Sunday, December 25, 2016

Is Christmas verboten?

The regulative principle is used to forbid traditional customs like Christmas. One of the prooftexts for the regulative principle is the cautionary tale of Nadab and Abihu (Lev 10:1-2; Num 3:4; 26:61). 

What they did wrong depends in part on which version you quote. The NIV says "contrary to his command" whereas the ESV (and NASB) says "which he had not commanded". 

There's an elementary difference between doing something that God has not commanded and doing something contrary to what God has commanded. 

There are, however, some other textual clues:

i) The fact that they resorted to "unauthorized fire" suggests that they violated Lev 16:12. Instead of getting kosher coals from the high altar, they took coals from some other source. Maybe a campfire. 

The significance of coals from the high alter derives from the fact that God himself ignited the altar. So that would be supernatural fire which signifies God himself (God is light), rather than a human fire.

In that event, their transgression lay not in doing something that God hadn't commanded, but in disobeying something that God had commanded. 

ii) Another possibility is that they usurped the role of the high priest by entering the inner sanctum. If so, their transgression lay not in doing something that God hadn't prescribed, but in something that God had proscribed. 

It's possible that they were guilty of both. And there are other explanations, although the evidence is more tenuous. 

In any case, I don't see any exegetical evidence that they were punished for merely doing something not commanded, but for doing something they were commanded not to do. On the face of it, prootexting the regulative principle from the fate of Nadab and Abihu is a bait-n-switch. Note the slippage from what is not commanded to what is prohibited, as if those are equivalent concepts. 

iii) The accounts of what they did wrong are sketchy, but the gist of it seems to be that they brought something profane into contact with something holy. In the Mosaic cultus, there were ritually pure inanimate objects. Holy furniture, holy utensils, holy vestments, holy places, &c. Mingling what was unholy with what was holy, in this sense, was forbidden.

However, we don't have holy inanimate objects under the new covenant. We don't have the purity codes and kosher laws. 

iv) In addition, the Puritan position reduces to the notion that we should only celebrate Jesus once every 7 days. Not celebrate him the other 6 days of the week. But surely Christians should celebrate Jesus all the time. 


  1. Please help me to understand this RPW stuff. Under the old covenant any deviation from the script was by definition doing that which was forbidden, as there were not only holy objects but holy space and degrees of holiness among people. While this is not the case under the new covenant, is there no general equity of the ceremonial law for today; eg who gets to do what liturgically?

    Isn't the prohibition of sacred days also tied to Westminster's view of the discretionary authority of the church being limited to adiaphora? Also, if the RPW limits Christian worship, is it somehow holier to have church multiple times per week as some fringe fundies do? Puritans were big advocates of daily family altar, which seems to negate your contention.

    Finally, as a Lutheran let me tell you that the only reason the grass is greener on the normative principle side of the fence is because our septic tank leaks. If all we need do is not do that which is forbidden, then liturgical dance, skits, and other abominations are all in play, trivializing our worship and multiplying the trivialization by the number of sacred days per year. We liturgical conservatives are left with some pretty week arguments which appear less and less convincing to the church as a whole.

    1. I don't think general equity applies to the ceremonial law. Traditionally, Presbyterians think the ceremonial law is defunct. General equity applies to discerning where the civil/criminal laws mirror the moral law.

    2. In your opinion, then, is NT worship whatever floats one's boat, or does anything carry over; eg was Westminster on the money or out to lunch?

  2. I don't know much about the RPW approach, but it seems to me overly restrictive in a way that would be analogous to only limiting ourselves to Biblical prayers and excluding impromptu/extemporaneous prayers. Or only doing theology using Biblical words. When in actuality it's understanding the meaning of the Scripture that we need to get to, beyond the mere words. I'm reminded of John Owen's statement about the use of extra-Biblical words HERE.

    The New Testament instructs us to worship God in "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" (Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16). It seems to me that this isn't a case of Hebrew parallelism where all three types of worship are referring to the same thing. Even the Carmen Christi in Phil. 2:6-11 seems to be a recording of a New Testament extra-Biblical hymn.

    This seems to be in keeping with the Old Testament principle of worshipping God with a "new song" (Ps. 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1; Isa. 42:10). Even the NT repeats this OT "principle" in Rev. 5:9 and 14:3. The Psalms also encourage us to use various musical instruments to worship God. David, the psalm writer, is clearly presented in Scripture to us as an example for us to follow. Why not also in his song writing, singing and playing an instrument? Both the new songs and instruments that the Nevi'im and Ketuvim encourage, are not themselves included in the prescriptions of the Law (i.e. Torah/Pentateuch) and so would seem to violate an OT version of the RPW.

