The binding power of a vow made by my ancestors

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pgwolv

Puritan Board Freshman
I am a South African, and some of my ancestors were definitely involved in the Groot Trek. They made a vow to God that they would set aside one day in the year as a special Sabbath to Him if He gave them victory in a certain battle. He did. For context, please see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_of_the_Vow. If you need more context, I will see if I can find it.

Apparently we do not have the original copy of the vow anymore. So question 1) is, does it make a difference on the applicability of the vow to me if I cannot be 100% sure of the wording.

Then, the wording as we have it today, translated into English from Afrikaans, is:

We stand here before the Holy God of heaven and earth, to make a vow to Him that, if He will protect us and give our enemy into our hand, we shall keep this day and date every year as a day of thanksgiving like a sabbath, and that we shall build a house to His honour wherever it should please Him, and that we will also tell our children that they should share in that with us in memory for future generations. For the honour of His name will be glorified by giving Him the fame and honour for the victory.

I have a couple of questions with regards to this (I am Afrikaans, so I will make sure that nothing has been lost in translation).

2) Is such a vow legitimate for a Christian, binding generations to come? I know that, in the OT, there are such examples, but I am not sure to what extent this is applicable today. I had a quick look in the LBCF 1689, but did not immediately see a reference to such types of vows. Did I overlook it, or do the WCF or the catechisms perhaps address it. Is it a matter of conscience? (I know this is a multilayered question.)

3) Does "tell our children that they should share in that with us in memory for future generations" for all intents and purposes amount to "our children will keep this day"? I don't want to be nitpicking.

Your insights will be appreciated. It is difficult to get a non-emotional response in South Africa, because of cultural bias and the history of my country, etc.

EDIT: As a last point for now, should I not worry about the details and focus on the last sentence: "For the honour of His name will be glorified by giving Him the fame and honour for the victory"? It might help to not let a weaker Afrikaner brother stumble.
 

Jerrod Hess

Puritan Board Freshman
If memory is serving me correctly, the London omits the paragraph/clause wherein the Westminster teaches that vows and oaths are considered binding if not sinful. (i.e. Papist vows of celibacy, Jephthah's vow, etc.)
Edit: See the chapters compared on Lawful Oaths and Vows, paragraph 4 specifically: https://www.proginosko.com/docs/wcf_lbcf.html

But as for this case (to give the little that I have to offer) High Sabbaths/peculiar feasts would occur every so often in the Old Covenant (annually, once every seven years, etc.); but I do not find it necessary nor expedient to set apart one Sabbath in 52 as more special/sacred than the others, it just seems akin to holydays to me.

As for Covenants of out forefathers (natural or spiritual) being binding upon us, someone else will have to chime in. I'm sure the Scottish Reformed on this board would have an actual theology behind this concept, and whether or not it's biblical.
 
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pgwolv

Puritan Board Freshman
But as for this case (to give the little that I have to offer) High Sabbaths/peculiar feasts would occur every so often in the Old Covenant (annually, once every seven years, etc.); but I do not find it necessary nor expedient to set apart one Sabbath in 52 as more special/sacred than the others, it just seems akin to holydays to me.
The date is the 16th of December irrespective of the day of the week.

Thanks for the other input, I'll look at the link a bit later on.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
The wording seems to me to indicate that they bound themselves to encourage their posterity to remember the day, but did not bind their progeny. Whether that was because they thought they could and decided not to, or didn't think they had that authority, I wouldn't know how to determine. But given the English translation cited, I would think this is a matter of the 5th Commandment, respect for parents, rather than the third, the honor of God's name.
 

chuckd

Puritan Board Sophomore
The wording sounds like they are vowing to do it and to tell their children they should too. It is binding on them, but not their children.
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Brimstone
I utterly and completely reject as absurd that anyone other than the nation of Israel, and them only because of the unique covenantal situation in which they found themselves, can *bind* their descendants in perpetuity to do or not do something. Not everything is a covenantal entity in God's eyes. (Which is to say, most things are not!) Breathe the free air, my friend. Of course, if in your freedom you wish to participate in an activity that makes you feel connected to your ancestors, then by so means do so and enjoy!
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
The guilt or the convictions of my ancestors are theirs alone. I do not believe even "Covenanting" is possible since no nation is a civil state like unto Old Testament Israel any longer. I may profit or suffer due to their decisions, but I am not guilty for their sins nor responsible to fulfill their own vows.

