I gotta have my orange juice.

Jesu, Juva

Creed

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Truths turn into dogmas the instant that they are disputed. Thus every man who utters a doubt defines a religion. And the scepticism of our time does not really destroy the beliefs, rather it creates them; gives them their limits and their plain and defiant shape. We who are Liberals once held Liberalism lightly as a truism. Now it has been disputed, and we hold it fiercely as a faith. We who believe in patriotism once thought patriotism to be reasonable, and thought little more about it. Now we know it to be unreasonable, and know it to be right. We who are Christians never knew the great philosophic common sense which inheres in that mystery until the anti–Christian writers pointed it out to us. The great march of mental destruction will go on. Everything will be denied. Everything will become a creed. It is a reasonable position to deny the stones in the street; it will be a religious dogma to assert them. It is a rational thesis that we are all in a dream; it will be a mystical sanity to say that we are all awake. Fires will be kindled to testify that two and two make four. Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in summer. We shall be left defending, not only the incredible virtues and sanities of human life, but something more incredible still, this huge impossible universe which stares us in the face. We shall fight for visible prodigies as if they were invisible. We shall look on the impossible grass and the skies with a strange courage. We shall be of those who have seen and yet have believed.

Chesterton, Heretics

Written by Scott Moonen

September 2, 2019 at 5:03 pm

Various

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By now you have probably seen Anderson Cooper and Steven Colbert talk about suffering and grief. If not, have a look. Tolkien uses the words doom and gift to refer to the same things: both the immortality of elves and the mortality of men.

Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors just released a new album.

Come to Andrew Peterson’s 20th anniversary Behold the Lamb of God concert with us.

I wonder where multi-site churches like The Summit Church will be in ten years’ time. I suspect there is a bubble there that will naturally burst, though I pray it happens gently. I wonder if the same is true on a longer timescale (twenty years?) for large denominations over against local semi-formal church networks. Rosenstock-Huessy observes a natural tribe-kingdom-empire cycle in history. If he is right, there is going to be some kind of unexpected metastasis where great institutions everywhere scintillate into smaller forms. We should be cultivating strong local connections anyway, but it will serve us and the church particularly well if such a transition occurs.

A friend recommended B.R.A.K.E.S. driving school very highly. We were able to get Ivy into an upcoming session.

It’s not too early to register to run the 2020 Tobacco Road Half Marathon with Charlotte, Asher, and me.

Written by Scott Moonen

August 17, 2019 at 12:42 pm

Posted in Miscellany, Personal

Patience

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The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us. Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else and therefore want to go elsewhere. The moment is empty. But patient people dare to stay where they are.

Henri Nouwen, via John Barach

Written by Scott Moonen

August 16, 2019 at 3:36 pm

Posted in Quotations

Easy

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A world where everything was easy would be a nursery for babies, but not at all a fit place for men.

C. H. Spurgeon; HT: Michael Foster

See also: Better

Written by Scott Moonen

August 14, 2019 at 12:38 pm

Posted in Quotations, Vocation

Cookstove

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Fire kept loosening into flames
the sunlight
trees had woven into wood.

Brooks Haxton, Coookstove, after Heraclitus, from They Lift Their Wings to Cry, 45

Written by Scott Moonen

August 14, 2019 at 8:00 am

Posted in Poetry

A new house

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In his lectures on the book of Acts, James Jordan argues that in Acts 27, Luke is deliberately portraying a picture of the transfer of God’s kingdom from Israel to the church. The ship is a kind of Roman ark that has carried God’s people, but in order to survive and enjoy the fulfillment of God’s promises, everyone must now follow the man appointed by God (v. 24) on an exodus. Thus Luke is urging his readers: Rome and especially the temple in Jerusalem are both sinking; Rome’s protection for Israel and the church is ending; salvation is now found only in the church.

Obviously the parallels to Jonah‘s ship (and whale) and the ark are significant. In some ways this is an extension of those cases, as we must now abandon the ship-whale for salvation and instead follow Paul.

Jordan notes in support of his reading that midnight on the 14th day of the month is the same time as Passover (v. 27), there is a kind of communion (v. 35), and being without food is a kind of wilderness experience in which God must provide (v. 21). Furthering the Passover imagery, everyone must remain in the house (v. 31). Then in Acts 28 Paul seems to be saying that the special transition era of ministering the gospel to the Jew first is coming to an end.

With this in mind, we can venture a guess as to what Luke is underscoring by taking the time to tell us that 276 persons were saved (v. 37). If Jordan is correct, we should not be surprised to find some references that are related to God’s house or to exile and exodus patterns. There are no other occurrences of the number 276 so we need to look at a couple of ways of breaking it down.

276 is a triangular number: it is the sum of 23 + 22 + … + 1. It is also 23×12. Twelve is certainly significant for God’s house and kingdom. Twenty-three has a couple points of significance related to God’s house: (1) in 2 Kings 12:6ff, God’s house is repaired beginning in the twenty-third year of King Jehoash; and (2) in 2 Chronicles 7:10, the people return rejoicing from the consecration of God’s house on the twenty-third of the month.

