law & idolatry in Acts, ethics pt. 6

law & idolatry in Acts, ethics pt. 6 July 19, 2022

The NT Church simply does not have to make law

There is the Mosaic Law and a growing body of literature
on the Law of Christ including the Didake
It’s a joint document penned as early as 60 AD

Once again, James’ proclamation is repeated. The council drafts a letter to the Antiochean Church.

  • To review “must some of us re-consider Judeo-Christian ethics in Acts xv? pt. 5” CLICK HERE
  • To view the official letter CLICK HERE

Consider a couple phrases. First, the council states, “it has seemed good to us… it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts xv.25, 28; CEV).

Somewhere in the ethical decision-making process, the council formally recognizes the work of the Spirit. The assurance of His presence in this ethical dilemma not only assists as the council makes a decision, but also sets principles in motion affecting us to this day.

as a lead-in to this quote, America is officially a Democratic-Republic

America is not purely a true democracy. There may have been democracies in Ancient Greece before the time of Christ or in other areas of the majority world. There may still be today.

If you read Freedom of Simplicity: Finding Harmony in a Complex World by Richard Foster, his book becomes a little political, and it’s not bad at all. After all, his legacy with the Friends in Kansas and the legacy of a family member launching a sociologically-related masters degree program at Spring Arbor University, continues to affect our nation as well as others. They’re a couple of excellent examples of how Christians have an effect on the marketplace and political milieu.

“As a people they had decided to live under the direct rulership of the Spirit. They had rejected both human totalitarianism and anarchy… rejected democracy, that is, majority rule… had dared to live on the basis Spirit-rule; no fifty-one percent vote, no compromises, but Spirit-directed unity. And it worked.”[1]

The leaders in Acts 1-2 set the stage for the whole book with unity, not conformity. However, the strong personas of the male and female leaders throughout Acts commit in the Spirit, to finding common ground, if not consensus.

apart from the previous article on the topic

“must some of us re-consider Judeo-Christian ethics in Acts xv? pt. 5” CLICK HERE

The leaders denounce the “religious” lifestyles of idolatry the Gentiles ought to really think about renouncing. There is a Christian step, often little spoken of today in some circles, called renunciation.

The Gentiles are to, ” …abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality…” (Acts xv.29).

There are countless ways idolatry is present among the nations, and even among the people of God during the era, not only the obvious practices mentioned.

Greek Fathers and early Latin Fathers spend plenty of time writing to each other as Bishops about “idolatrous” practices

Bishops do not label all of these practices as “idolatry” because they appear to be grey areas.

Fertilization cults, perhaps seem like harmless prediction tools. For ex. today I am not endorsing examples like navigational astronomy, Chinese Zodiac, or even the Farmer’s Almanac; but I’m merely comparing them.

There are some ancient writings denoting the continued use of the Hebrew “wave offering” among Christians. Oddly enough Christians are considered atheists by some Greco-Romans who prefer everyone to declare a religion with a visible god (i.e. idols). Christian leaders allow for wave offerings as a visible sign; “the bloodless sacrifice;” adopted by some in the Primitive Church.

The economy of Ephesus in particular is built around temple marketplace wares, including the selling of trinkets as necklaces from the smiths in the region. An interesting type of stone was available both for the temple and for the trinkets. Must Christians upset the whole economy? Paul exits before things come to a head in Ephesus (on his first tour).

There is considerable dialogue among Early Church Fathers about the Roman Bath Houses. From my understanding, this is not always a mixed bathing zone, perhaps depending on if one is wealthy enough to have their own bath house. Architects often build a bath house upon underground flows of steam, rivers, perhaps a spring.

Comparatively, reflecting on flowing water is significant in Hebrew culture as a ceremonial means of carrying sins or regrets away (Ecclesiastes xi.1).

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similar practices involving releasing regret are found in other areas of the ancient world, as seen in the ever-continuing spiritual practices at the Ganga

“Consider how the Holy Spirit manages affairs: since other crimes are avenged by laws of the world, it seemed superfluous for those things, which are sufficiently covered by human law, also to have been forbidden by divine law. It only decreed those things about which human law had said nothing and which seemed proper to religion.”[2]

At the time of the writings of the New Testament like Acts xv, and certainly by the time of the Latin Fathers, law was evolving. Granted we know of at least two Apostles who faced martyrdom for sure.

Some rulers could have exiled some Desert Fathers. However, the Desert Fathers often flow in the same vein as The Aesthetics (like some Classical Greeks). Aesthetics seek out the rugged beauty of the desert in some cases. The Aethestics’ narratives are certainly works of art and philosophy in their own right.

I say this to support Origen’s thought as the closing ideal

The NT Church simply does not have to make law. There is the Mosaic Law and a growing body of literature on the Law of Christ including the Didake. It’s a joint document penned as early as 60 AD.

Then there are the ethical codes springing from the Aristotelean School as early as Heraclitus (a patron hero of Ephesus) and the house codes arising before the time of Christ. There are the highly honorable codes of those from places like the Ganga (the Indus-Pacific and neighbors who influence the Mediterranean world through trade over land and sea routes). There are contemporaries of The Twelve like Philo who is integrating Classical Greek and Hebrew philosophy in magnificent ways.

Therefore, I am not saying anything in retrospect Origen does not already see from his perch high in the eyrie.

I wish I could include his whole reflection on this passage. People need the laws of man, natural law, and justice. However, Christians are working with each other in new ways to forge a new narrative, involving a commitment to meet on common ground.


[1] Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth (New York, HarperCollins, 1998), p. 178-179.
[2] Origen, Commentary on Romans IX.28

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