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Archive for the ‘christian apologetics’ Category

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Here are the links related to Presuppositional apologetics from the World Wide Web between January 8th-15th, 2015.

Enjoy!

1.) The Fallacies with “The Circular Argument” Against Presuppositionalism

2.) Evidence for the Exodus part 1

3.) NOT A RHETORICAL TRICK

4.) GLEANINGS FROM G.H. CLARK: EXISTENTIALISM IS A MORAL FAILURE

5.) A short dialogue on the Transcendental Argument for God’s existence

6.) THE FRAME OF KNOWLEDGE: A CHRISTIAN VIEW

 

 

Missed the last round up?  Check out the re-blogged post from a friend

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Matthew vines

This is our third installment in which we look at the problematic precommitments that Matthew Vines has accepted prior to his research for his book God and the Gay Christian in which he argues that “Christians who affirm the full authority of Scripture can also affirm committed, monogamous same-sex relationship” (Page 3).  Here in this post I want to address Vines’ problematic pre-commitment concerning Old Testament laws.

Matthew Vines In His Own Words

On page 11-12 Vines said:

But while I’d once agreed with my parents’ view on homosexuality, I didn’t anymore.  Even before coming to terms with my sexual orientation, I had been studying the Bible’s references to same-sex behavior and discussing the issue with Christian friends.  Some of what I learned seemed to undermine the traditional interpretation of those passages.  For instance, Leviticus prohibits male same-sex relations, but it uses similar language to prohibit the eating of shellfish.  And while Paul did describe same-sex relations as ‘unnatural,’ he also wrote that for men to wear their hair long was contrary to ‘nature.’  Yet Christians no longer regard eating shellfish or men having long hair as sinful.  A more comprehensive exploration of Scripture was in order.”

Note in the above quote that even before Vines came out of the closet as being a homosexual or even before he began researching to write his book, Vines’ own view of the Old Testament has already led him to question whether the Bible prohibit same sex relations.  Although Vines admit that a “more comprehensive exploration of Scripture was in order,” already what he thinks he knows has “undermine the traditional interpretation of those passages”

Then on page 78 Vines gives us some more details of how he started to question the Old Testament laws found in Leviticus (18:22 and 20:13) that prohibits same-sex relationship:

When I was fourteen, I used that verse to ‘prove’ to a friend that gay marriage ws wrong.  Today, I realize I hardly knew anything about what I was saying–the context of that verse in Scripture, for instance, or the place of the Old Testament law for Christians.

It’s no surprise that I was at a loss when my friend responded to me with verses from Leviticus banning the eating of shellfish and wearing mixed fabrics.

Sad to say, though, that’s been the extent of many debates about the BIble and homosexuality in recent years.  One side starts by quoting Leviticus 18:22 (or 20:13, which prescribes the death penalty for males who engage in same-sex relations), and the other side counters with verses about dietary laws and bans on certain combinations of clothing.  We really need to go deeper”

Thus his interaction at the age of 14 with friends on the topic of Old Testament laws has already slanted him towards the view that the Bible does not prohibit same-sex marriage.  We definitely need to go deeper in our refutation of his pre-commitment that slants him towards affirming same-sex relationships.

The Problem with Vines’ view of Old Testament Laws

  • Vines lamented the state of debate between the two sides: “One side starts by quoting Leviticus 18:22 (or 20:13, which prescribes the death penalty for males who engage in same-sex relations), and the other side counters with verses about dietary laws and bans on certain combinations of clothing.”  Ironically this is what Vines himself does when he invokes dietary laws as a defeater to the non-affirming Christians’ interpretation of Leviticus.  He didn’t “go deeper” as he promised in the book but presented the typical gay apologists’ arguments about Old Testament laws.
  • Matthew Vines’ hermeneutics is definitely problematic.  Recall the principle that led him to think same-sex relationship is okay: “Leviticus prohibits male same-sex relations, but it uses similar language to prohibit the eating of shellfish.”  In essence, this is his hermenutical principle:  “Since X  from Leviticus is not applicable for us today, therefore Y should not be either.”
    • But just because Leviticus has laws that prohibit things that later in the New Testament it allows, does that means same-sex relationship fall under the same category of things permissible?
      • Homosexual sins is not in the same category as dietary laws.
      • Also the New Testament did not reverse the teaching of Leviticus against homosexuality, pronouncing that it is now permitted for a man to lie with another man, etc.
    • Matthew Vines’ hermentical principle that “Since X  from Leviticus is not applicable for us today, therefore Y should not be either” is dangerous.
      • Taking Vines’ hermeneutical principle towards Leviticus to its logical conclusion, is it now permitted to see the nudity of family and relatives members?  The same argument Vines use against the prohibition against homosexuality can be used by perverts to argue against Leviticus 18:6-17 (same chapter with the prohibition on male homosexual acts).  Leviticus might prohibit unclothing family members and relatives, but to use Vines’ own words Leviticus also “uses similar language to prohibit the eating of shellfish.”  Thus  shellfishes “undermine the traditional interpretation of those passages” and somehow with Vines leap of logic in the structure of his argument it must mean incestuous uncovering of nakedness is allowed today.
      •  Vines’ form of argument can be used to say it is permissible to commit children sacrifices, bestiality and incest by employing his erroneous hermeneutical principle to dismiss Leviticus 18:21, 18:22, 20:11-12 respectively.  We can go on but readers should get the point with his hermeneutics.
    • Matthew Vines is also inconsistent with his hermeneutical principle that “Since X  from Leviticus is not applicable for us today, therefore Y should not be either.”
      • Again Vines believes in “committed, monogamous same-sex relationship” (Page 3).
      • Part of that commitment means there must not be adultery, which by definition is the violation of a committed monogamous relationship.
      • If Vines is consistent with his interpretative approach it undermines the prohibition of adultery.
      • But Vines won’t go there and probably won’t accept someone who uses his argumentation to allow for adultery.  Thus, he is inconsistent with his own method.
    • Matthew Vines and others might argue that the points above does not apply in light of the New Testament relationship to the Old Testament.  This is our reply:
      • While the New Testament still prohibit adultery, etc., remember the New Testament continue to prohibit homosexual relations as well.  Of course, Vines and company will dispute that, but the Christian response can be found elsewhere in our blog and is beyond the scope of this post.
      • Going to the New Testament does not resolve Vines’ problematic hermeneutics.  That is because he himself applies this kind of argumentation to the New Testament; recall above how Vines was quoted as saying: “And while Paul did describe same-sex relations as ‘unnatural,’ he also wrote that for men to wear their hair long was contrary to ‘nature.'”  Now the problem is further compounded by bringing this interpretative strategy to the New Testament.
  • Ultimately, Vines’ basis of ethics is not the Bible if he can judge which prohibition in Scripture (Old and New Testament) should still stand and which should not.  His standard of ethics needs to be exposed and refuted.  This we have already done in part 1 of this series in which we documented and refuted his humanistic consequentialist’s ethics.

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Matthew Vines gay christian

As more and more books are hitting the market promoting the idea that God permits homosexual relationship, the more urgent it is for Christians to know how to respond.

Among the popular books promoting the idea of the gay Christian is Matthew Vines’ book “God and the Gay Christian.”  James White has refuted this book in the following audio on Youtube.  Dr. White spends over 5 hours total to refuting Vines!

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lgbt-ks

LGBT Movement: Part 3

LGBT Objection: In the Old Testament, Homosexuality was a capital crime that was punishable by death, but now we are under the new covenant.  How does that affect the practice of homosexuality?

