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October 20, 2008

Comments

How do you decide whether a law seems "transcendent in nature"? That feels like a somewhat arbitrary standard. What exactly should the law "transcend"? Historical time period? Culture? I'd love to hear this fleshed out a little more.

Well, it doesn't have to be transcendent in nature - it just has to "seem" like it is. :)

Great topic. I've thought it would be nice to have a well defined technique or approach to sort through this kind of thing before. I wonder if we could do some work on your #2 mentioned above though. The way it reads now, I think it could easily be construed as a subjective feeling a person is having about whether *they* think/desire that a particular law should be transcendent or not.

Are there any clues that can help one arrive at a well-founded opinion regarding whether a particular law is unique to that time and place or transcendent in its nature?

Maybe something like:
Law A was given once - at one time to one person/group of people who were in a certain particular circumstance that provided some contextual context for the law.

vs.

Law B was also mentioned when Law A was, but it was also laid down in these other contexts in scripture X, Y and Z.

In a scenario like this, it would be reasonable to assume Law B holds more transcendent weight then Law A, correct?

"How do you decide whether a law seems "transcendent in nature"? That feels like a somewhat arbitrary standard. What exactly should the law "transcend"? Historical time period? Culture? I'd love to hear this fleshed out a little more."


Well, an example of non-transcendent laws would be the dietary laws. Peter was commanded by God to kill and eat unclean food(in terms of old testament law). So, in that case it is quite clear that those laws are not transcendent. There were some laws that did not change, such as that against murder. Jesus emphasized it and clarified it as something that is an act of will committed in the heart through hatred. I think that through searching scriptures and reflection these things are not arbitrarily arrived at, but take many things into account that are similar to my two examples. It is not just a matter of personal preference, but careful examination evidence and thoughtful discernment.

The above reservations about what constitutes 'transcendent' reveal a weakness in Greg's methodology. Albeit there are biblical ethics that are confirmed in natural law (which should come as no surprise), making such a confirmation part of an ethical hermeneutic can emasculate the prophetic edge of biblical ethics. There are some things we just wouldn't know were wrong if it weren't for God's revelation.

I suggest a better approach would be to look for the transcendence within the Bible itself, too see if the command transcends the immediate context and fits in with the larger narrative of scripture. I think Josh McDowell's precept/principle/person approach from his book Right and Wrong is a good place to start for sorting out this stuff.

*to see

Mijk V, you tantalize us with the "precept/principle/person approach." For those of us without the book, could explain more? Does McDowell's approach do better in approximating a decision procedure? Or does it also contain some hand waving, maybe a suspicious step requiring a possibly irreducible judgment call about God-only-knows-what?

It might be helpful if you illustrated the McDowell approach with the fourth of the "Ten Commandments". And finally, it might prove to be a valuable reference to have a list of those moral judgments for which we depend entirely upon God's revelation in the Bible. (Sorry for requesting so much. It's just that from reading your post I get the sense that you might be able to shed some real insight here.)

The context is the main thing. For example, some people try to say the prohibition against homosexual behavior in Leviticus 18 was just for the Israelites.

But look at the beginning and the ending of the chapter: God couldn't be more clear that the commands in between are for us all.

He carefully notes that the Canaanites are getting "vomited" out of the land because they committed these sins. God wasn't holding them accountable to the Jewish ceremonial laws.

I didn't mean to tantalize, only point in the direction that I thought might be helpful.

In Romans 7, Paul identifies coveting as one of those sins that we wouldn't know was a sin without God's revelation. That's an OT command without transcendent discernibility (according to Paul) that also is incumbent on us today.

Unfortunately, compiling a list of what I think are moral commands completely dependent on God's revelation is a little beyond what I'm prepared to invest into a blog, and I don't think it would be of much value anyway.

McDowell's book can be picked up for $2 used on Amazon, and its an easy read.
The precept/principle/person schema would ground the 4th commandment precept in the principle of regular rest and finally in the person of God who modelled it for us in creation and gave the command of Sabbath as a gift.

Peace,
Mijk V.

Mijk V,

"There are some things we just wouldn't know were wrong if it weren't for God's revelation."

