I gotta have my orange juice.

Jesu, Juva

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-5)

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Through his disobedience and discipline, Jonah became an accidental evangelist to the mariners:

Therefore they cried out to Yahweh and said, “We pray, O Yahweh, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O Yahweh, have done as it pleased You.” So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared Yahweh exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to Yahweh and took vows. (Jonah 1:14–16)

Maybe God will do the same with the modern evangelical church. This past year has been the year we built our own houses and abandoned God’s:

In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of Yahweh came by Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, saying, “Thus speaks Yahweh of hosts, saying: ‘This people says, “The time has not come, the time that Yahweh’s house should be built.” ‘ ” Then the word of Yahweh came by Haggai the prophet, saying, “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?” Now therefore, thus says Yahweh of hosts: “Consider your ways! “You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but you are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; And he who earns wages, Earns wages to put into a bag with holes.” Thus says Yahweh of hosts: “Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,” says Yahweh. “You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?” says Yahweh of hosts. “Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house. Therefore the heavens above you withhold the dew, and the earth withholds its fruit. (Haggai 1:1–10)

We violated the fourth commandment by elevating our own hearth fires above God’s:

Now while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation. They put him under guard, because it had not been explained what should be done to him.

Then Yahweh said to Moses, “The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” So, as Yahweh commanded Moses, all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him with stones, and he died. (Exodus 31:12–17)

And yet, God will use all this for the salvation of many rather than a few:

​“Indeed He says,
​‘​It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
​​To raise up the tribes of Jacob,
​​And to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
​​I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles,
​​That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”
​​Thus says Yahweh,
​​The Redeemer of Israel, their Holy One,
​​To Him whom man despises,​​
To Him whom the nation abhors,​​
To the Servant of rulers:​​
“Kings shall see and arise,
​​Princes also shall worship,​​
Because of the LORD who is faithful,​​
The Holy One of Israel;
​​And He has chosen You.” (Isaiah 49:6–7)

Pray especially for the work God is doing in China and in the Muslim world.

“Yet the number of the children of Israel​​
Shall be as the sand of the sea,​​
Which cannot be measured or numbered.​​
And it shall come to pass
​​In the place where it was said to them,​
‘​You are not My people,’
​It shall be said to them,​
Sons of the living God.’
​​Then the children of Judah and the children of Israel​​
Shall be gathered together,​​
And appoint for themselves one head;​​
And they shall come up out of the land,​​
For great will be the day of Jezreel!” (Hosea 1:10–11)

To the Word has us in the Book of the Twelve right now. One thing that has struck me repeatedly this time through the Bible is the extent of God’s dealings with kings and nations. This is not a minor theme in the Bible.

I mentioned recently that the meaning of worshipping in Spirit is to do so as the body of Jesus—the church—in his presence. I cited Revelation 1 as an example, but we see this expression in association with worship–fellowship with God as early as Genesis 3:

And they heard the sound of Yahweh God walking in the garden in the spirit of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Yahweh God among the trees of the garden. (Genesis 3:8, NKJV adjusted and emphasis added)

Speaking of worship, if you are in the Raleigh area, please join me for this year’s rescheduled worship and liturgy conference with Peter Leithart. As a foretaste, consider what he has to say about liturgy and joy.

Isn’t it about time that we impeached Woodrow Wilson? Although we may not be able to prevent him from voting, we need to make sure that he never holds office again.

When they were excavating around the legs of Ozymandias, archaeologists found two disposable face masks.

I learned this week that Babette’s Feast originated as an Isak Dinesen short story! I’ve ordered myself a copy, and am looking to resume our family tradition of watching the movie on super bowl Sunday this year.

Written by Scott Moonen

January 30, 2021 at 8:30 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-4)

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James Jordan points out that we commonly misread Matthew 28:

This is the actual command of the Great Commission: Disciple all nations. Jesus might have said, “disciple the world,” but that might have implied that nations are to disappear. He might have said, “disciple individuals” or “families,” but that might have implied that nations as such are not to be discipled. The phrase “disciple the all nations” clearly means the whole world, and embraces individuals and families as well.

This has a number of implications for us. First, we ought to have faith that this is something the church can accomplish, because all authority has been given to Jesus. Second, we ought to have faith that this is something the church will accomplish, because all authority has been given to Jesus. Third, the church is always already discipling the nations. Duane Garner observes that:

God has placed His Church in a position of leadership over the world and has ordered things in such a way that the Church is set at the vanguard of culture and society. The world sits down-stream from the Church so that whatever we pour in the water up here flows out into the world way down there, for better or for worse.

