Do you wear clothes of cotton and polyester blended cloth?
Have you ever consumed shellfish?
Gentlemen, when did you last shave?
How many years do you have until your land reverts back to its original owner?
What ritual animal sacrifice does your financial status allow you to make?
At what age do you plan to talk to your children about pelting adulterers with rocks until they die?
If you’re unsure about any of these things, then you don’t really believe the whole Bible do you!?!?
smugly sips latte
Historically, Protestantism in general, and evangelicals in particular, made the belief in the Bible as authoritative, infallible, and inerrant one of their core doctrines. Both the Second London Confession and the Westminster Confession of Faith begin by speaking of Scripture rather than the doctrine of God. 2 Timothy 3:16 states every part of Scripture has God as its author and continues to instruct and bear on the life of believers.
So do none of us sacrifice sheep as instructed? Why do we find the eating of pork acceptable (other than the fact that it is delicious)?
I frequently heard questions like these in my teen years. Or, if my verbal sparring partner really knew his stuff, he’d go for Deuteronomy 25:11-12 (warning, R-rated; ). The objector charges the Christian believer with an inconsistent doctrine of Scripture. The objector asserts at least one of the following: 1) the Christian “picks and chooses” what to believe in Scripture, 2) the Christian only practices part of what he presumes to believe, 3) the Christian insists on the sanctity and importance of the Bible, but does not know or understand it like the objector does.
The truly dangerous part of the objection is that the objector might be correct! If you cite only Leviticus to make moral points, you actually imply what the objector observed.
Notice, though, the objection actually addresses the Christian and not the Bible itself. Though plenty of debates rage around the veracity or civility of the Bible, this does not exist among them. This objection goes directly to the life of the Christian as she aligns herself with her holy book.
Here’s where we’re not going: no one needs to stop eating shellfish.
Here’s where we are going: everyone needs to read the Old and New Testaments.
You need to read the Old Testament, for it served as the Scriptures of the New Testament authors. Paul had it in mind when he penned 2 Timothy 3:16-17, referenced above. When I say “read,” I do not intend to communicate one should become a scholar of rabbinic quality with reference to the Pentateuch (though I do not discourage it!). I do intend for the reader to actually see the words of books like Leviticus for himself or herself. You do not exist in the old covenant, but the church continues to profit from its reading. The Christian who purports to believe all of the Bible in all its inerrant glory, but who neglects to read it in its entirety will answer exactly zero objections pertaining to it. The look of shock on your face kinda gives you away.
David Mathis makes a helpful comparison of reading to raking and study to digging. You may not mine the entirety of Scripture; however, please rake the whole thing. Have some familiarity with the words on the page, even if your mind cannot readily apply them to your life.
The Old Testament alone, however, will not help you answer your latte objecting friend. He does look intimidating, thumbing through that work by Camus, but you have the answer right there in your Bible. In the past, Christians dubbed it “the New Testament.” in Mark 7:18-20, Jesus says these words:
Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into
the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his
stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.) And He was saying, “That which
proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man.
Notice, the main point of the teaching concerns cleanliness in the eyes of God. However, the statement bears implications along with its main point. Mark, as a narrator, provides one: Jesus declared all foods clean.
“WAIT! THAT’S A CONTRADICTION!” screams our Camus-loving friend, glad to be free of his meandering existential burden for the moment.
No. It is not.
A contradiction would go like this: Jesus said foods were clean and unclean at the same time in the same way.
Looking further at the New Testament, the issue becomes clearer. Think Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews. These three letters prove extremely helpful in navigating our Christian interaction with the Old Testament. All three rely on the Old Testament, alluding to it and quoting it frequently. Remember raking and digging example? These would represent three places to dig and dig deeply. Though all three have much to say, I’ll pick just one passage from each.
Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that
you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might
bear fruit for God. For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the
Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have
been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve
in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was
later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may
be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are
all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
Hebrews 8:13 (commenting on Jeremiah’s prophecy of a new covenant)
When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming
obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.
Romans says Christians have been released from the Law. Galatians calls the Law a tutor and states Christians no longer exist under a tutor. Hebrews, perhaps the starkest of all, refers to the Law (old covenant) as obsolete. Hebrews argues that attempts to practice the sacrificial laws after the crucifixion of Jesus actually abandons the intent of the Law and Christ Jesus himself.
In fulfilling the Law, Jesus removed its bearing on the lives of those who would know God. Hence why he could declare all foods clean. The reader of Scripture will see the lack of bearing of the Law on Gentile Christian believers explicitly stated in Acts 15:1-35, which possesses too great a length to quote here. The teaching of the church in Jerusalem, based on the Old Testament interpreted through the coming of Jesus, settles discussion in the early church. Gentiles receive instruction to abstain from foods polluted by idols, consumption of blood, and fornication. The fulfillment of the Law does not mean no Christian ethic exists, of course. The coming of Christ removed the necessity of the rite of circumcision from God’s people, and it’s safe to say if circumcision went away, the various codes relating to mixed fiber fabrics and other Torah distinctives also fall into obsolescence.
So no, Christians do not practice those things. Such a statement does not mean reading Leviticus and Deuteronomy profit the Christian believer nothing. Every sacrifice points in some way to the work of Jesus. We see God’s high ethic for treatment of the poor, something encouraged by the writers of the New Testament. In the Pentateuch, we see the majesty and mercy of God. His holiness affects how his people honor and worship him, and it affects how they deal with one another. Its almost like the whole thing summarizes well by saying “Love God with everything you’ve got and always treat others in the way you desire they treat you.” The question then raises: does the Christian answering the objection model the spirit of such an ethic?
Notice the brilliant evangelistic opportunity the objection provides. The Christian received an invitation to explain how Jesus changes everything. To respond to the objection, you possess the opportunity to explain the perfect, complete, and final atonement of Jesus and invite the objector to respond to it. Jesus stands as the cornerstone of biblical theology, and to answer the objection, a basic biblical theology is provided. Answer the objection with the hope resting within you, that of Christ Jesus.