At Ease in Exile

Amos 3: I have known only you
out of all the clans of the earth;
therefore, I will punish you for all your iniquities.

Amos 6: Woe to those who are at ease in Zion

and to those who feel secure on the hill of Samaria—
the notable people in this first of the nations,
those the house of Israel comes to.
Cross over to Calneh and see;
go from there to great Hamath;
then go down to Gath of the Philistines.
Are you better than these kingdoms?
Is their territory larger than yours?
You dismiss any thought of the evil day
and bring in a reign of violence.

They lie on beds inlaid with ivory,
sprawled out on their couches,
and dine on lambs from the flock
and calves from the stall.
They improvise songs to the sound of the harp
and invent their own musical instruments like David.
They drink wine by the bowlful
and anoint themselves with the finest oils
but do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.
Therefore, they will now go into exile
as the first of the captives,
and the feasting of those who sprawl out
will come to an end.


It’s ok to not work all the time. I like Stellman’s chapter 11 against the puritans, even though I wish he could have found somebody besides the Romanist (Calvinist-hating) Chesterton to make his case. But he does quote a book I like: How to be Idle by the British writer, Tom Hodgkinson.

We don’t need to talk about “common grace” to make this point. Read Protestant Reformed leader Englesma’s plea against profaning grace in his answer to Mouw .

I do want to recommend some better books on the topic of living in exile in the world. I will only list one Mennonite book: For the Nations, by John Howard Yoder (Eerdmans), expecially the chapter on diaspora, “See How they Go with Their Faces”. And one book by a Quaker, A Biblical Theology of Exile, by Daniel Smith-Christopher( Fortress). And by the premill evangelical Robert H Gundry, Jesus the Word According to John the Sectarian (Eerdmans).

On the land, read Reformed amill The Israel of God, by Palmer Robertson (P and R). On weakness, read the Lutheran (and expert on Ellul) Marva Dawn, Powers, Weakness, and the Tabernacling of God. For Romans 6, read Robert Haldane. If you want something very short on Romans 6, read Steele and Thomas, Outline on Romans , p46.

Federal visionists (Leithart, James Jordan) use Hauerwas to defend something a lot more Constantinian than what I think Stellman would approve. But Stellman seems to agree on sacrament holding the church together .

I am not sure that Hauerwas and Stellman would be agreed on what to say about the Exodus 32 ordeal/ intrusion. After the golden calf, Moses asked: who is on the Lord’s side? Go forth, and kill your brother… Today you have ordained yourselves for service. “ Even though they want to follow the OT (the covenant) model for worship, they are not agreed about what is legitimate for the people of God when they operate in another kingdom.

Stellman has an interesting note about being guilty as a member of what he thinks is the “legitimate” (natural law) second kingdom because of the guilt of the innocent killed in Iraq.(p71)

But he still interprets God’s protection from the death penalty (on earth) as being about God’s “common grace” giving the state to protect us. (p56) I guess he thinks it’s good to kill for the state (or the economy), just so long as we don’t make the mistake of thinking this is redemptive.

As a pacifist, of course, I don’t find much to get excited about in this distinction. It’s like talking about talking about the glories of the new covenant, as a chaplain in the military!

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16 Comments on “At Ease in Exile”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    I Thessalonians 4: 11 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Dr. T. David Gordon in his book “Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The
    Media Have Shaped the Messengers” (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2009)
    “Some of the neo-Puritans have apparently determined that the purpose of Christian preaching is to persuade people that they do not, in fact, believe. The subtitle of each of their sermons could accurately be: “I Know You Think You Are a Christian, but You Are Not.” This brand of preaching constantly suggests that if a person does not always love attending church, always look forward to reading the Bible, or family worship, or prayer, then the person is probably not a believer…”

    “The hearer falls into one of two categories: one category of listener assumes that the preacher is talking about someone else, and he rejoices (as did the Pharisee over the tax collector) to hear “the other guy” getting straightened out. Another category of listener eventually capitulates and says: “Okay, I’m not a believer; have it your way.” But since the sermon mentions Christ only in passing (if at all), the sermon says nothing about the adequacy of Christ as Redeemer, and therefore does nothing to build faith in Christ.