Response: Answering this question requires an understanding concerning the relationship of the OT laws to the NT.  Does the OT laws remain in effect in the NT?  If so, do all of them remain in operation or do certain OT laws remain in operation in the NT?  For example were the OT laws that prohibited the wearing of wool and linen woven together (Deut. 22:11) and eating of certain foods still in effect today?   How can we best understand the OT laws?  In regards to ceremonial aspects for the Jews such as the sacrifices, he referred to His body as being the ultimate and final sacrifice (John 2:21; Mark 14:36).  His death made it possible for us to approach God.  Thus the OT sacrificial system is obsolete.  In regards to cleanliness and food laws, see Mark 7:19; Acts 10:9-16.  He touched lepers and dead bodies and did so by not being unclean.  As for Civil laws that would for example carry out capital punishments for grave crimes, they were carried out in the Jewish nation-state.  In the New Testament, the role of punishment is left only to the government, not the church.  If righteous government, would would not be immoral, if it implements punishment by death for adultery, rape, homosexuality, etc.  The church’s role is to minister the Gospel of grace.  When this topic of how the civil laws are to be exercised, it is not uncommon for anyone who dares to affirm God’s justice concerning grave sins as being antiquated. Society will call you not only being antiquated, but will call you bigot, hater of people, etc.  However, we need to keep in mind that these critics who argue this way are actually battling against God.  God determines what sin meets the criteria for the death penalty.  At the end of the day, even Paul himself did not detest the notion that rebellion from sinners against God deserve death.  He states in Romans 1:32, “And although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”  It is important to note that in order to be nuanced, that this divinely appointed penalty is applicable to both the Old and New Testaments. The apostle Paul taught that grave sins (i.e. homosexuality) that are done in opposition to God deserved the death penalty (Romans 1: 24– 32). However, it is important to note too that not every rebellious acts (i.e. adultery, homosexuality) act in the OT did not bring the death penalty right away (1 Kings 15:11-12).  At times, the Lord administered grace.  But at the end of the day, if we want pure justice, everyone deserves to die.  As a result, we would be wise to not argue against God.  But God being rich in mercy and grace, offers salvation through His Son even for homosexuals.

On another note, if the NT reaffirms a OT law it is wise to note that the law still remains in effect. So the prohibition against homosexuality is a morally universal law and is applicable today.  Whether it was during Moses’ time or Jesus time, homosexuality was prohibited.

Since the term law is mentioned, here is my more detailed analysis concerning the the Mosaic Law that maybe helpful. Please also see my further thoughts below.  It does not make the prohibition of homosexuality complex or cumbersome in anyway (Scripture is very clear concerning the sin of homosexuality), but it the below analysis I hope will help one have a better handling of the OT laws or be used as a launching pad to do further research.

Introduction

The discussions of the different perspectives of the law have existed for many centuries and are not discussions that are easy to cover.[1]  One of the greatest theological minds ever produced in America, the Reformed theologian Jonathan Edwards (1703-58) has this to say regarding the subject of the law, “There is perhaps no part of divinity attended with so much intricacy, and wherein orthodox divines do so much differ as stating the precise agreement and difference between the two dispensations of Moses and Christ.”[2]   I think before we tackle the issue surrounding the law, it is imperative for us to first understand what the law is. In the opening line, Alva J. McClain says this concerning the law, “Much of the controversy which has attended the Christian doctrine of salvation by grace has arisen about the place of the law in relation to the Christian believer.  Various motives, some good and bad, have led men to raise the issue.”[3]  In light of the issue surrounding the law, the purpose of his essay is to examine the usage of the Mosaic Law in general New Testament usage and to see whether the Law of Moses is tripartite or indivisible[4].

In order to accomplish that, let’s cover what the New Testament has to say about the Mosaic Law before covering the issue of the whether the Law of Moses is tripartite or indivisible.  I believe by doing an analysis of what the New Testament says about the Mosaic Law will help dispel some misconceptions and the various wrong notions surrounding the law.  In regard to what the law is, I think Alva J. McClain covers the issue well.  McClain says that the written Mosaic Law, including the entire Pentateuch, the indivisible unity of the law, the penalties of the law, the Sermon on the Mount’s interpretation with reference to the original meaning of the law, Christ’s fulfillment of the law; and the Mosaic law itself, testifies to the existence of such an earlier divine law that is not limited to just the Mosaic Law.[5]

New Testament View Concerning the Mosaic Law?

The first point McClain makes is that the law is not only limited to the Mosaic Law, but also covers the entire Pentateuch.  In Matthew 5:17 when Jesus mentioned the law, there was an understanding that the law comprised of the first five books.[6]  Moreover, the same identification concerning the law appears in Luke 24:44 and Acts 28:23.  Apostle Paul refers to the first five books when he commands women “to be under obedience, as also saith the law” (1 Cor 14:34; cf. Gen 3:16).  One other example of his acknowledgement of the law is when Paul defends his ministry in 1 Cor 9:9 by quoting a passage from Deut 25:4 by noting that it was written “in the Law of Moses.”[7]

Second point is about the indivisible unity of the law. McClain is not against the three descriptions of the law, which is moral, ceremonial, and civil, but he thinks it is wrong to divide the law.[8]  He uses verses like James 2:10 and Matt. 5:19 to justify his point.  James 2:10 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”  Matthew 5:19 says, “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

In his third point, he stresses the importance of the penalties that cannot be detached from the law. Rom 4:15 says, “for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.”

Fourth point is the Sermon on the Mount’s interpretation with reference to the original meaning of the law.  On the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes reference to the law in its original inner meaning.  In Matthew 5:17-19, Jesus points out the importance of the law by saying that not “jot or one tittle” can pass away.  Christ did not come to abolish the Mosaic Law and place another law of His own; rather He is reaffirming the law.  Christ upheld the law to the highest degree, which is why He held people accountable.[9]  Here are some passages that shows Christ upholding the spiritual intent of the Lawgiver: “the honor of God (Matt 22:18-22), the Sabbath (Matt 12:1-14; Mark 2:23-28; 3:1-6; Luke 13:10-21; 14:1-24), honor of parents (Mark 7:1-13), murder (Matt 5:21-24, 43-48), divorce and adultery (Matt 5:27-32; 19:3-12), fasting (Mark 2:18-22), and ceremonial rituals (Matt 15:1-30; Mark 7:1-23; Luke 11:37-54).”[10]    Based on some of these passages mentioned above, it is clear that God did not abrogate the law, but rather, he reiterated and kept it.  At that same day, Christ also rebuked the mishandling and misunderstanding of the religious leaders’ view towards the law, by saying in Matthew 5:19, “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”  According to Dr. Robert Thomas—here is what he says about Jesus confrontation of the religious leaders in regards to Matthew 5:17,

Far from breaking the Old Testament teachings, Jesus came to bring them to fruition by contrasting the true intent of the Law with the common rabbinic interpretations of His day.  The key verse of the sermon, therefore, is Matthew 5:20.  The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was not adequate to gain entrance into the Kingdom because it dealt only with external behavior.  Qualifications for entering this promised Kingdom are what Jesus outlines in this discourse (cf. Matt 7:21, Sec. 71).[11]

In McClain’s fifth point, he argues that Christ fulfilled the Mosaic Law because he was born under it (Gal 4:4). While under the law, Christ obeyed the law perfectly.  Because of His perfect obedience to the Lawgiver, Christ absorbed the punishment of the law for His elect.  To say that Christ came only to obey the law would be a misnomer.  He not only came to obey and fulfill the law, but He also commanded others to obey it (Matt 5:17-19).[12]  Not only did Christ had the authority to tell others to obey the commandments, but He also had the authority to simplify the complexity of the Mosaic Law by focusing on one word: love[13] Because Christ is greater than Moses (John 5:36-47), he authoritatively summarized the Mosaic Law in two commandments: to love God and your neighbor (Matt 22:37-40; cf. Lev 19:18; Deut 6:5).[14]

The last point by McClain, argues that the Mosaic Law points back to a prior divine law, which can be seen in the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:15-17).  The divine law, which can be traced back in Eden, which was not written on two tablets, manifests itself in the law of sacrifice (Gen 4:4 with Heb 11:4), the law of tithes (Gen 14:20), the law of circumcision (Gen 17:10-14), etc.  Again, they were given unwritten law.  On another note, Adam and Eve were given the ability to develop the moral law.[15] But the written law became necessary in the later generations because of the sin and the hardness of man’s heart.[16]  The question that some ask concerning the topic of the law is, “why did God give the law to Israel?”  The law was given to Israel for three main reasons: ceremonial implementations (i.e. offerings and sacrifices, ritual purity, feasts and festival, which includes the Day of Atonement, and the laws of holiness), to model a high ritual of holiness and purity; and to show them that through the law they were guilty and in need of a High Priest.[17]  The law was “not” given to the redeemed community to acquire salvation, but was given as an instruction on how to respond to salvation in an honorable way towards Yahweh.[18]  Also the giving of the law also provided the means for Israel to show God’s glory to the surrounding Gentile nations.[19]

