The following is an informal approach at a lengthy subject that is addressing a shotgun attempt of questions posted in a Facebook thread on my profile. I have tagged those who posted on the original thread. The subject dealt with in this response is an actual digression of the original thread posting. The questions will not be repeated in their entirety. It is stated in the following informal arrangement in order to serve as a ‘hands-on’ type of instructional to demonstrate the application of a classical style, biblical apologetic. It is not meant to carry any derogatory tone and does not seek to demean; this is being stated due to our current cultural climate being one of ‘constantly offended’ whenever one is disagreed with. I respect and appreciate the opinions and well supported arguments presented. Please forgive the grammatical typos and misspellings as I won’t proof read and polish.
In the LORD I take refuge;
How can you say to my soul, “Flee as a bird to your mountain;
For, behold, the wicked bend the bow,
They make ready their arrow upon the string
To shoot in darkness at the upright in heart. If the foundations are destroyed,
What can the righteous do?” The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD’S throne is in heaven;
His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men.
The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked,
And the one who loves violence His soul hates.
Upon the wicked He will rain snares;
Fire and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup.
For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness;
The upright will behold His face.
The argument in question is not untypical of our culture – even amongst those who declare themselves to be Christians, in the sense of following Jesus Christ, primarily isolated to a selection of passages in the classical canon of Scripture. The assertion is against the notion of a particular imperative (command) given in the ancient Scriptures because it is contextually aligned with other imperatives which are not enforced in the contemporary church. Therefore, the question arrives at the conclusion of dismissing the entirety of said imperative, as it does not agree with a personal ethos (which is attributed to Jesus Christ, which will be dealt with later in this answer).
Moreover, please note the attempt of responsibility shift that often sets Christians aback when they are confronted with a barrage of antagonistic questions concerning the Scriptures of the basis of their faith. In other words, many questions that are directed in such exchanges leave the recipient bewildered because they are unsure of where to begin. Always start by making sure that the person questioning has satisfied the logic of their assertion. If they have not, you will find yourself frustrated at attempting to answer logically that which is illogical in premise – ‘swinging at shadow ghosts on the wall’ if you will.
We have no authority in ourselves. Authority rests in the Word of God, living and active, the double-edged sword of truth, wielded by the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 4:12;.
However, the argument does not divorce itself from other issues, such as rape, murder, etc. The particular context that is quoted from (Leviticus 19:19) also commands against keeping the Sabbath, no idolatry, properly handling of sacrifices, stealing, dealing falsely, lying, searing falsely by the name of the LORD, withholding a man’s earnings, putting a stumbling block before a blind man, oppressing one’s neighbor or robbing him, acting in injustice, favoritism, slander, threatening the life of a neighbor, hating your fellow countryman, responsibility to reprove, vengeance, love as the LORD, keep the Law of the LORD, sex with a slave of another man, harvesting, eating blood, the cutting of hair, cuts and tattoos on the body, making your daughter a prostitute, respecting the sanctuary, using spiritists, respecting the elderly, treating foreigners decently, and fair business practices. Moreover, if one were to include the rest of this single scroll, murder, rape, and certain prohibitions for times of sex (saving you from the sordid details), and a host of many other situations are also addressed.
And to think – that’s not even including the rest of the Torah.
Therefore, before we can even get started on addressing the assertion, the assertion falls apart, unless one is willing to denounce the entirety of all the imperatives. But this is usually not the case when dealing with antagonists to the Scriptures. Typically, the contender demands a defense of the application of a passage that can be found in a particular text as such, without defending their own platform which the footing has been removed ironically by their own argument.
Culturally, this is becoming more and more commonplace. Take for example the scene out of the series, ‘The West Wing’. President Bartlett is shown to thoroughly trounce a Dr. Jacobs who apparently supports a biblical notion that homosexuality is unbiblical. A simple web search for the YouTube clip carries a mob of cheerers that this ‘Bible thumping bigot’ is ‘shown how it really is’, with shouts of ‘yeah, look at how stupid they are…..’, etc, etc. Just watching the scene strikes fear in the hearts of many Christians because they find themselves unsure of how they would respond to such an attack. And let me say in brevity – I hold church leadership responsible for not making a healthy dose of apologetics a primary concern among their people. It is clearly evident that vast majority of ‘Christians’ today cannot hold a cup of water against the conniving arguments set against the Word. Is it any wonder why secular education is so successful in rampantly destroying the faith of our children?
