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’s—that 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.