A Personal Note from Pastor Steve (and a FREE sermon!)
Rev. Steve Schlissel - January 3, 2011
Greetings in our Messiah. Here we are, a full decade—plus one— of years since the world was in the grip of a different brand of fear: Y2K-mania, or, The Error Terror. Born with the favor of a terminal date by which it would be revealed as either malignant or benign, it came in with a bang and left with a thud. Almost hard to believe how an idea, which in its day had garnered considerable respect and prestige—and which had generated enormous amounts of activity, greatly disproportionate to its actual disruptive power—is now so far removed from our minds that we need to be prodded to recall it at all. I think all of us know at least one dude who went bonkazoolie, who devoted himself to proving he’d be ready for the cataclysmic event for which no amount of preparation could prepare anyone (or so they said). No amount turned out to be the right amount. For, at 11:59:59, as a planet held its breath, six billion listened to a tick they had been assured would be tockless, the first left standing at the altar: the tick for whom no suitable tock would be found.
What everyone encountered instead was the biggest anti-climax in a thousand years of history. (I say one thousand because hysteria of a like magnitude and force gripped much of the Western World on 12/31/999).) The only anti-moment of our millennium which might be a fair contender for that top spot was the one caused by the mouse that roared—appearing in a film of the same name. Come to think of it, I wonder if that mouse wasn’t the one commissioned to run up the clock on December 31, 1999. Hmmm.
That midnight stroke of Y2K was so anti-climactic; most of us have determined to set aside no space in our memory vault to preserve it. If we were confessionally honest, though, our stinginess might better be explained by our embarrassment at the wee tad of credibility—just the tiniest bit—we had accorded to the hysterical rumors. We were smart enough; after all, to know all along that Paul wasn’t dead (and won’t we be smug if Ringo goes first, ironically leaving Paul as earth’s only living Beatle), so why permit any tarnish to form on our buttons of pride by chronicling in our own Memorial Library proof of our gullibility, our finitude and other assorted limitations?
But it might be well for us to retain a vivid sense of our credulity as it was shining forth in 1999, a proposition for which I offer two good reasons, that is, two not counting how refreshing a novelty like honesty can be. First, regardless of how transparent we may ordinarily be (or not be) with others, it is essential to be honest before two particular faces: God’s, supremely, and the one in the mirror. There are our temples of truth where guilelessness is required, and only Israelites indeed get to gaze upon the respective countenances profitably, if at all. Keep in mind, as a motivator, that in no other place, and for no other face, will you be paid such handsome rewards, so handsome that the pain, ever attending upon these (and similar) exercises, is altogether palliated by them. You know—don’t you?—that is only as we become older that we begin to appreciate how delicate yet robust a vintage honesty is. Why, it’s not unusual for individual bottles to require as many as six decades ripening in the cellar (out of sight) before honesty is ready to be uncorked, i.e., before it is drinkable.
The second reason to keep mnemonic flags pinned to that over-eager gullibility which, just a dozen years ago, set out to “party like it was 1999” (well, I’ll be Prince [or, The Artist Called Schlissel]—for, come to think of it, it was 1999!); this second reason, I’ll frame as a dare: I’ll wager (gentleman’s bet) that those most prone to Y2K-fever were also those most sensitive to and troubled by the hue and clamor of Western Civilization which had begun to “call God out,” saying, “Come, judge us. We dare You.” What I am saying is, many were drawn to the YU2notOK shtick, not because they were techies or Luddites, but because they heard Christendom begging for judgment, and then figured, “That’s a creative way to deliver it.” It wasn’t because they comprehended or endorsed the technological arguments then being bandied about—how the programming of computers had since Day One reserved two digits in a default position to serve for “19,”—as in 1900, and how no provision (best non-theological use of this word, I submit) was made for the day when the fourth column left of the decimal point would require a “2.” This failure to look down the pike, we were told, would mean the collapse of everything collapsible.
This seemed right and just to many because appearances were amenable to a correspondence. For it is roughly to the time of the computer’s ascent that we might trace the rise of Western arrogance. Though the two did not require cause/effect linking, their chronological commonality was sufficient to satisfy an instinct in search of supporting reason. The arrogance I speak of here is not of the garden variety, but a special sort of pride—that warned against by the Living God in Deuteronomy 8. It’s the brand seen uniquely among a God-blessed people who, instead of becoming more grateful as God opens the heavens and pours it on out, become more presumptuous, until they become so jaded by the superabundance of His magnanimity that they fail to give heed to that truth employed as a weapon by the Lord Jesus in His wilderness battle with Satan, after His baptism.
It wasn’t only our civilization-wide arrogance, however, which suggested to sensitive ones a propriety in judgment heading our way (or, our heading Judgment’s way). It was also what we might describe as America (here standing for all the West) playing feng shui with that which the Lord God said may not be relocated. This requires a little paragraph of explanation.
