Some interpretive maximalist food for thought:

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

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

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

Written by Scott Moonen

August 7, 2020 at 9:07 pm

What a church is

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Written by Scott Moonen

August 2, 2020 at 7:45 am

Metábasis eis állo génos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Scott Moonen

July 19, 2020 at 9:24 am

Pentecost witness

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And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42–47)

Written by Scott Moonen

May 31, 2020 at 2:53 pm

In step with the truth of the gospel

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We have seen that Christian love shapes our Christian freedom so that it may never be used to injure or trample a brother (far from that, it must be used to serve our brothers); but also that the gospel shapes our Christian love so that it may never be used to bind a brother. This pair of principles explains why Paul circumcised Timothy and refused to circumcise Titus; it is why in this current moment I will hug Joe and stand six feet away from Tom, in each other’s presence. This is hardly a tightrope walk, though; it is a simple expression of my genuine brotherly love for both of them.

We speak too in this moment of the church’s witness to the world. Just as there are different opinions on the wisdom of my hugging Joe, there are different opinions on what and how the church should be witnessing, and all of them look to Christian love as their basis. How then shall we live?

By way of Greek, our words witness and martyr are the same. This reminds us that our witness may draw favor from some but attack from others. Our faithful witness of the good news that Jesus has all power and authority requires us to resist the tyranny of worldly opinion. This does not mean that we cannot seek the good opinion of our neighbor as we seek his good, but we rightly order our witness by seeking the good opinion of God first. The church’s faithful witness-martyrdom is a powerful statement of whom or what we fear. Wisdom begins with such properly ordered fear (Proverbs 1, 9). With this fear and wisdom, we receive life; without it, only death (Proverbs 8).

All good parents know that there is a species of chasing after our children’s opinion and even their salvation that will end up losing them rather than gaining them. Likewise, there is a way in which proper Christian care and concern for the world contains within it a kind of loving regard and disregard for the world’s perceived fears and felt needs. We have the gift of knowing the world’s true need, which no focus group would ever discover or approve. This loving disregard actually is an effective witness, because the gospel call is an invitation to join us in a rightly ordered fear. Such fear is truly attractive and compelling because of the joy and peace and freedom from fear that it brings. To the degree we fear the disapproval of the world, we lose our gospel savor.

Thus, in love we might wear a mask to deliver food to our neighbor, and warmly welcome our neighbor to church if he wears a mask or wishes to stand at a distance. We may in no wise despise him. But we also do not fear a bad report in the news if, as the church gathers, there are hugs and handshakes among those who have counted the cost.

The world seeks to obtain justification for its guilty conscience by scapegoating others, including and especially the church. Against this, the church faithfully witnesses that justification can only be found in the one true Scapegoat. This empowers us to laugh together with God at the world’s scheming (Psalm 2) and scapegoating and even martyrdom if it comes. There is a sense in which the church, in union with Jesus, holds the world in derision. We certainly do not fear false accusations that Jesus and his church are lacking in love; we have been brought to know and serve love himself. The world’s loves, as well as its fears, are disordered, and in their greatest extremes are all attempts to hide from God. (Let him who abhors abortion cast the first stone at Christ’s precious, precious body.)

There is a kind of catering to public opinion that will compromise our faithful and prophetic witness. By bowing to public opinion, governments and businesses and even some churches are slowly spinning a rope that fickle public opinion will use to hang them tomorrow. Everything the church says and does is in some sense political; we are the heavenly polis breaking into time and the terminal land. In this polis, the one Scapegoat sits enthroned with all power and authority. All other scapegoating is not only vain but evil. By not fearing or giving way to this scapegoating, we empty it of its power. We defeat it by our laughter and worship and joy and feasting. May we be emboldened by the Spirit to witness in the fear of God alone!

Written by Scott Moonen

May 24, 2020 at 3:21 pm

Christus regnat

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Happy whole burnt offering day, rather, ascension day!

Jesus now reigns where’er the sun does its successive journeys run.

(Although there is nothing outside his control, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him, but we see him crowned with glory and honor.—Heb. 2)

He now reigns in glory, crowned with grace and might. . . He now reigns forever with His chosen bride.