Hence, we can clearly identify with the Bible that the discussion of the Mosaic Law that is found in the Pentateuch is important because God devoted much significant portions of the law in the Torah.  God devoted much attention to it because God expected His chosen people to live in accordance to the Mosaic Law during the Old Testament times, but Christ was the anomaly to the Jewish people—He was able to fulfill all of its requirements.[20]

As stated earlier, the NT passages seem to refer to some kind of continuity when it comes to the Mosaic Law.[21]  For example, Galatians 3:24 says, “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. [22]  And as stated earlier, James 2:10 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”  Since God commands believers to obey His commandments, all believers should have a desire to obey all of God’s requirements of us.[23]  However, the question is, what commandment do we obey?  Do we obey all of the Mosaic laws?  Do we obey some and ignore some?  Do we obey all or do we ignore all?  In order to answer these questions, it is imperative for us to discuss whether there is a concept of the Mosaic Law being tripartite or indivisible.  I believe that will help settle the dust.

Tripartite Division of the Mosaic Law

Definition of the Tripartite Division of the Law

The proponent of the tripartite division of the Mosaic Law holds that the Mosaic Law is divided into three different categories: ceremonial, civil, and moral.  Believe it or not, this discussion has relevancy to the discussion earlier of whether punishment by death is still a viable option now.   Ceremonial laws can be seen with the observance of the Sabbath (located in the Decalogue), the sacrifices, and the functions of the Levitical High Priest.  The purpose of the ceremonial law is to point to Christ because the ceremonial elements are illustrative shadows of what is to come.

For the civil law, these are laws for murder, manslaughter, adultery, homosexuality—just to name a few.  The just punishment ratio should generally be an “eye for an eye.”  The purpose for the civil law has to do with God’s law in regards to the “government” (not the church) and society moral’s responsibility to its citizens and God.

For the moral law, these are commands to tell the truth, because God is a God of truth.  Within the moral law, God commands us to love because God is love; He commands us to marital faithfulness because He is faithful; He prohibits us against homosexuality because He desires heterosexual marriages.  Hence, the moral law reveals God’s absolute eternal commands that are grounded in His character and His will.  The moral law is not only eternal, but it is universal and applicable for today.  The moral laws are not only limited to some of the Mosaic laws, but would also include the laws of Christ.  Laws of Christ also express absolute eternal commands that are grounded in His character and His will.

On another note, when speaking about the OT laws, according to Luke 16:16, Luke says, “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.”  In other words, the law and the prophets continued until the time of John, who is the last OT prophet.[24]  OT laws were no longer written after John.  Other laws that were new were the laws of Christ (Gal. 6:1-5; Rom. 8:2; 1 Cor. 9:21; John 14:15; John 13:34-35, etc.)

Proof that the Mosaic Law is Tripartite

To argue for a tripartite division of the law successfully, I believe that I must cover Matthew 5:17-19 first in order to give a detail treatment to the tripartite division of the law.  I believe this passage is the grounds for whether the concept of the tripartite division of the law is correct or not.

It is inconceivable to expect that Jesus expected his disciples to teach obedience to the commandments that He disregarded.[25]  Some will justify this premise by using the fulfillment of the new covenant in Jeremiah 31 to say that we are no longer under the law.[26]  But how can that be accurate when the notion of sin in New Covenant is connected with or defined as the transgression of the Law of Moses (9:5-6; 13:22-7; 16:10-12; 17-18; 18:23)?  Clearly the Law of Moses, which is part of the moral law, has a place in this.  Moreover, in the Book of Matthew, on a few occasions, when sin is defined by the immediate context, sin is linked with the Decalogue (5:27-30).[27] Consequently Matthew gives his reader no reason to think that he understands sin any differently to Jeremiah—which is to sin is to transgress the law.  There is no double standard when it comes to defining sin.  Sin is transgression of God’s moral law.  It can be found in the Decalogue and many other laws in the OT.  Any argument that states that Jesus redefined the law inevitably leads to the conclusion that he also redefined sin.[28]  This is why it is important to know that Jesus did not redefine or abolish the law.  The word “abolish” (καταλύω, katalyō), is used by Jesus to refer to the temple and of a building and body.[29]  What you can see from this term is that Jesus did not come to abolish or destroy the OT laws or the OT.  OT laws and the prophets are inseparable entities that are equal in Scripture (Luke 24:27).[30]  Instead, Christ came to fulfill it.

One question that arises often is in regards to the word “fulfill.”  Some will ask, “How did Jesus fulfill the Law and Prophets?”  He fulfilled the Law and the Prophets in His person, teaching, obedience, making his followers obedient, his fulfillment in the soteriological aspect (cross), and the eschatological aspect.[31]  It is a shattering claim that Jesus can claim that He fulfills the Law and Prophets, which equals the entire OT Scripture.  No human can do what Christ did.  It is nothing short of a miracle.

Another nuance to consider when observing Matthew 5:17, is to interpret it in light of a wider context.  That context, I believe, must include the OT.  I think that the “analogy of Scripture” or what some call “antecedent theology,” should be implemented for passages like Matthew 5:17—especially if the context inherits OT terminology.[32]  Confining Matthew 5:17 to Matthew 5 or just the Book of Matthew itself are inadequate and are unhelpful methods.[33]  Hence, it is beneficial for the reader to recognize that Matthew interacted with the OT context in order to discover the nuances and complete manner behind Jesus’ fulfillment concerning the Law and the Prophets.[34]  Moreover, the debate over Matthew 5:17 is not so much on whether there is continuity or discontinuity of the law for Christian ethics, but it is a text to affirm Jesus’ fulfillment of the law and prophets together.[35]

On another note, I think that the use of Jeremiah 31 (New Covenant) alongside Matthew 5:17, provides some coherence in the discussion of the law. Matthew’s use of the OT context, such as the samples from Jeremiah 31, shows that Matthew presents the same assumptions about the law, sin, and covenant as the Prophet Jeremiah.[36]  This is one example of antecedent theology.  As a result, Jesus fulfillment is therefore in coherence and in harmony with the original intention of the Mosaic Law; and as well as the prophets’ hermeneutic and application of that law.[37].  Jesus does this in Matthew 19 as well when discussing divorce and remarriage.

The reason why the law cannot be abrogated, reconstructed, or inoperative for today, is because in Matthew 5:18, Jesus pointed out that “not a jot or tittle will pass away until heaven and earth pass away, and until all is accomplished.”[38]  As a result, any concept that argues for abolition becomes an untenable position.[39]  Even if all has become accomplished because Christ has fulfilled the law with reference to his life and work, that does not give any grounds for abolition of the law.  The phrase “passing away of the heaven and earth” answers that.[40]  The notion of the law being abolished would not be in harmony with passages in Psalm, which speaks of God’s Word as statutes that are sure (Ps 93:5), everlasting (Ps 119:160), and are fixed in the heavens (Ps 119:89).[41]  These passages convey that God’s words are accurate and everlasting.[42]  The question to answer is, “What are the inoperative laws that were fulfilled by Christ?  I think that approach will help one see what laws continue and which ones do not continue.

