Thursday, February 19, 2009

Which Ones Still Apply?

A.J. Jacobs has won many accolades for his book, The Year of Living Biblically. It details his quest to follow the Bible as literally as possible. Thus, when the Bible says that a person should not wear anything of mixed fibers, or that an adulterer should be stoned, he set out to do just that.

I have read about 100 pages of the book. And though I have found parts of it humorous and amusing - and have used a few of his experiences as sermon illustrations - I am in no hurry to finish it. I am a big fan of levity, but his treatment of the subject almost borders on irreverent, in my opinion. As a secular Jew, I think it is quite safe to say that one of his motives in writing the book was to undermine and ridicule fundamentalists - be they of the Jewish or Christian variety. He sought to demonstrate that many of the laws and regulations in the Bible are absurd, and those who claim to be biblical literalists are inconsistent, at best, in their quest to follow the Bible. And, of course, his ultimate desire, I believe, was to mock the "god" who is supposed to have given these laws.

With all this as a background, I have been pondering this very subject lately. That is: how do we determine which laws in the Old Testament (or the New Testament, for that matter) are still applicable and which ones are irrelevant? Many fundamentalist Christians, for example, will be quick to go to Leviticus to point out that homosexuality is condemned by God, yet they will pay no attention to the fact that the same book outlaws eating pork or lobster. And Christians of the more liberal persuasion are very quick to point out this inconsistency. Those of us who are Seventh-day Adventists are not as bothered by this, of course, since we follow the dietary laws in the Old Testament. But, of course, there are other parts of the Pentateuch that we do not follow. I am wearing a shirt right now, for example, that is 90% cotton and 10% polyester - an apparent violation of Leviticus 19:19 which says that a "garment of mixed linen" shall not come upon you.

This question has also come to my attention because I am presently reading through the book of Leviticus for my devotional time as I read through the whole Bible. Plus, I am reading another book, Pagan Christianity?, which essentially declares that the Old Testament is "pagan" and that anything it contains is non-binding to us as Christians. Thus, the author(s) informs us that tithing is no longer binding, for example, because Old Testament laws were done away with at the cross. I doubt, however, that he would propose that murder is now acceptable.

So this morning I read through Leviticus 19, which seems to be a hodgepodge of various laws. I think it is one of the most representative chapters when it comes to this question of which OT laws are still applicable today. In 37 verses, the Lord sets up the following laws. (As you will see, some of them are quite palatable to our Christian - and perhaps even secular - mindset. But others leave us scratching our heads.)
  1. We must reverence our parents
  2. We must keep the Lord's Sabbaths
  3. We must not "turn to idols" or make "molded gods"
  4. If we offer a peace offering, it should be voluntary
  5. When a person harvests his/her land or vineyard, he/she should not harvest the corners of the land or harvest every grape. Such shall be left for the poor and strangers
  6. We should not steal
  7. We should not "deal falsely"
  8. We must not lie to one another
  9. We must not swear by God's name or profane it
  10. We must not cheat our neighbor or "rob him"
  11. We must not hold on to the wages of someone we hire overnight
  12. We must not curse the deaf
  13. We must not put a "stumbling block" before the blind
  14. We should not do "injustice in judgment"
  15. We must not be partial to the poor
  16. We must not honor "the person of the mighty"
  17. We must not go around as a "talebearer" (gossiper) among our people
  18. We must not hate "our brother" in our hearts
  19. We should "rebuke" our neighbor and not bear sin because of him
  20. We must not take vengeance or bear any grudges against the children of our people
  21. We should love our neighbor as ourself
  22. We must not let livestock breed with another kind
  23. We must not sow our fields with mixed seed
  24. We must not wear any garments of mixed fiber and wool
  25. If a man has sex with an engaged concubine, the man and woman should be "scourged" but not killed
  26. That man shall bring his trespass offering to the Lord and he will be forgiven
  27. We must not eat anything with "the blood"
  28. We must not practice soothsaying or divination
  29. We must not shave around the sides of our heads, or "disfigure" the edges of our beards
  30. We must not make any cuttings in our flesh for the dead, nor have any tattoos
  31. We must not make our daughters into prostitutes
  32. We must keep the Lord's Sabbaths
  33. We must reverence the Lord's sanctuary
  34. We must not go to mediums or "familiar spirits"
  35. We must "rise before the gray headed" and "honor the presence of an old man"
  36. We must fear our God
  37. We must not mistreat strangers/foreigners
  38. We must treat a stranger/foreigner as though he/she was "born among" us, and we shall love him/her as we love ourselves
  39. We must not do injustice in judgment, in measurement of length, weight, or volume
  40. We should have honest scales, weights, ephah, and hin
  41. We must observe all God's statutes and all of His judgments
This is just one chapter in the whole Pentateuch - and there are a couple that I didn't mention! But looking at this short list, it seems to me that there are things that just about everyone - no matter what your religious persuasion is - can agree with. Most of us agree, for example, that we should honor our parents, or love our neighbors as ourselves. What is not clear, however, is what to do with the rest of them - especially if they don't make sense to us.

