100 Answers in 100 Days

More questions answered on this blog:

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

Monday, June 13, 2011

Answering the Letter to Dr Laura, Part 5

Carrying on from yesterday, we have the next point.

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?

On this occasion we have a law which is in that class of Moral Laws, though taken out of context it doesn't appear so. Let's look at the verse in context...

"You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it. You shall not interpret omens or tell fortunes. You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard. You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD." (Leviticus 19:26-28)

This is not a list of unrelated prohibitions. These are all related. They all refer to pagan worship practices. This is not saying that it is immoral to have a hair cut, or even to have a tattoo. But cutting one's hair in a certain pattern, or having certain images tattooed on ones' self were things done in the worship of pagan idols; as was cutting ones' self for the dead, and interpreting omens or telling fortunes. To mock the Bible as saying you cannot have a hair cut would be like hearing a Christian preacher today tell you "Don't mess with Tarrot cards," and then mock Christianity saying "They forbid playing card games!"; as though Christianity forbids a game of Bridge. No, the prohibition on fortune telling and all kinds of occult practices still stands for Christians today, but a hair cut to look tidy and fashionable has never been a problem. As for whether Christians can or can't get a tattoo, this law certainly wouldn't forbid them unless it were in an occult context. A Christian with a tattoo in honour of some non-Christian religion or philosophy just doesn't make sense.

Looking at the next point, we have reference (again) to the Ceremonial laws regarding ceremonial "cleanliness".

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?

There is a lot of confusion about the reason God gave laws regarding “ceremonial cleanliness” (or “purity laws”). Many have offered their own rationale which usually seems to make sense for one set of purity laws, but not for others. I have my own rationale also, but I don’t think there is just one reason for them all. Rather, there are various purity laws given, each with their own purpose in mind. But here we’re talking about the laws regarding food. It was not permitted for an Israelite to eat pork, and not even to “touch their carcasses”. One of the reasons for these dietary laws seems to be to separate the Israelites from the other nations, so that one was greatly hindered in attempts to share a meal with foreigners. Sharing a meal is something the Bible considers to be significant in the relationship between people. After reminding the people to distinguish between clean and unclean animals, God says “You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.” (Leviticus 20:26). In Acts 10, God clearly abolishes the distinction between clean and unclean animals in the vision of Peter, and Peter clearly understands this to mean the abolition of a distinction between Jew and Gentile. While the people of God in the Old Testament were a nation separate from other nations, (Israel, and anyone who would come to God through Israel); the people of God in the New Testament include both Jew and Gentile alike who come to God through Christ. This is sufficient for our purposes here to see why touching the skin of a dead pig is no longer applicable today. But touching the skin of a dead pig was never a moral transgression, and there remains no moral laws cited in this Letter which are abrogated by the New Testament.

Part 4 <- -> Part 6

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