As for Matthew 5:19, Jesus reiterates the law by pointing out that all of God’s laws are not to be annulled.  They have all been fulfilled.  But not all of the laws will be operative for the Christian today.  For example, the ceremonial law has stopped because Christ stopped it from continuing because He is the greater sacrifice.  The ceremonial sacrifice related to the ceremonial law was intended for the Jewish community.  The civil law on the other hand, is not operative today either because it is applicable only in a theocratic realm (but maybe beneficial and wise for the state to follow some of the OT laws in order to curb sin effectively [i.e. murder, adultery, rape, homosexuality]). The only law that continues for Christians are the moral laws such as the Decalogue (except for the Sabbath; see Colossians 2:16) that is grounded in the holy, eternal character of God.  However, it should not be the basis for justification, but should just be an outline for sanctification.  Hence, I think this approach suffices because it does not destroy any law.  Some of the Mosaic laws that were case laws (Some say Deut. 24:1-4, which is a case law, no longer applies) that had temporal jurisdiction, are not applicable today either, but are temporal.   Although the specific laws or case laws that no longer have jurisdiction today—they still remain, (“jot and tittle”) because they are part of the legal framework that conveys and undergirds the principle and notion that Israel’s dependence, was upon God alone (Deut 8:16-19).[43]  So when Jesus is saying “not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished,” He includes laws that no longer have jurisdiction as well.  [44]Philip Ross says it best, “Though abrogated in so far as they regulated specific actions, they remain embedded in a corpus juris that will stand until the end of time.  Their ongoing relevance is by way of memorial and foretoken.”[45]  As a result, I do not see the case laws as a defeating blow to the tripartite division of the Mosaic Law.  Even though the case laws have no jurisdiction over Christians, it is still valuable in the sense of its “ongoing relevance by way of memorial and foretoken” as stated by Ross.

But for the most part, the civil and ceremonial laws that did not have temporary jurisdiction are paused until the millennial reign.  However the moral law still continues because the moral law reveals God’s absolute eternal commands that are grounded in His character and His will.

Implications of the Tripartite Law of Moses

The moral Law of Moses, which includes the Decalogue, is timeless, changeless, and universally applicable today.  The Spirit of God does not operate on a vacuum, but He applies the Word of God, which includes His law to the heart and conscience of every believer.[46]  Although, the believer just like the unbeliever has a conscience that bears witness to the presence of God’s own norm within him or herself, the Bible does not presume that the believer’s conscience does not need more instruction.[47]  We are to have a desire for it to permeate society pervasively.

For Apostle Paul, the moral law, which Christians are to obey is revealed in the Scriptures, especially (but not exclusively) in the Decalogue: Romans 7:7, Romans 8:4-13; Romans 12:1-2; and Romans 13:9-10 to name but a few.  Romans 7:7 says, “What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.” In Romans 8:4-13, we see that when Paul mentions Christ and the Spirit in reference to sanctification and obedience, he is describing its terms not of Christ’s, but on grounds of the law’s requirements that is being fulfilled in us or by us (ἐν ἡμῖν, en hēmin).[48]  Here in this context, Paul provides a framework for Christian ethics in order to enable believers to obey the moral requirements of the law via the agency of the Holy Spirit’s power to enable us to obey the law’s requirements.[49]  In Romans 8:7, Paul makes it clear that in the context regarding the ungodly mind, the unbeliever is unable to subject himself to the law of God, but the godly can because we do not suppress it.  In Romans 12:1-2, Paul takes up the matter of the moral outpouring of justification and picks up his earlier emphasis on the law.[50]  Paul picks up the earlier emphasis of the law by speaking of the law under the synonym of “the will of God” (τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ, to thelēma tou theou) with his earlier description in 7:13 concerning the law as  being “holy and just and good.”[51]  Clearly in this context of chapter 12, Paul is telling the reader to discern and obey the law of God.[52]  In Romans 13:9-10, before Apostle Paul turns his attention to idols, he concludes his thoughts regarding ethics by referring to the most of the second half of the Decalogue: “he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”[53]  The Decalogue is in verse 9: “’You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “’You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”  What is interesting to note is that while Apostle Paul is quoting the sixth, seventh, eighth, and tenth commandment, he also mentions other moral laws by saying “and if there is any other commandment.”  It appears that the moral law is not only limited to the Decalogue (except for the Sabbath), but also different laws such as the Law of Christ.

While much has been discussed regarding the moral law, it is important to note that the Spirit of God uses His Word to enable believers to grow in harmony with Christ by fulfilling the law (Rom 8:3-4; 13:10; Gal 5:14).[54]  Since Christ expects fruit in our lives, obedience is necessary. You cannot obey if there is no law.  Obedience and the law are two sides of the same coin.  However, that does not mean that the grounds of our salvation is based on the works of the law, rather the purpose of the law is Christian growth in grace, not our justification or merit.[55]  In Galatians 3:21 where Paul says, “Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.”  Bible commentator, Moses Silva, says that this text is the crux of Paul’s interpretation of the law.[56]  Silva continues by saying that Apostle Paul did not oppose the promise and law, but rather Apostle Paul sees the promise and the law as the instrument that helps receives the promise.[57]  In other words, grace is necessary for the obedience to the law of God.

Many fear that the use of the law for Christian ethics because it may usher in legalism.[58]  Because some fear the heresy of “Galatianism,” many will say that we are not under the so-called Mosaic Law.[59]

The law is a moral compass that helps leads believers in life when it comes to biblical ethics (i.e. same-sex marriage, divorce and remarriage, etc.), but it is not made to inject power or give life and righteousness apart from the works of grace.[60]  Because of the fear of the settle dangers of legalism, many will say we are under the law of Christ, not the Law of Moses (Rom 6:15; Gal 3:24-25).  According to Shorter Oxford Dictionary, legalism is “adherence to law as opposed to the gospel; the doctrine of justification by works, or teaching which savors it.”  Hence, adherence to the law as a moral compasses or outline for sanctification is not legalism.

Instead of asking, “Are we under the law of Moses?” the correct question would be, “What part of Moses’ laws are we under; and does the New Testament negate the use of the moral Law of Moses such as the Decalogue for normative Christian life and practice?”[61]  Here is what John Gerstner says concerning the application of the law for today, “Christ’s affirmation of the moral law was complete.  Rather than setting His disciples free from the law, He tied them more tightly to it.  He abrogated not one commandment but instead intensified all.”  When it comes to the Christian relationship to the law, here is what Dr. Robert Reymond said, “In sum the norm or standard of the Christian life is the law, and the motive power to keep it is the new life in Christ, that is, life in the Spirit, which exhibits itself as a life of obedience, that is, of love.”[62]

Mosaic Law is Indivisible

Definition of the Mosaic Law Being Indivisible

Proponents of this view believe that whether the Mosaic Law is applicable to believers today is based on the grounds of whether the Mosaic Law is indivisible or not.[63]  Since the law is indivisible, it is a non-negotiable when trying to divide the law. Hence, since one cannot divide the Mosaic Law into three parts: ceremonial, civil, and moral, one cannot apply the Mosaic Law to the New Testament believer.

Proof that the Mosaic Law is Indivisible

The tripartite division of the law (traditional approach) according to this camp has problems because the traditional approach has arbitrary distinctions in terms of the tripartite division of the law.  The tripartite division of the law, which is the traditional approach, does not interpret the legal material accordingly in the narrative texts and it also overlooks the law’s theological context.[64]  According to this view, all laws are theological; therefore, it is difficult to determine whether a certain law belongs in the moral category.[65]

In order to not overlook the law’s theological context, there are three major points that must be followed. The first major point is to recognize that the Mosaic Covenant is closely associated with Israel’s land conquest of their enemies and their occupation of the Promised Land.[66]  The term “land” occurs almost 200 times in the Book of Deuteronomy that implements the term with the life of the land God promised.[67] He points out in his essay that the connection between the Mosaic Covenant and the land is so strong that it cuts across the distinction between the so-called civil, ceremonial, and moral laws.[68]

Second major point in order to not overlook the law’s theological context, is to recognize that the blessings that come from the Mosaic Covenant were conditional.   For example, the law must be interpreted in light of contexts in the narrative.  The context is that God delivered His people from the their slavery in Egypt and He promised them a land for them to dwell in.[69] The giving of the law is connected with God’s chosen people, Israel; and the law cannot be isolated and presented by itself as some kind of moral law.[70]