I know the Jews said, "May His blood be upon us and upon our children" when they were crucifying Christ and many believe this is why the Jews have suffered throughout history after they killed the Christ...this came to pass in 70 ad and even beyond through many persecutions, but I take this as a prophesy and not a blood curse or vow.

I do believe personal vows are meaningful, though, in the lifetime of the vow-er. We can swear personal allegiances and loyalties or swear to abide by some principle or commit some action...but even in this we should be very careful. I do believe God honors many of these personal vows.
 

Claudiu

Puritan Board Junior
Serious question (I haven't studied this topic) for those saying that vows only applied to Israel in the OT:

For the vows that implicated Israel and other nations: were the other nations that entered into the vow or agreement with Israel only bound because it was with OT Israel? That is, because Israel could enter into covenants and vows, then those other nations were bound only in virtue of Israel's standing? Now with OT Israel gone, so is any possibility of vows, etc.

If so, that means if those other nations vowed or covenanted with any nation other than Israel it wouldn't have been valid?
 

De Jager

Puritan Board Sophomore
It's clear most don't like the idea of being bound by a covenant made by their ancestors. But that better not be our reason for rejecting the concept entirely.

From scripture, what would be the reasons why we would reject this concept? We can find examples in scripture of it, and it seems as though rebuttals like "we're not Israel" do not really address the concept itself, that is the bare concept of covenanting and obligating our progeny. The fact that we are not the nation state of Israel would, no doubt restrict the content of any covenants we may make, but does it eliminate the practice altogether? I am not convinced by that argument but am open to hearing more.

Somewhat related to this topic, I am of the opinion that what we do or say has a much bigger effect on future generations than we think (or want to think). However in today's society, most don't really care what their parents (or grandparents) though was important, and very few think of their children or children's children. That is a product of our western individualism. Go to other cultures and they don't operate in that way. It seems to me that the scriptures present a generational focus (Exodus 20:5-6).
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
It's clear most don't like the idea of being bound by a covenant made by their ancestors. But that better not be our reason for rejecting the concept entirely.

From scripture, what would be the reasons why we would reject this concept? We can find examples in scripture of it, and it seems as though rebuttals like "we're not Israel" do not really address the concept itself, that is the bare concept of covenanting and obligating our progeny. The fact that we are not the nation state of Israel would, no doubt restrict the content of any covenants we may make, but does it eliminate the practice altogether? I am not convinced by that argument but am open to hearing more.

Somewhat related to this topic, I am of the opinion that what we do or say has a much bigger effect on future generations than we think (or want to think). However in today's society, most don't really care what their parents (or grandparents) though was important, and very few think of their children or children's children. That is a product of our western individualism. Go to other cultures and they don't operate in that way. It seems to me that the scriptures present a generational focus (Exodus 20:5-6).
When the Church was joined to the Civil State of Israel during the Old Testament, sure....there is a generational focus because the seedline of Messiah must be protected. But not now.

Remember that polygamy was even COMMANDED to preserve this seedline because it was a priority. Now Messiah has come and the Church is not joined to the Civil State. This fundamentally changes the way we think of church/family. For instance, the Family-Integrated folks speak of church as being "a family of families" but it is simply not true. In similar fashion, the Old Testament saints were very patriarchal as fitting for the time. Jesus says to forsake mother and father for him.

