Friday, February 08, 2008

Modern Views on Circumcision

This brief article describes a situation that is not a good one (link). The man has two wives and eleven children. It's not good for men to have more wives than one, and such men are prohibited from serving as elders in the church.

This man did two things that most people would consider strange today:

1) he forbade his wives from seeking prenatal care during their pregnancy; and
2) he performed home circumcisions on two of his boys when they were eight days old, using a utility knife.

Apparently referring to the latter item, the article quotes a neighbor as saying that such a thing is "sick" and that he couldn't understand how anyone could do that:

"Sick, he's got a sick mind,” a former neighbor said. “Anybody that would do that to their children -- there's something really wrong with them.”

It's not all that different from the ancient outside view on circumcision:

Exodus 4:24-26
24And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him [Moses], and sought to kill him. 25Then Zipporah [Moses' wife] took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. 26So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.

But consider the contrast. The modern polygamist used a utility knife, whereas Zipporah used simply a sharp stone. The modern polygamist did it himself (and forbade his wives from seeking prenatal care) because he apparently distrusts doctors, a perfectly understable phobia, even if it is not one to which can fully relate.

I'm not defending the polygamist. Today we have doctors who can perform medical circumcisions, and there is no religious reason for continuing the rite of circumcision in view of the replacement of circumcision by baptism in the New Testament administration.

Nevertheless, to say that someone would have to have a "sick mind" to circumcise their children is simply to fail to recognize the religious significance of the act. The religious significance is the symbolic removal of the uncleanness of the flesh, as a symbol of the hoped-for removal of sin from the heart of the child. In a bloody way, it pictures what the bloodless sacrament of baptism pictures: the work of the spirit in regeneration.

The sacraments of the Old Testament (Passover and Circumcision) were bloody sacraments, picturing the blood of Christ with literal blood. The sacraments of the New Testament are not bloody, though they symbolize blood (both the wine of the Lord's Supper and the water of Baptism picturing the blood of Christ).

The passage above should also be a klaxon to those who think the paedobaptism issue is trivial. The paedocircumcison was not trivial to God. If Zipporah had not circumcised Moses' children, God would have executed the sentence of death for breaking the covenant:

Genesis 17:14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.

God takes the symbols seriously, and so should we.


No comments: