An Unknown Known Language

For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries” (1 Cor. 14:2).

The gift of tongues is an exercise in mystery. A man speaking in tongues is a man who is speaking mysteries in his spirit. It is a mystery because the language is unknown to those present, and unknown to him.

Because he is speaking to God, we know that God understands him. This means that the language is unknown, not that it is unknowable. It is an unknown tongue, which is not the same thing as gibberish.

When the disciples spoke in tongues at Pentecost, it happened that many foreign speakers were present in Jerusalem because of the festival. What Paul says here about tongue-speaking Corinth was not the case in Jerusalem. They began speaking in other tongues (glossa, Acts 2:4), and when a crowd gathered, they heard them speaking in their own languages (dialektos, Acts 2:6). We get the word dialect from that word. They were speaking in known languages.

The saints in Corinth were doing the same thing, but the languages were not known to anyone on the premises—we will learn what the point of that was a bit later in the chapter.

A Longing for Liberty

One of the things that the Holy Spirit gloriously does in this sorry world of ours is His liberating work. The Holy Spirit is an agent of liberty. The Spirit sets men free, and He does it through the gospel.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; Because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to them that are bound” (Is. 61:1).

The Lord Jesus quoted this verse in Luke, using it to describe the work that he had come to do (Luke 4:18). So this is in fact all about the gospel. But when that is said, there are too many Christians who might be tempted to say that they are glad I was not getting into politics. Oh, but I was getting into politics, because politics is part of everything, and the gospel gets into everything.

This Spirit of liberty is not a spirit of stoicism, which cares only for an internal liberation, where the slave is liberated by pure thoughts and cares not that his chains are clanking. There is an approximation of this in Paul’s exhortation to slaves, but note that Paul tells them to take the first door out when they have opportunity. “Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.)” (1 Cor. 7:21, ESV). There is a stark difference between Christian teleological patience in affliction and a Stoic acquiescent patience in affliction.

Christian patience is all about patience as we await deliverance, which means that it knows which direction to look, to long, to pray, and to labor. This means that one of our central tasks as culturally engaged Christians is the task of advancing the blessings of liberty, real liberty — not the potsmoking kind. “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).

A people who are enslaved to their lusts will never be the kind of people who successfully throw off tyrants. We have been offered a series of bribes — free love, porn, drunkenness, government handouts, and other forms of lotus-eating — and these are the bribes that make us content with the dimensions of our prison cell. But a man set free by the gospel will be begin to think like a free man, and that will soon enough affect his body, his business, his travel plans, and so on. It is all grounded in obedience, and obedience is not possible apart from the grace of God that is offered to us in the gospel. Efficacious grace is first, and holiness second.

“So shall I keep thy law continually For ever and ever. And I will walk at liberty: For I seek thy precepts” (Ps. 119:44–45).

The verse that is inscribed on the Liberty Bell is this one:

“And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family” (Lev. 25:10).

That is why it is called the Liberty Bell. That is why we as a people used to be free. Jesus used to be with us.

Used to be free? Right. More on that later, along with what we should do about it. We need to learn the kind of obedience to God that is bane of all administrators of the royal prerogative.

Ten Notes on the Driscoll Dogpile

1. In what follows I want to make some observations about what has clearly become the Driscoll dogpile. But in this, I don’t want to say anything that might come off as though I am privy to any back room information. I am not part of the private reconciliation or accountability processes, and so I want to compose myself as one who is not (Prov. 18:17). At the same time, elements of the whole saga have spilled out into the open, and I believe it is legitimate to talk about those aspects of it that are public, or which are acknowledged by all. For example, if Mark Driscoll says that he needs to seek forgiveness from certain people, he doesn’t need any defenders who are more catholic than the pope, saying that “no, he doesn’t really need to.”

2. I feel a bit sheepish about all the links to my own stuff, but as I say in one of them, this ain’t my first rodeo. If you would like to be critical, just chalk it up to my laziness, not wanting to write a bunch of the same stuff over again. That’s the ticket — laziness, not vanity. That said, here are a couple of posts that remain relevant, found here and here.

3. One of the criticisms I have had of “the resurgence” is the tendency to look to the business model of governance and ministry instead of looking into the very dry and boring topic of church government, as part of the exhilarating process of becoming a Presbyterian — which Mark Driscoll really needs to do. But the business mentality leads to a tendency to focus on numbers, demographics, non-compete clauses, image consultants, and protection of the brand. Now the problem is that if you live by the brand, you die by the brand. The fact that this is a problem in this quadrant of the church is seen in how easy it is to view the actions of the Acts 29 board as “protection of the brand” and not as an act of ecclesiastical discipline.

