In response to Burr Deming's Choosing to Worship God, Not Scripture
Paul responded directly to a similar view regarding spiritual law. Old Testament law was not at all abolished or replaced. At the conclusion of this section, Paul summarizes his view of ancient law. "Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law." Paul's "by no means" is often translated as "God forbid." He is emphatic in his rejection of T. Paine's formulation.
I will leave the problem of whether or not a Christian should care about "the old rules" to you and T. Paine.
However, I would like you to address the apparent arbitrariness of those rules. Is there a good reason that we should care about shellfish consumption, homosexuality, the proper way to prepare sacrifices, sacrifices in the first place, and so on? Or perhaps I should ask: Why does God care?
If you can identify a good reason (e.g. back then, the forbidden behavior would have spread disease), would it not be fair to say that it is not the behavior itself that is wrong, but the harm that results from it? And if that is the case, would it not be fair to say that the behavior ceases to be wrong when we can control its effects?
Alternatively, you could say that the reason is unknown or even unknowable. But I can't imagine being satisfied with a deity who declines to justify its rules. I certainly can't imagine wholeheartedly condemning a "sin" without knowing why it deserves condemnation. If the rules are not arbitrary, why does God not explain them to its most favored, rational creatures? After all, a good justification would even motivate non-Christians to follow Biblical law...
When not questioning pointless religious dogma, Ryan writes for his own site, where motivation is backed by the rational.
Please visit Secular Ethics.
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The dietary laws lead you away from things that are tricky to prepare safely. We all know about the dangers of undercooked pork. What is not as widely known is that you can't eat just ANY rabbit that you catch. Likewise, the prohibition against blended fabrics mystifies modern readers, but back in the day, that was important. Different fibers shrunk at different rates, and the very first time such a cloth got wet, it would be ruined.
Here is where Ryan raises an excellent point: it's not the law that's important, but the consequences of violation. We know how to prepare all manner of meats safely, so the dietary laws no longer apply. We can make pre-shrunk fabrics, and/or treat them to shrink uniformly, so cotton/wool blends are perfectly OK. The list goes on.
Some things are still prohibited. But they're not very controversial, for the most part. Murder. Theft. Adultery. The harms were obvious then, and they're obvious now.
One interesting question remains: Why was homosexuality on the list, back in the day? I have my own idea, but I'm curious to see what anyone else comes up with.
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