I gotta have my orange juice.

Jesu, Juva

Enough

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Brothers! People! Why has life been given you? In the deep, deaf stillness of midnight, the doors of the death cells are being swung open—and great–souled people are being dragged out to be shot. On all the railroads of the country this very minute, right now, people who have just been fed salt herring are licking their dry lips with bitter tongues. They dream of the happiness of stretching out one’s legs and of the relief one feels after going to the toilet. In Orotukan the earth thaws only in summer and only to the depth of three feet—and only then can they bury the bones of those who died during the winter. And you have the right to arrange your own life under the blue sky and the hot sun, to get a drink of water, to stretch, to travel wherever you like without a convoy. So what’s this about unwiped feet? And what’s this about a mother–in–law? What about the main thing in life, all its riddles? If you want, I’ll spell it out for you right now. Do not pursue what is illusory—property and position: all that is gained at the expense of your nerves decade after decade, and is confiscated in one fell night. Live with a steady superiority over life—don’t be afraid of misfortune, and do not yearn after happiness; it is, after all, all the same: the bitter doesn’t last forever, and the sweet never fills the cup to overflowing. It is enough if you don’t freeze in the cold and if thirst and hunger don’t claw at your insides. If your back isn’t broken, if your feet can walk, if both arms can bend, if both eyes see, and if both ears hear, then whom should you envy? And why? Our envy of others devours us most of all. Rub your eyes and purify your heart—and prize above all else in the world those who love you and who wish you well. Do not hurt them or scold them, and never part from any of them in anger; after all, you simply do not know; it might be your last act before your arrest, and that will be how you are imprinted in their memory! (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 1, 591–592)

Written by Scott Moonen

September 19, 2020 at 6:10 pm

Posted in Quotations

Metábasis eis állo génos (12)

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What is Canada doing right about forest management? Or addressing arson? Or both? Maybe all is well as long as Trudeau remains in power?

This was thought provoking:

Man, Peterson’s 12 Rules is not very good. His view of the world is that of a scared little boy. It’s this terrible brutal scary place but you’ve got to overcome your fear of it or you’ll be paralyzed. It makes sense that this would resonate with men primarily raised by women.

Raise your sons to be explorers, adventurers, overcomers, and conquerors. Tell them that though there is wildness and danger in this world, God still made it for us to subdue and rule.

There are “dragons” in the world… The mother says be careful, son. The father says bring back the head of a dragon, son.

— Michael Foster [1], [2], [3]

My mind immediately jumped to “This is my Father’s world.” We are sons of the king (Matthew 17:24ff) and heirs of this world (Romans 4:13). ND Wilson recently had similar bracing words (thanks to Brad for the find) on how we should live in 2020 or any year whatsoever.

I saw Trump compared to king Saul this week as a self-important godless failure. Perhaps Trump thinks of himself as a king David. (I suspect it’s a typical serpentine slander that there are many evangelicals who think of Trump as a David.) I think it is better to think of him as a potential Nebuchadnezzar or Pharaoh. We don’t trust in chariots or horses, but we can pray that God will send bad dreams, or use him to protect us from a Zedekiah or a famine.

Big Eva would have us believe it is a tortured question whether to serve Zedekiah or Nebuchadnezzar. (I realize all of the ways the analogy is imperfect, but let the reader understand.) After all, who is to say which chariot or horse God will use? (O Keller!) But it is only tortured if you love the glory that comes from man. Gotta appear thoughtful, and make sure your name is not in the papers for the Wrong Reasons™ (O Greear!). It’s going to keep getting worse, you know, all because we thought we should pay attention to the serpentine slander. That is a treadmill that keeps going faster and faster.

I’m so grateful that John MacArthur hasn’t paid attention to any of it. God is the one who checks to see if our hands and heart are clean, not the accuser.

Mark Horne was on Canon Calls this week to discuss the book of Proverbs and his recent book. Check it out.