See also James Jordan’s further comments on the principle that the church is the center and ruler of the world. One of our contemporary failures has to do with narrowing our understanding of God’s work in the world from one of dominion, conquest, and redemption to focus exclusively on redemption.

You know that when the world bows in glad unison to the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, Aslan has them right where he wants them. It is a good time to pray that God will send bad dreams, and wise counselors, to people in positions of power and authority around the world.

In this week’s issue of The Theopolitan, Peter Leithart briefly reviews Kyle Pasewark’s A Theology of Power. He writes that:

Power isn’t domination but, for Luther, God’s power is His “communication of efficacy” (198). . . [God] exercises power by empowering. . . Power as “communication of efficacy” is more coherent than power as external domination or the ability to do what one wills. Power-as-domination is ultimately self-contradictory.

The primary purpose of power and authority and rule are to beget and bestow power and authority and rule. This is an apt summary of parenting, pastoring, and even rightly exercised political power:

So Judah and Israel dwelt in security,
each one beneath his vine and beneath his fig tree,
from Dan to Be’er–Sheva,
all the days of Shelomo (1 Kings 5:5, Everett Fox, Hebrew numbering, emphasis added)

Alex is thinking about the ‘rona here, but this is true at many more levels:

It seems that we may be in the process of adjusting PCR cycle counts downward. You heard it here first, folks: a joint Nobel Prize in Medicine for Biden and Fauci for extraordinary efforts to “eradicate” the ‘rona.

You should follow Jack Posobiec.

Written by Scott Moonen

January 24, 2021 at 6:46 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 (2–3)

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Mark Horne surfaces a thought–provoking quote from James Jordan, pointing out, as he says on Twitter, that “the law led to wisdom because it was public property.”

Jordan frequently points out that the head–heel typology instructs us in how to live by faith. It may appear that the wicked are well coordinated while the church and the righteous walk with a limp. However, by faith we recognize that the head of the wicked has been crushed, cast down, bound. And while the church’s heel is wounded, she reigns together with her head at this very moment.

My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God. . . .

So you will walk in the way of the good
and keep to the paths of the righteous.
For the upright will inhabit the land,
and those with integrity will remain in it,
but the wicked will be cut off from the land,
and the treacherous will be rooted out of it. (Proverbs 2, ESV)

I think there is something to this:

I’m slowly working to decouple myself from Google, and plan to document the process on my other blog.

It is a family tradition to watch The Lord of the Rings movies in the wintertime, and we just finished this week. This year I hope to work through the books as well. One thing struck me this time through: Gandalf brought three eagles to rescue Frodo and Sam. Jackson has one of these eagles carry both Gandalf and a hobbit, but Tolkien is more vague. This makes me wonder if Jackson, or Tolkien, or both, intended to show that Gandalf hoped Gollum might have been saved.

‘Twice have you borne me, Gwaihir my friend,’ said Gandalf. ‘Thrice shall pay for all, if you are willing. You will not find me a burden much greater than when you bore me from Zirak-zigil, where my old life burned away.’

‘I would bear you,’ answer Gwaihir, ‘whither you will, even were you made of stone.’

‘Then come, and let your brother go with us, and some other of your folk who is most swift! For we have need of speed greater than any wind, outmatching the wings of the Nazgûl.’

‘The North Wind blows, but we shall outfly it,’ said Gwaihir. And he lifted up Gandalf and sped away south, and with him went Landroval, and Meneldor young and swift. And they passed over Udûn and Gorgoroth and saw all the land in ruin and tumult beneath them, and before them Mount Doom blazing, pouring out its fire.

. . .

And so it was that Gwaihir saw them with his keen far-seeing eyes, as down the wild wind he came, and daring the great peril of the skies he circled in the air: two small dark figures, forlorn, hand in hand upon a little hill, while the world shook under them, and gasped, and rivers of fire drew near. And even as he espied them and came swooping down, he saw them fall, worn out, or choked with fumes and heat, or stricken down by despair at last, hiding their eyes from death.