There are also a few references that relate to defeat and exile and captivity, which is suggestive that those who do not escape the Roman-Jewish ship will have no further opportunity of repentance (as Hebrews 10:26 warns, there “no longer remains a sacrifice” in the old temple): (1) in 2 Chronicles 36:2, Jehoahaz begins his brief and plundered reign at the age of twenty-three; (2) in Jeremiah 25:3, Jeremiah prophesies seventy years of captivity after twenty-three years of ignored prophecy; (3) in Jeremiah 52:30, Nebuchadnezzar makes his final plundering of Israel in the twenty-third year of his reign.

There is a final reference to 46 = 23×2 in John 2:20, which is the length of time to build Herod’s temple. All of these references lend credence to Jordan’s interpretation of the underlying message and application that Luke is giving: escape to the church, the new house of God.

You may find this approach unfamiliar or uncomfortable. There are certainly many attempts at Biblical numerology out there that are pure flights of fancy. However, in this case we are not linking numbers to abstract ideas but rather using them to link together texts that have a related theme (in this case the establishment or destruction of God’s house), and to identify possible ways in which this connection reinforces or enriches the theme of those texts.

We can consider other examples of this approach to show that it is reasonable. Obviously the significance of the numbers seven (creation or new creation) and twelve (God’s people) is well known. The number seventy is less well known, but it occurs quite often in a way that symbolizes the nations, since it is the number of names populating the earth after the flood in Genesis 10. You can see some clear examples of this in Exodus 1:5 (the nations were already and will again be saved through Jacob and his family) and Exodus 15:7.

There is a case to be made that 17 is somewhat interchangeable with 70 in that it is 7+10 rather than 7×10. There are many groupings of 17 that occur in the Psalms, and it is at just this time where there is an explosion of Gentile involvement in God’s house. And this likely also explains the significance of John’s taking care to mention 153 fish in John 21:11, since 153 is the triangle of 17 + 16 + … + 1. The Holy Spirit through John is encouraging the church that, by Jesus’s word, we fishers of men will capture the nations!

Another interesting triangular number is the 666 of Revelation 13:18, the number of the beast, the number of a man. This is the triangle of 36 + 35 + … + 1. Thirty-six in turn is 6×6. So many sixes! The sixth day of creation is the day on which man was created, so it is the number of an Adam. The first Adam failed in his ministry precisely by giving the creation over to a beast. This number is also the number of another Adam who turned away from God: Solomon, who disobeyed the laws of kingship (Deuteronomy 17) and gathered 666 talents of gold per year (1 Kings 10:14, 2 Chronicles 9:13). With Jordan, I believe all of this points towards the land beast’s representing unfaithful Jewish leadership rather than Rome or Nero (which I believe corresponds to the sea beast, but we can explore that at another time). We have already considered that Revelation’s Babylon is Jerusalem rather than Rome.

It is possible to have an approach to numerology which is grounded in Scripture itself, and which enriches the message of the priority of God’s kingdom and the certainty of the Holy Spirit’s victorious work in and through the church.

Written by Scott Moonen

August 13, 2019 at 6:26 pm

Posted in Biblical Theology

Becoming

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We sometimes think our child is deficient because he wants to touch the vase and we have to transform the child into somebody who does not want to touch the vase. But your task is not to teach the child how to be a child—the child already knows how to be a child. You are not teaching your children to be children. You are teaching your children to grow into adults.

This is why, when you are in this showdown across the coffee table, you should look into the future with the eye of faith and see your child standing where you are now standing and their children standing where he is now standing. And how will he know how to deal his son? He will have learned how from you!

If you do not know how to be patient in the face of repeated provocations, your children are not going to know either. When you discipline your children correctly, you are loving your grandchildren. Your job is not to teach them how to be an acceptable child, but to show them how to be a responsible adult—because that is the whole point.

Be honest—you bought the vase at a yard sale last summer and that vase is going to be in another yard sale this coming summer. Who cares about the vase? The child is going to live forever. The child is not something you acquired or are going to get rid of in a yard sale. The vase is. You are not teaching the child to be a good version of what they are. You are rather teaching them to be what they are becoming. . .

This principle does not change. Suppose you are dealing with an obstinate teenager and you are thinking “How to fix the teenager” is your task for the day. Your job is not to fix the teenager. Your task is to model for that teenager how to be a parent. Your teen, in just a few short trips around the sun, is going to have a teenager of her own. You are not training her to be a teenager. She has that down already. You are preparing her for the day when she won’t be. . . .

. . . If I have mastered all the parenting techniques but have not love, I am nothing . . .

Imagine a father and a son in the presence of an unsplit cord of wood. What is the father’s duty? His duty is to take two axes, hand one of them to his son, and to love God and to also love a morning of splitting wood, and to do so alongside his son whom he also loves. That is what godly childrearing is.

Love God, love what you are doing, and love the people God gave you to do it with. Does that remove the need to correct? No, you have to show them how to hold the ax and keep them from swinging it around carelessly. Correction, discipline, teaching, mentoring—all of it must be there because you love Jesus, because you love the wood, and because you love your son. That is what you must do.

Douglas Wilson, Why Children Matter, Chapter 13

See also: Self-control

Written by Scott Moonen

July 26, 2019 at 3:43 pm

Posted in Parenting, Quotations