I had a couple of occasions to revisit Matthew 18 this week. I’m freshly struck by the interconnectedness of this chapter on body life. It especially struck me that little children are present all the way up through verse 14. Although verses 3 and 4 invite us to expand the application beyond children, certainly the first application is to children. I was previously aware of that for verses 7–9, but not for verses 10–14; these two passages form a kind of mirror image to one another: don’t lead children into temptation, but preserve and protect them.

I hold that most passages and parables like this are to be read first as a critique of the shepherds of Israel. Thus, the leaders of Israel failed utterly in their role as shepherds to the children, and sheep, of Israel (see also Matthew 23:13–15). Moving to application, I’ve long held that verses 1–9 urge us to paedobaptism and paedocommunion. But I think this application continues into verses 10–14. So far from chasing down our little ones, evangelicalism has for a very long time been chasing them away from the table.

I remarked briefly on Biblical chronology last week. My reference to Paul’s 14 years is an insight from James Jordan, of course. I checked to see whether Jordan had anything to say about Tiberius or the 46 years, but found nothing. Interestingly, he did observe that there were likely 46 years between Josiah seeking God’s face (2 Chron 34:3) and the destruction of Jerusalem. If so, that is a neat mirror image to the 46 years in John 2.

I also mentioned Jephthah’s daughter. There is an interesting parallel in the story of Abraham and Isaac, where God commands Abraham to conduct just such an offering-up. God’s substitution for Isaac I think shapes how we want to read this word going forward into Jephthah’s case. I looked at the law for other connections, but in my brief search I found only mention of enemies devoted to God (destroyed) or gifts (which are redeemed).

I finished Leithart’s Theopolitan Reading. One more quote:

If you don’t know Adam thoroughly, you won’t spot the meaningful variations on the theme. You won’t recognize Noah as an improved Adam. You won’t realize that Yahweh’s promises to make Abraham “fruitful” is a promise to fulfill Adam’s vocation in Abraham’s seed. You won’t see the Adamic features of Aaron the priest. You won’t sense that Solomon has what Adam doesn’t, namely, knowledge of good and evil. You won’t recognize the prophets as Adams who have reached a stage of maturity that Adam never reached.

Most importantly, if you misconstrue how Jesus is the Last Adam, you’ll miss the heart of the gospel. You might think Jesus comes to whisk us from earth to heaven. In fact, the gospel presents Jesus as the Last Adam, who has fulfilled the human vocation and is now fulfilling it on earth, by His Spirit, through the church. If your palate isn’t trained to savor the Adams of the Bible, you won’t have any good sense of who you are: a priest, king, and prophet, co-member of a community of priests, kings, and prophets joined to the great Priest, King, and Prophet. (93)

Written by Scott Moonen

September 18, 2020 at 10:36 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (11)

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Shall we call the rona the Y2k20 bug?

It’s not too late to join the To The Word reading plan. Psalm 119 is such a wonderful way to begin and end a reading plan! I’m taking this opportunity to read Everett Fox’s Schocken Bible wherever it satisfies the readings. No translation is perfect, but I love Fox’s translation philosophy. It’s the only translation I’ve found that handles Jephthah and his daughter properly; from Judges 11:

Now there came upon Yiftah the rushing-spirit of YHWH;
he crossed over to Gil’ad and Menashe,
and he crossed over to Mitzpe of Gil’ad, and from Mitzpe of Gil’ad
he crossed over to the Children of Ammon.
And Yiftah vowed a vow to YHWH and said:
If you will give, yes, give the Children of Ammon into my hand,
it will be: the one going out who goes out of the doors of my
    house to meet me, when I return in peace from the Children of Ammon
shall be YHWH’s
and shall be offered up by me as an offering-up!

Thus she went up to serve at the tabernacle, like the women of Exodus 38:8.

I was struck by the 46 years in John 2. No numerological significance jumps out at me, but the chronology is interesting. The current alternate chronology of 18 BC would put this event in AD 29. That fits with Kostenberger’s suggestion that Jesus began his ministry in AD 29 or 30. However, this is not able to account for Paul’s fourteen years (Galatians 2) which is usually linked to Acts 12:25 and therefore the death of Herod (Acts 12:23) in AD 44. That would put Paul’s conversion (and Jesus’s crucifixion) in AD 30. So, unless we introduce a large gap into Acts 12, it seems we are awaiting an alternate chronology either for the temple and Tiberius, or the death of Agrippa.

