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March 21, 2011

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Video cuts off at about two and a half minutes.

Worthwhile questions! I had dinner with 2 believers from Jewish backgrounds last night. Both of them grew up in secular homes and, in a sense, rediscovered the OT laws when they became followers of Christ. In doing so, they also began to notice ways that the law was undermined in Christian circles with assertions like, "We're not under the law! Don't be legalistic!". One friend studied the dietary laws in-depth and is committed to eating in accordance with Levitical law. She even wrote a book about it. I think they both would argue that our obligations go further than what Greg suggests here. I haven't heard all of their arguments and am undecided. Thoughts?

Rosie,

One friend studied the dietary laws in-depth and is committed to eating in accordance with Levitical law. She even wrote a book about it.

It is true that a lot of believers simply dismiss things like that without having studied them. Or at least they don't take the time to explain the real reasons behind their decisions.

As per eating laws- I would take a close look into Acts 10 and Romans 14 on eating habits for Christians (both Jew and Gentile). The NT makes it clear that nothing God creates (animals) is unclean or impure to eat. I would say that your friend who holds him(her)self to the Levitical eating habits has a sort of weak faith in that respect as decscribed in Romans 14. If they believe that eating that way is glorifying to God, then doing so IS glorifying to God. If they were to do otherwise, believing what they do now, it would be a sin.

This specific issue is easy because it is clearly addressed in the NT. I suppose other issues may not be so clear.

Hope that helps!
Austin

Video cuts off. Reloaded the page a couple of times but the video would simply cut off at different points each time.

From what I saw (got to about 4:50 the first time) I really like the approach taken here.

I had a same problem with video not loading properly. I got to see and hear only 8 seconds of it :(

Wait a minute—why is murder wrong? Because it says so somewhere in the Bible besides Leviticus? Or because, “on reflection, it’s obvious that… murder is wrong in itself”?

Janney,

Murder was condemned prior to the Levitical Law- in the 10 commandments. Though that doesn't prove that murder is wrong, it shows that its condemnation does not exist only in the levitical law.

To build on that, I think the idea of not murdering (remember, murder is killing without proper justification) can be derived from the second greatest commandment according to Jesus- love your neighbor as yourself.

Lastly, if we believe what the Bible teaches (in many passages) about the value of human life, made in the image of God, then it follows that the unjustified killing of a human life is not good.

I am not sure where you are coming from. Obviously the above reasons only mean anything if you already presuppose the historical accuracy and inspiration of scripture. I do believe that one can come to the conclusion that "murder is wrong" aside from consulting the Bible, but that is another matter entirely.

Thanks,
Austin

Janney,

Please explain how anything can be right or wrong "in itself."

If murder were wrong with or without God's command, then in commanding us not to murder, God would merely be acknowledging a universal truth, not decreeing it. This would mean that God is not the ultimate arbiter of morality.

I just realized that was a quote. I'm assuming you were quoting the video. I watched it yesterday and don't remember that particular quote. If it is, I would ask Mr. Koukl the same question.

If it's so obvious that murder is wrong, why do so many do it?

Also, piggybacking on Austins point about the negative command[thou shall not], there is the positive aspect to positively protect life that is equally or more in need to be proclaimed and taught since the fallen nature is not inclined to care for others.

Mr. Koukl says…

And so I think murder is wrong not because it’s prohibited in the Mosaic Law--which would include the Ten Commandments--but because murder is wrong, and it’s transcendent over all governments and applicable to all governments and all people, and therefore that’s why it shows up in the Mosaic Law to begin with.

So it’s not wrong because it’s in Leviticus; it’s wrong because it’s wrong. Here, he talks as though you don’t even need the rest of the Bible to figure this out: you could figure it out for yourself through personal experience, or something, and indeed it only shows up in the Mosaic Law by virtue of its “transcendence.”

He also says…

So I think that, on reflection, it’s obvious that taking an innocent human life without proper justification--murder--is wrong in itself. And in fact it’s prohibited before the Mosaic Law in Genesis 9:6…. So there’s a transcendent principle here.

Here he says the same thing, more or less (that the wrongness of murder is a “transcendent principle,” available to us through “reflection”), but he also points out that the prohibition has non-Leviticus sources. And of course one of his three principles for identifying relevant prohibitions in the Mosaic Law is finding “affirmations that are made outside of the Mosaic Law, in the New Testament…”

So: is murder wrong because the Bible says so, somewhere besides Leviticus? Or because it’s a “transcendent moral principle,” discoverable through “reflection”? I ask because, frankly, I was surprised to hear Mr. Koukl suggest that there might be an extra-Biblical source of moral information (namely, introspection and personal experience). On the other hand, if the things said in Leviticus are either irrelevant or repeated somewhere else in the Bible, doesn’t that mean Leviticus is redundant entirely? To Calvinists, at least?

Thanks for the clarification. I agree with you, and I'm surprised at Mr. Koukl's suggestion too.

I personally do not understand the assumption by most modern theologians that we should have to justify the commands found in the law. Why can't we just accept that God said these things, and that that alone gives them import and relevance?

Janney and CMM,

Perhaps you are right that we shouldn't "have to justify the commands", but that doesn't mean there isn't another way to discover that truth (namely, that murder is morally wrong) apart from Scripture. For example, Romans 2 makes it clear that the Gentiles do have the law "written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them."

So I think the Bible confirms what Greg says, even if Greg doesn't show us how.

Note, that I am not saying that Christians, or anyone, SHOULD actively practice this sort of introspective or observational method for deciding what is morally right and wrong. I am simply saying that it is, in principle, possible to obtain moral truths this way. Additionally, this principle may be at work in the non-believer without them even knowing it is there.

Thanks,
Austin

Brad,

If it's so obvious that murder is wrong, why do so many do it?

I think Greg sort of takes the CS Lewis approach here (as seen in my above post). Murder is the "unjustified killing of another human." I think that an outstanding majority of humans would agree that this is wrong. The confusion comes in with how we determine what is justified and what is not. CS Lewis makes this argument in Mere Christianity and Greg/Francis Beckwith iron it out a little in their Relativism book.

Maybe Frank will see this and expound a little :)

Hi Austin, I appreciate the mention of the law written on the heart of man and dont deny it's there, and that it renders every man guilty before God. But it can be seared and men do suppress the truth in unrighteousness resulting in God giving them over to futher depravity. I say this because although most people would call the premeditated killing of a human being who is innocent before the law murder, many do not recognize what a human being is. So, how many do not recognize the preborn as murder victims, how many support a womans right to choose--giving hearty approval to the killing of the most innocent of all human beings? WE in the USA have laws on the books that do not prohibit murder. So I say there is evidence that men do not recognize murder in the first place and in the second place, even if they do recognize it they'll do it and justify it if the stakes are high enough as they are blinded to the truth of it by some other depraved motivation.

The law written on the heart of man is unreliable to be used to set a standard of morality for societies/cultures and without special revelation operating in lives of believers being salt and light, there'd be no restraint to the natural law being trampled.

Austin,

I agree that people can discover biblical truths without ever reading a Bible. I thank God for this, as it confirms the truth of Scripture. My point though had more to do with the origination of the command--what initially determined that murder is wrong? Is it wrong primarily because it violates a universal ethic? Or is it wrong primarily because God, YHWH, the Creator said that it is wrong?

I believe that if we appeal primarily to a universal ethic to prove that murder is wrong, as the video suggests, then we are implying that God did not decree that murder is wrong, he simply acknowledged that it's wrong. The appeal to a universal moral ethic leads to the conclusion that God is not the final arbiter of morality. Nothing can have intrinsic moral value apart from God's command concerning it.

CMM,

I agree that murder is not wrong apart from God, but I also don't think it's wrong simply because He said so- for that would make it arbitrary. I think it is a moral truth, grounded in His nature, and He therefore decrees it to us. Perhaps this is muddled though. It's not an easy thing to solve- Eurythro's Dilemma.

Austin,

You said, "I think it is a moral truth, grounded in His nature, and He therefore decrees it to us."

I totally agree. This is the basis of the command, so it's not arbitrary at all. All of God's commands are based on his holy nature. That's what I've been trying to say, I think. Ultimately, the point is, it comes from God, not from anywhere else.

Brad,

I agree- this is why I said that I wasn't encouraging anyone to utilize this method in attempting to obtain moral truths. In principal it's possible (the law is there after all), but with our depravity it is very hard to discern, practically speaking.

I like these softball questions that we can all come to an agreement on. It's a breath of fresh air compared to the harder questions (imo) on Soteriology, Eschatology and Providence haha.

Mr. Koukl addresses Euthyphro here

, although I don’t find it very satisfying. That said, here in this video he could simply be saying: we know murder is wrong because the Bible says so (somewhere besides Leviticus), and/or because, upon reflection, it is obvious to us (because God wrote it on our hearts or whatever), regardless of why the moral principle exists.

More interesting to me is the fact that Mr. Koukl states outright that parts of the Bible can be identified as out of date, or irrelevant, or inapplicable. And it’s extra-Biblical sources which determine this: he crosses out Leviticus because of its historical context. Regardless of exactly what he means by "reflection," he raises the possibility of reflecting on some part of the Bible and then rejecting it for modern use. Doesn't this lower the "inspired" bar rather a lot?

Janney,

I'm not sure what specifically you refer to when you summarize Greg's views, but I can offer some insight as to why he might say that.

The OT Law is pretty clearly intended only for a specific people (the Israelites) at a specific time (pre-Christ). Paul Copan argues this in his recently published book "Is God a Moral Monster?" and I think he does it quite convincingly. There is OT scripture that confirms this idea, but I don't have his book with me and cannot remember what it is.

However, the following NT verse supports his claim:

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning."
-Matthew 19:8

You see- Jesus is confirming that the OT law allowing an Israelite to divorce his wife was intended for a specific reason and a specific time, but is no longer applicable.

So does this lower the bar of "inspired" as you ask? I don't think so. Inspired means that it comes from the Spirit of God- which this clearly does. In this case, God is speaking to a specific people at a specific time though and does not intend this to be universal or eternal.

Some Christians feel that "inspired" means every word in the Bible can (and should) be applied directly to them, but this is the wrong view of scripture. That scripture is "profitable and useful for teaching" does not mean that each part of scripture applies directly to us. It does however, mean we can learn from it.

Austin,

That scripture is ‘profitable and useful for teaching’ does not mean that each part of scripture applies directly to us. It does however, mean we can learn from it.

That sounds good to me, but then how do we arrive at the conclusion that, for example, homosexuality is immoral? If the Bible is inspired, but also contains parts which are no longer relevant or applicable to us, then being inspired is clearly no guarantee of relevance. This is what I mean by "lowering the bar." Plenty of Christians have reconciled homosexuality with their faith, and if they didn’t use an argument like this, they certainly could have.

Janney,

The general answer is that we need to determine which parts are intended for everyone (universal), which parts are intended for just Christians and which parts were intended for anyone else (exclusively- such as the Jews). If it falls in the first two categories, then it would be applicable and directly relevant to us.

This is easier said than done though, as you already know. This area of study is known as hermeneutics. In my opinion, there are some things that we can be sure do apply to us, some that we can be sure do not apply to us, and perhaps some areas that are tough to determine.

As for specifically homosexuality, this is something I have been personally dealing with recently as someone close to me has admitted to practicing this. She has even (like you said) found a church that accepts the behavior as not only normal, but good. However, this practice is explicitly condemned in several of the Epistles (NT documents written to CHRISTIANS), and a defense of Genesis-era marriage is given by Jesus himself (note, I do not mean anything political by this). I think this is pretty good reason to believe that this practice is to be avoided by Christians. In my opinion, this would fall into the category of something we can be sure is not acceptable for Christians.

Austin,

Your "general answer" sounds entirely reasonable to me. But it also sounds like the same appeal to reflection and wording and historical context that everyone uses to dismiss the parts of the Bible they don’t wish to use (including Mr. Koukl, evidently). Your friend’s new church says much the same thing, I’m guessing.

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