« Free Book: Trusting God | Main | Truth and Compassion on Homosexuality? »

November 13, 2012

Comments

This issue boils down to the two wills of God. His moral will and his sovereign will. His moral will is something that mankind is expected to accomplish as this gives humanity a purpose in life that it would otherwise lack. Lacking a purpose, humanity would vegetate and never achieve anything virtuous, thus being disqualified from any kind of reward for doing so either in this life or the next. Since each of these items (stem cells, women in authority, artificial insemination, and slavery) have a moral component to them to one extent or another, they are to be accomplished by those that God wants to accomplish his moral will...US. Simply handing us all the answers to questions on the test, does nothing to develop our skills at finding an answer ourselves. So, if god simply gave all the answers, none of us would ever have an "aha!" moment. Now, wouldn't that be a boring way to live. Not knowing all the answers and the process of discovery actually makes life more exciting, which simply adds value to this life in the process of being lived. The quality of life is actually enhanced through the process of discovery and as the bible states...god wants us to not only have life, but to have it more abundantly and giving us all the answers would actually work against that.

I suspect the answer is more practical than theological. God could have included a longer list of do's and dont's, but keeping in mind the period in history in which the books of the Bible we're written, and the dominant cultures in place when the New Testament was circulating, how would God have profited from instructing people not to engage in, for example, cyber-crimes? "Thou shalt not clone" wouldn't have made any sense to anyone. Isn't it enough that, despite the hundreds of years that have passed, the lists of things in the Bible we should not do (with the exception of those cultural things that were prescribed specifcally for the Israelites) are just as relevant today as then? These basics form the foundation for evaluating today's various ethical, cultural and technological dilemmas.

God's Word provides us with the basic principles of conduct which can then be applied to all these more specific and age-relevant topics.

God does address those issues. They are moral issues, and God gives us the moral basis for addressing these things in the Bible. Embryonic stem cells are obtained by killing babies, murder is wrong, therefore we should not use embryonic stem cells. It is this extrapolation that allows us to use the Bible as our moral compass, even for those issues that it doesn't directly address. Also, slavery is covered at length in the Bible (can't think of anything off the top of my head though). Anyway, many of these issues can be resolved by extrapolating the Bible's moral code. There are areas that the Bible does not address, directly or indirectly, and these are subject to a lot more interpretation.

I think the question represents a misunderstanding of the teaching found in the Bible. As already stated in several comments above, the Bible provides us a moral framework by which we can determine right and wrong decisions. The Bible teaches that God gives us wisdom. We gain wisdom through study of God's teachings, through practical application of those teachings and by general real-world experience. Looking at the people in the Bible itself, we don't see God providing answers to every question or concern of the day. If God had meant to answer every question for all of history, he certainly could have done so. When I look at how Jesus spoke to people, I see him asking questions, telling parables. Why? Why not just state every answer clearly? He seems to want to get us involved in the process of arriving at a conclusion ourselves. Perhaps it benefits us by forcing us to reflect on the character of God as well as the teachings he has already given us. In doing so, we become able to make decisions based on these guidelines without someone else having to make our decisions for us. Jesus would give clear teaching on some things, on others, he would invite his listeners to discern the proper answer. In all things, though, the answers are based on the clearly revealed moral guidelines taught in the scripture. Certainly it made sense to answer certain specific issues of the day. If the Bible had been written in our time, it would likely address some of our specific concerns. But in doing so, it would demonstrate the proper moral framework that helps us to make informed decisions on our own. God, like a parent, prepares his children to make decisions, he does not make all their decisions for them. Would it be easier to have a clear answer to every question? Perhaps. But I believe rather that we benefit from wrestling with certain issues in light of Biblical teaching. Doing so allows us to be come wise and able guardians of truth.

I agree with the "moral framework" argument above; however, I would also argue that the Bible is far less silent on some issues than what we think...

