I gotta have my orange juice.

Jesu, Juva

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

Worship is warfare (6)

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This event from David’s life is striking:

But the Philistines went up again,
and spread out in the Valley of the Shades.
So David inquired of YHWH,
and he said:
You are not to go up;
lead [your men] around, behind them,
and come at them in front of the balsam-trees.
And let it be:
when you hear the sound of marching on the tops of the balsam-trees, then you are to act-decisively,
for then YHWH will go out before you, to strike down the camp of the Philistines. (2 Samuel 5:22–24, Everett Fox)

I wanted to find a connection to balsam or mulberry trees in the New Testament but can’t think of one. However, apart from Chronicles, the only other place this word for balsam trees appears is in Psalm 84, as the Valley of Baca:

How lovely Your dwellings, O LORD of armies!
My being longed, even languished, for the courts of the LORD.
My heart and my flesh sing gladness to the living God.
Even the bird has found a home, and the swallow a nest for itself,
that puts its fledglings by Your altars, LORD of armies, my king and my God.
Happy are those who dwell in your house, they will ever praise You.

Happy the folk whose strength is in You, the highways in their heart,
Who pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it into a spring—yes, the early rain cloaks it with blessings.
They go from rampart to rampart, they appear before God in Zion.
LORD, God of armies, hear my prayer. Hearken, O God of Jacob.

Our shield, O God, see, and regard Your anointed one’s face
For better one day in Your courts than a thousand I have chosen,
standing on the threshold in the house of my God, than living in the tents of wickedness.
For a sun and shield is the LORD, God is grace and glory.
The LORD grants, He does not withhold bounty to those who go blameless.
O LORD of armies, happy the man who trusts in You. (Psalm 84, Robert Alter)

When the happy folk of Yahweh of armies go up to his house to worship him, this is a marching through the balsam trees.

See also: Worship is warfare (5), etc.

Written by Scott Moonen

December 13, 2020 at 2:26 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (24)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some quotes:

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Scott Moonen

December 12, 2020 at 5:08 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (23)

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As it turns out, there is a kind of servant leadership that is quite alright:

YHWH said to Shemuel:
Until when will you keep on mourning to Sha’ul,
when I myself have rejected him from reigning as king over Israel?
Fill your horn with oil and go:
I am sending you to Yishai the Bet-Lehemite,
for I have seen among his sons a king for me.
Shemuel said:
How can I go?
If Sha’ul were to hear, he would kill me!
YHWH said:
A she-calf of the herd you are to take in your hand,
and you are to say:
It is to sacrifice to YHWH [that] I have come.
Then you are to invite Yishai for the sacrificial-meal,
And I myself will make known to you what you are to do:
You are to anoint for me the one that I tell you. (1 Samuel 16:1–3, Everett Fox, emphasis mine)

Twitter brought me a supposed Solzhenitsyn quote and an Orwell quote that I would love to share. But as far as I can tell both quotes are fake. However that may be, this is not:

And not only socialists were now politicals. The politicals were splashed in tubfuls into the fifteen-million-criminal ocean, and they were invisible and inaudible to us. They were mute. They were muter than all the rest. Their image was the fish.

The fish, symbol of the early Christians. And the Christians were their principal contingent. Clumsy, semiliterate, unable to deliver speeches from the rostrum or compose an underground proclamation (which their faith made unnecessary anyway), they went off to camp to face tortures and death—only so as not to renounce their faith! They knew very well for what they were serving time, and they were unwavering in their convictions! They were the only ones, perhaps, to whom the camp philosophy and even the camp language did not stick. And were these not politicals? Well, you’d certainly not call them riffraff.

And women among them were particularly numerous. The Tao says: When faith collapses, that is when the true believers appear. Because of our enlightened scoffing at Orthodox priests, the squalling of the Komsomol members on Easter night, and the whistles of the thieves at the transit prisons, we overlooked the fact that the sinful Orthodox Church had nonetheless nurtured daughters worthy of the first centuries of Christianity—sisters of those thrown to the lions in the arenas.

