I have a question concerning your father's position on animal sacrifices for today. In the INSTITUTES, vol. I, p.43, he states, "There is no valid reason for the discontinuance of the rite."
1. Does he mean that today's mothers are to bring an actual animal sacrifice to the church---lamb or two pigeons or doves? Does it occur at the church and who slays the animals? If so, are there other sacrifices valid for today?
2. Or, is he saying something else? If no animal sacrifices are binding today how would mothers, at the time of childbirth, fulfill this ritual today according to your father?
Your help in this matter would be greatly appreciated. ~ Thank you, Rev. B.T.
My father did not practice or condone the continuation of any animal sacrifices, as he made clear in The Institutes of Biblical Law as well as his commentary Hebrews, James, and Jude (Ross House Books, 2001).
The reference to "the rite" which my father felt was valid for today has its antecedent in the previous sentence's reference to "the ritual of the purification of women," though the context of that was "(T)he service continues in the church, and appears, for example, in The Book of Common Prayer as ‘The Thanksgiving of Women after Child-birth' or ‘The Churching of Women.'" It was the ongoing Christian rite he felt was valid.
The lamb or, in the case of a poor family, two pigeons doves, by the way, was not described as sacrifice, but as an offering. The distinction is an important one. There is no New Covenant necessity to eliminate the practice of the giving of offerings. The days of separation after childbirth and the offering that followed are described by my father as representing "hope... in regeneration" and "a reminder that covenant righteousness was of the grace of God, to mother and child, and that grace, not race or blood, is the fountainhead of salvation" (p. 43). He thus described the ongoing right "in the church" as atrophied because it is reduced to a prayer of thanksgiving, but his implication is that it be continued in its full theological meaning, which was more than gratitude.
There is a modern tendency to emphasize only the positive and hopeful in an infant. Both circumcision in males and the related purification of women gave witness to the sin nature of all humanity and their need for redemption. My father's point was that this is a well-placed emphasis, and one the church should address.
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