At the risk of intrusion, I must also state, that propping one’s argument in front of a cheering crowd of those who think just as one does, gives a false sense of encouragement, approval, and pride. Just as the apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit writes to the church in Corinth, “For we are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.” We must seek the approval of God, not individuals.
As I address this issue, I am going to attempt to do so in an easily understandable manner – while acknowledging the following: 1) In a proper apologetic, one should never allow a false set rules or order to be dictated to follow; 2) Though one may think this is entirely too long-winded, due to the nature of the assertion, the answer is actually very deep and broad, but for brevity’s sake, I will only be addressing the ‘surface’; 3) My answer will be in the form of demonstration of the application of a Christian (classical) apologetic. This form stems back to the early church fathers, Aquinas, and is witnessed in contemporary apologists such as Geisler and Zacharias.
The General Rules of All Philosophy: Apologist throughout the centuries have parsed and needled the support and framework of arguments. This is a dramatic understatement to degree of testing that these philosophical views have endured. The following, with slight variations depending on the school of thought, leads to the following 3 stages of philosophy that one should utilize (some add a fourth, but for simplicity, I will leave at 3). If any of these three levels are absent and are not satisfied in this particular order, the philosophy fails.
Stage 1 – Logic. This is where we state why we believe in what we believe. The laws of logic are indisputable and must be applied to our reality. For example, the statement of an absence of absolute truth is illogical because the statement in itself cannot be ‘absolutely true’. Likewise, to state that there is no meaning is to say the statement is meaningless within itself. In other words, it would just be expelled air. Logic must be satisfied first and foremost.
Stage 2 – How is the philosophy demonstrated in the existential / feelings. Initially, this may sound confusing, yet it is essentially simple. It is the ‘why we live the way we live’. The philosophy of a person/persons/culture is reflected in the way they demonstrate themselves in the arts, literature, music, etc. This is probably one of the most powerful issues we currently face in our culture because so many individuals find their feelings conflicting with the logic of their faith. In fact, even those who do not necessarily profess a faith find themselves struggling with this dilemma. This is because they have allowed their philosophy to be dictated to them at this stage first without having passed the first stage of logic. When we allow this ‘cart’ to become our ‘horse’, then our passions, which branches directly to our self-centeredness, begins to drive us and we become slaves to what we want, as opposed to what is right. Our stage 1 must trump our stage 2 if we are to survive our philosophy.
I remember a song years ago by Rupert Holmes called ‘Escape’ (better known as the ‘Pina Colada’ song). The story in the song is about a man being bored in relationship with his ‘lady’. He whimsically decides to put an ad in the personal section of the newspaper looking for an adventure in romance – thus, the escape. The short version is, that he receives a response from a woman sets a blind date meeting. Upon the woman’s arrival, he is surprised to find out that the responder is none other than his ‘own lady’. And they go off on the adventurous ‘escape’ they had both planned to spend with other strangers. The song topped the charts and is still played with much affection across the airways today. Now, I dare say that most listeners would not appreciate their significant other planning a rendezvous with a single’s ad stranger. Yet, if this form of ‘art’ expression were allowed to drive our philosophy, we would be in for a long line of destructive relationships, and a likely trip to the STD clinic. Note the artistic expression in centuries past and the concentration on biblical histories in comparison to the blatant vulgarity today. The reason for the shattered morality and ethos in our land is because we have largely allowed stage 2 to be our stage 1.
Stage 3 – Application - or what I call ‘the great so-what’. This is the place where we not only apply the principle to our lives, but find footing that validates the application for others to live by as well. It is the ‘why we authorize for others the way we do’ part. In day-to-day living, we attempt to determine what is and is not acceptable. In many cases, we instruct, and legislate to others these things as well. The simplest example is the question, “Do you believe (fill in the blank) is ok? If we have not worked through the first two tests (stages) before entering this, our applications will contradict us at every corner.
