Tuesday and the Letters It Brings

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All the Aimee Posts

Does this have something to do with the letters? Or do I just like the picture? You decide.

Your unfolding review of Aimee Byrd’s latest is an excellent little nugget of discernment. What especially comes across to me is the awareness of subtle fallacies which, when one has truly thought through the biblical principles involved, are not so subtle after all. Thank you. I am far from pessimistic about the possibility of holy relationships, and yet (as you inculcate) we inhabit the tangle of a fallen world. Consider a Petrine observation: a roaring lion prowls about us. It is wisdom to not wrap each other in bacon and lie down across his plate. Aimee aims for our heavenly fellowship without properly understanding our earthly reality; in doing so she sips some over-realized eschatology.

Ross

Ross, yes.


“Re: Why Can’t We be Friends? Posts” Thank you for your engagement with this subject. Your thoughts are appreciated and helpful in a number of ways. I have two questions: 1. Can you say more about the distinctions between familial brother/sister relationships and Church brother/sister relationships? In “A Rat’s Nest of a Situation” you wrote, “Brothers and sisters can be friends, but they need not be. They are not the same thing; they are overlapping categories—not different names for the same category.” You agree that the brother-sister friendships are permissible inside the nuclear family, but why does Scripture exclude the same kind of “closeness” with brothers and sisters in the Church? The differences between these seem to be a crucial part of your critique and the similarities seem crucial to Aimee’s position. 2. You said in “Gaaa! Jezebel!”, “The question is whether a forty-five minute tête-à-tête off in the corner of the church potluck is an ordinary encounter. The answer, boys and girls, is no, it is not.” I understand the scenario you are condemning but what if the man is 25 and the woman 70? What if the woman is unattractive, so much so, that even she knows it? What if the young man is Jesus and Mary is hanging on his every word while Martha is busy clearing the tables? Didn’t Jesus also violate the Pence rule when he was with the woman at the well?

Joshua

Joshua, I believe I addressed your first question about the differences between physical and spiritual siblings in my most recent installment, “Striking While the Irony is Hot.” With regard to your second question, I would say that I am not laying down the law, but rather encouraging people to use their head. A young man and an elderly woman could be fine. But anybody who believes that an old coot couldn’t get handsy with a pretty young thing hasn’t been around much. And with the unattractive woman you postulate, it is a sad scenario, but also one that is fraught with more peril than usual.

WE APOLOGIZE FOR THE FORMATTING GLITCH . . . THE PEOPLE RESPONSIBLE HAVE BEEN SACKED . . . NEW LETTER

Gun talk quickens the heart rate and then shortens breathing patterns. MOAR, please. B. How dare you alter Harry’s Law, sir! Funnin’ aside, you acknowledge that the sexual undercurrent still exists and is a powerful force motivating the male behavior. (We agree that marriage is the only proper arena for this activity, and that Harry is a flawed character who has the priorities flipped.) C. AB is explaining Heaven, is she not? Men and women living in harmony without all the perils of sexual sin as we find in healthy families (sadly, “healthy” is a necessary qualifier). Good for her. Heaven is lovely and we should look forward to it while praying “on Earth as it is in Heaven.” God’s will is perfect and we embrace the concept with AB, realizing that it’s impossible on this side of the veil (that’s veil not veal, for those keeping score). D. On “biological sibling” distinctions, there are so many half and/or step siblings these days that I can’t follow the soap opera when people begin describing it to me. I joke that my interest engages when we get to fourths and eighths. Having never been blessed with a “biological sister,” the bright red line was set at cousins and more distant relation. With all the crazy blended family nonsense that is accepted today, I wonder where AB draws such lines and where people draw these lines before we chant “I’m my own grandpa” (they wrote a song about it, like to hear it, here it goes . . . ). Again, it used to be satire . . .

Ron

Ron, more gun analogies. Got it. In my sights.


I appreciated your analysis of women not understanding men’s temptations, and of course that goes vice-versa also. Only God really understands the temptations we face, and we see that with his treating men and women differently. Our modern society wants to eliminate the difference, and recently I’ve even found that out there are the neo-recons who should be the most conservative people in the room, but are lobbying for feminism and the pulling down of the walls God set up. I appreciate that you haven’t bowed to that agenda yet, and that you are well-spoken in making points in this area. Please keep it up.

Lance

Lance, thanks.


