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« Time Management Tips | Main | Why The Pre-Jesus Mythologies Fail To Prove Jesus Is A Myth »

January 15, 2013


I read a pretty good response to this "shrimp argument" (as the author calls it) here: He even cites a STR article about Jesus' stance on homosexuality.

I wouldn't quote Leviticus 18. I'd quote Romans 1 and avoid the whole question about Mosaic Law. Let's face it ... I don't think the president here (or the crowd) is willing to listen to a contextual explanation about slavery or capital punishment.

In addition, it would be good to use some tactics here. The doctor here is getting steamrolled, and there is no reason for that. In fact, Martin Sheen's character could easily look like a bully with even just a simple use of tactics.

Very simple answer. Who is the head of America? God or the US Government? If God (and by inference we are still under the Law), then you don't have to worry about doing any of that since He would have already reduced the US to rubble. If the Government, then you are simply mistaking the patience of God in dealing with sinner for warrant to misquote, misinterpret and ultimately malign God himself. There is still time for repentance.

And if you don't, even though you stand haughty today, you will be on your knees one day.

With respect Sir, Leviticus 19 also has lots of other commands like "love your neighbor as yourself" which I am sure you would not want to reject.
Can you tell us all what principle you use to decide which ones should be treasured and which ones should be let go?

There's really not much you can do with an arrogant blowhard like Josiah Bartlett (or any of the other sanctimonious lib characters from the West Wing TV show).

I remember seeing that episode when it first aired. It was actually the episode that turned me off on the whole show. Aaron Sorkin, the writer, was obviously trying to slam Laura Schlessinger in a rather childish and hamfisted way. But then, almost everything Sorkin does is done in a childish and hamfisted way.

On the other hand, there are some people who are genuinely interested in how to resolve the ethical principles of the Old Testament.

There are several facts to be identified:

1. Some laws in the OT dealt with Temple worship, and with whether you were clean or unclean for it. Since the perfect sacrifice has come, those laws no longer have any application. So the Patriots can still play even if the football is made out of pig skin. No one needs to go to the Temple any more because Christ has done it once and for all.

2. Some laws from the OT still apply perfectly today, but the penalties imposed in OT times might not be appropriate today for a variety of excellent reasons.

3. Some laws from the OT were made in accommodation of antecedent bad behavior. Even though slavery is wrong, given that it does exist, and given that you are going to sin by keeping your slaves, you can still compound your sin by also being cruel to them.

4. Some behaviors described by the same word at different times are essentially different. So the OT rules regarding the OT institutions, while correct, seem misguided because we read the rules as if they apply to the behavior as we understand it.

But it's not the rules that are misguided. Instead, it's our understanding of the behaviors they regulate that's misguided.

Returning to slavery, this term in the OT could mean just what we call a POW today. We take, and have taken, prisoners in war. We sometimes even make them work during the term of their incarceration. We certainly do do so with convicts as well. We sometimes even sell the labors of prisoners, against their will, to the highest bidder.

How is that not slavery? is slavery.

But it's not the kind of slavery Lincoln abolished. And the slavery of the OT has at least as much in common with it as it has with the slavery of the antebellum South.

5. Some rules make sense when you are a coalition of tribes in a hostile territory surrounded by enemies that would like nothing better than to kill or enslave you. These same rules might not make sense in a prosperous democratic nation state in times of peace.

No one denies the morality of imposing martial law during an insurrection against a legitimate government. Doing so during a time of peace is what transforms a nation into a police state.

6. Some rules in the OT still fully apply today, but we are so sinful that we do not recognize it.

I love the book of Leviticus, and among Christians it is GREAT, but using the text from Leviticus on the subject of homosexuality in the public square will get you nowhere. I am not saying it isn't valid. But,there are too many topics and laws in Leviticus that incomprehensible to those outside the faith that it simply makes us look rather silly - laws regarding ceremony, dress, diet, etc that are not relevant today - and they are intermixed.

Thank you for those questions. The answer is no! No Mr. President you should not sell your daughter into slavery. The Bible does not give permission to sell your daughter into slavery in the sense that you are implying. But as for the price for your daughter's life. How did Jesus value her life?

