This article is a response to “11 Things The Bible Bans, But You Do Anyway.”
The author of that article argues that many Christians have self-serving interpretations of the Bible and are essentially hypocrites. The author also mentions that it is beyond his comprehension that some people would, “get so zealous about that issue that they’ll go as far as to murder doctors who perform abortions and bomb abortion clinics.”
Before I criticize the 11 points themselves, let me touch on the over arching issues at play. I also, perhaps surprisingly, want to give the author some credit and agree with several points. First, many Christians ARE hypocrites, including myself. In fact, I think to varying degrees ALL Christians are hypocrites, with the exception of Christ himself. The Christian is a hypocrite by definition – to even be a born again Christian includes asking for forgiveness for things you know you have done wrong. I suppose there are some Christians who ask for forgiveness and never do anything wrong again afterwards, but I don’t know if I’ve ever met any.
Secondly, it is also beyond MY comprehension that someone can murder an abortion doctor or bomb an abortion clinic and call themselves Christian. I understand the justifications some of these groups make but I find them incorrect. It would take me several paragraphs to explain why “thou shalt not kill” means “THOU SHALT NOT KILL” to a stubborn-headed theologian who thinks their own interpretation of scripture is the best one out there, and I should probably do an article just on that topic at some point in time, but I’m not going to explain that here. I think most Christians get the idea that it is not OK to kill people according to the Bible – a contrast with religions such as Islam where it is in fact explicitly encouraged by their Holy Scripture.
Lastly, and VERY importantly, I want to give the author credit for doing something. I’ll let him explain what he did in his own words, which I quote:
All quotes are translations from the New American Standard Bible, but, because I’m actually trying to maintain serious journalistic integrity here, I cross-referenced several other translations to make sure I wasn’t missing the point.
It’s not only journalists who should have a little integrity, we all should. It’s not only on discussions of religion that we should have a little integrity, we should always be fighting for it, but I when I talk to people about religion they FLEE from an honest discussion. They prefer jokes, straw-men, emotional rhetoric, exaggeration, intuition or just not talking about it over what they would obviously want in any other kind of factual analysis – sources, accurate interpretation, logical consistency, seeking the truth over personal instinct and an active and lively discussion that culminates in either a conclusion with some sort of agreement or at least a respectable agreement to disagree.
The author takes steps to ensure accurate understanding – he fails in several cases, but he puts forth a damn good effort and I respect that. If people could make genuine steps like this to a sincere discussion we could get much further on a variety of issues – religion, politics and I think even science! Even scientists, or perhaps I should say especially scientists, have a problem getting their own pride out of the way and honestly and accurately understand where the other side is coming from.
The overall point the author was making is this:
As a final note, I know that nine of these 11 cite the Old Testament, which Christianity doesn’t necessarily adhere to as law.
To which I say: If you’re going to ignore the section of Leviticus that bans about tattoos, pork, shellfish, round haircuts, polyester and football, how can you possibly turn around and quote Leviticus 18:22 (“You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”) as irrefutable law?
I’m also impressed the author was knowledgeable and honest enough to recognize/grant/mention that some/much/all of Leviticus and other parts of the Old Testament. The thing is that the New Testament says several things against homosexuality as well.
On to the 11 points themselves:
- Ya I have no idea about this one. Don’t round your haircut? I’m not 100% sure what that even means. I have 3 theories, but at the end of the day my honest answer is I don’t understand why God would command such a thing – BUT that doesn’t mean that because I don’t understand it I’m OK with ignoring it! My three theories are 1) Similar to point 5, this may be a practice which is in connection with some ungodly belief system, 2) It may be to emphasize the idea that God created you the way you should be, including your body, so don’t try to improve it in ways that please others because it only makes you less beautiful in God’s eyes and 3) It could be that in order to fine-tune the timing and method of Jesus’ birth, some really weird and otherwise purposeless laws were temporarily created. For example, making people cut hair in a particular way could decelerate or accelerate the time table for other events which would lead to Mary meeting Joseph. You can tell this last one is somewhat shooting in the dark 😉
Let’s also remember that Leviticus is an ancient book of Jewish Law. It’s like the original Political and Legal Constitution of Israel. Some of it is practical or temporary stuff which is not related to moral law. It is arguably not given to all people and may not even apply, partly or fully, to Christians not living in a nation-state of Israel and/or not living at that time. It’s pretty damn unrelated to essential tenets of salvation such as accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and repenting from sin.
