“In the blink of a tease you are enticed to stay tuned with promises of exclusive stories and tape, good-looking anchors, helicopters, team coverage, hidden cameras, uniform blazers, and even, yes, better journalism. It is all designed to stop you from using the remote-control button to switch channels. But the teasing doesn’t stop there. During each news program, just before each commercial, you will see what are known as ‘bumpers’—teases that are aimed at keeping you in the tent, keeping you from straying to another channel where other wonders are being touted ” (Neil Postman, How To Watch TV News, p. 28).
“We also have to tell childre n the history of their people. We must be careful here because we do not have the protections of inspiration. But silence does not really help because we do not have the protection of inspired silence either. We must speak or not speak as fallible persons, and the best we can do is to speak as fallible honest persons” (The Case for Classical Christian Education, p. 156).
“The whole modern dogma of the absolute separation between great poetry and intelligence is one of the consequences of our blindness to the role of mimetic desire and victimage in great literature. The ultimate implications of Julius Caesar seem almost too dangerous to pursue. Our own rationality cannot teach the founding role of mimetic victimage because it remains tainted with it. Narrow rationality and victimage lose their effectiveness together. Reason itself is a child of the foundational murder. As our own mimetic crisis worsens, we plunge into nihilism and madness, and cannot afford to disregard the thinkers who preceded us on this road; we need the real William Shakespeare more than we need any modern philosopher” (Girard, A Theater of Envy, p. 208).
Some weeks ago, after I finished reading Guy Waters’ book on the Federal Vision, I contacted him, and offered to work with him to set up some kind of discussion/debate between the two of us. I was willing to fly to Jackson and have our interaction there. Our phone conversations were very cordial, but he was not interested in a face-to-face debate of that kind. He indicated that a written debate would be a possibility, so I wrote up a proposal and sent to him. That debate would be published in Credenda, and Dr. Waters would have the freedom to publish it in whatever setting he would like.
Today I heard back from him. He wrote that he had “been advised by [his] presbytery’s study committee on the New Perspectives and Federal Vision that [he] not engage in this debate.” Wishing to respect their counsel, Dr. Waters declined the invitation.
Unfortunately, that being the case, I would like to extend the invitation more broadly. I would like to ask any anti-FV pastor or theologian (who would be recognized as a credible spokesman for that position), and who is willing to identify with Dr. Waters’ critique of the FV, to please contact me.
And it should be mentioned that the stance of the PCA study committee is curious.
As we continue through the book of Deuteronomy, it is best not to tire of hearing about giants too quickly. God was giving the land of the giants to the children of God. “Rise ye up, take your journey, and pass over the river Arnon: behold, I have given into thine hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land: begin to possess it, and contend with him in battle . . .” (Dt. 2:24-3:29).
The conquest began on the other side of the Jordan. Israel began fighting in the Transjordan, the land that would be inherited by Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh. Sihon was first. They had to cross the land of Sihon to get to Canaan, and God knew there would be battle (v. 24). God stirred up fear in their midst (v. 25). Peace was offered first, as it had been with Edom (vv. 26-29). But God hardened the heart of Sihon, in order to deliver him up (v. 30). And God told Moses that the land of Sihon was given to Israel (v. 31). Sihon approached and the battle occurred at Jahaz (v. 32). This was a holy war—total war—and God destroyed all of the Amorites (vv. 33-34). Only the cattle and spoil remained (v. 35). All of Sihon’s territory was captured (v. 36), but Israel did not cross over into Ammon’s region (v. 37).
Og was next. Much the same thing happened with this second Amorite kingdom. Og of Bashan came out to fight (3:1; cf. Num. 21:33-35). God promised to do the same to him as had been done to Sihon (v. 2). And the same kind of total victory is what happened (v. 3). All his cities, great and small, fortified and unfortified, were taken (vv. 4-7). The boundaries of the conquered territory are laid out (vv. 8-10). And lest we forget, we are reminded that Og was part of a remnant of the giants (v. 11). His bed was enormous—king size—but much more is involved than honor. His bed was about thirteen and a half feet by six feet (v. 11).
The Transjordan, the conquered land of giants (v. 13), was divided up among two and a half tribes (vv. 12-17; cf. Num. 32:33). We know from Numbers that Moses had originally been distressed at the desire of these tribes for this land, but when they showed their willingness to fight across the Jordan for the land that would be inherited by their brothers, he was content. Here that requirement is made clear again (vv. 18-20).