I don't think that you go far enough here. I don't think that you could "know" anything without God's revelation in one form or another. Looking at anything around you and being able to know what you are looking at is as a result of God's gracious revelation through the faculties he gave you. I think it is a mistake to think that anything you know can be independent of God's revelation unless it is knowledge that is fundamentally a lie.

By Louis' reasoning, one couldn't even believe a lie without God's revelation -- if God's revelation encompasses His creation of our faculties of belief. Maybe this is true, but Mijk V probably means God's revelation in the Bible. See the context.

There's also the 'delicious' principle...
I know that the prohibition against pork was only a national identity marker for Israel, bound only to the circumstances and people of that time--because bacon is transcendentally delicious!

Oh yeah, generally when anyone refers to "God's revelation" I take it that they are referring to what is known as 'special revelation' as opposed to 'general revelation.' I don't think that equating these two is supported by the Bible's teaching.

With regard to the dilemma of immediacy v. transcendence, please consider Deuteronomy 31:26 and Colossians 2:14. The handwritten book of the law was placed beside the ark; the God-written tablets of stone were in the ark covered by the mercy seat. The former was nailed to the cross; the latter are transcendent. Therefore, from a Christian, biblical perspective, homosexuality is still considered a sin (transgression of at least the 7th commandment) without the application of Mosaic punishment. At the cross, type met antitype and we, as Christians, rest in Christ’s ultimate judgment of each individual (Psalm 73:17; James 2:12).

Having said that, to then make the case that all (save one) of the Ten Commandments are transcendent completely undermines the argument. In every case where Jesus spoke of one of the commandments it was to clarify how the religious leaders had been observing the “letter of the law” (James 2:9, 10) to the detriment of the “spirit” in which it was intended (Psalm 119: 77). Hence, looking lustfully at a woman the same as adultery; hatred as murder, etc. The same application was made by Jesus, in the New Testament, concerning the Sabbath. Whether teaching, (Luke 13:10-16), healing (John 9:14), or walking through a field eating (Mark 2:23), Jesus did not change the day, but clarified how it is to be kept: “Jesus went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). He kept it “as was His custom” (Luke 4:16), not because He was born into the Jewish culture, but as a memorial of His own work at creation (Hebrews 4:10). In fact, He claimed to be “Lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8). He enjoined the Jews to view the Sabbath as the intended day of rest “made for man” (Mark 2:27), not as a burdensome day of fasting, rules and regulations that required man’s slavish obedience.

God said the seventh day is the Sabbath. With all due respect, to say that we now keep the Sabbath on another day (if at all) in honor of Jesus being the pan-ultimate “rest” is noble, but disingenuous (Hebrews 4:4,8, 9). Of what use is it to say “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” if we then mutter, “except for the 4th commandment”? Or what do the words “Jesus is Lord of all” mean when we tack on the fine print of “except the Sabbath which was made for me and I choose to rest another day (or in Jesus)”? As Christians, we can keep the Sabbath BECAUSE we rest in Christ NOT INSTEAD OF resting in Him. If we are willing to apply that logic to this (or any other) commandment, is it any wonder that the Gentile community marvels at the Christian’s inability to comprehend their interpretation of marriage (homosexuality, cohabitation, etc.)? God said that marriage is between one man and one woman, but they believe their manner of keeping that commitment to be equal, if not superior, to the Biblical model, with the argument that heterosexual marriage is archaic. By this logic, God isn’t love (I John 4:8), marriage is.

I know of some unhappily married people and I know of some people who are living together (heterosexual and homosexual) who claim to be happy. So? That doesn’t make the one man-one woman covenant obsolete, nor does it confer the appellation of “marriage” on any other type of union. Just because some sabbatarians don’t know how to call the Sabbath a delight doesn’t void it (Romans 3:31), nor does it transfer its sanctity to another day.

There are only two institutions that can trace their origin back to the Garden of Eden: marriage and the seventh-day Sabbath. Just because both are safeguarded within the Ten Commandments doesn’t limit their transcendence. On the contrary, they are codified – with the remaining eight -- as part of the express God-written word(Matthew 5:18), and none of the ten can be kept apart from Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:14).

