Opinions on faith and life

Symbolism

2011-10-25

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)?

4 Comments

Lin

Well, I am certainly not going to try and convince you because I totally agree. I am so put off by the trappings and rituals that I can hardly get through a service anymore. I usually take that time to just read the bible. I am also becoming weary of "manufactured" worship. I know there are good intentions but we all know where good intentions lead. I know from my time working in megas that those leading worship view it as a performance. How can they help not seeing it that way? It is what it is! I long to sit in a circle with those who love Christ and seek His Word and just talk about it. It is hard to find people who will do that. Everything has to be organized and formal...even a bible study with a facilitator and study guide! It is getting to the point it is all so plastic to me. I long to hear what God is revealing to other believers who are digging deep. Not revealing as in something new but in a way that is deepening their walk. "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?" This is such an excellent point. They can’t see it because it has been Christianized by humans..  

Truthseeker

Lin, II agree so strongly with your second paragraph (I don’t disagree with the rest, but this resonates with me, especially.)  I, too, long for this.

SaberTruth

Agree, ladies. Fellowship seems almost impossible in this life. 

Truthseeker

Paula, Amen, amen, amen! I avoid ’services’ altogether now, though I long deeply for true fellowship of the kind Lin described above.  Because I don’t even believe in the ’need’ nor the ’biblical mandate’ for things like communion and water baptism, as rituals for any reason, I am very alone.  I like what you said about all being done in Christ’s death for us, so why do we need to do anything ritualistic again?  I am told that baptism is done as ’an outward sign’ or ’testimony’ but I think our life, our fruit makes a better testimony or sign.  Anyway, i agree completely with what you have written.  I am grateful for the ’church’ that happens here.  Church means the people, though it has come to mean the corporate experience or the location of the same.