In lieu of the discussion concerning the theological context of the law, many will ask, “Why did God give the Mosaic Law to His people, Israel?”[71]  First of all, it must be understood that the OT exalts the giving of the law in an exalted and lofty position.[72]  The law was not given as a divine torture chamber, a means of salvation, or a way to build up points, but the law was given to reveal the holiness of God as stated in passages like Leviticus 11:44-45 and 20:26.[73]  Leviticus 11:44-45 says, “For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth.  For I am the Lord who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.  Leviticus 20:26 says, “Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.”  The law also was given to Israel in order to demand conformity to it (Joshua 1:8), to demonstrate man’s sinfulness (Lev 4:2, 22, 27; 5:15, 17; cf. Rom 3:19-20; 7:7-12).[74]

Let us now focus most our time concerning the Scriptures that are used by some to prove that the Mosaic Law is no longer a functional law for Christians today.  Some of the Scriptures this camp uses are Heb 8-9 and Gal 2:15-16; 3:25.  Galatians 3:24-25, which is a major passage used, states, “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”  Hebrews 8:13 another major passage says, “When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.” The emphasis as you can clearly see, is that the old covenant has been replaced by the new covenant.  Other verses they will use is James 2:10 and Galatians 5:3.  Gal 5:3 says, “And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law.”

The jugular text used by both groups to justify whether the Mosaic Law is tripartite or indivisible is the debate over Matthew 5:17-19, which states,

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Since the phrase “Law and the Prophets” are used, Jesus is not only referring to the Mosaic Law, but the Old Testament in its entirety.  Most of time, whenever the New Testament uses the law, law of God, law and prophets, Scriptures, or Word of God, the NT is speaking about the whole OT.[75]  The only time it is not referring to the entire OT is if the context gives you a narrower definition.[76]

Proponents who uphold the indivisible nature of the Mosaic Law will say that in verse 17, Jesus does not say “abolish” and “observe,” but says, “abolish” and “fulfill.”[77]  In other words, Christ did not come to observe or to keep the law, but He came to fulfill it.[78]  Here Jesus was not stating that the Law is eternally binding on the New Testament Christians today, because if that were the case, then we would need to keep the sacrificial and ceremonial laws, which violates some portions of the NT.[79]  What Jesus did was that he did not come to brush off or to sweep away the righteous demands, because if that was the case there would be no point of Him coming to this earth, but what Jesus did is fulfill the righteous demands of the law that we could not fulfill.  Daniel Hays, who wrote an article in BibSac called “Applying the Old Testament Today,” wrote this concerning the righteous demands of the law, “As the climax of this aspect of salvation history, Jesus fulfilled all the righteous demands and all the prophetic foreshadowing of the Law and of the Prophets.  In addition Jesus was the final Interpreter of and Authority over the Law and its meaning, as other passages in Matthew indicate…Jesus was not advocating the continuation of the traditional Jewish approach of adherence to the Law.  Nor was He advocating that the Law be dismissed altogether.  He was proclaiming that the meaning of the Law must be interpreted in light of His coming and in light of the profound changes introduced by the New Covenant.”[80]

In regards to Matthew 5:18-19, they conclude that He did not come to abolish or ignore the Law of Moses and the Prophets, but Jesus teaches that He is the fulfillment concerning the message of the Law and the Prophets.[81]

What we can conclude from this camp is that the Mosaic Law is no longer applicable to us as a law because the law no longer functions as the terms of the covenant for us.[82]

CONCLUSION

After analyzing both sides of the argument of whether the Law of Moses is tripartite or indivisible, I think what Walter Kaiser states is best in terms of reconciling the issue,

Now we must recognize that there is a certain truth to the claim that the law exhibits a unity and stands as a unit.  It is also true that the Bible does not classify laws according to a scheme such as moral, civil, and ceremonial.  But that argument holds true for most of theology as well. Hence, nowhere does the Bible summarize most of our schemes found in systematic theology. The word “trinity,” for example, is never found as such, but that does not mean that it is an improper conclusion. A viable question would be this: “Is this categorization fair to the Biblical text? On that point there is a large body of teaching”?

First of all, the ceremonial legislation had a built-in warning that it would only remain in effect until the real, to which it pointed, came. This built-in obsolescence was signaled in the text from the moment that the legislation on the tabernacle and its services was first given. It is contained in the word “pattern” found in Exod 25:8, 40. This meant that the tabernacle, its priests, it sacrifices, and its associated ritual looked forward to the redemptive work of the Savior. In the meantime men and women had to be satisfied with that which was only a copy, a pattern, a shadow, a type of the real, the actual, the antitype that was to come. When that came all models, copies and patterns would be instantaneously rendered obsolete…A fair interpretation of the Bible demands that we recognize a fundamental difference between those aspects of the law that reflect God’s character and those that symbolically point to the first and second coming of Christ and command only a temporary hold over believers with a stated expiration period.

As a result, I would concur with Kaiser.  Although the law seems to be in a unit, the law does have fundamental differences.  There are laws that reflect God’s character and there are laws that symbolically point to Christ as the substance of the ceremonies that take place.[83]  The laws that reflect God’s character such as the Decalogue would still be applicable to Christians (except for the Sabbath).  If the Decalogue and other laws from the Mosaic Law, which reflects the character of God, is only applicable to the Jews, then that would be a double standard.  For example, in Romans 2:12-16, it appears that Gentiles are under the same standard set forth in the law of God.[84]  What is interesting to note is that Leviticus 24:22 undergirds the idea that Jews and Gentiles are under the same standard, “There shall be one standard for you; it shall be for the stranger as well as the native, for I am the Lord your God.”  Scripture makes it clear that when it comes to God’s standard, there is no double standard of morality.[85]  In order to prevent a double standard of morality, this is where I think categorizing the different categories of the Law of Moses is helpful (i.e. ceremonial, civil, and moral).  If we could do that with the persons of the Trinity, what makes it wrong with implementing the same concept to the Law of Moses.  Also, it is true that at times, you will have a mixture of the moral and ceremonial being interwoven (i.e. Psalm 40:6; Psalm 51:16-17), but the moral will trump that for the Christian, because the ceremonial law is inoperative for Christians.  You also see the moral and civil being interwoven (Ex. 20:8).  The example of Ex. 20:8, in reference to the Sabbath is not applicable to us because the NT fulfills it and is inoperative per Colossians 2:16.  What about Leviticus 20:13?  That is both moral and civil.  This is where the distinctions are helpful.  The moral binding truth still applies to Christians concerning the moral prohibition of its sin, but the civil component can only be exercised by the government because in the New Testament, according to Romans 13, he is the only minister (assuming he is righteous) that has been given authority to administer justice.  The church is not Israel; therefore, it is not called to perform capital punishment on behalf of God.  We minister the Gospel.

Another point to consider is that Solomon’s Proverbs were not just applicable to the Jewish people, but for all; and what many proponents that are against the concept that the moral Law of Moses being used today, such as the Decalogue, fail to understand that Proverbs is nothing more than a reiteration or popularization of the precepts and truths that can be traced back to the Mosaic Law.[86]  If we want to get rid of the moral law of Moses, then we should not implement Proverbs in our lives.


[1]Willem A. VanGemeren, ed., The Law, the Gospel, and the Modern Christian: Five Views (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1993), 14.

[2]Ibid., 14.

[3]Alva J. McClain, “What is the Law?”  Bibliotheca Sacra 110, no. 440 (October 1, 1953): 333.

[4]Ibid, 333.

[5]Alva J. McClain, “What is the Law?”  Bibliotheca Sacra 110, no. 440 (October 1, 1953): 333–340.

[6]Ibid., 333.

[7]Ibid., 334.

[8]Ibid., 335.

[9]Willem A. VanGemeren, ed., The Law, the Gospel, and the Modern Christian: Five, 38.

[10]Ibid., 38.

[11]Robert L. Thomas and Stanley N. Gundry, The NIV/NASB Harmony of the Gospels (Peaboy, Massachusetts: Print Press, 2003), page 65.

