What to do with Monuments of Past Idolatry "in the Church"

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NaphtaliPress

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[FONT=&quot]In the largest part of the four which make up A Dispute Against the English Popish Ceremonies, George Gillespie sets out to prove the disputed ceremonies are idolatrous. [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]§1. I have proved the ceremonies to be superstitious [see Part 3, chapter 1]; now I will prove them to be idolatrous. These are different arguments; for every idolatry is superstition, but every superstition is not idolatry, as is rightly by some distinguished.[FONT=&quot][1][/FONT] As for the idolatry of the controverted ceremonies, I will prove that they are thrice idolatrous: I. Reductivè [By conducting], because they are monuments of by-past idolatry; II. Participativè [By imparting, see Part 3 Chapter 3], because they are badges of present idolatry; III. Formaliter [By form, see Part 3 Chapter 4], because they are idols themselves.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]In Part 3 chapter 2,[2] Gillespie takes up monuments of past idolatry and frames a rule which he explains. [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]First, then, they are idolatrous, because having been notoriously abused to idolatry heretofore, they are the detestable and accursed monuments, which give no small honor to the memory of that by-past idolatry which should lie buried in hell. Dr. Burges reckons for idolatrous all ceremonies devised and used in and to the honoring of an idol, whether properly or by interpretation such. Of which sort (he says) were all the ceremonies of the pagans, and not a few of the Papists.[FONT=&quot][3][/FONT] If an opposite, writing against us, is forced to acknowledge this much, one may easily conjecture what enforcing reason we have to double out our point. The argument in hand I frame thus:[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]All things and rites which have been notoriously abused to idolatry, if they are not such as either God or nature has made to be of a necessary use, should be utterly abolished and purged away from divine worship, in such sort that they may not be accounted nor used by us as sacred things or rites pertaining to the same.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]But the cross, surplice, kneeling in the act of receiving the communion, &c., are things and rites, &c., and are not such as either God or nature, &c.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Therefore they should be utterly abolished, &c.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]§2. As for the proposition I shall first explain it, and then prove it. I say, all things and rites, for they are alike forbidden, as I shall show. I say, which have been notoriously abused to idolatry, because if the abuse is not known, we are blameless for retaining the things and rites which have been abused. I say, if they are not such as either God or nature has made to be of a necessary use, because if they are of a necessary use, either through God’s institution, as the sacraments, or through nature’s law, as the opening of our mouths to speak (for when I am to preach or pray publicly, nature makes it necessary that I open my mouth to speak audibly and articularly), then the abuse cannot take away the use. I say, they may not be used by us as sacred things, rites pertaining to divine worship, because without [outside] the compass of worship they may be used to a natural or civil purpose. If I could get no other meat to eat than the consecrated host, which Papists idolatrise [idolize] in the circumgestation[FONT=&quot][4][/FONT] of it, I might lawfully eat it; and if I could get no other clothes to put on than the holy garments wherein a priest has said mass, I might lawfully wear them. Things abused to idolatry are only then unlawful when they are used no otherwise than religiously, and as things sacred.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Gillespie then pursues five proofs of this rule for dealing with monuments to idolatry (3.2.3–6):[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]1. He adduces God’s own precept. Isaiah. 30:22. Jude 23, Exodus 34:13; Deuteronomy 7:25, 26; Numbers 33:52; Deuteronomy 7:5; 12:2, 3.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]2. The abolishing of relics of idolatry is manifestly acceptable service toward God. Numbers 33:52, 53; Isaiah 27:9.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]3. The churches of Pergamos and Thyatira are reproved for tolerating idolothites. Revelation 2:14–20. He subsequently spends a page or more distinguishing two sorts of idolathites. [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]4. He adduces approved examples. Jacob (Gen. 35:4); Elijah (1 Kings 18:30); Jehu (2 Kings 10:22–28); Hezekiah's destruction of the brazen serpent which had been originally set up at God’s command (2 Kings 18:4), Josiah (2 Kings 23); Manasseh (2 Chron. 23:15); Moses (Exod. 32:17–20); and Daniel (Dan. 1:8).[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]5. He backs the rule or proposition with a two fold reason, that things notoriously abused to idolatry remind and that they move. They preserve the memory of idols (cf. Exod. 23:13; Deut. 12:3; Josh. 23:7; Esth. 3:2; Deut. 25:19), and “such idolatrous remainders move us to turn back to idolatry.” “God would have Israel to overthrow all idolatrous monuments, lest thereby they should be snared (Deut. 7:25; 12:30).[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]Food for thought this time of year.[/FONT]
----------------------------
[FONT=&quot][1][/FONT]
Synop. Pur. Theol., disp. 19, thes. 30 [sic thesis 3]. [Synopsis Purioris Theologiae, ed. Bavinck (1881) 162–163.]