(We are seated with him in the heavenly places in Christ the head-and-body.—Eph. 2)

(Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.—1 Cor. 15)

Written by Scott Moonen

May 21, 2020 at 6:21 am

Love in the time of Chinese flu

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Now is a good time for the church to remember our call to unity. But we’ve all seen unity used as a cover to downgrade truth, righteousness, and genuine love. So it is equally a good time to be cautious about how that unity is urged and achieved.

As a practical example, I can show love for my brother Tom by standing six feet away from him and being charitable and gracious towards his reasons for wanting to exercise caution. But is there any situation whatsoever where my brotherly love for Tom restrains me from hugging Joe?

This article by Brett McCracken is typical of some of the poorly framed calls to unity nowadays. Ironically, you could say that Brett is insufficiently nuanced, or perhaps that his indecisive nuance is insufficiently masculine or fatherly.

Brett makes a simple but common category mistake: the man of weak conscience and the anxious man are not necessarily the same. As Friedman stresses, and as any good parent knows, our goal for the anxious is not to keep them from falling into sin, but to provide them enough firmness and exposure to mature. To be clear: I do not mean to imply that everyone taking precautions is anxious, nor do I mean to imply that that the best medicine is always to confront someone’s anxiety head-on.

However, anxiety is sin. And that leads us to another of Brett’s mistakes, which is to leave out almost entirely the category of the prophetic. He does want us to be faithful to the gospel, but there are many other points at which truth, righteousness, and beauty call for taking a loyal stand. Such a stand may appear to some to lack the humility and patience that Brett stresses. Brett himself makes the mistake of opposing confidence and humility; contrast this with Paul who exhorts us to be convinced about disputable matters, and we all remember Chesterton’s cutting insight on the true meaning of humility. And of course Brett himself is confident; we expect no less of someone writing to urge the church how to behave. Prophets know that their message can and must be grounded on a better sort of humility and patience and love. Every good parent knows that firmness is compatible with these things, and even Brett is exercising a kind of mollified firmness toward the prophet; the problem is that he is equating agreeable unity with true unity and thereby pointing his firmness in the wrong direction. It is easy to take a stand on yesterday’s issues, and for peace, but difficult and unpopular to take a stand on today’s issues.

Today’s issues are no small matter because they hinge on a number of points that do call for our loyalty: the priority of God’s call to worship in the heavenly assembly; truth; a biblical approach to quarantine, including a biblical value for livelihood and work; a biblical understanding of spheres of authority and their requirements and limits; and a wise, fatherly, and firm response to the truly infectious sin of anxiety. Surprisingly, these points all in fact involve a love for our neighbor, a placing “the interests of others above the self” as Brett rightly appeals but too narrowly applies. In addition to the more popular truths of humility and patience, the church has the solemn responsibility to proclaim these truths as well. With our childlike faith, we ought always to be in the vanguard of the children who expose the emperor’s lack of clothing.

We will surely be worshipping together in ten years’ time and with even closer bonds of unity in Jesus our king. Holding that anticipation over all is a good way to frame the great patience and love we exercise today even in our firmness. We are loyal to truth, righteousness, beauty, and to one another.

Written by Scott Moonen

May 16, 2020 at 10:24 am

Worship is warfare (5)

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National defense:

“Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest. You shall observe the Feast of Weeks, the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year’s end. Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the LORD God, the God of Israel. For I will cast out nations before you and enlarge your borders; no one shall covet your land, when you go up to appear before the LORD your God three times in the year. (Exodus 34:21–24 ESV)

See also: Worship is warfare (4), etc.

Written by Scott Moonen

May 10, 2020 at 1:40 pm

Semper reformanda

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Understand that the glory of God and the good of others are ever the twin purposes of moral action, and that the merely good or permissible must never be allowed to obstruct the quest for the best.

ESV Study Bible, “Biblical Ethics: An Overview”

Written by Scott Moonen

May 5, 2020 at 6:34 pm

Posted in Christ is Lord, Worship

Assembly

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But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22–24 ESV)

The church is not analogous to a movie theater or sporting event. The church is analogous to the general assembly. Where the general assembly can meet to conduct business, the church must also be meeting to conduct business with her king. The life of the world depends upon this.

Written by Scott Moonen

May 3, 2020 at 1:49 pm