Speaking of the fourteen years, which included time in Arabia, it occurs to me that this is a kind of wilderness time for Paul. If 17 is an analog of 70— seven and ten remixed—then 14 is an analog of 40.

Did you know that the Fed now owns nearly a third of all US mortgages? Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. Also, it is definitely time to cancel your Netflix subscription.

Here’s an interesting scenario: what if you waited to ensure good census numbers for your state, then took various executive and economic steps to ensure that the opposing political party middle class fled your state? Why, you’d be sitting fat and happy for the next ten to twelve years, electorally speaking. Now repeat across several key states, and you just might be able to pawn off your financial problems on all of those suckers and losers to boot.

It might actually be a mercy from God if this happened; it could help to ensure that the coming dividing lines formed between states rather than neighbors.

Jamie Soles has a new album: Supplanter. It’s about a great man of faith, a perfect and complete man, who wrestles with man, with God, and with gnostic hermeneutics, and prevails. On this subject, see also Mark Horne and James Jordan.

Mark Horne also has a nice commentary on Mark’s gospel. My pastors are planning to work through Mark this winter and this is a good supplement. Also be sure to check out Mark’s latest book on Proverbs and wisdom.

I’ve been enjoying Peter Leithart’s recent Theopolitan Reading. It is outstanding, a kind of distilled appetizer for Jordan’s Through New Eyes. Some choice quotes:

Different species of animals represent different kinds of people. Kings are supposed to be lions, ferocious protectors of their pride and dangerous to their enemies (Gen 49:9; Rev 5:5). Samson and David demonstrate their prowess by killing lions (Judges 14:5–9; 1 Sam 17:34–37). If they can kill lions, they can successfully battle Philistines. As the lion king, David gathers leonine warriors who share his strength and skill in combat (1 Chr 12:8).

Other men are violent scavengers, jackals who prey on the weak or sneak into abandoned cities to pick through the garbage (Isa 13:22; 34:13). Imagery like this could well be literal. . . When human society breaks down, wild animals move in. But the imagery is also symbolic. When the king is not a lion, predatory men roam freely, preying on their defenseless sheep.

Other people are serpents, who kill with the poison under their tongue (Psa 58:4; 140:3). The righteous who trust in the Lord mimic the Seed of the woman and crush the heads of the serpentine wicked (Gen 3:15; Psa 91:13). Groups of animals represent groups of people, which is why Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David start as shepherds and herdsmen before leading the “flock of God” (cf. Ezek 34:15, 17; Zech 9:16; 1 Pet 5:2). Other groups are like packs of dogs, roaming the streets and baring their teeth against the righteous (Psa 22:16; 59:6, 14). (p. 42)

Many Bible teachers say the number 7 is the number of “fullness.” That may be true but doesn’t tell us much. And it’s the wrong way to read the poetry of Scripture. It’s a move from a concrete number (7) to an abstract quality (“fullness”).

Bible teachers make this move a lot. The desert represents “testing.” Lions represent “strength” or “destructive power.” White symbolizes “purity.” In each case, we move from something we can sense—a place we can survey, a color we can see, a number we can count, an animal that could rip us to shreds—to some quality that we can only think about.

The Bible doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t move from body to mind, or from matter to Spirit, or from concrete to abstract. Instead, the Bible connects one body with another—one thing, event, or person to another. We move from one concrete reality to another to another, seeing each in the light of the others. Scripture doesn’t move us away from our senses but trains them. (p. 45)

At his trial, Pilate presents Jesus to the mobs: “Behold the man” (John 19:5). Behold man. Behold Adam, cursed Adam, shamed Adam, soon-to-be-new Adam, risen in glory. (p. 52)

