Arguing with people on the internet, especially unbelievers gets frustrating because I make a statement, and then five people respond with their arguments that prove I’m an idiot. It’s difficult to respond to all of them, and sometimes the arguments they bring are simplistic, showing they have almost zero Bible knowledge. Sometimes their arguments are old and worn out. But what happens without fail is that while I am formulating my response to one of them, another bunch of people chime in. And if you don’t respond to their comment, they think they have “won” by stumping you.
It’s a struggle to know when to “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 3) and “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (I Peter 3:15), and when to stop “casting pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6).
But there is one argument that I encounter over and over. I know that if I mention the Bible in any public forum, someone will drag this thing out like Exhibit A at a trial and thrust it in my face with a look of triumph on their face, saying, “Oh yeah? What do you have to say about THIS?”
What is the argument? It can be summed up in this statement: If you say you follow the Bible, then why don’t you keep the Mosaic Law?
This argument is always foreshadowed with a seemingly innocent question like, “Do you eat bacon?” “Do you wear cotton-polyester blends?” These are questions that, if the person being questioned was unfamiliar with the Law of Moses, could really trip him up.
Just today on a Facebook forum a man asked me, “Why don’t you have a full beard like the Bible dictates?” I actually laughed as I responded, “But I DO have a full beard.” Another person on the same thread pointed me to a buzzfeed article (note: if you are using buzzfeed to defend your position, you’ve already lost) which details 19 things the Bible forbids other than homosexuality. It goes on to list a bunch of Levitical restrictions that don’t apply to Christians. Burrrrrrn!
Finally, after enduring these theological mistakes all day, I read a comment from a girl who asked me,
“Steve do you work on Sundays? Leviticus speaks about death for this. Do you eat shrimp, lobster, or other seafood? This is an abomination…same wording as man lying with another man, yet nobody is so vehemently against that. Women that lose their virginity before marriage should be taken to the door of her father’s house and stoned to death. I have a feeling you don’t agree with the things I have mentioned above, so you’re picking and choosing from the bible to suit your own opinions. Don’t claim to only be listening to the word of God if you’re going to decide one part matters, but we can ignore the rest.”
Here is my response to her:
I see where you’re going, and let me help you out.
1. Yes, I work on Sundays sometimes, because I’m a nurse, and sick people don’t suddenly get better at midnight on Saturday night. I know what you are trying to say, that Leviticus says I shouldn’t work on the Sabbath, but you should know first of all that Sunday is NOT the Sabbath. The Sabbath is Saturday.
2. No, actually, I don’t eat shrimp, lobster, crab, or other seafood. But it’s not because of Leviticus. I just find them all disgusting. I eat fish (whitefish like cod, halibut, etc; tuna, and a few other types).
Basically what you are saying is that since I believe the Bible is the Word of God, that I should obey everything in it at face value with no kind of interpretation. This is asinine. God had rules for Adam and Eve that He didn’t have for Abraham (“Don’t eat that fruit!”). He had rules for Methuselah that He didn’t have for Abraham (“Don’t eat meat!”). He had rules for Abraham that He didn’t have for Moses (“It’s ok to marry your sister”). And of course, my point is that He had rules for the Hebrews that He doesn’t have for me (“no lobster, no working on sabbath”). You see, if you bothered to READ the Bible and attempt to understand it in context, you would see that the things in the Old Testament were written for an example for us. There are many places in the New Testament where it states that followers of Christ do not have to keep the Mosaic Law. However, there are parts of the Mosaic law that reveal to us God’s morals. For instance, even though the NT says I don’t have to follow the Mosaic Law, this does not allow me to break the command in Exodus 20:13 “You shall not murder.” I think we can both agree that murder is still wrong. As a matter of fact, there are places in the New Testament that state murder is wrong. And so it is with lying, coveting, adultery, idolatry, and yes, homosexual behavior. The prohibition against all of these is repeated in the New Testament, no matter how much Matthew Vines wishes it weren’t so.
I am not “picking and choosing” as you say, I am interpreting the Bible with a dispensational hermeneutic, to use the theological terminology. I’m sorry if that is beyond your grasp, but it is the best wording for my beliefs about the Bible which I have attempted to explain.
