At first glance this heading is quite a stout statement to make. It has a lot of impact upon one who is involved in the everyday patterns of traditions. A holiday here and a doctrine there; here a little, there a little, everywhere a little, little more. Finally it's too late to see the reality of it all. Tradition tends to smother and cover what is really true.
Christianity? Are these things we do really what the Bible teachers us to do? Where and when did all these things begin?
From the simple act of dressing up in our good clothes to the actual "church service" we attend, there are hundreds of traditions mixed into our lives each time we "go to church". These are just a few of them.
The practice of getting dressed up to "go to church" began in the middles ages as the wealthy were inspired to impress one another with the latest attire of royalty. Can you imagine the believers of the first century decking themselves out in their latest robe and sandals that they just picked up from "Camel's Sport Wear Shop"? These believers were a simple folk who lived simple lives. They could care less what anyone else had on let alone what the latest attire was for the month. They probably sat together on the floor of someone's home (dirt more than likely) or in the field near someone's farm. They also had no concept of "going to church" because they were the church. We could use a dose of what those Christians knew.
What about these church buildings? Are they scriptural? Where did they get their beginnings? I know. You're going to tell me that they developed out of the need to house all the believers that were being saved, right? Wrong! Read your Bibles. They were meeting "in the homes of men" all through the first three centuries and there were thousands added to the Church year after year.
What changed the pattern of these home meetings spoke of in the New Testament? It was a Roman emperor by the name of Constantine in the year 324 AD. He along with his mother, Empress Helena, invented the church building. Both of them had been born and raised as pagans. They were part of the elite of the empire. In keeping their position and the political customs of the day, they had often attained pagan temples in honor of various gods. After Constantine was converted, he continued the custom, with only the slightest variation. Now he recorded "Christian" temples. The "Christian" temples commemorated dead saints instead of pagan gods. The first such temples built at Constantine's command were in Rome, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and in the new city called Constan-tinople. All were commissioned in the same year.
It was during this period, the age of Constantine, that the church was made part of the world system. The church was literally ordered to become part of the Roman Empire's department of religion. This age saw doctors become ministers … for one reason: their property was exempt from tax if they were clergymen. (Even the term clergy was taken from pagan temple practices). This was the age when the emperor offered his soldiers silver to convert to Christianity, when the church became the official religion of the Empire, when the department of religion was given the power to collect taxes, when the church lost its simplicity and became a corrupt political power. This was the age when the early church slipped quietly off the pages of history and something like "Christianity", patterned in structure and practice after the Roman Empire, took the center stage. This was the age the church building was invented or, to be more exact, was adopted from pagan temples.
Along with the "church building" we have, thanks to tradition again, the Sunday School building, or department. About 1800, from the Chicago slums, DL Moody began to teach in what we now call the Sunday School or Educational Department.
We may also mention here that children were a vital part of the believers meetings as we can see in Acts. Remember the young boy who fell out of the window after Paul's long dissertation? No Sunday School there.
How about the stain glass windows, steeples, pews, bulletin boards and choirs? All of these surprisingly traditional also. The steeples and windows from the 12th century, from the Basisica of St.. Denis in France. The pews from the 1500's Reformation, the choir from the 3rd and 4th centuries from the pagan temple rituals which included chants also. As for the bulletin boards and order of worship; they are very much a part of our "modern Christian society". Martin Luther is responsible for the 11:00 am "church service" and the bulletin came out of the 1500's from Wittenburg, Germany. Along with those two came the invention of the hymnal and the offering plate.
Just about every Protestant conviction on earth, regardless of how they differ from one another in creed, follows almost exactly the same worship procedure (listed here) … every Sunday morning.
It goes pretty much like this:
Three more songs
Offer plates are passed
Another song or some kind of special music
As you can see, these patterns are an integral part of peoples religious experiences every week. But where do we find these practices in the Bible?
Please continue to the next article "The Traditions of Men Make Void the Commandments of God" Part 2.
Some references to this article were derived from ("The Early Church" by Gene Edwards, Published by Christian Books, Goleta, California 93017 © Gene Edwards 1974)