  1. stem cells: correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the root issue here one of unborn life? If so, then the Bible speaks very clearly...
  2. women in authority: the Bible very clearly speaks to this, through the example of Deborah in the OT, and through Paul's writings in the NT
  3. artifical insemination: ok, you got me here; but, it would seem that this again approaches a root issue of unborn life...
  4. slavery: oh, this is quickly rising on my list of top mis-understood topics in the Bible. Christians in America are so wrapped up in this patriotic freedom fever that they neglect their responsibility to learn what the Bible says about how to behave in harsh conditions. Paul does say that if a slave can win his freedom, then they should do so. However, that is really an aside to what Paul was really writing about in terms of slavery; his main focus was to teach slaves to use their situation as an opportunity to live for Christ and be the best slave to their master that they possibly can. After the way the mob treated Jesus during the Crucifixion, how can we do any less?

    Further, we as Christians need to get our brains wrapped around the fact that we are not some group of patriotic freedom fighters always championing "conservative Christian" principles. WE ARE SLAVES! The Declaration of Independence (written by a pagan, by the way; Thomas Jefferson was no Christian) is very un-biblical. There's no such thing as "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" or "unalienable rights" in the Bible. All of humanity has only one right: the right to be condemned to an eternity in hell as a result of our deadness in sinful nature. However, Christ ransomed his Church, and we are now bondslaves, literally, to Him. And I mean literally; this isn't just some metaphor Paul uses. The thing to get your brain wrapped around is that it is infinitely better to be a slave in our Master's household than it is to be "free" in this fallen world. The sooner we get our brains around that the better.

@Erik
Exactly. The Bible gives us all we need to determine the morality of an action. Also, it does indeed address many more issues than [some] of us think.

The Bible is about Jesus. It is not a compendium of ethics.

Yes, it teaches us morality. Of course it does. And one reason for its teaching is the normal one: so that we don't eat our neighbor and steal his stereo. If that were the only reason the Bible existed, you might well expect that it should deal with stem cell research etc.

But it also teaches us about morality so that we know just how far we fall short. So that we know how much we need Jesus. Here it is not the breadth, but the depth of its teaching that is crucial. It's not just that I shouldn't sleep with my neighbor's wife, it's that I shouldn't even think lustfully about her. I'm as guilty as a 'real' adulterer if I do.

For those whom Jesus has found, it also shows them how to respond in gratitude to His gracious redemption.

Of the three uses the Holy Spirit makes of the Law, it is probably that second use that is for the most part, but not always, most vital. This is because, more often than not, the second use bears directly on the difference between Heaven and Hell. (Of course, the use that is most vital in any given case is the one that the Holy Spirit is making use of.) The Bible pays elaborate attention to that use of the Law.

WL,

Breadth vs. Depth..... love it. My mind is running with that one... even before I click POST ~~~

For anyone not familiar with the Reformed/Lutheran concept that WL speaks of, here below, is pasted from The Reformed Reader site:

"1) The civil use (usus politicus sive civilis). That is, the law serves the commonwealth or body politic as a force to restrain sin. This falls under the general revelation (revelatio generalis) discussion in most of the scholastics as well as natural law (cf. Rom 1-2).

2) The pedagogical use (usus elenchticus sive paedagogicus). That is, the law also shows people their sin and points them to mercy and grace outside of themselves. In Muller’s summary, this is “the use of the law for the confrontation and refutation of sin and for the purpose of pointing the way to Christ” (p. 320). This can be found in the Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Days 2-4.

3) The normative use (usus didacticus sive normativus). That is, this use of the law is for those who trust in Christ and have been saved through faith apart from works. It “acts as a norm of conduct, freely accepted by those in whom the grace of God works the good” (p. 321). This can be found in the Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Days 32-52.

Note: “In this model, Christ appears as the finis legis, or end of the law, both in the sense that the usus paedagogicus leads to Christ as to a goal and in the sense that the usus normativus has become a possibility for man only because Christ has fulfilled the law in himself” (Ibid.). In other words, in both the pedagogical use and the normative use Christ is central as the one who has saved his people from the law’s demands and the one who has merited the gift of Spirit-wrought obedience."

Because the Bible lists principles we should live by; it is not a day to day guide on how we should live a la the Koran or the Torah.

I think the Old Testament is instructive in answering this question actually. God gave instructions on how one select people in one segment of history should live. They failed miserably of course but in both the instruction and the failure, we see the Biblical principles that we should live by now. Jesus actually summed it best in saying all the law and prophets are understood through the commands to love God first and to love our neighbours as ourselves.

