Thursday, December 25, 2008

Response to Nick on Christmas Observance

In response to my previous post (link), Nick has provided some comments:
There are many "home based" non-denominational churches that apply your logic and in effect take away any common day of worship for Christians. The "Lord's Day" on Sunday is no more binding than say Saturday or Tuesday worship. On top of that, any form of weekly worship is technically not binding, so someone could argue for one day a month.

This logic played a big role in the secular world for stripping Sunday of an religious significance as well as Major Holidays.

Places like Acts 15:28-29 show the Church has the power to dictate practices Christians are bound to (even if those acts are not intrinsically sinful). So based on Scripture, the Church can bind the Christian conscience.
I answer:
a) It's not "my logic," it's a question of what Paul says. If Paul (in inspired Scripture) says that we don't have to observe holy days, then we do not.

b) Even if people start from that Scriptural principle, and try to undermine the Lord's Day, that doesn't make the Scriptural principle invalid. People have been misusing Scripture for thousands of years, but Scripture remains true.

c) Part of the problem for those who try to apply this text (not this logic) to try to avoid keeping the Lord's Day holy, is that in doing so they must place Scripture against Scripture. Not so, of course, for arguing that we have Christian liberty not to celebrate the birth of Christ.

d) It is rather absurd to argue that it is an exegesis of Paul's epistle to the Romans that has "played a big role in the secular world for stripping Sunday of an religious significance as well as Major Holidays." Actually, the stripping of Sunday of religious significance in the "secular world" has been mostly accomplished through arguments for the total separation of church and state. It has also been accomplished through an abandonment of Scripture in favor of hedonism. If there has been abuse of Paul's epistle to the Romans, it is a contributing factor only at the lowest level. Mostly, the Lord's Day has been appropriated by men because they are unwilling to acknowledge the creation ordinance of one day of rest in seven, wishing to have all seven days for themselves.

e) Towards the end of the comment, we have something close to an argument (much closer than we saw in Bellisario's post (critiqued here)):
Places like Acts 15:28-29 show the Church has the power to dictate practices Christians are bound to (even if those acts are not intrinsically sinful). So based on Scripture, the Church can bind the Christian conscience.
Let's examine what those verses actually say:

Acts 15:28-29
28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

i) These verses certainly don't say that the church has the power to dictate practices Christians are bound to. I think Nick has recognized that they do not, which is why he said they "show" rather than "say."

ii) These verses do not provide an example of Christ's being bound to engage in any practice. In fact, these verses provide a prohibition. What is interesting, though, is that these verses say that this is the outer limit of the burden to be placed on Christians: "it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things."

iii) The things with which Christians are burdened in Acts 15:28-29 are "necessary things." Although Nick thinks that these things are not intrinsically sinful, that's not quite what the verse says. Paul elsewhere provides other instructions that help to inform these commands:

1 Thessalonians 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

1 Corinthians 10:23-31
23 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. 24 Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth. 25 Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: 26 For the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof. 27 If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. 28 But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof: 29 Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience? 30 For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? 31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

In view of those passages, we can understand the prohibition provided. While eating certain foods is not sinful, appearing to participate in paganism is sinful because it leads the pagans astray.

iv) Those giving the command in Acts 15 are not simply the church, but the apostles. To assume that because the apostles did something, therefore the church can do something is to make an unwarranted assumption. The unique authority of the apostles was testified by sign gifts, such as the ability to raise the dead. The church (if we are to equate the apostles and the church) no longer raises people from the dead, no longer cures people by having a shadow pass over them, and so forth. Those extraordinary gifts have ceased, and the apostles have gone to be with the Lord.

v) Furthermore, the command in Acts 15 has the authority not only of the church, but more importantly, of the Holy Spirit. It is explicitly stated that it "seemed good to the Holy Ghost." This command was provided during the time of inscripturation, while all the things necessary to salvation were still in the process of being written down. These apostles had the prophetic gift. In this case, they were appealing not to their own authority as church leaders, but to the Holy Ghost's authority. Even the so-called Roman Catholic Church has acknowledged that public revelation has ceased. When Trent spoke, it did not claim to have new revelation from the Holy Ghost.

vi) Perhaps, most importantly, the command in Acts 15 is properly viewed as a release! As hard as it may seem to modern observers, Christians did not immediately recognize that the ceremonial law of the Old Testament had been fulfilled in Christ. Recall that even after Acts 15 and even after Simon Peter had received a vision from God and seen the conversion of Cornelius, he didn't fully appreciate that the dietary laws of the Old Testament had generally been done away in Christ.

