Google Wave

Related to my last post on information overload, I received a coveted invite to Google Wave today. I have no one to “Wave” with, so it’s essentially a dud right now, but my initial experience with it matches a review I read a week or so ago. The essence of the review was that Wave makes communication even more overwhelming. Not only do you IM people “live”, you see what they are typing and they see what you are typing prior to clicking send.
If you have multiple Waves occurring at the same time, you’ll have messages coming in, documents getting updated, and other things going off all over the place. I don’t see it as very helpful. The only way I think it will work is (like everything else) to use hierarchical authority and drill down when you need to, but that would be old school and Wave can’t be old school.
I think tools like Wave may catch on at the high school/junior high level, but I can’t see it moving into the workplace. Do you know how often people where I work use the (pathetic) asynchronous features of SharePoint? About never. Do people use discussions instead of e-mail? No. Do they work on the same document or mail versions of it around? Generally, the mail it with their name attached to the file as a revision, straight out of 1997. People where I work barely know how to use Word, do you think they’ll catch on to Wave? No way.
The niche I see for this tool is as a college age and younger time waster while doing homework, assuming people DO homework anymore and don’t just use Google to cheat. But what do I know? This might be a huge hit and I just can’t see it right now.

Who in the world is Gog?

Who in the world is Gog? I find myself asking that question as I read through Ezekiel again. The passage in question is of course Ezekiel 38-39. The prophet says:

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, set your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him and say, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech…”

This same person is referred to again in Revelation where John says:

“And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea.”

As you might imagine, the interpretations for who Gog and Magog are span a wide array of choices. Let me start with St. Augustine who writes in City of God:

The peoples John calls Gog and Magog are not to be thought of as some definite barbarians dwelling in a certain part of the earth, such as the Getae and Massagetae (as some have imagined on account of the initial letters), or any other foreign tribes beyond the pale of the Roman Empire.

Let me here interrupt with some footnotes to this from the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, which discuss the Getae and Massagetae:

Scythian Goths who were spread from the Balkans to east of the Caspian Sea and whom some believe were the displaced tribes of Israel. See also Herotodus 1.212ff.

Ambrose identified Gog with the Goths. He wrote this as Emperor Gratian was preparing to confront the Goths in A.D. 378.

Augustine continues:

John clearly indicates that they are to be everywhere in the world, “nations that are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog.”

Oecumenius in his Commentary on the Apocalypse writes:

These are certain nations that shall lead the nations at the time of the consummation. These nations do not at present exist, or they are certain nations which do at present exist but that are called different names by the divine Scripture. These, therefore, will fight with that God-hated Satan against the servants of Christ.

Hello…echo…echo….hello

It seems like everyone is leaving the blogosphere for Facebook and Twitter. Millions of blogs are now un-maintained and decaying like the online detrius of a flimsy revolution. I have been a reader of blogs since almost the beginning, so this is odd to watch. Facebook seems even more like just shouting at each other than blogs do, which is hard to believe!

The bright side: my blog may now become famous! By sheer persistence, I will be one of the few blogs left that actually gets a post every once in a blue moon. My stubbornness will result in blog world domination! Of course, no one will read it anymore, but I will have won!

A Brief History of Theonomy

An excellent email from James Jordan to the Wrightsaid list:

The problem with interacting with this is that “theonomist” refers to three different groups of people. Bahnsen had a very airtight logical system that was almost completely devoid of any covenant-historical approach to the Bible. Rushdoony was looser, and was dealing with practical rather than theoretical questions.

Persons like myself, and under my influence Gary North, were very much covenant-historical from day one. I got my Schilder and Gaffin in the early 1970s at the same time I was reading all of Rushdoony’s works. What we all had in common, of course, was being “Whole Bible Christians” as against your evangelical “New Testament Christian.” (There is, of course, no such thing as the New Testament, any more than there is such a thing as the Pentateuch or Second Samuel. As far as the Bible is concerned, it is all just Scripture, one long book, one long story in several acts.) And we all understood that Jesus had set up a kingdom (Christendom) not an ideology (Christianity). That as one nation had been baptized (in Red Sea and Jordan) and discipled (under Divine law), so the great commission says all nations are to be baptized and discipled. We tried to hear the great commission in that way, which is the way the disciples heard it: theocratically. And we all took Psalm 119 seriously.

