What are Doctrinal Divisions Really About?
Doctrinal divisions that permeate the church so profusely, at their core, aren’t about what Scripture says. Only the King James Version Onlyists dispute what Scripture says. We’ve taken them, and the famous NIV Quiz, on before. The divisions are over what Scripture means.
Case in point is the recent informal blog debate between Matthew Bellisario and the pseudonymous “TurretinFan.” The crux of the debate is whose interpretation of Romans 14 is correct–Mr. Bellisario, or TF. Mr. Bellisario insists, and correctly I believe, that Romans 14 is aimed at the Judaizers of Paul’s day who would impose the Law on Christians. Further, such a passage doesn’t remove from the Church the authority to impose new holy days and bind Christians to obeying them.
I agree with Mr. Bellisario’s assessment of the passage. I agree that it is aimed at the Judaizers of Paul’s day and I agree that it doesn’t preclude the Church from imposing holy days upon Christians.
However, the imposition of new holy days goes against the spirit of the passage, and indeed the spirit of the Gospel. Jesus died and rose again to free us from the legalism of the Jewish Law. This is TF’s primary point. However, Mr. Bellisario doesn’t see the Catholic Church as imposing a new legalism on Christians. This is why the two are talking past each other–Mr. Bellisario is unable to empathize with TF’s position. Mr. Bellisario sees the Catholic Church as the sole infallible authority for determining Christian morality and living, rather than giving Scripture that place.
So, what is my opinion of Romans 14? I believe that it applies to all holy days, new or old. As TF points out, Scripture is like a fine gem with many facets. It is important to look at all opinions, past and present, to get a feel for something that you might miss. I also agree with Mr. Bellisario that Romans 14 doesn’t preclude the addition of new holy days, however there is no authority anywhere in Scripture that confers the power to bind Christians under threat of mortal sin to observe these new holy days.
Does that mean that we are free of the Sabbath day? By no means. As TF reminds us, the Sabbath goes back to creation and is therefore binding on all people. The obligation to reserve a day of worship for God alone was not erased by the cross, since it predates the Law. The Cross is the end of the Law.
While I agree that new holy days aren’t out of the realm of the church’s authority, binding them on all Christians under penalty of mortal sin is out of the reach of the church.
I highly reccommend reading the informal debate. The links above are to the start posts of the debate.