[FONT=&quot][FONT=&quot][2][/FONT][/FONT]
That the Ceremonies are Unlawful, Because they are Monuments of Bypast Idolatry, which not being Necessary to be Retained, should be Utterly Abolished, Because of their Idolatrous Abuse: All Which is Particularly Made Good Of Kneeling.

[FONT=&quot][3][/FONT]
Manuduct., sect. 2, p. 38. [Cf. An Answer Rejoined (1631)].

[FONT=&quot][4][/FONT]
[Meaning to carry around; obviously a scornful remark respecting the papal practice of uplifting, displaying, and carrying the elements around to be adored by the people.]
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Put them in museums.

Some might argue that the Kings of Israel that were zealous against idolatry, didn't put the idols in museums but destroyed them. But the idols that the Kings of Israel were dealing with weren't old or interesting enough to go in museums, and the passion for idolatry among the people hadn't been quoshed by grace in such a way as the idols could be safely displayed in museums. :think:

The good activities of the Kings of Israel are to be fulfilled first of all in those of King Jesus and His people the Church (who are kings),in a spiritual and ecclesiastical way ; secondarily, socially and politically, with particular reference to Christian civil ministers; thirdly, eschatalogically, when God in Christ destroys all idolatry at the end of time.

The second is where the theonomy/anti-theonomy debate kicks in.
 
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Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
By Chris' post, the phrase "abolishing of relics of idolatry" seems to mean destroying of idolatries, such as cutting down of the high places, such that even a museum is not enough. Since museums are full of idols and some idols still remain standing apart from museums as monuments to the past, a consistent ethic that brings forth the OT practices into our own era would stop only at the complete destruction of all idols and would resemble the Taliban destroying the Buddhas in Afghanistan.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Which is another example of why OT case laws have to be looked at for their general equity, and the examples kings, prophets and priests have to be also interpreted carefully.

I think Chris maybe drew attention to this passage from Gillespie in connection with the keeping of Christmas, which is a festival that is difficult or impossible to keep in a Reformed way.

I was brought up to keep New Year rather than Christmas but I now somewhat go along with Crimbo (Liverpudlian) for the sake of family and friends.
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Folks, the OP is not about statues of Buddha or liberty; it is about Romish traditions in the Church.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Perhaps a profitable and on topic way of interacting with the OP would be to address the argument and the application of it, in the Christian Church and it's worship and particularly the reform thereof. No "Buddha trails" please.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
It is not a buddha trail. It's a very relevent point that I think you need to address it (how not to look like the Tailban if you promote breaking down the monuments to other religions by force).

You mentioned idolatry and thus buddha and the Virgin Mary are both the same and my arguments are valid.
 

seajayrice

Puritan Board Sophomore
Gillespie is irrelevant regarding contemporary idols and worship. Otherwise, one could hardly affirm the goodness of the US Constitution, religious freedom and those things many hold dear in America such as separation of Church and State. To some, those “symbols” are worthy of adoration and reflect sound statecraft. Rome is only one focus of idolatry.
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
It is not a buddha trail. It's a very relevent point that I think you need to address it (how not to look like the Tailban if you promote breaking down the monuments to other religions by force).

You mentioned idolatry and thus buddha and the Virgin Mary are both the same and my arguments are valid.

Except that we are talking about what the Church should practice, not what the State should smash.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Maybe a good question would be, "How would general equity impact our understanding of what we should do in light of the OT theocracy's cutting down of the high places?"