But, IMO, having put their hand to the plough, both the Bahnsenians and the Rushdoonians pulled back. They got a lot more of the Bible than evangelicals get, because they took the social principles of the law seriously. But when the rest of us continued on into the symbolic and ritual parts of the Bible, and the narrative, transformative history of the Bible, they renounced us.

The “theonomists” (and I never liked the word and did not use it, but there you are!) were the ONLY people in Christendom who actually believed 2 Timothy 3:16-17. They believed that ALL Scripture (including, say, Deuteronomy) is profitable for instruction in ALL of life (including, say, statecraft). They were the only people in Christendom who were not afraid of the so-called Old Testament.

Times are better now. But in the 1970s & 80s thinking about political and social issues with an open Bible was scandalous. I think the bottom line on post-recons and NTW is just that all of us post-recons are Total Bible people. We think Bible first — we don’t read it through the lens of the Westminster Confession. (The WCF plays the same idolatrous mediatorial role in conservative presbyterianism that the saints play in Medieval catholicism.) We are not Bibliophobic. So, we find lots of cool stuff in NTW — stuff that in no way conflicts with historic Reformation thought, btw — and so we chow down on it.

But we also chow down on Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Rene Girard, and lots of others. Another aspect of this is that Recons were/are catholic. Most of us had mixed ecclesiastical backgrounds (Bahnsen didn’t, and he was not very catholic). Rushdoony had been both presbyterian and episcopalian. My background included Lutheranism and a lot of other stuff, including Roman Catholic grammar school. So, it was natural for us to be Bible-first Christians. Which meant that we did not care a fig for denominationalism. Plus, believing in paedocommunion meant that there was no denomination that would really want us.

Anyway, a whole lot of the prejudice against NTW in conservative presbyterianism is there simply because Wright is not “one of us.” He’s an Anglican. The world is following after him, when it should be following after us presbyterians. Plus, how could his work be any good, since it was “not invented here”? And, becoming at home in the so-called OT also plays a role here as well, I think. The “NT” cannot stand alone. If you pull out the OT foundation, you put something else as foundational. The NT cannot be read alone; it demands a context. Hence, “NT Christians” adopt all kinds of trash from prevailing philosophies. They do it unwittingly, but they do it. That’s a lot of where denominationalism comes from. For instance, your average “NT evangelical” thinks that the great commission says, “Go and make disciples in the nations, baptizing those individuals….” Which is not what it says, and not what the apostles heard. But your “NT” Christian does not even perceive what it actually says; he reads right past it. He reads it in a context of rationalistic individualism, which is the philosophy he has substituted for the OT. So, having an OT background tends to evaporate denominational prejudice.

But finally, only the Theonomists had the guts, the cojones, to look straight into the face of hard questions and think seriously about them. Only a theonomist would have the guts to suggest that maybe (maybe, I say) Charlemagne was right to march the Franks through the river. Only a theonomist would have to guts to ask if maybe the death penalty for homosexual acts is a good idea. After a while, being a theonomist, you get used to thinking the unthinkable, and you get very used to people screaming at you for daring to do so. So, then you read NTW. He says some new things. Yawn. People are screaming at him for daring to say some new things. Yawn. Been there. Theonomists have been lied about, called names, and excluded from positions a whole lot more than NTW has. Back when I was in those circles, it amazed me that the people writing to criticize it never, ever, dealt fairly and accurately with what theonomists were saying. Well, now we see the same thing with NTW. All of which is to say, I guess, that post-recons are not going to be upset by NTW, and because NTW is putting out good stuff exegetically, post-recons are naturally going to read and appreciate him. That’s probably way more than you asked for. But I had to assume that lots of younger people on this list did not know what you were asking about.