Written by Scott Moonen

September 11, 2020 at 7:10 pm

Do Not Be Ashamed

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You will be walking some night
in the comfortable dark of your yard
and suddenly a great light will shine
round about you, and behind you
will be a wall you never saw before.
It will be clear to you suddenly
that you were about to escape,
and that you are guilty: you misread
the complex instructions, you are not
a member, you lost your card
or never had one. And you will know
that they have been there all along,
their eyes on your letters and books,
their hands in your pockets,
their ears wired to your bed.
Though you have done nothing shameful,
they will want you to be ashamed.
They will want you to kneel and weep
and say you should have been like them.
And once you say you are ashamed,
reading the page they hold out to you,
then such light as you have made
in your history will leave you.
They will no longer need to pursue you.
You will pursue them, begging forgiveness.
They will not forgive you.
There is no power against them.
It is only candor that is aloof from them,
only an inward clarity, unashamed,
that they cannot reach. Be ready.
When their light has picked you out
and their questions are asked, say to them:
“I am not ashamed.” A sure horizon
will come around you. The heron will begin
his evening flight from the hilltop.

Wendell Berry, Selected Poems of Wendell Berry, 32–33, originally from Openings

Written by Scott Moonen

September 11, 2020 at 9:46 am

Posted in Poetry

Metábasis eis állo génos (10)

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Early on, most of the contrarian chatter on the rona was that it was worse than we all thought. I can recall early theories that China’s numbers were way under-represented. Remember the mobile subscriber reports? Perhaps this was fluctuations in gaming all of the mobile advertising and attention-reputation systems. Perhaps some of this was Uighur. But since then, most of the contrarians have focused on ways in which we have tended to overestimate. Antibody studies have consistently showed that the spread was greater than we thought and therefore the risk was less than we thought. We heard of specific accounts of case inflation and death inflation, and wondered at the fact that there seem to be perverse incentives in place for both of those numbers. This week it was interesting to see the CDC numbers showing extraordinarily high levels of co-morbidity. I do not agree with the simplistic claim that we should adjust the death count by 94%, but the numbers were certainly surprising. It was equally interesting to see additional suggestions that PCR results may be exaggerated (with potential for both false positives and also positives for weeks post recovery) but at the same time antibody results may be under-representative. Of course, this is not the final word, but these are interesting developments to me. As always, stay tuned to Alex Berenson if you are also interested in this kind of stuff.

I am no lover of public school, but this tweet caught my attention. Fauci: “asymptomatic transmission has never been the driver of outbreaks.”

I feel more and more that we have collectively decided to drive 25mph just because Miss Daisy is out there on the roads. I’ve been reflecting: what are the long-term implications of this collective insanity, this iatrogenicide if you will, on our institutions and leaders, even if we somehow miraculously agreed to abandon it all tomorrow and pretend that things were back to normal? Friedman would say that we cannot cater to anxiety for the sake of temporary peace and unity without always creating a fragile situation where greater anxiety and greater disunity will ultimately reign. Every parent knows what happens when you coddle anxiety; the tyranny of the weak really is a tyranny. As Wilson says, “there is a difference between deferring to the weaker brothers, on the one hand, and putting them in charge of what the whole church must do.” Girard would say that we cannot play the game of imitation without coming to live on the knife’s edge where one wrong move will bring a wave of scapegoating upon our own heads. If you glance over your shoulder now to imitate others’ “leadership,” you will eventually be running glancing back over your shoulder on a mob.

Many churches have given up so many things they once claimed to cherish and even to be commanded by God. Whatever happened to the regulative principle? In many decisions, the fear of God was exchanged for the fear of man and fear of the unknown. Churches know that Friedman and Girard are not just describing natural processes, but that we are always sowing into a future where God himself ensures that reaping and judgment will take place. Judgment begins with the household of God, and he judges leaders with a greater strictness. Churches and leaders that have decided, contrary to God’s word, that they still have the authority to close doors and tables to hungry sheep, must continue to experience shaking from God until they repent. God is not mocked, and salt that has lost its saltiness is good for nothing except to be thrown out and trampled. As things stand right now, I believe that even if all of this were to stop tomorrow, we would not be making a fresh and exciting start, emerging stronger than ever, etc.; but rather experiencing the eye of the hurricane.

