Cherry Picking the Bible? Are Christians Expected to Follow the Levitical Laws?

I recently posted an article on this blog wherein I outlined my viewpoint with regards same sex marriage and some of my reasons for holding to that position. Now, my views on this issue fall into two categories — theological and sociological. While I think that there are good sociological arguments against the institution of same sex marriage (the focus of my previous post), I also hold that homosexual behaviour is immoral for theological reasons. The Biblical basis for this view comes from a number of Scriptural passages. Among them, is Leviticus 18, a chapter concerned exclusively with sexual sin. Verse 22 commands, “Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.” Mention of this passage routinely raises the objection, “But aren’t you cherry picking the Bible? After all, you don’t follow all those laws in Leviticus either. Do you refrain from wearing clothing woven from two kinds of material as prohibited in Leviticus 19:19? And do you obey the dietary laws outlined in Leviticus 11?” I get this objection put to me so often that I felt compelled to write a blog post addressing it. I trust that those who make this kind of objection will find this post informative.

The Three-Fold Division of the Law

The Levitical law may be subdivided into three categories: These are,

1. Ceremonial Law

2. Judicial / Civil Law

3. Moral Law

This three-fold division is by no means a modern idea invented to dodge around popular objections to the Biblical stance on homosexuality and other sins. Indeed, John Calvin (1509-1564), in The Institutes of the Christian Religion wrote, “We must attend to the well-known division which distributes the whole law of God, as promulgated by Moses, into the moral, the ceremonial, and the judicial law.” Furthermore, in his Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Francis Turretin (1623-1687), one of Calvin’s successors at Geneva, wrote that “The law given by Moses is usually distinguished into three species: moral (treating of morals or of perpetual duties towards God and our neighbour); ceremonial (of the ceremonies or rites about the sacred things to be observed under the Old Testament); and civil (constituting the civil government of the Israelite people).” The three-fold division of the law is also alluded to in the 1689 Baptist confession.

But the concept dates back even further still. In his Summa Theologica, the theologian Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) writes,

“We must therefore distinguish three kinds of precept in the Old Law; viz. ‘moral’ precepts, which are dictated by the natural law; ‘ceremonial’ precepts, which are determinations of the Divine worship; and ‘judicial’ precepts, which are determinations of the justice to be maintained among men.”

 Even Augustine (354-450), in his Contra Faustum Manichaeum, writes,

“For example, ‘Thou shalt not covet’ is a moral precept; ‘Thou shalt circumcise every male on the eighth day’ is a symbolical precept.”

It is clear from the context that Augustine is here using the word “symbolic” to describe what we would today regard as “ceremonial”.

This multi-faceted nature of the law has also been recognised by the likes of Tertullian (160-220) and Justin Martyr (103-165).

What is Ceremonial Law?

The Israelites have long been God’s chosen people — the people from whom he would bring the ultimate Saviour who would bless all nations and bring Salvation to the ends of the world. As God’s chosen people, Israel was given various ceremonial regulations in order to separate her from the surrounding gentile nations. This included the practice of circumcision. In Genesis 17, God says to Abraham,

“As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

This was the covenant of circumcision, which was intended to separate the people of Israel from her gentile neighbours. There were many other ceremonial laws as well, and this included things like dietary regulations (e.g. don’t eat shell fish) and regulations of cleanliness.

What is Judicial / Civil Law?

The judicial / civil law pertains to those laws which are culturally specific to ancient Israel. Laws falling into this category included penalties for various crimes, rules for business transactions and guidelines for the treatment of servants and slaves.

What is Moral Law?

The moral law describes God’s commandments which are binding regardless of cultural contingencies. The moral law includes the ten commandments, which are given in Exodus 20. According to the Bible, we have an awareness of God’s moral laws written on our hearts (e.g. Romans 2) but we have all violated this standard and thus fall under the righteousness condemnation of God (Romans 3:23). Galatians 3:13-14 describes God’s solution:

13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Christ, then, satisfied the justice and wrath of God that we deserved by standing in our lawplace condemned in our place. He bore the full force of the wrath of God that should have been borne by us because of our sin, meaning that we might be redeemed from the curse of the law by repenting of our sin, ceasing to trust in our own goodness and meritorious self-righteousness for our salvation and trusting in the completed work of Christ.

