Christians aren’t inconsistent with Old Testament Law

One of the things that I have come across the most in conversations about crossdressing or homosexuality (and many other controversial issues), is the charge that Christians just pick and choose what they want to follow from the Bible.  Non-Christians (and even some confused Christians) claim that it would be ridiculous to follow the laws of the Old Testament.  They see that Christians do not follow all the commands in the Bible literally, and so they say we are inconsistent.  They say we are just picking and choosing what laws we want to follow and what ones we want to ignore.  And so of course we follow the ones we want to follow and condemn others who aren’t following what we want.  Their conclusion is that Christianity as a whole is ridiculous.  It is foolish to believe the Bible is true and a guide for life, because they think they see even Christians not really believing that or following that.   Or some people, instead of rejecting the Bible and the Christian faith completely, they just follow the teachings of the New Testament, or possibly just the words of Jesus in the Gospels, or possibly just the words of Jesus they think are recorded authentically.   The Old Testament is seen as archaic and primitive and offensive.

This whole issue comes to a head with passages like Deuteronomy 22:5 (my post on that verse here).  Even though the Bible says that dressing in the clothes of the opposite gender is detestable to God, the claim is that we can ignore this verse, just like Christians ignore plenty of other Old Testament laws.

But we cannot just arbitrarily pick and choose what to follow in the Bible.  We cannot be inconsistent.  And I believe most Christians are not in fact being inconsistent.  It’s about knowing how to interpret the Bible correctly (see my post here).  But for those of you who don’t want to read my really long posts on biblical interpretation and on Deuteronomy 22:5, then read this great article by Tim Keller – here.

It’s called “Old Testament Law and the charge of inconsistency.”  It’s a short essay and in simple terms he explains why we as Christians seem to be picking and choosing, but what we are in fact actually doing.  He explains why our application of the Old Testament makes sense in light of what Jesus did for us.  This explains why we can say certain things like adultery and homosexuality and theft are still sinful things for us to do today (and I would include crossdressing), and things like eating shellfish are not sinful things for us to do.

So back to crossdressing.  I still contend, as you can read in my post, that Deut. 22:5 is a moral law upholding the distinctions between the sexes.   I think this distinction between the sexes is clearly upheld in the New Testament, (especially in 1 Corinthians 11 which I am currently working on a long post about).   Crossdressing is a moral action and something that God thinks is detestable (abomination in some translations).   It wasn’t just a ceremonial law.  God didn’t say it was an abomination to eat shellfish.

The point of this post is to give you a simplified resource since my posts on Deut. 22:5 and interpreting the Bible are so long.  Read Tim Keller’s essay if you are still confused.  I think it will be very helpful to you and will help you to see why I am not inconsistent in saying 22:5 is a moral law, even though many of the other laws in that chapter are ceremonial or civil laws.

Keller talks about how most of the moral commands in the Old Testament are reaffirmed somewhere in the New Testament.  I agree that “most” are, but not all.  I think mainly the 10 commandments, as a summary of the moral law, are reaffirmed in the New Testament.  But I don’t think every single sin of commission or omission mentioned in the Old Testament is specifically reaffirmed in the New Testament.  The New Testament is not an encyclopedic list of every possible sin.  Jesus and all the other NT authors affirmed the upholding of all the moral laws of the Old Testament.  This means that moral laws in the OT that are not specifically mentioned in the NT are still commands for us.  So for example, if Deut. 22:5 is the only verse in the Bible condemning crossdressing, it would be enough for me to still know it is wrong for us today.  But as it happens, I think other passages in the New Testament do teach that crossdressing is wrong and will write on them at later times.

 

Advertisements

8 comments on “Christians aren’t inconsistent with Old Testament Law

  1. Ralph says:

    Excellent points, Thorin, and I agree completely with the original article. Your comments above are, I think, the heart of where you and I diverge on the subject. Under what criteria do you classify some instructions as moral law and some not? The danger here is that you fall into the same trap as selectively choosing which laws to uphold, by selectively choosing which ones are moral law.

    From my understanding, Christ summed up moral law as “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your strength, and all your soul” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” You could, of course, argue that violating 22:5 demonstrates a failure to love God, but then of course you’re right back to the need to reconcile why (for example) eating shellfish or going fishing after Church or taking out the trash on Sunday are not also examples of failure to love God.

    I look forward to your followup on NT passages that condemn crossdressing. I don’t recall anything like that!

    Like

  2. thorin25 says:

    Good questions Ralph. It certainly can get complicated. Much of the arguments for deciphering which category a law goes to are biblical ones, about studying the verse, historical context, mentioning in rest of scripture and in NT, etc. Some of the argument would include church tradition and what people have said in the past about certain laws. For Deut. 22:5 I think the fact that it is called an abomination clearly sets it apart as a moral law from the other laws around it.

    Like

  3. Vivienne says:

    Argh. I am sure I am going to regret posting here! I think I am with Ralph. My view is this: the Bible isn’t a book; it’s a library. It hasn’t been written by one person, but dozens, perhaps hundreds of people, and the signs of layers of editorial revision are discernible in even the most ancient of texts. In other words, people have been tweaking and altering the text since forever. Not everyone even agrees on which texts belong in the Bible (apocrypha, etc), and there are many non-biblical writings which might well have made it into the Bible but for one reason or another didn’t. There are also legends and traditions which have grown up alongside the Biblical accounts, so that we “know” the thieves crucified beside Jesus were Dismas and Gestas, and we “know” that the wife of Pilate was Claudia Procula, even though the Bible doesn’t name them. We see the Bible through translations, interpretations, and some of the Bible is so impenetrable that nobody now knows what the meaning was (Urim and Thummim?)
    The Bible was written many centuries ago, and therefore has nothing meaningful to say– literally, nothing whatever– about artificial insemination, physician assisted suicide, social media, traffic jams, insurance fraud, phone sex, and so on and so on. On the other hand, much of what the Bible talks about (slavery, leprosy, ancient Jewish dietary and purity laws) is completely obsolete and meaningless. So people turn to interpretation to decide for themselves what somebody writing about darnel and wheat and fishing and oxen and motes and beams can actually be saying about modern life.
    The Bible is an extraordinary document. It contains much that is wise and useful and insighful and powerful. Much of the human condition hasn’t changed, and metaphors like the prodigal son are still resonant. But to insist that every word, every phrase of the Bible, is to be taken literally is fatuous, superficial, and intellectually indefensible. It’s not “complicated”, as you say. On the contrary: it’s simple!
    And let me be absolutely clear, that the Bible says nothing of relevance about crossdressing. Deut 22:5 is the only place where it is even mentioned, and the whole paragraph says “don’t plant anything else in your vineyard”, “don’t wear a garment of woolen and linen fibre” and “make sure you have four tassels in the corners of your blanket”. I must say, I haven’t got a vineyard, or tassels on my blanket, but I daily wear clothes made of mixtures of fibres the OT writers could never envisage, and not one whit of that matters to me in the least. Why should that one phrase be any different? One phrase amid 750,000 words? It’s not exactly up there in importance, is it?

    Like

  4. thorin25 says:

    Hi Vivienne. First of all, I don’t want you to be afraid to post on my blog. Surely, as you knew when writing, I strongly disagree with most of what you said in this comment. But that doesn’t mean you need to regret posting (though of course I wouldn’t want to argue certain points endlessly). But your posting doesn’t mean I’m going to get upset. So have no fears. I enjoy dialoguing with you even when we disagree. 🙂

    Much of what you say in your first paragraph, I agree with. The Bible is complicated. There have been edits. There are things we don’t understand. There were multiple authors. And so on. But Christians still come back and say that the Bible is inspired by God in spite of all that. That what was written was ultimately what God wanted to be written, and that while the book is 100% the word of men, many men, it is also 100% the word of God. So we take it to be authoritative truth for the meaning of life, what we know about God, and for how to live each of our own lives.

    This Christian view of the Bible seems absurd to many people today. It almost seems foolish. But we believe that God exists, and that he has made himself known, and the main way he has made himself known was through Jesus Christ, and the inspired Scriptures which testify about him. As the Tim Keller article states, once one interprets the entire Bible through the lens of Jesus Christ, it does make sense. There are still interpretive difficulties at times, but largely it is clear and easy to understand and all of it is ultimately about Christ. And through the lens of what Jesus has done for us, that is why we obey some biblical commands directly and some we do not. To an outsider it might appear that Christians are just picking and choosing what commands to follow, but that is not the case in the least.

    About interpreting the Bible “literally” which you mentioned. I know of zero Christians who actually do so. The Christians who claim to interpret all the Bible “literally” usually are confused in their terminology and what they mean. The real goal is to interpret the Bible correctly according to how it is supposed to be interpreted. Which means we should not treat symbolic passages literally, and we should not treat literal passages symbolically. But literal versus symbolic is just one of many many rules about correct interpretation which I have a whole post on.

    Here is a short article I came across recently which is about how Christians actually don’t interpret the Bible literally, but we should appreciate the various genres it was written in – law, gospel, prophecy, letter, poetry, etc. http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/10/16/fact-checker-do-faithful-christians-take-the-bible-literally/

    Like

  5. Ralph says:

    Very little to add to what Thorin said, Vivienne — he is absolutely the most gracious person on the planet to disagree with, and always provides a sensible counterpoint to my arguments even when we are in complete disagreement.

    Just one particular element from your list of things the Bible doesn’t speak on jumps out at me, and that was phone sex. Obviously it doesn’t use those exact words, but Jesus warned that even lusting after another woman in your heart is as much a sin as physically carrying out an act of adultery. His point, taken to a broader scope, is that you shouldn’t look at the letter of the law but the spirit of the law; your intent is what matters to God. Likewise insurance fraud is condemned under the broader scope of fraud in general — in fact, it’s worth noting that “swindlers” are included right next to homosexuals in the list of people who will not inherit the Kingdom of God in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. Not sure if traffic jams in and of themselves are relevant to clean living, but how we react to them are — Jesus told us many times to repay evil with good, turn the other cheek, etc.

    For the rest of your examples (artificial insemination, assisted suicide, etc.) — I got nothin’ 😛

    Getting back on topic more or less… since you found yourself agreeing with me when I contradicted Thorin, let me jump to his side of the fence and tell you where we DO agree. For most crossdressers, that act is a consuming addiction that wreaks havoc on their personal relationships, their finances, their priorities, and their sex lives. All too often, the compulsion to dress leads men to lie to their wives, steal (it pains me every time I read yet another news article about a man who was caught stealing panties from a department store or even a neighbor), overspend to feed the addiction (I read about these guys boasting that they have literally hundreds of pairs of shoes or panties or whatever and I’m speechless)… I read blog posts from men who have expressed joy at divorce, or in one especially disturbing case, the death of his wife because it freed them up to spend more time dressing. Then there are the ones who say they are unable to get a job because they can’t find anyplace that will accept them dressing however they want. And for all the claims that “nearly all” (people throw around made-up statistics between 90 and 99%) crossdressers are exclusively heterosexual, what I find on the numerous crossdressing forums and blogs I follow is that these guys often separate their “femme” self from their male self, and each is heterosexual — when he’s a guy, he’s only interested in sex with women but when he’s a “gurl” (whatever THAT means) “she” would rather be with a man. Men who can’t achieve orgasm in sexual intercourse with a woman, but climax repeatedly just by wearing panties. You get the idea… I agree totally with Thorin that there are so many ways crossdressing can suck you in and destroy your life, it’s best to try to quit altogether.

    Really the only place we diverge is on the question of whether the act of wearing “that which pertaineth to a woman” is in and of itself wrong; I maintain that it is possible to simply wear dresses and skirts for comfort without the sexual baggage and deceit and overindulgence that typically accompanies crossdressing, and he points out Deuteronomy 22:5 — and even there, I’m not *completely* sure he’s wrong..For himself, he’s certainly not wrong. As Paul pointed out, just because my relationship with God allows me to eat meat or drink wine doesn’t mean his does, and for me to try to convince him it’s OK places me as an obstacle — a stumbling block — between him and his relationship with Christ. And THAT would be the worst sin of all.

    Like

  6. thorin25 says:

    Ralph, I am humbled by your statement at the beginning of your comment about me. You sure know how to give good encouragement! I’d have to add that you are just as gracious in disagreement as I am, if not more so.

    Like

  7. Vivienne says:

    Gentlemen, I want to say I admire you both.
    The reason I feared posting was in potentially causing hurt or offence. That’s something I really don’t want to do. I value both your perspectives in very many ways, although clearly I don’t share every viewpoint with you.
    Thorin, the problem with interpreting the Bible is that (say) you and I can look at exactly the same passage and disagree on its interpretation. For example, the parable of the Prodigal Son is about repentance and forgiveness: no matter how bad it gets, God will always forgive you. But from another perspective (that of the sensible brother), things are not so rosy. The parable suggests that what you should really do is squander a load of money on debauchery, then come home, whereupon the fatted calf will immediately be spit-roasted with a little barbeque sauce. The alternative is to slave away working on your father’s estate while your waster of a brother is off having fun. Your dad won’t let you have a party, but the minute that little bastard comes home, the wine corks start popping. Which brother would you rather be? And who is to say which interpretation is the right one?
    I am aware of situations where parents would rather let their child bleed to death than accept a blood transfusion, because an over-literal interpretation of some passages in the Bible (which pertain to not eating the blood of slaughtered animals) tells them they will be rendered unclean if they accept a donation of blood, not from a dead cow but a living, healthy, non-remunerated human volunteer. That’s the sort of literalism which really scares me. What sort of God would rather let children bleed to death, when the technology to save them is available, inexpensive, reliable, and safe? But there are people who believe that they are following God’s will by refusing blood products. And who is to say they are wrong? The argument “God wouldn’t have given us blood transfusion if he hadn’t intended us to use it” doesn’t wash (and reminds me of a similar argument: “if God is so offended by that loose bit of skin on the end of the penis, why are men born with it in the first place?” But try arguing that to two billion or so people who insist it be chopped off, or else).
    Ralph, you are right in much of what you say, and we have much common ground. As I said above, human nature hasn’t changed much. I think there are many subtleties of human behaviour which were not conceived in the Bible, but all the basics (prostitution, greed, gluttony, exploitation, cruelty) are all in there in one form or another.
    You are right that crossdressing seems like an addiction for some men. I flatter myself that that isn’t true for me: I like to think I am in charge of the crossdressing, not the other way around, but I know of all the examples that you describe, and they trouble me deeply. You’re also right in other ways: if crossdressers are all so “straight”, why does every crossdressing website seem to contain images and stories to the contrary? (That’s one of the reasons why I started my own blog)
    I genuinely think all three of our moral compasses point in a similar direction. It’s just that when calibration is required, I don’t look towards the Bible for it.
    I enjoy our conversations very much. Best wishes to all.
    Vivienne.

    Like

  8. thorin25 says:

    Vivienne, I suggest the really really great book “Prodigal God” about the parable of the prodigal son you mentioned. It’s a super short book and life changing.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s