Therefore – we must base our arguments on stage 1; demonstrate our feelings on stage 2; and apply our philosophy at stage 3. As Dr. Ravi Zacharias states, “From truth to experience to prescription. If either the theist or atheist violate this procedure, he or she is not dealing with reality, but is creating one of his or her own.” Far greater than my line of thought is of C. S. Lewis in ‘Mere Christianity’, when he speaks of combat between our faith and reason (stage 1) and emotion and imagination (stage 2). He illustrates that while lying on a surgeon’s table, he well knows in his logic that anesthesia does not suffocate, and therefore has faith that is based on prior logical knowledge that it will not kill him. Yet, on the table, his emotions and imagination can take hold of and cause him to panic. If he does not control his emotions (stage 2) with his faith and reason (stage 1), he will crumble under the duress. It is my assessment that many of the arguments against Scripture, including this particular issue, is due to one leaping to stage 2 for the definition of their ethos, and attempting to bend their stage 1 to conformity. When we have developed relationships and care for others who are in a direct affront to God’s will (as He has given us, both in the Word and the natural revelation – i.e. Romans 1), if not checked, we can easily find ourselves scrambling to find a doctrine that fits our feelings, thus putting stage 2 before stage 1. It is not that having these feelings are inappropriate. In fact, they are of a Christ-like quality. However, if we truly love those living against the Scriptures, we will not attempt to justify their sin. Rather, we will direct them towards His will because we do truly care in the eternal sense. This of course is the great risk. We may be rejected, labeled as bigots and have derogatory slogans such as ‘Hatin’ with Jesus’ plastered above our heads. Nevertheless, a true sense of agape love will seek to rescue the person, not justify their destruction.
Concerning the argument of the dating and fallibility of recording, selection, and translation of the Scriptures: In the canon of Scripture we hold before us today, we have 66 books written 40 authors over the approximate span of 1,500 years. The writers encompass the genres of literature including (but not limited to) historical, wisdom (sayings), poetry, narrative, prophetic, philosophical, theological, and apocalyptic. They address the pragmatic as well as the existential. They address the answers to the great questions of origin, purpose, and need of mankind. They give direction for daily and eternal living by offering workable steps toward practical solutions. In all of these writings, there is an agreeable and common arrow that runs throughout the entirety of the Scriptures that pulls, points, and ends in the manifestation of God to us in Jesus Christ. If the Bible were to systematically make contradictory and false historical and philosophical statements throughout the writings, there would be a substantial case for one to reject its validity. Therefore, it is not I that states the Word to be infallible. I simply agree with it as a whole that it evidentially states it is the Word of the only true and living God, and therefore that as a true and supportable statement makes it infallible. However, the arguments against the Scripture in the last 50 years have long been tried before and have shattered against this rock of truth. This leaves one shaking the head when someone anew comes charging full throttle, head buckled down, to try their case against that which has never been cracked before. Precedence is roundly ignored.
Consider that there is no other piece of literature in the history of the world that holds this distinction. That over 1,500 years of writings the consistency, with particular regard to the prophetic, have been verified both historically and archaeologically that even honest secularist scholarship will warn antagonist from attempting to attacking it ‘half-cocked’. Therefore I make this exclusive statement - No ancient document in the history of the world has the consistent documentary support that the Bible has as a whole. So when we make a summation as a whole of the evidences presented, there is more than a compelling argument that the canon of Scriptures are just and accurate, but that they have withstood the test of scrutiny that no other document in the history of the world has had to withstand. One may say they do not believe in God and deny the Scriptures as a whole. But one who asserts to accept some of the Scriptures and yet deny others stands on no argument whatsoever. In fact, before they even start, they defeat their own agenda by laying doubt on which Scriptures are acceptable and which ones are not. The very position in itself justifies the objection of another. In other words, by the argument that only parts of the Scriptures are acceptable, the statement has in turn justified any other person to state that they believe likewise, but reject the ones the opponent has given approval to and accept the ones he rejects.
Bruce Metzger, the premier Greek scholar of our times and editor of the UBS Greek New Testament and ‘A Textual Commentary of the Greek New Testament’ states that if one takes the 20,000 lines of the New Testament, it is assured that scholarship may rest on a 99.6% accuracy of the over 5,000 documents in hand. Again, no other document in the history of the world has undergone the scrutiny of the Scriptures. I would suggest a Greek class and an introduction to the construction of the Greek New Testament class as well for an education of the subject. However, his original dispute was not with the New Testament (which stands to question why he would attack its authenticity since he is using it for evidence); it was with the Old Testament. While it is true that the earliest copies of the NT are approximately dated AD 120 (Rylands p52 - Gospel of John fragment), it is curious as to why he gives this in evidences since it is ‘knocking on the door’ of the original manuscript, which is purported by ancient church historians to have been written approximately AD 90. More applicable to the original discussion is the OT writings. The LXX (Septuagint) translation alone was started approximately 3rd century BC and finished 132 BC. Once again, the test(s) the Word has endured far outdate this contemporary (yet antique) attack.