Which of Those Laws is Applicable to Us Today?

Only God’s moral law is applicable to us today. The ceremonial and judicial laws of ancient Israel are not. Galatians 2:1-3; 5:1-11; 6:11-16; 1 Corinthians 7:17-20; Colossians 2:8-12; Phillipians 3:1-3 all indicate that the covenant of circumcision has now been done away with. What counts now is, in a manner of speaking, a circumcision of heart — which takes the form of faith in Christ and repentance from our sin.

In Acts 10, we read of Peter’s vision:

 9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

 14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

 15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

 16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

Peter’s vision suggests that the dietary requirements of the ceremonial law are now no longer applicable.

Furthermore, Hebrews 10:1 says that “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves.” Colossians 2:16-17 likewise says, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” Now the one to whom the law pointed — Christ the Messiah — has come and fulfilled the symbolism associated with the ceremonial law.

Anticipating an Objection: But Couldn’t The Sexual Regulations of Leviticus 18 Be Regarded As Ceremonial Law Too?

One can anticipate an objection to all of this: This being the case, the skeptic might ask, how can you with confidence say that homosexuality comes under God’s (non-culturally-contingent) universal moral prohibitions? How can one rule out that these sexual regulations (described in Leviticus 18) are not also part of the ceremonial law? In response to this, I would urge that the objector examine carefully the context.

Leviticus 18 begins with God saying to Moses,

“2 Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the LORD your God. 3 You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. 4 You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the LORD your God. 5 Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the LORD.”

After listing the various forms of sexual sin, the chapter ends,

“24 Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. 25 Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26 But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the foreigners residing among you must not do any of these detestable things, 27 for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. 28 And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.”

It is thus abundantly clear from the context that the chapter is describing universal moral prohibitions. Indeed, it is violation of those prohibitions that has led God to punish and drive out the nations before Israel. God gives Israel a warning about what will happen to her if she falls into the practices of the nations before her.

Furthermore, God’s prohibitions against homosexual behaviour are reiterated in the new testament. In Romans 1, the apostle Paul writes,

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

1 Corinthians 6:12-20 also describe the abomination of sexual immorality, and Paul urges the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 5 to expell an immoral brother for sleeping with his father’s wife. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 also says,

“9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

There is thus little room for argument about what division of the law is in mind here.

Summary & Conclusion

In summary, there exists a three-fold division of the law — ceremonial, judicial/civil and moral. The civil and ceremonial law are no longer applicable to us today, while the moral law — which is not culturally contingent — is indeed universally binding. We have all violated God’s righteous decree and are thus guilty before a holy and just God. Because of God’s justice, He cannot turn a blind eye to sin: He must come against it with perfect justice. But God has provided a way for us to be redeemed from the curse of the law by the sacrifice of His Son on the cross, meaning that if we put our faith (trust) in Him for salvation and repent of our previous ways, we may not perish but have everlasting life in Him.

21 replies
  1. Bob Lamary says:

    This is an excellent study of the Biblical basis for our belief that GOD only approves of sex within marriage – one man and one woman. I had always generally understood the concept that the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament Mosaic Law, includes Ceremonial, Judicial/Civil and Moral Law, but had not seen it so clearly laid out as you have done here. Thanks for doing this! This is so important these days when the world is being deceived by the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender lobbies into believing that heterosexual marriage is close minded, etc, etc. I was shocked (well not really shocked, but somewhat surprised) when I saw that Macy’s had fired a woman for not allowing a man dressed as a woman to go into the women’s dressing room while there were women in there trying on clothes. I suspect we will be seeing more of this, along with Christians who are deceived into misunderstanding GOD’s Word and what it really means.