Side by side they lay; and down swept Gwaihir, and down came Landroval and Meneldor the swift; and in a dream, not knowing what fate had befallen them, the wanderers were lifted up and borne far away out of the darkness and the fire. (The Return of the King, 227–229)

I’ve always been intrigued by churches that choose not to register as a corporation. If you belong to such a church, your charitable contributions are likely still deductible on your income tax. See:

For subscribers of The Theopolitan, Peter Leithart summarizes Rich Lusk on James Jordan on the Bethlehem star: it is Yahweh’s glory cloud. Lusk points out the movement of the cloud, the host of angels appearing to the shepherds, and Jesus’s tabernacling among us. I conclude, therefore, that stars are angels.

“In our world,” said Eustace, “a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.”

“Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is, but only what it is made of.” (C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader)

He counts the number of the stars,
to all of them gives names. (Psalm 147:4, Robert Alter)

I had forgotten that company originates from bread–together. How beautiful!

Charlotte and Asher made these handy deadlift stands. They’ve lasted over a year now!

You’ve probably seen this. But it has been delighting me this week:

Written by Scott Moonen

January 16, 2021 at 7:19 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

Metábasis eis állo génos (2–1)

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Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!

Although I am convinced that our governor’s executive orders of 2020 have constituted a usurpation of authority, I am grateful that for most of this time he has not bound churches:

Worship, religious, and spiritual gatherings, funeral ceremonies, wedding ceremonies, and other activities constituting the exercise of First Amendment rights are exempt from all the requirements of this Executive Order, notwithstanding any other provision of this Executive Order.

It will go well for North Carolina in the future, not at all because so many of us have slavishly obeyed these orders, but because the church’s weekly ministry on behalf of the world has been preserved:

Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. So now, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD.” (Isaiah 37:14–20, ESV)

This is not true in every place. Pray for the church around the world:

To some degree this situation is the responsibility of the church and a sifting of churches:

Lampstands are being removed where people have feared man and nature rather than God.

Some friends and reflected this week on generational and epochal shifts. As usual, I am short on footnotes, but my recollection of Eugen Rosenstock–Huessy is that he identifies a 500 year pattern cycling between tribe, kingdom, and empire; and says that we should expect the next phase of history to appear tribal. There seems to be a similar pattern in scripture’s covenant cycle as well, with roughly 4–500 years each from Noah to Abraham, Moses, David–Solomon, Cyrus, and Jesus. Daniel speaks of seventy sevens (490), and Ezekiel 4 presents us with a 500–year figure as well (390 years + 40 years + 70 years of exile). In addition, the sins of the Amorites have to ripen for 400–430 years. I’m not sure how to put this together with America’s sins, but maybe it works if we consider it Western sins—or maybe we just have more ripening to do. However, in the life of Israel, at least, child sacrifice was a late–stage judicial hardening, so it seems like our bill is coming due sooner rather than later.

Tyre received 70 years of exile for her sins as well (Isaiah 23:17). James Jordan points out from time to time that places like Gath (through Achish) and Tyre (through Hiram) submitted themselves to Yahweh’s rule in covenanting with David. This could apply to Egypt as well through Solomon. All these therefore received greater blessing and long–term future hope, but and also stricter discipline, since judgment always begins with the household of God. You see both these blessings and curses throughout the prophets.

I’m still learning to “see” corporate versus individual readings of passages. It had never occurred to me until this week that God’s generational visitation in Exodus 34 might be societal and not just individual. In the case of the Amorites (Genesis 15) God seems to be saying that a generation is about 100 years, at least at that time. That kind of makes sense when Jacob is marrying Leah and Rachel at 84 years old, but I wonder why the cycles wouldn’t accelerate later in history as generational gaps shorten.

The church is the society that, by keeping on repenting week by week, year after year, is able to experience thousands of generations of fruitfulness.

I want to learn sometime what happened in the years preceding 1917 Russia (where the rule of communism was roughly 70 years) and 1930s Germany. We have the impression that things progressed quickly there but I suspect there is more to it, including some kind of long compromise or complicity in the churches. In his recent book Live Not by Lies, Rod Dreher points to some social and cultural factors in these downfalls (pp. 30ff), although these still seem to me to be downstream from the church’s rule of the world: (1) loneliness and social atomization, (2) losing faith in hierarchies and institutions, (3) desire to transgress and destroy, (4) propaganda and the willingness to believe useful lies, (5) a mania for ideology, and (6) a society that values loyalty more than expertise.

Hear this: Jesus is king.