    “It is painful to hear every passage of Scripture twisted to do what only several of them actually do (i.e., warn the complacent that not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven). And it is absolutely debilitating to be told again and again that one does not have faith when one knows perfectly well that one does have faith, albeit weak and imperfect…”

    “So no one profits from this kind of preaching; indeed, both categories of hearer are harmed by it. But I don’t expect it will end anytime soon. The self-righteous like it too much; for them, religion makes them feel good about themselves, because it allows them to view themselves as the good guys and others as the bad guys – they love to hear the preacher scold the bad guys each week. And sadly, the temperament of some ministers is simply officious. Scolding others is their life calling; they have the genetic disposition to be a Jewish mother.” (pp. 83-84)

  3. markmcculley Says:

    Calvin As to riches and honors, when we have divested ourselves of attachment to them, we will be prepared, also, to renounce the things themselves, whenever the Lord will require this from us, and so it ought to be. It is not expressly necessary that you be a poor man, in order that you may be Christian; but if it please the Lord that it should be so, you ought to be prepared to endure poverty. In fine, it is not lawful for Christians to have anything apart from Christ. I consider as apart from Christ everything that hindes the way of Christ alone being our ground of glorying.

    For those who cast their merchandise and other things into the sea, that they may escape in safety, do not, therefore, despise riches, but act as persons prepared rather to live in want, than to be drowned along with their riches. They part with them, indeed, but it is with regret and with a sigh; and when they have escaped, they bewail the loss of them. Paul, however, declares, on the other hand, that he had not merely abandoned everything that he formerly reckoned precious, but that they were like dung, offensive to him, or were disesteemed like things that are thrown away in contempt.

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Pieper, Leisure: The Basis of Culture, ht BS:

    “The inmost significance of the exaggerated value which is set upon hard work appears to be this: man seems to mistrust everything that is effortless; he can only enjoy, with a good conscience, what he has acquired with toil and trouble; he refused to have anything as a gift.”

  5. markmcculley Says:

    We would be better off if we liberated work from the moral weight of “purpose.” There is dignity in the struggle just to get the objective (NEED, PAID) and subjective (GOOD, LOVE) elements of our work closer to each other. If we’re lucky, then we will be exploited for what we are good at, and we will meet someone else’s need through our own exhaustion. There is cause for celebration in that.

    Few of us will ever find our meritocratic purpose, much less “OWN it!” That shouldn’t mean we’re failures. Often, just standing in the PAID circle is a triumph. That’s certainly true for day laborers, whose purpose on the job is to make each other’s work bearable. Their rule is, “Carry your end of the load.” If we all adopted that rule, then once we’ve carried our end, we can meet at the water cooler, share a laugh, and scheme to knock off early. Being human together is purpose enough.

  6. markmcculley Says:

    Herman Hoeksema—“In all attempts to show how a wholly corrupt tree may still bring forth good fruit, natural man, as he actually reveals himself in this world, is not totally depraved. The antithesis is obliterated and the chasm between the church and the world is removed, and the former is justified in making common cause with the latter in the things of this present life. The Confessions make mention of remnants of natural good, but never do they speak of an influence of God upon the natural man whereby he is improved.”

    Hoeksema–“The Confessions teach that by virtue of this natural light man retained some knowledge of God and of natural things, of the difference between good and evil; but never do the Confessions state, or even suggest by implication, that the natural man actually performs the good. And with regard to this so-called civil righteousness, the term does not occur in the Reformed Confessions, and that the Confessions deny the very idea. The Confession declares that the natural man is incapable of using this natural light aright even in things natural and civil, nay further, that in various ways man renders this light, such as it is, wholly polluted and holds it in unrighteousness.”

  7. markmcculley Says:

    Karl Marx and John Wesley make an idol of their work. 1. God calls believers to work—even to boring work. 2. Such work can be done in the Lord’s name and with a good attitude. 3. Such work advances God’s glory. 4. Such work is a holy sacrifice. 5. God himself will accept it as an offering. 6. Christians should follow the leadership of their bosses, even unworthy ones. 7. Christ enables believers to bear the hardships of the workplace. 8. Jesus himself assigns the particular task to each laborer. 9. Successful performance of work brings glory to God the Father and to Jesus, God the Son. 10. Daily labor is a means God uses to sanctify believers. 11. Jesus accompanies them in their work. 12. Any work is noble. 13. God evaluates work, and even judges the motives with which it is done. 14. Work is part of Jesus’ easy yoke. 15. Work hastens the coming of the Lord. 16. Work comes to us not as a curse, but as part of God’s bounteous grace. 17. Work is a delight that brings Christians joy. 18. Work bring believers closer to heaven. 19. Work allows people to experience heaven on earth.