There was a multitude of Christians: prisoner transports and graveyards, prisoner transports and graveyards. Who will count those millions? They died unknown, casting only in their immediate vicinity a light like a candle. They were the best of Russia’s Christians. The worst had all . . . trembled, recanted, and gone into hiding. (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 2, 309–310)

Church and Harris Teeter and Home Depot have lulled me into a false sense of quasi-normalcy. Much to my surprise, apparently the NC DMV has been in tailspin for months! Right now many offices are closed, incidental closures are being announced on a daily basis, appointments are strictly required, phones are simply not being answered, and all available appointments are at least six weeks away.

No, the old proverb does not lie: Look for the brave in prison, and the stupid among the political leaders! (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 2, 317)

Although Anthony Bradley regularly reminds us that Walter Williams is not . . . was not . . . a Christian, I nevertheless pray that his soul found rest in Jesus.

Prior to capitalism, the way people amassed great wealth was by looting, plundering and enslaving their fellow man. Capitalism made it possible to become wealthy by serving your fellow man. (Walter Williams, Capitalism and the Common Man)

Overheard on Webex (which now allows you to press Space to talk):

Participant 1: gives status update
Participant 2: Shhhhhhhhhhhh
Participant 1: Is someone trying to shush me?
Participant 2: Ha! I was muted, but I started blowing out my keyboard and it must have unmuted me.

This is a delightful combination of levity and medieval plague-defying throwback. Almost I am tempted to wear a mask:

Mark Horne shared this fascinating article on barbell training:

Instead of slowly dwindling, . . . our death can be like a failed last rep at the end of a final set of heavy squats. We can remain strong and vital well into our last years, before succumbing rapidly to whatever kills us. Strong to the end.

That, my friends, is Big Medicine.

And he wrote this helpful article. I still think there is a good chance that the fraud can be overcome, but of course we do not place our hope in that.

For the look on [Judah’s] faces bears witness against them;
they proclaim their sin like Sodom;
they do not hide it.
Woe to them!
For they have brought evil on themselves.
Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them,
for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.
Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him,
for what his hands have dealt out shall be done to him. (Isaiah 3:9–11, ESV)

Maranatha!—

Written by Scott Moonen

December 4, 2020 at 8:55 pm

By faith, not by sight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Scott Moonen

November 28, 2020 at 1:22 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (22)

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Aaron Renn issued a podcast episode evaluating Tim Keller, and I think he is largely correct. I appreciate how far he goes to honor Keller. His observations seem to me representative of much of evangelicalism today: the old ways are ceasing to work, and old wineskins—even those for whom we have the greatest affection and appreciation—will burst.

I’ve been saying that the new wineskins of faithful churches will serve as a kind of lifeboat or ark to carry Christianity forward into the next age, an age which Eugen Rosenstock–Huessy tells us will be tribal rather than imperial. And while this is true in one sense, faithful churches are also, just like Noah, God’s courageous advance guard:

But the plan not complex; it is simply the practice of plodding faithfulness. The advance guard conducts very much of its warfare using trumpets and song. Andrew captures some other important elements:

Also: don’t give those children over to the pagan schools.

I finally had a chance to catch up on Mars Hill Audio Journal #148 from September. Jeffrey Bilbro offered the delightful phrase faithful creativity. Proper creativity is bound. It is not only constrained to be beautiful, but also true and good.

Speaking of podcasts and creativity, N. D. Wilson has started a podcast. We are definitely in a podcast bubble right now, but I think this one is going to be worth a listen.

We took wine in communion this week. It was a second time for me, having once partaken of wine from a common cup at St. Matthews, Bayswater. But it was the first time for the rest of us: “Daddy, I almost gagged on the wine.”

Although I’ve felt sympathetic to the argument that Paul is the author of Hebrews for awhile, I finally took the time to read Wilson’s arguments for Pauline authorship. In a nutshell, he argues first from 2 Peter 3:15 that Hebrews is the only known candidate for a letter to “you,” that is to the diaspora; and second from the fact that its inclusion in the canon was largely based on the assumption of Pauline authorship. I think the idea that it is a transcribed Pauline sermon is interesting.