This reminds me of a time that I, due to time constraints, had to buy my “lunch” out of the vending machine. It was a meatball sandwich heated in the microwave, if I’m remembering right. A lady co-worker sat down across from me and began to tell me how unhealthy my meal was. I thanked her and then told her that what was really amazing to me was that, if she knew that I was cheating on my wife, she would say nothing at all about that. She nodded her head with a sort of the-light-just-came-on realization—that on matters much worse, she would have held her tongue. Not really related to your post, but in a way, I think it is related when you think about it a bit.

Danny

Danny, yes, there are connections.


Re: the Aimee Byrd series. Thanks, as always. One thing: physical sexual temptation is a big problem, but don’t omit the problems of inappropriate emotional attachment. I was in an intense emotional relationship with a woman (both of us unmarried, but her dating someone else) for something like 5 years. Oddly enough, despite a growing mutual romantic interest we did not discuss until near the end, I do not recall ever entertaining sexual fantasy of her or even being frequently tempted to do so (a sin certainly present at other times towards other women in my life). She was pretty, so I guess I’m weird, but actually I think it was more a matter of God protecting me from my folly. The relationship was still a very destructive thing. And one which might have been prevented if someone had given me a smack on the back of the head and told me that it’s dangerous to get that close. Actually, one of my elders eventually did, and that helped close things out. Praise God for shepherds, because sheep are morons. Another thing: if what Byrd wants is male/female intimacy without the tension of exclusivity, that seems to be coming in the new heavens and new earth in some form (no more marriage, etc.). Many heresies and social evils have been committed by appropriating today the blessings of the life to come.

Keith

Keith, thank you. That’s the second observation of this being an over-realized eschatology, which I think is astute.


Like So Many Dried Beetles Re: Proverbs 30:19—Wasn’t that Agur the son of Jakeh, not Solomon? Thanks for all your work and faithfulness!

Jim

Jim, oops. Fixed it. Don’t tell anybody.


First, I picked up Gilder’s Men and Marriage after you plodded about it a few weeks ago (seriously, much thanks for that, by the way) and I am nearly finished. Besides being the most cogent, persuasive, and illuminating work I have ever read on the subject (not that my reading in the field has been copious), it seems a woman reading the first few chapters might offer as close a real life analogy to your concluding thought experiment as is actually possible. Would I be right in thinking that it should be required reading for everyone wanting to engage, with knowledge and understanding, on the relationship between the sexes? Secondly, I was thrown off a jury a few years ago, in a public indecency case, for not being able to agree with the premise that it is possible for voluntary public nudity to be non-sexual in nature. (A man was being sued for exposing himself to an innocent party, and his female defender was arguing that it was not sexually motivated.) Is something similar going on here? An inability to see (even if from a Byrd’s-eye view) the inextricable and inexorable sexual nature of men and women? Maybe even in a sense approaching something akin to gnosticism? As if any friendship can exist in a realm separated and detached from bodily passions and temptations? Perhaps I’m way off base. I trust you to point me in the right direction. Thanks!!

Joe

Joe, no, I don’t think you are off-base at all. We want to believe that thoughts we think in our head can be an all-purpose way of detaching us from the rest of our bodies and our lives. And I do think that impulse is Gnostic.


RE: So Many Dried Beetles. Byrd’s statement that engaging in fornication is not like catching the flu is true, but she draws the exact opposite conclusion from the right one. Look at men, as a group, historically. We run away from the flu like it’s, well, the flu or something. And we run toward fornication like it’s, well, sex or something. Come on. There’s a reason Paul had to tell Timothy to flee temptation. He didn’t have to tell him to work hard on avoiding the flu. I’m reminded of the words to an old hip hop song: “Arrogance mixed with ignorance will and can bring forth a man/That don’t really understand but claims he does/And you know what? that’s not good/[No that’s not good]”

Nathan

Nathan, no, not good at all.


I’ve been reading this blog for about 6 months after my pastor in London recommended it. I have also read 4 of your books in that time, you might say I’ve become a fan. These posts have been astonishingly helpful. People always have different standards for what counts as “okay” between men and women in the “friendship” category. Thank you for your clarity.

Sam

Sam, thanks. Good to have you on board.


And Now for Something Completely Different

Since you’re chrestomathizing your way through Confessions of a Food Catholic, this seemed worth sharing.

Kyriosity

Kyriosity, well then. Golly.


The Need for Encouragement

This isn’t directly connected to a recent piece; it’s more of a pastoral question. My wife and I are persuaded that her most important vocation is to be home with our kids—we had 3 in 3 years, and they’re not quite school-age yet (and boy are they a handful). The stress of taking care of them makes my wife really struggle, near depression-level frustration and anxiety. Depending on the day, she may be happy, hanging in there, or worse, but the baseline is “not great.” How would you recommend a husband shepherd his wife through this time and this phase? I want to help her have joy/fight for joy, and I know she wants it too; it seems like this is mainly a season of emotional exhaustion, but we don’t know when the circumstances are going to get better—we’ve been in exhaustion-season for 2+ years now.

J

J, I wouldn’t want to equate exhaustion with depression, although a seemingly never-ending regime that results in exhaustion can certainly set you up for discouragement. There is nothing I can say that will make this task an easy one, because it isn’t, but when someone is putting out a lot, they need a high-caloric intake. In this case, I would recommend the high-energy bar called Husband’s Praise, or Husband’s Appreciation. Six to eight of those a day should help a lot, and extra ones wouldn’t hurt.


CrossPolitic?

I watched the latest CrossPolitic episode with Jonathan Merritt. I thought that the boys were not prepared for Merritt’s argument regarding 1 Timothy 2 being all cultural. I thought the guys should have had an answer at least from Genesis.

Brent

Brent, I saw that episode too, and while I think Merritt wasn’t listening to the answer, I thought the answer that Toby offered was a good one. You weigh Scripture in the light of Scripture. The Bible provides multiple examples of godly adornment, and so that contextualizes the exhortation in 1 Timothy. When the Bible provides no examples of women preaching or ruling over men in the church, but rather repeats the limitation, that does the same. I thought it was Merritt who was being a bad fundamentalist, pounding one text without regard to context.


Wine or Grape Juice?

Concerning the question regarding the use of red wine instead of grape juice with no particular theology behind it, can you speak to y’alls theological reasons for using red wine instead of grape juice? My church uses grape juice and I’m completely fine with that theologically. I’m just really curious to the reasons a theologically conservative and Reformed church would use actual red wine, not grape juice. If it would be easier to address this question blog wide in a separate post, than a simple answer on “Tuesday Letters,” feel free. Thank you.

Trey

Trey, this is actually a question for me of where the burden of proof lies. The Lord’s Supper was established with wine, and the Church used wine for about eighteen hundred years until the rise of the Temperance Movement in the 19th century. They were responsible for the change to grape juice, and I believe they are the ones who must give an accounting for that. And thus far, all the arguments I have seen for that are pretty lame.


And Finally . . .

Please change the formatting on the weekly letters to the editor. The formatting is exactly opposite of what it should be—you are using [block quote] on the reply when you should be using it on the letter submission. You are quoting the submission, after all. Cheers,

Michael

Michael, I feel your pain. A bunch of this has to do with my WordPress limitations, and the fact that they just changed a bunch of stuff in the back room. If I switched it around, that would mean that the letter writer would have his submission grayed-out, which seems rude to me. When I figure out how to fix that, I would be happy to put the letters into the block quotes.

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kyriosity
kyriosity
4 years ago

There’s a rather sine-qua-nonny link missing from my letter. Here ’tis: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/preventingrace/2018/08/12/give-us-this-day-our-daily-huel/

ashv
ashv
4 years ago
Reply to  kyriosity

They didn’t name it “Filboid Studge”? I’m greatly disappointed.

Nathan
Nathan
4 years ago

“the bright red line was set at cousins and more distant relation. ”

Marrying cousins is completely acceptable in many cultures. Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park ends with the marriage of first cousins. I’m not arguing for kissin’ cousins. It weirds me out. But many cultures accept it. I grew up in Kentucky, where, surprisingly it is NOT legal. It is legal in roughly half of our states, though some have stipulations.

Jane
Jane
4 years ago
Reply to  Nathan

I think the Mansfield Park example shows that marrying cousins was something less than “completely acceptable” there, though it was permissible. I think the acceptance level varies — Persuasion has a case where everyone (except the social climbing members of the family, for other reasons) simply calmly accepts it as fine and dandy. But there was an effort to forestall the possibility in Mansfield Park — evidently Sir Thomas represents a type that didn’t hold with the practice.

Nathan
Nathan
4 years ago
Reply to  Jane

“Completely acceptable” may have been too strong a phrase. As a reader of Austen I should to better. Feel free to “tut-tut” me.

Jane
Jane
4 years ago
Reply to  Nathan

You will not meet with my disapprobation, as it is clear you have a well informed and lively mind.

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
4 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Two can play at that game, Jane. “His opinions are just and respectable, and he has evidently thought deeply about serious matters.”

Robert
Robert
4 years ago
Reply to  Jane

We have several examples of First Cousin marriage in the Bible. I wouldn’T recommend it, but in a couple examples it was required

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
4 years ago
Reply to  Jane

I wonder if the parallel we are looking for can be found in excellent relationships between brothers and sisters-in-law. We love them dearly and are concerned about their welfare; we treat them like family in that we speak freely, tease, and discuss personal things. We relax around them. But we don’t forget that we are not related to each other and that there are boundaries not to be crossed. We don’t flirt. We don’t waltz around the house in our slips or invite them to sit on our beds for a cozy chat. We don’t go out for drinks without… Read more »

Robert
Robert
4 years ago
Reply to  Jill Smith

I really like your post here, Jill. One of your best.

Nathan
Nathan
4 years ago
Reply to  Jill Smith

I agree with Robert. I think there are a lot of good parallels there. Practically.

Joshua Lister
Joshua Lister
4 years ago

Doug, thanks for answering my questions. You’re right, the post “Striking While the Irony is Hot” covered most of my first question. I think that I largely agree with your position but I am a little disappointed you did not answer offer up a response to Jesus and the woman at the well. It seems that is something Aimee could point to (perhaps she does) as a trump card or, as the kids say, “Jesus-juke”.

kyriosity
kyriosity
4 years ago
Reply to  Joshua Lister

Jesus and the woman at the well is a pastoral encounter in a public place, not a private cozy chat.

Joshua Lister
Joshua Lister
4 years ago
Reply to  kyriosity

I agree that it wasn’t cozy but if on the surface it didn’t look bad, how do you explain the disciples’ reaction? Isn’t perception part of the reason for the Pence Rule?

OKRickety
OKRickety
4 years ago
Reply to  Joshua Lister

Joshua, the disciples’ reaction was not due to a perception of sexual impropriety, but for two other reasons: In that culture, men did not associate with women in public (women were a lower class) and Jews did not associate with Samaritans (Samaritans were a lower class to the Jews).

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
4 years ago
Reply to  OKRickety

That is still true for ultra-orthodox Jews like Hasidim. I, a harmless old lady who smiles at everyone, have made the mistake of smiling at a Hasid man. You would think I had invited him to an orgy. But, sexual impropriety aside, they don’t seem to want much to do with women, even their wives.

demosthenes1d
demosthenes1d
4 years ago
Reply to  Jill Smith

With all the children the Haredi seem to be producing they must have something to do with their wives.

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
4 years ago
Reply to  demosthenes1d

Absolutely, but that something doesn’t involve conversation. Even with half a dozen children, many Hasidic wives have to work outside the home to support husbands who are full time Torah students. How blessed I was to be able to stay at home with just one child!

demosthenes1d
demosthenes1d
4 years ago
Reply to  Jill Smith

The Haredi community in Israel is really interesting. They are a case study of ingroup, outgroup, fargroup dynamics. back when they were a tiny percent of the population they were given legal protections (no IDF service being the main thing) and were trumpeted as part of Israels diversity. Now that they are a sizeable fraction of the population they are viewed very negatively (for many good reasons!). I think there are strong parallels with Islam in Europe though obvious differences as well. Somehow i dont think the Lord is pleased that over half of Haredi men refuse to work or… Read more »

Joshua
Joshua
4 years ago
Reply to  OKRickety

Possibly, but I tend to think that stories of Isaac with Rebekah, Jacob with Rachel, and Moses with Zipporah were rushing into their minds. I am obviously NOT saying Jesus was sinning or was even close to acting inappropriately. I am pointing out that it seems like all the “combustible elements” were present and yet it was wise. This presents a problem for Doug’s position (although, I think it can be worked out). If it is not wise to encourage cross sex-friendships, what do we do with the wisdom of Jesus in John 15:15? Should pastors hasten to qualify this… Read more »

demosthenes1d
demosthenes1d
4 years ago
Reply to  Joshua

Jesus was utterly unique in many ways. He is THE bridegroom. There are erotic, though not improper for his position, undertones in several stories. The meeting of the woman at the well is definitely playing on the marriage theme in scripture. I dont want to diagram the whole thing here, but Jesus initiates by asking give me a drink – this should call up the servant of Abraham with Rebecca (as you note – wells feature prominately in several OT marriage stories), it should even call up proverbs and the description of ones wife as a cistern. There is also… Read more »