Some Christians would like to propose, it seems, that only those Old Testament laws that are reiterated in the New Testament are still applicable to us today. Thus, since the New Testament doesn't explicitly affirm tithing, for example, then we are not required to tithe today - on this side of Calvary. This, to me, seems to be an argument from silence, at best, however, and there seems to be a lot of positive commands in the OT that the NT never echoes.

On the other hand, some people seem to imply that only those OT laws that are explicitly condemned in the NT are no longer binding, and all others are, therefore, still applicable. This, too, seems to be an argument from silence as well - and I'm not sure how many people that propose this are refraining from wearing clothes of mixed fibers, or following the admonition to not shave "around the sides" of their heads - neither of which is addressed in the NT.

Still, there are others who categorize the OT laws - something the Old Testament doesn't explicitly do. Thus, we get the distinction between ceremonial laws, and civil laws, and health laws, and moral laws, etc. And then a person picks and chooses which of those categories is still binding to the New Testament Christian.

But the New Testament never systematically categorizes or makes those distinctions about the OT laws. So any such exercise is purely extra-biblical.

So my quest continues - a quest that I hope to solve!

One of the individuals who has been helpful in my thinking is Dr. Roy Gane. Gane teaches Old Testament at the SDA Theological Seminary and he is one of the most pre-eminent scholars within academia on the Pentateuch as a whole, and the book of Leviticus specifically. In fact, many within academia recognize him as the foremost scholar on Leviticus. When I took a class on the Pentateuch with him, he discussed this very subject. And, though I will not cite his whole treatment of this topic, his overall thesis is thus: "A [Old Testament] law should be kept to the extant that its principle can be applied unless the New Testament removes the reason for its application" (Syllabus for OTST565: Pentateuch, 2003).

In making such a statement, Gane seems to promote a variation of the last two alternatives, though he leaves a little more wiggle room for the interpreter by simply declaring that the "reason for [the law's] application" must be removed, instead of the specific law itself. He also points out that the "principle" should be applied. This, I am comfortable with, though it seems to me that some people "principle" laws away so much that the actual law eventually disappears altogether. We must be careful to guard against this "over-principlizing" that inevitably takes place.

Thus, since the New Testament declares that the sanctuary we look towards today is in heaven (see Hebrews), any OT law that relates to sanctuary ritual is no longer applicable. On the other hand, the NT does not denigrate the importance of health and, therefore, dietary laws - those not directly related to OT sanctuary ritual - are still relevant. In fact, the NT seems to strengthen the dietary laws in light of the fact that Paul declares that our bodies are the "temples of the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor 6:19). And, at the same time, the health and well-being of a person's body is a universal and timeless reality. Of course, some Christians would definitely argue with the implications of this idea (Jesus says, they will insist, that it is not what we put into our bodies that defiles us, but what comes out), but that is a discussion for another day.

So I am comfortable with Gane's overall thoughts on this subject. But I am not exactly sure how I would apply this to every law in the OT - especially the ones about shaving my beard or wearing mixed fibers.

19 comments:

Kyle Baldwin said...

Shawn,

I have to say that after reading Roy Gane's treatment of this subject I came to a similar position. The laws regarding mixed fibers or shaving the sides of the head or beard are difficult to find application. Or are they? Perhaps we find them difficult to apply because we cannot see the rationality behind them. In an effort to keep from looking like a legalist we try to find the principles behind the laws in order to explain to others why we do things that seem strange.

While I believe that the principle and/or spirit of the law is the most important issue I wonder if we right some laws off because they do not seem to fit into broad categories or are simply too strange.

I know that I need to keep the weightier matters of the law from a heart felt response, but does this preclude me from keeping the commands that like Naaman don't make much sense to me?

Kyle

Shawn Brace said...

Thanks, Kyle. You echo my sentiments. The specific laws about the beard and clothing, etc., don't seem to make sense to me, but that shouldn't necessarily preclude one from doing them. Sometimes we should do things - even when they don't make sense to us.

For thousands of years nobody saw the health benefits of abstaining from unclean meats. Now it is pretty well documented that eating such foods is unhealthy. Who's to say that in another hundreds years it won't be discovered that shaving is unhealthy? I don't know.

But, as you said, it definitely would be uncomfortable for us to have everyone take notice of our silly beards. At least it would be for me!

mhb said...

