Permission to participate in jewish ceremonies

Discussion in 'NT Epistles' started by Afterthought, Sep 25, 2010.

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  1. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    In 1 Corinthians 9 we have Paul talking about being all things to all people. In Acts we see Paul taking a Jewish vow and worshipping in the temple (even participating in sacrifices?). Does this give us permission and even say we should participate in such ceremonies for the sake of the Gospel?

    Extending this, does this give us permisson to and say we should in general take part in other ceremonies? Should we who hold to the RPW take part and participate in worship in NPW churches and their own ceremonies which are either based on something Jewish or are their own ceremonies or tradition which may not be biblical?

    For some examples, do these Scriptures teach an EPer should sing nonEP songs in nonEP church? A RPW singing "fluff" songs in a NPW church or helping or taking part in altar calls, praise teams, or something they believe is not justified in Scripture? A Sabbatarian taking part in a church Superbowl party or picnic or some other entertaining Lord's Day recreational church something that has nothing to do with God? How about a person who believes Christmas and Easter violates the RPW participating in them to win people to Christ?

    Last edited: Sep 25, 2010
  2. Andres

    Andres Puritan Board Doctor

    I would advise first and firemost to abide by the commands and statues laid forth in Scripture. For those things not specifically addressed in the word, then obey your conscience and the leading of the Holy Spirit.
  3. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

    Raymond, you have a category error in your question(s).

    Paul elsewhere tells us that to participate in jewish rituals is to worship idols. I can think of no place, off hand, where he offers his opinion on the 17th century debate over worship.
  4. Austin

    Austin Puritan Board Freshman

    Be careful in setting difficult rules for things such as this. Be a sabbatarian, but be one with grace. In this matter, if you belong to a church that has these activities, then by all means do not cause a stir. And that goes especially for Christmas & Easter. It is a matter of conscience. But remember, there's a difference between offending your conscience and violating it. To take an example, if someone hates alcohol or tobacco use merely out of some odd Biblical view that it is nasty & wrong, then to drink & smoke around him offends his conscience. But to invite a friend who is a recovering alcoholic with only a few months of sobriety to a party and drink copious amounts of beer and wine around him will, in all likelihood, violate his conscience.

    As for Christmas & Easter, I can think of no case in which someone's conscience would be violated if other Christians were to celebrate these things around the non-endorsing friend. In this instance, the appropriate thing for the non-endorser to do would be for him to humbly participate, keep his views to himself, and enjoy the event(s). To go in and seek to undermine the Christian fellowship of others is both arrogant & unloving.

    My 2 cents...
  5. Scottish Lass

    Scottish Lass Puritan Board Doctor

    Unless one truly sees the event as a sin--such as might be the case with an EP'er and non-EP music in worship.
  6. Austin

    Austin Puritan Board Freshman

    Anna: I would disagree. If someone has a conviction that Christmas & Easter are sin, then to blow up someone else's celebration of these events would be legalistic and meanspirited. Does it not fall into the "weaker brother" category for someone to shove their own minority-view convictions down the throats of other brothers & sisters who hold to the traditional Christian views on these matters? After all, if one has a conviction that Christmas & Easter observance is a sin, is that not a minority report?

    i am quite comfortable holding to Vincent of Lerins' assessment of what is orthodoxy: "Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus creditum sum." ("What has always, what has everywhere, what has by all been believed.") There is nothing in the Bible or in the Gospel that prohibits the observance of the Church calendar (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, Trinity, etc.) And as we consider the nature of the Gospel and the character of God, can we really believe that Jesus is angered over setting aside times & seasons in the life of the Church to especially observe the events of the Gospel? After all, the Westminster Standards explicitly affirm the power of the Courts of the Church to set aside certain days of fasting, etc.

