Monday, October 22, 2012

A Response to Senator Obama

In 2006 then Senator Obama said this when addressing a Sojourner’s meeting…

“Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application?”

Yes, deciding how to apply Scripture present day life is a challenge.

One of my favorite moments in the "Westwing" is when Bartlett addresses Dr. Jacobs on her selective reading of the Old Testament. Take a look...

But Bartlett doesn't really deal with the bigger issue of when Old and New Testaments speak of an issue. 

I think the answer to Christian Hermeneutical (thanks to Vince Morris for bringing this up)  problem centers on several linchpins (if that is possible).  First we need to view  all passages of scripture in the context of the Bible's overall purpose, i.e. to reveal God and his path of redemption for mankind.  Then we need to remember that on path of redemption are the two covenants that God made with mankind to bring about redemption.  God made the "old" covenant with Abraham which brought about the nation of Israel.  The chosen one or the Messiah who would be the savior of the world comes from Israel. Then the Messiah, who fulfills all the righteous demands of the old covenant makes a new covenant with all people, Jews and Gentiles alike. 

Thus, the civil and ceremonial laws that Israel was responsible to keep are fulfilled in Christ.  But the moral law defined through the 10 commandments and the "royal law" of loving God and neighbor, are the laws that Jesus said were still important for people of faith. 

So when applying God's word, both old and new covenants, we must be comfortable with the saying "that was then, this is now."   This helps us in dealing with the issues of continuity and discontinuity of the old and new covenants. God expects new covenant people not to have to live according the old covenant societal (civil and ceremonial).  But the moral laws that describe God's character and defines the redeemed life are part of the path of sanctification.   Christians who are new covenant people are to follow the words of Jesus who through his death began the new covenant.  He and his followers like Peter and Paul, never required dietary, civil or ceremonial laws.  Paul says that new covenant people are set free from both the condemnation of the old law and free from having to live legalistically according to it. On some of the ceremonial laws, Paul would say that there was freedom to follow them or not.  But living life legalistically according to the Old Covenant is not required.   Jesus said, "when the son sets you free, you shall be free indeed."  While this refers to being set free from  sin, still he seems to infer that being set from from sin also implies being set free from the law that defined sin.

So, what about shellfish?  They are considered "unclean" and therefore "inedible" for Israel.  But since that idea comes from the old covenant societal (dietary and ceremonial) law, the Christian has freedom in this area.  You can eat them or not.   What about stoning your child?  Since that is OT civil law and since  Jesus wouldn't stone an adulteress who broke the old law, then we don't stone our children who don't follow Jesus. However, this doesn't help us completely when dealing with homosexual behavior.

On one hand homosexual behavior was not acceptable for the nation of Israel.  On the other hand Paul says in Romans and 1 Cor. that it is still not acceptable.  So here we are, on the horns of a dilemma.  But since we don't the stone adulteress, we don't stone people for homosexual behavior.  But we are still to keep in mind the issue of "uncleanness."  It was a major Old Covenant theme.

Uncleanness does seem to touch the issue of holiness and sanctification.  We are to grow in holiness and therefore keep from things that make us "unholy."  So both adultery and homosexuality are not on that path of sanctification. But, they are not the unforgivable sins.  Therefore we are to forgive as Jesus forgave the woman in adultery.  And we are to "go and sin no more" as Jesus commanded.  There gain, as concerns homosexuality, we are on those dilemma horns. Today people want to say homosexual behavior is not morally wrong, like many people say that adultery is not immoral.  So how to we instruct those who think homosexual behavior is not immoral?  First, we must remember to first love.  Our job is not to condemn but to point people to the source of all love.  The as peace makers, we must condemn all violence based sexual preference.  Tolerance, true tolerance (not acquiescence or political correctness) must rule. 

But what about homosexual marriage?  The Christian desiring to follow the Bible still needs to affirm homosexual behavior is not acceptable.  So to sanction it by affirming same sex-marriage would seem to be a line to draw. Since we do need to protect the rights of people, same-sex contract or "unions" would seem a reasonable way to that. But it sends a message of tolerance.  Of course, if churches are required by law to practice same sex marriage, then civil disobedience is a proper option.

As for requiring the defense department to be governed by the Sermon on the Mount, it might seem strange to you, but I think it already is.  Words like restraint, proportionality, precision guidance, etc are all values that our government has put in place which, I think, reflect the values of the Sermon on the Mount.  While all of our defensive actions are not successful in bringing peace, that is the goal.  As Christians we need to always insist that our military not go beyond what is necessary to defend the country so people can live in peace.  


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