We have elsewhere demonstrated that the Regulative Principle of Worship—praise it, love it, adore it as you like—is a fabrication, one which is not biblical in origin, and is so encumbered by contradictions and illogic that, in places where it is zealously imposed, gleg observers will find ironic, iconic instances of the very thing the RPW was invented to prevent: the intrusion into Divine worship of human-originating governances. I mention it now for one reason: Where the RPW stands strong, it serves as a wall, effectively blocking from that Church’s view the correct interpretation/application of Deuteronomy 12. However desirable a thing it may be to rule that, in a worship service, only those elements explicitly commanded by God may be introduced, still, it is not the burden of God or Moses to teach that in Deuteronomy 12. Rather, there we are taught to seek salvation only where God tells us it may be found. And the New Testament fulfillment and analog of Deuteronomy 12 is Acts 4:12. Speaking of Jesus the Messiah, Peter says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Jesus’ work may be modeled on the Temple, but the Church’s services in the New Testament are according to the synagogue, which contra the Temple, was without direct, strict, positive Divine oversight. I know. But what can I say? Some people are just terrified by liberty.
Returning to our present concern, it was the rise, not of industrial structures, but of technological wonders that closely tracked the rise of the notion that the benefits “thought” to derive from Christianity can actually be derived from a great number of other sources. This specific thought would become the foundation of a new conception of America, one in which the most we may encourage others to think of us is that we are a religious people; but never do we say we are a Christian people (an astonishing admission of apostasy, I submit, when 200,000,000 of your citizens are Christians!). But of course, the great problem here is that atonement (salvation) will not be found any place God has not put it. And He put it in Jesus alone.
Thus, as various forces combined to lead us nationally further and further from the truth, we heeded the principalities and simultaneously undertook to prevent any possible return to from whence we came. (“When they said, ‘Repent!,’ I wonder what they meant?”—Leonard Cohen.) Our technological prowess became the occasion, not for humble thanksgiving, but for eating the bread we had scattered for a possibly needful and quick return to where we came from. When we most needed wisdom and caution, we threw them to the wind, which is what we may now expect to inherit. It is not as though we’d altogether forgotten Deuteronomy 8 and Jesus’ employment of it. It’s just that we gave it a double mod. Instead of repeating the whole truth, we say, “Technology has enabled us to make so much of so little, that man needn’t live by bread alone; now he can have cake instead.” And—you guessed it—“he can eat it, too.”
So, to be clear, I don’t think we can say the Y2Kers I’ve been describing were wrong. They were just early. For man has not set the stage, but God has. And man has not furnished the theater, but the Lord has. And man has not written the script, but the Terror of Jacob has.
We have been led to a department in which RJ Rushdoony stands as a gigantic gift from God. I submit that he was given to help the church—and the nation—understand themselves and their respective callings correctly. If you understand our times, you understand the enormity of this gift and its tremendous importance. We have come to a place of epistemological self-consciousness greatly resembling the end of an age. One of the things we’ve all been learning (if we’re paying attention) is the unique, incalculably great value of identity. What we have not yet learned is how to identify ourselves! That is one major problem, let me tell you. Have you noticed that all battlefronts are raging over different aspects of the same issue: every institution, every lawmaker, every occasion is being seized and instructed to hasten one project along: the identification of self completely without God. It’s been tried before. Brothers, we have a lot to learn and little time in which to learn it. Wanna ride with me?
We’ll be discussing these things a bit more in days to come, DV. If you want to join us for the conversation, send your end of year gift to Messiah’s (address below). If you want a 2010 receipt, will like Spock for your gift to be so reckoned, and we’ll do a Vulcan mind-meld with you. Just get the scratch in the mail. Or call Craig for credit card donations: 917-757-9297. Or give via PayPal at our site: MessiahNYC.org or simply CLICK HERE. Only givers will be invited back. And that’s only right. Those giving $111 or more may request a copy of The Dictionary of Jewish Words, a small reference work that is both helpful and enjoyable.
In the meantime, we are sending you a short (110 minute) sermon, delivered on the last Lord’s Day of the Year of our Lord 2010. It’s entitled, “Pardon, the Intrusion.” (Simply CLICK HERE to download, “Pardon, the Intrusion.” for FREE!) We treat many topics, including the “perfect obedience” of Zecharias and Elizabeth. I’d like your feedback on our treatment. In it we also attempt to establish Deuteronomy 8 as the critical epicenter, a real determinative voice, one, which holds the scepter for revealing the course of any nation, which had experienced abundant favor from the One True God. According to that passage, our future is not rosy. If we insist on continuing to move away from God and the unique, efficacious, gracious atonement He’s provided, we should begin to feel the thorns shortly. In the future, therefore, I submit the only thing those sensitive Y2Kers we’ve been discussing—the only thing they’ll have been proven wrong about was the date. T minus 7 and counting? Who knows? We only know the count is going down. Oh—we also know Who’s counting.
Let me hear from you. I need to. And it’s reciprocal, I hope.
Yours and His,
SteveSteve Schlissel Messiah’s Ministries 2662 East 24th Street Brooklyn, NY 11235