I suspect that Koukl's criterion #2 is an attempt to preserve a little wiggle room from precisely the above sort of reasoning that is purely Scripture-based and threatens to obligate us to a more literal application of fourth commandment. This perhaps poses a bit of a conundrum for folks who want to derive their moral principles purely from the Bible and yet still mow their lawns on Saturday.

The idea: "But surely the obligation not to mow my lawn on Saturday doesn't SEEM transcendent in nature!"

Now watch what happens. Readers will, with laudable ingenuity, come up with a reading of the Bible that conduces to their own sense of what ought to be a law. But what's really motivating them--the interest of deriving principles solely from the Bible, or the interest of finding a reading that matches their sense of what ought to be a law? And if it is the latter, and so much effort is going into the task of finding a reading that matches their sense of what seems like a good law, is the opinion really trustworthy? Is it unbiased?

If Christians want to arrive at a truly Bible-based set of principles, they should start by being highly skeptical of their "common sense" views about these matters, since "common sense" is greatly influenced by culture, tradition, habit, and psychological facts about human beings. They, of course, also must be highly skeptical of the standard interpretations that they hear from their church leaders. A little church history should feed one's skepticism here. Going further, such earnest Christians ought to be highly suspicious about their own intuitive moral sentiments and judgments, as there is no guarantee that these will align with principles that would be arrived at from the Bible alone.

It might be helpful to think of what a rational Martian would come to believe about God's law, supposing that this Martian was quite the opposite from us with respect to his moral sentiments and intuitions, traditions, and habits. Suppose that this Martian was simply a very careful reader, with a good sense of Biblical languages and customs. Or, perhaps better yet, suppose this Martian was entirely without intuitions and judgments about what seems like a good law. What duties would this Martian infer from a close reading of the Bible?

Galations explains this subject very well. The whole letter to the Galations should be read again if you are not extremely familiar with it. I've selected a few nice verses here:
2:21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"
3:10 All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law."
5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
2Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. 6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

5:16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

Also, the book of Colossians explains the law.

The purpose of the law is to lead lost people to Christ. Once saved, you are no longer under the law.
What seems to be forgotten is that with the law comes a penalty for breaking the law. You can't break the law without incurring the penalty. Thankfully, Christ paid the penalty for all of our sins--past, present, and future--at the cross.
That's why we can live in freedom from the law. We, as Christians, are redeemed.
2 Corinthians 5:21 God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

So much effort is put into worrying about what law we are following and breaking and keeping. It's like growing grass in your yard. You can focus on pulling weeds (keeping up with the law and trying to stop sinning) or you can work on growing the grass (living your life in a loving way...led by the Spirit-not the law). The law was intended to show us our need for a Saviour.
The grass will naturally choke out the weeds. Our focus should not be on sin and trying to stop sinning. You'll never be able to do it. If you could...if righteousness could be obtained through the law, then Christ died for nothing.
Focus on faith expressing itself through love. Love your neighbor, friends and enemies. Paul said that's the ONLY thing that counts

"That's why we can live in freedom from the law."

So Mike, with regard to wrongness, is there any difference between breaking the 4th Commandment in mowing one's lawn on Saturday, and breaking the 7th in committing adultery?

" with regard to wrongness, is there any difference between breaking the 4th Commandment in mowing one's lawn on Saturday, and breaking the 7th in committing adultery?"

None, for those who are under the condemnation of the law.

How about for those not "under the condemnation of the law"? This, after all, is more to the point of the original post.

"How about for those not "under the condemnation of the law"? This, after all, is more to the point of the original post."

For those under grace, mercy, not law, is in effect. This fact renders the question irrelevant. The question only has relevancy to the lost.

Louis,

If with regard to the wrongness of these actions there is NO difference for the unbeliever, and if the difference is also IRRELEVANT to the believer, then it seems odd that believers should be so exercised about laws regarding homosexuality and murder, but not about the absence of laws against Saturday lawn mowing.

Mike has the right idea: we cannot focus on sinning or not sinning, for “ALL have sinned and come short” (Romans 3:23) -- believers and unbelievers alike -- and all have “earned” death, being the wages of sin, which is the transgression of the law. So? Where’s the freedom? The freedom is that believers don’t get death (penalty - what we deserve), or even acquittal (mercy - not what we deserve), but pardon (grace - that which we don’t deserve) so that “no man can boast”. THE LAW STILL STANDS; we are just freed from having to pay the penalty (which we are incapable of doing) and to top it off, we get eternal life.

