Oh Yeah…the Internal Feast

I just remembered what I was going to write for the last day of the Feast–not the Last Great Day, which is tomorrow, but Day 7. I read on one blog–it may have been J’s, or XHWA’sthat Christians keep the Feast of Tabernacles in a spiritual sense, in that they celebrate what Jesus Christ has done for them.

I’ve expressed dissatisfaction with this sort of spiritualization in the past (see Rituals: Something to Hold On To). But part of me can see its point. You know, if I am not happy, then traveling (or moving) to another location is not necessarily going to make me feel better! The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence, since my problems can follow me wherever I go. That’s why I need an internal Feast of Tabernacles.

I guess what really gets on my nerves about the new covenant advocates is that they act like the Christian life is automatic (or at least easy), now that believers have the Holy Spirit. I remember reading a while back an article that said most ministers in the WCG were not born again. I doubt the ones who swapped their wives and stole from the congregation were true Christians, unless they truly repented sometime down the road. But what’s the criteria to determine if another person is born again? That he’s happy-clappy? Hey, Augustine and Luther could get pretty manic!

I’m reading IV Maccabees right now, and part of me really likes its account of how one can tame the passions. Simply submit to the law! For example, if a person is greedy, he can act against his natural desires and leave the corners of his field for the poor (IV Maccabees 2). The base desires are there! A person doesn’t have to look at them and say, “Oh, I must not be born again, since I’m not loving or happy-clappy.” Rather, he submits to the discipline of the law where he is at, and that makes him a better person.

But even elements of Jewish literature admit that such an approach may not always work. Ben Sira says: “Like a eunuch lusting to violate a girl is the person who does right under compulsion” (Sirach 20:4 NRSV). A eunuch is powerless to sleep with a girl, or even to lust after her to a full extent. It’s like he’s trying to satisfy something, but he remains unfulfilled. And that’s what it’s like to do the law when we don’t really want to. So I can understand why Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Paul believed God would transform the heart, however differently each author expressed it (e.g., circumcision of the heart, God writing his laws on the heart, a heart of flesh, God putting his spirit within us, a new nature). But I often wonder if that transformation exists in real life.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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3 Responses to Oh Yeah…the Internal Feast

  1. xHWA says:

    You may have read the Tabernacles comment on my blog, but I don’t currently recall writing it.

    Nice post, BTW. Makes me think. So please excuse me while I think out loud with you for a little while.

    I’m at the stage where I know all the holy days pointed to Christ in some way. I’m not sure exactly what those ways are for Tabernacles. I am, unfortunately for me, at that stage where I no longer trust anything I learned in my Worldwide days, but not far along enough to have had the time to study all possible topics. So what does Tabernacles mean for a New Covenant Christian? I’m not 100% solidly sure yet.

    I take the position that to start keeping the Old Covenant as a mandatory law is dangerous because Paul warns against keeping it in part (which Armstrongism does). But in another place Paul said “let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven but the new” (I’m paraphrasing, of course). So, it doesn’t look like it’s inherently bad to keep the holy days – just if you do keep them, do it in the newness of the spirit rather than the oldness of the law. And that pretty much means you can’t condemn others for not keeping them — sorry, Armstrongists!

    But what does that mean ‘keep the days in the spirit’? I think for Tabernacles it’s hard for me to explain what I think, so I’ll use Unleavened Bread instead. The spiritual point for the days is to see our deep need to grow and be like Christ. It’s about purrint away sin. Armstrong taught this. But the old letter of the days is to worry over leaven and bread crumbs. Unfortunately Armstrong taught this too.
    Some keep Unleavened Bread every single day, and don’t need an annual reminder. Some really do need it, or they like how it makes them feel. Who are we to judge? If you keep them, keep them in the newness is all.

    My complaint is against Armstrong who made it into something condemnatory. An iron rod to bludgeon people with. That’s not right. If you’re going to avoid pork for conscience sake, then avoid it – only don’t condemn others who eat. And those who do eat, don’t bludgeon those who don’t. To Christ they stand or fall.

    Or am I way off on this?


  2. James Pate says:

    That’s pretty much the way I look at it, though I see that I Corinthians passage as more symbolic–let us keep the feast in terms of living the Christian life, with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. But I think it’s okay to celebrate the holy days to remind ourselves of God’s plan and activity in history–as long as we don’t assume that everyone needs them.


  3. xHWA says:

    I think we agree on just about all fronts, then.

    I do see Corinthians as more spiritual – but with the option of being taken as more physical than I believe it should be. Myself not being the arbiter or any such thing.


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