Fame

faceless

To me one of the primary needs in life is for recognition. I think we all have some sense of the brevity and futility of life if we bother to think about it at all. Even those deemed famous in their day are quickly forgotten (Ozymandias).  None of us will be on the face of the earth 100 years from now and who will remember us? Who amongst us remembers those who were here 100 years ago?

I think this longing to be remembered, to leave a mark, leads some to pursue fame. You want to be the best in your field, to be an author, a movie star, a rock star, a politician, and so on. If you have any chance of leaving a mark on this fickle world, you have to burn brightly before you fade out and are extinguished. But this leaves hordes of us in obscurity, unknown in our own age and forgotten shortly after we die. Perhaps this sense of futility is what drives some to love reality TV – we each have a minuscule chance of fleeting ‘fame’ if we are on TV or some similar medium.

I think this desire to be remembered is a right and natural desire, but that the ends we pursue to fulfill it are skewed by our lack of an eternal perspective. There is One who remembers all of us, from the least to the greatest. The Triune God will recall your labors, your joys, pains and achievements whether you are a slave or a CEO, a fisherman or an accountant. Nothing we do in this life is forgotten and we will someday stand before God fully remembered. The toil and drudgery, the quest for meaning – all of this finds its fulfillment in the mind of the all-knowing God.

This should free us to cease striving. There is no need to expend vast amounts of energy trying to defy the river of time which sweeps all away into the sea of forgetfulness. It is better to spend our lives in God’s service in whatever vocation and state of life we find ourselves in or obtain to. Poverty and obscurity may be our destiny in this brief life, but when the new heavens and the new earth arrive we will find our true inheritance. We can seek to be remembered by God and seek fame in His kingdom by expending ourselves for His purposes, rather than to leave a mark in history books. To believe this is to take a risk, to fly in the face of received wisdom and truly believe that the next life matters more and that we will be there soon. It is a risk worth taking, and those of us who follow Jesus must take it.

Antichrist as a man

Dispensationalists have brought a lot of novelty to the theology of the church in America; talk of “pre-trib rapture” and the like arose in the last 150 years. But one thing that did not come from the dispensational camp is the belief in a literal, physical man termed “the Antichrist”. You don’t have to read much of the Church Fathers to see the man referred to. Take Augustine for example, he writes of 2 Thessalonians 2.1-11 and says:

No one can doubt that he wrote this of Antichrist and of the day of judgment, which he here calls the day of the Lord, nor that he declared that this day should not come unless he first came who is called the apostate—apostate, to wit, from the Lord God. And if this may justly be said of all the ungodly, how much more of him?

Augustine discusses some various conjectures as to who the Antichrist might be and then says:

Thus various then, are the conjectural explanations of the obscure words of the apostle. That which there is no doubt he said is this, that Christ will not come to judge the quick and the dead unless Antichrist, His adversary, first come to seduce those who are dead in soul; although their seduction is a result of God’s secret judgment already passed. (City of God XX.19)

In remarks attributed to Pope Urban at Clermont which called for the First Crusade, he mentions the coming of the Antichrist as a motivation to take Jerusalem:

And you ought, furthermore, to consider with the utmost deliberation, if by your labors, God working through you, it should occur that the Mother of churches should flourish anew to the worship of Christianity, whether, perchance, He may not wish other regions of the East to be restored to the faith against the approaching time of the Antichrist. For it is clear that Antichrist is to do battle not with the Jews, not with the Gentiles; but, according to the etymology of his name, He will attack Christians. And if Antichrist finds there no Christians (just as at present when scarcely any dwell there), no one will be there to oppose him, or whom he may rightly overcome. According to Daniel and Jerome, the interpreter of Daniel, he is to fix his tents on the Mount of Olives; and it is certain, for the apostle teaches it, that he will sit at Jerusalem in the Temple of the Lord, as though he were God. And according to the same prophet, he will first kill three kings of Egypt, Africa, and Ethiopia, without doubt for their Christian faith: This, indeed, could not at all be done unless Christianity was established where now is paganism. If, therefore, you are zealous in the practice of holy battles, in order that, just as you have received the seed of knowledge of God from Jerusalem, you may in the same way restore the borrowed grace, so that through you the Catholic name may be advanced to oppose the perfidy of the Antichrist and the Antichristians then, who can not conjecture that God, who has exceeded the hope of all, will consume, in the abundance of your courage and through you as the spark, such a thicket of paganism as to include within His law Egypt, Africa, and Ethiopia, which have withdrawn from the communion of our belief? And the man of sin, the son of perdition, will find some to oppose him. Behold, the Gospel cries out, ‘Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.’ ‘Times of the Gentiles’ can be understood in two ways: Either that they have ruled over the Christians at their pleasure, and have gladly frequented the sloughs of all baseness for the satisfaction of their lusts, and in all this have had no obstacle (for they who have everything according to their wish are said to have their time; there is that saying: ‘My time is not yet come, but your time is always ready,’ whence the lustful are wont to say ‘you are having your time’). Or, again, ‘the times of the Gentiles’ are the fulness of time for those Gentiles who shall have entered secretly before Israel shall be saved. These times, most beloved brothers, will now, forsooth, be fulfilled, provided the might of the pagans be repulsed through You, with the cooperation of God. With the end of the world already near, even though the Gentiles fail to be converted t the Lord (since according to the apostle there must be a withdrawal from the faith), it is first necessary, according to their prophecy, that the Christian sway be renewed in those regions either through you, or others, whom it shall please God to send before the coming of Antichrist, so that the head of all evil, who is to occupy there the throne of the kingdom, shall find some support of the faith to fight against him.

And more recently within the Reformed tradition Herman Ridderbos discussed the Antichrist in his Paul, An Outline of His Theology:

The most striking thing of course is that this power inimical to God is concentrated here in the figure of what Paul calls the man of lawlessness…In this striking qualification Paul’s corporate way of thinking unquestionably plays a part. Just as elsewhere he places Adam and Christ over against one another as the first and second “man,” as the great representatives of two different orders of men, so the figure of “the man of lawlessness” is clearly intended as the final, eschatological counterpart of the man Jesus Christ, who was sent by God to overthrow the works of Satan. The traits with which the man of lawlessness is described in 2 Thessalonians 2 provide the clearest evidence that not only the prophecy of Daniel, but the appearance and the glory of the man Jesus Christ himself as well determined the representation of the man of sin. His coming, just as that of Christ, is called a parousia; it is marked by all manner of powers, signs, and wonders, like those of Christ in the past;

This belief is not new, it is attested by the universal church.

The Anglican Benedict Option

I’ve written a bit about creating an Anglican community by like-minded Anglicans moving to the same location. Steve has put down some great thoughts about what educational praxis could look like in an Anglican setting. I’d like to see all of this come together in an Anglican Benedict Option – fleeing the collapsing modern state and “preserving the remnants of Christian and classical virtues and laying the groundwork for the rebirth of a new civilization.” If you have any interest in really doing this and not just thinking about it, please contact me!

It seems to me that this would require some agricultural know-how. Working the land might be necessary in a small town with no big job-provider around. I am presuming that the internet and modern communication will persist, but that the permanent things will be left behind by a reckless culture. So I speculate on other trades that could provide income in a situation where a new community attempts to carve out a place and survive on the outskirts of the empire. I wonder if typography in the form of a type foundry could work in a small town? Fonts are distributed globally so perhaps that is a flexible enough craft to be performed from anywhere. Book binding is a niche market that would seem logical for the people of the book. Publishing in general would be desirable, and creating lasting editions of works like the Book of Common Prayer, the Bible, and the Church Fathers would be essential to a Benedict option for Anglicans. Depending on proximity to the ocean or lakes, some type of boat building / repair might be profitable. Establishing a school and a university would seem to be necessary to perpetuate learning in the face of global ignorance and the bankrupt university system of the United States.