Hi Shawn--

I find this whole discussion interesting especially because I have wondered about many of these things myself. I can't say that I have found an answer, and sometimes the wondering and questioning has left me looking like or feeling like a skeptic. There are a lot of things that I don't see a relationship for today, but others do. My dietician feels pork is a healthy meal option from time to time. When I asked my husband why we don't eat it, his reply was simply that God says not to. (Personally, growing up SDA, I have never tasted it, and the thought is repulsive, so I doubt if I could ever get it into my mouth even if I wanted to.)

But I continue to wonder where the balance is. There are some mandates that we embrace and others that we ignore. The rhyme or reason eludes me.

Anonymous said...

A need for more study so as to be able to "give a reason for the hope that lies within us."

Catherine said...

Good morning Shawn and all,

I also found your discussion interesting. Here are a few of my thoughts.

There are some foundational principles of Bible study that I follow.

1. Consider the meaning of the word in the original language and in the context of the Biblical passage in which it is found.

2. Understand the context in which it was written and the people to whom a message was written.

3. Have an understanding of the difference between:
a. Biblical principles – are never changing and eternal.
b. Biblical policies - have shifted depending on time in history and context.
c. Biblical practices - are the ways followers of God have lived their lives. Some things we condemn are not condemned in the stories describing them because a "higher" principle is being described.

d. Biblical present truth- each age seems to have a specific testing focus, lesson or truth.

4. The Bible uses people, events, places, rituals to represent spiritual principles.

Some examples of Bible principles come from Eden. They would include the notion of dominion, as exercised by humanity, being an object lesson of the way Heaven exercises dominion over created beings. Jesus has shown us throughout the Bible that God’s view of dominion is that we are to use it to nurture and to serve those who are vulnerable.

Another is diet; is meant to nurture our bodies so that we may be physically, spiritually and mentally healthy.

Another is the Sabbath rest, designed to help us remember the lessons of creation and re-creation.

Another is the notion that relationships are to replicate the intimacy, love, and caring that the Deity shares.

A Biblical principle that became known more clearly after the Fall, is that we are to make a clear distinction between our use of Heaven’s principles and those of the evil ones. We are never to have a God other than Yahweh.

Here are some examples of Biblical policy shifts. After the Fall our diet changed to include green vegetables. After the flood it changed to include meat. The Levitical rules stated that the meat must be killed in a certain fashion. In Paul’s time the discussion was about whether or not to eat food offered to idols. There came to be a time in Biblical history when the taking of slaves was permissible. There was a time in Levitical history when divorce was permissible. Jesus reframed Heaven’s priorities. There was a time in Biblical history when it was permissible to marry your sibling. Then it was permissible to marry a half-sibling. Then it was forbidden to marry a sibling. Then it became an abomination to marry a sibling.

There was a time when we were clothed only in light. Then God provided animal skins. In Levitical times it was forbidden to have clothing made of two different materials.

There was a time when a non-Israelite could not be a member of the congregation for several generations. After the debacle at the borders of the Promised Land, Moabites were proscribed and an abomination.

In Paul’s time in seemed particularly important that the women of Corinth cover their heads during worship.

I believe that Leviticus is a set of policies designed to help the Israelites express Heaven's principles in a specific time and situation.When looking at Leviticus I find it important to look at what principles were being spotlighted in the policies described in the third book of the Pentatuch. The primary issue seems to be the need to set the children Israel apart of all the nations and their practices "Come apart and be ye separate". We can go into lots of details but the issues is to "not mix" Seventh-day Adventists through our Biblical studies and guidance by Ellen White, also have some ways that we are to be separate

One interesting part of Leviticus is a reiteration of difference between clean and unclean meats. Albert Einstein University in NYC did a study of how humans digest different meats to try to understand why the prohibitions. It turns out that humans do not have the digestive enzymes to turn "forbidden" meats into protein. In us those meats turn directly into urea which lodges in our joints. How interesting that the Israelites were promised that they would avoid the diseases of the Egyptians who were riddled by arthritus.

Oye..I have gone on long enough.

Blessings of the Preparation Day.

Catherine

Shawn Brace said...

Ladies, thank you so much for weighing in. I'm glad that this subject resonates with you and that you have given it some thinking.

Specifically, MHB: interesting what your dietician has suggested. I know we have briefly discussed this in the past. As Catherine seems to suggest as well, I have seen plenty of evidence elsewhere that suggests any nutritional value that may be derived from pork (and other meats - whether "clean" or "unclean") can be gained from legumes, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Many people have the impression that meats and dairy are the only source for certain nutrients (like calcium), but this is just not the case at all.

I find it also interesting that only about 25% of medical schools in the United States require their students to take a course in nutrition! That's one, single class! So, unfortunately, most doctors have not taken a course in nutrition, and even those who have taken a course have only skimmed the surface. I realize that you were citing your dietician, and not your doctor, but this information is worth remembering.

