Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tithing and Biblical Theology (Response to DeYoung part 7)

DeYoung stated: “How you view tithing has a lot to do with how you view the Old Testament.” This a great transition in his sermon into the area of biblical theology. In fact, what makes the tithing topic fascinating to me as a scholar is its relationship to biblical theology. As a Christian layperson, I'm more curious about how this topic should influence my financial giving to the local church and other Christian ministries. But it is where this topic touches biblical theology that really fascinates me.

DeYoung stated: “I would say every law from the Mosaic Covenant remains and every law must now be understood in light of Christ's coming.” We are in complete agreement on this point. I'm not one of those who say that the Old and New Covenants have no relationship between them. DeYoung refers to those who might say “rip out that page” when referring to the Mosaic Law. While I might be an ardent advocate for grace giving (or, post-tithe giving), I find a tremendous amount of value in the Mosaic Law ... each and every law. And when I read a law that I don't find much value in, I realize that the problem is with my lack of understanding, not the law itself.

Some views on the relationship between the Mosaic Law and Christians
Some say: Every law that is not repeated is repealed. That's the basic stance of some in the dispensationalist camp, particularly older forms like Classic Dispensationalism (think Scofield and Chafer) and Revised Dispensationalism (think Ryrie).
Some say: Every law that is not explicitly repealed continues. That is the basic stance of some in the reformed/covenant theology camp.
Some say: The law has three parts: civil, ceremonial, and moral. The civil laws don't apply because we are not the nation of Israel, the ceremonial laws don't apply because Christ fulfilled them, but the moral laws all still apply.

I think the first two views are overly simplistic. In the third view, I reject that three-fold division. My view (developed from a J. Daniel Hays article in Bibliotheca Sacra) is that every law in the Old Covenant is a manifestation of God's eternal character, therefore every law applies to Christians. But in order to figure out HOW each law applies, we need to get to the underlying principle of the law. The laws, as they are manifested, give the earmarks of being manifested for a particular people at a particular time in a particular place under a particular covenant. So when laws are tied to cultural or covenant aspects that are not directly relevant for New Covenant believers, the way the law applies will be changed ... but that doesn't mean it doesn't apply.

Tithing is connected to: the Levites, priesthood, festivals, and land (and possibly other things as well). All four of those Old Covenant entities are not directly applicable in their Old Covenant manifestation to Christians. We don't have Levites in the church, the priesthood has changed significantly as we are the priests, the festivals, which were pointers to New Covenant realities, have been fulfilled and are no longer literally celebrated, and our relationship to the land has drastically changed. This greatly impacts the issue of the continuation of tithing today.

Furthermore, two specific things that DeYoung states need comment. 1) “So when we look at tithing I don't think there is anything in the coming of Christ that would set apart, that would remove the principle of tithing, but rather should intensify.” I totally agree with this statement in a vacuum, but he seems to believe that the “principle of tithing” is the idea of giving 10% of income, a concept that seems TOTALLY FOREIGN to anything in Scripture. You can't assume the underlying principle, you need to prove it. 2) He states that we are not an agrarian society. I've already responded to this, but this is a common and (apparently) compelling argument by those who mandate tithing for Christians. However, first century Israel was not an exclusively agricultural society, and neither was Israel of Moses' day. Even back in Genesis we see references to money and those who worked trades other than agriculture: Tubal-cain (Genesis 4:22) worked with bronze and iron. While I recognize that the society was more agriculturally based back then, it wasn't exclusively agricultural. That should lead to the question: if an Israelite made money/income apart from crops or cattle, does the Old Testament mandate him to tithe? The answer is: no. Why, because of the extremely tight connection between the land and tithing.

Next we'll look at the three references DeYoung made to tithing in church history.

1 comment:

vooks said...

You mentioned you were influenced by Daniel Hays from his article in Bibliotheca Sacra

I ran into Dr. Russell Earl Kelly Critique of the same and I wish you responded to it. Chief among his points is Hay's 5 point prescription in application of Torah to the new covenant is virtually impossible unless you have a PhD in theology.

Here is the article;