Everybody – believer and unbeliever – knows they’ll have to “pay the piper” sometime. The difference between the two is NOT that one is free from the law and the other is still stuck “under” it, as under like a car. With an explanation like that, is it any wonder that “the preaching of the cross” doesn’t make sense to the unbeliever (I Cor 1:18)? No; the law still holds, it’s just that one BELIEVES his/her DEBT for the transgression of the law to be paid in full, and the other has the same opportunity to realize that same “freedom” from debt if they will just believe. And how does one believe? By faith, which comes by the word of God (Romans 10:17): the written word of the Bible (alone) and the incarnate Word of Jesus Christ. Again, consider the Ark of the Covenant: as a symbol of Christ, the mercy seat covering the God-written law, where “lovingkindness and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” (Psalm 85:10) The Ten Commandments cannot be understood without the cross, and the cross cannot be appreciated unless the listener knows why Christ went there. Our God is not a God of confusion but of peace (1 Corinthians14:33).

Carmine’s Martian would probably draw the same conclusion, and find it highly curious that Christians would have no qualms about nine commandment carved in stone and covered with the mercy seat of Christ, but then rely upon “their own intuitive moral sentiments and judgments” about one. It’s just a supposition, but the alien would also marvel that the Earthlings would wax glib about implementing modern Mosaic penalties for lawn-mowing, instead of sharing the good news of the gospel that Jesus Christ has paid the penalty for the sinner’s transgression of God’s immutable law.

Of course, if the Martian Bible students thought we were just waxing glib about Saturday lawn mowing, they’d presumably also think that we’re playing irresponsibly silly games when we’re campaigning against Roe v Wade and gay marriage.

There are some pretty interesting interpretations of 'the law' posted here.
What am I to make of the law in the 1,500 years that preceded Christ? Was God conducting some cruel object lesson for us to learn from? Was the law "plan A," but because we're no good God had to come up with a new and improved "plan B" ?
It seems as though the difficulty with these ethical considerations from the Old Testament has to do with how we perceive the law's function both before and after Christ.

P.S. Please sign your posts so we know who we're conversing with, it adds that nice personal touch!

Not at all. The Martian would see that opposition to Roe v. Wade or support of traditional marriage is legislating behavior. The soundness of Western (specifically American) civilization has been founded on the last six commandments, as they address man’s relationship to society, without an attempt to legislate the first four, as they relate to man’s relationship to God. Why would the extraterrestrial consider that glib? And before one argues that lawn-mowing is behavioral, remember Sabbath-keeping is a matter of one’s relationship to His Creator, not grass, or even one’s neighbor.

While we battle on to defend (as we should) those institutions stemming from the six commandments which are the very underpinnings of our society, we should also advance the Great Commission and engage the marketplace, winsomely gaining souls from the ranks of unbelievers by sharing with them the whole, unvarnished beauty of the gospel.

Over the last 40+ years, Christians have lost ground in the moral arena of ideas when it touted that “the law was nailed to the cross”. The unbeliever asks, “What law?” and is told, “The Ten Commandments!” The unbeliever responds, “Whew! Nobody wants a bunch of rules cramping their style, and it’s reassuring to know that while everyone is ‘doing what’s right in their own eyes’, ‘Jesus loves me’.”

Within a generation, we have same-sex unions, traditional marriage declining, divorce and cohabitation increasing, abortion, euthanasia, situational ethics; property marked-to-market, bailed out and sold; covetousness promoted as perfume, rebellious youth being dropped off at safe houses in Nebraska, God’s name used as an expletive, TV shows auditioning “idols”, every crime against man and natural law perpetrated in the name of freedom; and, post-modern evolutionary moral relativists announcing, “god (little g) is not only dead, but never existed, but just in case, he/she resides in the human breast”.