Catherine: I think what you have shared is helpful. I certainly try to practice much of the methodology you prescribe (original language, context, etc.). The challenge, as I see it, is that the NT doesn't really establish any hermeneutical principles when interpreting the OT. So any "lens" we choose to look through in relation to the OT might simply be our human invention.

In thinking a little bit more about this subject this morning, I have wondered if this might be helpful. When approaching an OT law, we should first establish whether we are comparing apples to apples, and then go from there. In other words: what circumstances are similar between the law's context and ours? Thus, if I come to Leviticus 18:8, for example, where it says, "The nakedness of your father's wife you shall not uncover," I must first decide whether the context is the same as mine. Are there still fathers today? Yes! Are fathers still married today? Many are (be they first or second or third wives). Thus, I can conclude that this law still applies to me, and I should not "uncover" my father's wife's (who happens to be my mother) nakedness.

Similarly, if I owned a vineyard, as Lev 19:10 declares, I should follow the counsel to not "glean every grape," so as to provide for the poor. Of course, the principle behind this law stands over and above this command, so if I happen to have an orange grove, I should still follow the same counsel with my oranges.

On the other hand, if a law addresses something to do with the sanctuary, obviously, we have no sanctuary today (nor should we) and those laws do not apply.

Thus, contrary to what you have suggested, I think many - but not all, of course - of the laws in Leviticus are much more universal in their scope than what you might think.

Lastly, I was a little confused about this statement: "We can go into lots of details but the issues is to 'not mix' Seventh-day Adventists through our Biblical studies and guidance by Ellen White, also have some ways that we are to be separate." Could you clarify what you mean? I am not understanding what you are suggesting with this one!

Thanks for the chance to dialogue. I hope we can continue to work through these issues! We can gain a lot more from Leviticus, the Pentateuch, and the OT as a whole, than we presently do.

Dingo said...

The laws about mixing fibers, crops, etc. have popped up here and there in my studies too. Some of them prohibit mixing with other ethnic groups. With a southern background, the term "mixing" used as a term for something "wrong" meant intermixing of races, usually in an intimate or even marital sense.

Thus, whenever I told an elderly relative that our predominantly African-American church had a new pastor, she would ask, "Black or White?" I would say "Black". then she would say, "Is his wife Black or White?" I would say, "Black." then she would say, "Good. At least they're behaving themselves." Finally, I asked, "What is this about?" She said, "The Bible laws say it is a sin to marry outside your race." and cited some of those laws in the Pentateuch.

We studied together to see that God made it clear that these laws were to keep His people from marrying idolaters and being led away from worshipping God.

Somewhere in that study, we came across statements that were either from E.G. White or an SDA commentary that the laws about pure fibers, draft teams that only had one species of draft animal, and one-crop fields were intended as reminders that God's people were to keep themselves unblended, un-teamed up, etc with those who did not worship God - a visual, interactive reminder of how important social-spiritual purity is.

My first reaction was to say, "That's quite a stretch", but then I thought of some other "stretches" based on things that were more obvious to the people living in those times and in that religious system and culture. The "Lamb of God" would not make much sense without a knowledge of the Jewish religious system of sacrifices. Jesus being there for us "within the veil" - ditto.

It often seems like it takes more digging than I have time or equipment to do in order to find the symbolism, application, etc. for some of these laws. But I am becoming convinced that there are many of the more "secular" OT laws that were given at least in part to
weave visual aids, parables, etc. into Hebrew daily life that would reinforce spiritual ideals.

Micaiah said...

I love Romans! You will see why in a second. Paul uses Jesus' summation of the law here and gives us a little insight that is very relevant to this discussion. So let me site it as an appetizer for all of us. Romans13:8Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet,"[a] and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself."[b] 10Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

I do not claim to have the answers to defuse this argument once and for all, but lets not loose sight of what Paul is telling us here. He is not saying that ultimately the law is for our health! Health has a little value (1 Tim 4:8), but it shouldn't be our main focus. The bible says it is appointed unto a man once to die... and my friends, none of us will be late. Interesting the word appointed is used. (Stay with me, I'm not saying there is no value in following Gods statutes!) Romans 14:8For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.9For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. You see whatever we do we do it to the Lord and because he Died and ROSE we can be equally spiritual as we do what we do as to the Lord insofar as it is within the context of "arguable things" (see Romans 14). In other words if we put this together with my "apetizer", we must remain united in Christ and LOVE onanother not squabbling or elevating ourselves over arguable things.

Shawn, you said, "Many fundamentalist Christians, for example, will be quick to go to Leviticus to point out that homosexuality is condemned by God, yet they will pay no attention to the fact that the same book outlaws eating pork or lobster"

Being a carnivor, and a follower of Christ I feel it necessary to respond to this. Basically, not only is homosexuality condemned as "sin" in the OT, it is also condemned in the NT (it is even evidence of God giving a nation over to its own lusts). Romans 1:26For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:27And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. Eating meat in moderation on the other hand seems to be permissable. Romans 14:20For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. (a matter of conscience) I hope I have not said too much. Very interesting conversation. Your articles are well written Shawn... just enough bate in there to hook people like me and then reel them in! Blessings.