[12]Alva J. McClain, “What is the Law”?  Bibliotheca Sacra 110, no. 440 (October 1, 1953): 339-340.

[13]Willem A. VanGemeren, ed., The Law, the Gospel, and the Modern Christian: Five, 39.

[14]Ibid., 39.

[15]Ibid., 21.

[16]Willem A. VanGemeren, ed., The Law, the Gospel, and the Modern Christian: Five , 21.

[17]Ibid., 31-32.

[18]Rick Holland, “Preaching  the Old Testament” (Unpublished syllabus, The Master’s Seminary, 2002), 3.

[19]Ibid., 3.

[20]Michael A. Grisanti, “OT757 Exegesis of Deuteronomy: The OT Law and the NT Christian: What Do the Two Have to Do with Each Other” (unpublished syllabus, The Master’s Seminary, 2010), 1.

[21]Ibid., 1.

[22]All Scripture is quoted from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update.

[23]Michael A. Grisanti, “OT757 Exegesis of Deuteronomy: The OT Law and the NT Christian: What Do the Two Have to Do with Each Other” (unpublished syllabus, The Master’s Seminary, 2010), 1.

[24] John MacArthur, “Christ and the Law, Part 1” (sermon, Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California, February 18, 1979), PDF file, http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/2209/christ-and-the-law-part-1 (accessed May 3, 2012), 11.

[25]Philip S. Ross, From the Finger of God: The Biblical and Theological Basis For the Threefold Division of the Law (Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2010), 206.

[26]Ibid., 213-214.

[27]Philip S. Ross, From the Finger of God: The Biblical and Theological Basis For the Threefold Division of the Law, 213.

[28]Ibid, 214.

[29]John MacArthur, “Christ and the Law, Part 1,” 8.

[30]John MacArthur, “Christ and the Law, Part 1,” 12.

[31]Philip S. Ross, From the Finger of God: The Biblical and Theological Basis For the Threefold Division of the Law, 214.

[32]Philip S. Ross, From the Finger of God: The Biblical and Theological Basis For the Threefold Division of the Law, 215.

[33]Ibid., 215.

[34]Ibid., 215.

[35]Ibid., 215.

[36]Ibid., 215.

[37]Ibid., 215.

[38]Philip S. Ross, From the Finger of God: The Biblical and Theological Basis For the Threefold Division of the Law, 215.

[39]Ibid., 215.

[40]Ibid., 215.

[41]Ibid, 215.

[42]Ibid, 215.

[43]Philip S. Ross, From the Finger of God: The Biblical and Theological Basis For the Threefold Division of the Law, 218-219.

[44]Ibid., 219.

[45]Ibid., 219.

[46]Willem A. VanGemeren, ed., The Law, the Gospel, and the Modern Christian: Five, 42.

[47]Ibid., 42.

[48]Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 2nd ed. (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 773.

[49]Ibid., 773.

[50]Ibid., 773.

[51]Ibid., 773.

[52]Ibid., 773.

[53]Ibid., 773.

[54]Willem A. VanGemeren, ed., The Law, the Gospel, and the Modern Christian: Five, 42.

[55]Ibid., 42.

[56]Ibid., 42.

[57]Ibid., 42

[58]Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian, 771.

[59]Ibid., 771.

[60]Willem A. VanGemeren, ed., The Law, the Gospel, and the Modern Christian: Five, 42.

[61]Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian, 771.

[62]Ibid., 773.

[64]Daniel J. Hays, “Applying the Old Testament Law Today,” Bibiotheca Sacra 158, no. 629 (2001): 21.

[65]Michael A. Grisanti, “OT757 Exegesis of Deuteronomy: The OT Law and the NT Christian: What Do the Two Have to Do with Each Other), 3.

[66]Daniel J. Hays, “Applying the Old Testament Law Today, 27.

[67]Michael A. Grisanti, “OT757 Exegesis of Deuteronomy: The OT Law and the NT Christian: What Do the Two Have to Do with Each Other), 3.

[68]Ibid., 27.

[69]Michael A. Grisanti, “OT757 Exegesis of Deuteronomy: The OT Law and the NT Christian: What Do the Two Have to Do with Each Other, 3.

[70]Ibid., 3.

[71]Ibid., 3.

[72]Ibid., 3.

[73]Ibid., 3.

[74]Ibid., 4.

[75]John MacArthur, “Christ and the Law, Part 1,” 11.

[76]Ibid., 11.

[77]Michael A. Grisanti, “OT757 Exegesis of Deuteronomy: The OT Law and the NT Christian: What Do the Two Have to Do with Each Other), 5.

[78]Ibid.,  5.

[79]Daniel J. Hays, “Applying the Old Testament Law Today,” Bibiotheca Sacra 158, no. 629 (2001): 29.

[80]Ibid.,  29.

[81]Michael A. Grisanti, “OT757 Exegesis of Deuteronomy: The OT Law and the NT Christian: What Do the Two Have to Do with Each Other), 6.

[82]Ibid., 6.

[83]Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., “God’s Promise Plan and His Gracious Law.” JETS  33, no. 3 (1990): 289-302.

[84]Ibid., 295.

[85]Ibid., 295.

[86] Ibid., 295.

Bibliography

 

Abbott-Smith, George. A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament. 3d ed. Edinburgh,England: T. & T. Clark, 1950.

Bahnsen, Greg L., Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Douglas J. Moo, Wayne G. Strickland, and Willem A. VanGemeren.  The Law, the Gospel, and the Modern Christian: Five Views. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1993.

Beale, G. K., and D. A. Carson. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2007.

Frame, John M. The Doctrine of the Christian Life. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 2008.

Feinberg, John S., and Paul D. Feinberg. Ethics For a Brave New World. 2nd ed. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2010.

Grisanti, Michael A.  “OT757 Exegesis of Deuteronomy: Exposition Handout 3.”  Unpublished syllabus.  The Master’s Seminary, 2010.

Grudem, Wayne A. 1994. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press.

Hays, Daniel J. “Applying the Old Testament Law Today.” Bibiotheca Sacra 158, no. 629 (2001): 21-35.

Holland, Rick.  “Preaching the Old Testament.”  Unpublished syllabus.  The Master’s Seminary, 2002.

Kaiser Jr., Walter C.  “God’s Promise Plan and His Gracious Law.”  JETS  33, no. 3 (1990), 289-302.

Kaiser, Walter C. Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2003.

Kitchen, John. The Pastoral Epistles For. Woodlands, Texas: Kress Christian Publications, 2009.

MacArthur, John. “Christ and the Law, Part 1.” Sermon, Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California, February 18, 1979. PDF file. http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/2209/christ-and-the-law-part-1 (accessed May 3, 2012).

MacArthur, Jr., John. The Macarthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 1-7. Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1985.

McClain, Alva J. “What is “the Law”?” Bibliotheca Sacra 110, no. 440 (October 1, 1953): 333-341.

Meyer, Jason C., and E. Ray Clendenen. The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology. Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Academic, 2009.

Pentecost, Dwight J. The Words. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1891.

Quarles, Charles L. Sermon on the Mount: Restoring Christ’s Message to the Modern Church. Nashville, Tenn: B & H Academic, 2011.

Reymond, Robert L. A New Systematic Theology of the Christian. 2nd ed. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 1998.

Ross, Philip S. From the Finger of God: The Biblical and Theological Basis For the Threefold Division of the Law. Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2010.

Sandy, Brent D., and Ronald L. Giese Jr. Cracking Old Testament Codes: A Guide to Interpreting Literary Genres of the Old Testament. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman.

Thomas, Robert L., and Stanley N. Gundry. The NIV/NASB Harmony of the Gospels. Peaboy, Massachusetts: Print Press, 2003.

Varner, William C. The Book of James a New Perspective: A Linguistic Commentary Applying Discourse Analysis. Woodlands, TX: Kress Biblical Resources, 2010.