4. Completely aside from the issue of whether or not Mark Driscoll needs to seek forgiveness from anyone, we have clearly gotten to the point of this melodrama where demands for public apologies are being used as a weapon of war, and where compliance with the demand will only serve to further infuriate those making it. Everyone involved needs to sharply distinguish requests for forgiveness, which occur in the context of personal relationships, and demands for public apologies which become — in situations like this one — simply gasoline for the fire.

5. To the extent we are concerned about the optics, Mark needs to be careful that his apologies don’t come off as doing “whatever he has to do” to retain his position. And because more than one player needs to be concerned about the optics, the Acts 29 consortium needs to labor to demonstrate that what they are doing is more than “brand protection.” And while they are at it, they need to take care not to come off as a haphazard remake of The Revenge of the Beta Males.

Virtues Capitalism

The Virtues of Capitalism (Chicago: Northfield Publishing, 2010)

A decent book. I enjoyed it, and learned some things, but I much prefer my defenses of capitalism to be Strident. These guys were mellow, but they still had some good things to say. My favorite was their observation that the opposite of contentment was not ambition, but rather envy.

Well, That Was Nice

While flipping through my latest edition of Chronicles – a magazine I recommend to you, by the way — I came across an article by Jack Trotter entitled “Conservative Education: Caveat Emptor!” It was a good article, and while I didn’t agree with all his criticisms of the other colleges he discussed, I really appreciated his conclusion.

“At least two colleges have begun to recover the full scope of the classical and Christian traditions in higher education: New Saint Andrews College (founded in 1994) in Moscow, Idaho, and the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts (founded in 1978) in Merrimack, New Hampshire. At both these institutions, the core curriculum is the curriculum; there are no majors, or, rather, every student shares the same concentration in classical and Christian liberal arts, and classical languages are required of all. Just as importantly, both colleges are closely affiliated with religious establishments. New Saint Andrews is very much a work of Moscow’s Christ Church, a large and dynamic congregation of traditional Calvinists who also run a pastoral-training program featuring rigorous study of biblical Greek and Hebrew . . .”

Surveying the Text: Leviticus

Introduction:

The dates of this book are roughly the same as what we find for Exodus. It provides detailed instruction for worship, picking up where Exodus stopped. The name of the book comes from a Greek phrase for “pertaining to the Levites,” that phrase being levitikon, which was then run through a Latin filter. During the course of this book, Israel is still camped at the foot of Mt. Sinai, at the beginning of their 40 years in the wilderness.

The Text:

“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev. 19:1–2).

Summary of the Text:

This book is about ritual righteousness—which must never be detached from actual righteousness. Here the laws for worship are laid out, the Holiness Code is defined, and the annual calendar for the Israelites is established.

The Levitical Code is set out in the first sixteen chapters (1-16). This is followed by what is commonly called the Holiness Code (17-25). A few miscellaneous things conclude the book (26-27)—blessings and curses, vows and tithes.

The Second Greatest Commandment:

This book is where the second greatest commandment is found (Lev. 19:18). It is sometimes easy to assume that the ritual precision that is required by a book like Leviticus means that they somehow didn’t understand the main point. But that is not the case at all.

Cleansing, Consecration, Communion:

Whenever someone is exiled from the camp, remember that God dwelt with them in the center of the camp. God is holy, and is in the midst of the camp. This means that the camp had to be be kept holy as well.

Because Christ has come, we no longer worship God by means of actual physical sacrifices. Because of this—even though this is a great blessing for us—we oftentimes do not pay close enough attention to the sacrifices of the Old Testament. They were not all sacrifices for sin. They had a grain offering. They had a whole burnt offering, also considered as an ascension offering. This was a consecration offering, where the entire animal ascended to God in the column of smoke. There was a fellowship offering, also known as a peace offering. A purification offering took care of accidental defilements (4:1-5:13), and the guilt offering was for sin (5:14-6:7).

When sacrifices are mentioned together in the OT, the order is guilt/ascension/peace. This is why many churches (whether intentionally or not) follow a similar pattern—resting in Christ’s fulfillment of all of this—when they confess sin (guilt), when they sing and hear sermons (ascension), and when they partake of communion (peace). The order is biblical, but it also makes natural sense. You wash the day off your hands before coming to the dinner table, and not after.