    Reply
  2. Darcy says:

    Very good post indeed. Some points I don’t agree with, however:

    1.”There were many other ceremonial laws as well, and this included things like dietary regulations (e.g. don’t eat shell fish)”

    I think dietary regulations are connected to health and to well-being, not to ceremonial laws. God intended his people to be healthy.

    2. “Peter’s vision suggests that the dietary requirements of the ceremonial law are now no longer applicable.”

    The vision clearly suggests Jesus had not taught his disciples about the dietary regulations being abandoned. Proof comes from Peter’s answer: “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean”. Peter clearly understood this vision as related to accepting the gentiles into the Kingdom. Act 10:28. God still intends his people to be healthy.

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  3. Jair Reitsma says:

    I always find it much easier to simply point to scriptures such as 1 Timothy 1:10, which lists homosexuality as a sin. No arguments there.

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  4. RichardLuciano1 says:

    Wouldn’t believing a law is a either a moral law or an other than moral law be self-defeating? The premises of two amoral kinds of laws appear irrelevant since every law is a legislation based in at least one legislator’s morals. Stating a law is either a moral law, a judicial, or a ceremonial law a false trichotomy. We can both agree thay a ceremony can evolve or be amended under the natural laws within an environment including fulfillment of the duty. That I find no problem with. Judicial ceremony could be effected by modernization for ease and/or humanness (e.g., execution by stoning predates execution by lethal injection; paying a sin offering predates receiving the Saviour, or a for a secular worldview: doing time and paying fines). Judicial morality would still be as just under the moral justice found in the law of an eye for an eye. The support structure of all laws are the morals these laws are based on. These morals are based on objective morals from God. The support structure which holds all His laws is the love of God with all our heart, mind, and strength; love for the stranger as ourself; and for us to love as Christ loved us. Therefore, some judicial ceremony (i.e., duty) may change under the law-giver, but the law-giver may not have changed the moral which the civil duty decreed is attached onto. Similarly, we both might think each others’ posting is going about the right goal and comes to the truth of a sin, but one or both of us is going about it in an way that has some false directions to the the truth. Our ways of interpreting the law along the way might have taken us down a wrong path only to be a detour which brings us both to the right place. How we both come to the truth does not matter for truth to be discovered, in that we both know sexual sin applied to all people in all times. You have a very great post and I hope to add your tactics to my front line as an in the fight Christian. Thanks you, and God bless.

    Reply
    • Vini Scott says:

      Richard,

      I love your philosophical exposition of Mr. McLatchie’s trichotomy. Are you in effect saying: That the objective moral cause given by God, is the precedent by which the law should be kept? As in the spirit of the law? Or did I miss something, Thanks, if you’re still following this thread.

      Reply
  5. Julian says:

    I’m a firm believer that when Jesus promised Peter the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven and said “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” he actually meant it. He was giving to Peter and the apostles the power, through divine inspiration, to decide morality on Earth and in Heaven. And we’ve squandered it. Homosexuality? It makes us uncomfortable, so checkmark for Leviticus. But whoa, hold the phone, the very next line referring to the consumption of shellfish in the exact same terms? We like lobster, so that one’s out.

    The frustration I have at the fact that we use that power to condemn people who are different than us but who hurt no one, when we are specifically told over and over and over again not to judge, sickens me.

    Here’s the deal, it is our place to try and help those who are lost find their way. It is most decidedly not our place to bludgeon others with the instruments of our faith when that help is rejected. If gay people are in error, God will sort them out; OUR duty is to love them, no matter what, and afford them everything we want for ourselves.

    Or have I been reading a completely different book all this time?

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  6. Mark Buono says:

    Julian,

    It is a FREE will choice made by homosexuals to be homosexual. The old adage applies here: hate the sin love the sinner. But there is one and only one truth and that is Christ. His mesage is clear as day.