Along with the continuity between the OT and NT, we must not forget the discontinuities as well. We are simply not "generational" in the same way as the OT patriarchs were.
 

pgwolv

Puritan Board Freshman
But given the English translation cited, I would think this is a matter of the 5th Commandment, respect for parents, rather than the third, the honor of God's name.
Do you mean it would have been a 5th Commandment issue to their own children? Or does the 5th Commandment require me to honour my ancestors?
 

pgwolv

Puritan Board Freshman
I utterly and completely reject as absurd that anyone other than the nation of Israel, and them only because of the unique covenantal situation in which they found themselves, can *bind* their descendants in perpetuity to do or not do something. Not everything is a covenantal entity in God's eyes. (Which is to say, most things are not!) Breathe the free air, my friend. Of course, if in your freedom you wish to participate in an activity that makes you feel connected to your ancestors, then by so means do so and enjoy!
These have been my thoughts on the matter, but I want to make sure they are Biblically justified.

Somewhere along their 350-year history, it seems that the Afrikaners started seeing themselves as a new manifestation of the nation state of Israel. It may be because their culture was infused with a deep awareness of their dependence on God. They were largely Calvinistic, including e.g the Huguenots. A portion of them moved away from under the hand of the British Oppressor, which may have felt like the Exodus. They moved north to fertile lands that they felt God gave to them, a kind of land of milk and honey. They had vast success.

Unfortunately, it seems that, over time, culture and heritage became more important to most than faith. It saddens me. I am an Afrikaner by heritage, but I feel culturally detached from most of my fellow Afrikaners, because, to me, there is neither Jew nor Greek, whereas many Afrikaners here still feel they have to be kept pure as a nation.
 

pgwolv

Puritan Board Freshman
It's clear most don't like the idea of being bound by a covenant made by their ancestors. But that better not be our reason for rejecting the concept entirely.
Exactly; I want to base my reasons on Scripture. I would love for someone with a better understanding of the nature of Christian vows to respond.
Somewhat related to this topic, I am of the opinion that what we do or say has a much bigger effect on future generations than we think (or want to think). However in today's society, most don't really care what their parents (or grandparents) though was important, and very few think of their children or children's children. That is a product of our western individualism. Go to other cultures and they don't operate in that way. It seems to me that the scriptures present a generational focus (Exodus 20:5-6).
Thanks for the insight; I am in agreement. I may be biased by Western culture to reject the Vow. I want to make sure my conscience is aligned with Scripture, not culture.
 

pgwolv

Puritan Board Freshman
Now Messiah has come and the Church is not joined to the Civil State. This fundamentally changes the way we think of church/family.
At the point when that vow was made, the Church and Civil State (as it was) were joined, irrespective of whether it should have been.

Jesus says to forsake mother and father for him.
Exactly, whereas the emphasis is the wrong way around in this case.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
We honor not just our immediate parents, but remoter ancestors. For instance, within the household of faith we are grateful for Abraham, and we imitate his faith, as well as that of the human instruments through whom we were begotten in the Gospel.

Obviously this is not absolute: we can recognize that there is a vain tradition passed on from forebears. But consider Psalm 78; the value of tradition is that we should do better than the preceding generation. And so it is our responsibility to value and conserve what is good in our inheritance, and seek to improve on what we leave for those who come next. Gratitude, as well as respect, call upon us to have some regard and deference for ancient landmarks, familiar and cultural as well as spiritual and literal.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
At the point when that vow was made, the Church and Civil State (as it was) were joined, irrespective of whether it should have been.


Exactly, whereas the emphasis is the wrong way around in this case.
If you make a marital-type vow to a woman who is not your wife, that vow is not valid bc you are not married ....no matter how fervently you vow it. Same thing with the covenanters and any other religious zealots out there making vows on behalf of their offspring. That is not how church and state works now. Not valid.
 

pgwolv

Puritan Board Freshman
If you make a marital-type vow to a woman who is not your wife, that vow is not valid bc you are not married ....no matter how fervently you vow it. Same thing with the covenanters and any other religious zealots out there making vows on behalf of their offspring. That is not how church and state works now. Not valid.
Sorry, this analogy is not helping. They made a descendant-type vow, and I am one of their descendants.

