Supernatural Society

God loves His architecture. The first chapter of the Bible is architecture. The books of Moses and the book of Revelation are filled with architecture, and the same floorplan underlies every book in between. Most Christians don’t understand the Bible’s architecture and modern Christians not only do not understand it, they do not care for it. But God loves His architecture. To love the Bible one must love its architecture. To understand the Bible, one must let the architecture inform one’s understanding.

Regarding the “architectural” relationship between the family and the Church, Peter Leithart writes:

Christian political thought has historically gotten off on the wrong foot through misinterpretation of Genesis 1-2. Adam and Eve are taken as “family,” and hence the family becomes a “natural” institution. Families band together and soon there are cities and kingdoms, also natural institutions.

Augustine says this, and so, following him, does Isidore. And everyone of course follows Augustine and Isidore.

The church comes later, a top layer on nature, the supernatural society.

But the garden is not “home” but sanctuary; Adam and Eve are not “family” but worshiping community, created and placed in the place of God’s presence and offered the fruit of the tree of life.

There is no more natural society than the church.

Any discussion of the nature of Church, family and state must be founded upon the architecture which informs all Scripture. These three institutions correspond to the Garden, Land and World, a three-level “Creational” Tabernacle. I agree with most of what Dr Leithart says above, but the floorplan of the primeval world leads us in reality to a different conclusion than the one he reaches.

Dr Leithart leaves out Genesis 3, which is a grand mistake. Genesis 1 moves from the Creation of the World to the filling of the Land. Genesis 2 takes Adam from the Land to the Garden. Genesis 3 concerns Adam’s Ethical qualification. To take possession of the promised Land and the World, he must first take dominion of the Garden. Dr Leithart knows the architecture, but his claim that the Church is “natural” is misinformed by his erroneous view of baptism. Adam’s life did not begin in the Garden but in the Land. He was “lifted up” into the Garden as the initial Firstfruits. In the Garden, he would receive a “super-nature,” that is, an office. He would be enthroned over the animals officially, then divided, and given the role of protecting and leading his wife.

Dr Leithart also leaves out Genesis 4 and 5, which are crucial for understanding the complete architecture. Why is this? Because Genesis 1-5 give us the complete Covenant structure.

Genesis 1: Transcendence (World to Land)
Genesis 2: Hierarchy (Land to Garden – Adam as “Head” Firstfruits – Fruitful Land & Womb promised)
Genesis 3: Ethics (Garden – Kingdom Lost – Land and Womb opened but cursed)
Genesis 4: Sanctions (Garden to Land – Abel as “Body” Firstfruits – Barrenness in Land & Womb)
Genesis 5: Succession (Land to World – Genealogy to Noah)

The action moves from the natural gifts (Being) to a delegated office (Knowing) and the beginning of rule (Doing). These are Physical, Social and Ethical. But from the Ethical we move back out into the Social and Physical as ministers of the Spirit. In Genesis 3, the promised blessings upon the Land and womb are limited, but not withheld, by curses. Instead of holding a “super-natural” office, a robe from heaven covering the body, Adam’s clothing is earthly. The events in the Garden are not natural at all. They took nature and cut it into pieces. Like Adam’s body, the family, the corporate body, was intended to be nature clothed in “super” nature, Spirit-filled and covered in righteousness, held together by a greater bond, based upon faithfulness in the Garden. Instead, it remained natural. Failure to shed blood in the Garden led to bloodshed in the Land. This is “family” allowed to remain natural because the Church remains natural.

This is where the wheels fall off Dr Leithart’s conclusion. His ecclesiology is natural with a pretense of the supernatural. He believes that baptism is somehow capable of infusing the natural with the Spirit, rather than cutting it up with the Word, placing it on the Altar, incinerating it, and transforming it into something “beyond death.” A Christian baby is thus a baby Christian. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is Cainite thinking, because despite its high view of the Garden, it actually exalts the Land over the Garden. It seizes the promises without reference to the Ethical requirements of God.

There were no children in the Sanctuary. It was the children who were at stake in the Sanctuary. [1] The path from World to Land to Garden and back out again is the path of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement (and the shape of the book of Leviticus). [2] He temporarily laid aside his glory for the sake of the nations that he might take it up again in a greater way, with a greater office, a greater Body. The entire purpose of Adam’s qualification was to make him a mediator for his children before God (as we see in the case of Job). The Garden was never a “natural” place in that sense, and neither is it today. It is the Most Holy Place, the place of death and resurrection. This is why circumcision was all about the removal of the curse upon the Land and the womb. It had to do with the promises in Genesis 2 which were forfeited in Genesis 3. Baptism is about Sanctuary access, which is why the coming of Baptism entailed the blood of all the prophets from Abel to Zechariah being avenged upon the Land. This is why the fivefold pattern above can be overlaid perfectly upon the events of the first century, with the Ascension of Christ as a new Hierarchy (AD30), and the first resurrection, the Ascension of the Firstfruits Church, at Sanctions (AD70). The Church is indeed central, as Dr Leithart observes, but it is by no means “natural.” The Church is where the natural, “all flesh,” dies. The natural ties that bind us (blood) are not “sacralized” and exalted in the Garden. It is the place where Adam and Eve are qualified for the promise of Land and offspring. Land and offspring are not welcome in the Garden, only their representatives.

The Bible’s teaching on baptism cannot be separated from its architecture. Paedobaptism and baptismal regeneration are an erroneous paradigm which conflate the natural with the supernatural. The Bible never puts these together but “in series,” as in the process of sacrifice, given to us to teach us about death and resurrection. Any house which confuses circumcision with baptism calls Cain a Christian because he was “born” a Christian. It is office without qualification. The sword will never depart from such a house. Presbyterians will continue to cut each other to ribbons, and condemn and alienate baptized unbelievers as apostates, because this problem cannot be solved without submission to biblical baptism.

The church indeed comes later, a top layer on nature, the supernatural society. Baptism is for those qualified to be Shepherd-Kings and Queens. Dr Leithart’s baptism is not for mature sword-bearers, the guardians, but for the children under the sword, the guarded. He gets off on the right foot but then wanders into the wilderness by exalting family in a more subtle way.

“Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” (Numbers 14:3)

[1] Jesus’ words concerning the “little ones” are misunderstood when viewed with paedobaptistic expectations. His point is that He is a better king than Herod, being the true Shepherd, the Priest-King. Baptism is not for the infants but for the ones who protect and lead them, the ones who “put on Christ” as a robe. To claim otherwise is to do violence to the architecture of the Bible and the world.
[2] See Leviticus As Literature.

ART: Léon Spilliaert, White Robes, 1904

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