Recent listening:

I enjoyed reading “The Forgotten Man” at the suggestion of my friend Ben. Apparently Sumner is the origin of the phrase, using it in a very different sense from FDR. Some choice quotes:

There can be no civil liberty anywhere unless rights are guaranteed against all abuses, as well from proletarians as from generals, aristocrats, and ecclesiastics. . . .

Who elected such representatives? We did. How can we get bad law-makers to make a law which shall prevent bad law-makers from making a bad law? That is, really, what we are trying to do. If we are a free, self-governing people, all our misfortunes come right home to ourselves and we can blame nobody else. . . .

I have said already that if you learn to look for the Forgotten Man and to care for him, you will be very skeptical toward all philanthropic and humanitarian schemes. It is clear now that the interest of the Forgotten Man and the interest of “the poor,” “the weak,” and the other petted classes are in antagonism, In fact, the warning to you to look for the Forgotten Man comes the minute that the orator or writer begins to talk about the poor man. That minute the Forgotten Man is in danger of a new assault, and if you intend to meddle in the matter at all, then is the minute for you to look about for him and to give him your aid. Hence, if you care for the Forgotten Man, you will be sure to be charged with not caring for the poor. Whatever you do for any of the petted classes wastes capital. If you do anything for the Forgotten Man, you must secure him his earnings and savings, that is, you legislate for the security of capital and for its free employment; you must oppose paper money, wildcat banking and usury laws and you must maintain the inviolability of contracts. Hence you must be prepared to be told that you favor the capitalist class, the enemy of the poor man. (William Sumner)

Sumner verges a bit libertarian for my taste, loving contracts rather than covenants, for example, and identifying freedom a bit closely with agency. But he still has wisdom for us, as do other men like Bastiat and Sowell. Sumner’s argument reminds me of Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson, a lesson that extends well beyond economics. Plus ça change, . . .

Speaking of the law of unintended consequences, Alex Berenson has finally published part 3 of Unreported Truths, on the subject of masks. I think I have the ability to loan these three installments at least once through Kindle; let me know if you’d like to tolle lege, and I’ll see if I can help!

The kids said that one of their friends had come up with the idea of “birthday verses” and that it had something to do with “modular.” “I think my verse was something in Song of Solomon.” I told them that I thought I knew what he was doing, and after a minute pulled up Ezekiel 11:8. “Oh, that’s it! I guess it wasn’t Song of Solomon.”

We made use of ChipDrop recently. I’m very pleased with the service!

Written by Scott Moonen

November 28, 2020 at 8:23 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (21)

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Everett Fox suggests that in Judges 5, there is a connection between the stars and the flooding of the Kishon; the stars are to be seen as a source of rain. This makes the victory over Sisera a kind of baptism–flood!

Kings came, they waged battle,
then they waged battle, the kings of Canaan,
at Ta’nakh, by Megiddo’s waters—
profit of silver they took none.
From the heavens the stars waged battle,
from their courses they waged battle with Sisera.
The Wadi Kishon swept away [the foe],
the ancient wadi, the Wadi Kishon,
—May my being bless them with strength! (Judges 5:19–22, Everett Fox)

I love this verse. Jamie Soles has made it the theme of several serpent–songs:

So perish all your enemies, O YHWH,
but let those who love you
be like the emergence of the sun in its might! (Judges 5:31a, Everett Fox)

The left-handedness of Eglon and the men of Benjamin was apparently trained:

And the Children of Israel cried out to YHWH,
so YHWH raised up a deliverer for them:
Ehud son of Gera, a Binyaminite,
a man restricted in his right hand.
And the Children of Israel sent a tribute-gift by his hand to Eglon king of Moav. (Judges 3:15, Everett Fox)

Fox comments:

[“Restricted”] probably refers to their training, leading to the capability of fighting with either hand (Halpern). The Binyaminites are known in the Bible as talented warriors.

Strangely, I’m reminded by this of Vladimir Putin.

Aaron Renn is producing more interesting content at The Masculinist; he’s added to his mailing list a blog and a podcast.

One of the differences between an enchanted vision of the world and a modern spiritual vision of the world is that the enchanted vision identifies multiple themes in scripture. In addition to understanding redemption as a primary theme, we also see equally important themes of maturation and of holy warfare. As usual, I take this from James Jordan.