    Never forget, we also have Paul's injunction not to allow divisions over sabbaths & new moons, etc. Surely this applies to Christmas & Easter, etc.
  7. Scottish Lass

    Scottish Lass Puritan Board Doctor

    So it's better for someone to sin than to politely decline an invitation? How does that "shove their own minority-view convictions down the throats" of others? Twice in your post you marginalize the minority view simply for being in the minority, ignoring the fact that there is scriptural basis for those views. By the way, are you also rejecting the RPW? While that may be tangential, your answer will clarify your position.
  8. Austin

    Austin Puritan Board Freshman

    I am not rejecting the RPW, although I generally fall into the more adiaphoristic position that Dr. John Frame of RTS describes in his book "Worship In Spirit & Truth." As a part of my view, however, I find myself being more subscriptionistic as regards the Westminster Standards than many of the neo-puritans who adhere to the more extreme RPW view. That is, I subscribe to the idea that the Church Session, the Presbytery, and the General Assembly have the right & authority to appoint days of fasting, commemoration, etc. This would include the 'Church calendar.'

    Now, as regards 'sin,' I have to state that I am of the belief that those who adhere to narrowly defined views of the RPW, EP, etc are not sinning if they submit to the Church courts by participating with the Church in its worship of God. If one takes an oath & swears a Covenant to submit to the leadership of the Divinely appointed presbyters, and then takes it upon himself to 'school' the elders by berating them about low-on-the-totem-pole issues such as Puritan issues such as rejecting Christmas or Easter, or to determine which portions of the leadership of a session, presbytery, or Assembly he or she will submit to, then this is the real sin.

    As I find myself reminding others quite often, we as Reformed Christians are not sectarians. We are catholic Christians. Ours is the catholic faith. And as the Apostle Paul reminds us, there is something to the catholic faith that includes forbearance as regards our personal scruples. We are not to judge one another on new moons or sabbaths. I would say the analogy in this matter includes Christmas, Easter, etc.

    If you have scruples about certain things like Christmas & Easter, your scruples must take a back seat to your vow to submit to the ordained authority God has set for you in your congregation. The Lord will not hold him guilty who in good faith submits to the lawful authorities in the Church in matters adiaphoristic. Similarly, He will not hold him guilty who takes what are at best minority-report views in the history of the Church and sets them aside out of obedience to those who hold the Keys of the Kingdom at Christ's appointment.

    We should take our lead from the Reformers. Luther, Calvin, et al never set about to be sectarians. They were adamant about the importance of submission until the Church proved herself apostate by persecuting those who held to the essentials of the faith.

    Those of us who adhere to radically puritanical views, let us ask ourselves, "Would Calvin, Knox, Luther, etc divide over this matter?" similarly, what would Paul have to say about those who reject the ordained authorities in the Church over matters adiaphoristic?
  9. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    That is simply inaccurate to cite Westminster for inclusion of the church calendar in their intent. Make a case for it now under a changed confession if you wish, but it is misleading to imply they agreed with that when they specifically condemned the holy day calendar in their Directory for worship.
    As far as Frame's view, he simply rejects the RPW by redefinition as others have noted.
  10. Austin

    Austin Puritan Board Freshman

    RE: the power of the Church as regards the church calendar, see below.

    WCF XXI.V.

    The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear, the sound preaching and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith and reverence, singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ, are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God: beside religious oaths, vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasions, which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner.


    It belongs to synods and councils, ministerially to determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience; to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the public worship of God, and government of his Church; to receive complaints in cases of maladministration, and authoritatively to determine the same; which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission; not only for their agreement with the Word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God appointed thereunto in His Word.

    WCF XX.IV.

    And because the powers which God has ordained, and the liberty which Christ has purchased are not intended by God to destroy, but mutually to uphold and preserve one another, they who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical, resist the ordinance of God. And, for their publishing of such opinions, or maintaining of such practices, as are contrary to the light of nature, or to the known principles of Christianity (whether concerning faith, worship, or conversation), or to the power of godliness; or, such erroneous opinions or practices, as either in their own nature, or in the manner of publishing or maintaining them, are destructive to the external peace and order which Christ has established in the Church, they may lawfully be called to account, and proceeded against, by the censures of the Church. and by the power of the civil magistrate.
  11. Scottish Lass

