100 Answers in 100 Days

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Sharing answers to the various questions of faith I have faced, and which others have been challenged with also.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Answering the Letter to Dr Laura, Part 1

I once attended a forum discussion on homosexuality. There were a handful of Christians and a handful of representatives for the gay community. The discussion was around whether God disapproves of homosexuality. The Christian, adhering to the Bible, will say that God does not approve of homosexuality based on what the Bible says. Leviticus 18:22 says, for example, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” However, one of the gay men on the forum said this... “Why don’t you Google the ‘Letter to Dr Laura’. I have never met a Christian who could answer that letter!” At that time I had never read the “Letter to Dr Laura”, so I later Googled it. After I read it, I thought “It’s a real shame that no Christian has been able to offer answers for this gentleman.” So I have wanted to post a response to this letter for some time. I suppose the only problem is that it will be very long, which is why I’m splitting up my response over a few days. Let’s first acquaint ourselves with the Letter.

Dear Dr. Laura,

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind him that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specific laws and how to best follow them.

a) When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

b) I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

c) I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

d) Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

e) I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

f) A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an Abomination (Lev 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?

g) Lev 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

h) Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev 19:27. How should they die?

i) I know from Lev 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

j) My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev 24:10-16) Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your devoted disciple and adoring fan.

Now, Dr. Laura is Jewish and this letter is really an attack on the Jewish religion, not the Christian religion. But Christians also subscribe to the Old Testament, and so I’m not out of place to give a Christian response to this letter. The real issue in the Letter to Dr Laura is that the Law of Moses commands some things which no Christian, (nor many Jews) observe these days. And so if Christians have some reason to abandon some of the Laws, then why do they cling to the prohibition on homosexuality? Furthermore, some of the Mosaic Laws appear to be altogether absurd and possibly even immoral. And so we’re left to wonder why we ought to appeal to a Mosaic legislation at all? This is a very common attack on Christianity these days, where people criticize Christians for "picking out the good bits and ignoring the bad bits". But if the same God of Christianity gave the Law of Moses, then why would we disapprove somehow of what God has said in the past? In this first part of the answer I want to address this issue in general.

The Law of Moses was given by God to be the law of the land for the nation of Israel. The Law was a revelation of God’s character. For example, the Ten Commandments show us how we ought to relate to God and to one another; that we should only honour God as God, and that we should treat one another with respect and dignity. Paul said:

The commandments, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet, and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:9-10)

Now, loving one’s neighbour is not as straight forward as it seems. If it were as simple as that, God would have given just one commandment; “Love your neighbour”. Why did God have to give so many more? It’s because we, as fallen people, don’t really understand perfectly what it means to love one another. God gives us examples of what it means to love one another, and to love God.

Paul explains...

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners... (1 Timothy 1:8-9)

That is to say that if we were all perfectly righteous there would be no need for the law to tell us how we should live; what behaviours we ought or ought not to do. We would already know and do those things. It’s precisely because we don’t know what is right, and because we don’t obey what we do know is right, that we need God to show us. The purpose of the law is to show us our sin, and to show us our need for a Saviour. Many of the Mosaic Laws are plain moral truths... “You shall not kill.” But others pertain more to a humanity living prior to Christ, such as the sacrificial laws which essentially become an illustration of Christ’s work on the cross as our perfect atoning sacrifice. And then there are some laws which deal with how a nation called to represent God before all other nations ought to be run. In Christian theology we draw a distinction between these kinds of laws; namely the Moral, Ceremonial and Judicial Laws. Well, after Christ had died on the cross and rose again, there was no more direct application for the Ceremonial Laws which formed that illustration of various aspects of Christ’s work. And once the people of God consisted no longer in the nation of Israel only but consisted of Gentiles from all nations, the Judicial Laws specific to the nation of Israel were no longer directly applicable. These laws are no longer obeyed according to the letter, but there are principles behind them which do still apply. But perhaps we’ll see how this works as these posts roll out over the next week or so?

-> Part 2

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