    • markmcculley Says:

      Jonathan Edwards , 132, “Christian Charity”

      OBJECT. IX. He has brought himself to want by his own fault. — In reply, it must be considered what you mean by his fault.

      First, if you mean a want of a natural faculty to manage affairs to advantage, that is to be considered as his calamity. Such a faculty is a gift that God bestows on some, and not on others. And it is not owing to themselves.

      If we should forever refuse to help men because of that, it would be for us to make their inconsiderateness and imprudent act, an unpardonable crime, quite contrary to the rules of the gospel, which insist so much upon forgiveness. — We should not be disposed so highly to resent such an oversight in any for whom we have a dear affection, as our children, or our friends.

      and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty. (1 Corinthians 12:23)

    • markmcculley Says:

      Response is at the center of Aquinas’s work. The disputed question, which was his mode of classroom teaching and the format of the Summa Theologiae, is built on responding to others’ ideas. There are thousands of “articles,” or points of controversy, in the Summa. In each of them, Aquinas poses a question, entertains several proposed (wrong) answers, gives his (correct) answer, and then responds critically to each of the wrong answers.

      Limiting your responsiveness— cynically “depersonalizing” others—is a means to cope with the limitlessness of human need.

      Supposedly, those who do what they love will never “work” a day in their lives. Or they will come into money without even seeking it. This ethos is really a myth, a noble lie. Workers do their employers a great favor when they view work as a field for exercising the virtues of love, hope, or humility. The bosses get endless productivity with little complaint, just as they would from a machine.

      When I tell academics that I quit a tenured faculty position at age forty, they offer enthusiastic congratulations. Some say they wish they could do the same. Based on this reaction, you would think that tenure was widely seen as a misfortune, and not a universally desired goal of academic life. Their congratulations suggest both that I must have quit to pursue something even higher and that there is something wrong with the way the contemporary university works. Only one of these explanations is true.

      People who think they are very useful, and “instrumental” and “assigned this work as a vocation and calling from God” and “professional at what I do” and “influential” and “making a difference” tend to see other folks as peasants and fatalists and “not relevant”

  8. markmcculley Says:

    telling somebody who needs to get lots of stuff done to relax is like telling somebody cold to be warm

    The old soundbite says–Do not aim for happiness directly. Happiness is byproduct of doing the right thing. And then we are told that “work is good and money is only a byproduct”. Sure, shit is a byproduct of eating, but I do not eat to shit. But that does not mean that we have a duty to make work our vocation. We are allowed to work to get the money. Because not all work is fun or good. And we are allowed to work only for the money. And to work to eat. Death is byproduct of sin, but that does not change the fact that both sin and death are our enemies. Even for the justified elect, both sin and death are still not our friends.

    play—it’s an end in itself, not an instrumental means

  9. markmcculley Says:

    Before the war, I used to tell them that life in relation to God was the biggest thing in their lives, and that their part in the economy was nothing by comparison. Now, you people have engineered them out of their part in the economy, in the market place, and they’re finding out—most of them—that what’s left is just about zero. A good bit short of enough, anyway.

    Lasher sighed. “What do you expect?” he said. “For generations they’ve been built up to worship competition and the market, productivity and economic usefulness, and the envy of their fellow men—and boom! it’s all yanked out from under them. They can’t participate, can’t be useful any more.”

  10. markmcculley Says:

    “do what you love” is a legalistic command to “love your work” and “love working”

    Keynes–When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession — as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life — will be recognized for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease.”
    ― John Maynard Keynes, Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren

    Keynes–For many ages to come the old Adam will be so strong in us that everybody will need to do some work if he is to be contented. We shall do more things for ourselves than is usual with the rich to-day, only too glad to have small duties and tasks and routines. But beyond this, we shall endeavour to spread the bread thin on the butter-to make what work there is still to be done to be as widely shared as possible. Three-hour shifts or a fifteen-hour week may put off the problem for a great while. For three hours a day is quite enough to satisfy the old Adam in most of us!

