There’s a growing desire to try to harmonize the God of the Bible with today’s modern society, in part to make it appeal to the next generation and in part to make the Bible not seem so dated for those with modern sensibilities. Challies is the latest article I read on this, and the beginning starts to scare me:
The laws and customs of ancient civilizations often strike us as bizarre or unfair. There’s no doubt that sometimes they were. But if we assume that people then, just like people now, were rational beings, we can at least suppose that each law and each custom was arrived at deliberately and was meant to serve a distinct purpose.The Right Response to Old Testament Law
Challies goes on to make the argument that in order to understand the law correctly, we have to take into account that it was given to certain people at a certain time, and that law would be considered good to all those around them.
This is a dangerous way to approach Scripture.
God is the Author of the Law
The first thing we must agree on is that God is the Author of the law. Moses went up Mount Sinai and didn’t bring down his law, but God’s law. God could have authored any laws he had chosen to and had the children of Israel enact any kind of modern/progressive agenda, but he gave them the laws that he did.
If God is all knowing and sees the end from the beginning, then modern sensibilities like homosexuality, abortion, feminism, etc., would all be knowable to him. Unlike earthly lawgivers, like those that wrote the U.S. Constitution, the law of God didn’t need amendments or changes. It wasn’t a living document. It was to be studied and followed and it was never changed.
In fact, Paul, in Romans, says that it was valid until Jesus fulfilled it all, and then it was still valid to show sin, just not as a way to get to Heaven.
God Gave Laws that Didn’t Fit that Time
God told the Jewish people that they couldn’t wear clothing mixed of two different fabrics (Leviticus 19:19), that they had to be circumcised (Genesis 17:9), that they couldn’t eat pigs and other things… Some of these made sense, some of them just made them stand out. There was no reason for God not to put in modern beliefs in there as well if he wanted to. Yet he didn’t. Jesus, as radical as he was to the old order of things, kept the law and did not attempt to modernize it, except to show where the Pharisees had added to it.
If God had wanted all the modern sensibilities, he could have had the Israelites do that, regardless of whether they stood out– because part of the law was to stand out.
Let’s put it differently. Do you think that if Jesus hadn’t come until 2020 that God would have been fine with the Israelites not offering a burnt offering in 2019? Do you think that God would have said that his prohibition on pig eating was lifted because of better sanitation and food preparation?
But What About Acts and Peter?
What about them? God did tell Peter that the Old Covenant had been fulfilled in Jesus. He did tell them that they had liberty in Christ and that what was sin no longer factored in for some things, but that is beside the point.
Romans tells us not only that we have liberty, but that the law teaches us what is and is not sin. Gentiles didn’t need to become Jews through circumcision or rites or anything, but that didn’t change the fact that when God gave laws to his people, he chose certain laws. I will grant that laws can be given for different purposes, but the law was given to show what is sin.
So the real question isn’t how do we not feel embarrassed by the Old Testament law, but what can the laws an infinitely wise God gave to His people tell us about the nature of man, the best ways to live, and about his nature.
And sure, let’s take into account the time that it was written and who it was given to, but not use it as a shield to deflect from things that make the modern person uncomfortable.