Concerning Gnosticism: Historically, incipient Gnosticism was just starting to occur in the early church around AD 50 -70. Galatians, Hebrews, the Johannine Epistles, etc., address it directly. Gnosticism is not acknowledged historically to be in full swing until approximately AD 200. Moreover, it was judged as heresy by the early church fathers. The statement that the Gnostics developed and taught the NT is far-fetched seeing their teachings (the Gnostics) were adamantly condemned in the epistles. But once again, the purported argument destroys the very foundation of which it attempts to stand on by pointing to the teachings of Christ, and yet questioning their legitimacy in terms of heretical reinterpretation.
Concerning Jesus approval of the OT scriptures: Jesus leans directly on the supportive foundation of that which the argument denounces as merely ‘writings of men’. A simple concordance search of the word ‘fulfill’ will quickly demonstrate that the validity of Jesus as the Christ rests on the prophecies of the OT scriptures. Jesus attends synagogue. Jesus reads from the ancient scrolls (Isaiah) and states that they prophetically speak of Him. Jesus points to Genesis as authentic for the model of one man and one woman in the beginning (Matthew 19). Jesus’ parents were obeying the very Law of the passage that was quoted in the argument, when they took Him as an 8 day old infant to be circumcised according to the Law. Jesus calls on the OT Scriptures throughout the Sermon on The Mount, not changing, but clarifying what these very Scriptures stated. And Jesus stated to the people that if they love Him, they will keep His commands – which are the ancient Scriptures that antagonists and many others would wish to abolish because they simply cannot accept the statement from God that homosexuality is unacceptable in His sight. Thus, the argument is not with those who point to Scripture, as they have subjected themselves to it. The argument lies with Scripture itself.
Not once did Jesus ever deny the Scriptures. The argument states that Christ never directly stated that homosexuality was/is a sin. This is a mute point that a Jewish Rabbi does not repeat the entirety of the Law as a statement of agreement. That would be to say that a past president did not agree with the Constitution of the United States because he did not state each line and his approval thereof in an autobiography. John states that had all of Jesus’ statements been recorded, we would not have room enough to publish them (21:25). You see, by the assertion the argument makes, the burden rests on his shoulders to prove that Jesus never denounced the command in the Jewish Law against homosexuality. Not only is the lineage of Christ laid forth as one of distinct Jewish heritage, He clearly stated that He did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. Furthermore, Jesus application of these Scriptures (that have been placed in question) are just as Mr. Miertschin has previously stated as with the woman allegedly caught in adultery. He instructed her to ‘go and sin no more’.
The argument uses the word ‘hate’ in an exclusive secular definition without acknowledging, 1) the biblical definition, and 2) that God declares a ‘hate’ against certain things. It is asserted that love is skipped and hate is being accentuated. This evidences a secular misunderstanding that biblical ‘hate’ exists because love ‘is’. In the Word, hate abhors that which stands against agape love. To embrace God’s word as a ‘lamp unto our feet’ is to love that which is true and not be ashamed or browbeaten into agreeing with a cultural tide. If the argument has a problem with this ‘hate’ (i.e. Malachi 2:16, Romans 9:13), one must deal with God on His terms of how He views that which is against His will – not His followers.
The argument desires evidence of Jesus’ rebuke of homosexuality in the Scriptures. This ends in a pointless debate with someone who rejects not only the authority of Scripture as a whole, but also one who rejects that Jesus is the Word manifest (John 1). Therefore, the argument discounts the apostolic passages that address the issue in particular of those who testify to be His representatives of the Word. But as I have already demonstrated, Jesus never rejected the Law. Rather, He acknowledged it in fullness and proclaimed Himself as the fulfillment of it (Matthew 5:17). One example of His execution of the Law in action is in Matthew 19, when He corrects some of the Jewish leaders by pointing to the beginning book of the Law, and expressly drawing attention to the first man and first woman and the precedence of their relationship and how it would correctly exist. And bear in mind, we have no record of Jesus rebuking pedophilia, drug usage, suicide, etc, etc. By the standard of the argument, these would be acceptable as well.
