The History Of The ‘Tithe’
Money and the Church, by Luther P. Powell (Association Press, 1962,252 pp., $3.75), is reviewed by Paul S. Rees, Vice-President-at-large, World Vision, Pasadena, California.
In what forms, by what devices, through what motivations, has the Christian Church through the centuries received the material support required for its manifold ministries and enterprises?
The answer to this question has occupied the mind of the author for more than a dozen reflective, researching years. It first helped to get him a Ph.D. degree, with a thesis entitled The Growth and Development of the Motives and Methods of Church Support with Special Emphasis Upon the American Churches. A subsequent decade of digging into history, digesting data, and deploying material has born its fruit in the present highly informative volume.
In Part I, called “Money and the Church Previous to the American Period,” the Church of the first three centuries is seen resting its giving on the principle of voluntarism, with tithing scarcely envisaged in the first century, more frequently alluded to in the second, but only beginning to be enjoined in the third.
In the period between Constantine and Gregory the Great voluntarism recedes and legalism moves to the front. Tithing “jells,” first as a law of the church and then as a law of the civil courts. Church finance grows intricate. “Legacies,” “endowments,” and “oblations” (bread and wine brought by the worshipers, along with money) were encouraged or required.
What with Gregory the Great’s assumption of ultimate papal power, the church waxes wealthy. “Subsidies” and “tributes” multiply. A “spoils” system-antedating by far the political oddities of the American scene—comes into lucrative play: “the ...1
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