Book-table at church (for selling books): right or wrong?

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by Tim, Dec 15, 2008.

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  1. ColdSilverMoon

    ColdSilverMoon Puritan Board Senior

    Then how you define "need?" If you define it as something necessary to survival, then really your standard is higher than Christ's. So you're right, we won't agree on this issue...
  2. larryjf

    larryjf Puritan Board Senior

    How's that?
  3. Ex Nihilo

    Ex Nihilo Puritan Board Senior

    I'm not positive what I think about this, so I am glad to be able to read everyone's responses in this thread. But yes, two points:

    (1) As already stated, I am not positive the Fourth Amendment prohibits buying and selling on the Lord's Day, but if it does, I can't agree with trying to argue that this is an exception. With man-made laws, we argue plausible but unlikely exceptions all the time. But I can't agree with treating God's law the same way.

    (2) Yes, there must be many ways one could acquire literature without a Sunday book table. I don't get the argument that the book table couldn't be held on another day of the week. It would not likely be a tremendous burden to ask church members to come at some other time (perhaps on Wednesday) to buy books.

    (3) Whether it's "okay" to sell books (even on a nonprofit basis) on Sunday or not, it seems that it would be a better policy not to charge. If the church charges for the books, the at-cost price does not help the less affluent all that much. If the point is really edification, the church would give the books away for free, perhaps with a gentle reminder to tithe. What a wonderful ministry if those who are able to pay can help cover the cost of books for others! Are we really afraid that theological book-lovers are going to break the budget through their mooching? I strongly suspect that the church would actually get more money by giving the books away for free and encouraging those who are able to give their regular offerings. Maybe some do not see a real difference if "payment" is still being encouraged; I do.
  4. ColdSilverMoon

    ColdSilverMoon Puritan Board Senior

    Luke 6:1-11. Here's verse 9 (NKJV):

    Healing on the Sabbath is an unnecessary good work - unnecessary in the sense that it could be done on the following day. Making available good, edifying books on the Lord's Day is also an unnecessary good work. Seems perfectly permissible, to me.
  5. larryjf

    larryjf Puritan Board Senior

    Of course it's lawful to save life...i would never disagree to that. Whether that salvation comes through healing the body (which is why i said that a doctor's visit would be permissible), or healing the soul.

    To equate a the miraculous healings of Jesus to devotionals on a back table is obscene.

    Did Jesus charge on this Sabbath? Did He accept money enough to cover His expenses (not-for-profit)?
  6. ColdSilverMoon

    ColdSilverMoon Puritan Board Senior

    The point is that Jesus performed good acts on the Sabbath and I would consider providing edifying books a good act as well. Wouldn't you consider an edifying book an agent for healing the soul?

    And while Jesus didn't "charge" for healing of course, He did accept general donations to sustain His ministry.
  7. MMasztal

    MMasztal Puritan Board Sophomore

    Me thinks ye strain at gnats.
  8. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    I'm content to allow this to be a matter of Christian liberty. If a church decides that no money will exchange hands for anything, even a coffee fund, so be it. If a church provides resources at or below cost, so be it. I haven't been convinced by the arguments against, so to me it's a matter of liberty.
  9. Jon Peters

    Jon Peters Puritan Board Sophomore

    I'm curious about the commerce issue. Does your definition of commerce include the purchase of an item on credit? For instance, what if I take the book on Sunday and tell the person I will pay them tomorrow and they agree? Commerce? If you would consider that commerce then how is it not commerce to use electricity on the Lord's day? Are you not accruing expenses (in exchange for services rendered) to be paid at a later date? I wouldn't think that in the typical household (no electrical medical devices) electricity is a necessity in that people existed for thousands of years without it.
  10. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    This is an interesting point. I would have to say that making such a deal would in fact be commerce, and consequently it would be forbidden on the Sabbath.

    Of course, I'm digging the whole "optional non-profit payment to cover the expenses" side...

    I disagree here. To say that electricity was not needed in a non-electronic age is not to say that electricity is unnecessary in all ages.
  11. Scott Shahan

    Scott Shahan Puritan Board Sophomore

    I used to go bethlehem baptist church in minneapolis and Piper has Desiring God bookstore open for business in the church on sundays.
  12. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    I have known Books to spiritually heal people. Especially when they exegete the Word of God. I am not against buying a good book for someone on Sunday as I am not against buying a Drs. Prescription on Sunday.
  13. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

    Could we not even go so far as to say that some books that are picked up on a Sunday book table "preach the Gospel"?

    If the book in question met this criteria, could anyone still object?
  14. larryjf

    larryjf Puritan Board Senior

    The point of the passage is that if we neglect doing good works on the Sabbath we are, in fact, sinning.

    Taking money in return for something is not what the Lord is teaching here.

    -----Added 12/15/2008 at 08:56:15 EST-----

    A book will not keep you alive, electricity's a need, which is allowable on the Lord's Day.
    You can't say that it's not a need because in the past people didn't have it. People ate different kinds of food to, but that doesn't mean that our food isn't a need.
    We can't just make a fire in the middle of our living room to keep warm or to cook. Our society has evolved to the point where electricity is a necessity for most.
  15. Quickened

    Quickened Puritan Board Senior

    In my opinion these books are to edify and educate the believer on their journey with God. Nothing wrong with that. My church is the only physical place that i can drive to and buy solid reformed material.

