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Archive for March 3rd, 2010

One of the things that tends to get under my skin is non-Christians who, armed with an incomplete knowledge of Christianity and a very limited understanding of what is in the Bible, endeavor to play “Gotcha!” with Christians.  It doesn’t bother me out of any lack of faith in my, well, uh, faith.  Indeed, that would make about as much sense as Galileo sitting before the church tribunal, listening patiently to the charges, and then saying “You know what?  You’re absolutely right.  That whole “the-earth-revolves-around-the-sun” thing?  That’s just foolish. Of course I’ll accept the views of someone who had a poor understanding of the subject based incomplete knowledge.” 

No, the reason that it bothers me is it is like watching someone who may otherwise be capable of making a reasoned argument on any other subject, complete with rudimentary command of the subject material decide to  instead put on a clown suit, douse themselves with gasoline, and light a match. Even if I didn’t have concern for their soul, it would be painful to watch. 

One such argument that crops up from time to time with such people is that Christians “pick and choose” what parts of the Bible they are going to obey.  Usually, this argument is being made by someone who thinks themselves “enlightened” in their opposition to the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality.  Because this was first frowned upon in Genesis, then strongly condemned in Leviticus, these critics often stop their search for understanding there, and consider themselves clever for saying something like “Why don’t you go see a priest and make a blood sacrifice for your sins?”  or

You know all you good Christians who have eaten shrimp or lobster are going to hell.

You know… cause it’s the word of God an all.

Just saying…

The Bible is very black and white about it, so you know, sorry about that. In Leviticus it says, “all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you: They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination. Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.”

I recommend SPF 100.

Which would be very compelling… if there were no New Testament.  See, the problem is that accusers such as the one above only read until they think they can say “Oh boy, I’m gonna expose them as hypocrites now!”, and then when we can give an explanation based in New Testament scripture explaining why we can go down to Harbor Lights, order the shrimp scampi without a scintila of guilt, and still say that “Homosexuality is wrong.”, they have to scramble and make increasingly silly arguments why Christianity is silly/unbelievable/superstitious/wrong.  After a while, they run out of places to move the goal posts to.

Because this particular commenter managed to walk out all of the predictable arguments in a single comment thread, I’ll address the shellfish thing first.

While the eating of shellfish was indeed condemned by the ceremonial law in the Old Testament, this was not true under the New Testament, because Jesus had come and fulfilled the law.

17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.  Matthew 5:17-18  (All citations in the New King James Version)

17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail.  Luke 16:17

So what does it mean when we say that he fulfilled the law?  Well, much of the symbology or typology in the law existed because we did not have a savior to atone for our sins.  This is why there were a whole list of offerings, many involving blood.  When Christ came, he fulfilled the law by sacrificing himself and letting his blood pay for our sins.  As a result, many of the ceremonies, observances, and dietary restrictions were no longer necessary, because Christ was here, and we did not have to act in a manner that reflected what he would do in fulfilling the law.  This does not mean that the law itself was abolished, the verses above make that abundantly clear.  Sin remained sin, but other the things that were substitutes for what Christ gave us were no longer necessary.  There are several places in the New Testament that make it clear that the dietary restrictions no longer applied:

Mark 7:14-19

14 When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear Me, everyone, and understand: 15 There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. 16 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!”17 When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. 18 So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” 

Acts 10:9-15

9 The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. 10 Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance 11 and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 13 And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”
14 But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”
15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.”

Romans 14:17

17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 8:8

8 But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse.

Colossians 2:16-17

16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.

1 Timothy 4:1-5

 1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; 5 for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

Hebrews 9:9-10

9 It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience— 10 concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.

But our friend wasn’t done.

Kill anyone with a different religion. (Deuteronomy 17:2-7)

This is, of course, a gross simplification. The actual text is referring to Jews who started to worship other Gods, not simply to start killing members of other faiths, and was initially God keeping his Chosen People separate and holy.  The full text is:

2 “If there is found among you, within any of your gates which the LORD your God gives you, a man or a woman who has been wicked in the sight of the LORD your God, in transgressing His covenant, 3 who has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, either the sun or moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded, 4 and it is told you, and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently. And if it is indeed true and certain that such an abomination has been committed in Israel, 5 then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has committed that wicked thing, and shall stone to death that man or woman with stones. 6 Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness. 7 The hands of the witnesses shall be the first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So you shall put away the evil from among you.

While the implication the commenter means to make is that Christians are commanded to kill people of other religions, he misses the mark.  First, because the commandment was to Jews, and second because in the New Testament, a Jew was chosen to preach to the Gentiles as well as the Jews.  I’m speaking of Saul of Tarsus, who wrote many of the Epistles as Paul:

Acts 9:15-16

15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”

Romans 11:13

13 For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry,

Romans 15:16

16 that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

1 Timothy 2:1-7

 1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, 7 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

2 Timothy 1:11

11 to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.

Now, considering that Gentiles were anyone who was not a Jew, one can only conclude that something had changed between Deuteronomy and the New Testament, and it had.  Christ came, and in so doing, he brought salvation to ALL mankind.  This is why God called a Jew to preach the Gospel to not just Jews, and not just Gentiles, but both.

But our freind had one more move of the goalposts to make.

When any rational person gets into a debate about the Christian Right’s hatred of gays or judging people unlike themselves, it is quite easy to point out some verse in the Bible that directly contradicts their argument. They thus becomes flustered and can’t come up with some winning verse and retreat to clutching their Bible and muttering, “you just can’t read it right because you’re not a christian.”

I find it all so absurd.

Where to start?   So far, I’ve managed to address these “contradictions” pretty well, but maybe these last two might be winning arguments, or at least maybe they might be if they did not contain some mischaracterizations to start with.  To start with, any Christian who is reading their Bible carefully does not “hate gays”.  This is not to say that the Bible is ok with Homosexuality.  It isn’t, and it is fairly clear about this in both the Old and the New Testaments.

Genesis 19

1 Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground. 2 And he said, “Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.”
And they said, “No, but we will spend the night in the open square.”
3 But he insisted strongly; so they turned in to him and entered his house. Then he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.
4 Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. 5 And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.
6 So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, 7 and said, “Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly! 8 See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.”
9 And they said, “Stand back!” Then they said, “This one came in to stay here, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them.” So they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near to break down the door. 10 But the men reached out their hands and pulled Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. 11 And they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they became weary trying to find the door.

Leviticus 18:22

22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals,[a] nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

Galatians 5:19-21

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery,[a] fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders,[b] drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Ephesians 5:3-5

 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know,[a] that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

1 Timothy 1:9-10

9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine,

Jude 7

7 as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

That should leave little doubt about what the Bible says about the practice of homosexuality.  I can hear our friend saying “Gotcha! Why wasn’t this made permissible with Jesus’ coming?”  Put simply, because it is the law, and not a ceremony, nor a reflection of what Christ was to be for mankind.  “But what about Christ’s commandment to love one another?”  My response is what of it?  Homosexuality was prohibited by the law because it was a sin.  The coming of Christ did not change sin into something else, but he did pay the price for our sins.  However, accepting that salvation does not free us up to continue sinning. 

John 8:1-11

1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2 Now early[a] in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. 3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught[b] in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded[c] us that such should be stoned.[d] But what do You say?”[e] 6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.[f]
7 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up[g] and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience,[h] went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her,[i] “Woman, where are those accusers of yours?[j] Has no one condemned you?”
11 She said, “No one, Lord.”
And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and[k] sin no more.”

That said, the Bible is equally clear about how we are to view those in bondage to that sin:

Jude 22-23

22 And on some have compassion, making a distinction;[a] 23 but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire,[b] hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.

Love the sinner…as Christ himself does, but hate the sin.

Which brings us to the judgement argument.

Likely, our friend was thinking of Matthew 7:1-5:

1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Certainly sounds condemning of those hypocritical Christians, does it not?  How about if we add the last verse of that chapter?

Matthew 7:1-6

1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
6 “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.

Sure sounds like he is commanding us to make some sort of judgement, does it not?  And that is the point.  Hypocritical and self-righteous judgements?  No.  Judgements made with discernment.  This is further revealed in Luke 6:37-42:

37 “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”
39 And He spoke a parable to them: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher. 41 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? 42 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

And finally in John 7:24:

24 Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”

I have no illusion that gathering this answer to the various charges will somehow silence the critics.  Bad arguments have a way of continually cropping up, and critics of Christianity will continue to find a way to be critical.  That is the price of free will.  Some will choose to remain unconvinced, and sometimes, they will go to great lengths to remain unconvinced.  For some of these, there will always be a “But what about…” or some perceived escape clause.  I didn’t write this to change their minds.  I wrote it to show the shallowness of their arguments, and to help others with their faith, that they might have an answer when asked, and that they have a testimony that is that much stronger when they are sharing the word with non-believers.

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