Realizing we’ve reaped the whirlwind, we now shout, “THE TEN COMMANDMENTS ARE TRANSCENDENT!” Wait; stop; rewind. “THE NINE COMMANDMENTS ARE TRANSCENDENT (and one is spiritualized).” How’s that?

(The only reason there isn’t an outcry to legally recognize the Biblical seventh-day Sabbath is because there’s no need: many Christians side with the world on its being irrelevant.)

It is a real and sobering possibility that well-meaning legislators, in attempt to stop the pendulum of license and reverse its course, will trespass on God’s ground and attempt to legislate conscience. They may be Christian, they might not be. If that time comes, how many of the remaining commandments will we then defend: three or four? And if four, what day will the Christian champion? That’s why the Martian would call such banter glib. If that time comes, it won’t be about lawns. It will be our very souls.

"If with regard to the wrongness of these actions there is NO difference for the unbeliever, and if the difference is also IRRELEVANT to the believer, then it seems odd that believers should be so exercised about laws regarding homosexuality and murder, but not about the absence of laws against Saturday lawn mowing. "


It is quite clear that the new testament as well as the old refer to keeping the sabbath as something that no Christian is morally obligated to do.

In Colossians 2:16-17, Paul explicitly refers to the Sabbath as a shadow of Christ, which is no longer binding since the substance (Christ) has come. It is quite clear in those verses that the weekly Sabbath is in view. The phrase "a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day" refers to the annual, monthly, and weekly holy days of the Jewish calendar (cf. 1 Chronicles 23:31; 2 Chronicles 2:4, 31:3; Ezekiel 45:17; Hosea 2:11). If Paul were referring to special ceremonial dates of rest in that passage, why would he have used the word "Sabbath?" He had already mentioned the ceremonial dates when he spoke of festivals and new moons.

The Sabbath was the sign to Israel of the Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 31:16-17; Ezekiel 20:12; Nehemiah 9:14). Since we are now under the New Covenant (Hebrews 8), we are no longer required to observe the sign of the Mosaic Covenant.


Nowhere in the new testament is a Christian commanded to observe the sabbath in the manner of the old testament economy. It is quite clear that it is not wrong for a Christian to mow the lawn on a Saturday. So, to compare the wrongness of two things, one of which is not wrong is a mistake.

So, being exercised about laws that actually apply in a particular situation is a perfectly consistent behavior on the part of Christians. What seems odd is that until now, you appear not to have considered this point in this light. Now I have offered you an opportunity to remedy that defect.

Mea culpa. “Posted by: | October 23, 2008 at 12:43 AM” was written in response to the anonymous one preceding Mijk V’s post. I’ve signed off here, as I should have on “Posted by: | October 21, 2008 at 03:22 PM” and “Posted by: | October 22, 2008 at 04:47 PM”.
With reference to Old Testament/New Testament functioning of the law, to claim that we completely understand God’s reasoning behind it would be presumption. We will spend eternity probing the depths of that question (among, I’m sure, others). That being said, what we do know is given to us in God’s inspired word, the Bible.

We tend to throw around the terms “Old Covenant” and “New Covenant” a lot, but what do they mean?

As you know, a covenant is an agreement; in modern parlance, a contract. Contracts have a basis and terms under which they are proposed, ratified, and executed. Let’s say I signed a contract to purchase a house in southern California four years ago with an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM). The basis of the mortgage is the house. The terms of the agreement are contained in the 40-page mortgage document I signed. The terms contain an elaborate explanation of the house as well as details about how it will eventually become mine: payments, interest, penalties. With interest rates now doing a happy dance on my check book, I find myself staring at an unmanageable mortgage payment at risk of incurring late charges and penalties. I negotiate a fixed-rate mortgage (FRM). I signed two agreements, contracts, or covenants. I “broke” the old one and “keep” the new one. The basis of both was/is the house.

For the sake of space (thank you, STR, for making this forum available!), here’s what we know from the Bible (by no means exhaustive).