Does this mean that now, for the NT people of God, we should demolish all the idols of our heart, or should we also seek legislative or military action to break down the literal high places of false religion even now?
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Maybe a good question would be, "How would general equity impact our understanding of what we should do in light of the OT theocracy's cutting down of the high places?"

Does this mean that now, for the NT people of God, we should demolish all the idols of our heart, or should we also seek legislative or military action to break down the literal high places of false religion even now?

The question is not, What should the state do with idolatrous statues? The question is, What should the Church do with ceremonies which have a history rooted in idolatry?

I believe the particular ceremony NaphtaliPress had in mind was probably Advent/Christmas and the church ceremonies associated with it. To my knowledge, you are the first one in this thread who mentioned the government getting involved.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Sounds like a topic; go start your own thread.
Maybe a good question would be, "How would general equity impact our understanding of what we should do in light of the OT theocracy's cutting down of the high places?"

Does this mean that now, for the NT people of God, we should demolish all the idols of our heart, or should we also seek legislative or military action to break down the literal high places of false religion even now?
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Austin,

If you apply this quotation from Gillespie to be limited to the church, and if the intention of the OP was to promote the "cutting down of the high places" within the church, then I give a hearty Amen, for it would mean that we are applying the verses about destroying false religion to preserving purity in our worship and destroying false religion within the Church, and not anything Talaban-ish. This would mean not allowing statues of Mary in the church or, as some would argue Christmas trees, and would be keeping with my own views of what general equity means.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Glad we worked that out. Let's keep this in the here and now as it applies to the church and her worship as much as in us lies and leave subjects of establishment and what the Christian magistrate may or may not do, must or must not do, to some other discussion, and in the proper forum. Please.
Also, if anyone thinks seeing the full context or even the full chapter from which the OP post comes maybe I can post that some way.
Austin,

If you apply this quotation from Gillespie to be limited to the church, and if the intention of the OP was to promote the "cutting down of the high places" within the church, then I give a hearty Amen, for it would mean that we are applying the verses about destroying false religion to preserving purity in our worship and destroying false religion within the Church, and not anything Talaban-ish. This would mean not allowing statues of Mary in the church or, as some would argue Christmas trees, and would be keeping with my own views of what general equity means.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Well to me Christmas is purely cultural and certainly not a religious obligation, and I'd happily go back to sending N'Year cards, putting decorations up for N'Year, exchanging presents at N'Year, and having pork roast and apple sauce, etc, on N'Year's Day, going to church for a N'Year's Day service, as I was brought up with, tomorrow.

It's extremely anomalous in a Reformed setting. Do you not have to be a Roman Catholic, or at least a Lutheran, to keep Christmas properly? How do you keep a Reformed Christmas?

I don't "keep Christmas" but just go along with some of the events.

It would be mildly interesting to trace how Christmas overtook New Year in Scotland and in Scotland's churches, probably very quickly, after the advent of Britain-wide TV.

There are no decorations or Christmas tre, in the Free Church in Perth, but we exchange Christmas cards, have a Christmas meal, and we have a party on a weekday for the kids with Daddy Crimbo.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
If Gillespie's quote is taken in light of church-endorsed corporate worship, then I am forced to agree 100% with it.

We as a church body should not follow the fads and fashions of man or man-made seasons. Though, celebrating birthdays privately and other holidays in one's personal home is a different matter entirely, just like in areas of music to be used during worship. I guess Chris posted this due to the approach of Christmas, and I do not favor Christmas celebrations in the church or trees in the sanctuary, etc.

The wording of Gillespie, however, is very strong and almost militant, but I guess the Catholics and Protestants were much less amicable and lived much less in peaceful co-existence then when compared with now. I would much prefer modern arguments as we engage culture instead of proving everything by a quote from the puritans though, for I feel they were also erring children of their age and this comes out most in their style of polemic.


Chris,

What would Gillespie say needs to be done with churches that mix Christmas celebrations with normal worship practices? What is the remedy? How do we "cut down the high places" in the church?
 