But enough about the rona. Wow, Big Eva. Are Tripp and Duncan going to repudiate Eric Mason? I am not surprised by Stetzer, but Ortlund? Funny, though: I launched into Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel recently, expecting to enjoy it, but was deeply disappointed. However, I now realize that I had confused Raymond Ortlund with Rob Rayburn. Forgive me, Rob.

Apropos all of 2020, Satan always couches his lies in a partial truth.

This was a great testimony of conducting disagreement as a happy warrior!

Would you join me in the To The Word Bible reading challenge? It starts on Monday!

Written by Scott Moonen

September 5, 2020 at 6:49 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (9)

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Happy birthday to my brother Jonathan! He writes:

Christians today (who make up the church, the body of believers around the world) are priests to God and men, in the sense that we minister to God and to each other (1 Peter 2, Hebrews). These priestly duties resemble, although in a much truer and deeper sense, the priestly duties of the Jewish priests in the Old Covenant (Leviticus 8-10). There was a clear pattern established that included daily/weekly activities which relate to us in the church in gathering, worship, prayer, proclamation of the Word, and communion (Hebrews 7-8). This is the whole argument upon which the commonly-quoted statement “Do not forsake meeting together” is built (Hebrews 10). There are important priestly duties that Christians must participate in to obey our great High Priest, Jesus, and to partake in His blessings. As the old saying goes, going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, but you can’t be a Christian if you don’t go to church. There’s much to be said here, but this lengthy point relates to churches refusing to close for extended periods in response to COVID-19, because obeying God is more important than obeying man, especially if man’s rules are inconsistent and/or illogical.

Yes! The only thing I would add is that our priestly duty is also a ministry to the world, for the life of the world.

Perhaps you didn’t know, but the CDC considers masks insignificant to assessing your risk of exposure. They also consider that “most people will have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care and may not need to be tested.” I have no plans to get tested if I experience an ordinary fall or winter cold.

Keep an eye on Alex Berenson’s Day of Normality. I’m thinking of a picnic at Hilltop-Needmore Park, which we have done from time to time throughout this season, but I’m open to other possibilities!

I’ve been chuckling for a few days over this summary of Tenet: “With its international locations and stunt set pieces along with all the temporal weirdness, it’s actually quite like a Bond film called No Time To Die To Time No.” I’m looking forward to watching it.

Earlier this year, Michael Foster characterized 2020 as an audition for future leadership. Big Eva continues to fail their audition. Doug Wilson similarly indicates that the question is not only to patiently persuade here and now, but even more a question of “who will be listened to after the panic is gone.” But this is a timeless truth; Kipling reminds us that, “if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs . . . you’ll be a Man, my son!” There is a kind of witness that has only temporary credibility, losing all credibility in the end.

Speaking of all this, Chadwick Boseman sounds like he was the real deal. Be like Chadwick Boseman.

One of the ways that I like to summarize Edwin Friedman is to say that fathers and leaders are “anxiety eaters.” Friedman would say that a good leader has acquired a kind of practiced immunity to anxiety. But Christians have an additional weapon: we serve the great anxiety eater on whom we are invited to cast all our cares. I’ve always loved the way Toby Sumpter put this in his essay, Free to carry more.

I loved this essay as well: A pandemic observed. We are physical beings but also social and spiritual beings. Any accounting we give of risk and potential, truth and love must address our whole persons. This has implications for things like lockdowns and masking, especially in worship but also in the public space. I have seen people linking lockdowns and masks to the sixth commandment, but we ought to connect them to the ninth as well, since we are equally at risk of spreading lies and fear, mistrust and suspicion. I mean to some extent lies about the effectiveness of lockdowns and masks, and the appropriateness of their being forced upon us; but I am thinking much more of lies about what kind of beings we are, what ekklesia and koinania and philadelphos are, what kind of story we live in, and how now we should live.