    The RPW also would seem to implicitly deny the Biblical (and Reformational) teaching of the Priesthood of All Believers. As if the worship of a Christian family at home (or a gathering of a "home church") is somehow inferior to one in a "church building". The 1st century Christians for the most part didn't have such buildings. Most of them were "home churches". One of the purposes of the RPW was to overcome Catholic sacerdotalism, yet ironically it perpetuates it by tacitly teaching that a "TRUE" worship service is only one where an ordained minister (read "priest") is presiding.


    1. The NT itself doesn't positively provide a (detailed) model worship service of an assembly of believers other than that they "break bread" (celebrate communion). It doesn't even command a particular day or worship (Rom. 14:5). Even regarding communion, Paul's use of the phrase "as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup" seems to imply that communion isn't limited to any particular day of the week (1 Cor. 11:26, cf. Jesus' statement as paraphrased by Paul in the previous verse). While, it seems to me there was no specific day of worship in the New Testament church, I do think there are hints in the New Testament canon that it was a growing tradition to worship on the 1st day without making it a specific command (since sabbath worship was accepted as well).

      Jesus Himself apparently celebrated Hanukkah even though it's an extra-Biblical religious day of worship/celebration (John 10:22). Or at least He acknowledged its celebration and used it as a spring board to preach His Gospel.

      All this suggests to me that it's okay to celebrate extra-Biblical Christian religious holidays. Regarding the claim that Easter, the Christmas date and various practices associated with them (e.g. a decorated tree) have pagan origins, I think so long as it doesn't promote pagan beliefs, it's harmless. It's like the Israelites plundering the Egyptians (Exo. 12:36). Baal was preeminently the Semitic god who was thought to "ride the clouds". But the OT had no problem co-opting that imagery to declare and proclaim that YHWH is the true Almighty God who "rides the clouds" as ruler of heaven and earth. See, Old Testament scholar Michael Heiser explaining this co-oping in his VIDEO HERE [already cued up to 1:29:32].

    2. typo correction:

      It doesn't even command a particular day or [OF] worship (Rom. 14:5).

      Also, the phrase in the book of Hebrews that says, "...the assembling of ourselves together" (Heb. 10:25) might also suggest that there was no particular day on which the Apostles ruled would be "THE Day of Worship" or "new sabbath".

    3. Some observations:
      1. Something seeming hymnic doesn't make it so;
      2. There is no encouragemnt to use instruments, but specific commands for specific instruments in specific settings; your position posits a general equity which needs some fleshing-out;
      3. Singing new songs could applyt ot he NT canticles, but it's a stretch to use that a a prooftext for uninspired hymnody;
      4. Hanukkah would be a sort of mixture of Thanksgiving and July 4th; Purim, too, was extrabiblical, but I've always understood Westminster to allow for the civil magistrate to declare days of thanksgiving and prayer (vs the church);
      5. The plundering of the Egyptians involved heir wealth contra their religious practices.

      Your thoughs?

    4. Re: #1 ==> NT scholars whose expertise is on NT Christology have concluded that the Carmen Christi is a Christian hymn or fragment of one. I agree that it's not certain it was an early Christian hymn, but it likely was and that Paul is quoting it. I suppose a proponent of RPW might argue that it could have been inspired by one of the Apostles and therefore doesn't violate RPW. But there's no positive evidence it was written by an Apostle.

      Re: #2 ==> David wrote some of his Psalms as a shepherd before becoming King. He wasn't authorized to compose, sing and perform (with instruments) his psalms. Psalms which we now know to have been inspired, or eventually given inspired status and incorporated in the OT Canon. In the previous comments I was making an inferentially inductive argument, not a deductive one. It seems to me that David is a paradigmatic example for us.

      Re: #3 ==> If I understand your question correctly, that seems to me to beg the question regarding the (in my mind dubious) distinction between "True Church" worship and worship outside of "Church". It also touches on whether we take seriously the priesthood of all believers.

      Re: #4 ==> "I've always understood Westminster to allow for the civil magistrate to declare days of thanksgiving and prayer (vs the church);". This might be a case of inconsistency on the part of the Westminster divines. If so, then that strengthens my case.

      Re: #5 ==> The plundering of the Egyptians was an analogy. I agree with Gordon Clark about the weakness of using analogies in making a propositional point. That's why I also immediately gave a more direct example by the Jewish co-opting of Baal worship and theology.

      Earlier you wrote: there were not only holy objects but holy space and degrees of holiness...

      I agree that in the Old Testament cultus there were holy (or sacred) spaces/cosmic geography etc. God condemned the setting up of a rival temple in the northern Kingdom of Israel along with other Asherah poles, groves and pagan altars scattered throughout Palestine. However, I think Naaman's experience was prophetic of New Testament worship which includes the goyim/gentiles. It foreshadows both the priesthood of all believers and that one day all peoples will worship YHWH everywhere in a way not limited to the temple and it's special priesthood. I think so does Job's sacrifices.