Wayne

Tempus faciendi, Domine.
Something similar from Jeremiah Burroughs, whose Commentary on Hosea never fails to edify. On Hosea 10:2, page 423 (SDG, 1989):

Obs. 1. Though men strive never so much to maintain that which is evil, God will break it; they may by their contending and seeking have it a while, but God will break the neck of it at last, it shall come to nothing.
Obs. 2. Though men be convinced of an evil, yet if the temptation abide they will recur to it again. "He shall break down their altars." Why? they were convinced before of the evil of them, for so in the former words, "now shall they be found faulty," they shall acknowledge themselves guilty in contending so much for them. Well, but, saith God, though you are convinced of your guiltiness, yet that is not enough, I will break them down; for otherwise, if they remain, they may be snares unto you: to prevent that evil, the evil temptations are to be taken away as far as possible. You acknowledge yourselves guilty when my hand is upon you, but you will turn to it again if the temptation be not removed, therefore will I break down your altars, and spoil your images.
Obs. 3. Superstitious altars and images are to be taken away. It is the magistrate's work to take away those that are in public places; but I have spoken of that before, and shall not recur to it now; only if you meet with any superstitious pictures and images, you must not keep them, and say, What hurt will these do? though they do not hurt now, yet they may afterwards; you are not to sell and make gain of them, but do as God does, break them down and spoil them, that they may not hereafter be snares to others.
Obs. 4. Those things to which we give that respect which is God's due, are liable to the stroke of God. They gave to their altars and images the respect due to God; God's Spirit rises against that; "he shall break down their altars, he shall spoil their images," saith God. So, whatever it be to which you give that respect which God challenges to himself you may expect that God will spoil it and break it down. If you give to your estates the respect due to God, you make an idol of them, and may expect that God will break them; yea, to your children, your names, your bodies, parts, whatsoever you have, if you rob God of that respect which is due to him, and give it unto them, expect that God will break such things.
Obs. 5. If it be God's will to break down that which is evil in his worship, let us take heed that we have no hand to set it up; that we do not endeavour to set up false worship, for it is in God's heart to break it down: let us not set up idols, either in our hearts, or elsewhere.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
I agree we simply do not borrow the polemical style of a previous age in our own reforms. Few of us are going to be in the position of a John Knox with a Queen Mary, or the particular setting of a Gillespie with the English Popish Prelates. As far as the question, the answer simply is that the worship has to be "un"mixed. The extent of the remedy for particular churches has to be subject to all sorts of parameters such as the church's polity, the grossness of the observances, etc. It is largely going to be at the congregational level. The only instance I'm familiar with is my previous church where the church was fairly unified in taking the step of getting observance out of worship and it was a fairly easy step if I recall. Perhaps the best way to expand on this would be to start a thread where folks can contribute attempts on seeking reforms? This is basically a question of how we seek to reform any practice in the church though, and is subject to all the other rules of the Word.
Chris,

What would Gillespie say needs to be done with churches that mix Christmas celebrations with normal worship practices? What is the remedy? How do we "cut down the high places" in the church?
 

darrellmaurina

Puritan Board Freshman
Personally, I think the Taliban destroying the Buddha statutes is an example of a broken clock being right twice a day. Let's say Afghanistan were ruled by Oliver Cromwell or John Knox. Do we think either of them would do anything different? Think of all the smashing of stained glass and throwing of large crosses into the sea that were done by the Puritans.

Realistically, however, since we are exceedingly unlikely to have a Reformed civil government or even an explicitly evangelical civil government in power in our lifetimes, we need to deal with practical issues in the local congregation. What does a Reformed church do when it buys a former Methodist or PCUSA building that has a large stained glass image of Christ? I'm personally prepared to sell the stained glass window to some broadly evangelical church that wants it and whose doctrine doesn't object to images of Christ, and then use the money for some Christian cause outside the local church that knows where the money is coming from and does not have a conscientious objection to it.

But what if the image is a "Sacred Heart of Jesus" from a former Roman Catholic church that is explicitly heretical? I think an image like that needs to be destroyed, not sold or placed in a museum, since it cannot be anything other than idolatry even according to the loosest possible interpretation of Reformed views of images.
 
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