The argument proposal fails to justify the purpose of the sacrifice of Jesus by stating a categorical rejection of Leviticus. If Jesus did not die for these ‘sins’, then what for? If Leviticus (or any other OT passage and select NT passages that do not support one’s agenda) is removed and invalid, why did Jesus instruct the people against any sin listed in the Mosaic Law?
Heretic is not technically a derogatory term. It is a fact. It is one who presents a teaching that attempts to change a particular doctrine. This is different from apostasy, which is only determinable by a person’s prior testimony(ies).
The $64,000 question (and perhaps the most valid) is, why do we not practice the entirety of the Law, but point to certain passages as applicable? There is an appreciable amount of evidence that I could present concerning the distinctions of civil, moral, and temple law of the Torah. There are an abundance of cultural contextual observations, and they are not limited to the OT; i.e. head-coverings for women while praying in Corinth, no jewelry, braided hair, or expensive clothes for women in Ephesus, and men being viewed as an overseer not being a new convert in Ephesus while not being an issue in Crete. Culturally contextual observations are common sense in everyday living. Yet when dealing with sensitive issues such as the one the argument finds offense with, we find it tossed to the side, demanding absolutes across the board.
When I was in high school, the most attractive thing a young man could wear (at least in one peer group) was a flannel shirt, untucked, sleeves rolled halfway up the forearm, with skin-tight blue jeans (white blue jeans were even the rave at one time). Just limiting myself to the American culture over the last 100 years, the amount of time that this would have been seen as a ‘sexy’ look for males is negligible. But in one city, at one high school, for one year, in one peer group, it was. This is a truth. Therefore, when a young man got up and dressed, if he were looking to be sexually impressive, hoping to ‘score’ (however he may), he might find himself targeting this particular look. But in another area in the interior of Houston, just 20 miles away, that mode of dress would have only received the impression of ‘country bumpkin’ – so one dressing that way would not necessarily have any such ‘goal’ in mind as the prior. Likewise, many other scenarios could be painted that directly example matters of the heart that determine if right or wrong, depending on the setting. However, there are some things that would be deemed morally and ethically deficient no matter how many miles were traveled. If a young lady decided to start trying to earn extra money by performing sexual acts for cash in the parking lot during the lunch break, I dare say this would be morally wrong in a sense that transcends not only school districts, but cultural boundaries as well.
Likewise it is in Scripture. Man’s attempts to alter this have been by either the misunderstanding of the application of Scripture (which is a study within itself), or the direct motivation to justify some aspects of sin based upon drawing suspicion to the validity of transcultural imperatives by attaching them to issues related to a locale.
If I may, I would like to draw on the real-life illustration given by Ravi Zacharias in his example of an apologetic approach to this very question. Dr. Zacharias recalled an occasion when he had finished lecturing at a university, a female asked a question to which she attributed it disturbing in regard to those who call themselves ‘Christian’. “Why,” she asked, “are Christians openly against racial discrimination but at the same time discriminate against certain types of sexual behavior?” Dr. Zacharias stated, “We are against racial discrimination because one’s ethnicity is sacred. You cannot violate the sacredness of one’s race. For the same reason we are against the altering of God’s pattern and purpose for sexuality. Sex is sacred in the eyes of God and ought not to be violated. What you have to explain is why you treat race as sacred and desacralize sexuality. The question is really yours, not mine. In other words, our reasoning in both cases stems from the same foundational basis. You in effect switch the basis of reasoning, and that is why you are living in contradiction.” Dr. Zacharias then stated that the initial response was silence, and she said, “I’ve never thought of it in those terms.” This is all we can ask from others – to at least think about it.
In summation, I end where I began. “If the foundations are destroyed,
What can the righteous do?” The act of pointing to Scripture and in the same breath, denounce its overall validity is illogical (stage 1) and contradictory in itself. Idolatry by definition is when a person designs something that is a projection of one’s selfish interest. In other words, it is a god created in one’s own image. Taking Jesus Christ and attempting to shape Him into a more culturally accepted personae mocks His sacrifice of being tortured to death on a Cross to defeat the wages of sin – death. To state that His will and His way are of ‘hate’ (by secular definition) and not ‘love’ as He is demonstrated Himself from Genesis to Revelation is to attempt to tell Him how one thinks He should be, as opposed to glorifying who He is.
Keep the Faith (Gal. 3:23),