Tithing is Not a Christian Doctrine

An Essay by Russell Earl Kelly, PH. D., March 05, 2006

www.shouldthechurchteachtithing.com

 

Introduction:

The following essay is a summary of my book, Should the Church Teach Tithing? A Theologian’s Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine. The book itself is a greatly expanded version of my PH. D. thesis. I challenge Bible educators to be bold, to open up their seminary level research and to promote studies on this subject in the Masters, Doctorate and PH. D. levels. This doctrine is simply too important to ignore.

In many churches today the doctrine of tithing has reached the level of a modern scandal. While on the one hand, most seminary-level textbooks on hermeneutics and church theologians omit tithing, on the other hand, the practice is quickly becoming a requirement for church membership in the very denominations which insist on solid Bible-based doctrines. There is also increasing evidence that lay persons who question the legitimacy of New Covenant tithing are usually criticized as being troublemakers or weak Christians.

Modern Tithing is Based on Many False Assumptions

One denomination’s statement on stewardship is typical of what many others teach about tithing. It says that “tithing is the minimum biblical standard and the beginning point which God has established that must not be replaced or compromised by any other standard.” It adds that the tithe is from gross income which is due to the church before taxes. The following points of this essay contrast the false teachings used to support tithing with what God’s Word actually says.

Point #1 N. T. Giving Principles in Second Corinthians 8 and 9 Are Superior to Tithing.

The false teaching is that tithing is an assumed mandatory expectation which always preceded free-will giving.

 

Free-will giving preceded tithing. The following New Covenant free-will principles are found in Second Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9: (1) Giving is a “grace.” Second Corinthians, chapters 8, uses the word, “grace,” eight times in reference to helping poor saints. (2) Give yourself to God first (8:5). (3) Give yourself to knowing God’s will (8:5). (4) Give in response to Christ’s gift (8:9; 9:15). (5) Give out of a sincere desire (8:8, 10, 12; 9:7). (6) Do not give because of any commandment to give (8:8, 10; 9:7). (7) Give even beyond your ability (8:3, 11, 12). (8) Give to produce equality. This means that those who have more should give more in order to make up for the inability of those who cannot afford to give as much (8:12-14). (9) Give joyfully (8:2). (10) Give because you are growing spiritually (8:3, 4, 7). (11) Give because you want to continue growing spiritually (9:8, 10, 11). (12) Give because you are hearing the gospel preached (9:13).

Point #2 In God’s Word, the Tithe is Always Only Food!

The false teaching is that biblical tithes include ALL sources of income.

Do not use Webster’s Dictionary! Use God’s Word to define “tithe.” Open a complete Bible concordance. You will discover that the definition used by tithe-advocates is wrong. In God’s Word “tithe” does not stand alone. Although money existed, the substance of God’s “tithe” was never money. It was the “tithe of food.” This is very important. **True biblical tithes were always only food from the farms and herds of only Israelites who only lived inside God’s Holy Land, the national boundary of Israel.** The increase was from God’s hand and not man’s craft or ability.  There are 15 verses from 11 chapters and 8 books from Leviticus 27 to Luke 11 which describe the contents of the tithe. And the contents never (I repeat), never included money, silver, gold or anything other than food! Yet the incorrect definition of “tithe” is the greatest lie being preached about tithing today! (See Lev. 27:30, 32; Numb. 18:27, 28; Deut. 12:17; 14:22, 23; 26 12; 2 Chron. 31:5, 6; Neh. 10:37; 13:5; Mal. 3:10; Matt. 23:23; Luke 11: 42).

Point #3 Abraham’s Tithe to Melchizedek Reflected Pagan Tradition.

The false teaching is that Abraham freely gave tithes because it was God’s will.

 

However, for the following reasons, Genesis 14:20 cannot be used as an example for Christians to tithe. (1) The Bible does not say that Abraham “freely” gave this tithe. (2) Abraham’s tithe was NOT a holy tithe from God’s holy land produced by God’s holy people. (3) Abraham’s tithe was only from spoils of war common to many nations. (4) In Numbers 31, God only required 1% of spoils of war. (5) Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek was a one-time recorded event and Abraham moved often. (6) Abraham’s tithe was not from his own personal property. (7) Abraham kept nothing for himself; he gave everything back. (8) Abraham’s tithe is not quoted anywhere in the Bible to endorse tithing. (9) Genesis 14, verse 21, is the key text. Since most commentaries explain verse 21 as an example of pagan Arab tradition, it is contradictory to explain the 90% of verse 21 as pagan, while insisting that the 10% of verse 20 was God’s will. (10) If Abraham is an example for Christians to give 10% to God, then he should also be an example for Christians to give the other 90% to Satan, or to the king of Sodom! (11) Since neither Abraham nor Jacob had a Levitical priesthood to support, they had no place to bring tithes during their many moves.

Point #4 First-Tithes Were Received by Servants to the Priests.

The false teaching is that Old Testament priests received all of the first tithe.

The truth is that the “whole” tithe, the first tithe, did not go to the priests at all. Instead, according to Numbers 18:21-24 and Nehemiah 10:37, it went to the servants of the priests, the Levites. Next, according to Numbers 18:25-28 and Nehemiah 10:38, the Levites gave the best “tenth of this tithe” (1%) which they received to the priests who ministered the sin sacrifices and served inside the holy places. Priests personally did not tithe at all.

It is also important to know that, in exchange for receiving these tithes, both Levites and priests forfeited all rights to permanent land inheritance inside Israel (Numb. 18:20-26; Deut. 12:12; 14:27, 29; 18:1, 2; Josh. 13:14, 33; 14:3; 18:7; Ezek. 44:28). The Levites, who received the first tithe, were prohibited from ministering blood sacrifices under penalty of death (Numb. 18:3). There is no continuation in the New Covenant of this ordinance.

Point #5 The Phrase, “It is Holy to the LORD,” Does Not Make Tithing an Eternal Moral Principle.

The false teaching is that Leviticus 27:30-32 proves that the tithe is an “eternal moral principle” because “it is holy to the LORD.”

 

However, tithe-teachers must ignore the stronger phrase, “it is MOST holy to the LORD,” in the immediate preceding verses 28 and 29. This is because verses 28 and 29 are definitely not eternal moral principles in the church. In its context, the phrases “it is holy to the LORD” and “it is MOST holy to the LORD” cannot possibly be interpreted as “eternal moral principles.” Why? Almost every other use of these phrases in Leviticus has long ago been discarded by Christians. Similar phrases are also used to describe all of the festivals, the sacrificial offerings, the clean/unclean food distinctions, the old covenant priests and the old covenant sanctuary.

 

Point #6 There are Four Different Tithes Found in the Bible.

The false teaching ignores all other tithes and focuses on part of the first religious tithe.

 

In reality, the first religious tithe, called the “Levitical tithe,” had two parts. Again, the whole first tithe was given to the Levites who were only servants to the priests (Numb. 18:21-24; Neh. 10:37). The Levites, in turn, gave one tenth of the whole tithe to the priests (Numb. 18:25-28; Neh. 10:38). According to Deuteronomy 12 and 14, the second religious tithe, called the “feast tithe,” was eaten by worshipers in the streets of Jerusalem during the three yearly festivals (Deut. 12:1-19; 14:22-26). And, according to Deuteronomy 14 and 26, a third tithe, called the “poor tithe,” stayed in the homes every third year and was used to feed the poor (Deut. 14:28, 29; 26:12,13). Also, according to First Samuel 8:14-17  the King collected the first and best ten per cent for political use. During Jesus’ time Rome collected the first ten per cent (10%) of most food and twenty per cent (20%) of fruit crops as its spoils of war. One wonders what “churches” are trying to hide when they only single out the one religious tithe which best suits their purposes and ignore the other two important religious tithes.

Another common error is to equate the tithe with the “first-fruit” or even the “best.” While the “tithe of the tithe” (1%) which was given to the priests was the “best” of what the Levites received, the tithe which the Levites received was only “one tenth” not necessarily the “best” (Lev. 27:32, 33). Also, while the first-fruit and firstborn of every clean animal was brought directly to the temple, the tithe was brought directly to the Levitical cities (Neh. 10:35-38). According to some historians, the first-fruit was an extremely small offering. Often an entire village’s first-fruit could be carried by one animal.

Point #7 Jesus, Peter, Paul and the Poor Did Not Tithe!

The false teaching is that everybody in the Old Testament was required to begin their giving to God at the ten per cent level.

 

In reality, the poor were not required to tithe at all! Neither did the tithe come from the results of man’s craft, hands and skill. Only farmers and herdsmen possessed what was defined as tithe increase. Jesus was a carpenter; Paul was a tentmaker and Peter was a fisherman. None of these occupations qualified as tithe-payers because they did not farm or herd animals for a living. It is, therefore, incorrect to teach that everybody paid a required minimum of a tithe and, therefore, that New Covenant Christians should be required to at least begin at the same minimum as Old Covenant Israelites. This common false assumption is very often repeated and completely ignores the very plain definition of tithe as food from farm increase or herd increase.