Because of his transgression in the Garden of Eden, man could no longer commune with God “face to face”, for without “the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin” (Heb 9:22). We get a glimpse of what God explained to Adam and Eve with the prophecy of Genesis 3:15. (Where else would the coat of skins come from? (v.21)) Over time, some loved to hear the “old, old story”, but most wouldn’t listen unless there was a prophet around (Jeremiah 34:14b, 15). Four hundred years of engrossing slavery go by, and the chosen people needed everything spelled out for them. The “old” covenant was written out, the basis and the terms, and explained in graphic detail (Ex 19:7, 8). The children of Israel agreed to it and ratified with blood (Ex 24:4-8), the type of Christ’s sacrifice. The old covenant ended when type met antitype at the cross (Eph 2:14-16). Notice that the text does not say anything about the Ark of the Covenant (Ex 25:16, 17; 2 Chron 5:10) which is a symbol of the testimony of Jesus (mercy seat) and contains God’s law (10 commandment); simply that the veil (sacrificial system through which man approached God’s throne) and the “law of commandments contained in ordinances” (the debt or curse associated with the transgression of His law (Col 2:14)) was now rent, abolished. Reconciled to Him, mankind can now approach the throne of God directly through Christ.

What is the “new” covenant? The law is still in place and there is still the transgression of the law (sin) and its associated penalty of death. God writes the basis of the contract inwardly (Hebrews 8:10-12), but now the terms by which the penalty is satisfied have changed and the people with whom it is kept are not limited to one nation (Gal 4:22-25; Rom 8:3, 4, 14). The covenant is ratified with Christ’s own blood (Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 13:20, 21) and kept through Christ working in us (1 Peter 1:3, 4; Romans 8:3, 4). The basis of the new covenant is still the incarnate word (Jesus) and the written word of God (Ten Commandments). The only thing that has changed is the terms of the covenant. How do we know this? Because of when it went into effect (Hebrews 9:16, 17). Anyone who’s been to a reading of a will and testament knows this: when does it go into effect? Upon the death of the testator. Can the contents be changed once that takes place? No.

David, under the “old” system says, “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple” (Ps 19:7, 8); and John, under the “new” system declares that the people of God “keep the commandments and have the testimony of Jesus”. If the Ten Commandments (or just one) were the law that was nailed to the cross, Revelation 12:17 would not make sense.

Isaiah 8:20.

Hi Vlind,

I may be missing it here, but I don't see why the 10 commandments stand out as special among the other regulations. Why not follow them all?

Mijk V.

"
Within a generation, we have same-sex unions, traditional marriage declining, divorce and cohabitation increasing, abortion, euthanasia, situational ethics; property marked-to-market, bailed out and sold; covetousness promoted as perfume, rebellious youth being dropped off at safe houses in Nebraska, God’s name used as an expletive, TV shows auditioning “idols”, every crime againnst man and natural law perpetrated in the name of freedom; and, post-modern evolutionary moral relativists announcing, “god (little g) is not only dead, but never existed, but just in case, he/she resides in the human breast”."

Wouldn't we do better to focus on the risen savior rather than the fallen world?

Mijk V,

While the Ten Commandments were written down and expanded upon by Moses in the handwritten law that was placed at the side or alongside the Ark of the Covenant, the Ten Commandments (without elaboration) written by the finger of God were placed inside.

Under the “new” covenant, the Ten Commandments are written on the heart, with the understanding and expansion coming from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit rather than a handwritten manual.

Under both covenants, NEITHER the Jew nor the Gentile believer was/is saved by “keeping” the commandments, but BY FAITH (Hebrews 11) that the blood shed by the atoning sacrifice (originally of animals pointing to the cross, and ultimately of Christ) would cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). It is BECAUSE we are saved, we are now willing to be obedient. (Romans 6:17 – 19, Hebrews 12:1-4). If the wages of sin is death and sin is lawLESSness or the transgression of the law, what would the opposite of all that be? (Colossians 3:23, 24)

It’s not a matter of keeping or not keeping, but rather, (if you’ll pardon the expression) “thinking INSIDE the box”.


Louis,

Amen, brother! “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Luke 21:28

Philemon 25

So just the 10 then? Is it ok for two men to marry if it becomes legal? What about incest? Fornication? There's a host of things I can think of that slip past the decalogue goalie (please excuse the hockey imagery).

For all of their interesting value otherwise, I think the posts on this topic perfectly illustrate why many "common" people feel too stupid to understand the Bible, and perhaps even too stupid to be a Christian. If even people fairly well-versed in the Bible cannot agree as to what it all means, then what hope is there of the "common" person ever knowing?