The reason [the church is] a third thing, a tertium quid, is because it was the first thing. (C. R. Wiley, “Ecology and the Libel of Christianity“)

From the almost–tempted–to–wear–a–mask department:

I was reminded recently of St. Anne’s Pub, who at one time carried on a ministry similar to Ken Myers’s Mars Hill Audio. Their 2005 issue “Leading our little ones to Christ” was helpful to me as part of my conversion to paedobaptism and paedocommunion. They interview Vern Poythress, whose articles on Indifferentism and Rigorism and Linking Small Children with Infants are also very helpful introductions.

Oops, it looks like my future is not so bright:

Written by Scott Moonen

January 1, 2021 at 9:01 am

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 (26)

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Vrolijk Kerstfeest!

This post marks six months—twenty–six weeks—of this weekly bricolage. (Twenty–seven weeks if you count the final occasional edition of “Various.”) Glancing at the archive index, it looks like this month also marks two and a half years of monthly posting of one kind or another. Most of those are quotes, and for that time period many of them are from Eugen Rosenstock–Huessy.

You can, of course, get this delivered to you by email (see subscription button to the right) or by RSS reader (I like Feedly, but I wonder what you recommend). It’s a good discipline to write regularly. I’d like to see more writing from you in 2021, even if—perhaps especially if—it is mostly just your favorite quotes and poems and articles. And even if it is just once a month. Send links, please.

I picked up my title from Rosenstock–Huessy, who uses it in his course Cross of Reality, and translates it as transgression into another domain: the fallacy of transferring concepts blindly from one domain to another. It seems a fitting acknowledgement that I’m often writing at the margin of my education and experience, but not my curiosity and convictions.

I had about a quarter of our 2019 pictures left to sift through and upload this week, plus about half of our 2020 pictures. That was quite an exercise! For 2021 I plan to treat picture–sifting as an idle phone activity to be pursued alongside Twitter browsing.

I’ve joked for awhile that EDR and similar systems like CrowdStrike or Carbon Black would become Skynet. Or, more likely, a tool of international espionage and cyber–warfare. It doesn’t feel good to be vindicated. (Now imagine someone accomplishing this with a major browser or password manager application.) Complex and highly interconnected systems are difficult to make stable, resilient, or secure; and cannot possibly be made anti-fragile. (This is a lesser reason why I miss my old pickup truck.) I’m not very excited about Kubernetes for the same reason. It’s also partly why I’m not very excited about artificial intelligence; but additionally because analysis of data, whether by machine or by human, does not automatically involve either wisdom or decisiveness (see also Edwin Friedman and Nassim Taleb).

And if Rosenstock–Huessy is right, the coming turning of the age will be a turning from the big to the small, from empire to tribe. Perhaps that is still a hundred years away, or perhaps it is just one disastrous computer incident away.

Hallelujah.
Sing to the LORD a new song, His praise in the faithful’s assembly.
Let Israel rejoice in its Maker, Zion’s sons exult in their king.
Let them praise His name in dance, on the timbrel and lyre let them hymn to Him.
For the LORD looks with favor on His people, He adorns the lowly with victory.
Let the faithful delight in glory, sing gladly on their couches.
Exultations of God in their throat and a double–edged sword in their hand,
to wreak vengeance upon the nations, punishment on the peoples,
to bind their kings in fetters, and their nobles in iron chains,
to exact from them justice as written—it is grandeur for all His faithful.
Hallelujah. (Psalm 149, Robert Alter)

I now forget who reminded me of this, but as much as we love to think about the incarnation at Christmas, we ought to be celebrating it on March 25 as well.

C. R. Wiley and friends reflected on human scale recently. Wiley says that “we actually live in a world where our institutions dwarf us, make us feel insignificant and small, and reinforce that by, well, not being responsive to us.” Wiley quotes Leon Krier, who asserts that submissiveness is generally the human response to tyranny rather than primarily the cause of it, because (quoting Wiley quoting Krier quoting Boswell), “when the mind knows it cannot help itself by struggling, it quietly and patiently submits to whatever load is laid upon it.” I’m not sure that is always true, because classic conservatism recognizes that an undisciplined people does require external discipline—and if we do not discipline ourselves then God will do so in judgment. But in any case, this is an interesting corollary to the statement that evil prevails when good men do nothing. It also parallels Solzhenitsyn’s “Live Not By Lies.” And yet, I wonder: how shall I balance this against providing for my family, against being wise as a serpent, against the call to be a living dog rather than a dead lion (Ecclesiastes 9:4)? A partial answer is that we also live not by fear, of any kind.