As for the question of whether the Bible addresses current issues, actually it does - current for the Bible writers! Whether it was the upcoming judgment of Jerusalem spoken by the minor prophets or Jesus using the fall of the Tower of Siloam, God's prophets and preachers used contemporary issues to illustrate timeless principles. The same should be true for us today.

God does address these things. But if people are just looking for a simple list of Thou Shalt and Thou Shalt Not, there's not always something as straightforwardly written as that.

Quick comments, off the top of my head:

Stem cells - Human life is given by God and is precious. Therefore it's immoral to willfully destroy that life.

Women in authority - (In authority over whom, and in what context?)

Artificial insemination - The principle of not destroying innocent human life, as well as the exclusivity and sanctity of the marriage relationship comes into play on this issue.

Slavery - The fact that human beings are created in the image of God means they have inherent dignity and value, and therefore they are not to be bought and sold like animals.

***

The key is learning how to form a coherent Christian worldview based on the totality of Scripture, as opposed to always wanting a particular verse to tell us what we should do in each given situation.

Mo's final paragraph of his post brought back a blast from the past thought to me. There used to be a fad where people would wear a bracelet that had the letters w w j d. I often would answer the question with a question of my own expressed as w w j t[?].

You want to know what Jesus would do, the Bible gives you everything you need to know to know what Jesus would think. Put another way, if you dont care to find out what Jesus thinks, you really aren't serious about the answer to wwjd.

If anyone knows what Jesus would think, they know it from the scriptures, all of which testify of Him. Current, historical, or future issues that are reacted to with the mind of Christ will prove that God did address any particular issue of any/all time.

Truth Himself shows us that Love is a Freak here in this world of The-Toughest-Survive. He stands aiming at Souls and not the Roman Senate's methodology. Jesus is the ultimate realist and knows the Roman Senate will be extinct in a short amount of time and thus points Pilate to Himself as the solution. Here we see the seat of the matter. One must dive deep and rip apart, not the leaves and branches blowing this and that way up there in the wind, but the roots buried in Man’s subterranean clandestine Nucleus.

And, in dying, in death, His enemy, our enemy, called the Human Condition, is overcome. This is not the enemy of the Roman Senate, or any Senate, but is quite another enemy. Jesus, Paul, John, Peter, Wilberforce, Martin Luther King Jr., and countless others all follow Him into the arena. They do not run and hide in a cave, reading scripture, praying for wrath to come, and singing hymns. In aiming at another World these men changed this world. Life for Other comes by Dying to Self, not by killing Other. God's Kingdom is the Inverse of the Atheist's kingdom wherein the toughest survive. The Atheist aims at the Body and kills it, the Senate and overthrows it, the Town and enslaves it, and, in achieving concession, claims Peace, claims A-Better-World, yet all the while that subterranean clandestine nucleus remains untouched in what are roots of rage, of fear, of want, of lust, of Self. There will *always* be a need for yet *another* war in this hopeless system. There is another System.

On the surface it would seem that Wilberforce and MLK were aiming at the Senate, but one must study their lives. Their mind and heart were fixed on, motivated by, quite a different Entity.

Into the Madness of our politics, our world, Truth made Flesh steps in, and, there, then, in that culture 2000 years ago we find several instances of bills in the Roman Senate to mandate marriage because "..the men in the upper classes were not getting married. Women and marriage were considered a pain and a problem and men simply went to prostitutes. Women were either a burden or a commodity". Men owned estates, and men left wills of inheritance. Not woman. Woman and children were a few steps above a slave, as far as "general cultural valuing". If one was the Emperor, or if one was rich, then, simply, that Might translated to Right. The Male had legal standing in so many ways which women did not, and, that "Stronger" arena was used not only by men in relation to woman, but by adults in relation to children and by Emperors in relation to everyone. Cesar's decree stood. "Might was, or made, or translated to, somehow, "the way things will be"". This goes on and on in many other examples which to us sound odd or simply cold or even cruel. After 2000 years of Christ's teachings morphing all of that into the mindset of what Gandhi called the Christianized conscience we now think those things could not have been "the norm in people's thinking". But they were.