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Matthew vines

In part 1 I pointed out that Gay apologist Matthew Vines presupposes a humanistic consequentialist’s theory of ethics and noted how that contributed to his conclusion that same-sex relationship is morally acceptable.  I have also pointed out the difficulties of Vines’ humanistic consequentialist’s ethics.

Here in part 2 I want to examine more closely Vines’ misplaced role of experience over Scripture concerning the subject of temptation, sin and observing what is good and bad fruit.

Vines In His Own Words

On page 13 Vines gives an account of someone in his church making this charge against him:

‘You’re elevating your experience over Scripture,’ a frustrated member of my church told me over coffee.  ‘I don’t accept that.’

Vines does profess that experience should not take precedence over Scripture on page 15 but then he cites Matthew 7:15-20 (“by their fruit you will recognize them”) and Acts 15:8, 10 (Gentiles having the Spirit) as proof text which supposedly show that

…experience should cause Christians to reconsider long-held interpretations of Scripture.  Today, we are still responsible for testing our belief in light of their outcomes–a duty in line with Jesus’ teaching about trees and their fruits” (Page 15-16).

The role of experience as the basis “to reconsider long-held interpretations of Scripture” becomes apparent when Vines faced the reality of ceaseless ordeal of homosexual desires and temptations.  Vines describe the experience:

But as my dad came to realize, while gay Christians can choose not to act on their sexual desires, they cannot eradicate their sexual desires altogether.  Despite the prayers of countless Christians for God to change their sexual orientation, exclusive same-sex attraction persists for nearly all of them.  The failure of reorientation therapy is why the ‘ex-gay’ ministry Exodus International shut down in 2013.  It places gay Christians who adhere to the traditional biblical interpretation in an agonizing, irresolveable tension.  In order to truly flee from sin as well as the temptation to sin, they must constantly attempt what has proven impossible: to reconstitute themselves so they are no longer sexual beings at all” (Page 18).

Which leads Vines to argue against the “bad fruit” of celibacy for homosexual Christians:

But mandatory celibacy for gay Christians is more than many of them can bear.  It produces bad fruit in many of their lives, and for some, it fuels despair to the point of suicide.  Such outcomes made it difficult for my dad to see how the church’s rejection of same-sex relationships could qualify as a good tree that, according to Jesus, produces good fruit” (Page 19).

The Problem with Vines’ use of experience to argue for Same-Sex relations

  • If Scripture takes precedence over experience as Vine professes, it shouldn’t be experience that “cause Christians to reconsider long-held interpretations of Scripture.”  While experience can make one question one’s interpretation ultimately it should be Scripture itself that makes one reconsider and correct one’s own interpretation of Scripture.  Note also that experiences must also be interpreted by Scripture since Scripture takes precedence over experience.
  • There is a dangerous hubris behind Vines’ notion that “experience should cause Christians to reconsider long-held interpretations of Scripture.”  Don’t forget that Vines is a young man when he reconsidered the long-held interpretation that Scripture prohibits same-sex relationships (he’s still young by the way).  While the church in its history can err, one must be cautious in assuming that one’s finite experience right away should be the basis of rejecting the interpretation of many wise and godly saints who came before us in their interpretation.  Again I am not denying that at times the majority could be wrong–but it must be demonstrated from Scripture itself and not merely one’s young experiences and opinions.
  • I don’t think Vines is correct to say “we are still responsible for testing our belief in light of their outcomes–a duty in line with Jesus’ teaching about trees and their fruits.”
    • Here we see Vines’ discussion about outcomes of our belief is a reflection of his humanistic consequentialist ethics which was refuted in part 1.
    • The goal of a Christian life is to lovingly obey God for His glory and not finding the outcomes of our beliefs per se.
    • Vines also overrates experiences.  I don’t I need to test my beliefs in the sense of finding the outcome of all my beliefs before I know what is right or wrong, true or false.  For instance, I don’t need to stand in the street and find what is the outcome of being hit by a car before I know it is bad.
    • Furthermore, Vines takes Jesus out of context here.  Jesus’ discussion about trees and their fruits is not telling us to test our beliefs according to their outcomes; it is about watching out for false prophets.
  • I think it is dangerous the way Vines argues that same-sex relations should be permitted on the ground that those who experience same-sex attractions “cannot eradicate their sexual desires altogether.”  Can those who are serially adulterous, fornicators, sexual abusers argue for their sins using the same argumentation?  Furthermore, as Christians, just because there will be a struggle with sin to the day we die, does that mean we must reject the concept of sanctification and the need to pursue holiness even as our old nature war inside us?
  • Contra Vines’ claim that homosexual desire is unbearable for a Christian struggling with same sex attraction beyond the experience of someone who is heterosexual, one must remember 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”  Surprisingly Vines quotes this verse but states the very opposite claim in the following sentence.
  • We measure good and bad fruit according to the standard and norms of Scripture.  Even if homosexuality does not produce any other bad fruits, remember the fruit of homosexuality is already bad in of itself because homosexuality is a sin.
  • Concerning the bad fruit of suicide of those who are struggling with their homosexuality, we must remember that its hard for us to see the heart of what’s going in the person who choose to commit suicide.  Here is a clear example of the need to evaluate experiences according to the Bible.  2 Corinthians 7:10 does provide us a window of what kind of sorrow one might have that lead them to suicide: “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.”   In this case we see that those who did commit suicide experienced a worldly sorrow that lead to death instead of a godly sorrow that leads to repentance and no regret.  Thus if one is genuinely born again and practice godly repentance it leads not to the fruit of death and other undesirable ungodliness, but the fruit of the Spirit.

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Matthew vines

Introduction

Matthew Vines has written a book titled God and the Gay Christian in which he argues that “Christians who affirm the full authority of Scripture can also affirm committed, monogamous same-sex relationship” (Page 3).   Al Mohler and the faculty at Southern Seminary has published a book-length response titled God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines, which they have made available as a free e-book.  In their responses Al Mohler, James Hamilton, Denny Burk, Owen Strachan, and Heath Lambert addressed the biblical, theological, historical, and pastoral issues raised by Vines’s best-selling book.  

Matthew Vines’ research for his book was not done in a vaccum.  Throughout the book Vines reveal the precommitments he had before he began his research.  It is important to address the core arguments that Vines has presented (and Christians have already done so such as the faculty in Southern Seminary) but I also think there is an important role in considering Vines’ problematic pre-commitments since these pre-commitments shapes his theological method which then lead to his conclusion that “Scripture affirm same-sex relationships.”

Here in this post I want to address Vines’ pre-commitment concerning his meta-ethics.  Specifically I want to argue that Vines holds on to a humanistic consequentialist view of ethics that is seriously deficient.

Vines In His Own Words

Unlike other gay theology literature Vines professes to have a high view of the Scriptures:

In my view, the Bible can’t be reduced to a collection of great literature, stories, and poetry  It’s God’s written revelation to humanity, as the accounts of Jesus’s life and ministry in the Gospel make clearer to me than anything else.  Jesus said that ‘Scripture cannot be set aside’ (John 10:35), and since childhood, I’ve made discerning God’s will through prayerful study of Scripture a priority” (Page 11).

But when it comes to his view of the foundation of ethics, even God’s revealed rules within Scripture is not as highly regarded by Vines as much as his ethical theory.  In fact, the Bible’s ethical norm is subject to the scrutiny of the higher court of his meta-ethics and we see that with how he approached the Bible’s condemnation of same-sex relationship on page 12 :

I had a second reason for losing confidence in the belief that same-sex relationship are sinful: it no longer made sense to me.

My mom taught her Sunday school students that sin was ‘missing the mark’ of God’s will for our lives. But while the Bible helps us understand God’s will, neither my parents nor my church referred only to the Bible when I asked questions about morality.  They also explained why something was right or wrong, and why the Bible said what it did.  By understanding the reasons behind Scripture’s teachings, I could apply its principles to all circumstances in my life, including those it didn’t directly addressed.

But as I became more aware of same-sex relationships, I couldn’t understand why they were supposed to be sinful, or why the Bible apparently condemned them.  With most sins, it wasn’t hard to pinpoint the damage they cause.  Adultery violates a commitment to your spouse.  Lust objectifies others.  Gossip degrades people.  But committed same-sex relationships didn’t fit this pattern.  Not only were they not harmful to anyone, they were characterized by positive motives and traits instead, like faithfulness, commitment, mutual love, and self-sacrifice.  What other sin look like that?”

It is important to keep in mind that according to the previous page before this block quote (page 11) Vines described how his ethical outlook led to his struggle with the case against same-sex relations before he came out as gay and before he started researching for his book.  His evaluation of Scripture according to his ethical theory fundamentally tipped the scale of his research towards the direction that same sex relationship ought not to be condemned.  Seeing how important his ethical theory is, we should analyze more closely his ethical theory as it is expressed above.

Vines’ Ethical theory Humanistic and Consequentialist

Is Vines’ Ethical theory Humanistic?

Vines’ ethical theory is certainly humanistic, that is, it is man-centered.  As seen in the above quote, Vines’ rejection of traditional view on same sex relationship is because “it no longer made sense to me.”  There is a sense in which Biblical Christianity will not be fully grasped by finite man; we expect some aspect of mystery with true Christian doctrines if it is genuinely from the Word of God.  Ultimately what determines truth for the God-centered Christian is not how much it “makes sense to me” (that is, conforming to one’s previous pattern of thought) but whether or not the doctrines are genuinely taught in Scripture even if one might have unanswered questions.

A man-centered or humanistic theological approach on the other hand is very different.  It would have man as the final arbitration of what is right and wrong and according to what makes “sense to me.”  The fundamental question being asked is not whether the teaching is in the Bible; even if there is a teaching from the Bible the crucial question is whether it makes “sense to me.”  Therefore what one cannot make sense of according to one’s finite mind and presuppositions ought to be rejected.

The man-centered nature of Vines’ ethical system is further evidenced above when Vines talked about “reasons behind Scripture’s teachings.”  Of course there are times one can see that there are good reasons for Scripture’s moral teaching.  However Vines goes further when he explains the pattern of his mother and church that it’s not enough to be satisfied with going “only to the Bible when I asked questions about morality.”  Vines goes on to say “They also explained why something was right or wrong, and why the Bible said what it did” with the implication that one ought to know why the Bible said what it said.   So when one doesn’t know the reason behind the Bible’s command and prohibition Vines then find that there are then good “reason for losing confidence” in that belief as it was with the case of prohibiting same-sex relationship: “I couldn’t understand why they were supposed to be sinful, or why the Bible apparently condemned them.”

Is Vines’ Ethical theory Consequentialist?

Vines’ ethical theory is not only humanistic, it is a humanistic consequentialism.  That is, for Vines knowing the consequences of one’s conduct are the ultimate basis for any judgment about the rightness or wrongness of that conduct.  Vines believed that something is wrong and sinful only when it causes damage.  So if it doesn’t cause any damages that a human being can know of, it is not sinful.  Vines presupposes this when he said “With most sins, it wasn’t hard to pinpoint the damage they cause.”  He followed this with some examples and then concluded “But committed same-sex relationships didn’t fit this pattern.”

The Problem with Vines’ Ethical Theory

Here is my response:

  • Vines stresses more than once in the book that he has a high view of God’s Word like any other Evangelical including those not affirming of Same-sex relationships.  If he does believes in a high view of Scripture then he must have his humanistic ethical consequentialism be subject to the scrutiny of God’s Word rather than vice versa as he has done.
  • If Vines operate with the theological method that a proposition must be rejected when “it no longer made sense to me” what would remain of his Christianity?
    • Our study of every largely-accepted true doctrine in the Bible will always run into some aspect of mystery in which we don’t have an answer for.  Does that mean we must reject every Christian doctrines?
    • For instance, 1 Timothy 3:16 admits there is mystery of godliness does that mean that one should reject godliness?
  • While at times Scripture does discuss how certain sinful behavior causes damages to oneself and others, Vines have become reductionistic to think this is the only criteria of measuring whether something is right and wrong.
    • Nowhere in Scripture does the Bible say that what is sinful is only measured by whether something causes damages to others.
    • If consequences is the only way to measure what’s right and wrong in God’s eyes then it is surprising that Scripture doesn’t always give a cause-and-effect explanation for why everything that is a sin is wrong.
    • Scripture doesn’t exclusively present a purpose or result driven measure of right and wrong conduct.  Scripture’s discussion of ethics also acknowledges the deontological aspect of ethics (good acts include those as a proper response to duty for the sake of the duty even against one’s own and others well being) and existential aspect of ethics (focus on the internal character of a person that determines what is good).  A good resource on this is John Frame’s discussion of Triperspectivalism in his Doctrine of the Christian Life.
  • Surprisingly Vines himself is inconsistent with his belief that damages to oneself or others is the only basis to measure right and wrong when it comes to his view on Self-sacrifice.
    • Self-sacrifice (putting duty first before one’s well being) is a dentological virtue that goes against the grain that damages to a person per se is sinful.  According to Vines ethical system, self-sacrifice ought to be a sin.
    • We expect Vines to be against self-sacrifice and yet in the block quote above Vines listed “self-sacrifice” among the virtues of those in committed same-sex relationships.
    • If Vines see self-sacrifice as a virtue then it is not merely something that he sees is personally good for himself alone but this is a character trait that is good for others to have.  Thus by believing its a virtue Vines invite others to follow one’s duty even if it is “damaging” to oneself, an act that involves “damaging” others.
  • For the sake of the argument even if there is always a consequentialist reason behind all of God’s prohibition and command that doesn’t mean as Bible believing Christians one can disregard these rules when it is “hard to pinpoint the damage they cause.”
    • In all things, don’t forget we are finite and God is infinite!
    • The Lesson from the Garden of Eden
      • Remember: “God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” (Genesis 3:3b)
      • Adam and Eve might not be able to pinpoint exactly the damage disobedience to this might cause yet that doesn’t mean they should disobey God’s Law!
      • Furthermore, people today might still not know or discern the reasons why that tree was in the Garden in the first place but that doesn’t mean Adam and Eve or us can disobey God.
    • An illustration: A toddler might find it hard to pinpoint the damage that disobeying his father’s prohibition not to run on the streets might cause.  But that doesn’t mean it is right nor rational for the toddler to disobey his loving father’s prohibition!
      • This illustration is fitting for our context given that we are like the toddler in our finite knowledge compared to God’s vastly superior wisdom and knowledge.
  • Vines believe same-sex relationship is “not harmful to anyone” but fail to consider God in his belief that same-sex relationship is not harmful.
    • First, it is negatively against God.
      • Remember Vines’ examples of the damages of sins: “Adultery violates a commitment to your spouse.  Lust objectifies others.  Gossip degrades people.”
      • If violating a commitment, objectifying others and degrading a person is bad because it is “harmful to others,” what are those advocating same-sex relationships doing when they are violating God’s prohibition of same-sex relationship,  degrading God as less than God in their disobedience to His Divine prohibitions and objectifying God as something less than God when they go against His Word?
    • Secondly, it is negative against the participants of same-sex relationships.
      • Remember the way of a Sinner is hard!
      • 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 reveal the eternal consequences for such sinners: “Or 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[a]effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
  • Vines believe same-sex relationship is “not harmful to anyone” but fail to consider studies considering the negative impact of same-sex relationships
    • Time doesn’t allow me to go into more details as it’s worth being another message.
    • Remember, we are not dependent upon the statistics to make our case in light of all our discussion above concerning consequentialists ethics.

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Blown away argument

Here are the links on Presuppositional apologetics gathered from June 22nd, 2015 to June 30th, 2015.

1.) Echo Zoe Interview20 Ways to Answer the Fool

2.) Compiling the Massive Proof and Powerful Evidence that God Exists pt. 1

3.) 

4.) Apologetics Ghetto

5.) Can the Ethiopian Change His Skin or a Leopard His Spots? How Postmodernity Has Led to a Culture of Hypocrisy

 

Missed the last round up?  Check out the re-blogged post from a friend

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