A criticism (and cynicism) of Christianity that I often encounter is that "Christians can't even agree on what Christianity is." That is wholly disheartening for people who are hungering for something certain and immovable in life.

"A criticism (and cynicism) of Christianity that I often encounter is that "Christians can't even agree on what Christianity is." That is wholly disheartening for people who are hungering for something certain and immovable in life."

While there are "things" that we don't always see eye to eye within the church. Historically, it does not really matter as much that we know what Christianity is as does knowing who Jesus is and what His redemptive work accomplished. That knowledge does not require a high degree of sophistication, a number of university degrees or a high I.Q. All that is needed is God's grace and that is sufficient.

tucker,

I wonder to what extent they feel this way only because others convince them that they can't or don't properly understand what ordinarily would seem apparent to them.

Utimately I believe that Christ will be known by the grace of God.

Everyone knows only in part. I can't imagine anyone can claim biblically to know the whole truth, to have perfect understanding or to be free from error. This is simply the human condition.

Don't be dismayed. Study the Bible. Seek God. He wants us to find Him.

Luke 11: 9-13
9"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

11"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for[a] a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

Hi tucker, they say the scriptures are shallow enough for a baby to wade in and yet deep enough for an elephant so submerge himself in. Many who ought to be past needing the milk of the word are still on it to their own shame. The apostle Paul chastises some for that when he says that by this time you ought to be teachers in Heb. 5 and 6.

Brad B

"All that is needed is God's grace and that is sufficient."

"Don't be dismayed. Study the Bible. Seek God. He wants us to find Him."

"Ultimately I believe that Christ will be known by the grace of God."

For the above sentiments, let's coin the phrase "dogmatic wishful thinking." And, when critical re-evaluation threatens our supposedly "Bible-based" dogma, here's what we'll say:

"Wouldn't we do better to focus on the risen savior?"

Among all posts, there is no indication that anything but the grace of God is sufficient for salvation.

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Nor has anyone stated anything that can’t be challenged, verified or validated by prayerful reading of the Bible, with a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance handy. :o)

“Growth” in one’s spiritual walk is no different than the progress in other arenas. Do we expect to see high school graduates still crawling about on all fours? Or, with a nod to the biblical model of marriage, how many of us would trade the knowledge of and intimacy with our spouse for what we knew of them at the first date? The Christian is exhorted not to lose his/her “first love” for Christ, AND to go “deeper” and “higher” in one’s relationship to Him. That’s what sanctification is all about. We cannot presume to be called to be “perfect” in knowledge or sinlessness, but we are called to be “perfect” (teleios) in the same sense that an oak tree is the “perfection” of an acorn.

“Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14

Romans 12:1, 2

The evasion committed on this thread concerns the assumption that the grace of God somehow licenses us to remain uncritical in both our distinctions between right and wrong, and in our beliefs about how these uncritical distinctions of ours are justified.

Here’s an example of an distinction that some assume can be justified on purely biblical grounds: that homosexual behavior is wrong, but that Saturday lawn mowing is permissible. To deflect self-scrutiny regarding this distinction by an appeal to God’s grace is entirely inappropriate. What if Christian slave owners had deflected criticisms of their practices by appeals to God’s grace, and that instead of questioning whether their beliefs in the permissibility of slave ownership were in fact Bible-based, they said: “shouldn’t we rather be focusing on the risen Christ?” This would be perverse.

I don't believe that Christians are out there mowing their lawn on a Saturday thinking that it is sin, but counting on God's grace for forgiveness. The Sabbath principle is wise, but the Sabbath law does not apply to Gentiles. Period. This isn't new.

Yes, but isn't it suspiciously convenient that only those principles that "seem to be transcendent in nature" are understood to apply to us? Is anyone really willing to approach the Bible without the preconceived idea that Saturday lawn mowing couldn't possibly be as wrong/sinful as murder? (Frankly, I would hope not.) I think this tells us something about how Christians in fact justify their moral principles. Specifically, their endorsement of particular moral principles is not, strictly speaking, Bible-based.