    I dont believe it violates God’s great commisssion to blast the Faith to all the corners of the earth. What homosexuals and other pagans do with that message is between them and God but, in my view, they’re still gonna hear it from me. The great afront against Christianity in the world (and the USA) today is based primarily (though few will admit this) onthe fact that the non-believers dont want to have to live “their lives” according to God’s rules. They regretably miss the small point that every breath COMES from God.

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  7. Charles says:

    Excellent description Mr. McLatchie; I really enjoy your insights.

    I think some will still find it difficult to discern; however, the Scriptures are clear. I think we get lost when don’t have a clear definition of what sin actually is. For example, homosexuals often claim their disposition is natural and that they were “born this way”. So they see nothing wrong with what they are doing because if it were wrong then G-D wouldn’t have made them that way. This arguement obviously plays on our humanity and the Bible clearly calls us not to judge. I think the question should be with what judgement. Personally I see sin as being a willful intent to disobey G-D’s Word regarding His natrual order.

    If, as Christians especially, we refuse to allow ourselves to be rebuked for our intent then we are not any better (spiritually) than anyone one else. The world is only seeing our double standard. We shouldn’t judge, say, homosexuals for their immorality because we are all immoral when measured to Christ. However, we should judge one another if we see our neighbor acting with the intent to willfully disobey G-D’s Word. It’s tight but it’s right.

    Instead of focusing on the law which was instated to separate G-D’s people from pagan nations and exposes sin as willful separation from Him; by Christ we should focus on Him and give one another an equal measure of Grace and Truth. We must be encouraging while at the same time expose that which stands against G-D’s will.

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  8. Tim says:

    The Dietary Laws were NOT there for diet, but to show Israel the difference between clean and unclean. For example, don’t eat catfish because they’re bottom feeders, eat dead things, and swim in “dirty” water; but bass are okay because they eat live fish and swim in “clean” water – to put it in the modern day vernacular. The Jews were so blind to the things of God that these simple illustrations were necessary – but even they didn’t work for the masses.

    All of the laws of God are to be observed, although there may be a difference in their NT application. The NT, then, is largely to show us how to apply the OT laws in a Gentile setting. All of the judicial laws are supposed to be in effect today, but our governments largely reject these. If you don’t like that, you won’t like the Millennial Kingdom. God’s grace gives us the law to keep it, not throw it aside. All of those ceremonial laws portend to some aspect of the life of the believer today. Selah.

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  9. Julian says:

    Frank:

    I mean everything that is in our power to give. Tolerance, utter equality and the love and understanding that comes from knowing that even if our sins are different, we all have them, and the only power that can rightfully judge or forgive them is Christ.

    I suffer from pride, on occasion. I have been known to be gluttonous (especially at big family dinners) and I have had unchaste moments in my life. But no one tries to pass laws against me eating turkey; no one is trying to legislate against me taking credit for things that rightfully are God’s and having premarital sex didn’t result in people picketing against my right to enter into a legal marriage with my wife.

    Homosexuality is a visible sin, and because of it’s physicality we have a tendency to demonize it and distance ourselves from it much more vocally than we do those like pride, sloth, greed and lust. But it is no worse than those and it is not our place to single out one type of sin to condemn over others. We were told to be forgiving, to love our enemies and to withhold judgement. When we seek to marginalize those we feel are in error, and deny them dignity and equality, we fail at our assigned tasks. We were not commanded to make the world better; our salvation depends on faith, not works. We were commanded to make ourselves better and by so doing we would each help the other reach salvation as well.

    Mark: Why would you take it upon yourself to make them hear it from you? They’ve heard it. They know what Christianity has to say on the subject. If they are Christians, they hope that Christ’s promise to forgive sinners even if they fail to overcome their sins applies to them as well. Who are you to disagree? If you fail to overcome pride, will you be denied Heaven, or will your faith in Jesus’ promise to wash away your sins sustain you?

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  10. Frank Turek says:

    Julian,

    I agree that we tend to overlook our own sins. I also agree that we are to be forgiving. But that doesn’t mean we should be silent about sin, especially sins that we are not just being asked to tolerate, but sins that we are being forced to celebrate and endorse. Sins that hurt all of society (see by book “Correct, not Politically Correct” for more).

    All sin is NOT the same. Jesus talked about the “greatest” commandment, and “neglecting the weightier matters of the law.” Should the murderer get the same punishment as the shoplifter?

    Moreover, we are NOT told to withhold judgment, but not to judge hypocritically. Jesus said, “Stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgment.” (John 7:24). Everyone makes judgments: Atheists, Christians, conservatives, liberals, etc. The only question is are your judgments true?

    What do you mean by denying them “dignity and equality?” It sounds like you are suggesting that in order to give a person dignity and equality you must endorse that person’s desired behavior through law (as in providing endorsement for homosexuality through same-sex marriage). Is that what you are saying? If so that is a failure to distinguish between people and behavior.

    Blessings,

    Frank

    Reply
  11. Julian says:

    Frank,

    I would agree with you that not all sins are the same, but when you compare murder and shoplifting on a scale of behaviour, what you’re actually referring to is the nature of social justice. From a purely human perspective, of course murder is the greater of the two crimes; murder deprives our whole species of a valuable asset, whereas theft deprives an individual. From a religious perspective, however, I subscribe to Lewis’ hierarchy of sin in Mere Christianity. There are sins that are the product of our animal nature, such as lust, which are those we try to overcome as we struggle to align our souls to God’s purpose. Those are the sins that we typically spend our whole live’s trying and failing to achieve mastery over, because around them is built our central flaw. Lewis considered those sins lesser precisely because they are animal in nature and are therefore concerned with the body, rather than the soul.

    Far graver than these are the spiritual sins; the sins of our souls against God; pride, greed, etc. A perfect example of this is found in the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 1-11. Husband and wife conspire against God by withholding resources from the early church community and are struck dead for their trouble.

    Going back to the human scale of social justice, If I were living in the States, I would take that scriptural hint and be far more concerned with bringing a measure of justice to the thieves and vipers who caused the financial collapse of 2008 and still walk free, rather than concerning myself with the comparatively harmless (again, from a human and legalistic standpoint, rather than a spiritual one) actions of consenting adults who merely want their committed relationships legally recognized; not, I would add by religious institutions, but rather by the state which is bound by law not to advocate for the viewpoint of any specific faith.

    Lewis goes on to say ( a little tongue in cheek, in my opinion) that if the promise of Christianity is true; that we will, as reward for our faith, conquer death and live forever; then the purpose of Christianity and its moral commandments is simply to turn people into the kind of folks that one would want to associate with for all eternity. Since our character flaws tend to exacerbate themselves over time, we ought to be far more concerned with managing the sins that affect character, such as pride, than with the sins that we will escape simply by achieving a new kind of physical/spiritual life after the resurrection, such as lust; as the compulsion to commit those physical sins will not survive the end of our mortal existence. Not to say that the things we do in life aren’t important, but the very idea of a faith based salvation tells us that our individual actions are more important to us than they are to God. He knows that we are weak, He knows that we need His help to overcome our weaknesses and He has granted us salvation simply for our asking for forgiveness and not interfering with His means of helping us become better.

    Deep breath.

    On the subject of judgement, I’ll give you that quote from John. Jesus knew that we would judge, and tried to hammer home the notion of considering each other fairly by such lessons as “judge not, lest ye be judged,” which is not a condemnation of judgement, but rather a warning that how you judge others will be the measure of how you are judged BY others. That being said….

    We ARE told not to act on our judgements. When Jesus said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” He was speaking specifically to this. Jesus came to offer freedom. Freedom from damnation and the shackles of sin to be sure, but also freedom from our preconceptions, from the notion that tradition was important in and of itself, from the idea that God is the kind of deity who decides our fate by a balance sheet; measuring our good acts against our bad. The notion that salvation would be attained by faith alone, and not acts, conversely means that damnation can be achieved by lack of faith alone, and not acts. The second you veer away from that you’re back in the dangerous waters of bargaining with God through your obedience, or lack thereof. “Let he who is without sin…” i.e. nobody but God; only that person, who has achieved a sinless existence, has the right to not just judge but actually pass judgement.