I take great issue with this. Don’t be distracted by the hats; it’s all about beards:

I wrote last week of a functional “real absence” view of the Lord’s supper. Although the phrase “real presence” means different things to different people, there are a few ways that I like to think of it:

  1. From reading John 6:53ff, whether or not you share my belief that Jesus and John are purposely referring to the supper, believers must agree that some kind of feasting on Jesus is inescapable.
  2. We are actually not surprised that Jesus is present in the supper, since he is always present when we gather (Matthew 18:20), and since we are always present with him for Lord’s day worship (Hebrews 12). Of course he is present: he is seated at the head of the table!
  3. Jesus is present in the supper because it is a memorial, and every memorial summons the king to preside in evaluation and judgment.
  4. We have been mistaken all this time hunting for Jesus in the nouns of bread and wine. We should have looked for him in the verbs, in our doing this in faith.
  5. Actually, there is one noun where Jesus is present: one another. We discern his body by discerning one another to be members of that body (1 Cor 11–12, etc.). Richard Hooker writes that “The Real Presence of Christs most Blessed Body and Blood, is not therefore to be sought for in the Sacrament, but in the worthy Receiver of the Sacrament.”
  6. Calvin writes, “For unless we would charge God with deceit, we will never presume to say that he holds forth an empty symbol. Therefore, if by the breaking of bread the Lord truly represents the partaking of his body, there ought to be no doubt whatever that he truly exhibits and performs it. The rule which the pious ought always to observe is, whenever they see the symbols instituted by the Lord, to think and feel surely persuaded that the truth of the thing signified is also present. For why does the Lord put the symbol of his body into your hands, but just to assure you that you truly partake of him? If this is true let us feel as much assured that the visible sign is given us in seal of an invisible gift as that his body itself is given to us.”

Consider all of the tremendous imitative energy that 2020 has produced in executive orders and decrees and scapegoating. This Girardian energy seems on a hair trigger to swivel toward the church, which Girard observes is how the powers and principalities always work. It’s interesting to me to consider whether the end result this time is the exposure and confusion and flight of the wicked; or persecution. An important question is whether this moment is a “deception of the nations” which Satan is currently bound from conducting. Maybe this is not primarily Satan’s work but rather the first stage of God’s own decisive work in sending judicial confusion and hardening. Pray for the sound of marching in the balsam trees (1 Chron 14) and for hornets (Deut 7:20, etc.)!

I wrote of the authorship of God last week. A friend pointed out that scripture doesn’t really speak this way, speaking instead of God’s creative–providential work, whether as potter or similar (Ephesians 1, Colossians 1, Proverbs 8, Job, etc.). There’s also a theme of God’s creation–providence as a speech act (Genesis 1, Hebrews 1, perhaps Psalm 19, and then we have the profound presence of both Word and Spirit–breath everywhere). So, to distill this, creation–providence is beyond authorial on God’s part: it is continuously, intimately, exultingly, and life–givingly performative. One thing that’s appealing about this is that this seems to capture both God’s transcendence and his immanence and incarnation.

Written by Scott Moonen

August 29, 2020 at 9:54 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (8)

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A week at the beach with cousins:

This afforded some time for Solzhenitsyn:

But there is a limit, and beyond it one is no longer willing, one finds it too repulsive, to be a reasonable little rabbit. And that is the limit beyond which rabbits are enlightened by the common understanding that all rabbits are foredoomed to become only meat and pelts, and that at best, therefore, one can gain only a postponement of death and not life in any case. That is when one wants to shout: “Curse you, hurry up and shoot!”

It was this particular feeling of rage which took hold of Vlasov even more intensely during his forty-one days of waiting for execution. In the Ivanovo Prison they had twice suggested that he write a petition for pardon, but he had refused.

But on the forty-second day they summoned him to a box where they informed him that the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet had commuted the supreme measure of punishment to twenty years of imprisonment in corrective-labor camps with disenfranchisement for five additional years.