We can cultivate a different way of life in the face of the moral miasma that is the air we breathe. Formed by the cycle of the Church year and daily prayer, devoted to alms giving and works of mercy, fearless in proclaiming the Gospel and practicing the liturgy that has undergird the Church since her earliest days, we can begin again.

A Dying Age

As Americans, we’ve lived with the idea of our own permanence for so long that we can’t imagine a post-American world. I think that the entire 20th century was almost an American eschaton. Our way of life triumphed and seemed forever stable. How could we ever descend into anarchy when Leave it to Beaver re-runs are on every day?

 

When day to day life involves trips to the grocery store, watching TV and living in ever-expanding suburbs, you don’t see it ending. Perhaps we will have another century of more of this, but it seems to me that the end of our order is in sight. The old agrarian republic is long since dead, the Constitution is a meaningless document and we live in a centralized empire that bears only skin-deep resemblance to the Republic or the Colonies. But what does it look like when an empire really dies?

 

Charles Norris Cochrane provides some idea in his book “Christianity and Classical Culture.” He writes:

 

The period following Theodosius may be characterized in general as one of twilight government by twilight men, whose puny and distracted efforts proved utterly inadequate to forfend the approaching doom. That doom was signalized in the destruction of cities, the devastation of the countryside, and the disruption of communications. Already in 396, the first year of Arcadius and Honorius, the situation, as portrayed by a contemporary observer, was little better than hopeless.

 

“The mind shudders,” declares St. Jerome, “to contemplate the ruin of our time. For the last twenty years, the blood of Romans has drenched the lands between Constantinople and the Julian Alps, where innumerable and ferocious tribes spread devastation and death…The bodies of the free and noble, of matrons and virgins have become the prey of lust. Bishops are imprisoned; churches plundered; horses have been stabled at the altars of Christ; the bones of martyrs flung out of their coffins…Everywhere grief, everywhere lamentation, everywhere the shadow of death!”

 

Cochrane outlines how buildings fell into ruin due to no money being available to repair them. Taxes and duties became so onerous that people stopped paying them and fled into the barbarian regions. Thieves multiplied, roads became unsafe, and foreigners poured over the borders of the Empire and gave feigned allegiance to Rome while remaining citizens of their tribe. The laws were unenforceable, the armies weak. Centralized authority broke down everywhere and the Medieval Age began.

 

So where are we at on that kind of timeline? It is of course impossible to know the future. Our military is still in the field, our systems of communication are intact, and our imperial center is still able to enforce the law. We do appear bankrupt on every level, much of our recent architecture and building has been ephemeral rather than durable, so our cities and suburbs will fall into ruins unless continuously updated. We lack any unifying or central purpose of life, we have no clue what we are here for or what we are trying to accomplish. Our institutions are generally filled with people who hate our own history and way of life. We have experienced massive waves of illegal immigration which will forever alter what this nation thinks and how it is governed. We are not yet in total disintegration, but you can now see how it could happen.

 

I believe we will recover from the present economic turmoil, perhaps quickly. But the bigger picture is one of a balkanized and incoherent nation which is living on the fumes of past glory. I think Christians are being called to a new Benedict moment – a withdrawal to a new monasticism. Not monasticism of the celibate, but of the married – a Protestant monasticism if you will. Families may need to relocate to small communities where we can preserve the heritage of the past and put down roots which will endure in the coming ages. Because on the other side of the Roman collapse came Christendom, led by a Church that spanned nations and tribal boundaries. Our nation may become three nations, or ten, all spanning this continent. The old configuration may collapse of exhaustion and debt. But the Church will endure, God’s Word will stand forever and communities that love the permanent things can shape a future age.