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Old 10-10-2009, 05:38 AM   #1
YP0534
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Default Two Lees and the Council of Jerusalem

Here is an (edited - he needs a good editor and I'm not the best one, I'll admit) excerpt I just read from one Nigel Tomes' essays:

Quote:
The Jerusalem Council’s Apostolic Decree (Acts 15)

Consider Witness Lee's exposition of Acts 15 in the book, “The Intrinsic Problem in the Lord’s Recovery Today and Its Scriptural Remedy.” As the title suggests, these messages were a rhetorical reaction to the “rebellion” of the 1980s. Under the heading, “The One Solution Being the Decree for All the Churches,” Lee writes, “The one solution made at Jerusalem for the problem of circumcision became a decree for all the churches, both Jewish and Gentile, to keep (Acts 15:1-31). Hence, in relation to the matter of circumcision, all the churches should be the same. After the issuing of such a decree, it would have been wrong to allow the Jewish churches to keep the practice of circumcision while permitting the Gentile churches not to observe it.…The one solution regarding the problem of circumcision was good for all the churches, making all the churches the same.” (p. 34)

Even beginning Bible-students will recognize these statements contradict a straightforward reading of the Acts 15 record. The Jerusalem decree was not “for all the churches, both Jewish and Gentile, to keep.” It was addressed to “the brothers…who are of the Gentiles” (15:23). At issue were the conditions the apostles in Jerusalem would require of Gentile believers: circumcision was rejected, yet Jewish dietary restrictions were imposed. The question of circumcising Jewish believers’ sons was not addressed at all and hence it surfaced in Acts 21. Jewish churches were unaffected by the Jerusalem decree, falling outside its scope. Moreover, the decree was not global in application; it was addressed to a geographically limited area—“the brothers throughout Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are of the Gentiles” (15:23). These were the initial Gentile churches raised up by Paul. The Jerusalem letter was not addressed to “all the churches, both Jewish and Gentile.”

Moreover, the “one solution” at Jerusalem did not “make all the churches the same.” It does not prove churches should be identical. On the contrary, it enshrined a double-standard—circumcision was not required of Gentile believers, but still practiced by Jewish-believers. The curious statement above says, “it would have been wrong to allow the Jewish churches to keep the practice of circumcision while permitting the Gentile churches not to observe it.” Yet, that is exactly what happened. Church historians indicate that some Jewish Christians continued to practice according to the OT law well into the second century. For example Chadwick points out that “Justin Martyr in the second century could regard Jewish believers as in order if they kept traditional Jewish customs, but that was not the unanimous view among Gentile members of the Church.” (Henry Chadwick, East & West: The Making of a Rift in the Church: from the Apostolic Times until the Council of Florence, Oxford Univ. Press, p. 8)

In his Life-study of Acts, Lee acknowledges the “Jewish believers at the time of James were still practicing and keeping the Old Testament law.” (p. 365 & pp. 488-9) Moreover, Lee describes James’ concept, saying “James, continued to think that it would be better for the Jewish believers to practice the…Old Testament and to keep the law. James seemed to say, ‘The Gentiles do not need to keep the law or to be circumcised. But we [Christian] Jews should practice circumcision and keep the law’.” (p. 505) That is a two-tier system, a double standard. The Jerusalem decree enshrined James’ concept and, contrary to Lee's assertions in some places, did not have the effect of “making all the churches the same.” Elsewhere, Lee asserts “I have the full assurance that in the early days the churches in Judea were quite different from the churches in the Gentile world.” (Lee, The Life & Way for the Practice of the Church Life, p. 119)

It is difficult to reconcile Lee’s earlier statements with the quote above from “The Intrinsic Problem…” The contradiction seems to arise because this work was a polemic against certain brothers’ views at that time, while the other is an exposition of Scripture. Polemical writings risk “pushing the envelope” beyond the Bible in an attempt to “prove” a point. Checked against Scripture, Lee’s rebuttal to the "rebels" fails the test. Given its counter-factual claims, it is unfortunate LSM ever published this polemic. It does nothing to enhance Lee’s reputation as a Bible teacher. Yet LSM’s “blended brothers” continue to elaborate upon it.