The Great Reset is not a conspiracy theory. It is so open that it is not even really a conspiracy. See also: Our greatest responsibility; Build back better. However, don’t forget Revelation 20:3! Aslan is on the move. In Jesus we are saved and the principalities and powers have already been disarmed and put to shame:

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Colossians 2:13–15, ESV)

If you live in Wake County, NC, your library membership includes Overdrive benefits. Most books available to Wake County on Overdrive have a limited number of copies, meaning that you may have to wait your turn. Lewis’s space trilogy, however, is available unlimited!

I misread “editable file” this week as “edible file.” I wonder how that would work. Something like a fortune cookie, I think.

I don’t take the same implication from this that Taleb does, but his tweet is still a delightful confluence of people and ideas. Our pediatrician told us that his simple secret to not getting sick was washing his hands and not touching his face:

Rectitude matters:

“As for you, son of man, describe to the house of Israel the temple, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and they shall measure the plan. And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, that is, its whole design; and make known to them as well all its statutes and its whole design and all its laws, and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe all its laws and all its statutes and carry them out.” (Ezekiel 43:10–11, ESV)

I still maintain that the keys to understanding 2020 are Girard:

and Friedman:

People today often suppose that the early years of a person’s Christian pilgrimage are the difficult ones, and that as you go on in the Christian life it gets more straightforward. The opposite is frequently the case. Precisely when you learn to walk beside Jesus, you are given harder tasks, which will demand more courage, more spiritual energy. (N. T. Wright, Mark for Everyone; source: John Barach)

John Ahern and David Erb discuss Praetorius and church music.

Written by Scott Moonen

November 22, 2020 at 8:22 am

Baptism exhortation (2)

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Amos,

In the New Testament, Peter and Paul speak of two great old–covenant baptisms: the baptism of the flood, and the baptism of the Red Sea crossing.

In both of these, God rained water on his people, and drowned his enemies. Psalm 77 tells of God’s rain at the Red Sea crossing, and Psalm 68—the great battle Psalm of the Huguenots—tells of rain in the wilderness:

O God, when You went forth before Your people,
When You marched through the wilderness:
The world shook;
Indeed, the heavens dripped at the presence of God, the One of Sinai,
At the presence of God, the God of Israel.
A rain of gifts You showered, O God;
Your inheritance, though it languished, You Yourself established.
Your beasts dwelled in it;
You prepared it in Your goodness for the lowly, O God. (Psalm 68:7–10, James Jordan)

So you see that the waters of baptism are a rescue from judgment and death, and they are a source of life and refreshment. But they are also a commissioning, into a priesthood and into an army! As soon as Israel had crossed the Red Sea in battle array, they fought the Amalekites. Likewise, Psalm 68 continues:

My Master gives the word;
The messengers are a great army.
Kings of armies flee; they flee;
And those remaining at home divide the spoil,
Those remaining with the sheepfolds:
A dove’s wings covered with silver,
And her pinions with green–gold.
When the Almighty scattered kings there,
You made it snow on Black Mountain.
O mountain of gods, mountain of Bashan,
O mountain of ridges, mountain of Bashan,
Why your hostility, you mountains of ridges,
Toward the mountain God delighted for His dwelling?
Yes, Yahweh will dwell there endlessly.
The chariots of God are twice myriads,
Thousands upon thousands,
My Master among them,
At Sinai, in the holy place!
You ascended on high;
You captured a captivity;
You took men as gifts—
And even rebels—
In order that Yah, God might dwell. (Psalm 68:11–18, James Jordan)

The same thing happened when Israel crossed the Jordan into the promised land. God brought them safely through waters, circumcised them, and formed them into his own army to conduct a holy war.

Amos, God still has an army that wages holy warfare with the sword of the Spirit: the word of God. God has commissioned you into his service today. You are and will always be a soldier of Jesus. You belong completely to him, and it is good to belong to him. I charge you to serve him faithfully and fearlessly!

See also: Baptism exhortation

Written by Scott Moonen

November 16, 2020 at 3:50 pm