It is also wrong to teach that the poor in Israel were required to pay tithes. In fact, they actually received tithes! Much of the second festival tithe and all of a special third-year tithe went to the poor. In fact, many laws protected the poor from abuse and expensive sacrifices which they could not afford (see also Lev. 14:21; 25:6, 25-28, 35, 36; 27:8; Deu. 12:1-19; 14:23, 28, 29; 15:7, 8, 11; 24:12, 14, 15, 19, 20; 26:11-13; Mal. 3:5; Matt. 12:1, 2; Mark 2:23, 24; Luke 2:22-24; 6:1, 2; 2 Cor. 8:12-14; 1 Tim. 5:8; Jas. 1:27).

Point #8 Tithes Were Often Used as Political Taxes.

The false teaching is that tithes are never comparable to taxes or taxation.

 

However, in the Hebrew economy, the tithe was used in a totally different manner than it is preached today. Once again, those Levites who received the whole tithe were not even ministers or priests — they were only servants to the priests. Numbers chapter 3 describes the Levites as carpenters, metal workers, leather-craftsmen and artists who maintained the small sanctuary. And, according to First Chronicles, chapters 23-27, during the time of King David and King Solomon the Levites were still skilled craftsmen who inspected and approved all work in the Temple: 24, 000 worked in the Temple as builders and supervisors; 6,000 were officials and judges; 4,000 were guards and 4,000 were musicians. As political representatives of the king, Levites used their tithe income to serve as officials, judges, tax collectors, treasurers, temple guards, musicians, bakers, singers and professional soldiers (1 Chron. 12:23, 26; 27:5). It is obvious why these examples of using biblical tithe-income are never used as examples in the church today.

It is important to know that Old Covenant tithes were never used for evangelism of non-Israelites. Tithing failed! See Hebrews 7:12-19. Tithes never stimulated Old Covenant Levites or priests to establish a single mission outreach or encourage a single Gentile to become an Israelite (Ex. 23:32; 34:12, 15; Deut. 7:2). Old Covenant tithing was motivated and mandated by Law, not love. In fact, during most of Israel’s history the prophets were God’s primary spokesmen – and not the tithe-receiving Levites and priests.

Point #9 Levitical Tithes Were Normally Taken to the Levitical Cities.

False teachers want us to think that all tithes were formerly taken to the Temple and should now be taken to the “church storehouse” building.

 

The “whole” tithe NEVER went to the Temple.  In reality, the overwhelming majority of Levitical tithes never went to the Temple. Those who teach otherwise ignore the Levitical cities and the 24 courses of the Levites and priests. According to Numbers 35, Joshua 20, 21 and First Chronicles 6, Levites and priests lived on borrowed land in the Levitical cities where they farmed and raised (tithed) animals. And it is clear from Numbers 18:20-24, Second Chronicles 31:15-19 and Nehemiah 10:37 that the ordinary people were expected to bring their tithes to the Levitical cities. Why? That is where most of the Levites and priests lived with their families most of the time. See also Nehemiah 13:9.

Point #10 Malachi 3 is the Most Abused Tithing Text in the Bible.

The false teaching about tithes from Malachi 3 ignores five important Bible facts.

 

(1) Malachi is Old Covenant context and is never quoted in the New Covenant for the church (Lev. 27:34; Neh. 10:28, 29; Mal. 3:7; 4:4).

(2) In 1:6; 2:1 and 3:1-5, Malachi is very clearly addressed to dishonest priests who are cursed because they have stolen the best offerings from God.

(3) The Levitical cities must be considered and Jerusalem was not a Levitical city (Josh 20, 21). It makes no sense to teach that 100% of the tithe was brought to the Temple when most Levites and priests did not live in Jerusalem.

(4) In Malachi 3:10-11 tithes are still only food (Lev. 27:30-33).

(5) The 24 courses of Levites and priests must also be considered. Beginning with King David and King Solomon, they were divided into 24 families. These divisions were also put into place in Malachi’s time by Ezra and Nehemiah. Since normally only one family served in the Temple for only one week at a time, there was absolutely no reason to send ALL of the tithe to the Temple when 98% of those it was designed to feed were still in the Levitical cities (1 Chron. 24-26; 28:13, 21; 2 Chron. 8:14; 23:8; 31:2, 15-19; 35:4, 5, 10; Ezra 6:18; Neh. 11:19, 30; 12:24; 13:9, 10; Luke 1:5).

Therefore, when the context of the Levitical cities, the 24 families of priests, under-age children, wives, Numbers 18:20-28, Second Chronicles 31:15-19, Nehemiah 10-13, and all of Malachi are all evaluated, only about 2% of the total first tithe was normally required at the Temple in Jerusalem.

Both the blessing and the curse of Malachi 3:9-11 only lasted until the Old Covenant ended at Calvary. Malachi’s audience had willingly reaffirmed the Old Covenant (Neh.10:28, 29). “Cursed be he that confirms not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen” (Deut. 27:26 quoted in Gal. 3:10). And Jesus ended the curse. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree” (Gal. 3:13).

Today the very lowest income class pays the largest percentage to charity. Yet most remain in poverty. Neither the lottery, nor the tithe is a magic get-rich-quick answer to replace education, determination and hard work. If Malachi 3:10 really worked for New Covenant Christians, then millions of poor tithing Christians would have escaped poverty and would have become the wealthiest group of people in the world instead of remaining the poorest group. Therefore there is no evidence that the vast majority of poor “tithe-payers” are ever blessed financially merely because they tithe. The Old Covenant blessings are no longer in effect (Heb. 7:18, 19; 8:6-8, 13).

Point #11 Tithing is not Taught in the New Testament.

The false teaching is that Jesus taught tithing in Matthew 23:23 which, they say, is clearly in the New Testament.

 

The New Covenant did not begin at the birth of Jesus, but at his death (Gal. 3:19, 24, 25; 4:4). Tithing is not taught to the church after Calvary! When Jesus discussed tithing in Matthew 23:23, he was only commanding obedience to the Old Covenant Law which he endorsed and supported until Calvary. In Matthew 23:2, 3 Jesus told his followers to obey the scribes and Pharisees “because they sit in Moses’ seat.” Yet He did not command Gentiles whom He healed to present themselves to the priests.

There is not a single New Testament Bible text which teaches tithing after Calvary – period! Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-35 are not examples of tithing to support church leaders. According to 2:46 the Jewish Christians continued to worship in theTemple. And according to 2:44 and 4:33, 34 church leaders shared what they received equally with all church members (this is not done today). Finally Acts 21:20-25 proves that Jewish Christians were still zealously observing all of the Mosaic Law 30 years later –and that must include tithing—otherwise they would not have been allowed inside the Temple to worship. Therefore, any tithes collected by the early Jewish Christians were given to the Temple system and not to support the church.

Point #12 Old Covenant Priests Were Replaced by Believer-Priests.

The false teaching is that New Covenant elders and pastors are simply continuing where the Old Covenant priests left off and are due the tithe.

 

Compare Exodus 19:5, 6 with First Peter 2: 9, 10. Before the incident of the golden calves, God had intended for every Israelite to become a priest and tithing would have never been enacted. Priests did not tithe but received one tenth of the first tithe (Numb. 18:26-28; Neh. 10:37, 38).

The function and purpose of Old Covenant priests were replaced, not by elders and pastors, but by the priesthood of every believer. Like other ordinances of the Law, tithing was only a temporary shadow until Christ (Eph. 2:14-16; Col. 2:13-17; Heb. 10:1). In the New Covenant every believer is a priest to God (1 Pet. 2:9, 10; Rev. 1:6; 5:10). And, as a priest, every believer offers sacrifices to God (Heb. 4:16; 10:19-22; 13:15, 16). Therefore, every ordinance which had previously applied to the old priesthood was blotted out at Calvary. Since He was not from the tribe of Levi, even Jesus was disqualified. Thus the original temporary purpose of tithing no longer exists (Heb. 7:12-19; Gal. 3:19, 24, 25; 2 Cor. 3:10).

Point #13 The New Covenant Church is Neither a Building nor a Storehouse.

The false teaching is that Christian buildings called “churches,” “tabernacles” or “temples” replaced the OT Temple as God’s dwelling places.

 

God’s Word never describes New Covenant churches as “tabernacles,” “temples” or “buildings” in which God dwells! God’s church, God’s dwelling place, is within the believers. Believers do not “go to church” — believers “assemble to worship.” Also, since OT priests did not pay tithes, then tithing cannot logically continue. Therefore it is wrong to call a building “God’s storehouse” for tithes. (1 Cor. 3:16, 17; 6:19, 20; Eph. 1:22, 23; 2:21; 4:12-16; Rev. 3:12). For “storehouse” compare First Corinthians 16:2 with Second Corinthians 12:14 and Acts 20:17, 32-35. For several centuries after Calvary Christians did not even have their own buildings (to call storehouses) because Christianity was an outlaw religion.

Point #14 The Church Grows By Using Better New Covenant Principles.

The false teaching implies that principles of grace giving are not as good as Old Covenant principles of giving.

               

Under the New Covenant: (1) According to Galatians 5:16-23, there is no physical law which controls the fruits of the Holy Spirit. (2) Second Corinthians 3:10 says that the Old Covenant has “no glory” when compared to the “surpassing” glory and liberty of the Holy Spirit. (3) Hebrews 7 is the only post-Calvary mention of tithing and it is an explanation of why the Levitical priesthood must be replaced by Christ’s priesthood because it was weak and unprofitable. Study Hebrews 7 and follow the progression from verse 5 to verse 12 to verse 19. (4) The manner in which tithing is taught today reflects a failure of the church to believe and act on the far better principles of love, grace and faith. Mandatory giving principles cannot, has not and will not prosper the church more than principles guided by love for Christ and lost souls (2 Cor. 8:7, 8).

Point #15 The Apostle Paul Preferred That Church Leaders Be Self-Supporting.

The false teaching is that Paul taught and practiced tithing.

 

Yet, nothing could be farther from the truth. As a Jewish rabbi, Paul was among those who insisted on working to support himself (Acts 18:3; 1 Thess. 2:9, 10; 2 Thess. 3:8-14). While Paul does not condemn those who are able to receive full-time support, neither does he teach that full-time support is the mandatory will of God for advancing the gospel (1 Cor. 9:12). In fact, twice, in Acts 20:29-35 and also in Second Corinthians 12:14, Paul actually encouraged church elders to work to support needy believers inside the church.

For Paul, “living of the gospel” meant “living by gospel principles of faith, love and grace” (1 Cor. 9:14). While Paul realized that he had a “right” to some support, he concluded that his “liberty,” or freedom to preach unhindered was more important in order to fulfill his calling from God (1 Cor. 9:15; 11:7-13; 12:13, 14;1 Thess. 2:5, 6). While working as a tent-maker, Paul accepted limited support but boasted that his pay, or salary, was that he could preach the gospel for free, without being a burden to others (1 Cor. 9:16-19).

Point #16 Tithing Did Not Become a Law in the Church Until A. D. 777.

The false teaching is that the historical church has always taught tithing.

Even in Acts 21:20-26, decades after Calvary, the early Jewish-Christians in Jerusalem were still zealously following the Old Covenant law and were still worshiping in and supporting the Jewish Temple. As obedient Jews, logic forces us to conclude that they must have still been sending any food tithes they had to the Temple system.

While disagreeing with their own theologians, most church historians write that tithing did not become an accepted doctrine in the church for over 700 years after Calvary. The earliest church fathers before A. D. 321 (when Constantine made Christianity a legal religion) opposed tithing as a Jewish-only doctrine. Clement of Rome (c95), Justin Martyr (c150), The Didache (c150-200), Irenaeus (c150-200) and Tertullian (150-220) opposed tithing. Even Cyprian’s (200-258) (rejected) introduction of tithing included distribution to the poor.

In fact, the early church leaders practiced asceticism. This meant that being poor was the best way to serve God. They patterned their worship after that of the Jewish synagogues which had rabbis who were self-supporting and usually refused to receive money for teaching God’s Word. See Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. II, 63, 128, 198-200; 428-434.

According to the very best historians and encyclopedias, it took over 500 years before the local church Council of Macon, in the year 585, tried unsuccessfully to enforce tithing on its members and it was not until the year 777 that Emperor Charlemagne legally allowed the church to collect tithes.

Conclusion:

In God’s Word, “tithe” does not stand alone. It is the “tithe of FOOD.” The biblical tithe was very narrowly defined and limited by God Himself. True biblical tithes were always: (1) only food, (2) only from the farms and herds, (3) of only Israelites, (4) who only lived inside God’s Holy Land, the national boundary of Israel, (5) only under Old Covenant terms and (6) the increase could only come from God’s hand.

Therefore, (1) non-food items could not be tithed; (2) clean wild game animals and fish could not be tithed; (3) non-Israelites could not tithe; (4) food from outside God’s holy land of Israel did not enter the Temple; (5) legitimate tithing did not occur when there was no Levitical priesthood; and (5) tithes did not come from what man’s hands created, produced or caught by hunting and fishing.

I invite church leaders into an open discussion of this subject. The careful and prayerful study of God’s Word are essential for church growth. May God bless you.

(This article may be duplicated without permission.)

Free Good News web site; BERNIE DEHLER   http://freegoodnews.com/

No More Tithing book web site by George W. Greene   http://www.nomoretithing.org/

Subtle Deception, book web site; LARRY VANYI   http://gospelmythbuster.com/

Tithe-Debate.info (UK, ENGLAND)   http://tithe-debate.info/

Tithing-Study Yahoo Groups; I AM IN THIS DISCUSSION GROUP,   http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Tithing-Study/

Truth for Free.com web site; DAVID YEUBANKS  http://prayershack.freeservers.com/

Giving

Originally posted 11/4/06

Giving By David Allis – written 1999, revised 11/4/06

1. Giving Is An Act of Worship
Both stewardship & giving are acts of worship.
– God is owner of all things. When we give a gift to ministry, it is one way to thank Him for His love & generosity shown to us.
– We are called to worship God with every breath, every ounce of energy, and everything we possess. Our lives should be lived as acts of worship to God, including our stewardship & giving.
· Genesis 28:16-22 Jacob realised that all belongs to God, and used his tithe as a means of worship
· Leviticus 22:17-22, 29 God deserves only the best of what we have to offer
· 1 Cor 10:31 Everything we do (including giving) should be done for the glory of God
· 2 Cor 9:11,12 Our giving results in thanksgiving to God
· Acts 20:35 It is more blessed to give, than to receive

2. Put God First
Do we look after our personal needs first, and then give God a slice of the leftovers? NO!
The first share of what we receive belongs to God, & then we live off the rest.
All of what we have belongs to God. Lk 19:11-27
· Neh 10:3739 God is given the first fruits of all produce
· Prov 3:9,10 Honour God with the first fruits of your wealth
· Matt 19:16-24 If the rich cannot part with their wealth, they are not following Christ

3. Trusting God
One reason God asks us to be stewards & give is to test our willingness to trust Him. Our God who created the universe doesn’t need the 10%, 20% or 100% of His resources that we return to Him. He can get the job done with us or without us, through us or in spite of us. His desire is for us to demonstrate that we are trusting, obedient and faithful in our relationship with Him.
· 1 Kings 17:7-16 The widow of Zarepath provided food for Elijah out of her depleted reserves
· Luke 6:38 The measure you give will be the measure you receive
· 1 Tim 6:17-19 Put your hope in God, not in your possessions & money
· Eccl 5:10 Wealth is meaningless & unsatisfying
· Matt 6:19-34 Seek first the Kingdom of God

4. Stewardship of All God has Given Us
The typical Kiwi attitude is that we are self-sufficient & responsible for all we possess.
The Biblical perspective is different – we are merely overseers of God’s earthly domain, responsible for taking care of His resources until Jesus returns. We are called to be the wise managers of God’s wealth, rather than the creators and consumers of our own wealth.
· Genesis 14:17-24 Abram acknowledged that his victory spoils were a gift from God
· 1 Chron 29:14-18 Everything is God’s. We watch over it for Him. (also Psalm 24:1,2; 50:10-12)
· Luke 16:10-12 He will only trust us with much after we prove ourselves faithful with a little
· 1 Cor 4:2 Paul exhorted those who were being trusted to prove themselves faithful
· 1 Tim 6:6, Phil 4:10-13 Be content with what you have
· Matt 6:24 Master money by serving God with it

5. We Are Commanded To Give
1. Generously Dt 15:7-10; Ps 37:21; Prov 11:24,25; 2 Cor 9:6
2. Secretly Matt 6:1-4
3. Strategically Acts 2:44,45; 4:32-37
4. With Honesty Acts 5:1-11 (Ananias & Saphira)
5. Sacrificially Mk 12:41-44; 2 Cor 8:1-9
6. Joyfully 2 Cor 8:10-12; 9:7
7. Setting an Example 2 Cor 9:1,2,13 (your giving may encourage others to do the same)
8. Investing in the Future 2 Cor 9:6 you reap what you sow – therefore sow bountifully
Matt 6:19-21; 1 Tim 6:18,19 gain treasure in heaven – no moths, rust or thieves
Matt 19:16-24 This life is short, & then we face God
9. To Support Your Local Church (if it is a structured church)
To Build the Kingdom of God Through the Ministry of the Church
Luke 8:2,3; Gal 6:6; 3 John 8; Luke 10:7; 1 Cor 9:9; 1 Tim 5:17-18;
As a wise man once said ‘While you have temples & priests, you need tithes & offerings). It costs money to operate a structured local church – hence church members need to pay for the running costs of that church.
10. To Build the Kingdom of God Matt 6:24,33, 1 Tim 6:6-10, 17-19
11. To The Poor 1 Tim 6:17-19, 2 Cor 9:6-12, Deut 15:11, Lk 12:33, Gal 2:10, Prov 19:17

6. Tithing
· Tithing is the giving of one tenth of your gross income to God. Under Old Testament Law, God’s people were required to give a tithes (10%) of their gross income to God, which went to provide for the Levites (their spiritual leaders). [Gen 14:20; Lev 27:30; Deut 14:22; Neh 10:37-39; Mal 3:8-10]
· Now we are under New Testament grace brought by Jesus. We are no longer under a Law to tithe, but it remains a fundamental biblical principle, and in fact the NT principles go far beyond tithing. (ie tithing is the easy way). All that we have belongs to God (not just the first 10%), and He commands us to give generously (ie much more than just tithing).
· Experience proves that we all need to establish discipline in our lives. Many people have the concept of giving, but without a stated discipline or commitment, in practice they give little.
· Many Christians can testify to the blessing of God, as they have established tithing as the starting place in their giving, with other offerings and gifts given in addition to their tithe.

7. God’s Response
· 2 Kings 4:1-7 God’s blessing for obedience
· Matt 14:14-21 God can multiply the little we have (feeding the 5000)
· 2 Cor 9:6-12 We will always have enough to be generous
· Lk 6:38 Give & you will receive, overflowing amounts

8. Questions to Consider
1. How committed are you to the work of God? Does this commitment extend into all areas of your life?
2. What is youy starting place for giving? ie what regular commitment have/will you make?
3. In Nehemiah 10:39, the Israelites decided “We will not neglect the house of our God”
What does this mean for you?
3. George Barna said “God expects each of us to fund the church generously, He accepts no excuses for stinginess, and our lives are materially affected by our generosity”. Do you agree with this? What are your reasons?

The Six Most Quoted Lies About Tithing

Originally posted 17/3/09

by Russell Kelly

Greetings

If you still think tithing is relevant for us today (or expected, or a minimum, or a starting point, or something like this), here is something to consider. It is from the website of Russell Kelly, who did a PhD on the subject of tithing.

There are other great resources about tithing (critiquing the modern teaching of it) on his website, including his analysis of talks given by Paul de Jong (CLC Auckland), Brian Houston (Hillsong Sydney) & Geoff Woodward (Perth) – he has invited these preachers to respond to his analysis of their tithe-talks, but apparently none have responded.

If you already believe that tithing isn’t relevant for us today, & shouldn’t influence the way we give (& hopefully you are a generous & prayerful giver), then you can just press the delete button & have a cup of coffee & pray about who you can give to …. J

Happy reading
Blessings
David Allis

 
(1) TITHING WAS BEFORE THE LAW AND IS THEREFORE AN ETERNAL MORAL PRINCIPLE

A tradition is not automatically an eternal moral principle merely because it is very old, very common and very widespread. The fact that tithing was common in much pagan worship before the Bible was written does not make it a moral principle. Idolatry, worship of astrological bodies, child sacrifice, temple prostitution, witchcraft and necromancy are equally very old, very common and very widespread in pagan cultures. The practice of giving is found in natural law, but an exact percentage is not.

Abraham tithed before the Law. But that does not prove that tithing is an eternal moral principle. If we followed Abraham’s example (as we are told), (1) we would only tithe spoils gathered from our enemies; (2) we would only tithe once; (3) we would not tithe any of our own property and (4) we would give the 90% to the equivalent of the king of Sodom. See my book, chapter two and my essay, Tithing is Not a Christian Doctrine, point four.

(2) TITHING IS THE BIBLICAL STANDARD, THE MINIMUM STARTING POINT AND/OR “IT’S A GOOD PLACE TO START”

This lie is built on two false assumptions: (1) that everybody in the OT was required to begin their level of giving at 10% and (2) that everybody in the OT gave 10% of all increase as a tithe. First, only those Israelites who earned a livelihood from farming and herding clean animals inside Israel were required to tithe under the Mosaic Law. All sixteen (16) of sixteen (16) Bible texts which describe the contents of tithes porve tihis point. The tithe increase only came from God’s miracle hand. Second, those whose increase came from their own crafts and skills were not required to tithe products and money. The poor and needy who did not tithe and received from the tithe gave freewill offerings. See my book, chapter one and my essay, point two.

(3) TITHES ARE THE SAME AS FIRSTFRUITS

The first-fruit was a very small amount of the first crop harvest and the first-born was the first offspring of animals. The first-fruit was small enough to fit into a hand-held basket (Deut. 26:1-4, 10; Lev. 23:17; Num. 18:13-17; 2 Chron 31:5a).

First-fruit and first-born offerings went directly to the Temple and were required to be totally consumed by ministering priests only inside the Temple (Neh. 10:35-37a; Ex. 23:19; 34:26; Deut. 18:4). Tithes went directly to the Levitical cities (Neh 10:37b) and a small portion was then taken to the Temple storehouse (Neh 10:38-39).

Teaching that the first tenth of ones increase must go to the church organization is wrong. It is not taught to the Christian or the Church . It violates the instruction found in 1st Timothy 5:8 that one acts like an infidel if one does not care for family essentials first. And it robs the poorest in society of food, medicine and necessary care.

(4) TITHES INCLUDE MONEY

One argument to support non-food tithing is that money was not universally available and barter from food must have been used for most transactions. This argument is not biblical. Genesis alone contains “money” in 32 texts and the word occurs 44 times before the tithe is first mentioned in Leviticus 27. The word shekel also appears often from Genesis to Deuteronomy.

In fact many centuries before Israel entered Canaan and began tithing food from God’s Holy Land money was an essential everyday item. For example money in the form of silver shekels paid for slaves (Gen 17:12+); land (Gen 23:9+); freedom (Ex 23:11); court fines (Ex 21 all; 22 all); sanctuary dues (Ex 30:12+); vows (Lev 27:3-7); poll taxes (Num 3:47+), alcoholic drinks (Deu 14:26) and marriage dowries (Deu 22:29).

According to Genesis 47:15-17 food was only used for barter after money had been spent. Banking and usury laws exist in God’s Word in Leviticus even before tithing. Therefore the argument that money was not prevalent enough for everyday use is false. Yet the tithe contents never include money from non-food products and trades.

(5) THE CHURCH IS THE STOREHOUSE AND THE TITHE MUST BE TAKEN THERE

This lie can be easily refuted from both the Bible and from early church history. First, the OT Temple which was a literal physical building has been replaced by the body of the individual believer in which the Holy Spirit dwells. Second, the word “church” means “assembly” and not a building. The early church did not even have buildings for over 200 years after Calvary.

(6) THE FULL TITHE MUST GO TO THE PREACHER

This lie is a gross distortion of the OT doctrine of tithing under the Law. First, the OT tithe went to the Levites who were both servants to the priests and who also served as government employees. Second, the Levites only gave a tenth of their tenth to the priests. Third, as tithe-recipients neither Levites nor priests were allowed to own or inherit land inside Israel.

All of these points are discussed in detail both in my book, Should the Church Teach Tithing, and in my essay, Tithing is Not a Christian Doctrine.

Russell Earl Kelly, Ph. D.

…………………………………………………………….

Reply to Letter, March 4, 2008

The “10% is a good place to start” is the clarion call of my own Southern Baptist background. They give that reply automatically without any thought whatsoever.

It sounds good — but it is not biblical. It is based on the false assumption that every OT Hebrew was required to BEGIN his giving at 10% of income —which is not biblical.

The truth is that 16 of 16 verses which DESCRIBE the CONTENTS of the tithe always only include food from the herds and farms from INSIDE Israel. Tithes were still only food 1000 years later in Malachi 3:10-11 and 1400 years later in Matthew 23:23. Read Alfred Edersheim’s Sketches of Jewish Social Life. A Hebrew who lived outside of Israel could not bring a tithe from other lands. And the INCREASE was not from man’s hand; it was from the herds and lands which God had MIRACULOUSLY increased. The increase can only come from God. That prevents man from claiming that he had a part in crafting the increase. These points are missed by tithe-teachers.

Is 10% a good starting place, a minimum starting place, training wheels for giving (Randy Alcorn) or a minimum expectation (Southern Baptists)? It sounds good — but it is not from God’s Word. Why? The Mosaic Law required a double portion to the firstborn male. That would make the land portions too small and force most out of land ownership within 4-5 generations. The displaced persons would work as day-laborers for their richer relatives (the first-born lineage) or move into the cities and take up trades for a livelihood.

The day-laborers would not be required to tithe if the tithe had already been paid by the landowner. And the craftsmen would not be required to tithe because the increase came from their own hand rather from a miracle from God.

Use 10% as a guideline if you wish. It is better than nothing. But do not say that it is taught in God’s Word. That is what I am saying. In his book on Malachi the esteemed J. Vernon McGee says that the problem with a lot of wealthy tithers is that they stop at 10% when they should give more. I agree and it is hurting the churches. There is no set percentage in the New Covenant. It is probably true that most Christians should give MORE than 10%. That is sacrificial giving.

My complaint it that many poor are giving sacrificially when they give less than 10% and they should not be made to feel like cursed and second-class church members. Paul tells us in 1st Timothy 5:8 that we are worse than the infidels if we do not take care of our family’s essentials needs FIRST. And the poor who cannot give 10% do not hold church offices even though they may have great spiritual gifts. That is contrary to James, chapter two and 1 Corinthians 12.

Calling the tithe FIRSTFRUIT is also very wrong. The tithe was the TENTH. The biblical “firstfruits” were extremely small token offerings which must be eaten inside the Temple by the ministering priests per Deu 26:1-5 and Neh 10:35-37.

“Corban” was a method of taking that which rightfully belonged to the invalid elderly parents and promising it to God. The same kind of “corban” is attached to tithing when it is called “firstfruits.” In the CBS video my own wife was told she would be cursed if she stopped tithing in order to buy medicine for her sick husband. Howard Dayton basically said the same thing to a mother who was drowning in debt; she must continue tithing.

I do not think that God gets the glory from that kind of false theology. Read the blogs on the CBS site and see how many are out of the church because of that kind of garbage doctrine.

In Christ’s love, Russ Kelly

What Are the Hell Options?

Originally posted 12/3/09

by David Allis

In a previous article, I discussed some of the problems with hell – that is, some problems with the traditional Christian view of hell being a place of permanent conscious punishment for those who haven’t been saved while alive on earth. This traditional view typically relies on four theses:
Punishment – the purpose of hell is to punish those whose earthly lives warrant it
No Escape – those people consigned to hell cannot escape from it
Anti-Universalism – not all people will be saved – some (or many) people will be consigned to hell
Eternal Existence – hell is a place of unending conscious existence

The ‘problem’ of hell is compounded by scriptural ambiguity regarding the afterlife. The case for the traditional view of hell is not so clear, and it is difficult to ascertain how much this traditional view has been influenced by sources other than the scriptures – sources such as historical individuals like Tertullian (200AD) & Dante (a 13th Century Italian poet), pagan traditions, teutonic mythology and other factors. In addition, supporters of divergent & contradictory views of hell all find scriptural support for their alternative beliefs.

In considering a christian concept of hell, there are a limited number of options available, with clear choices in some areas. There are also some other areas that are not crucial, but are of interest. This is best expressed in logical form.

1. Does Hell Physically Exist?
a) YES – consider Q2 & Q3
b) NO – Hell is metaphorical

2. Is Hell Permanent? ie will individuals remain in hell for all eternity?
a) YES – this is part of the traditional view of hell
b) NO – there will come a time when there is no longer anyone alive in hell. With this view, there are a few alternatives on how people will end their time in hell. (Note – there is some overlap between these alternatives)
i. Annihilation – people in hell will eventually die (be annihilated), either at different times or all at the same time. Once everyone has died, there would be no need for hell to exist.
ii. Conditional Immortality – people only remain alive because of God’s active involvement in their lives. At some stage, God will stop keeping people in hell alive and then they will cease to exist.
iii. Escape – see below
iv. Gradual Death – people in hell have, in some way, ongoing opportunities to ‘repent’ and be saved (go to heaven). Whenever people choose not to repent (ie say ‘no’ to God), part of them dies. Eventually, if they resist God’s offer (of salvation) for long enough, they will die completely (cease to exist). Hence, eventually everyone in hell will have either moved to heaven, or ceased to exist.

3. Is it Possible to Escape from Hell? ie can individuals in hell get ‘saved’ in some way and move to heaven?
a) NO – this is part of the traditional view of hell – there is no possible escape from hell (there is no ‘second chance’ after death)
b) YES – it is possible for individuals to escape, or be ‘saved’ from hell and go to heaven. There might be one ‘second chance’, or multiple ‘second chances’ for individuals, which they can use to escape from hell.

The traditional view of hell would answer ‘a’ to the 3 questions above.

The three areas above are essential aspects of any view of any comprehensive hell. (ie the 3 questions above need to be answered). In addition, there are some other areas which raise interesting questions.

A. What is the Cause & Purpose of Punishment in Heaven?
Does God cause the punishment? Or does God just allow the punishment, which is a natural consequence of distance from God or rejection of Him?
What is the purpose of the punishment, if any? Is it intended for reformation? (If so, it seems pointless if there is no chance of escape from hell). Is it just retribution? (If so, eternal punishment for temporal sin raises other questions).

B. Do Heaven Dwellers See And/Or Know of the Plight of Those in Hell?
Many historical church leaders have believed that those in heaven will see or be aware of the suffering of those in hell (eg Martin Luther, Peter Lombard, Tertullian, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Isaac Watts, Jonathon Edwards). Some suggest that those in heaven will be impervious to the suffering of the damned, while others say that the blessed will enjoy heaven even more because they see the suffering in hell (eg Peter Lombard[1], Tertullian[2], Thomas Aquinas[3], Jonathon Edwards[4], Isaac Watts[5]). While this view might have been popular historically, it probably raises more questions today, particularly when it is viewed from the perspective of those suffering in hell being some of our beloved family members.

Others suggest that heaven dwellers will not be aware of the suffering of others. While this view might be more attractive these days, it raises the question of “How?” How will those in heaven be unaware of the suffering of their loved-ones in hell? Will this be through ignorance of their fate? Or though faded memories of these loved-ones? Or will there be just a lack of interest and empathy?

C. Calvinism and Predestination
I attended a church service recently where the preacher said ‘God chose you & you for faith – for salvation’. This ties in with the Calvanistic view of predestination for faith and salvation. I wondered at the response of the ‘unsaved’ in the congregation – they could have responded with “that’s not fair, why wasn’t I chosen by God”, or “I’m not a christian because God hasn’t chosen me, so don’t bother telling me anything more of the gospel”, or “Does that mean I am chosen to go to hell?”
The doctrine of predestination or pre-choosing for faith quickly raises the question of double-predestination – are some people predestined for hell? (Which many people consider unjust)

In reviewing or forming a christian view of hell, it is worth considering the possible options, and also other questions and issues are raised. If hell is the destination for many (or most) if the people who have ever lived, then surely it is important for Christians to be clear in their understanding of it. The traditional permanent-suffering-in-hell version might be correct – but if it isn’t, then it is worth making some effort now to try to understand what the correct version is….

David Allis
March 2009

[1] Peter Lombard, the Master of Sentences – “Therefore the elect shall go forth…to see the torments of the impious, seeing which they will not be grieved, but will be satiated with joy at the sight of the unutterable calamity of the impious .” Sent. Iv 50, ad fin
[2] Tertullian – “At that greatest of all spectacles, that last and eternal judgment how shall I admire, how laugh, how rejoice, how exult, when I behold so many proud monarchs groaning in the lowest abyss of darkness; so many magistrates liquefying in fiercer flames than they ever kindled against the Christians; so many sages philosophers blushing in red-hot fires with their deluded pupils; so many tragedians more tuneful in the expression of their own sufferings; so many dancers tripping more nimbly from anguish then ever before from applause.”
“What a spectacle. . .when the world. . .and its many products, shall be consumed in one great flame! How vast a spectacle then bursts upon the eye! What there excites my admiration? What my derision? Which sight gives me joy? As I see. . .illustrious monarchs. . . groaning in the lowest darkness, Philosophers. . .as fire consumes them! Poets trembling before the judgment-seat of. . .Christ! I shall hear the tragedians, louder-voiced in their own calamity; view play-actors. . .in the dissolving flame; behold wrestlers, not in their gymnasia, but tossing in the fiery billows. . .What inquisitor or priest in his munificence will bestow on you the favor of seeing and exulting in such things as these? Yet even now we in a measure have them by faith in the picturings of imagination.” [De Spectaculis, Chapter XXX]
[3] Thomas Aquinas – “In order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned. . .So that they may be urged the more to praise God. . .The saints in heaven know distinctly all that happens. . .to the damned.” [Summa Theologica, Third Part, Supplement, Question XCIV, “Of the Relations of the Saints Towards the Damned,” First Article, “Whether the Blessed in Heaven Will See the Sufferings of the Damned. . .”]

[4] Jonathan Edwards – “The view of the misery of the damned will double the ardour of the love and gratitude of the saints of heaven.” “The sight of hell torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever. . .Can the believing father in Heaven be happy with his unbelieving children in Hell. . . I tell you, yea! Such will be his sense of justice that it will increase rather than diminish his bliss.” [“The Eternity of Hell Torments” (Sermon), April 1739 & Discourses on Various Important Subjects, 1738]
[5] Isaac Watts: During America ‘s “Great Awakening” the popular hymn writer, Isaac Watts (1674-1748), even set Christians’ feet to tapping with this crisp little verse:
What bliss will fill the ransomed souls,
When they in glory dwell,
To see the sinner as he rolls,
In quenchless flames of hell

The Problem With Hell

Originally posted 28/2/09

by David Allis

Hell is potentially a hot topic, and I approach it with some fear & trepidation. Yet it is an incredibly important topic, as, in it’s typically accepted form, Christians anticipate that many (possibly the majority) of people who have ever lived will spend eternity suffering there. Surely the expected permanent destination for so many people is worthy of careful consideration.

Most Christians seem to believe in a ‘typical’ concept of hell, although they often haven’t thought through the details or faced some of the difficulties with their view. Hell is part of the ‘package’ of Christianity that they have accepted, but it remains on the periphery & the details haven’t been clarified in their minds. Typically, they are happy they have been ‘saved’ and hence have escaped from the clutches of hell, and they would like to help others escape from it also.

The typical or traditional Christian view of hell is that it is a place of permanent conscious punishment for those who haven’t been saved while alive on earth. It typically relies on four theses:
Punishment – the purpose of hell is to punish those whose earthly lives warrant it
No Escape – those people consigned to hell cannot escape from it
Anti-Universalism – not all people will be saved – some (or many) people will be consigned to hell
Eternal Existence – hell is a place of unending conscious existence

This typical concept of hell, or minor modifications of it, are the primary doctrine of hell found throughout the history of Christianity. It has been, and remains, a prominent aspect of the gospel that is presented by Christianity – the ‘good news’ is often presented as the good news of how all people face an eternity of suffering in hell, but, by the grace of God, have the opportunity to be ‘saved’ from hell and spend eternity with God in heaven.

However, there are problems with this traditional doctrine of hell (permanent, inescapable, conscious punishment) that need to be faced, and questions that deserve to be answered.

1. Is Hell Compatible with the Nature of God? – Permanent, conscious, inescapable suffering in hell seems incompatible with those aspects of God that we value – particularly that he is all-loving, all-powerful, all-knowing, merciful & full of grace.

2. God Desires to Save Everyone – It is apparent in the Bible that God’s desire (or hope or purpose) is to save everyone (2 Pet 3:9), or at least as many as possible. However, we should ask the question “According to an evangelical (or other) understanding of salvation, what proportion of all the people that have ever lived in the world (currently estimated at 106 billion) have been ‘saved’ and do we expect will be in heaven?” Estimates of this might vary, but I anticipate that they will typically be somewhere between 5% & 20% ‘saved’. Hence, with the traditional view of hell, we should expect 80-95% of people (about 80-95 billion) to be suffering permanently in hell. With this perspective, it could be argued that God, who desires to save as many as possible, doesn’t appear to have been very successful. Even if everyone alive today gets ‘saved’, the overall proportions in heaven & hell won’t change much. (Yes – the myth that “there more people alive today than have ever lived” is wrong)

3. Having a Party While Our Loved One’s Suffer – Author Brian McLaren paints a picture of the traditional afterlife view – where christians will be having a party with Jesus upstairs (heaven), while in the basement (hell) the un-saved (including many of our loved ones) will be suffering horribly with no hope of escape. This makes it hard for those upstairs to enjoy the party (knowing their loved ones are suffering). This version of the “Good News” actually looks quite bad. Also I hope the Jesus we follow would go downstairs to do something to help those he loves but are suffering … I might even go with him if I could give any assistance.

4. Will They Know? Will those in heaven know of those suffering in hell? If so, then this seems to reduces the blessedness of heaven – how can we enjoy heaven knowing that those we loved (& would have given our lives for while on earth) are continually suffering? If those in heaven don’t know of the suffering, how will this occur? Will it be through faded or lost memories of our loved ones? This seems to be a sad alternative – that we might live our lives sacrificially for loved ones while on earth, and then forget them when we are in heaven.

5. Hell is Inconsistent with God’s Salvation Efforts to Date – God showed total love for all individuals by sending Jesus to live & die for them. As evangelists say “Even if you were the only person in the world, Jesus loves you so much he would have died for you”. Yet with this view, when we die the salvation efforts of God suddenly change from total effort, to no effort (& no chance of rescue). It seems inconsistent that God’s love and salvation efforts apparently change so much so quickly.

6. The Scriptures Aren’t Clear – There is scriptural ambiguity regarding the afterlife – the case for the traditional view of hell is not so clear. Supporters of divergent & contradictory views all find scriptural support for their alternative beliefs.

7. What is the Purpose of Hell? – There are three common views of the purpose God has for hell – remedial, retributive punishment and issuant.
The remedial view, where God uses hell to remedy and restore individuals, doesn’t fit with the traditional view of hell, as presumably for a remedy to be effective there must be some end or escape.
The traditional views of hell are unclear or inconsistent regarding which of the alternative views they are supporting – retributive punishment or issuant.
The retributive view holds that the primary purpose of hell is to serve as a place of punishment for the unrepentant – the punishment in hell is in proportion to the scale of the crime – sin against God is sin against the most holy being and hence deserves the utmost punishment, eternal punishment. However, this raises the question of the morality of eternal punishment for sin that occurred in a temporal period – is it just to punish individuals eternally for sin that they committed in only a few short years of life?
The issuant view is that hell ‘issues’ from God’s love for His creatures – God has provided hell as a place for those persons who do not wish to be in communion with Him. God does not want to coerce individuals, and so offers them an alternative, the provision made being another manifestation of the good of exercising free will in response to God’s loving initiatives in the world.
For one to hold to a traditional view of hell, it seems necessary to understand clearly what the purpose of hell is – yet this clarity is elusive.

8. Does God’s Love Change So Quickly? – The traditional view of hell sets death as the cut-off time. Thomas Allin, author of Christ Triumphant (1890), recounts a true story ‘In a certain quarter of London, one of the many evangelists had gone forth to preach to the people. When he had concluded an eloquent address, he was thus accosted by one of his hearers: “Sir,” said the man, “may I ask you one or two questions?” “Surely,” said the preacher. “You have told us that God’s love for us is very great and very strong.” “Yes.” “And that He sent His Son to save us, and I may be saved this moment, if I will.” “Yes.” “But, if I go away without an immediate acceptance of this offer, and if, a few minutes after I were to be killed on my way home, I should find myself in hell for ever and ever.” “Yes.” “Then,” said the man, “if so, I don’t want to have anything to do with a being whose love for me can change so completely in five minutes.’ (from Hope Beyond Hell by Gerry Beauchemin)

9. The Problem of Religious Luck – there is a philosophical problem with ‘religious luck’ ie the extent to which an individual is a fit candidate for either damnation or salvation goes beyond the individual’s control. Whether one responds appropriately to grace will depend upon the shape of one’s character and the shape of one’s character will depend upon circumstances that are outside of one’s control. This creates a ‘problem’ as it is inherently unfair.

10. Divine Conservation is the view that individuals only remain alive through God actively sustaining their existence. Hence, without God’s activity or support, people would perish or cease to exist. If this is true, it raises moral issues about eternal punishment in hell – what sort of god would actively keep people alive so he can punish them for eternity with no hope of redemption? This god seems quite different from the benevolent loving christian god.

11. Unbalanced Contrast. We traditionally associate heaven with grace, mercy & love, and hell with justice & punishment. However, these aren’t accurate opposites – they are an unbalanced contrast.
It seems more appropriate to contrast justice with punishment (ie heaven = justice, hell = punishment), yet we believe that none will enter heaven because they justly deserve it on their own merit. Hence heaven does not equate to justice, as we don’t deserve it.
Another apparently appropriate contrast is grace, mercy & love contrasted with absence of these attributes. Yet this is also problematic, as hell does not easily equate to an absence of grace, mercy & love – how can God cease to be grace-giving, merciful & loving?

12. A Less-Than-Human Standard of Love. The traditional view of hell makes God’s love less than the expected standard for humans on earth. Great love is laying down your life for a friend (Jn 15:13). Parents are expected to lay down their lives for their children. Parents are expected to forgive, and keep forgiving & being reconciled to their children. When does it stop? The best form of parental love is expected to endure while there is life – we hope for & expect parents, at the end of their lives, still being reconciled to their children. Yet the traditional view of hell implies that god’s love & the potential reconciliation for individuals ends – that there comes a time (death) where god effectively says “That’s it – you no longer have any chance of being forgiven”. This seems less than the best human standard of love.

13. The Good News Doesn’t Look So Good – Overall, when these issues are considered, the traditional view of hell paints a picture of God, salvation & punishment that doesn’t seem like ‘good news’. Belief in eternal punishment seems a serious detriment to the entire message of salvation – it turns the “Good News” into bad news. Even when people turn to Jesus, it may not be as much to embrace His loving gift as to avoid what they believe is the only other alternative. This significantly affects the way many view the Almighty God and causes countless others to doubt the reliability of the Gospel.

Faced with these problems and questions, some other questions arise –
– Has eternal suffering in hell been the only view in historical Christianity? Or have there been strands of other views that have run through history, but have been obscured by the dominant view?
– How much has the traditional view been influenced by pagan traditions[1], teutonic mythology (In Norse mythology, Hel is the name of the Norse underworld & its ruler[2]), Tertullian (200AD), Dante (a 13th Century Italian poet)
– Are their any scripturally-valid alternatives? If so, what are they? What problems do they solve? What new problems do they raise?
– How do we resolve these questions and issues? Do we need to re-read the scriptures with fresh eyes – with as few presuppositions as possible? If there is apparent conflict between our understanding of the nature & character of God and our interpretation of some scriptures, do we resolve it, or do we leave it unanswered or in tension? Do we adjust our view of God to conform to our interpretation of some scriptures? Or do we seek to interpret those scriptures in the light of our understanding of God?
– Do we dare consider & talk about these issues? If so, how do we do so wisely and safely?

As the dominant view of hell has been dominant in Christian tradition for many hundreds of years, and has been advocated by many of our traditional theological heroes, if one is to review this doctrine, it seems wise to do so carefully and prayerfully. However, in my view, the traditional doctrine of hell raises so many questions and problems, it is essential that it be reconsidered.

David Allis
March 2009
[1] http://www.mercifultruth.com/the-real-hell.htm

[2] http://www.mercifultruth.com/hel.htm

Seven Mistakes Every Church Should Avoid

Originally posted 24/2/09

by Keith Giles

1) Embracing the building – Regardless of the fact that the New Testament emphasizes a Church made “not by human hands” but composed of people (who are themselves the Temple of the Holy Spirit), many churches in America today get very distracted by the need for a building. In fact, most christians couldn’t imagine the possibility of church without one.

More on this topic HERE

2) Misrepresenting the tithe – Nearly everyone who finds out we lead a house church asks me if we at least make sure everyone tithes. When I say we don’t they usually begin to cock their heads to one side and look at me funny. However, the Biblical mandate for tithing is purely an Old Testament concept intended to maintain the Jewsish Temple system and support the Levitical Priesthood. The New Testament church neither taught it, nor practiced it. In fact, the Christian Church didn’t mandate a tithe until the 7th Century. Imagine, over 700 years with no tithe? How could that be? To begin with, offerings in the early, New Testament church were voluntary and freely given out of love. In fact, most gave more than a tithe, they sold everything they had and shared it with those around them who had need. Still, this offering wasn’t a law or a command of the Church, it was freely shared out of love. Tertullian, in his “Apology” (2nd Century) affirms that no offering was taken out of compulsion but says:

“Even if there is a treasury of a sort, it is not made up of money paid in initiation fees, as if religion were a matter of contract. Every man once a month brings some modest contribution- or whatever he wishes, and only if he does wish, and if he can; for nobody is compelled; it is a voluntary offering…to feed the poor and to bury them, for boys and girls who lack property and parents, and then for slaves grown old.” (Read the entire quote HERE )

Under Constantine, the clergy were paid for their services (for the first time in Church history), but that payment was provided by the Roman Government, not by the Christians themselves.

3) Ignoring the poor – There are over 2,000 verses of scripture in the Bible about God’s heart for the poor and His expectation that we, the people of God, should also love and bless their poor among us. The strongest verse, in my opinion, comes in Matthew 25 where Jesus tells us that, at the Judgment, He Himself will separate the sheep and the goats based on how much they cared for the poor and the outcast they encountered in their life. A few other verses include:

“There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.”
– Deut. 15:11

“All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” (Paul being sent out as the first missionary by Peter, James and John in Galatians 2:10)

God is speaking of King Josiah and says: “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” (Jeremiah 22:16)

Much more on this subject HERE

4) Over-emphasizing the role of the pastor – Contrary to popular opinion, and American culture, the pastor was not the head of the church in the New Testament. The word “Pastor” only appears once and none of the epistles to the churches are addressed to the pastors, they are addressed to the church; the people themselves.

In the New Testament Church, no one could point to a single man and say, “There is my Pastor” even as none of them could say, “There is my priest”. Why? Because everyone understood from Peter, Paul and the rest of the Apostles that THEY THEMSELVES were the Priesthood.

No Christian today would think it was Biblical to start offering lambs for sacrifice as part of Sunday morning worship, would they? Why not? Because Christ fulfilled that upon the cross and became the sacrificial lamb once and for all. Why then do we so easily embrace a priest and a temple? Didn’t Jesus offer the sacrifice as our High Priest? Didn’t Paul and Peter tell us that we were the Temple of the Holy Spirit?

Certainly, the temple and the priesthood and the sacrifice are all important to the worship of God, however in the New Testament Christian Church the people themselves are the temple, the priesthood and the daily sacrifice.

More on this hot topic HERE

5) Yearning for political power – Nothing underscores the frustration of the American Church more than the current lust for political influence and power. Because “Plan A” has failed to create the result we desired, we have now reverted to “Plan B” which is to attempt to Christianize the society around us and to legislate our Christian values.

The New Testament Christians lived under an oppressive pagan government. They were killed for sport and persecuted horribly. Instead of attempting to reform their government, they obeyed Jesus and loved their oppressors. They did not take up the sword and fight back. They did not verbally abuse the pagans for their sinful lifestyle. They did not attempt to form a coalition or a lobby group to force legislation that aligned with their views. Instead, they simply loved the people around them, shared all that they had with others and, in time, they turned the world upside down by imitating Christ Jesus our Lord.

We should do the same.

More on this topic HERE and HERE

6) Business-minded ecclesiology – Nothing has gotten me in more trouble than this topic, but it is something I feel passionate about. The New Testament never refers to the Church as a business. That’s not my opinion, it’s just the plain fact of the matter. The Church is described as a Body, a Bride, a Family, a Spiritual House, and an Organism where Christ is the head.

More on this HERE

7) Conversion-focus instead of disciple-making – So many Christian Churches today are focused on making converts with elaborate Easter dramas and Christmas Pageants and Outreach events that gather large crowds, ask for a show of hands from those who do not wish to burn in hell forever. Ask them to repeat a prayer and then count raised hands of those who repeated it.

One Church I visited recently did this exactly and cheered on Sunday morning that 500 people had surrendered their lives to Christ. This same church spent over $40,000 just to produce this event. Yet absolutely zero time, money, energy or thought was placed into making disciples of those 500 people.

For me, and I believe for those who follow Jesus, conversion isn’t the touchdown, it’s the whistle that starts the game. Jesus commanded us to go and preach the Gospel of the Kingdom and to make disciples and to teach them to obey all that He commanded. He didn’t tell us to go out and make converts and count hands.
My sincere prayer and hope is that every Christian Church in America would repent of these seven failures and return to a more Biblical, New Testament form of Christian life.

Many of these practices above involve repairing the veil that was torn at the crucifixion and returning to an Old Testament form of religious worship where an elected priesthood offers spiritual guidance within an elaborate temple on behalf of the common people.

This is why the church we read about in the New Testament bears little to no resemblace to the church on the street corner, or the one we attend.

Can we hope to return to a Christianity based on freedom? Can we hope for the day that every believer is a priest of God? Can we pray that followers of Jesus begin to embrace the idea that they are actually the temple of the Holy Spirit, and that they are the ambassadors of Christ to the world?

Yes, we can hope, and we can pray. And I do…
Peace,
Keith
Steven Kippel said… I disagree with you on tithe. Not that it doesn’t belong on your list, but that the tithe of the old testament was for much more than taking care of the priesthood. I wrote a bit about it on my own blog a while back. http://destroyideas.blogspot.com/2007/04/thithes-offerings.html
We should not just dismiss tithe, but we should actually include tithe in everything we do. I have actually issued a challenge to congregations to tithe their time. http://destroyideas.blogspot.com/2008/09/tithing-time.html I’ll be expounding on this further in the future and present it to the local congregations in my area.

Keith Giles said… Steven, you don’t have to agree with me, of course. But the plain fact of the matter is that the New Testament church did not practice tithing. Tithing was under the Law.
Even under Constantine the church did not tithe. It wasn’t until 700 AD that the Christian Church implemented the OT tithe.
Tithing is Old Testament. Giving, sharing and loving freely is New Testament.
Tithing is 10% for the priest and the support of the temple.
Sharing, giving and loving is for the support of the living temple and the priesthood of the believer, and the obedience to Jesus’ command to be known for our love.
Sharing is everything, not a percentage. It’s about love. It’s 100%, not 10%.
pagehamilton said… Keith, your post points out inconsistencies between the current church business model so many of us have known, and what we see “being the church” was in the NT – sort of. You leave me with the thought that you’re trying to help the current church business model stay intact, but make some slight modifications to look a little more like what being the church really is about. Is that your intent?
If so, I respectfully differ with you on spending energy there. The typical church business is indeed dependent on various, good, business practices to exist. A business has to grow – or better, thrive – to stay viable. It needs money to grow, and a tithe-like giving practice is pretty much necessary to support this growth. A building is generally good for adding business legitimacy. Strong, human leadership – CEO, Pastor, whatever you call it – is a must for any business.
If I’m misunderstanding your intent, then I would ask – what are you trying to accomplish with these recommendations?

Keith Giles said… Page,
My intent is to point out where the business-model church of today has strayed away from her original DNA set down by Christ in the NT.
My hope is to allow people who are in the biz-model church to see and identify these inconsistencies and, perhaps, decide to “be the church” instead of just attend one.
I agree with you that any hope of reforming the existing traditional church is a lost cause. It cannot fully be who/what it was meant to be as long as it clings to the man-made model and avoids the “not made with human hands” model.
At least, that’s my opinion, and I believe the testimony of the NT. Some, many actually, disagree.

pagehamilton said… Okay. More along the lines of trying to understand your intent, you note, “I am a licensed and ordained minister of the Gospel.” and elsewhere, “…a writer, pastor, teacher, preacher, and missional church planter…” These strike me as “business model embracing” comments. But perhaps I’m misunderstanding?

Keith Giles said… Page,
Yeah, I guess I should explain myself on those points to make things clearer.
First, I was licensed and ordained at around 23 years of age by the Southeren Baptist Church back in El Paso, Tx.
That is simply a statement of fact. I can, and have, performed weddings and I have that certificate in the frame in my bedroom.
However, that isn’t something I believe gives me any special authority over any other christian. It’s simply that I have “been there, done that.”
Certainly, I used to be part of that ‘business-minded’ traditional church, but that was over 3 years ago.
I kind of see where you’re coming from when you say that my calling myself a “pastor, teacher, missional house church planter,”, etc. appears to be language used by the traditional church…and it is…however it’s also entirely biblical to have the spiritual gift to pastor (which I have independantly of any certificate on my wall), and the spiritual gift to teach (ditto), and I have planted a missional house church…which is also a very NT concept as well.
Hopefully that clears up some of where I am coming from. If not, a quick glance through the other articles on this blog and my main blog at http://www.KeithGiles.com should clear up anything else you might be curious about.
… One more thing: When I use the word “Pastor” to describe myself on my blog, I am not referring to the CEO, stand-up-front-and-preach-for-45-minutes version of a pastor. This is not the kind of pastor I see in the NT and it’s not the kind of pastor I am in our house church.
To pastor is to shepherd and care for the people within the Body. My spiritual gifting is to care for the people in our house church and I do this without taking a salary or other compensation. It’s something I do because God has called me to this in the Body and I am happy to serve others in this way.

Twenty-Five Sort of Random Things I Do and Don’t Believe

Originally posted 10/2/09

by the Internet Monk

Greetings

After a couple of articles from the Internet Monk, here is another one (then on to someone else next time).