Joshua
Joshua
4 years ago
Reply to  demosthenes1d

Thank you for your response, Well put, Jesus is unique because “he is THE bridegroom” and that reality can lead to helpful distinctions. His marriage to the church is the archetype and our marriages are not. Therefore, these situations where there are marriage allusions are appropriate for the archetype but not for me. However, do you think this uniqueness extends to friendship with the opposite sex too?

bethyada
bethyada
4 years ago
Reply to  Joshua

I don’t think that these situations are off limits to us or what Doug is talking about. Of course the typology won’t apply to us, but one off conversations in public that are not arranged beforehand is not really what Doug is pushing back against Aimee about.

demosthenes1d
demosthenes1d
4 years ago
Reply to  Joshua

Hey Joshua, I think some sort of friendship with the opposite sex is appropriate, but it should be done in a properly saturated social situation. Your wife should know her, you should know her husband, you should have mutual friends and you shouldn’t be meeting alone. You should also take into account the potential for attraction. Friendship with the nice new girl at work is a terrible idea. Indeed our whole “gender-neutral” workplace is a disaster, as the statistics on infidelity with coworkers bears out. Over a third of people admit to cheating with a coworker – it is an… Read more »

Joshua
Joshua
4 years ago
Reply to  demosthenes1d

I think you’re right. Cross-sex friendships should look significantly different than friendships between people of the same sex. Also, that statistic is alarming and sad. Good words, thanks for the feedback.

demosthenes1d
demosthenes1d
4 years ago
Reply to  Joshua

You are very welcome.

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
4 years ago
Reply to  demosthenes1d

Demo, I found this pretty shocking and depressing. According to this article, the women most likely to be unfaithful are the stay at home wives of husbands who travel. https://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=124040&page=1

I find it hard to believe that fifty percent of all wives are unfaithful. It doesn’t seem typical of the women I know (or the men, for that matter). Maybe people don’t tell me things!

Heidi
4 years ago

I like churches providing grape juice as an option, because in my first trimester of pregnancy I can’t handle wine (even a mouthful) but can tolerate grape juice. Not exactly Biblical reasoning, there, but it does affect my ability to participate in the Lord’s Supper.

Jane
Jane
4 years ago

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s not even “the Church” that changed to grape juice in the 19th century, it was almost exclusively the American church. Those corners of the Church abroad where the American church has had heavy influence were eventually affected as well.

Robert
Robert
4 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Especially with places where Americans were the ones to translate the Bible for the peoples

Ken B
Ken B
4 years ago
Reply to  Jane

One of the reasons for not using real wine for communion is that of ex-alcoholics who dare not risk taking it. Seems reasonable to me, although I have been to many an Anglican communion in my time where real wine is used.

Grape juice or wine does not change the symbolism of the supper, and is certainly a less important issue than having a prepared heart that will avoid eating and drinking judgment.

Jane
Jane
4 years ago
Reply to  Ken B

We shouldn’t weigh biblical instructions against one another, if in fact they are all biblical instructions. I don’t think it’s up to us to judge the symbolic value and adjust, rather than simply following the pattern. As Doug pointed out, the church went 18 centuries, with no doubt ex-alcoholics in the pews, and neither Jesus nor the apostles felt the need to address that issue. I think that still leaves the burden of proof with those who argue that pastoral necessity requires, or even permits, the change of the instituted practice. Also it would seem to raise the question of… Read more »

demosthenes1d
demosthenes1d
4 years ago
Reply to  Ken B

“Grape juice or wine does not change the symbolism of the supper”

Why do you believe that?

It seems that wine has a much larger symbolic range than grape juice. for a couple of quick examples: Throughout the bible it is associated with blessings and curses – it is a gift and a danger. Also it is transformed – it is material that is glorified through fermentation. There is much in scripture about wine that grape juice seems to image inadequately.

Nathan
Nathan
4 years ago
Reply to  demosthenes1d

I agree with you completely. And I think the concern for alcoholics is largely misplaced. A sip of wine in a specific religious ceremony surrounded by believers and accountability would, IMO, be generally helpful to a recovering alcoholic. Alcohol is not something to fear, but to conquer, to use beneficially, and to appreciate. Likewise, a young woman who has been abused by her father benefits from a positive adult male relationship, not avoidance. I would not prescribe wine in this setting universally without concern for the individuals involved, but neither would I forbid it in a universal manner and in… Read more »

JohnM
JohnM
4 years ago
Reply to  demosthenes1d

But are those things about the supper that the relevant scriptural passages really emphasize? Do we get any indication that it matters to the meaning of the supper that fermentation involves transformation? Is it really fermentation that makes the difference?

What then about the bread? Does it matter if it is leavened? I’ve never heard a controversy related that question the same as I have grape juice vs. wine. Does the food matter less than the drink,and if so, why?

Micael Gustavsson
Micael Gustavsson
4 years ago
Reply to  JohnM

Isnt leavened vs unleavened bread one of the differences between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches?

Jane
Jane
4 years ago
Reply to  JohnM

Again, are we supposed to concern ourselves with what the scripture emphasizes, or with what it says?

The reason the controversy over leavened vs. unleavened bread has been less vociferous is that, while there are certainly people with deeply held positions on both sides, there are also biblical arguments on both sides. There is literally no biblical argument in favor of NOT using wine, though there are extrabiblical ones. So the argument over the nature of the bread is more a matter of a disagreement over what the scripture says, than over what the scripture says, vs. other ideas.

JohnM
JohnM
4 years ago
Reply to  Jane

We are not supposed to imagine much of a difference between what scripture emphasizes (by saying things about a subject) and what scripture says. However, if you prefer: Does scripture say that that it matters to the symbolism of the supper that fermentation involves transformation? Or that a reason we should use wine instead of non-fermented juice is because wine is associated with blessings and curses? The question (or mine anyway) isn’t so much whether or not there is a biblical argument in favor of NOT using wine as it is whether or not it really matters. Is there a… Read more »

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
4 years ago
Reply to  JohnM

I’ve just looked it up for Catholics. The altar bread (which is actually a flat white disk) must be made of only wheat flour and water, and must not not have any yeast. Micael is right that the Orthodox church uses leavened bread and this is a historic divide. The Roman rite is based on Matthew, Mark, and Luke which have the Last Supper occurring on Passover. As you know, no leaven is allowed in a Jewish home during the days of Passover, so if this is true, the bread blessed by Jesus would have been flatbread. But John’s gospel… Read more »

Jane
Jane
4 years ago
Reply to  Jill Smith

Also within Protestantism this is a live, but not heated debate. Many churches will use some form of Matzoh on the “unleavened” principle. Our churches uses leavened, based on a different argument (that I don’t 100% have at my fingertips and don’t want to misrepresent.) But we also use gluten free, because we have medically GF people in our congregation and denying them the element seems the worst option of all.

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
4 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Medically GF Catholics can receive the cup instead of the bread. This is a reversal of normal procedure for Catholics who normally receive only the bread. The church is working on developing low gluten, but not gluten-free, altar breads. The amount must be very tiny as a communion host is the size of a nickel and paper thin. I was curious about what they do with alcoholic priests so I looked it up. Usually a priest who really can’t have any wine at all concelebrates with another priest who does that part. Or he drinks must, the very first product… Read more »

demosthenes1d
demosthenes1d
4 years ago
Reply to  JohnM

John, This conversation has grown, but i guess I’ll respond here. The bible has a whole constellation of symbols that work together to unite each passage with the whole. Wine is a potent symbol in the bible, i think Jesus and the NT authors expect their readers to be familiar with the symbolism. It would be out of keeping with the way the scriptures work for Jesus, after he had taken the cup, to have said “do this in remembrance of me – but first, keep in mind all of the symbolic range of wine. It is the blood of… Read more »

Jane
Jane
4 years ago
Reply to  demosthenes1d

Instead, He just gave us all the rest of the Bible, to which you alluded.

JohnM
JohnM
4 years ago
Reply to  demosthenes1d

I don’t know. You may be reading too much potent symbolism into scriptural references to wine in the first place. Whether you are doing that or not, to the extent wine (or anything else) symbolizes a particular thing in one instance there is no reason to think that specific symbolism necessarily carries over into a difference instance. Any reference could be used to illustrate one thing one time and a different thing a different time. When regarding the supper it is best we not speculate but just stick with what Jesus specifically tells he intends for the fruit of the… Read more »

demosthenes1d
demosthenes1d
4 years ago
Reply to  JohnM

John, We may fundamentally disagree about the way the bible is to be read. I think the bible basically screams at us to make connections between texts (not least by making direct references over and over). Do you see wells as having some significance as a place of marriage, as in my comment on another thread? Does the feeding of the 5,000 have anything to do with mana in the wilderness? Is the water of baptism meant to conect it to washings and stream crossings? Is Jesus’s name (Joshua) and the fact that he crossed the Jordan to begin his… Read more »

JohnM
JohnM
4 years ago
Reply to  demosthenes1d

Connections are intended and to be found, but be cautious about the “to be searched out” part. Scripture is revelation, “revealed” is not “hidden”. Legitimate connections are not too hard to understand. The gospel may be hidden, but only to those who are perishing, not to those who believe. I think our our best approach would be to read the lines before we try to read between the lines. I’ll grant not everybody knows all the same things, but the harder it is to discern a connection, the less common the awareness of a posited connection is among Christians, the… Read more »

demosthenes1d
demosthenes1d
4 years ago
Reply to  JohnM

John, I dont think we are too far apart, probably a difference of degree, not kind. But i do think you are under reading the lords supper. John 6 provides a lot of help on the bread (which also has a strong symbolic complex in the bible) and talk of wine and cups of blessing and judgement saturate the bible. (Even in the gospels – “let this cup pass”). Also, remember – “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter and the Glory of kings to search them out.” Perscipacity only extends to the things necessary for salvation.… Read more »

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
4 years ago
Reply to  demosthenes1d

It is a curse when mixed with water? For two millennia every Catholic priest has poured water into the wine before consecrating it! There are so many reasons given for this that I think no one is quite sure why. But the Council of Trent excommunicated priests who didn’t do it. I certainly understand it. My dear brother in law once insisted that I sample his incredibly expensive red wine despite my telling him that I loathe wine (but not bourbon) and it is wasted on me. He found me in his kitchen adding ginger ale to my glass. “I… Read more »

demosthenes1d
demosthenes1d
4 years ago
Reply to  Jill Smith

In Isaiah 1 part of the pronouncement of fallenness is “Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water.” The idea is pretty simpler here, both wine and silver are good things that have lost some of their glory. It is a curse when your wine becomes weak.

I had no idea that water was added to the consecrated wine…I guess the reformation was justified after all!

Katecho
Katecho
4 years ago
Reply to  demosthenes1d

demosthenes1d wrote:

Throughout the bible it is associated with blessings and curses – it is a gift and a danger.

Excellent observation about the potential for blessing or cursing. While I believe communion is meant to be celebratory, rather than for private introspection or fear, there are still sober warnings against abusing the meal. Wine represents this potential danger in a way that grape juice simply can’t. If we aren’t honest about our motives, substituting grape juice could become an attempt to tame the elements.

Jonathan
Jonathan
4 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Your comment made me wonder though – how would all this apply for those corners of the world that don’t grow grapes or make wine from them? I’ve been in areas where they used something other than wine as the local people didn’t traditionally grow grapes or ferment alcohol from them. I’ve also been in churches where the wine was imported, but those churches tended to import a lot of other cultural things too that weren’t necessarily helpful. Wine was basically a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern thing with perhaps some history in China. It seems unnecessary to me to insist that a… Read more »

Jane
Jane
4 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan

If the question is “what do cultures without wine do,” then we have to ask, well, what did they do, and how is grape juice — which didn’t exist until about fifteen minutes ago in church history time, and is even less amenable to being convenient where grapes don’t naturally occur — a better answer to that?

Jane
Jane
4 years ago
Reply to  Jane

IOW, I will grant you an alternative to wine where it is/was not conveniently available, if you will grant me wine wherever it is conveniently available — which includes the United States of America in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.

Matt
Matt
4 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Do even the teetotalers say that wine cannot be used? The two positions here seem to be 1. “Wine must be used” and 2: “Wine may be used”. 1 is clearly the stricter position and holds the higher burden of proof. The hypothetical position 3: “Wine cannot be used” is a nonstarter.

demosthenes1d
demosthenes1d
4 years ago
Reply to  Matt

Matt,

I think this framing will lead us astray. On an issue like this we shouldn’t be asking what is permitted or what is licit, but rather what is most fitting, what is elevating, what is in best harmony with revelation, what is wise.

