When the Spirit Says to Put a Sock in It

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #172

“Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints” (1 Cor. 14:29–33).

Paul has already taught us that no more than two or three people can speak in tongues in the course of a worship service, and, if they do, then the words they spoke must be interpreted. This implies that they need to go one at a time so that the words can be made out distinctly, and translated for the congregation. Some might want to represent this as a view of mine, in which I am seeking to quench the Spirit. It is actually the view of the Spirit, working through Paul, in order to quench us. Quenching ego-babbling is not the same thing as quenching the Spirit.

The same principle applies to any words of prophesy that are given. Two, or at the most three, may speak words that the Spirit inspires. The first principle noted here is that the prophets must be accountable for what they say. The others sit to judge and review what is said. No one gets to speak for God on their own authority. The second principle is that courtesy and deference apply even here. When a word comes to another prophet, the first prophet gives way. Spiritual inspiration does not bring in bedlam. One at a time, with three messages as the most. The result is that everyone learns, everyone profits. The result is that all are comforted. If any are tempted to resist this word because “inspiration cannot be denied,” Paul says no. That’s not right. The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets, meaning that it possible to put a sock in it. Consider that each prophet is capable of restraining himself, and each prophet is to be subject to the other prophets. The alternative to this is disobedience, which would result in confusion instead of peace. And the Spirit’s work is to create order and peace, as in all the churches of the saints, and not disorder and chaos.

Smarter Than Thou

Some people enjoy their allotted fifteen minutes of fame with modesty and decorum. Others, like Jonathan Gruber, cannonball into the deep end, having had the good grace to get most of it on video beforehand. For those whose discretionary news time was all taken up with the comet landing and the tacky shirt aftermath, here is a basic rundown of Gruber’s exploits.

The reason this story has the traction it now does is that it represents far more than the conceit and hubris of one individual man — although it does do that in addition to a bunch of other stuff. The thing that is remarkable about all of this is how unremarkable Gruber was in the settings in which he was speaking. He was speaking to particular predictable groups, and he was getting laughs at the places he was expecting to get them. The videos only appeared in a different light when they got aired — as they just recently got aired — to the audiences who were the object of his derision. As it happens, wireless coverage has now gotten out here to Dogpatch, and we are now treated to the prospect of watching videos made by our betters. Once the whole thing was explained to Mammy Yokum, she took it ill.Mammy Yokum

Gruber is a class phenomenon. He is a representative. He is the poster child of the whiz kid brainiacs who know better than you, and they don’t care who knows it. Actually, they don’t care who knows it until something unexpected happens, and a goodly number of the great unwashed come to know it. Then they spend a great deal of energy trying to get the smell back in the barn.

If you find Gruber and his class mystifying, then I have a couple of book recommendations for you. The first is Thomas Sowell’s The Vision of the Anointed. The subtitle says a lot, “Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy.” The second book is Angelo Codevilla’s The Ruling Class. Both books are great, and while Sowell is always a heavyweight, Codevilla’s book is smaller and lighter, punching way out of its weight class. Start with him, and move on to Sowell.Ruling Class

These books make it plain that we are getting these supercilious rulers because we put up with them. One Gruber is insufferable, but a ruling elite made up entirely of Grubers is something that would take a far more talented writer to describe. I am thinking of someone who was a mix of Dante and John the Revelator, on hallucinogens, trying to paint something described to them by Hieronymus Bosch. Someone at that talent level could complete the master work I have in mind, and it could be called The Cabinet Meeting.

A Helicopter on the Front Lawn

This last week my friend Peter Leithart did some musing out loud about some problems that he identifies as resulting from an emphasis on the “legal status” of righteousness. One post, “How to Say, ‘I Am Righteous'” is here, and another related post on Luther and imputation/infusion can be found here.

In response I have some questions, some hesitations, some suggestions, some objections, and some exhortations. Here we go.

Peter argues that we hesitate to speak the way the psalmist sometimes does because of unbelief. Peter says that to say that I am legally righteous and existentially sinful is dualism — a dualism “fed and nurtured by Protestant preaching and teaching that treats the ‘legal me’ as righteous while consigning the ‘real, existential me’ or ‘my nature’ to the realm of sin.”

First, what is dualism exactly? I don’t think we can say that it occurs just because we have distinct nouns for distinct things. Sun and moon are two, as are heaven and earth, but do not represent dualism, and to affirm that God created mankind as male and female is not dualism either. So it seems that dualism occurs when two distinct things are put into an unbiblical relation to one another, or one thing that should remain as one is broken in two.

So justification and sanctification could be understood dualistically, just as a misogynist understands sex dualistically. But that is his rebellion, not a design feature. In a very non-dualistic way, the Westminster Confession sings justification and sanctification together in a very sweet harmony. It is certainly possible to differ with Westminster here (although I do not), but impossible, I think, to charge the Confession with dualism.

“Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love” (WCF 11.2).

“This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence arises a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh” (WCF 13.2)

This means that any Protestant preaching that consigns the “real me” to the realm of sin, to drown there in tubs of depravity, would be preaching that is, in addition to being unbiblical, radically unconfessional. As long as I have been Reformed I have been instructed on the distinction between reigning sin (which is no more) and remaining sin (which must addressed and dealt with by faith, in the whole man, on a daily basis). I have also been instructed, over and over, on the distinction between justification and sanctification, coupled with their inseparability. As I said before, this could all be wrong, but it seems to me that battalions of Reformed theologians have taken exquisite pains over the course of centuries to not be dualistic on the point.