    When we actively seek to limit the legal rights of those whose sin, by any measure, affects only themselves and God, we are failing our Christian duty in a number of ways. We fail in the instruction to render unto Caesar, those things which are Caesar’s, Mark 12:17 (our legal system MUST remain egalitarian and blind to religion; can you imagine if, for example, it was based purely on Catholic doctrine to the exclusion of all else, or LDS doctrine?) we fail in our charge not to judge incorrectly and harshly lest we be judged incorrectly and harshly, (do you honestly believe that organizations like the Freedom From Religion Foundation or Americans for the Separation of Church and State would even exist if Christians weren’t attempting to meddle in temporal affairs that we are specifically told by the articles of our faith not to?) and we fail in our burden to not act against sinners until we are free of sin ourselves.

    We do not have the right. It is simply not our place.

    I’m a new convert to Christianity, so I’m maybe still seeing things through soap bubbles, but the Jesus I’ve come to know through the gospels and through my prayers would NOT be okay with us throwing stones at sinners, be they actual, or in the case of punitive and discriminatory laws, metaphorical stones. We are meant to shelter each other and help each other achieve what God has asked of us, we are NOT meant to go backwards and use the Mosaic Law as a justification for our deep set prejudices. If that was our intended purpose, I would expect there to be just as many websites dedicated to legally dismantling Red Lobster as there are to marginalizing a group of people who are simply unfortunate enough to sin in a different way than we do.

    Julian

    Reply
  12. Frank Turek says:

    Julian,

    Welcome to the faith! I agree with much of what you said about the sins of the flesh vs. the more diabolical sin of pride. However, we are talking about public policy here, and I think you have a number of false assumptions in your arguments for Same Sex Marriage.

    1. You’re assuming that people of faith can’t be involved in public policy. Who said? Are only atheists qualified to make laws or to be in office?

    2. You’re confusing religion with morality. Religion has to do with our duty to God, but morality has to do with our duty to one another. When we pass marriage laws, we are not telling people how, when, where or if to worship– that would be legislating religion. Instead, we are setting standards on how we ought to treat one another, and that’s legislating morality. All laws legislate morality. The only question is whose morality should we legislate? You don’t need the Bible to legislate morality. You can use the common moral law on which our government was founded. And just because it’s in the Bible doesn’t mean it can’t be legislated. Otherwise we’d have to do away with most of our laws, including laws against murder and theft for example. Those prohibitions are in the Bible, after all.

    3. The pro-same-sex marriage position is a legislation of morality itself. And some churches and religious people support it. Does that mean we can’t legislate it? Does that mean that People For the American Way must stop advocating the pro SSM position? Of course not. Whether you believe in God or not, you have a right to advocate your position, whatever your reasons are.

    4. Everyone already has equal marriage rights. Everyone can marry a qualified person of the opposite sex. The law treats everyone the same.

    5. It is not a small issue as I have argued at length on this blog and in a book. Marriage is the foundation of a civilized society. The state purpose for marriage is NOT to recognize that two people love one another– it’s NOT just about coupling. It’s designed to provide a stable environment to create and nurture the next generation, and only heterosexual relationships can do that. And while some heterosexual relationships don’t procreate, the only relationships that do are heterosexual. Homosexual relationships can’t achieve the most fundamental purpose of marriage.

    6. Setting standards in law is not “throwing stones at sinners.” It is necessary for a civilized society. Prohibiting or simply choosing to not endorse a particular behavior is often necessary and wise.

    Much more could be said on this very complicated topic, but feel like I’m starting to rewrite my book. If you’re interested in the topic, I’d be happy to send you a free ebook. Just email me at Frank@CrossExamined.org.

    Blessings,

    Frank

    Reply
    • Andrew Imlay says:

      Frank Turek,

      I realize this conversation is two years old, but for the sake of practicing logic I will respond point by point.

