Saturday, May 24, 2008

God is Imaginary: #10 Watch the Offering Plate

Watch the Offering Plate

Once again, I note that they have a real hang up about the power of prayer. Just about every one I've read so far, if not based on it, has a reference to it. This one is no different. They ask why, if God is all powerful, Christians are asked to give a tenth to God, rather than just praying for it.

First, let me remind you, once again, that the Bible contains different law for different circumstances. The tithe, or tenth, was a command given to the theocracy, and later, theocratic monarchy, of ancient Israel. It covered both religious contributions AND taxes. Most everyone today would be overjoyed if ten percent covered their tax burden as well as their charitable contributions. That would be less than the social security assessment alone (including the employer half).

Second, Scripture addresses this very topic, saying that God does not desire sacrifice, Psalm 40:6, Psalm 51:16, Isaiah 1:11, Hosea 6:6, but rather mercy, love, and obedience. In Acts 17:25, He says that God is not served by human hands, "as if he needed anything." Eliminating the contributions to the state from consideration, if this second point is the case, what is the purpose of all the slaughtering of animals? Symbolism, foreshadowing, or whatever you want to call it. Every sacrifice given was a representation of the one, final sacrifice. All of the pain, loss, and senselessness of those sacrifices was a demonstration of the pain, loss, and senselessness caused by sin, and the demands of justice carried out. But it also demonstrates mercy. The people who witnessed the sacrifice were to consider that the sheep being slaughtered should have been them. They were the ones who were guilty, and thus they should be punished. The sacrifices portrayed in a literally visceral form the crushing burden of the law, but also the transferring of that burden to another. Justice would be served, as well as mercy. Law and Gospel, together and separate.

So why do Christians tithe? If you believe that what the church is doing is important, why would you not support it? I believe that helping people with developmental disabilities is important, so I support a charity that does just that. Noumenon believes that providing clean water to impoverished people is the most efficient way of helping them, so he supports Wateraid. If you believe that saving people from following their own inclinations into hellfire is important, it would be ludicrous not to support that work. But note--is it required? Accept for a very, very few churches, the "tithe" is a free will offering. I am no more forced to give it than Noumenon is forced to contribute to Wateraid.

Which leads us to another question. Why doesn't God just forgive us all and get it over with, rather than using the church to persuade us? He has forgiven us all, but we are free to reject his forgiveness. It is that sticky problem of love. God is a God of love. Without choice, there is no love. Without freedom, there is no choice. God forgave us, but allowed us to choose. There is a line between persuasion and coercion, and we are right on the persuasion side of the line. The church, both visible and invisible, is one of God's tools of persuasion, and the contributions that support it are part of that approach.

Back to Fifty Reasons.



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