The Bible In The Digital Age
Excerpt: Does the Bible allow flexibility to a society or level of technology? Does it matter?
In some religions and sects, strict adherence to social norms is their primary identification: the Amish with their "plain" clothing, the Muslims with their robes from a thousand years ago, monks in simple uniforms, and priests with their hats and jewelry. But regardless of whether these things are mandated by other religions, are they mandated by the Bible?
Look beyond fashion to laws and calendars as well. Can it be a timeless and cross-culture law if it only speaks of an agrarian way of living? For example, the tithing laws for ancient Israel were designed to support the poor and priesthood with food since they had no land to farm. This is why tithes were in the form of crops and animals, and even the sacrifices were consumed by the priests. The festivals were based upon harvests and seasons, and each one was significant both prophetically and spiritually.
We must be very careful how we treat such things today in our modern world. Can we really substitute anything we want, such as cash for cows and crops, or church buildings for temples, or water baptism for Jewish circumcision (mismatched as it is since it never involved women, but this is what the modern "church" does)? Further, can we do as the Hebrew Roots movement does, by continuing to practice ancient Israeli harvest feasts as if they never met their fulfillment in Jesus the Messiah (however those English words may offend them)? Can we call preachers/pastors "the priesthood" when the Bible calls every Christian a priest and king? Can we retain altars and place money on them as if Jesus never came and said, "It is finished"?
Stop and think, Christian: Does anything in the modern practice of Christianity resemble what we see in the New Testament? Look at the intent behind the teachings; do you really think that washing feet was to be a ritual rather than an object lesson in humility? Do you think that Jesus came not to lift burdens but to glorify them, not to humble the proud but to elevate them? Pastors on pedestals is the opposite of humble servants who lead by example rather than command. Does God require Christians or Gentiles to tithe, and by what right does anyone make the substitutions listed above? Why did Jesus tell the Samaritan woman that the time had arrived when people would no longer worship God in a particular place but "in spirit and truth", and why does he say that he is among any group, even as small as two people with no mention of a human authority, who simply gather because they belong to him?
If we as a community of believers have never hesitated to make substitutions when it suited us in the past, can we not make one that actually makes sense? We meet in buildings when we could save mountains of money by meeting via video conferences. Yes of course, we should still meet physically to worship God, and we can do that anywhere without owning our own property or spending what belongs to the poor on our own consumption. But if we just need to talk, don’t we have computers and phones? Paul wrote letters; wouldn’t he write blogs or do video lectures today? We live in a digital age; can we not be the "salt and light" of that age? The lost drive past our "temples" with disgust at the waste of money and the show of wealth, which we often excuse as "God’s blessings". If we’re all about helping the poor, we would do far better putting all of our effort into helping them, rather than some of it for them and some for our clubhouses
How can we call ourselves good stewards of God when we waste millions on buildings and property, and excuse it as "the Lord’s work"? Find me the place in the NT that tells us to build buildings, fill them with stuff, and call it holy. Show me one person called a pastor, and explain when preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ became lecturing a passive audience "with authority". Get busy composing the colossal excuse you’ll need when you stand before God and justify the expenditure of the tithes of the poor on new carpet for the "sanctuary" or a better sound system so our rock band can make the passive audience feel spiritual. Yes, "church" as we know it does a lot of good... but it could do a lot more.
There are many good books (and other media) that detail the ways in which practice of the Christian faith was hijacked soon after the apostles died, and you are encouraged to seek them out. But the best thing to do is to read the NT for yourself, especially the parts past the book of Acts, since those parts concern the early community of believers. Look behind the immediate issues of the day to the principles employed to address them. Especially look at what Jesus came to do, which is far more than dying to pay our ransom. He came to turn hierarchy on its head, to free Jews from the law, to free Gentiles from estrangement from God, and to remove all intermediaries but himself from between God and people. He came above all to reconcile us to God, not to correct or perfect ritualism and materialism.
I absolutely despise your festivals! I get no pleasure from your religious assemblies! Even if you offer me burnt and grain offerings, I will not be satisfied; I will not look with favor on your peace offerings of fattened calves. Take away from me your noisy songs; I don’t want to hear the music of your stringed instruments. Justice must flow like torrents of water, righteous actions like a stream that never dries up.
~ God, in Amos 5, NET version