Anonymous said...

"If a man has sex with an engaged concubine, the man and woman should be "scourged" but not killed"

- whew... thank goodness

Catherine said...

Good afternoon and Happy Sabbath.

Shawn, first I need to apologize for bad editing. I let a sentence in that I planned on deleting. What I meant to say is that the policies given to the post-Exodous Israelites were designed to set them apart from the surrounding nations. Seventh-day Adventists have also been given a set of foci that separate us from other religous and secular groups: Sabbath/state of the dead/Sanctuary/Second coming of Christ/Ellen White's counsel that we should memorize and live Isaiah 58 and I Corinthians 13/Health message. These are not the same policies given to the group in Leviticus.

Shawn you said some of the counsels mentioned in Leviticus can be used today. You mentioned the thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of your father's wife. If we are thinking in terms of sexual relationships that is quite accurate. If we are thinking in terms of caretaking the fragile or the elders, people will be uncovering nakedness. I believe we need to consider both context and motive. Also, while SDAs follow the rules about clean and unclean meats, the meat eaters in the denomination are not asked to eat only food killed and prepared in a levitical manner. I could go on with examples but this is a bright group and I imagine you get my point.

Because I believe that all policies given in Biblical contexts are designed to help carry out Biblical principles, I agree with you Shawn that there are many concepts in Leviticus whose principles are eternal. While I do not practice the daily sacrifices or yearly festivals I believe the lessons portrayed in them are eternal.

Micaiah, since homosexuality is such a hot topic in some religious cirles today I thought it might come up in the Levitical discussion. There are Christian and Seventh-day Adventist theologians,exigisists(spelling spelling?), and students of the Bible who disagree with your assessment of the texts often used to condemn committed life long same sex relationships. I have read many reasons for this. Here are mine.

Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13
Context:
Both of these texts are given as part of the Holiness Code given to Israel as they were becoming a nation. Leviticus 17-26 is a set of policies designed to make certain that the Hebrew people would be distinctly different from the pagan nations around them. They were to be an object lesson of separateness: nothing co-mingled, no reminders of pagan practices. Prohibitions include no mingling of seed in the field, no mingling of materials in the cloth, no mingling of the seed of men (thou shalt not lay with a man as you do with a woman). Additionally, same-sex intercourse was connected to the pagan fertility rites, idolatry that was an anathema to a Holy God. Finally, forced sexual intercourse between men was the norm in that culture for prisoners of war and people who had been vanquished in a battle. Given God’s principle of how dominion was to be observed, any kind of behavior that would demean or and denigrate another would be proscribed. It should be noted here that same-sex relationships between women were not mentioned.

Many of these policies shifted in later years. Today, Seventh-day Adventists are not commanded to eat meat killed in the Levitical fashion, leave the side of men’s heads unshaved, wear clothing made of only one fiber, or avoid companion planting crops. We do not make slaves of neighboring nations. We do not stone those who either do not keep Sabbath or keep it differently than we deem appropriate. The means by which followers of Yahweh are differentiated are based on other criteria.

Romans 1
…is a remarkable and riveting denunciation of those who have refused to follow Yahweh; again, a holy diatribe against idolatry. Paul addresses those who have had evidence made “plain before their eyes; indeed God himself has disclosed (the truth) to them…they have made fools of themselves exchanging the splendor of the immortal God for an image shaped like mortal man, even for images like birds, beasts and creeping things.” He is speaking to a Christian congregation surrounded by a city where the cult of Aphrodite was one of the primary sources of worship. Like the Canaanite fertility practices, this cult used sexual intercourse between men and women as a way to gain power from the pagan gods to influence various aspects of their lives. Those lusting after power or wealth or position would exchange the “natural” relationships that would be normative in their lives, for cult prostitutes (either male or female). It was a perversion of the way Yahweh has always wanted to show God’s love to fragile humanity. Despite the fact that this texts mentions sexual acts, they are in the context of calling a people away from idolatry and to the worship of the true God. This is not in the context of a discussion of relational/sexual orientation but of the abuse of an orientation in order to get power from a false god. The principle here is, “Thou shall have no other gods before Me.”

I Corinthians 6:9
For me this text follows along with the Old Testament texts describing why Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. Ezekiel 16:49 – “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom. She and her daughters were overfed and unconcerned. They did not help the poor and the needy.” This type of concern and focus is reflected in Isaiah 58 and in the teachings of Jesus. They are violating God’s principle of dominion. The Greek words used in I Corinthians 6: 9-10 are malakoi and arsenokoitai. Malakoi carries the connotation of softness, those who live luxuriously in palaces where soft living was the mark of the oppressor. This fits with the denunciation of Sodom because they did not take care of the vulnerable. It is in direct contrast to the athletic and warfare motifs used by Paul where followers of the way must be spiritually fit. Arsenokoitai is composed of two words, arsen (male) and koite (the term for bed or, euphemistically, sexual behavior). The use of the term seems to indicate sexual behavior that was self-centered or used to exploit others, much like the Greek male tradition of having young boys as sexual objects. In today’s language it would be called sexual abuse. Given the marked contrast between God’s principle of dominion: care for the vulnerable (human, animal or planet) and the selfishness listed here and condemnations of Israel and Sodom, it would make sense that the people who insisted on selfish, opportunistic behaviors would not have a place in the kingdom of God.

From the reading of the texts here it would seem that while Paul is not talking about orientation; he is making a call to return to the principles of Eden: Heaven-like dominion, selfless interactions between humanity, worship of the true God and acknowledgement of His creatorship.

This is just a short response, almost an outline. There are many more Biblical examples of these precepts. You might also find John Jones’ article, “In Christ there is neither…” found in Christianity and Homosexuality: Some Seventh-day Adventist Perspectives more scholarly.

Blessings all,

Catherine

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... "he is making a call to return to the principles of Eden: ". So, if we do revisit the principles of Eden we see...

21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. 22 Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.
23 And Adam said:
“This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

I am a complete simpleton so please forgive me in advance for what I am sure must be ignorance on my part. I don't know hebrew and I don't know Greek. Nor am I so well studied as to frame the Bible to fit my personal world views. Furthermore, based on the discussion above I am clear that my input will not change anyone's world view. What I do know is that Genesis could not be clearer to me. God shows a very specific intent as it pertains to MAN and WOMAN. God dictates his intent with great simplicity. I just always assumed this was why homosexuality was frowned upon throughout the Bible (it is not consistent with Gods intent per Genesis). But it sounds like there is an argument, based on some of the comments, for His intent just to pertain to the time of Adam and Eve.

-SDA Simpleton

Micaiah said...

Catherine, here are my thoughts on the particular Romans 1 passages you responded to:

I. Context: Gods wrath on ungodliness

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness

II. Gods wrath on ungodliness for supressing the truth that has been revealed in nature is revealed:

26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

Catherine you choose to interpret scripture in light of arguable historical thesis rather than the age old principle "scripture" interprets scripture"(2 Tim3:16). The context is clear and the passage is clear. Is it possible that you are suppressing the truth? Take nature for example. God has revealed many truths in nature as this passage indicates. 1.A homosexual relationship is not natural because it can never procreate (which is a natural desire among heterosexual coupls i.e. be fruitful and multiply). 2.There are no biological mechanisms to accomodate homosexual sex as there is with heterosexual sex. 3.Homosexuals must always resort to using biological features clearly intended for other things; simply for their sexual purposes. I would suggest that homosexual relationships are the product of sexual preferences and perverted attractions. We must repent from sin; not embrace it, lest we are given over to it and there be no sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 10:18). We must learn to hate what God hates and love what God loves.

You might also look at Jude. I don't know what view you take with Genesis 6 but those angels who sinned and went after strange flesh are compared to Sodom and Gomorrah in that they went after "strange flesh" (unnatural sexual behavior).

Also some food for thought, we rich Americans can't stand that it is harder for a rich man to enter into the kingdom, than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle... so we make the eye of a needle big enough for a bus to pass through. Let the scriptures speak.

Micaiah

Shawn Brace said...

Hello everyone! I've enjoyed the dialogue that has been taking place between everyone and I'm glad we have been able to do it in a cordial manner. I'd like to respond, if I could, to as many of the comments as possible. I don't pretend to have all of the answers to these issues, but let me do my best to try to interact with the ideas that have been presented.

First of all, Dingo: thank you for your perspective. I think what you have shared is valuable. Your thoughts seem to complement Catherine nicely when you point out that God was trying to impress the Israelites with the need to separate themselves from the nations (and gods and religions) around them. E.G. White's comments on the mixed fibers, etc., seems to make sense to me, but, at the same time, I need to do a little more study into it. After all, the text, from what I gather, doesn't explicitly draw this point. Such an interpretation is simply that: an interpretation. It may be the correct interpretation, but I still need to be able to see the connection myself. I am not saying E.G. White is wrong, of course! But I know that she would want all of us to figure these things out for ourselves, rather than simply going to her to find all the answers.

Micaiah: I hope you do not have the impression that "food" is as big an issue to Seventh-day Adventists as salvation (though I get a little uncomfortable when we start saying that diet - or other standards - are at odds with salvation, or somehow separate from it). Granted, there are some SDAs who do equate the two, and condemn others for food. But I don't think that anyone on here is of that opinion. (This is not to say that you are accusing anyone on here of doing that, but it is important that we strive for balance.)

Secondly, when Paul talks about "food" in Romans 14:20, he is not necessarily speaking the same language that we are here. Neither Paul, nor any of the early Christians, were addressing food from a health or nutritional perspective. They were simply addressing it from a ritual perspective, saying that eating or not eating certain types of food could not make you ritually clean or unclean. I don't think anyone could argue, for example, that if Paul knew about trichinosis in pork, he would have shrugged his shoulders and said, "Oh, well, eat whatever you want to eat." The fact of the matter is, knowledge in nutrition just was not advanced in the 1st century. People living in those times did not understand the cause/effect between what a person ate and how their health reacted to that (even as recent as 50+ years ago people did not agree on the effects of tobacco!).

I do think, though, that no matter what, Paul is definitely saying that we are not saved by abstaining from certain foods, or eating others. We are all agreed on that. But that doesn't diminish the Christian's responsibility to take care of God's "temple" that he/she is a steward of.

Finally, one more thing: My original point is that "fundamentalists" (and I do not use this in the pejorative sense) seem to be selective in their treatment of OT law. You shared that your views on homosexuality are shaped by the NT, but I would remind you - as I shared with you in person the other day - that right after Leviticus talks about men sleeping with men, it then talks about bestiality - something that is not repeated in the NT. So, fundamentalists' views on sexuality are not simply shaped by the NT. No conservative Christian would ever make the claim that bestiality is all right, even though it is not repeated in the NT. Thus, my main point is that perhaps fundamentalists should give more thought to other OT laws.

Catherine: thank you for clarifying your unedited quote! That makes sense now. Perhaps I'm mistaken, but, although I understand the need for living Isaiah 58, I don't think that Ellen White is necessarily proposing that everything else is therefore immaterial. You probably aren't implying this, but I don't think following Isaiah 58 precludes us from taking note of other admonitions in scripture - especially since Isaiah 58 itself relies upon the Pentateuch, and even Leviticus 19 itself (with its emphasis on providing for the poor/needy).

Secondly, I appreciate your point about uncovering a person's nakedness. I certainly understood this to be in the sexual sense, and not merely in the literal sense. I don't think anyone would take issue with that interpretation.

As for your comments about homosexuality in Lev 18, etc., and other places in the NT. I have to say that I just do not find your explanation very compelling. This is not the first time, for example, that I've been pointed to Ezek 16 to show that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was not of a sexual nature, but that of being inhospitable, or not providing for the poor. As Micaiah has pointed out already, though, Jude seems to chalk it up to sexual immorality.

Secondly, I would highly recommend reading Richard M. Davidson's book, Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality in the Old Testament. As you may be well aware, Davidson is an OT scholar at the Andrews Seminary who spoke - along with his wife - for our district weekend back in November. His book is, by far, the most exhaustive treatment of the OT's attitude towards sexuality (available here from Hendrickson Press) that has ever been published. It is some 700 pages long and it is a very scholarly treatment of, not only this issue, but every issue of sexuality that is touched upon in the OT. Obviously, it doesn't address NT attitudes about sexuality, but it is a very good foundation to what the NT later says.

I think that is probably all for now! Thanks, again, for the discussion. May we all continue to humbly understand God's will for our lives, especially as it relates to how He desires us to live.

Micaiah said...

Hey Shawn, I didn't mean to say that only the laws which were reiterated in the NT were the valid ones.

There were valid reasons at the time of Pauls writing Romans 14 to bring up the issues of meat. I will grant cerimonial issues. I would suggest that this makes no difference whatsoever to the point I made. "but not to disputes over doubtful things". The discussion on whether to eat meat or not eat meat is an arguable thing. Sexual sin is not. The fact that homosexuality is brought up as sexual sin in the NT shows the utter consistency in scripture on the matter.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you are saying (in a nutshell) that since our bodies are a temple that it is more or less a sin to eat in an unhealthy manner. Is that right? Aren't we then at the mercy of our dietitions to tell us what is healthy? For instance I could argue that since most vegans have to suppliment and carnivors don't it is more healthy to eat a moderate dose of meat. I could also argue that most mainstream hospitals serve meat as a healthy choice. What about the plastics that the vegitarian products are wrapped in (as well as our meats)? I am suggesting that as an adventist you must be heavily influenced by Ellen White on this issue and perhaps your flexability on this subject would have many implications... of course if I'm wrong in my assumptions I'd feel like a total donkey!

Shawn Brace said...

Micaiah,

We, as Seventh-day Adventists, do not simply rely upon Ellen White for our health concepts. We are indebted to her for the principles we do have, but everything we propose is based on empirical data that science has validated. There is no disputing that a vegetarian diet has proven to be healthier than a meat-eating diet, and a balanced vegan diet is healthier still.