Acts 15:28-29, which merely prevents us from appearing to join in with pagan worship, is actually a release: it is actually a proclamation of liberty, with only a small reservation of "necessary" restrictions.

vii) Furthermore, even if all of the above were wrong, the restrictions identified in Acts 15 do not relate to the observation of holy days. Even supposing the church can bind the conscience, the church cannot contradict Holy Scripture, and Holy Scripture gives Christians freedom with respect to the observation of holy days, either to observe them to God, or to omit observation of them to God.

So, in view of these things, we can reasonably reject Nick's conclusion that Acts 15 provides warrant for "the Church" to bind the consciences of people in respect to holy days.

-TurretinFan

1 comment:

natamllc said...

Nick: This logic played a big role in the secular world for stripping Sunday of an religious significance as well as Major Holidays.

nat: I would say the logic drains the life of the Gospel out of It's message in the world where the Gospel is to be preached but does not drain the Life of the Gospel out of the Church.

What do I mean.

When you consider "what just happened" prior to Acts 15 and then consider what followed, i.e., the Holy Ghost uses Paul more than the rest of the Epistle writers to lay the groundwork for our present day thinking and believing, you can see that "liberty" from something is the work of the Church today, not binding one to human wisdom by behavioral changes.

Quite honestly, my flesh has never changed. If the Holy Ghost today doesn't get involved in putting my flesh to death for me, i.e., I need the same "Savior" He announced to the hearers through the writings, the Torah, the Prophets, the Psalms, the Gospels, the book of Acts and the letters consummating with the book of the Revelation, I have no hope.

I need living Hope. That is something that procreation can not manufacture! Bondage and slavery to the flesh, Hedonism, is on the rise because of some forces of evil at work in the world today. Were those forces at work today worldwide, at work in the days of the book of Acts? Yes, and the "determination" James' words, so whole heartedly accepted by all present at that convened "council", were carried out and by the same Holy Ghost brought "liberty" to those so in bondage in those days.

I want to note, that just because they were hearers then, Faith was not enough to "destroy" those forces at work then; and just because the hearers today hear the Gospel and receive His Faith, by the power of the Holy Ghost, those same forces are not diminished even though the Gospel's power and the Faith received by this power brings relief and liberty from fleshy sins.

Where is the world today? Is it better off or worse than in the days of the Acts of the Apostles?

Well, consider that the wisdom of man has liberty today and marches on in spite of the power of the Gospel and the Holy Ghost. Is it not true that the potential to bring a larger footprint of devastation upon the earth because of nuclear warfare is much more apparent than in the days of Rome and their might? Ouch!!

It seems that just because one "system" is made null and void in religious circles and another system is now being employed, taught, demonstrated and lived in the work of the power of the Holy Ghost, human nature is still the same, unchanged, powerfully working against human nature still at the same time uniting the human mind to "allow" for certain things to coexist in the world today.

Consider what would happen in the civil world today if this is allowed. How well would a murderer do in the midst of a hedonistic party at the Playboy mansion in Hollywood, where all flesh restraints are cast off so that pleasures of the flesh are maximized or some well known hedonists ranch in Switzerland in sunny June? Would he be actively stopped and restrained or allowed to kill every last one of those so gathered for such pleasures of this life? No one would stay around and let him kill, would they? No one would welcome him to freely go on in his destruction and moral outrage against such pleasures of human affairs, would they? I think not!

So, let's be clear! The hunt is on. The Church is being built today and God is not restrained by His creation.

She and the Holy Ghost are the only relevant voices in the world bringing restraints. I remind you of what the Angel of the Lord showed John and mind you, the Holy Ghost was given the Authority to be the custodian of those words of Jesus, to the Church restrained, not to the world, unrestrained:

"....Rev 22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb
Rev 22:2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

"....Rev 22:17 The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
Rev 22:18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book,
Rev 22:19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
Rev 22:20 He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
Rev 22:21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen."

What one liberty does does not affect another.

We need to stay on point with these things and call a spade a spade, wisely and with Grace and Mercy as we go forth and preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to the nations:::>

1Ch 16:31 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, "The LORD reigns!"
1Ch 16:32 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it!
1Ch 16:33 Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth.