Friday, September 08, 2006

Subculturally Conditioned

I keep thinking that one of these days someone will feel strongly enough for or against something I've said that they will have to exclaim about it, but so far you all have been very self-restrained, and here I am, hoping to pick a fight. (I mean, I guess that's what I'm hoping; it seems the only explanation for my feelings of disappointment every time I come back here and see "0 Comments" at the bottom of my latest post.) That seems the only useful (assuming fights are useful) purpose for the complete and utter nonsense I wrote--twice--yesterday, for example.

So how about this:

Today I was reading in the book of Acts (I'm still reading Job, too, and that will probably come up again another day, but for now I'm thinking about this one.) The church is all in upheaval because Gentiles are starting to believe in the God-formerly-known-as-Jewish and in His definitely Jewish Son, and some of the Jewish Christians are asserting that these Gentiles need to be circumcised in order to actually be saved from their sins, and other people are saying they don't, and it's getting a little heated. So the church leaders get together and have this meeting and talk and most likely pray about it, and consider the Scriptures that they have, and listen to the evidence they have of real Gentile faith. And then Jesus' half-brother James, who's kind of one of the main dudes, says, after a number of other things, including that Gentile salvation is not dependent on circumcision, "Therefore, my opinion is that we should not put obstacles in the way of the Goyim who are turning to God. Instead we should write them a letter telling them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from fornication, from what is strangled, and from blood" Acts 15.19-20).

So here's my question. Where did these guys get these perameters? Why are these prohibitions more important than circumcision? Is this something God told them, or was it a cultural thing? And if it's just a cultural thing, why does my Christian subculture continue to speak out against fornication? And if it's from God, why does my Christian subculture continue to ignore the other stuff?

I may have some ideas about this, including some pretty thought-out reasons for keeping sex within the commitment of marriage, but I'm curious to know what you think about it. Assuming anyone's reading this anymore.


Dave Grosser said...

I'm reading!

I'm just too lazy to dialogue.

Jenn said...

Nice. Thanks, bro! ;-)

Annelise said...

These are interesting questions and I am pretty sure I've read an answer somewhere. I'll check around and see if I can find the light I've once read on this subject!

Annelise said...

I actually love the passage of Scripture that you cited, because I think it shows the extreme wisdom of James and the Jerusalem church in dealing with what must have been a perplexing problem for them. I could write a lot about it, but this is your blog, so I won't. But, here is what John Stott says--you can find the complete text in The Spirit, the Church and the World, his commentary on Acts. To put it succinctly, he says that all the prohibitions mentioned were to deal with ceremonial purity as determined by Jewish law. The first two prohibitions would mean basically that the Gentiles should eat kosher food, so as not to offend their Jewish brothers and sisters in Christ. And he says that"porneia" in this context is should be seen in light of all the irregular marriages listed in Leviticus 18. The previous prohibitions refer to things listed in Leviticus 17. "The abstinence recommended must be understood...not as an essential Christian duty, but as a concession to the consciences of others, i.e. of the Jewish converts, who still regarded such food as unlawful and abomnible in the sight of God." (Stott, quoting FF Bruce) Stott says that chastity was an expected element of Christian holiness, and that is not really the topic in this particular list, which is of more cultural relevance in the context of Jewish and Gentile Christians relating to each other. Hope that helps. Essentially, though, it probably should be seen more in light of not offending the weaker conscience that Paul refers to in his letter to the Corinthians.

Jenn said...

That makes sense. Thanks, Mom!