Recently, Love BT posted the following on Monomakhos (not the greatest venue, but that’s where it was:
Ten percent isn’t a Mystical, Holy, or Sacred rate, even though the Scriptures mention it, along with circumcision and other practises. Of course, Christ only had one standard for everything… perfection. His standard was the widow who gave everything, and the requirement that the rich young man (besides “not leaving the others undone”) should give EVERYTHING. He said, “Be ye perfect”; He didn’t say, “Be as perfect as much as you can be”. The goals the Church sets before us shouldn’t be “minimum requirements to be a respectable Christian”. In addition, charity shouldn’t be secondary to institutional well-being and functionality in priority.
Nevertheless, they are, are they not? Don’t we approve of that? For those who’re concerned with accountability and transparency, He seems to have encouraged us to be opaque about our fasting, no? We’re supposed to PRETEND we aren’t fasting. With the coming of Grace, it seems wrong to revert to the Old Dispensation and its oikonomia and limits. The tithe is neutral. Requiring it is approving a standard that‘s lesser than the one Christ proposed. As I previously mentioned, my copy of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (an old one… from the 60s) has a large article on tithing that concludes with the information that the Eastern Orthodox Churches have never practised tithing.
Also on the same blog:
Tithing was a 20th Century innovation in ANY Orthodox Church, or, at best, a re-formulation, and Orthodox who landed in Protestant America instinctively perceived it as such. I realise that many converts may have felt that tithing was an obviously virtuous practice that, astonishingly, “cradle” and “old world” Orthodox, found to be innovative and even radical, but that we, having all kinds of experience in the game called “stewardship” based on a Gospel account of a steward, would be able to improve this aspect of Orthodox life, thus, perhaps, at last, showing them all that an American Orthodoxy must be and truly is, an Improvement! Take the list of the ancient Patriarchates and the Local Churches whose hierarchs are in their dyptichs and tell me which one EVER practised tithing.
There are SINGULAR and MEMORABLE instances of the extraordinary practice, for example the “Church of the Dime (or Tithe)” in Russia, which was famously and so UNIQUELY funded by a tithe that this became the source of its fame. I know, some will say, “There goes crazy, deluded Tikhon (excuse me, it would be, of course “+Tikhon”) again, being the Arch-Conservative among us, not allowing a more liberal attitude toward Tradition. Why, he even defines something as Tradition only if it has been actually transmitted, passed on to us in the Church. He always claims that the ending of a practise in the history of the Church is as much an indicator of Tradition as its continuation!
However, of COURSE, we can revive dead customs and call them “the original tradition!” If we decide (in a conciliar way, of course) that circumcision of males (the “Original Tradition” before the Apostolic Council) is a good thing, we can restore it… its fully Orthodox. Moreover, since St Paul says a bishop must be the husband of one wife, that must mean that SOME had two or three or more, in other words, “polygamy” was… you’ve got it, an “Older Tradition!” Even if the Orthodox Churches never EVER required their members to tithe, we can have a Council, pass the measure, and thereby have the Holy Spirit inspire the practise!
There are holes in both of the above… but Tikhon Fitzgerald is right on this, the tithe isn’t part of our Orthodox heritage. The unknown commenter is also right in that we shouldn’t be mucking with Tradition, even in mundane matters. However, neither caught the main reason why the Church shies away from tithing. Of necessity, tithing sets up a “two-tier” membership. That is, those who do tithe, and those who don’t do so. Well, what do you do with those who can’t, won’t, or refuse to tithe? What’s the “stick” of the “carrot and stick?” Are you going to emulate the Mormons, deny such people Communion, and deny them the right to attend their children’s weddings? Are you going to keep records of who gives what, so that the Church meeting knows precisely who gave what? The latter was one of the banes of the Metropolia. It was one of the dark spots of that period. To require tithing would make things even worse than that was (and it was quite bad enough).
In short, prelest would walk in wearing Size 12s and proceed to stomp true religion to death in short order. There’s already a grave problem with hubristical konvertsy, who believe that their level of religiosity is higher than that of the Church Fathers. If I were to name the three besetting sins of this group, it’d be linking faith and politics, quoting the Fathers and Canons out of context… and tithing. These three are the sources of the juvenile rot we see spewed about us. Indeed, we need to put out the fires that they’ve caused. Whatever we do, any solution won’t be easy, brief, or congenial. We can put things right, but it’ll be a job of two generations to do properly. It’s easy to rip things down… it’s much harder to build them back up. We’re paying dearly for Schmemann, Grabbe, Bloom, Podmoshensky, Meyendorff, Metropoulos, and all the other paladins of the 1960s Church, both OCA/Metropolia and ROCOR. We need to go “home”… but shall we?
Tuesday 17 April 2012