Two weeks ago, we looked at the 3 worst answers Christians offer on the same-sex question that skeptics and cynics are asking. See this Bill Maher clip for an example (warning: language is offensive).
The response that most Christians offer is often weak and nonsensical at best. Make no mistake, Satan is fully aware that his frontal assault against genuine Christianity must zero in on the legitimacy of the Word of God. It’s a trick he learned in Eden and has been employing it successfully ever since. We must be ready to answer the skeptic’s questions.
Those Weird Old Testament Laws
The Old Testament can seem really strange to the modern reader. For example, why does God tell Moses to codify this law: “Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material”? Just as importantly, why don’t Christians today uphold that law by boycotting cotton-polyester blends? Are we picking and choosing from a Bible that is irrelevant for the 21st century person?
Those Horrible Old Testament Laws
What about those Old Testament laws which demand that adulterers and homosexuals be stoned to death? Does God really think it’s a good thing to take large rocks and hurl them at the skulls of men and women who have sinned sexually? Just as importantly, why don’t Christians today honor that law by vocally advocating for the death penalty for adulterers and homosexuals? The question must be asked. Are we picking and choosing from an outdated religious text that has no place in the modern world?
The 3 Kinds of Laws
The questions being raised by skeptics in the 21st century have already been answered by saints in the 17th century. In 1646, the Westminster confession of faith was catechized. In its pages is a brief outline of the 3 kinds of laws that we find in the Bible; ceremonial law, civil law, and moral law. They provide the necessary framework for understanding the biblical laws we find so strange.
1 – Ceremonial Laws
Those weird old testament laws about clothing types and blood rituals fall into the category of ceremonial laws. These laws were given to God’s holy people Israel as a physical representation of a very real spiritual separation that must define the hearts of God’s people as distinguished from the surrounding idolatrous nations. What are we to think of these laws now? The Westminster Confession rightly states, “all ceremonial laws are now abrogated under the New Testament.” The ceremonial laws were completed in Christ and therefore repealed for believers. As Christians, we don’t look to an ornately-clothed priest and a bloody goat to symbolize our holiness. We look to the cross where a naked carpenter became a bloody lamb to provide the final sacrifice that forever sealed our holy position before God.
2 – Civil Laws
Those horrifying Old Testament laws about stoning adulterers and homosexuals tell us something very important and it has nothing to do with modern debates over capital punishment. It tells us that God took seriously any sign of rebellion among his people in the nation-state of Israel. For this reason, he instituted very strict civil laws (aka judicial laws) to deter any Jew from taking lightly the commands of God. As strange as it sounds, these harsh punishments were evidence of God’s grace as he sought to shepherd the wandering hearts of the Jewish people. Modern Christians do not advocate for such civil laws because Christ has now instituted his church as the means to bless the world by carrying the gospel message. We aren’t a united country ruled by prophets and judges. We are a united people representing every tribe and nation. While we actively advocate for just laws in our unique countries, we are not seeking to resurrect Old Testament laws that were specifically designed for God’s chosen people Israel.
3 – Moral Laws
That brings us to the most important of these laws, the moral law. The ten commandments are the best example of this kind of law. They get at the very core of the character of God and how we are to relate to Him. In America, sexual revolutionaries have come to view the moral law of God as a strait jacket, preventing them from embracing their true sexual identity. But David delighted in the moral law because he saw it is God’s gracious means to redirect his own sin-darkened heart in the way that is best for him. Like tracks meant to guide the path of a locomotive, the law of God was graciously given to guide our hearts to evade the derailing and destructive effects of sin.
The Slavery Question
For a great discussion about slavery in the Bible, see this message from David Platt.