In spite of BigEva’s complicity in enabling evil, much of the evangelical church is simply unprepared for the next decade. Who knew that we actually needed to warn our people, and brace our own selves, against great evil? Who knew that lies would be so sugar–coated and so popular? Churches that are expecting vaccines to return everything to normal are in for a big surprise. God has only just begun his work of sifting and winnowing. He is sharpening the antithesis.

And though there seemed to be, and indeed were, a thousand roads by which a man could walk through the world, there was not a single one which did not lead sooner or later either to the Beatific or the Miserific Vision. (C. S. Lewis, Perelandra, chapter 9; also see Sharper)

Fortunately, we have the opportunity right now to repent and study harder for the next exam! In Jesus, and through his church, death is no longer contagious: life is!

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.”

“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Revelation 22:1–7, ESV)

Childermas, the feast of the innocents, is the original sanctity of life day. I realized this week that these young men show up again—as part of the host under the altar:

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. (Revelation 6:9–11, ESV)

One of the things that their blood and their prayers accomplish is our release from Abraham’s bosom:

And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” (Revelation 14:13, ESV, emphasis added)

By the end of this heavenly liturgy, their prayers have helped to bring about the destruction of God’s and their enemies. God has judged and de–created the old covenant world, and these young men have been released to stand face to face with him in the freedom of the glory of the sons of God:

After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
for his judgments are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

Once more they cried out,

“Hallelujah!
The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” ( Revelation 19:1–3, ESV)

Written by Scott Moonen

December 25, 2020 at 7:27 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (25)

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I learned from James Jordan this week that “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is based on the O Antiphons!

I mentioned servant leadership recently, and of course we must not forget diaconal leadership (Matthew 20:28, Luke 20:27), but we should also speak of steward leadership:

The master commended the dishonest steward for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. (Luke 16:8, ESV modified)

And even of the striking slave leadership of pastors and elders:

But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ (Luke 14:16–17, ESV modified)

Aaron Renn provides interesting food for thought in his tribute to and critical evaluation of Tim Keller. This is a helpful way to process the dispute between Abraham Kuyper’s followers and Klaas Schilder: namely, that these two men wrote in different times! This enables us, with Van Til, to appreciate the work of both men. Keller is a kind of Kuyper: a brilliant and godly man, and helpful for his time; but with the coming of compromise and downgrade and bald opposition from the world, Kuyper’s (and now Keller’s) old ways ceased to work. It is not as if Kuyper and Keller do not emphasize the antithesis—far from it!—but Schilder was clearly right to do so in a new and radical way, and thus became a man helpful for his own time. I previously reflected critically on Schilder here and here, but given our current turning of the age I ought to revisit him more receptively.

There is something about our current need for radical antithesis that is so well suited to our fundamentalist baptist brothers. May God use the despised young–earth yokels of the world (among whom I count myself) to put to shame the worldly wise! Keep your eyes on Founder’s Ministries, who have been doing a good work for some time, and continue to develop and expand it.

This moment requires us to be devoted to truth. But God has always required this. Truth saves lives . . .

Taste and see that Yahweh is good!
Happy is the mighty man who takes refuge in Him.
Fear Yahweh, his holy ones,
Because there is no lack for those who fear Him.
Young lions have grown poor and hungry;
But the seekers of Yahweh do not lack any good.

Come, sons! Listen to me!
The fear of Yahweh I will teach you.
Who is the man who desires life,
Who loves days in which to see good?
Preserve your tongue from evil
And your lips from speaking deceit.
Turn from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it. (Psalm 34:8–14, James Jordan)

. . . but a failure to be devoted to truth results in the removal of lampstands:

And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” (Luke 17:37, ESV)

I’m not interested in shofars or dispensationalism, but Christian nationalism and postmillennialism are good things, wrongly maligned. Christian progressivism is the real danger of our day.

You should read Mark Horne’s latest, and then get yourself a copy of Solomon Says.

I miss my truck:

Wrath of Gnon is always teaching me something new and beautiful:

A friend sent me this fascinating series of three videos. Perhaps you will enjoy them as much as I did:

Written by Scott Moonen

December 18, 2020 at 11:23 am