I am not sure this is really on topic but I'll comment briefly.

Someone said: "For the above sentiments, let's coin the phrase "dogmatic wishful thinking."

This might be true if it were not a reasoned view based on scripture as opposed to evasion. I don't doubt that some Christians may not be curious about what and why they believe to the point of being "dogmatic". This lack of discernment is not peculiar to Christians and is certainly not biblical.

I agree that scrutiny of ones beliefs and those of others is profitable, it is also biblical.

However, undue deference to scholars of theology because of their supposed authority or being overly concerned with the finer points of theological interpretation can sometimes obscure the gospel and I don't think that is a good thing.

Carmine said: ""common sense" is greatly influenced by culture, tradition, habit, and psychological facts about human beings."

I agree. But I think Paul claims the value of common sense in terms of recognising general revelation in Romans 1:18-20.

A person could be rigorously academically critical and gain the world but lose his soul. Bart Ehrman comes to mind.

Without the grace of God, how useful is wisdom? I don't get the sense from the Bible that one must have a complete or perfect understanding of all that is written to receive the grace of God. This is not an excuse to ignore the study of what the Bible says.

“The Sabbath principle is wise, but the Sabbath law does not apply to Gentiles.”

So the other nine DO apply because… Why… because of belief?

So now we have three groups of people: Jews under the law, Gentiles under the law and Gentiles not under the law?

There is only one law (God’s Ten Commandments) and one penalty (death) for breaking that law, and we’re ALL “under” that death penalty because we’ve all sinned and fallen short. The ONLY way to be “freed” from that PENALTY is the cleansing, atoning blood of Jesus (Gal 3:13) or of animals (in the Old Testament pointing forward to the offering of Christ). God is not a respecter of persons. There is neither Jew nor Gentile. There is only the saved and the unsaved, those that accepted Christ by faith as their “Bondman” and those who remain “bound”. The guilty party is not “at large” because they were a law-abiding citizen, or because the law doesn’t exist for them. There would have been no need for the penalty if either was the case. Similarly, the guilty party now “free” is not going to “jump bail and break laws” out of respect for price paid for that freedom.

But, “If Paul were referring to special ceremonial dates of rest in that passage, why would he have used the word ‘Sabbath?’ He had already mentioned the ceremonial dates when he spoke of festivals and new moons.”

Why wouldn’t Paul? The ENTIRE context of Col 2 is talking about ceremony. The term “sabbaths”, when used in the context of ceremonial functions as in this passage, simply identified those Sabbath days that preceded or concurred during a ceremonial feast day.

Ezekiel 45:17 And it shall be the prince's part to give burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and drink offerings, in the feasts, and in the new moons, and in the sabbaths, in all solemnities of the house of Israel: he shall prepare the sin offering, and the meat offering, and the burnt offering, and the peace offerings, to make reconciliation for the house of Israel.

Hosea 2:11 “I will also put an end to all her gaiety, Her feasts, her new moons, her sabbaths, And all her festal assemblies.

The bigger leap in reasoning would be for Paul to interject a Decalogue commandment in a list of temple activity and feast days that occurred at specific times throughout the year and which pointed specifically to Christ and His ministry (the ephemeral “shadow” pointing to the substantial “body”). To do so would be an association fallacy.

A: The seventh day is the Sabbath.
B: Some ceremonial feasts fell on the seventh day.
C: Therefore, the seventh day is ceremonial.

Please don’t misunderstand. Paul even stated that the believing Jew and Gentile are NOT saved or “justified” by keeping [any of] the Ten Commandments. Both find salvation or justification in the shedding of blood as the atoning sacrifice for their sins (Gal 3:11). Similarly, Paul also recognized that the wondrous fact of one being saved or justified by faith in Christ does not nullify, or render obsolete, the law. “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” (Rom 3:31).

"Christians can't even agree on what Christianity is."

There has been no disagreement on the subject on this list: It is “solus Christus”. The discussion that has been interesting is whether anyone can “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (I Peter 3:15), and “make an endorsement of moral principles” based upon “sola scriptura”. I think it’s possible, if we can take our human pre-suppositions out of the equation. :o)

“Come let us reason together”. (Is 1:18)

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