Seventh-day Adventists have been highlighted in a number of studies that show that our lifestyle leads to lower rates of cancer, a longer life expectancy (up to some 7 years longer, on average, than the rest of the general population), etc. National Geographic,for example, recently highlighted this in a recent article (available here). A recent book by a non-Adventist/non-Christian author, called The Blue Zones also highlights this. There is plenty of data out there to show that the health principles we advocate are much healthier for a person. (I would also suggest checking this link out.)

But, as you say, it seems as though we would have to rely upon our dieticians too much, else we are sinning. But that is not necessarily what we are implying. All we are saying is that if a person is living up to the best health principles that they know of, then they are living in accordance with God's will. If, for example, I have spent my whole life smoking but it has never been revealed to me that such a practice is unhealthy and God hasn't convicted me of it, then God doesn't necessarily consider it a sin. If I am presented with plenty of evidence to the contrary, though, and I refuse to respond to that positively, then that is sin.

Thus, principles of health are just that: principles. And those principles can be implemented in different ways, depending on the person's circumstances. So these health principles may be different for an Inuit person in the North Pole than a person living in New Hampshire.

Does this make sense? As I mentioned in my last post, we are not saying that a person is saved by what he/she eats or doesn't eat. But when a person comes into a saving relationship with Christ, that person necessarily strives to bring all aspects of his/her life into Christ's submission - including health. Perhaps we can talk more about it tomorrow night.

Shawn Brace said...

Micaiah, before I get into bed (as I told you, I stay up a lot later when Camille is not around), I just want to reiterate that our views on health are not as big a "road block" as perhaps you are being impressed with. All we are saying is that God cares immensely about our health and He ultimately wants us to be as healthy as we can be - not simply for our own sake, but to bring glory and honor to Him.

I think you would agree with the idea that God desires us to be healthy, would you not? That's really what we're talking about. And we, as Seventh-day Adventists, have taken that admonition seriously and, subsequently, spent a lot of time, money, and resources on this topic.

One reason for that is because we recognize that the healthier a person is, the clearer his/her mind will be, and the better that person can hear the Holy Spirit talking to him/her. Just as I'm sure you would agree that a person on cocaine would have a harder time hearing the Holy Spirit, we are simply taking that a few steps further and asking the question: what is God's optimal plan for health? We have concluded that getting back to the Edenic lifestyle and diet is God's optimal health-plan.

See you tomorrow night!

Monte said...

From my reading of the text, your numbers 14, 15 and 16 are actually a single point. By dividing them out into separate rules, I think you are actually misinterpreting the one rule about social justice. The OT actually includes a preference for the poor and powerless againt the powerful. God stands on the side of justice for the weak.

In fact, there are a number of places in your list that suffer from an over literalism or a careless literalism of the sort that distorts that actual message of the text.

Anonymous said...

Just a couple of quick comments:
1. How about the conveniently "forgotten" 10 commandments from Exodus 34?
2. Much more clearly than the Hebrew Bible, EG White forbade "mixed colour" relationships, even amongst church members!

Shawn Brace said...

Monte, thanks for checking in! I very much appreciate your perspective. Let me just make a couple observations, though.

1. While the OT in general, and the Pentateuch specifically, definitely has a "preference" for the poor, as you say, this is not necessarily an example of that. It is true that those points belong together, but this passage does not favor the poor over and above the "the mighty." This verse is mainly concerned with righteousness in judgment. Thus, if there is a dispute among two people, Israel was not supposed to rule in favor of a person simply because he was "poor," or because she was "mighty."

This is also clearly seen in Exodus 23:3: "You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute." (Interestingly, the Hebrew word for "partiality" in this verse is the same Hebrew word that is used in Lev 19:15 in reference to the "mighty.")

2. My concern in reproducing the list was not necessarily to be detailed. I was simply being casual in my summary of some laws we might run into. At the same time, I am not sure how I can "suffer" from an over or careless "literalism." I think the goal of looking at laws is to, first, figure out what they literally say, and then try to deduce what they mean for us in our context.

That is the job of an Exegete: to bring out the original meaning of a text and then apply the principles from it to our current context. And that was precisely the point of my post.

As one example, when Lev 19:26 says, "You shall not eat anything with blood," how do you want me to relate that law on to the reader? Isn't that over literalism?

As I said, I am not proposing that I summarized each law perfectly. I would need to translate each law from the original Hebrew if I wanted to go near an accurate summary of these laws. But that was not the point of my post. The point of my post was to figure out a hermeneutic whereby we can apply these rules to our current context.

I hope that was not lost in the examples I gave.

Thanks, also, anonymous, for sharing! I have a question: could you please reproduce for me the EGW quote that talks about marriages of "mixed colour"?