    Keynes–I see us free, therefore, to return to some of the most sure and certain principles of religion and traditional virtue-that avarice is a vice, that the exaction of usury is a misdemeanor, and the love of money is detestable, that those walk most truly in the paths of virtue and sane wisdom who take least thought for the morrow. We shall once more value ends above means and prefer the good to the useful. We shall honor the delightful people who are capable of taking direct enjoyment in things, the lilies of the field who toil not, neither do they spin.

    Psalm 49: 10 For one can see that wise men die;
    foolish and stupid men also pass away.
    Then they leave their wealth to others.
    11 Their graves are their eternal homes,
    their homes from generation to generation,
    though they have named estates after themselves.
    12 But despite his assets,[ man will not last;
    he is like the animals that perish.
    13 This is the way of those who are arrogant,
    and of their followers,
    who approve of their words.
    14 Like sheep they are headed for Sheol;
    Death will shepherd them.
    The upright will rule over them in the morning,
    and their form will waste away in Sheol,
    far from their lofty abode.
    15 But God will redeem my life
    from the power of Sheol…

    Do not be afraid when a man gets rich,
    when the wealth of his house increases.
    17 For when he dies, he will take nothing at all;
    his wealth will not follow him down.
    18 Though he praises himself during his lifetime—
    and people praise you when you do well for yourself—
    19 he will go to the generation of his fathers;
    they will never see the light.
    20 A man with valuable possessions[
    but without understanding
    is like the animals that perish.

  11. markmcculley Says:

    Sleeping in two phases may be the natural way, says Andrew Smart Waking up in the middle of the night might be a vestige from pre-industrial times, but perhaps we should embrace ancient sleeping habits from before artificial light? My sons are four and six years old. At bedtime I read them a story and then lie down in their bedroom on a sofa and wait for them to fall asleep. However, on most nights I fall asleep too, at around 9pm.

    Then I wake up perhaps at 2 or 3am and try to fall back asleep, but don’t usually succeed until 4 or 5am. If we didn’t to be up absurdly early for school and work I would sleep until nine. In modern society this kind of sleeping pattern is a problem – and I am often fatigued. However, it turns out that historically this bi-phasic type of sleeping might actually have been the norm. It is modern life that is abnormal: with its rigid early schedules and timetables.

    Why on earth does school have to start at 8.30am? In fact much new research indicates that children perform vastly better on tests if the school start time moves to 9.30am. Before clocks and electric light were commonplace, people went to bed shortly after sunset for what was called “first sleep”, and then awoke around 3am for a few hours, futzed about or did chores (or had sex), and then went back to bed until 9 or 10am for what was called “second sleep”.

    Today, sleeping pills are a ten billion dollar a year industry. But our perpetual sleep deprivation does not actually have a pharmacological basis, it is simply caused by a lot of wrong-headed ideas about sleep: 1) that we have to wake up early and 2) we need to sleep eight hours straight through the night. Both of those ideas are just wrong. So rather than stuff our faces with sleeping pills at night, and gallons of caffeine in the morning, we should alter our work and waking schedules to our bodies natural rhythms. Some people are really early birds, and others are night owls and it turns out your sleeping cycle is highly genetic. But no matter what, it appears that humans, like most animals in fact, would prefer to sleep in two phases during the night. –

  12. markmcculley Says:

    f you have grace everywhere, and never kick their ass with their law, then grace wouldn’t mean as much–so beat your children

    John Calvin—However eagerly the saints may in accordance with the Spirit strive toward God’s righteousness, the listless flesh always so burdens them that they do not proceed with due readiness. The law is to the flesh like a whip to an idle and balky ass, to arouse it to work. Even for a spiritual man not yet free of the weight of the flesh the law remains a constant sting that will not let him stand still. . . . But the accompanying promise of grace. . .sweetens what is bitter .Institutes, 2/7/12

    wcf 19:6 yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts and lives; so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin, together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of His obedience. It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin and the THREATENINGS OF IT (the law) serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law. The promises of it, in like manner, show them God’s approbation of obedience,and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof…. a man’s doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourages to the one and deters from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law: and not under grace.

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