When Jesus and Peter and Paul speak into that mindset about valuing children and women, it was, then, not merely odd, but practically suicide. We're told, or, they said, injected, into that culture, that we are all to love one another and that there is no line of distinction in God's view: Jew, Greek, Gentile, Male, Female, Slave, Free, Child, Parent. We're told, or they injected into that culture, that Men are to honor and treat their wives the way Jesus loves and treats us: He gives up his very Self, his very Life, for us. Men: give up your whole life for your wife. We're told to treat our children gently, and value them. Slave owners are told to place their Slave above themselves: treat your slaves as you would Christ.

The economic consequences of Philemon could be devastating. Equality is lethal. Paul and Pastor Martin Luther King Jr. paid the price for insisting that the world ought to do things according to that Other Kingdom's pattern. Their lives were all about Truth, and, yet, all about Grace and full of Grace towards everyone. Even those who killed them. In our own life time we have seen the murder of Pastor MLK Jr. for his peddling of inherent equality as rooted in Christ’s Kingdom. With the enlightenment the Atheist has claimed a “scientific basis” for his genetic prejudice, but of course Science cannot give us “Inherent Equality of Worth” and thus hates that odd Freak Whose name is Love and addresses the Human Condition, there before Pilate, with nothing more than, “I am the Truth”. Jesus and His followers dive to the root of the matter knowing that, once the Root is addressed, the rest will, eventually, fall into line. His Timing is not our timing, and we fault Him for it, His Method is not our method, and we fault Him for it, His Kingdom is not built with natural hands, and we fault Him for it, and His Enemy is our Enemy too, though we are unaware of it, and we fault Him for His seeming complacency. And so with the cry of this world’s favorite lie of The-Toughest-Survive we employ our pathetic flag of Genetics-Is-On-Our-Side and continue to kill the MLK’s of this world, our world, not His World, all the while His Followers aim, not at the Body of a Man, but at the Seat of a Man’s very Soul, that Nucleus that is separated from Life, for Sight, from Sanity, from Love Himself.


This too cost lives: Men, your wives are Joint-Heirs with you. The Laws of Inheritance in Love's Kingdom are Inverse to the laws of inheritance in Rome. Woman Inherit in His Kingdom, and, not only that, they inherit "Jointly" with the men. Equally. A little history lesson and we realize this incited fear and then anger as it threatened every man's notion of safety.

This too cost lives: Men, you are to shift your thinking out of "My might means I'm right" and, instead, "..treat someone who can't carry as many rocks as you can." (honor the woman as the weaker vessel) as God treats those who are weaker than Him: He comes as their Servant, and He gives Himself to, for, unto, their benefit. Honor them as the weaker in the way God (the stronger) honors all people (the weaker). Copy Love's Pattern. Become like Him.

All of that Truth was lethal to those insisting on it: This inverse of Might's status, this inverse of the laws of inheritance, this business about treating slaves as if they are Christ, and this business about Jew, Greek, Gentile, Slave, Free, Male, Female, Child, and Parent being equal were lethal. Men died for insisting on Truth all the while pouring out Grace to those who killed them. "All men are equal" were killing words in first century Palestine, as well as in America in the 1960's when Pastor MLK spread the dangerous Message which Love's Kingdom is revealing. They aimed High for the sake of the High, not for the sake of the Low, all the while pouring out Grace to those who killed them. Word becomes Flesh and pours out unmistakable Truth all the while spreading His arms wide and pouring out Grace. He Himself writes our error on the chalk board in huge letters for all to see and tells us we are as dark as night and He Himself then proceeds to erase it and tells us we are whiter than snow. "Love your enemies" is suicide in this world of the toughest survive. But that world, this world of the toughest survive, is their world and not ours. We are Citizens of another City.

R. Zacharias is helpful here: ""[Jesus] was the meekest and lowliest of all the sons of men," wrote Scottish nobleman James Stewart, "yet he spoke of coming on the clouds of heaven with the glory of God... No one was half so kind or compassionate to sinners yet no one ever spoke such red-hot scorching words about sin... His whole life was love. Yet on one occasion he demanded of the Pharisees how they ever expected to escape the damnation of hell... He saved others but at the last, Himself He did not save. There is nothing in history like the union of contrasts which confront us in the Gospels.""

Thanks for your ideas! The response has now been posted.

The comments to this entry are closed.