I think we believe the same thing, but I am looking for justification for this belief. My conscience seems to be telling me that it is not binding, but why is this? What scriptural basis is there for such vows only being valid in OT Israel?
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Sorry, this analogy is not helping. They made a descendant-type vow, and I am one of their descendants.

I think we believe the same thing, but I am looking for justification for this belief. My conscience seems to be telling me that it is not binding, but why is this? What scriptural basis is there for such vows only being valid in OT Israel?
You cannot take vows for another person. Seems simple to me.

You can do such things as vow to raise up your children in the Lord, but your children might not cooperate. If you make someone vow something biblical, what have you added? It is already biblical. And if you make someone vow something unbiblical then there is no obligation to obey it. So what advantage is it to vow for any other but yourself?
 

pgwolv

Puritan Board Freshman
You cannot take vows for another person. Seems simple to me.
1 Samuel 1: "11 And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”

Judges 11: "36 And she said to him, “My father, you have opened your mouth to the Lord; do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, now that the Lord has avenged you on your enemies, on the Ammonites.”

These are at least two examples, although they may differ in substance from the Afrikaners' vow. I would like to know, is it the wording of the vows that make the difference, or the way in which God deals with the Church since Christ came? And why?
If you make someone vow something biblical, what have you added? It is already biblical.
Yes, but you are bound to it. I think, however, that Jesus showed us that, as you say, vows do not add value, and that your "yes" and "no" should be reliable.
So what advantage is it to vow for any other but yourself?
I don't know. Regardless, I am still looking for Biblical guidance on the validity such a vow in today's time.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
1 Samuel 1: "11 And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”

Judges 11: "36 And she said to him, “My father, you have opened your mouth to the Lord; do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, now that the Lord has avenged you on your enemies, on the Ammonites.”

These are at least two examples, although they may differ in substance from the Afrikaners' vow. I would like to know, is it the wording of the vows that make the difference, or the way in which God deals with the Church since Christ came? And why?

Yes, but you are bound to it. I think, however, that Jesus showed us that, as you say, vows do not add value, and that your "yes" and "no" should be reliable.

I don't know. Regardless, I am still looking for Biblical guidance on the validity such a vow in today's time.
A vow cannot be coerced. It must be voluntary. The authorities tried to get the Apostles to promise not to preach but they obeyed God rather than man. The only vows I remember from Scripture are people vowing for themselves...but not for others. Can you remember any vow for another which obligated them? The Gibeonites maybe? I need to review the details on that one. As a group the Gibeonites saved their bacon by deceit and yet Israel honored their vow not to kill them and had to stick to it. Is that correct? How does that example apply today and does it support the Boers' vow?
 

pgwolv

Puritan Board Freshman
Can you remember any vow for another which obligated them?
What about the two examples I cited?

1 Samuel 1: "11 And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”

Judges 11: "36 And she said to him, “My father, you have opened your mouth to the Lord; do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, now that the Lord has avenged you on your enemies, on the Ammonites.”
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Junior
PG, the vow includes two things God doesn't want His people to do: make new holidays that are conscience-binding, and build temples. Regardless of where they meet--cathedral, schoolhouse, mud hut, God's assembled people are His dwelling place. There is no building or place or monument that we can build that is better or closer to God than any other--His special presence is vouchsafed to the assembly of His people on His Sabbath, and to erect a building as a religious exercise becomes idolatry. Your ancestors had bad theology in that they tried to mimic ancient Israel when we're under the New Covenant: the vow cannot bind your conscience.
You are free to keep it as a national holiday, for culture's sake, and to acknowledge God's sovereignty in their victory, but to bind your conscience to something not in Scripture is to misunderstand your freedom in Christ from the rudiments of men.
What if my ancestors had vowed that every Christmas all their descendants would make a pilgrimage to Bethlehem, implying that it would be a sin if they didn't? Wouldn't it be ridiculous if I bound myself to that? How is this different?
 