    Scottish Lass Puritan Board Doctor

    You're assuming that the person's scruples are out of line with church authority.
    I'm convicted wrt headcovering, which I would presume you view as minority-report. Is it better to obey what I view as a command in scripture or a session who would be wrong to tell me not to cover?
  12. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    My point stands wrt to the intent of Westminster:
    AN APPENDIX, Touching Days and Places for Publick Worship.
    THERE is no day commanded in scripture to be kept holy under the gospel but the Lord's day, which is the Christian Sabbath.
    Festival days, vulgarly called Holy-days, having no warrant in the word of God, are not to be continued.
    Nevertheless, it is lawful and necessary, upon special emergent occasions, to separate a day or days for publick fasting or thanksgiving, as the several eminent and extraordinary dispensations of God's providence shall administer cause and opportunity to his people.
    As no place is capable of any holiness, under pretence of whatsoever dedication or consecration; so neither is it subject to such pollution by any superstition formerly used, and now laid aside, as may render it unlawful or inconvenient for Christians to meet together therein for the publick worship of God. And therefore we hold it requisite, that the places of publick assembling for worship among us should be continued and employed to that use.
  13. Herald

    Herald Moderator Staff Member

    Raymond, keep in mind that Acts records the transition between ritualistic Judaism and the establishment of Christian worship. It did not take long for the early church to shed the visage of Judaism. Any competing religious ceremony that is contrary to what scripture prescribes should be avoided. Here is what the confession that you and I subscribe to says on the matter:

    In response to the latter part of your post; if you are visiting a church that does not subscribe the RPW follow your conscience on the matter. If there are parts of the service that clearly violate scripture, then do not participate. Early on in my church's existence, before we became Reformed, I objected to some of the hymns and choruses. I would not sing them. I remained silent. It was a matter of not violating my conscience. If you know the right thing to do, then do it (Jas. 4:17).
  14. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    Would you please show me the category error? I can't see it. =( And also where Paul says that to participate in such things is to worship idols (are you referring to the book of Hebrews?)?

    Herald: I would assume then that all the references to not judging for attending festival days, New Moons, etc. or for becoming like a Jew to win Jews for Christ would be only for that transitional period? Of course, my OP question has a category error, so this may not be the right question to ask, so hopefully this question makes sense.

    Naphtali: It seems like that the WCF contradicts what you posted since the WCF says that those things that can be appointed by the church should be done in a holy and religious manner. I doubt that they would contradict each other like that, so what are they saying?
  15. Austin

    Austin Puritan Board Freshman

    I doubt that any session would tell a woman not to cover herself. For my own self, I think that Paul's injunction is binding. And if your session is opposed to the Church calendar, then you happily have no problem submitting! :)

    That said, in our circles, the far more vexing problem is "ultras" or "TRs" or "Federal Visionaries" who come to a congregation & try to 'reform' it to reflect their idiosyncrasies. The point is that we are catholic Christians, not sectarians.

    As for the Directory of Worship, it is my understanding that the original Assembly of Divines had a more latitudinarian approach to the Church calendar than the later English Puritans who have so colored our understanding of the Standards. Set in its original context, the Assembly of Divines were objecting to Romish errors such as the overwhelming number of what Rome calls "Holy Days of Obligation," pilgrimages, etc. The bare-bones Cranmerian Anglican church calendar & the early Scots & Dutch calendars had much more in the way of 'traditional' elements than he Puritans allowed for.

    For example, if one were to look at Knox's or Calvin's liturgies and compare it to those of the Puritans or a great many Presbyterians (let alone Baptists!), one would almost think Knox & Calvin were Anglican.

    I believe that we do ourselves a disservice when we throw the liturgical baby out with the bathwater.

    ---------- Post added at 11:11 AM ---------- Previous post was at 11:06 AM ----------

    As an addendum, this is why I habitually wear a collar, wear a Geneva gown & tabs to preach, and follow a rather limited Church calendar (Advent, Christmastide, Epiphany, Pentecost, Trinity, Lent, Easter, etc.). And, while I strongly object to images in worship, I am of the opinion that our music should be excellent and that our sanctuaries ought to be simple and spartan without being unadorned. Liturgical colors, candles, Advent wreaths, and other decorations add much to the worship of a congregation.