      1) People of faith can certainly be involved in creating public policy. But in a secular, multi-faith society, public policy must rest on rationales other than “my religion says so and my religion is the majority, so you have to live in accordance with my beliefs.” Saying that would make the United States a Christian nation, which it is not. It’s a pluralistic, constitutional, and secular nation. Separation of church and state. Consider what living in a majority Muslim nation would be like for you under Sharia law.

      2) You say that “legislating religion” means dictating telling people how, when, where or if to worship. You’re giving yourself an awfully narrow and incorrect definition designed to exclude your own arguments. “Legislating religion” means legislating laws which have no rationale except the fulfillment of someone’s religious beliefs — without secular, constitution-based rationales.

      You also say, “All laws legislate morality. The only question is whose morality should we legislate?” That’s not the only question. Another question is whether the law impinges on any citizen’s civil rights; another is whether the law’s morality is uniquely based on one or more religions, or is (also) based on principles that non-believers can support. Such as the constitution. I note also that your construction of the debate (“the only question is whose morality should we legislate?) is that of a zero-sum game. If one side wins, the other must lose; such is the mentality of many anti-democratic movements.

      3) You assert here a very slippery equivalency which you would not make if you had the experience of being a disenfranchised minority: you say that SSM-proponents assert their morality just like SSM-opponents do. That’s misleading: advocating for a *civil right* is very, very different from proposing to deny someone *else* a civil right. (The issue is “civil”, since it is about “civil marriage”, and it is about “rights”, since marriage to the person one loves and the building of a family are integral to the right to the pursuit of happiness). Opponents of anybody’s civil rights have a far higher moral threshold to meet than advocates of civil rights. SSM-advocates are not proposing laws restricting the activities of others, unlike SSM-opponents. Finally, a law restricting anyone’s civil rights is probably unconstitutional. I therefore find your equation of the moral motivation of SSM-advocates to that of SSM-opponents to be very glib, as if all proposals by morally committed advocates are sort of equivalently valid until proven otherwise. This is why, by the way, democracies do not determine minorities’ civil rights by popular vote.

      4) You write, “Everyone already has equal marriage rights. Everyone can marry a qualified person of the opposite sex. The law treats everyone the same.” Pure sophistry. The issue is the ability for everyone to marry the qualified person WHOM THEY LOVE. That means disregarding the respective genders of the couple. You are smart enough to know that, which tells me that you are deliberately insulting your readers’ intelligence, particularly our moral intelligence. I do not respect sophists who make arguments beneath the dignity of their readers.

      5) You write, “the state purpose of marriage is NOT to recognize that two people love each other…it’s designed to provide a stable environment to create and nurture the next generation.” Of course, you realize that some heterosexual couples are as infertile as same-sex couples, but that doesn’t slow you down.

      First, you simply made up what the “state purpose of civil marriage” is. Your assertion is as arbitrary as the one you scoff at, the codification of responsibilities and rights of a couple to love each other and build a family. I assert that you have no expertise or credentials to tell anyone what is *the* purpose of civil marriage. The purpose, in fact, may be many things. Of course, you selectively chose a definition which will exclude same-sex couples, which happens to maintain your religious-political consistency.

      But your facts are also wrong. A high proportion of gay couples, many of which I know, have children from adoption or previous marriages. If you had done any online research before stating that “Homosexual relationships can’t achieve the most fundamental purpose of marriage”, you would know that the most recent, largest, and most representative studies of children raised by same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples show no difference in the children’s well-being. The number of adults raising children matters; the experiences of divorce or adoption matter; the level of poverty matters; but the genders of the adults raising children does not matter. (Maybe you should devote yourself to writing a book excoriating American poverty as a sin.)