      Then Naaman said [to Elisha], “If not, please let there be given to your servant two mule loads of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the LORD.- 2 Kings 5:17

      The soil was so that Naaman could worship and sacrifice to YHWH "in the land of Israel" (so to speak) while actually in the land of Syria.


    5. When the Samaritan woman brought up the the dispute between Jews and Samaritans on the location of worship (John 4:20), Jesus said, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."

      God is true omnipresent Spirit. The form doesn't seem to matter as much as the truth. It seems to me that so long as it's based on truth and doesn't contradict it, it's an acceptable form of worship. David religiously danced and worshiped before YHWH when escorting the Ark to the City of David even though that wasn't prescribed in the Torah. He also performed extra-Biblical sacrifices along the way (every "six steps", 2 Sam. 6:13). The ephod he was wearing might even have been a religious or even priestly one.

      Speaking of David, when he initially tried to transport the Ark, there was merry making before YHWH and they used, "...songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals" which weren't prescribed by the Law. So, that also addresses your point #2 as well.

    6. In the OT the weekly sabbath was one of the most sacred and scrupulously observed detail of faithful worship. The fact (which some may dispute) that the NT doesn't prescribe [nor even indicate there was a known but not recorded prescription of] a particular day of worship for New Covenant believers, to me, speaks volumes. Especially since I have relatives who are Seventh Day Adventists (and I was a former 7th day sabbatarian, though never an Adventist).

      If the New Testament doesn't prescribe a particular day of worship, then that (to me at least) SCREAMS FREEDOM of worship in all other areas (like the use of instruments and extra-Biblical songs/hymns/psalms etc.)

      Instead of there being set days, or places, or objects or prayers or methods or instruments as in the OT, the NT seems to be teaching we ought to worship God every day (always), everywhere, with all kinds of prayers and songs and methods. Where the Spirit of the YHWH is, there is liberty (2 Cor. 3:17).

      Muslims might boast over Christians because they pray to God 7 times a day. The Christian says that's not enough. The true, New Testament God requires we pray to Him "without ceasing", "always", "continually" et cetera. The legalist Christian may given his 10% tithe or the Muslim his 2.5% Zakat, but the New Covenant standard is that it ALL BELONGS to God, we're only stewards, and we're to sacrifice it all to Him.

    7. As a Lutheran I'm not RPW, so you and I are pretty much on the same side of the fence. I add that the RPW is less a protocol than a nose of wax. Nonetheless a few points of diffence (same enumeration):

      1. Some scholars say some things, and others say others. The Westminster divines were no tyros and so why would one choose the opinions you set forth above those of Westminster?

      2. David was a prophet whise words were providentially preserved byt he Holy Ghost; DG one an't say the same for Andre Crouch and Fanny Corsby. No paradigm.

      3. No distinction offered, as Westminster doesn't make it either. Besides, the priesthood of all believers is an OT doctrine, with special (clerical) and general (lay) priests. The NT presents us with presbuteroi (Gospel ministers) and deacons; ie general equity.

      4. Both Hanukkah and Purim where magisterially instituted, so how does that strengthen your case?

      5. It was a bad anology, as Israel was always punished for cooptation. As for dr heiser, he is hardly the last word; did israel coopt Baalism or did God turn a metaphor? Big difference I think.

      Some other points:

      6. As the papists ask, where does the buck stop? How would you answer one who read your post and accused you of solo Scriptura; ie any opinion but the church's? The OT had its seventy elders and ascending courts, fallible but authoritiative. Who decides what "decently and in order" looks like?

      7. What does an order look like? For those of us who served in the military, the request of a superior was an order, and the "follow me" of the infantry was an invitation to imitate the conduct of our superiors. So, if the church was wont to worship on Sunday as its primary service and that is so recorded in Scripture, i need a good reason to do otherwise. BTW orthodox Jews to this day worship daily; it's public worship if there is a quorum of 10 bar mitzvahed men (minyan), so daily worship is hardly a new concept.

      8. "The earth is the LORD's and the fullness theof" is, again, OT, and Israelites were aware of their stewardship role. Nonetheless there was the tithe; what do you see as its general equity today?

      Inquiring minds want to know;-)

    8. The Westminster divines were no tyros and so why would one choose the opinions you set forth above those of Westminster?

      Re: #1 ==> If my arguments make better sense to them is a good reason. They may or may not.

      Re: #2 ==> DG one an't say the same for Andre Crouch and Fanny Corsby. No paradigm.

      I don't understand what you're saying here.

      Re: #3 ==> IMO the priesthood of all believers is more fully developed, realized and carried out. I don't deny the reality or need for minsters of the gospel. But they are for the sake of order. They are not strictly necessary as the Levites were in the OT. A group of laymen stranded on a desert island can have worship services without anyone formally ordained. If they want, they can appoint one of them (who is especially suited) to be their minister even though he doesn't have Apostolic Succession that goes back to the Apostles.

      Re: #4 ==> The division between church and state wasn't as fine and high back then. We might be anachronistically superimposing the modern understand back to them. The inconsistency is not with the Jews celebrating Hanukkah and Purim, but with the Westminster divines allowing for special days of thanksgiving and prayer as if that doesn't produce a tension in their theology and practice.


    9. Re: #5 ==> ..Israel was always punished for cooptation. As for dr heiser, he is hardly the last word; did israel coopt Baalism or did God turn a metaphor?

      There are other examples of possible co-opting of pagan concepts by the Biblical Jews:

      - Angelic descriptions which were incorporated into the design of the Tabernacle cloths and the top of the Ark of the Covenant may have been co-opted (by God's command) from surrounding pagan descriptions of cherubim and seraphim.

      -The Ark itself might have been co-opted by God's command. Moses may have seen previous pagan Arks/Boxes while growing up and being trained in Egypt.

      Circumcision might have been co-opted. Abraham almost certainly was not the first to circumcise among Semites. surrounding him.

      When the Israelites dispossessed the indigenous pagan Canaanite tribes from Palestine, they "co-opting"-in a sense-the land, the houses, wells, vineyards etc.

      Even today, most Christians have no problem conforming to the popular use of the names of the days of the weeks and months. Even though they have pagan origins (e.g. Monday is named after the moon goddess Luna; and March is named after Mars the god of war).

      Various mathematical concepts like pi and phi have a history in pagan religions and philosophies (e.g. the Pythagoreans). But Christians have no problem co-opting them.

      Re: #6 ==> As the papists ask, where does the buck stop? How would you answer one who read your post and accused you of solo Scriptura; ie any opinion but the church's?

      I reject Solo Scriptura if that means me and my Bible alone in the woods without taking into consideration the theological giants that have come before me in the history of the church (i.e. a Solo Scriptura that virtually or actually denies that God has been working throughout the Church Age to the present). However, I find that many who make the Solo vs. Sola distinction often Solo in a way that I think falls under Sola. Namely, defined as Scripture having the highest authority such that it alone can bind one's conscience. Why? Because it is the sole infallible rule of faith for the church and individual believer. I find that some who make the distinction between Solo and Sola place too high a value on Creeds and Confessions. Having read Keith Mathison's The Shape of Sola Scriptura cover to cover, I definitely think he's one who does that. Given THAT view of "Sola Scriptura" (falsely so-called), Athanasius should have recanted since his view was (during the 5 decade long Arian Ascendancy) the "minority report" of the church.

      The OT had its seventy elders and ascending courts, fallible but authoritiative. Who decides what "decently and in order" looks like?

      Yet, Moses wished that all the people of Israel had the Spirit rest on them when Joshua complained that two elders who remained in the camp prophesied without them (Num. 11:16-30). When John complained that people were casting out demons in Jesus' name, Jesus said, "For the one who is not against us is for us" (Mark 9:38-41). Moses' wish was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost so that God's Spirit fell on all flesh (young, old, males, females, servants, free). So "that all may prophesy" (1 Cor. 14:31). God decides what his decent and orderly. He's revealed in Scripture the principles by which we can tell if something is or isn't decent and orderly.


    10. Re: #7 ==> You're superimposing a military structure to the Church rather than the familial or bodily metaphor emphasized in the NT. There's no doubt that the church is God's spiritual army, but that doesn't translate to an earthly and temporal hierarchy.

      So, if the church was wont to worship on Sunday as its primary service and that is so recorded in Scripture, i need a good reason to do otherwise.

      That's a non-sequitur. Being in habit of something doesn't make it a prescribed duty. Or a violation of a duty to deviate from it. Paul's statement is clear, "5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord..."- Rom. 14:5-6a. Regarding legalistic observance of days, Paul wrote, "10 You observe days and months and seasons and years!11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain"- Gal. 4:10-11.

      BTW orthodox Jews to this day worship daily; it's public worship if there is a quorum of 10 bar mitzvahed men (minyan), so daily worship is hardly a new concept.

      Jesus said, where two or three are gathered together in His name, He's there in their midst. A "Church Service" can be as little as two people. Two persecuted Christians in the 1st (or 21st) century don't have to feel bad that they don't have 10 or 50 people to have a "REAL" church service.

      Re: #8 ==> My point was that what was either implicit in the OT or specifically taught in the OT (e.g. kingdom of priests, Exo. 19:6; the earth is the LORD's, Ps. 24) is made more explicit in the New Covenant. As I said, " more fully developed, realized and carried out" more consistently. I don't think there is a Christian tithe. Regarding the Temple tax, Jesus said the children/sons are free (Matt. 17:26). There's a sense in which Christians don't need to give anything because God Himself has given everything necessary in His Son, and another sense in which we are to give everything to God because He already owns it. This is what Jesus was getting at when He told the rich young ruler to give away all he possessed because he was still withholding some things from God and acted as if he possessed things apart from God. Even though, as a "good Jew", he intellectually knew "the earth is the LORD's" who says "For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand [i.e. all] hills." (Ps. 50:10) as well as " 'The silver is mine, and the gold is mine', declare the LORD " (Hag. 2:8).

    11. typo correction:

      However, I find that many who make the Solo vs. Sola distinction often [DEFINE] Solo in a way that I think falls under Sola.


      God decides what his [IS, not his] decent and orderly.

    12. The 1st century church with living Apostles could have easily modeled church hierarchy after the Roman military, but they apparently didn't intentionally. Even the Apostles were not immune to correction. Paul corrected Peter. Paul also placed an anathema on anyone, including himself, if he or anyone else preached a gospel different than originally delivered. The book of Revelation refers to the testing of supposed Apostles. Paul commended those who tested his teaching based on the Scripture (Acts 17:11).

      To add to what I said earlier regarding given all to God, another reason to do so is because we've been bought at the price of the blood of the Son of God. Being purchased, we along with our possessions now (doubly) belong to God.

  3. David Wood's wife in a NEW VIDEOgives some good reasons for why the pagan charge for Christmas is mostly bogus. I would have phrased some thing slightly differently so that the argument was stronger. Nevertheless, she makes some good points.

    For example, she points to how Paul used the altar to the Unknown God as a spring board to preach the Gospel. Also how Paul used pagan poets and poetry on religious themes and co-opted them for Christianity (e.g. Aratus, Menander, Epimenides).

    BTW, Paul may have borrowed from Plato as well too.

  4. Thanks for taking timeaway from Sol Invictus to answer me:). Let's keep the same enumeration:

    2. David's songs were inspired, while even the best of hymnody may inspire; ie no paradigm example for us
    3. A group fo Israelite travelers in distant lands could still pray together and sing the Psalter. NY clergy are for good order, but also for the necessities of Word and Sacrament - offices not open to laity to assume for themselves. During the persecution of the Hugenots seminarians were permitted to serve as ministers for tthe duration of thepersecution but had to return to their schooling during peace;
    4. Again you assert inconsistency without demonstrating it; while the church-state dichotomy was weaker in pagan times and places, the Jews of Persia were a separate millet, with Esther and Mordechai having no priestly or even rabbinical authority. They made a civil decree for those in their millet. Please state this alleged inconsistency clearly lest I miss your contention;
    5. "Might have been co-opted," "possible co-opting," "'co-opting' - in a sense?!" You can do better than wishful thinking;
    6. I've never read Mathison, but hold to the classical definition of sola Scriptura as norma normans non normata, which backs Athanasius over Arius. Per who calls the shots, having the Holy Ghost was what the seventy had, but there is no proof that their successors did in the same manner; the successors' rulings were still authoritative albeit not infallible and so,could be appealed. This is no different to the apostles and ministers today;
    7. God maintained the OT military metaphor in Rev 19:14 and Jude 14, and used the familial metaphor in the OT, so I fail to see where I'm doing any superimposing. As for an alleged non sequitur, ypu seem to be limiting God's ability to command to precepts while excluding example. Since we are to emulate our elders ("be ye imitators of me..."), ISTM we should,do that with our forebears in the faith. If they worshiped on Sunday, perhaps their doing so was due to emulating their divinely-inspired elders, I'd need a little more to convince me that this was mere convention )8th day worshipand all of that). The minyan reference was simply to illustrate that, while the OT sabbath was restricted to the 6th day, worship continued throught the week. Thus Sunday worship hardly precludes midweek prayer services or poses some legalistic restraint on The NT church;
    8. The tithe was not a limit on OT believers' giving, and was not analogous to the Roman tax upon its subjugated peoples. Christ was telling is to obey the civil authorities inspite of being kingdom heirs (my17:24f concerns tribute rather than thentemple head tax). Again,what is the general equity of the tithe?

    1. 2. It doesn't matter to me whether some of David's psalms were inspired at first composition (often without his knowing it), or whether some of them were granted inspired status afterwards similar to how the fragments of pagan poetry incorporated in the NT are. Or both (which I prefer, since inspiration can be invisible, but it's acknowledgement is visible). Also, I'm not sure why you're focusing on the inspired psalms? Yes, a contemporary hymn may not be inspired, but neither are contemporary prayers. Big deal. Or better, I don't get your point. BTW, i wouldn't be surprised if at the eschaton we find out some hymns (e.g. Fanny Crosby's) were inspired by God. As a continuationist Calvinist, I think there are two different kinds of inspiration. One is full Inspiration with authority level (on par) with Scripture, and one below that level. Even the former doesn't imply canonical status since (e.g.) not even all of Isaiah's inspired verbal statements have been recorded in Scripture. Also, for all we know, at the Eschaton God may expand the canon to include hymns by Crosby and the Wesleys, or (gasp) Don Moen.

      3. but also for the necessities of Word and Sacrament - offices not open to laity to assume for themselves.

      I'm not dogmatic, but I lean away from that. I think they are open to the laity. See Vincent Cheung's argument HERE. Even Roman Catholics believe laity can baptize in cases of emergency. Though, I disagree with them in their view that non-Christians can baptize in emergencies. Both of which are wrapped up in their view of baptismal regeneration and the necessity of baptism for salvation. Though, for the sake of church order and practicalities it's best to have ministers officiate baptisms, communion and weddings. Persecuted underground churches or church cells (i.e. small groups of Christians) don't always have an "official minister" around to officiate, and they don't absolutely need them.

      4. I'll skip this because I don't know enough about the finer details of RPW.


    2. 5. I gave the qualifications because a) I'm certain, b) and I like to be precise in my statements, c) I don't like to claim a strength for my arguments than they actually have (as so many people are wont). From what I can gather, circumcision long antedates Abraham. If so, it's possible (probable?) that Abraham had heard of circumcision in other pagan tribes before God commanded him to perform them.

      6. "Per who calls the shots" I'm not sure what you mean here. "having the Holy Ghost was what the seventy had", I don't know which 70 you're referring to. The aprox. 70 disciples referred to in Luke 10:1?

      7. Both Rev 19:14 and Jude 14 refer to the spiritual realms not the earthly. Also, to the eschaton when Christ returns. The NT is more egalitarian than Western Christianity has historically believed and practiced. While Paul called himself "father" (notice not general or centurion) to his spiritual children, that must be balanced by Christ's statement, "9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ.11 The greatest among you shall be your servant.12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." - Matt. 23:9-12. "But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie---just as it has taught you, abide in him."- 1 John 2:27 (cf. John 6:45; 14:26; 1 Cor. 2:12).

      8. Quickly browsing some commentaries, there's doesn't seem to consensus on what type of tax it was. So, you might be right that it's not the temple tax. I'm not sure what the general equity is. Maybe give God your best and first in all areas of life (e.g. the morning in prayer, or in heart devotion and love, and in giving etc.). Paul lays out the principle of New Covenant giving in 2 Cor. 9:6-12. "Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver"- 2 Cor. 9:7. I'm convinced that the tithe is no longer binding on Christians, though it's a good marker to range around. For some 10% might be too much (e.g. the poor), and for others it might be WAYYY TOO LITTLE (e.g. the rich). Also, if I recall, under the Mosaic Covenant the tithe didn't include monies like gold but only cattle and harvest produce. Part of the idea of the tithe was (as you rightly point out) was to acknowledge the fact that God is the source and Lord of all our blessings and that they all ultimately belong to Him by right of a) Creation and by right of b) Redemption. The tithe acknowledges that and our continued dependence on Him.

    3. typo correction:

      5. I gave the qualifications because a) I'm [NOT] certain,

    4. During the interadventual period, we're soldiers in relation to God, not primarily in relation to each other on earth. Though, there is some truth to what you're saying. It was primarily in relation TO CHRIST that Paul told Timothy "Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus". In relation to each other, we're primarily family (brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers). Paul never called his spiritual children his soldiers and him their centurion (or some other military term).

      At the 2nd Advent the Kingdom of God arrives in all its fullness and it's at that time when Christ comes as King and we as His soldiers in every sense (spiritual, physical, governmental etc.). That's when He comes to "rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers"- Rev. 2:27. There's a sense in which Christ currently is (Rev. 1:5), and yet isn't but will be (Rev. 11:15) "Ruler of the Kings of the Earth". We are more ambassadors in relation to the unbelieving world, not conquering soldiers. Despite that, I do slightly lean toward Post-Millennialism.

    5. 25But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the RULERS OF THE GENTILES LORD IT OVER THEM, and their great ones exercise authority over them.

      26It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,c

      27and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,d

      28even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”- Matt. 20:25-28

    6. Happy Boxing Day - the *real* reason for the season! Eschewing a wont for lame humor, I'm proceed:

      2. Levels of inspiration has a papisitical ring to it, Apocrypha, papal pronouncements, etc. Lutherans have canon within canon, but that''s more about how books are weighted formdoctrine than the content of the canon per se. RPW folks reject the song = prayer argument (and for good reason), seeing covenant song as a separate element of worship and hence regulated differently (here IMNSHO the principle wobbles); since we know that the Psalter was intended for public worship, can't be sure if the other canticles of Scripture were, and have no example of uninspired hymnody being used in worship, exclusive Psalmody is the rule ( so the principle goes). So have no fear: no Fanny, Andre, Don, etc, in church; in earth as it isi in heaven.
      3. In the US when ministers marry folk they do so as justices of the peace rather than as ministers per se. In Eurabia the state marries while ministers solemnize marrriages. I don't know the stus quo in the UK, but the Westminster standards do contain an order for the solemization of marriage.
      4. The Minority Report form the OPC written by John Murray would be a great place to start reading; John Girardeau's /Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church/ gives the aarguemnt against instruments in NT worship. Agree or disagree, both are great reads.
      5. Possibles and maybes are no firm foundation for doctrine or practice
      6. The seventy refers to the sanhedrin as instituted in Exodus 18:21–25, Numbers 11:16–17 and11:24–25, and (Deuteronomy 1:15–18, 17:9–12. The body was given authority over judicical and religious matters but no mention of divine charism after Moses and thr 72 you referenced above. Church government (kirk regimen in Westminsterian) would be the gneral equity today: the apostles' successors without apostolic charismata.
      7. A metaphor is a metaphor, God the Father is still referred to as LORD of hosts (ie armies) and referred to as a mighty warrior. PAul mentions soldier for Christ and pugilistic metaphors. The familial and military metaphors are not mutually exclusive.
      8. Generous giving was emphasized in the OT as well, so I'm not sure I follow you. In the AV the term used for the tax referred to is "tribute" and, in context, suggests jizya owed an occupier since none were excused from the half-shekel temple head tax.

    7. 2. I don't believe inspiration or revelation is currently being given on par with Scripture. All further alleged cases of inspiration or revelation are not universally binding and are usually private. I say usually since some Christian song writers will claim that God guided or inspired them to write a particular song which was meant to be shared publicly/universally. They usually don't mean with the same kind and level of inspiration as Scripture. See for example this video with Keith Green where he claims God gave ("wrote to me') him the song When I Hear the Praises Start:

      I don't know of percentages, but many of the psalms in the book of Psalms were not originally composed by an author(s) who knew it was inspired during and immediately after composition (which sometimes involved redaction of drafts and re-working/re-writing material). Or knew that it would be performed in public worship. Some were and some weren't known to be inspired and/or to be performed in public worship. Sometimes it was popularity that eventually lead to their inclusion into the roll of officially accepted public psalms, and then eventually to their recognition of their inspired status (and so inclusion into the canon). For example, some scholars think Ps. 42 and 43 may have originally been one psalm. Notice too how Psalm 14 and 53 are nearly identical. There's plenty of evidence of redaction throughout the Psalms. Most of them were not written by a single Prophet in one sitting without any re-working and who knew he was being inspired at the time. Like I said, some of David's psalms were written while he was still a seemingly insignificant shepherd.

      7. My prooftexts for my more egalitarian view seem to better handle and incorporate your prooftexts. While the reverse doesn't seem (at least to me) to be the case. Jesus' statement to call no man teacher/rabbi or father is a radical departure from Jewish culture. Same with John's statement "...the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything..." in 1 John 2:27. Or Jesus' statement:

      38John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40For the one who is not against us is for us. 41For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.- Mark 9:38-41 (cf. Luke 9:49-50).


    8. Addendum: i went to your circumcision link, and it was immediately apparent to me that its author was a Biblical illiterate who had an axe to grind with Christians and Jews; eg reference to dulling sexual pleasure in this life for a room with a view in the next. It also failed to give any positive proof that circumcision was borrowed from pagans. Have you a better reference? I'd hate to see a worse.

    9. On a practical and pragmatic level we do need ministers, but they can err. Athanasius Contra Mundum is a famous saying precisely because he went against the claimed authority and theological opinion of both the majority of the church and of the civil authorities (who were in bed with the Arian bishops). The Church's authority is derived from, and is only authoritative so long as (and to the degree to which) it conforms to Revelation (which is now currently only reliably located in Scripture alone, unlike in former times). Imagine yourself living during the Arian Ascendancy. It lasted for about 50 years. A person can live and die during that time with the "whole church" teaching and defending Arian theology. There were more Arian councils and synods with more bishops who attended, as well as more numerous Arian creeds than those which held to a more homoousian theology. The majority report in the church was Arian. The pro-Nicene group seemed to have been defeated by God's providence. Why, for the sake of your soul, would you listen to the few (like Athanasius) who held out, and so oppose the theology of the visible church and the bishops in power? The answer is the version of Sola Scriptura that I hold to and not like the type held to by folks like Keith Mathison. With Peter I say, "...We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). This is true regardless of the controversy. Whether the Donatist controversy, or the Sabellian, Arian, Pelagian, Semi-Pelagian, or Reformation vs. Counter-Reformation controversy et cetera.

      Although it's likely embellished/interpolated, you as a Lutheran can appreciate my citing Luther's statement at the Diet of Worms

      Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason-for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves-I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one's conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen.

      This will probably be my final comment since I've pretty much exhausted my views and started repeating myself. Though, you probably haven't exhausted your views. I've learned a few things from your comments though and will continue thinking about them to see where I might be wrong in my views or where it needs adjusting.

    10. That was a random cite i found on circumcision. I didn't read the whole thing so I don't know what it's agenda might be. My only purpose in citing it was to hopefully support my claim that circumcision predates Abraham.

    11. Your point 2 screams out for proof; ie please give an example.

      An egalitarian view of "call no man father" applies to your biological sire; would you suggest Jesus' calling Mary "woman" gives us similar leave? How does 1 Peter 2:17 comport with your view? Do check out WLCQ 122-128 for more Scriptures. Wow, a Lutheran has to point a Calvinist Westminsterward...

    12. By egalitarian I'm referring to church hierarchy, not the debate on sexuality between egalitarians and complementarians.

      An egalitarian view of "call no man father" applies to your biological sire

      Why would that apply to one's biological sire? The context of Jesus' statement isn't about physical genealogy, but spiritual genealogy and/or authority/hierarchy.

      ...would you suggest Jesus' calling Mary "woman" gives us similar leave?

      Not sure what your question is. Jesus is not saying don't call your biological parents mother or father.

      How does 1 Peter 2:17 comport with your view?

      "Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor."- 1 Pet. 2:17

      I don't see how this is supposed to be problematic for my view. I have no problem honoring and acknowledging civil rulers above me. But they don't have spiritual authority over me assuming the distinction between church and state. There are some countries in times past and present where the political and civil authority is also the religious authority. It's my understanding that the Vatican is a sovereign (sacerdotal-monarchical) state within and distinct from Italy, with the Pope as its ruler. England's monarchs, since Henry the VIII, have been the head of the Church of England (though, things might be changing due to recent changes in the law of succession). If I lived in those countries, then I obviously should be obedient to their civil authority and laws to the degree they are Biblically just or to the degree that Scripture commands (e.g. pay taxes). However, since I reject those denominations as my own, I don't believe they have authority over me spiritually other than any other group which might rightfully point out to me my theological errors. I have no problem with Romans 13:1-8 either.

      Wow, a Lutheran has to point a Calvinist Westminsterward...

      I'm a Calvinistic Baptist, not a Presbyterian.

    13. Your point 2 screams out for proof; ie please give an example.

      I don't know what specifically you're referring to.

    14. The reference was to a possible uninspired Psalm picked up in Scripture. Anyway I will honor your wish to cease commenting on this thread, wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season, and thank you for a civil and informative exchange.

    15. It wasn't so much a wish to cease the conversation, but an admission that I don't really have much more to add that's new.

      I'm not saying there is (or can prove) any canonical psalm that was originally uninspired but then became inspired when added to the canon. However, I don't rule out that possibility. Also, due to God's exhaustive foreordination, foreknowledge and providence, God could have been involved providentially via Common Grace even if not by Special Grace in its original composition and/or stages of composition (this for example, is what happened with the fragments of pagan poetry that has been incorporated into Scripture).

      In God's providence nothing happens by chance. Does that mean that only inspired books could be in the canon? It depends on the canon. Whether God's canon or mens' canons. Clearly various Christian groups have various canons (e.g. Protestant, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and others like Coptic, Anabaptist etc.) God knows which books He has inspired and which books He wanted into the canon (and they aren't necessarily coterminous). It's possible God knows some books which have survived antiquity which He inspired, but didn't want included in the canon and providentially wasn't.

      Just as God does know which books are not inspired, yet have been included in mens' canons by His overruling providence (e.g. the Roman Catholic canon includes books which I don't think are inspired, viz. the Deuterocanonical books). As a Protestant, I think God has providentially given us indications (e.g. historical, textual, theological, patristic) that the canon Protestants possess is either perfectly correct or sufficiently so. As Sproul has said, from our human perspective, the canon is "a fallible collection of infallible books".

      If this is the end of our dialogue, I thank you too for the informative and enjoyable conversation. Belated Merry Christmas, and happy new year to you too. :-)