    Of course, as I currently serve 950 sex offenders in the State Prison, my ability to decorate the chapel is limited. (See my post trolling for chancel furniture in the PB market thread, hint, hint!)
  16. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Austin, I don't think you know what you are talking about to be quite frank. So I would ask you to prove that first statement. Who do you think the English were that made up the Westminster Assembly but those very English Puritans you are talking about in your last sentence?

  17. Scottish Lass

    Scottish Lass Puritan Board Doctor

    It hasn't happened to me, but I know two women who have been told to stop because it is divisive, disruptive, etc.
  18. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    There is no contradiction between the Confession and the Directory. Notice again what the directory actually says:

    It is impossible to argue that every December 25th, for instance, is a "special emergent occasion". When a great judgment has fallen or is impending calling for fasting is appropriate: when a great judgment has been avoided or a great blessing has been bestowed, it is appropriate to call for thanksgiving. But the occasional nature of those services shows that it is not part of a recurring church calendar - it is a response to God's ongoing providence.
  19. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Ruben is correct; for background on this issue see my paper at the link below. As far as the moderate position for which many today would argue, a simple rotation of preaching subjects, if that had been acceptable to the Westminster Assembly, they would have allowed for it in their directory which was to be as far as it went a binding uniformity of practice. However, given the arguments of one of the Scottish Commissioners and the writings of the other assemblyman, it is more likely they would have taken the position that this was simply holding the door open to return to the half reformed worship of the Anglican Church and to superstitious worship.
    The Religious Observance of Christmas and Holy Days in American Presbyterianism
  20. Austin

    Austin Puritan Board Freshman

    Chris: if you look at the history of the times, there were multiple groups represented at the Assembly. Some of them were indeed what would later be considered definitive "puritans," but many were more moderate. This is why the Westminster Standards are milder then the later Roundheads wanted. It was the more "ultra" group that took over the Parliament during the Cromwellian years. Also of interest, it was the Cromwell partisans who later persecuted the Scots and those who adhered to Westminster theology and practice. They were, in many regards, the English version of the later French Revolutionaries. They were radicals. The Westminster Assembly was not radical. Indeed, many of the Anglicans were initially comfortable with most of the Westminster Standards. It was not necessarily the words that they ended up differing with, but the application by those who were of the radical party.

    I would suggest some reading of the English Civil War, the Commonwealth, and the Restoration to get a deeper understanding of our Standards. Much of what we tend to longingly look back to as the "Puritan & Reformed glory days" is really the extremists who hijacked the English Reformation. The "Puritans" were not always the 'good guys.'

    As a side note, which some may say is an ad hominem note to inject into all of this, is the fact that the English Presbyterians and Congregationalists (the heirs of the radicals) devolved first into legalism, then into Unitarianism & what we now call theological modernism.
  21. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Austin, you've only been here for a few months, so you may not have known this; but it is rather laughable to hear someone tell Chris he needs to read some history to attain to a better understanding of the Standards. Consider, after all, some of the work he's done.

    There's this:
    Available Now: Westminster Larger Catechism Manuscript Transcripts | Naphtali Press

    And this:
    Two Books by George Gillespie, Anonymous Writings and Assertion of the Government | Naphtali Press

    And this:
    3. The Westminster Assembly & the Judicial Law: A Chronological Compilation and Analysis. Part One: Chronology
    By Chris Coldwell

    All of that along with ongoing work on the critical text of the Standards. In other words, Chris knows quite a bit more about the Assembly and their productions than the average person.
  22. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Austin, please see the source material I referenced in my posts as far as an answer. As far as radicals, it was the same long parliament that called the Westminster Assembly which outlawed the observance of holy days and Christmas specifically in June 1647, perfectly in keeping with the 1645 Westminster Directory for worship. As to the extent of my reading, what can I say? :lol:
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