pgwolv

Puritan Board Freshman
PG, the vow includes two things God doesn't want His people to do: make new holidays that are conscience-binding
Please just direct me to Scripture and/or the LBCF for this; it sounds correct, but I cannot immediately place my finger on it.
To erect a building as a religious exercise becomes idolatry.
Please explain how it is idolatrous, in the context of the Voortrekker Monument. Note that it is not seen as a temple that contains the special presence of God, but a monument commemorating the victory and the vow (although the original intention might have differed, as it was built approximately a century after the vow).
Your ancestors had bad theology in that they tried to mimic ancient Israel
I agree wholeheartedly
when we're under the New Covenant: the vow cannot bind your conscience.
Yes, but why?
What if my ancestors had vowed that every Christmas all their descendants would make a pilgrimage to Bethlehem, implying that it would be a sin if they didn't? Wouldn't it be ridiculous if I bound myself to that? How is this different?
The analogy holds; I'm just trying to understand why I am also inclined to feel this way. Perhaps it is because we hold to Covenant Theology? I would say the majority of Afrikaners that are both vary proud of their heritage and religious are Dispensational.
 

De Jager

Puritan Board Sophomore
When the Church was joined to the Civil State of Israel during the Old Testament, sure....there is a generational focus because the seedline of Messiah must be protected. But not now.

Remember that polygamy was even COMMANDED to preserve this seedline because it was a priority. Now Messiah has come and the Church is not joined to the Civil State. This fundamentally changes the way we think of church/family. For instance, the Family-Integrated folks speak of church as being "a family of families" but it is simply not true. In similar fashion, the Old Testament saints were very patriarchal as fitting for the time. Jesus says to forsake mother and father for him.

Along with the continuity between the OT and NT, we must not forget the discontinuities as well. We are simply not "generational" in the same way as the OT patriarchs were.

I believe you are making a hard distinction where there is not one. The generational focus of the scriptures in the old testament continues today because it was not rescinded. Just because it's the NT era does not mean that the whole true religion of the Jews is replaced by rugged individualism. Yes, God is no longer preserving a physical line for the Messiah. But also yes, parents are still to instruct their children in the way, and what we do still affects our ancestors. These principles still apply even though the nation-state of Israel no longer exists. The very commands to instruct our children are rooted and grounded in what God told Israel.

Please note that with this argumentation I am not saying that the practice of making vows before God (and obligating our descendants) should continue, but rather I am pushing back against the line of thinking presented that goes into why this practice should be rejected. This line of thinking is essentially "we're in the new covenant - therefore the topic is N/A". I just don't buy that, as it seems as though this is the typical type of response that many use when they want to avoid something they don't like (like for example, the Sabbath).
 
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De Jager

Puritan Board Sophomore
PG, the vow includes two things God doesn't want His people to do: make new holidays that are conscience-binding, and build temples. Regardless of where they meet--cathedral, schoolhouse, mud hut, God's assembled people are His dwelling place. There is no building or place or monument that we can build that is better or closer to God than any other--His special presence is vouchsafed to the assembly of His people on His Sabbath, and to erect a building as a religious exercise becomes idolatry. Your ancestors had bad theology in that they tried to mimic ancient Israel when we're under the New Covenant: the vow cannot bind your conscience.
You are free to keep it as a national holiday, for culture's sake, and to acknowledge God's sovereignty in their victory, but to bind your conscience to something not in Scripture is to misunderstand your freedom in Christ from the rudiments of men.
What if my ancestors had vowed that every Christmas all their descendants would make a pilgrimage to Bethlehem, implying that it would be a sin if they didn't? Wouldn't it be ridiculous if I bound myself to that? How is this different?
This is more of a line of argumentation that I am willing to accept - i.e. that you cannot bind someone else's conscience - only God can do that. I am willing to buy that.
 
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