The pale Vlasov smiled wryly, and even at that point words did not fail him:

“It is strange. I was condemned for lack of faith in the victory of socialism in our country. But can even Kalinin himself believe in it if he thinks camps will still be needed in our country twenty years from now?” (The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 1, 455)

After all, we have gotten used to regarding as valor only valor in war (or the kind that’s needed for flying in outer space), the kind which jingle-jangles with medals. We have forgotten another concept of valorcivil valor. And that’s all our society needs, just that, just that, just that! That’s all we need and that’s exactly what we haven’t got. (The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 1, 462)

I haven’t found a video with all three verses, but isn’t this deeply wonderful:

Thanks to Uri Brito for the find. I must say, this is far better than Toto’s version, which unfortunately is making the rounds of my household.

Isn’t it interesting that we love the beginning of Psalm 139 but not so much the end?

Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain.
Do I not hate those who hate you, O Yahweh?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies. (Psalm 139:19–22)

Something is out of balance if we struggle to find appropriate objects for this prayer, or, worse, struggle to see it as appropriate at all. Somewhat related, I was reflecting on Ruth this week:

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. (Ruth 1:16 ESV)

Isn’t it remarkable that conversion and loyalty to God is inseparable from conversion and loyalty to God’s people? Ruth and Naomi remind me as well of of Jacob’s blessing Pharaoh in spite of the few and evil days of his life. Isn’t it equally remarkable that these testimonies of God’s faithfulness and purpose in suffering would result in robust conversion?

Sadly, in days when suffering and sacrifice are rare, a husband is not always a protection against this:

But refuse to enroll younger widows . . . They learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. (1 Timothy 5:11–13 ESV)

Fascinating: the lost colony was never lost, just not found.

Way too many good tweets this week to do a practical roundup. You should follow: Hans Fiene, Michael Foster, Andrew Isker, Alex Berenson.

If a church sees new visitors during this season of rona, is it really wise to encourage them to return to their original home when it is all over? Why would you encourage someone to return to shepherds who practically abandoned them? Related, I wonder if the church is experiencing a rise in separations and divorces in this year of spiritual distancing. Body must body!

Also related, it seems to me that we have developed today a functional theology of the “real absence” of Jesus at his covenant meal. The Lord’s supper is no longer seen as an entry into the heavenly marriage supper, nor even a joyful and eucharistic foretaste of it. This explains why the supper is often so bland and solemn and infrequent. But it also explains how we have arrived at the conclusion that our own absence at that meal is a matter of little consequence.

Considering also how we arrive at the supper, I’m intrigued by the fact that the Lord’s prayer does not open with an early confession of sin. In fact, its appeal for forgiveness does not even really constitute a confession. Although repentance is a way of life for the Christian, and is liturgically appropriate, repentance is not the fundamental flavor of that festive life.

Speaking of the marriage supper, last week I mentioned Galileo. Considering the book of Revelation, and both our present worship and eternity, it is clear that in the most important sense of the word, the earth is the center of the universe.

Written by Scott Moonen

August 21, 2020 at 9:09 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (7)

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Please accept this friendly reminder that the CDC considers your risk for the ‘rona to be negligible until you have spent at least fifteen minutes within six feet of someone who is symptomatic or pre-symptomatic. I know firsthand of multiple cases where spouses have not contracted the virus from one another. It’s still so strange to me that we are valuing self-preservation over natural affection right now.

Lisa reports that mask compliance in Dunn is much lower than in Fuquay. My theory of county color holds.

Please also accept this friendly reminder that slavery still exists in the United States.

Chicks for sale. Resistance is futile:

And the onions and the figs are coming in!

Doug Wilson has a good word about John MacArthur and the binding of the conscience. Apropos MacArthur, I ran across this great clip this week:

So they feared Yahweh but also served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away. (2 Kings 17:33)

For a class at church, I’ve had the occasion to read Grudem’s material on creation and providence. A few things stand out to me.

First, there is (unsurprisingly) more to the story of Galileo than popular history lets on. There is certainly ugly church politics, but it is a story of science vs. science and Christian vs. Christian rather than a story of science vs. boorish religion. Here is some interesting reading on how the science vs. science was not settled. On Christian vs. Christian, Galileo seems to have loved the church and been a staunch believer in the inspiration and inerrancy of scripture, so he is not a very sympathetic character for the new atheists.