I don’t think taking the supper with pastuerized grape juice is an abomination of desolation, but it does reduce the meaning and impact. Just like I dont think it is sin to go to a church with a rock band with torn up jeans and big screens with animations, but it is clearly less than ideal.

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
4 years ago
Reply to  Matt

I have listened to some sermons online (I think mostly Baptist preachers) who say that Jesus used unfermented grape juice at the Last Supper so we must as well. I find this frankly unbelievable because the grape juice starts to ferment within six to twelve hours after the grapes have been crushed. Pasteurization kills the fermentation, but as even they must know, no one had the knowledge or the facilities back then. I think some teetotalers take the position that wine was used at the Last Supper but the deleterious effects of alcohol mean that we should not use it… Read more »

demosthenes1d
demosthenes1d
4 years ago
Reply to  Jill Smith

Jill, There is also the MacArthur argument that wine was so weak in the ancient world tht it bears no resemblance to our wine, the kind of wine enjoyed by the OT saints and Jesus was so weak it couldn’t make you drunk. Of course that makes the warning passages absurd… i wonder how people without intoxicating drink inderstood “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, “Drink, be drunk, vomit, fall and rise no more” (wine is metaphorical here – but you have to have seen this process for the verse to make sense) or Prov 23:30-35… Read more »

JohnM
JohnM
4 years ago
Reply to  Jill Smith

Jill, I’ve heard sermons in persons that claimed the same thing. One older Baptist pastor stated that sometimes in the bible wine means juice and sometimes alcohol. How do you know which is which? “Context!” was the answer. I don’t remember him elaborating on context, but I think the idea was negative mention = wine, positive mention = juice. Not sure, but I wasn’t anymore convinced than you are. Some Christians, me for example, just choose generally to not make alcohol part of our lives. In my case part of the reason is – Why would I? People consume alcohol… Read more »

demosthenes1d
demosthenes1d
4 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Jonathan,
Historically where the church went they took grapes for cultivation. There is some variety that can be grown almost everywhere that humans inhabit and it seems appropriate that it be grown locally as tge actual viniculture is part of the symbolism, there is much in scripture about pruning and caring for vines that needs to be enacted in a community on some level.

Indeed, i think the average congregants distance from agriculture makes much of the bible difficult to understand.

Jonathan
Jonathan
4 years ago
Reply to  demosthenes1d

I can see how that would work for certain means of church spread (i.e. – ones that bring along an entire complex/culture/administration with them).

A more Pauline approach, though, where a traveling apostle/evangelist is setting up communities with a rather more minimalist approach, wouldn’t have the resources to introduce and tend to an entirely new agricultural product.

Justin Parris
Justin Parris
4 years ago

Regarding all this brew-ha-ha about communion wine, while my sense is to agree that yes wine itself has more ceremonial value, there are two pitfalls to avoid here. The first, and most common of members of a church, is to confuse the traditions we create for the church with doctrine itself. Whether or not wine specifically is needed for communion is unaffected by whatever we as a group have chosen to do with it for 2000 years, just like whatever we ought to do regarding sexuality is unaffected by any decisions the church has made about sexuality historically. All time… Read more »

Jane
Jane
4 years ago
Reply to  Justin Parris

Except that if you follow the regulative principle of worship, and Fridays are a day of special worship significance, then green hats are our only option. Worship is to be done as regulated, not merely as permitted by omission of restriction.

Justin Parris
Justin Parris
4 years ago
Reply to  Jane

My point was merely to point to what the grammar technically does say and what it technically doesn’t. Within this “green hats” thought exercise though, I’d have to disagree with your interpretation. You’re inferring meaning not actually in the text. The text in the example wasn’t even an instruction, and I intentionally wrote it not to directly be an instruction. If an actual verse in the Bible is in a similar position, promoting something without directly requiring it, I think given the competency of the writer in question that it’s fairly safe to say that it wasn’t just an oversight.… Read more »

Jane
Jane
4 years ago
Reply to  Justin Parris

It’s a pattern, though. A lot of what we base the regulation of worship on is pattern rather than instruction. I get what you’re saying, but I think when it comes to something like the institution of a sacrament, a pattern of the original as done by Jesus at the time of institution is fully binding. Whether the substance in the cup is actually an element of the situation that was meant to set a pattern, is a fair question. (I think it is, especially given Matt. 26:29 and parallels, but it still seems like it’s open to debate.) Whether… Read more »