See, the problem here is that people treat the Bible as if it is a theological “how-to” manual that is 100% applicable to me in a literal sense. In other words, I should do everything it says. But if that were true, I would have to (at the same time) present a sacrifice of animals at the Temple in Jerusalem (kind of hard because it’s not there anymore but hey…) AND trust in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as a complete covering for my sins. In Leviticus chapter 4 God outlines the sin offerings. In verse 35 He states that by sacrificing an animal on the altar, a Hebrew could be forgiven. However, in Hebrews 10:4 it says “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” Which is correct? Does the Bible contradict itself?
No. As I stated above to the woman Facebook poster, God had different rules for different people throughout the history of the world that don’t apply to people in other times. But the way to salvation has always been the same from Adam all the way to the last person born in the Millennial kingdom in the future: trusting in the death of the Son of God as the perfect Sacrifice to take away the penalty of your own personal sins. If Adam is in heaven, it’s not because he sacrificed animals. It’s because he was trusting in God’s future sacrifice of His own Son. When God allows me into heaven, it will be because I am trusting in God’s past sacrifice of His own Son. If my great grandchildren go to heaven, it will be for exactly the same reason.
Dispensationalism simply means that God has certain rules for certain groups of people at certain times. Evidently Noah wasn’t supposed to eat meat before the flood, but in Genesis 9:3 Noah is told it’s ok. Interestingly enough, God tells Noah in that verse “Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you as I gave the green plant.” So Noah was allowed to eat pork, a non-kosher food (tip: Noah wasn’t Hebrew). And yet later on God said “Don’t eat pork” to Moses and the Hebrews. And yet later on God told Peter in Acts 10 that pork was ok again.
So the next time someone trots out this old dirty sock of an argument, you will know that they are misinterpreting the Bible, and perhaps you can enlighten them that just because God told the Israelites that bacon was not ok, this doesn’t mean God thinks bacon is bad, He just had different rules for them. And though He had different ceremonial laws, His moral law is unchanging: lying is sin. Murder is sin. Idolatry is sin. Disrespecting one’s parents is sin. Adultery is sin. Fornication is sin. Homosexuality is sin.
The biggest error that people make in these debates is in thinking that they are the arbiters of morality: THEY are the ones who decide what is right and what is wrong. This is the lie of Satan from Genesis chapter 3: you will be as gods, knowing good and evil. Humans tend to think that we get a say in deciding what is right and what is wrong. Well, we don’t. God says what is right and wrong, and He tells us so in His Word. So if God says don’t do it: don’t do it.
Finally, the Bible is not a to-do list where you can read a random passage and simply apply whatever it says to your life without understanding who the passage was written to, the meaning of the passage, etc. In other words, you have to interpret what you read. Otherwise you end up like the guy who decided he was going to open his Bible to a random verse and do whatever it said. He closed his eyes, let his Bible fall open, put his finger on the page, and looked at the verse. It was Matthew 27:12 “…he departed and he went and hanged himself.” The man thought, “Maybe I’d better double check to make sure this is God’s will.” So he did the procedure again, and when he opened his eyes, his finger was on John 13:27, “…Therefore Jesus *said to him, “What you do, do quickly.”
Don’t cherry-pick verses. Read the Bible in context and interpret it to determine the meaning. If you are saved, then the Holy Spirit will illuminate it for you.
And don’t worry if it seems like nobody is listening. The act of standing up for God is worth it all on it’s own, but God also promises that His Word does not return empty, but always accomplishes the purpose for which He sent it.
Good stuff cousin in law! I find debating atheists quite often and I simply try to be patient and wait for them to fall into a hole of their own ligic. The Socratic merhod works best. I tend to use very little scripture in a given debate due to trying to get to a conclusion about the existence of God. I tend to find them as very angry and disrespectful people. Anyway, keep the faith my friend.
“Do you eat bacon?”
Nope. Can’t afford it at present. Pigs is HIGH DOLLAR munchies!
“Do you wear cotton-polyester blends?”
ONLY if I shoot the polyester myself. That way I know it’s free from contamination.
Remember Steve… “Always and only associate with people better than you are.”