http://www.concernedbrothers.com/Tru...ee_Binding.pdf
There are several good points here but the one I appreciate the most is Tomes' recognition that not all of Lee's books are of equal merit. And his approach may give a framework within which to begin a useful analysis of the body of Lee's work. It seems unsatisfactory to leave it at "Early Lee and Late Lee" because there are threads of "Late Lee" that can be found early on and there is help to be found in some works from later days that was not to be found in "Early Lee."

And on a personal note, I am offended by that Jerusalem letter in terms of the fellowship of the Body and to the extent that someone would cite that as their authority to impose anything stands as proof that they have, at the very least, departed from the Pauline model set forth so very clearly in Romans 14.
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Old 10-14-2009, 06:26 AM   #2
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Default Re: Two Lees and the Council of Jerusalem

What I find most notable about the Jerusalem decree was not that it made the small restriction on the Gentile churches, but that it freed them from most of the restrictions that the Jews practiced out of history (rightly or wrongly). When you consider the full complaint of the Gentiles, the letter was more like freedom from Jewish ritual than a list of restrictions. (Yes there was a little restriction, but nothing like what had been pushed by the Judaizers.)

And I'm not sure that they really considered the Jews bound to the old rituals as much as free to continue them as to God. Hard to tell. They really didn't say that Jews were bound to them, only that Gentiles were free from them. In the same way, the Jews should be free to follow them.

In any case, the letter did not decree a sameness, but instead decreed a freedom to be different. It seems that Lee completely missed the point of the Jerusalem conference and its result. Or worse, he got it backward. Instead of dictating a change from one sameness to a new sameness, the brothers in Jerusalem freed the Gentiles (and probably the Jews) from any requirement to be "the same."
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Old 10-14-2009, 09:27 AM   #3
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Default Re: Two Lees and the Council of Jerusalem

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Originally Posted by OBW View Post
Instead of dictating a change from one sameness to a new sameness, the brothers in Jerusalem freed the Gentiles (and probably the Jews) from any requirement to be "the same."
I think you and I might continue to disagree with the interpretation of that letter. I'm just completely convinced that it was a huge mistake in the history of the Body, people playing overlord, making religious decrees. But I can agree with your above statement 100% and to the extent that someone misses that point, they must really want to miss it! Whether Jewish believers were "free" to be circumcised or REQUIRED to be circumcised is irrelevant to the issue at hand. The issue was whether the gentiles would be required to be circumcised and, to an extent at least, greater freedom was advanced, rather than restriction.

I'm in the midst of a study of "intertestamental Judaism" at the moment and I recently read that these "requirements" about fornication, idolatry and blood and strangulation were most likely the current minimal "Jewish" requirements - these were apparently so fundamental that a Jew should be martyred rather than breech them. I haven't thoroughly investigated that claim but it does make sense in context. If it is true though, it does thoroughly reinforce the fact that they were intending to impose "Judaism-lite" in the letter, a clear mistake in my view.

In any event, again, the main point of the missal was to relieve the gentiles of the circumcision requirement, which it implicitly does (not expressly, of note.) The most basic read of that is certainly diversity of religious expression rather than uniformity...
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Old 10-14-2009, 01:45 PM   #4
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Default Re: Two Lees and the Council of Jerusalem

YP,

I don't necessarily disagree with you. But I am trying to take the letter in its place in history. That may put a spin on it that is not entirely correct, or at least not complete.

When I see that conference and the letter the came out of it, I see a continuation of the way of the Jewish existence. (I note that in at least one place the church was referred to as a sect of Judaism. That may not be an entirely untrue statement and possibly not an unwanted statement.)

The history of Judaism was the law combined with its many interpretations. Those interpretations were not for knowledge (or at least originally not so) but as guides to properly living/fulfilling the law.


While we have been given a better way, there is still the need for insight, interpretation, teaching, etc. In recording this particular event, there are several things that I see:
  1. A desire to be right before the Lord. While the accounts in Paul's epistles are of zealous Judaizers coming and stealing freedom in Christ from the Gentile believers, the group taking up the complaint were not interested in defending Judaism, but in "getting it right."
  2. An honest admission that they were not making an absolute edict, but speaking according to what they believed that the Spirit was speaking to them.
  3. A consideration for the principles that the small stipulations they made represented. (This is strictly my take on it.) We know that certain of the dietary restrictions had to do with health, such as not eating pork to avoid getting trichinosis, while others were more about principles. Surely there was nothing unhealthy about boiling meat in milk. But you could not boil "a kid int is mother's milk." Why? Probably some kind of statement about your source not being the means of your end. Similar to no adultery because God is faithful. Were the ones the brothers in Jerusalem put on the Gentiles really necessary? I don't know. Maybe not. That is where their admitted uncertainty comes to play. It was not necessarily over.
  4. Last, I think that the process of freeing the Gentiles effectively freed the Jews from the requirements. They may not have wanted to say it out loud, but if God permits one, and is not a respecter of persons, then he would permit another. But one's freedom is not an indictment on those who freely chose not to be free.
As for "Judaism lite" I understand. But if the list is adultery, fornication, blood and strangulation, then they weren't about to allow it all (obviously) and rightly or wrongly, they believed it to be important.

I'm willing to allow that in terms of the complete righteousness of God it was probably an error to include it, but note that it was the first step in a process. Do you think that women should not teach or at least not teach a man? If not, then the whole bunch, including Paul, were simply screwballs. But in their day, it was part of society and culture that it be so. But even some of Paul's words were not so absolute on the subject.

Or what about slavery?

The list goes on.

That we can look back and see how society in general and Christianity in specific has progressed from male-dominated, feudal, warring tribes to what we are today is a testimony to the spiritual growth that we now consider to be base-line. What about immigration? I've heard some talk about churches getting involved in a "sanctuary movement" to protect certain classes of illegal immigrants who are otherwise facing deportation. I may disagree with their ways, but their heart is right. What is the answer? Maybe we need another Jerusalem counsel to give us a well-reasoned and thoroughly-prayed decision that we all know is not the last word on the subject.

In short, when I look at the Jerusalem letter as an edict for the way it will be, I agree that there are problems. When I view it as a step in the spiritual evolution of humans who are being daily transformed, it is not so hard to understand and even accept.
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Old 10-14-2009, 01:46 PM   #5
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Default Re: Two Lees and the Council of Jerusalem

And yes, this definitely allowed for diversity of expression rather than uniformity. So, as I said before, Lee got it entirely wrong.
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Old 10-14-2009, 03:56 PM   #6
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Default Re: Two Lees and the Council of Jerusalem

Quote:
Originally Posted by OBW View Post
And yes, this definitely allowed for diversity of expression rather than uniformity. So, as I said before, Lee got it entirely wrong.
In the later case.

I think he was at least close during the Life-Study messages.
To me, that's a very interesting facet of all of this.

There really isn't a monolithic "LEE" on some issues, at least.

Tomes' proposed "Polemic Lee"/"Expositor Lee" split should be seriously considered in light of all of Lee's writings and the practical history among them.

If Lee could turn the "leprosy in the house" into a mandate to ferret out the rebellion in the late 80s, what other messages, or topics, in the past were slanted with his instant polemic intention?

That's by no means my life's work, but it is something I consider on a regular basis as I encounter these issues. I would really like to be able to parse his bias in an intelligible and concise fashion because it would make the body of his work much more useful to me. We've all got filters and articulating Lee's more succinctly I think would be of benefit to all of his past, present and future students.
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