Moses was concerned to encourage Johua (vv. 21-22). But Moses wanted to cross over as well, and he besought the Lord about it (v. 23). He pleads the same grounds he had used to encourage Joshua (v. 24), and asks to go over (v. 25). But the Lord was angry with Moses and told him to cease (v. 26). Moses would have to be content with a glimpse from Pisgah (v. 29). Moses was told to encouage Joshua (v. 28). And they remained in Bethpeor (v. 29).
Why were these campaigns important? It is remarkable how often these two defeated kings come up in Scripture. And we shall soon see why. First, this encouragement comes up at the end of Deuteronomy, like a second bookend (Dt. 31:4). And remember the first bookend (Dt. 1:4; cf. 4:46-47; 29:7). Second, centuries later, under the reign of Solomon, one of his officials named Geber is identified as governing the land which Sihon and Og used to have (1 Kings 4:19). Third, the psalter of Israel perpetuated the memory of these great battles (Ps. 135:5-12). The next psalm does the same (Ps. 136: 18-21). So we Christians are still singing about how Sihon and Og went down, and we will do so until the end of the world. And fourth, in the return from exile, in a great confession of sin, the people recall God’s previous kindness in this regard (Neh. 9:22). God’s previous faithfulness is always grounds for looking forward to His faithfulness to us in the future.
That which discourages the enemies of God encourages His saints. Or at least it encourages faithful saints. There had been a panic from God; the Lord had unsettled these nations, as well as those who heard about their defeat (2:25). Sure enough this is exactly what occurred (Josh. 2:10). We also see the nature of divine authority. God controls the affairs of men (2:30). When God determines to deliver up His enemies and ours, it will happen. Nothing can stop it from happening. Nothing. God wants us to see His deliverances, and He wants us to see it with our own eyes. Too often we are discouraged by the same things that discourage infidels. Why is this? What does God tell Joshua? God will fight for him (3:22). God tells Moses to encourage Joshua and strengthen him (3:28). We need to believe that God fights our battles for us. The land is before us. Blessed be the Lord our strength, who teaches our hands to war and our fingers to fight (Ps. 144:1). When we consider these truths, let us consider them in holiness and faith. Stand still and see the salvation of our God. Move forward, when He commands, to get a closer look at what He will do.
We are God’s covenant people, and we are seated with our Lord in this covenant meal. Now covenants are, at bottom, relationships. Covenants are not doctrinal abstractions. Covenant is not a mere word that we use to distinguish ourselves from other denominational traditions. Covenants are structured in the very way that God created the world, and in the way He recreated the world in Jesus Christ. Simply put, you are never alone. Everywhere you go, in everything you do, you are always in relationship. In this meal, God is declaring and making His relationship to you explicitly obvious, but the relation is there all the time.
The question therefore is whether you are constant in this covenant, whether you are faithful. But this brings us to a central question, one that has vexed many unnecessarily. What does it mean to be faithful? It means to trust the only One who is faithful, the only One who ever kept covenant perfectly, our Lord Jesus Christ. You are to trust Him always, cling to Him always, rest in Him always, and never to look to your own performance or merit. There is nothing there but failure and self-condemnation.
But in Christ, there is no condemnation, so come. In Christ, there is forgiveness, so come. In Christ, there is pardon and cleansing, so come. In Christ, there is food for the hungry, so come. Come, be obedient. But obedience means faith, and faith means that you will take and eat, and take and drink. The meal is before you.
The new command is that we love one another. Love in the Scriptures is defined as the giving of one’s self through immediate or indirect sacrifice.
Paul tells the Thessalonians that they did not need instruction on this point – they were known for their love to all the brethren who were in the region of Macedonia. But he still says, “we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more.” This plea to increase is not an implied criticism.
We walk to please God, but must take care to do so more and more. We love the brethren, but must make a point to increase in this more and more.
The blood drive yesterday was just one example. Many gave, and a number gave far beyond their personal desires or inclinations. Others helped out in other ways, and many others of you who were not involved in that particular gift are deeply involved in other works of mercy and kindness. God calls and equips us as He wills, and we answer to Him on the particulars. As a congregation called by the name of Christ, you need to hear a well done. There is no admonition or rebuke here. Your kindness and hospitality and generosity and sacrifice are apparent and appreciated. Indeed, there is so much of it here that we cannot explain it as any form of mechanical obedience. No, the grace in our midst in this congregation is alive.
But here is the point that Paul is making. Living things grow – and this is no criticism of the previous stage of growth. Well done – but sink your roots further into Christ, and look for Him to bring forth more fruit in the years to come than we imagined possible. In all of this, live as the people of grace.