In my previous article I wrote about the fact that altars and sacrifices, pulpits and preachers, etc. send the message that Jesus changed practically nothing in this life. But it raises another question related to the one we ask near every national holiday in the US about whether Christians should celebrate secular holidays based on pagan ones:
Why does the symbolism of holidays like Halloween bother so many Christians, but not the far more insidious symbolism of what they themselves practice every Sunday? If we shouldn’t celebrate Halloween or Christmas or Easter because of their (very real and factual) pagan origins, then why is it that the (very real and factual) pagan origins of orators on raised platforms, altars, choirs and clergy are not only tolerated but celebrated continually?
Now let’s not make the mistake of rectifying this glaring inconsistency by diving head-first into any and all pagan-based celebrations and “claim them for Christ”. Instead, why not put church practices under the microscope? Why not examine them to see whether they honor Christ or shame Him? Why not concern ourselves more with whether we understand what Jesus did for us than whether we impress the world, either by stooping to its level or withdrawing from it?
I’ve heard, listed, and made counter-arguments against the typical excuses many times, so I hope that anyone thinking about using them here would first see whether their particular objections have been raised already. But I seriously want to know how even the most sincere and godly Christians cannot see the problem with what we symbolize with altars and clergy and all the other trappings of religion. If you’re reading this and thinking there’s no harm in these things, I’d like to hear your scriptural and logical defense. Explain to me how there is no harm in belittling the sacrifice of Jesus by having altars upon which we lay “offerings” of money, for example.
Either symbolism of a spiritual nature matters or it doesn’t. But whatever you think about it, at least be consistent. Yet consider the message being sent to the lost when we keep altars and offerings and rituals while saying we are saved by faith alone because Jesus already met every requirement on our behalf. James’ rhetorical questions about being “double-minded” (see ch. 3 and 4) apply here; the church has had a “split personality” for a very, very long time.
So who would like to be the first to convince me that the church altar, offering, and priest does not symbolize the belief that Jesus’ sacrifice was insufficient and that His priesthood is not superior (see Hebrews)?