Once More, With Feeling, on Tithing

Russell Kelly responded via email to my last post on tithing.  He had problems with the "math question" (which I will discuss below.)  But I will reproduce his email and my response.

You have a lot of verbiage but little concrete content. I am not sure what your postilion is on tithing, but it seems we might actually agree.

The one thing we do agree on is that tithing isn’t taught in the New Testament; it’s an Old Testament concept.  That’s probably more important to me than to him.  Dr. Kelly has obviously spent a lot of time disagreeing with people who can’t differentiate between real New Testament Christianity and the synthetic Judaism that his opponents have derived from the Old.  Perhaps Dr. Kelly can’t either.  This is a common fault of American Christianity, but that’s one of those "broad issues" that Dr. Kelly doesn’t deal with.  A better source for that is "Spengler" at Asia Times Online.

Personally I tend to categorise those who try to turn Christianity into a "high-speed" form of Judaism as ignorant, which is why I don’t spend a lot of time discussing them.  Maybe someday one of them will "call my bluff," and I’ll deal with it then.

Why does the whole message I am typing not show up on your screen without being interrupted? That is weird.

That’s because the "math question" is time limited.   Since Dr. Kelly runs a static site, he’s not had to deal with comment spam, which is the rationale behind the question.  For long responses (or responses where you’re spending a lot of time thinking about what to say,) the best way is to use a word processor, then cut and paste.

What is your book?  What got you into a frenzy about book reviews?  I review pro-tithing books if that is what you want and I post Amazon.com reviews of my book on my site. What is so wrong about that?

I’ll take this to mean that Dr. Kelly has declined my challenge.

If you want a dialog I have never backed down and you are seriously underestimating my tenacity by over evaluating your own ability. You just need some way of letting others know you have replied to their post.

I’ve spent this past year in two major "dialogues:" one on this blog with Liam, a gay Californian, on the issue of same-sex civil marriage, and the other with a Salafi Muslim in Indonesia on Islam and Christianity.  I can hang tough with the best of them.  If Dr. Kelly spent more time using his talents for debates with non-Christians, we’d all be better off.

First, "tithing is a good place to start" is a product of mesmerization and people say it automatically without thinking of their false assumptions. Not everybody in the OT began their giving level at 10% –only farmers and herdsmen inside Israel did that. Therefor it was NOT a standard of giving for everybody.

Dr. Kelly just doesn’t get it–I’m not looking for a legalistic rule, I’m looking for a helpful guide.  “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” Galatians 3:24, 25.  However, just because we’ve graduated doesn’t mean we should forget everything we’ve learned.

Second, you wrote The concept of the Jerusalem church was so successful that no other church mentioned in the New Testament emulated it.  It‚s dangerous to make an argument from silence, but in this case there needs to be a good reason not to perpetuate the model that the Apostles themselves started in Jerusalem. "

Friend, that is an insane interpretation of Acts 2 and 4. Those early Christians thought that Jesus was coming back very soon. They were not told to sell all but they chose to do so and later regretted it. When the money ran out they had nothing –no homes, no businesses, no food, etc and had to beg for food through Paul for at least a decade when the famine came.  and if you read Acts 15 and 21 you will discover that they were still zealous of the law 21:20-21 and most likely still paid whatever tithe they might have to the Temple.

It’s obvious from responses like this that Dr. Kelly is an adherent of a religious system that is simply too conventional and bourgeois to grasp the basically radical, revolutionary nature of the Gospel.  The Apostles had just spent three years as Jesus disciples, and they were there when Jesus challenged the rich young ruler.  They were the leaders in this community.  Without their approval, such a radical step would not have happened.  The Apostles felt that this was the way to carry out the Lord’s commands.

In any case, where is it said that "they were not told to sell all?"  Don’t the scriptures say the following?

“And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Acts 2:44-47, KJV.

To his credit, Dr. Kelly does put his finger on one "good reason" why the Jerusalem church wasn’t emulated: the issue of economic viability.  But that doesn’t give us an answer on how we must live today.

Christianity is a total commitment: life, mind, heart, soul and possessions.  Most laity have to work for a living; they give a third of their time and a larger portion of their energies into making a living.  What they give to their church and to the ministries is a part of them.  Dr. Kelly can go back and forth all he wants on whether tithing is what is needed, but given the totality of the Christian commitment, 10% is still low except for the destitute (and I dealt with that in the last post as well.)  Dr. Kelly dislikes tithing, but what does he propose for an alternative to support the work of the church?  A few pence in the offering?  Or no offering at all?

Beyond that, the whole issue of Christian stewardship cannot be intelligently discussed without the issue of church polity and governance.  But Dr. Kelly ignored my original post’s treatment of this subject, along with many other issues related to stewardship.  It used to be that Baptists were very strong on the participation of the membership in the governance of the church, but evidently this has fallen out of fashion even with some of them.  Or perhaps he has spent so much time disputing with authoritarians that he has overlooked it.

Or perhaps it’s a matter of focus.  In the Harvard Dictionary of Music, one definition of a drone is "(a) primitive bagpipe, capable of playing only a few low tones and used to accompany other instruments or voices."   They provide a steady bass line; by themselves, however, it’s a very turgid symphony.  That’s the best way to describe Dr. Kelly’s perspective.  In the past rigid proof texting might have won the day, but today we deserve better.

6 thoughts on “Once More, With Feeling, on Tithing”

  1. While you are busy saying I am fullof myself you are about to explode.

    First, we do agree that titing is not NT so there is no reason to continue this discussion

    Second, I detest proof-texting. All of my discussions go into great detail looking at the context, history and surrounding texts.

    Third, I am legally blind and it takes longer to correct the spelling.

    Fourth, you never did tell me the name of your book and you name so I can consider it.

    Fifth, tithes were never designed to pay building expenses. They wre designed to pay salaries of the servants to the priest (Num 18:21-24) and those servants gave a tenth of their tithe to the priests (Num 18:25-29).Building expenses were paid by freewill offerings.

    Finally, the NT in 2 Cor 8:12-14 teaches an equality principle. Those who are blessed should give more than 10%. Those who are not so blessed might not be able to give 1-%. There is no perecentage involved. It equals out in the long run.

    Christians should give in the same proportion they love the Lord and love to help others using gospel principles.

    I am a histoiran at heart and you seem to want to judge me as very narrow minded. I resent your attitude.

    Russ Kelly

  2. I heard about Russell Kelly for the first time yesterday.

    Needless to say I am shocked to see somebody so bent on destroying the faith of believers.

    Reading through your website, and your reasoning on the subject of tithing, dare I say Mr. Kelly, you have done major damage in subverting the authority of the church, and a God-given principle, the tithe and offerings, to give individual believers breakthrough in their personal lives.

    I doubt that you are Spirit-filled, or that you are a born-again Christian, and am concerned that you have become a spokesman for people who will do anything to wiggle themselves out of obedience to God’s Laws and principles, which God has given to cause the Church to walk in victory and freedom.

    Your energies could be better used to bring balance to the subject of giving, by teaching God’s people how to overcome by giving, instead of pages of criticism with no solutions for the individual believer. Teach them what God’s Kingdom is all about. Teach them they are in the world and not of the world.

Leave a Reply