      6) You write: ‘Setting standards in law is not “throwing stones at sinners.”’ Well, sometimes not. But binding fellow-citizens with legal restrictions based solely on someone’s conception of *sin* is indeed throwing stones at sinners. This is why Jews were excluded from trade guilds in late-medieval Europe. This is why anti-miscegenation laws were in place throughout the South. This is why Catholics were systematically excluded from many professions. The majority of citizens considered these groups sinners inherently deserving legal restriction. Given the quality of your arguments against SSM, this is probably the moral company you keep.

      Last of all, I have to comment on the profound arrogance which becomes progressively more obvious in your points. You arrogate to yourself the sophistry of blurring “advocacy” with “legislation”; the sophistry of equating advocating civil rights with opposing them; the sophistry of re-defining “equal marriage rights” in a consciously duplicitous way; the sophistry of an arbitrary declaration of the (only) purpose of marriage; and the sophistry — or lie — of asserting that same-sex couples can or do not raise children well.

      And the arrogance of trivializing by omission the most important issue at stake: the equal dignity of same-sex couples when forming their own families. That moral dignity and the legal civil rights it entails are the real heart of the issue. For more theological background, consult the Conservative Movement of Judaism’s position paper on same-sex marriage.

      Andrew Imlay.

      Reply
      • Milo says:

        Andrew,

        Despite being a two-year old discussion, I was impressed by your passion on the subject.
        Anyway, in regards to your 5th point, arguing that “you [Andrew] would know that the most recent, largest, and most representative studies of children raised by same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples show no difference in the children’s well-being,” I wondered if you had a chance to see the studies by Loren Marks and Mark Regnerus that worked on this particular topic, and is contrary to your statement.
        You can go to ‘http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/06/5640/’ to be able to get more of the information on the studies, but you’ll have to dig them down; was simple enough with Google.
        But my point is: whether you believe the studies either way, if an environment, to include one that promotes homosexuality, has the propensity to harm children, will you condemn it? Or does love between adults trump the rights of children to be safe and secure? I leave it open to you if you want to attribute those same ‘dangers’ to a heterosexual scenario.

        v/r

        Milo

        Reply
  13. Richard Ball says:

    “This multi-faceted nature of the law has also been recognised by the likes of Tertullian (160-220) and Justin Martyr (103-165).”

    Tantilizing.

    Can you elucidate on this?

    Thanks!

    Reply
  14. antipas4yahsua says:

    Lol… Interesting article. Despite what many Western evangelical Christians think.
    The Torah is binding and greatly enhanced under the Torah of the Ruach haKodesh in Y’shua
    Y’shua kept the Torah and slammed the Talmud as seen in Mark 7 & Matt 15. Paul fought those who placed “tradition” over Torah – this cannon be denied.

    A example of misunderstanding is the Shabbat which is still Fri sunset to Sat sunset.
    It is not Sunday as seen in Schiffs church history and many other sources.
    Go back and read Col 2:16 in the context of 2:8 and 2:17-23.
    Go back and read Gal 4:8-11.
    There is a vast difference between teachings of men and the TORAH.

    Paul NEVER had the authority to change the Shabbat. If it would have been changed, it would have to been approved by the council as seen in Acts 15 AND Paul would have been accused of attempting to change the Torah and that is worthy of death according to the Torah. Y’shua, Saul, and the Apostles kept the Torah and the Shabbat otherwise the Sanhedrin would have found Y’shua, Saul, Stephen, and the apostles as Torah breakers.

    Paul kept the TORAH as seen in Acts 21:24 “but that you yourself also live in observance of the law.”

    Western evangelicals dont understand that Y’shua, Saul, and the Apostles fought and died due to Talmud. The Torah is holy, just, and good.

    ~Shalom

    Reply
  15. Corey says:

    I believe the most important commandment from Christ himself was to love the lord your GOD and love your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27) I could be wrong on this though. I’ve seen so many “Christians/religious extremists” throughout history tear apart ethnicity/color, hair/eye color, now sexuality… but you’re still completely bypassing the most important commandment to keep your finger on the trigger and the target in the crosshair. Good job America. We truly need to be blessed by GOD.

    Corey

    Reply

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