- Mark 7:18-19, Jesus says that something is only unclean if it enters into the heart and makes the heart unclean, which for many means that he rendered foods previously considered unclean as acceptable to eat. In fact, many translations including the NIV the author used includes the phrase, “In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean” at the end. So no, touching and eating pig is not certainly banned by the Bible.
There’s also the point that Mark 7 is in the context of discussion of human traditions, as discussed in this article. So it is also saying we should value God’s commands more than human traditions.
- Actually, YES. Horoscopes, mysticism, non-Christian spiritualism, magic and so on are all condemned by the Bible. These things are based on deception and lies and therefore conducive to Satanism but antithetical to Christianity. Unlike food, when a witch or unclean spirit (that is, any spirit other than the Holy Spirit) tries to make you unclean they are not simply doing it to you in a bodily sense, they are making you mentally and spiritually unclean. They are causing you to believe lies and reject truth. This is called spiritual warfare and it is serious business.
- Onan wasn’t smitten for pulling out, he was smitten because he pissed off God. Let’s read the passage in context. Genesis 38:6-10:6 Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar.
7 But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death.
8 Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.”
9 But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother.
10 What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also.
In my reading God was pissed because Onan intentionally rebelled against the will of his father Judah, and simultaneously against God’s own will and law. THAT is some smite-able shit. It’s not about jacking off, it’s not about birth control, it’s not about pulling out. Are you serious? God has bigger fish to fry. He’s not a small minded jackass like people try to make him look. But conscious rebellion against righteous authority is a precedent which cannot be set. If it was part of God’s plan that Tamar have children then Onan was getting in the way. After Onan died then Tamar had kids by another guy. That’s not the point, except to say that God killing Onan might have been the only way to let Tamar have kids within the laws of marriage. Not that I need to justify God, but people seem to need explanations like these – or else they create their own stupid ones like “God hates people who pull out…???” I’m just like wtf r u serial.
- Taking the Mark 7 Principal we discuss in point 2, tattoos are sometimes a problem. I would argue, however, that this is rare. The verse quoted was in connection with a pagan ritual at the time to worship the dead, which God condemned. You can see how that would result in pretty bad spiritual uncleanliness. Today, I think cutting can be related to spiritual issues. Tattoos, I think, are only evil if they serve evil ends. If it is a death pagan cult ritual tattoo, yeah, I think God would be against that. If it’s a tattoo of a Bible verse, of a cross, or of some pro-Christian message I don’t think it’s bad. If it’s a tattoo of a smiley face then, as Mark Driscoll once said in a discussion of the morality of video games involving murder and stuff, “It’s not a sin, it’s just stupid.” Finally, I would be on guard for sneaky satanic shit. Let me give you an example. Some people might say that a tattoo of an owl can represent intelligence and wisdom, because they see in the dark. However, some owl tattoos like this one that Justin Bieber has are a reference to Roman Paganism and secret societies like the Illuminati, which I believe are tied into Satanism. In conclusion, I would recommend being very conservative and careful with the symbols you get put on your body, but I’m not convinced that all tattoos are banned by the Bible.
- I have no idea. See point #1. It also might be in connection with a principal to respect the natural order including the heterogeneity of the kinds God created, but idk.
- ANOTHER POINT I AGREE WITH. Divorce is not Biblical, end of story. Here’s an imperfect but interesting article on the topic. That author finds that divorce is always a sin, but can sometimes be the lesser of two sins and is therefore sometimes preferable, even for the Christian. The author fails to consider the solution of separation without divorce, but other than that does a good job. I think once we consider the possibility of separation without divorce we will find that there are no cases in which divorce is ideal. Interestingly, divorce can actually be justified by nearly anyone, even on technically-Biblical grounds, as stated in the article. While divorce can be technically justified it is still not sinless or ideal and I would argue that it is never even the least evil possibility when we consider separation without divorce.
- I think I am best off calling a code 1 on this. Refer to point 1. I’ll pretend I have no idea. Tbh, I have an idea, but it is very controversial and I am not confident in it. A possible reason might be that allowing people under these conditions into the assembly might increase the tendency of the whole assembly toward sexual immorality.
- Ya this is a pretty good call. Dressing up or getting nicer things is sometimes appropriate, but excess is vanity, pride and gluttony. I agree that Christians do engage in this quite a bit.
- See #2. Shellfish is not banned.
- Ya this one’s weird. Idk.