Second, concerning creationism, I believe that the universe is roughly 6000 years old. Of course the universe has the appearance of age; doesn’t any work of art? It is true that not all genealogies capture every generation for theological reasons, but it seems clear to me that the genealogies with years and ages attached are given to us as real chronological markers in addition to their theological significance. And it is far from a hill to die on, but I especially love the idea that we will celebrate 6000 AM in 2070 AD. (James Jordan has done extensive and compelling work on this; here is a brief summary.) Grudem seems to prefer an age of 10 to 20 thousand years, while holding it lightly. What I’m especially struck by is his insistence that “neither [the young or old earth view] is certain” which he links with a call for “much more humility.” Of course we may not despise one another, but here our classic evangelical confusion between pride and conviction rears its head again.

To judge between “A”, “not-A” and “be not proud,” it is not enough to simply observe the configuration of the debate; we must assess the truth of each claim. Grudem knows how to do this on matters where he is convinced; he is obviously gracious in the matter of Calvinism vs. Arminianism, but makes no appeal to humility there.

Actually, knowing only the configuration of the debate, we should probably be prepared to rule against “be not proud or self-righteous.” It is true, but it is also a truism, and one which applies to all three parties. Remember that Paul wants us to be both convinced and humble in our disagreements (Romans 14). Too often, we stop at “just be humble” and remain unwilling to adjudicate the truth; the man who does this is not only failing to be convinced in his own mind but is also unwilling to allow others the privilege of being convinced. Worse, in doing this, he is giving error the same standing as truth. Sproul, again:

Finally, I appreciated Grudem’s work on predestination. I’m freshly struck that one of the best ways to show how Arminian arguments fall flat against Calvinism is to show how they fall flat against human authorship. Consider that: (1) We would not be surprised or confused if Frodo stomped his foot and insisted he was completely free to choose whether to destroy the ring. (2) We would never blame Tolkien for the great wrongs committed by Sauron. (3) We gladly affirm that Sauron deserved punishment for those wrongs. (4) And in fact we praise Tolkien highly for writing a beautiful story in which justice is done. (5) We would not at all be surprised to find Tolkien weeping at the outcome of Sauron’s destruction; loving his own creation and even responding to the very things he has decreed.

In short, the Arminian does not stop to consider what it really means that God is transcendent (just as Tolkien is transcendent to Frodo and Sauron). But on the flip side we can’t lose sight of God’s immanence, either. That’s something Tolkien couldn’t do!

I’m also enjoying Solzhenitsyn. This week’s quotes:

But . . . for mercy one must have wisdom. This has been a truth throughout our history and will remain one for a long time to come. (The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 1, 271)

There is a simple truth which one can learn only through suffering: in war not victories are blessed but defeats. Governments need victories and the people need defeats. Victory gives rise to the desire for more victories. But after a defeat it is freedom that men desire—and usually attain. A people needs defeat just as an individual needs suffering and misfortune: they compel the deepening of the inner life and generate a spiritual upsurge. (The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 1, 272)

But I had begun to sense a truth inside myself: if in order to live it is necessary not to live, then what’s it all for? (The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 1, 280)

Written by Scott Moonen

August 14, 2020 at 6:38 pm

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

Adventure

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We are reading The Last Battle aloud. Some choice quotes:

Jewel, to Tirian: “Farewell. We have known great joys together. If Aslan gave me my choice I would choose no other life than the life I have had and no other death than the one we go to.”

Jill, to Eustace: “I’d rather be killed fighting for Narnia than grow old and stupid at home and perhaps go about in a bath-chair and then die in the end just the same.”

Jewel, to Tirian’s little band: “Nothing now remains for us seven but to go back to Stable Hill, proclaim the truth, and take the adventure that Aslan sends us.”

Written by Scott Moonen

August 5, 2020 at 10:30 pm

Posted in Quotations, Vocation