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Church Historians vs the Early Church

  • Church historians are “high-minded.”
    • They think about doctrinal positions and personal piety, but disregard topics such as money.
    • Rushdoony does mention them giving attention to money when their salaries are the topic of discussion.
  • Contra the historians, money was an important matter to the life of the early church fathers.
    • They considered the tithe obligatory.
      • The Apostolic Constitutions called the tithes and first-fruits “the command of God.”
        • This document even tried to specify who the recipients of the first-fruits and tithes should be;
          • “In fact, the regulations were sometimes very specific, as again in The Apostolic Constitutions, which states that all first-fruits belong to the bishop, the presbyters, and the deacons for their maintenance; the tithe in its entirety went for the rest of the clergy, for virgins, widows, and the poor (VII, IV, XXX).” (pp 25)
      • Various theologians in the early church pointed to the continuation of the tithe.
        • Cyprian, Augustine, Ambrose, Chrysostom, etc.
      • The Council of Tours (567) taught that the Church was obligated to tithe.

Tithes make provision for reform

  • The work of the Church fails when biblical tithing declines.
    • “Reforms always went hand in hand with tithing. Repeatedly, when the church became derelict, other Christian agencies were started, received the tithes of the faithful, and reformed the church.” (pp 25)
  • The middle ages are filled with churches, hospitals, orphanages, poor relief, schools, and many other institutions that were funded by Christian social financing (tithes).
    • Rushdoony points out that even with the ebbs in biblical spirituality throughout Christendom, because of the assumption of obedience to the law of the tithe, poverty relief and medical care continued.

Monopolizing the tithe

  • Innocent III decreed that the tithes must be given to the parish (local) church.
    • This was a massive blow to the Church.
      • Previously, the organized church could not abuse its authority as the individual Christian could funnel Kingdom finances away from corrupt leaders and give it to those working to bring about reforms.
        • The responsible tithers kept wickedness at bay by tithing only to those worthy (biblically faithful) individuals.
      • “By binding the tithe to the parish church, and, much later, by requiring attendance at the parish church, whatever its character, the self-reforming character of the church was destroyed. Previously, the church was readily subject to reform on the level of the believer, by his control of the tithe. Now, only two means of reform remained: first, from the top, and second, by division, as at the reformation.” (pp 25-26)

Tithing and the Puritans

  • Thomas Lever preached a series of sermons in 1550.
    • He condemned Henry VIII for confiscating church properties, and considered sacrilege.
    • In the sermons, he called for restitution, which is the biblical punishment for theft.
      • This, in Rushdoony’s estimation, is what lead to the great era of puritan social financing, which slowly funded reform in more and more areas of life.

Tithing in the US

  • A lot of the growth and successes that the US experienced in spite of her sin (chattel slavery as a prime example) was due to continuing the works of the Puritans. This includes tithing.
  • After spending time in the US, Alexis de Tocueville wrote (1835) that “private associations were the basic government of the country.”
    • The vast majority of those “private associations” were Christian tithe agencies.
    • What were all these individual tithe agencies able to accomplish in port cities?
      • “…preach the gospel to people from foreign lands, to immigrants landing in the U.S., to seamen at American ports, and so on. Immigrants were given job training, their wives taught home-making, and their children placed in Christian schools. As problems arose, new missions were created to minister to them.” (pp 26)
        • Flexibility and the goal-oriented nature of the tithe agencies allowed for efficiently dealing with social issues in the cities where European countries were unloading criminals from their prisons into the US.
        • Faithful Christian social financing dealt with real problems without the need of creating a bloated bureaucracy.
  • England’s parallel would have been the Salvation Army, which was founded by General William Booth.

Take Away

The lack of tithing, more specifically a biblical form of tithing, for so long has built up the wealth of the wicked and left the worthy-poor without gospel-laden help. Instead they receive government welfare that condemns them to mediocrity and will punish them for being successful. Until tithing is resumed, we will be left with expensive, wasteful, and unsuccessful welfare from a ungodly government. As Rushdoony said, “…God’s tithe must be paid, or God’s work, in God’s way, will not be done. We are reaping the harvest of man’s work, of humanism in our lives. God’s harvest comes only in God’s appointed way.” (pp 27)

Next chapter here.