But this leads to my central question. Having said all this, I do not dispute that Peter has seen the kind of disjunct that he describes. I don’t doubt that he has seen it because I have certainly seen it. There are more than a few Protestant preachers who wouldn’t recognize the Westminster Confession if it landed in their front yard in a helicopter. There is a functional dualism that is certainly out there. But what causes it?

A Vast Aquifer of Reformation Theology

Last night Nancy and I had the privilege of attending a small open house event hosted by Wenden House at New St. Andrews. These sorts of events always get me churned up, and so I have to blog something about it in order to get it out of my system. But, rest assured, I am going to have to get this out of my system with some regularity — so you are going to hear a great deal more about this from me before all is said and done. The project is now well under way, and the potential for this thing is enormous.Zanchi

A vast aquifer of Reformation theology lies untranslated in the original Latin, and Wenden House has taken up the edifying challenge of translating it into English. The results of their work will be being posted online as they go, and when particular books are completed, our plan is to go old school and kill some trees.

If you know of anyone interested in supporting a project like this, please make free to let me know. And while I am on this topic of support, I want to express our profound gratitude to the Davenant Trust and the Acton Institute for the help they have provided in this.

All that said, you can read the first chapter of Zanchi’s great work on the Trinity here.

As Peter Escalante reminded us last night, the Christian faith is uniquely a translating faith.

 

In Which We Discuss Recent Attempts to Gruber Kirk Cameron

A few weeks ago, I wrote briefly on Saving Christmas here, but I reserved a few extra things to say until after the movie released. It has now released, reviews are coming in, and lots of people have seen it. So here we are.

Let me begin with a proposition to discuss: Saving Christmas is a very successful fillintheblank. I want to say this proposition is manifestly true, but this is clearly going to depend on how I fill in that blank. Obviously this proposition could be made false if you fillintheblank with espionage thriller, or cinematic haiku. So how do I fill it in?Saving Christmas

The reviews from the secular establishment have been really negative, and the reactions on social media from the world inhabited by tubby organizers of slut walk parades have been savage. But this is because they are incapable of recognizing what Saving Christmas actually is. This may be due to ignorance, or it may be due to hatred, but they are applying all the wrong criteria in their evaluation. This movie is a nationwide Christmas pageant, up on the screen for everybody. The basic elements are there — a Christmas theme, a Nativity family without a speaking role, surrounding vignettes, a narrator, and so forth. This is all presented in an unpretentious and straightforward way, and in reaction people who hate Christmas pageants give voice to their hate — which should surprise nobody.

For example, The New York Times review by Ben Kenigsberg says this about Kirk: “With a smile so wide and laughter that sounds so forced you half-expect the camera to pull back to reveal hostage takers, Mr. Cameron explains how several facets of the holiday — the tree, Santa Claus, gifts — have roots in religious tradition.”

Now that line about hostage takers is admittedly clever, but it is a clever lie. Anyone who knows Kirk knows that the smile and the laugh are absolutely genuine, and one can only conclude that Kenigsberg lives in a world clearly unable to recognize sincerity. It is hard to fault people for this, though, if they live in a place where they have never seen it — which is likely if someone writes for The New York Times.

For various reasons, to gruber someone or a group of people seems to me to show promise as an up and coming verb. It is a verb that has shown up just in time too — because that is what is happening right now to Kirk Cameron. To gruber someone is to dismiss the stupid peons out there with a supercilious arrogance, and with the critic blissfully unaware of the tiny bubble of self-congratulatory hubris he lives in.

And in the meantime, while doing publicity for his movie, Kirk has been conducting himself like an intelligent gentleman, which is exactly what he is.

After opening night, Saving Christmas was trending around #10 in the country, which is quite a respectable opening night. The next couple days will obviously show whether the opening weekend was as successful as opening night, but I would encourage all of you who appreciate Christmas pageants to make a point of seeing it this weekend. Prepare to enjoy yourself, and then prepare to be grubered. And if you know what that is, it can actually be enjoyable too.

Surveying the Text: Joshua

Introduction:

The book of Joshua is a book filled with strenuous warfare, and yet the Bible clearly teaches us that it is a book that points toward rest. How is this possible? How does this work?

The Text:

“By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days. By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace” (Heb. 11:30–31).

Summary of the Text:

The book of Joshua can be divided into four major sections. The first has to do with crossing (Josh. 1-5). The second has to do with conquest (Josh. 6-12). The third section deals with how they allocated the land that they had conquered (Josh. 13-21). The last concerns their duties of learning how to worship God as a united people in accordance with His covenant (Josh. 22-24). Let’s consider each of these in turn.

Crossing:

The verb root for “cross” occurs thirty-one times in this section of Joshua (Josh. 1-5). The officers of the people cross through the camp (e.g. Josh. 1:11), or priests with the ark of the covenant cross in front of the people (Josh. 3:6), or soldiers even cross in front of YHWH (Josh. 4:13). But the great dramatic crossing, the centerpiece of all this, is obviously the crossing of the Jordan River. That miracle involved was a reenacted echo of the Red Sea crossing, and just as Rahab described their terror when they heard about the Red Sea (Josh. 2:9-10), so the inhabitants now saw the same thing happen again, right under their noses.

This was followed by the marvelous story of how God fought for them at the battle of Jericho, and how the walls fell down in a giant display of God’s sovereignty—to the deliverance of one Canaanite family, and the ensnarement of one family in Israel. Disaster for Jericho was salvation for Rahab and her family. Disaster for Jericho was disaster for Achan and his family.