On all your other questions Mr. President the answer is No, the laws here do not apply. But to understand that answer, you first have to understand the answer to this question - When these laws are given who is Moses talking to and why?

Mr. President, we can have a reasonable conversation over this, but it has to be without the name calling. You expect me to respect you by standing. (Stand up at this point) But shouldn't you respect others and not call them names?

(Walk out the door!)

The Law in the OT given to the Israelites was designed by God for that particular nation, for that particular culture, and during that particular time period. It is irritating to hear people bring these Laws up in an argument because they were not designed to apply in today's context. Sure, some of the situations and acts are still considered sins by God, such as homosexuality and rape. But God's condemnation of these sins can be easily found and referenced in the New Testament, after Christ's death and Resurrection. I don't believe that the early church fathers were concerned about touching the skin of a dead pig or wearing cloth made from two types of thread.

Aaron Sorkin, the writer of that particular bit, is fine at setting up straw characters to knock down, which is what this clip truly is.

If the President of the United States actually badgered a private citizen in this manner, I think I would want that President impeached.

First of all, my objection to homosexuality is not based on Old Testament law, but on my knowledge of modern research which pretty clearly identifies homosexuality as a destructive, compulsive, sexual disorder, to those who are actually interested in letting the evidence guide their opinions rather than the other way 'round.

But regarding that Old Testament law, while the Mosaic Law was a guide for a Bronze Age culture and not the ultimate, universal, eternal Law for all time, God reveals His preferences in the OT laws. One can say perhaps that given modern psychology, social mores, and the relative mercy of the New Testament, homosexuality ought no longer be punishable by death; but one cannot say that God has not let His preferences be known on the subject. It seems plain enough that God did not call homosexuality a capital offense "because of the hardness of their hearts." He thinks it's a bad idea for a culture to permit it. So maybe we can do away with the rules regarding the sacrifice of turtledoves and goats, but that does not make homosexuality a lifestyle worth celebrating.

I think the first thing you would want to do here would be ask some questions about what argument exactly the protagonist is making. Meanwhile, I think I'd be trying to shift the subject of the discussion off Lev. for all the reasons stated. Then again, maybe there is a launching pad for a helpful line.
- Let me clarify - I'm wondering what you're saying about the Bible, or Leviticus; are you saying that all the commands in the Bible are archaic and no longer apply? Or that we need to be discerning and only apply those which seem to fit our cultural context.
- How do we work out which laws we should uphold and which ones we should reject on the basis that they are inhumane or archaic?
- Have you done much study into the context of those verses you quote, or the purpose of the law as given by Moses?
- How should we determine which things are morally right and which things are morally wrong in our society today?

my 16 year old son has been throwing these specific quotes at me for two years (he started when he was 14, when he turned his back on God), i love it when he does and i give him the same answer each time and it drives him crazy. As a dispensationalist i tell him the book of Leviticus was written for the Israelites (and their theocracy), and has very little to do with Gentiles (and Christians). For everyone, the creation account tells us what God requires with marriage, Paul in Romans nicely spells out how we who are Gentiles (which i am sure each of the actors are in the above clip are) will still be condemned apart from the law, because God has written a strong law which is our conscience on our hearts.

The argument advanced in this video clip has been refuted over and over and over. And over again. And again and again.

Why bother answering it at all? Anybody who still tries this tactic is just being a hateful, intolerant, bigoted jerk.

The good doctor should have had her portion of the script state as a rebuttal: "One of my neighbor's kids stole a six pack of pop from a grocery store. Who should be the one to cut off his hands in accordance to sharia law of Iran?"

I agree with the commentators that say that the OT law was for the Hebrews and isn't applicable today. This was made fairly clear by the Jerusalem council as recorded in Acts 15. There are some things of the law that apply today because they are spelled out in the NT. Homosexuality is one of those.

By the way, the parting comment in the clip indicates that the "president" considers his people no better than the slaves in the times of the Hebrews. The slavery abolished in the US is a far different thing than what is talked about in the Bible. While there really isn't a modern equivalent, people who work for the "President" here who must rise up when he rises and sit only when he sits would be fairly close. I'm sure he would demand their loyalty.

Much of this argument seems to duplicate the thoughts on this past week’s Unbelievable? podcast where they were debating the atrocities against the Amalekites in 1 Sam. 15 (Did God permit genocide?). The key answer is the same. The Sheen character has totally forgotten to allow for the historical context. I was surprised that in his denunciation of the Mosaic Covenant, Sheen did not quote Dt. 14: 21: “You shall not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk.” Talk about a bizarre law! But remember the historical background. Israel was set to enter the Promised Land. The Canaanites were there with their Baalitic rituals. Many of the “goofy” laws were meant to widen the breech between the covenant people and the culture to which they would be exposed. The restriction concerning the two types of fabric in the same garment would reflect the culture that worshipped the male-female deity of Baal-Astarte. God desired that His people would neither follow the patterns of the Canaanites nor even resemble them.
The other posters are correct in their comments that the OT legislation was abrogated with the coming of Christ. The vast number of Levitical ordinances became passé, but others remained. As to homosexuality, Jesus only recognized a male-female marriage relationship (Mt. 22:23 ff). Brandon is right in pointing out that this moral law remains in the New Testament. In this respect, the Church had forever been counter-cultural. The early Church opposed exposure of unwanted infants, the gladiatorial games, and worked towards a manumission of slavery among the brothers. And these were side issues not directly related to the Gospel of the resurrected Christ! The Church must remain so today. Secular culture would see homosexuality as a matter of civil rights. The Church would raise the moral question to the matter. Opposition to the sin of homosexuality can also be raised on scientific and sociological arguments. Secular society would be indulgent to all sectors of society, but the Church would raise a warning flag to times when other cultures moved to permissive mindsets rather than proscriptive ones. Too many great civilizations eroded when the mores were compromised.
Perhaps this is an issue of the likeability of people raising the warning flags.

One thing I would point out is that there were 3 types of laws given to the Israelites--the civil, ceremonial, and moral laws. The civil and ceremonial were abolished with the New Covenant, but the moral law was upheld, hence Romans 1, et al. Secondly, I would point out that the laws against homosexuality are sandwiched in between laws against incest and bestiality. So, how can we cherry pick that homosexuality is okay now, but incest and bestiality are still forbidden? It's not consistent. Thirdly, you can rationally defend against homosexuality by not even bringing up the Bible. A lot of people don't believe in Christianity to begin with, so citing Biblical laws means nothing to them.

I think the first thing to do is to establish which Biblical Law you're talking about. There's God's overarching moral laws, which are contained in many other places than just Exodus and Leviticus. Examples of these include the institution of marriage, condemnation of homosexuality, and things like lying, hatred, etc. that are held to be sinful.

Then there's God's ceremonial law, given specifically for the Israelites for the purpose of fulfilling His covenant with them and demonstrating through multiple examples the story of His eventual redemption of his church through the saving work of Jesus Christ.

So, when Jesus says things like "I have not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it," that has a two-fold meaning: first that he fulfilled each tenant to the exact letter of the original law given to the Israelites (not the add-ons perpetrated later by the legalistic Pharisees) and so was without sin, and second that he fulfilled all the requirements of the law so that the ceremonial law was no longer needed (as in "fulfilling a contract", sorry that's the best way I could think of to articulate my brain.)

So, perhaps a better way of putting the argument isn't that Biblical law is out-dated and absurd, but that the ceremonial requirements given to the Israelites have been fulfilled, but that God's universal moral law is still in effect.

Alan's response has been posted.

John M hit the nail on the head "One thing I would point out is that there were 3 types of laws given to the Israelites--the civil, ceremonial, and moral laws. The civil and ceremonial were abolished with the New Covenant, but the moral law was upheld, hence Romans 1". Jesus enacted the new and better covenant regarding Civil and Ceremonial law as He was our ultimate sacrifice (ceremonial) and no longer as theocratic Old Testament national Israel(civil), these new 'laws' or this new Covenant now applied to everyone. It included the moral laws from the OT (as Jesus verbally upholds them and in action upholds them). So this 3 fold division is huge for Christians to communicate because if we don't, then unbelievers will still think the God of the OT is cruel/unjust/evil, etc. (because of His wrath described in the OT) even if we get them to agree homosexuality as an all-time for all people command still applies today as it did in the OT.

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