    I am also very grateful that i have this oppurtunity to do so. Some believers arent so lucky and have to rely on internet only transactions. Its nice to meet with believers and discuss the works in front of us as we wait for service to start. Makes for good fellowship and conversation.
  16. larryjf

    larryjf Puritan Board Senior

    Hopefully the Gospel was preached while they were in the church service. I pray that we haven't gotten to the point where we must charge people on Sunday's to have the Gospel preached to them.
  17. Tim

    Tim Puritan Board Graduate

    I am not sure I buy this whole "it's okay to engage in commerce on the Lord's Day because you are buying and selling that which is spiritually beneficial" argument. If you agree that commerce in general violates the Fourth Commandment, then you would have to find a reason why a book table would be permissible in this case. (I am just addressing the Fourth Commandment here; not the reverence of the house of worship issue).

    Let us remember that the Westminster Confession recognizes two activities that are always permissible on the Sabbath: necessity and mercy (Matt. 12:1-13). One who favors a book table will have to show that either:

    1) a book table is necessary; or
    2) a book table is merciful.

    I will assume that necessity will not be argued here.

    If the purpose of the book table is to provide something merciful, how is this consistent with charging money (even at cost)? This would be akin to me charging you money when I help you pull your sheep out of a pit (as in Matt. 12: 11-13). This is not mercy. Mercy cannot be paid for.

    Is this passage relevant here?

    Last edited: Dec 16, 2008
  18. JonathanHunt

    JonathanHunt Puritan Board Senior

    We have a free book table, period. If folks want particular books or ask for help on a topic, I quote them a price and procure them the books 'seperately'. Sometimes folks feel 'guilty' taking literature as 'the church' has paid for it. When they approach me about it I just tell them to drop a few extra pounds in the offering box if that is how they feel.

    It is certainly not something that I will get bent out of shape about, but I feel it is best to avoid giving offence over such a trivial matter, so we do not 'sell' any items on the Lord's Day.
  19. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    Our Standards may cut us some slack here.

    As a summary of the doctrine of Scripture, we are to rest from our employment and entertaining self, which includes our thoughts, words and deeds about them. Conversely, we ought not require others to do the same except that, generously, God has given us exceptions for necessity and mercy, and implicitly piety (cf GI Williamson defines this as things necessary for the public worship of God- we sometimes take this for granted without acknowledging it).

    So, the focus is on employment and recreation which makes church book distribution a little more possible- not every method, and because it is "lawfull" doesn't mean it is "expedient" or that it will not cause others to stumble, which brings other biblical precepts into consideration.
  20. Quickened

    Quickened Puritan Board Senior

    I dont know. I dont consider this a typical type of commerce. If someone was to go out on the sabbath and buy a video game I would see that as unnecessary. That could be done on any other day of the week.

    In some instances buying materials at church is only an activity that can occur on a sunday.

    On the Lord's day do you read only the bible? If i read books other than the bible I have a hard time seeing how dropping some bills in the box for said materials is a sabbath violation.

    Secondly we cant expect church materials (like books) to be free. Especially for smaller congregations. With the cost of materials and shipping it wouldnt be beneficial to the church. Assuming that church is actively going through materials it would be a loss every month.

    If they provide this service then i see no problem paying for it. As a bonus i am saving money on shipping.

    The passage in acts really doesnt apply here (in my opinion). What was simon after here? The power. His intentions were off from the beginning. Who knows what he would have done had he actually had this ability but if we remember he was already wowing the people with his magic to the point where they said "this man is the power of God which is called great".

    He was rebuked for trying to obtain this gift with money. I dont think books fall into this category.
  21. Tim

    Tim Puritan Board Graduate

    Yeah, you're probably right - it's too much out of context. I was trying to make the point that if books are considered a sort of edifying ministry, and someone is paying for this ministry...

    So, let's try to get at what is the difference. In one, you are paying money for spiritually edifying material. In the other, you are paying money for recreation material.

    If we are to pursue this argument that you and others have suggested (and I think it is useful to do so here), then we have to decide why it is okay to engage in commerce of Christian material and not other types of material, on the Lord's Day.

  22. Reformed Baptist

    Reformed Baptist Puritan Board Sophomore

    We have literature on our welcome table. It's just for free.
  23. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

    Is it "commerce" for a paid minister to preach on Sunday?
  24. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    It might be helpful to define works of "piety," an "exception" to the fourth commandment prohibition against doing any work.

    GI Williamson, The Westminster Confession of Faith for Study Classes p.222
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2008
  25. Tim

    Tim Puritan Board Graduate

    Thanks for this, Scott. Now we have three categories that might potentially allow the selling of books at church on the Lord's Day. I don't think we have yet defined works of piety on this thread as well as Williamson has done in the quote. So, it is a good addition to the discussion.

    However, I am having trouble seeing how selling books is considered "work that must be done in order that God be worshipped". Book-buying certainly seems to me to be in a different category from preaching, reading of scripture, etc.

    I'm not sure where to go from here. I think the next thing that we would have to figure out is what exactly about selling a Christian book makes it different. And would it be okay to sell a book on Christian homeschooling or a biography?
  26. Nate

    Nate Puritan Board Junior

    I've been firmly in the "no selling books on the Lord's Day - even not for profit" camp while reading this thread. Then I realized that my denomination has a practice of giving money to the "General Fund" at/during church. The General Fund covers building/pastor/evangelism costs - I guess we are in effect paying the bills on Sunday. Maybe a little :offtopic:
  27. larryjf

    larryjf Puritan Board Senior

    If the money is given by means of the tithe then it shouldn't be an issue. Tithing is supposed to be done on the Lord's Day.
  28. Tim

    Tim Puritan Board Graduate

    :agree: That's totally fine.
  29. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    Actually, unless you admit an offering as an element of worship, I don't see any evidence that is the case.
  30. Tim

    Tim Puritan Board Graduate

    Yes, I forgot that this was a debated issue. Is this passage relevant here?

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