This article is a mixture of things IM does & doesn’t believe. I agree with a lot of it ….. but not what he says about preaching – however I’ve left it in for completeness. (By the way, IM is a preacher, so of course he believes in the importance of preaching)

I’ve also added some points of my own at the end

Happy reading

Blessings
David Allis

 
Twenty-Five Sort of Random Things I Do and Don’t Believe – by the Internet Monk

1. I don’t believe gay marriage is the biggest threat to the family. Not by anything approaching a long shot. I’ve worked with thousands of students in my life, and the messed up kids were messed up by divorce, absentee parents, sex, substance abuse and greed. I’ve met maybe 10 students in my life who were affected by anyone’s homosexuality.

2. I don’t believe America is a Christian nation. I actually don’t believe there is such a thing, and if there were, America wouldn’t be one. Not on paper, not from the founders and not now. We’re a secular republic and I like it that way.

3. I believe that Christian publishing does a lot of good, but I also think it does a lot of harm. All in all, we’d have to say that for all the good done, we still have a monstrous collection of lame, dangerous and outright perverse results from the various money-making adventures of the people who publish gems like “The Prayer of Jabez.” Without Christian publishing making a lot of nut jobs legitimate, things in evangelicalism would be a lot less wacky.

4. I don’t like or use the word inerrancy. In my context of working with non-Christian internationals, it’s simply too complicated to teach the complicated special definition of “no errors” that goes along with this view. The Bible truly tells us what we need to know. It has the authority of God. (Plus, I’m tired of seeing people like Peter Enns labeled as weak on scripture.)

5. Sunday night and Wednesday night church services ought to be against the law.

6. I actually believe the NLT is a really fine translation. I use it more and more all the time.

7. I don’t believe that thinking Biblically means you are an expert on every detail in the Bible. No…overdosing on Bible study can make you pretty useless in many situations.

8. I believe the exalting of “verse by verse” preaching is a lot of flag waving. There’s a much better case for preaching large segments of scripture- like chapters and entire books- and for topical preaching.

9. I believe it’s God’s Word, but I really struggle with some of the crazy stuff in Leviticus, especially when it’s done to women.

10. I have no problem with female preachers or pastors. The relevant passages are in the category of cultural accommodation (i.e. similar to the passages on slavery), and I’m nowhere close to being convinced by the arguments for male primacy some come up with from Genesis.

11. I’m going to be in trouble now: I believe the blindness towards the general bias against women and the actual mistreatment of women is a failure in evangelicalism that far outweighs the issue of racism. Evangelicalism has a lot of men who respect and love women as Christ did, but it also has a massive amount of men who don’t like women, disrespect and mistreat them.

12. I don’t believe there’s all that much good about institutional Christianity. It exists, has to exist and always will exist, but Jesus started a movement, not an institution. (And definitely not a business or a club.) Christianity is a cross-cultural, evangelistic, church planting movement. It’s all about taking the Gospel to individuals and cultures first, then practicing what it means to be Christians in whatever context we live. I can be pretty annoying about this.

13. I’d like everyone- infant baptizers and children baptizers- to own up to the fact that evangelism has badly suffered because we baptize children. Even if you believe it’s right, you still have to contend with the effect all of this has had on evangelism. (In fact, refusing to own up to our lack of evangelistic focus is a primary problem with theological types.) And no, it doesn’t have to be that way, but you figure it out.

14. I believe in an educated ministry, but I don’t see much reason for traditional seminary. It’s expensive and inefficient to a fault. We need mentoring, apprenticing, church-centered programs, etc. The seminary product is about to become the buggy whip of evangelicalism.

15. I believe people who have left the faith have a lot of useful things to say to us, and we need to listen. We also ought to apologize and make a lot of things right. We’ve heard and driven off millions of people, and then we’ve mostly blamed them.

16. I believe too much technology has screwed up preaching to the point of a three alarm fire. We need Bible preachers with very basic communication skills, not cool guys with gadgets. We have been stupidly naive about how much technology has helped us communicate the Gospel. Remember “the medium is the message?” Well….that’s apparently quite true. I don’t believe that the world’s technogeeks and marketers have the wisdom we need for preaching, teaching and applying the Gospel. The Gospel is not about a product or a brand. Carson on I Corinthians. That’s what I’m talking about.

17. I believe evangelicals have a fetish of wanting preachers to know everything and to tell them what to do. In fact, when the Washington Post said, years ago, that evangelicals were “…easily led,” they were more right than wrong. I’m not into the Roman Catholic view of church authority, but among what group of Christians are you more likely to be told during the sermon what to think about politics, economics, child-raising, science, psychology, literature, entertainment and education? Who’s more likely to have a series of 300 Life Principles that tell you everything including where to buy your vitamins? Yeah, that’s right. Everyone say “Baaa.”

18. I believe in creation by God, but I’m not a young earth creationist. I’d really rather you try to sell me Amway or insurance than try to change my mind on that one.

19. I believe that while Protestants are right on the issue of grace in salvation, at the level of how we practice the faith we’re actually far more sympathetic to the other team than we admit, and if we actually advertised what the reformers cooked up in the Reformation, a lot of Protestants would take the bus back to Rome in the morning. The grace of God in the Gospel is radical, revolutionary and not at all compatible with entrenched religious interests and power plays. If its control of a system you want, Gospel grace is going to blow up your lab.

20. I believe the Biblical position is the pro-life position, but endless proclamations of abortion rhetoric make me wonder what’s actually going on here? Without backing off my pro-life convictions at all, I can’t honestly say that evangelicals are consistently and practically pro-life on all the issues where the sacredness of life is at stake. If pro-life is the Word, then be a doer, not just a hearer, writer or talker.

21. Moralistic busy-bodies, censors and bullies don’t impress me as actually having anything to do with Christianity.

22. I don’t believe Christians are supposed to keep a Sabbath day.

23. I believe tithing was old covenant and really has no place in the teaching of Christian stewardship today. (He adds in the comments on his blog that “Tithing is an old covenant religious law, fulfilled and done away with in the new covenant. It was actually considerably more complex than a tenth, and was for the maintaining of the priesthood and the temple, which we no longer have because Jesus has fulfilled both.There are no commands to tithe in the new testament at all. The new covenant teaches that we give as the Holy Spirit leads and enables.Institutional churches have used this concept to manipulate church members for years. I was brought up under a kind of prosperity Gospel teaching that used Malachi- and old testament book about funding the temple- to convince people to give to the local church a mandatory 10%………Tithing is deeply ingrained in evangelicalism and has been the foundation of lots of abusive, manipulative episodes. It’s also the foundation of the prosperity mindset for millions of evangelicals. We need to tell the truth on this one. I think many ministers do and more will, but we’ll have to say “GASP” what our ancestors said was wrong.”)

24. The whole concept of revival seems like a confused mess to me. A bit of truth in there, but mostly it’s a lot of tradition and manipulation.

25. I don’t believe anything in the field of sensational Biblical archaeology: chariot wheels in the Red Sea, for example. I’m big on archaeology, but after I fell for the James Ossuary, I’m very skeptical.

& David adds –

26. I don’t believe in the effectiveness of a just saying a ’sinners prayer’ to get an individual into heaven.
I’ve heard preachers give an ‘altar call’, see some people respond, then say “that’s x more people in heaven & x less in hell”. What rubbish. Paul tells us to guard our salvation, to run a good race & make sure we make it to the end, to work out our faith with fear & trembling. Matt 25 says we will face judgement based on how we have treated the needy. Saying a ‘sinners prayer’ doesn’t automatically change a persons life – it isn’t a ‘get into heaven free’ card in the great monopoly game of life. (Note the IM agrees – he says in his blog comments “The sinner’s prayer is not Biblical and has nothing to do with becoming a Christian. It’s a piece of evangelical manipulation. We are saved by living faith in all that God is for us in Jesus as expressed in the Gospel. There’s no “prayer” that makes that happen. It’s the work of the Spirit in an individual life.”)

27. I don’t believe that those who aren’t ‘saved’ on earth (by typical evangelical standards) will all suffer eternally/permanently in hell with no chance of redemption.
……If people are only saved on earth via the standard evangelical ways, then overall God, whose “will is that none should perish” seems to have done a terrible job – probably only 5-20% of people who have ever lived were ’saved’ (by evangelical standards’ meaning that 80-95% of those people who God loves will be suffering permanently in hell
Normally God punishes people for their own good – ie so that it will lead to redemption, or so that they stop causing problems for other people. Eternal punishment in hell doesn’t have either of these results – it can only be retributive (permanent retribution for temporal sin).
Brian Mclaren in “The Last Word & the Word After That” paints a picture of christians having a party with Jesus upstairs (heaven), while in the basement (hell) the un-saved (including many of our loved ones) are suffering horribly with no hope of escape. I add to this some numbers – 5-20% upstairs, 80-95% downstairs. This makes it hard for those upstairs to enjoy the party (knowing their loved ones are suffering). Also …. I hope the Jesus I follow would go downstairs to do something to help those he loves but are suffering … I might even go with him if i could give any assistance

28. Preaching, as it is practiced in churches these days is extra-biblical. Typically is is a poor form of communication/teaching, and creates dependence.
Heck – I’ve said this before.