Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Common Objections To The Bible

The following are responses to common modern objections raised to the Bible:

1. "God gave many commandments, but he never gave a commandment against rape."

Actually, he did.  It's a verse that critics of the Bible conveniently tend to ignore and skip over:

"But if the man meets the engaged woman out in the country, and he rapes her, then only the man must die.  Do nothing to the young woman; she has committed no crime worthy of death. She is as innocent as a murder victim." (Deuteronomy 22:25-26, NLT)

2. "Many of the commandments in the Old Testament make no sense."

After God rescued the Israelites out of Egypt, God gave them 613 commandments, found in the Torah (Genesis - Deuteronomy).  These commandments were never intended to apply to anyone but the Jewish people (Exodus 19:3-6, 31:16, 34:27; Deuteronomy 5:1-3).  Many of them were never intended to apply outside of the land of Israel, or in the absence of the Temple (Deuteronomy 12:8-14).  Some commandments were intended to keep them in community with God, others to keep a peaceful and orderly society, still others such as the dietary/purity laws to make them distinct from other nations.  These commandments were intended to set the Israelites apart from the rest of the world, so that they would point the rest of the world to God.  The commandments were never a means of salvation or achievement of righteousness - this is done by faith in God and in his sacrifice alone (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:18-25).

3. "There is way too much violence in the Old Testament."

It is true that sections of the Old Testament are violent.  It is important to note that the Bible does not always approve everything that it records.  Just because there is an act of violence recorded in the Bible does not mean that God approves of that act of violence.  Some parts of the Bible, particularly the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament), are books of history.  The Bible contains many stories where society abandoned God and went wrong, particularly in terms of murder, adultery, rape, polygamy, child sacrifice, incest, etc. (Genesis 29-30, 34; Judges 13-21; 1 Samuel 1:1-8; 2 Samuel 11-13; 2 Chronicles 33:6). 

Critics of the Bible ignore the passages in which people who were usually oppressed and denied their rights in ancient society were given protection under the Law.  The Law offered protection for slaves (Exodus 21:20, 26-27; Deuteronomy 15:12, 23:15-16) and protection and inheritance rights for women - which was a huge deal in a patriarchal society (Exodus 21:7-11; Numbers 27:1-11; Deuteronomy 22:25-26).  Not to mention all of the stories where God expressed his compassion on those who were being oppressed, and rescued people or rewarded them for their faithfulness:

God rescued the Israelites from over 400 years of oppression and slavery in Egypt, where they were being abused and murdered by their slave masters (Exodus 1:11-14, 22, 12:31-42)

God rewarded the midwives who did not submit to Pharaoh's order to murder baby Hebrew boys (Exodus 1:15-21)

God rescued Shadrach, Mesach and Abednego from a fiery furnace; men were plotting against their lives because they refused to bow to idols (Daniel 3)

These are just a few examples of many Biblical stories that show God's compassion and mercy.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Bible and Sexuality (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6)

With human sexuality at the forefront of the news lately, I thought it might be helpful to revisit what the Bible says about it.

The beginning of the book of Genesis contains the account where God created man and woman, and the first marriage: “But for Adam no suitable helper was found.  So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh.  Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
The man said,
‘This is now bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
    for she was taken out of man.’
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:20-24, NIV)

Jesus affirmed this when discussing marriage and divorce with a group of Pharisees: “’
Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’” (Matthew 19:4-6, NIV).

From these two accounts, we learn the following about God’s intention for human sexuality:

1. Human sexuality was designed to be expressed between one man and one woman, united together for life.  The Bible contains many stories of the miseries that arose because of deviant sexual acts such as polygamy (Genesis 29-30, 1 Samuel 1:1-8), adultery (2 Samuel 11), prostitution (Judges 11:1-3), rape (Judges 19; 2 Samuel 13), etc.  Sex was designed as a uniting bond between a man and his wife (the Hebrew root words used in Genesis 2:24 are “ish”, meaning “man, male” and “isha”, meaning “woman, female”). 

From this one verse, Genesis 2:24, we learn the order of marriage – an adult man removes himself from his parents and clings to his wife (only his wife, not the wife of another man, which is adultery), his female wife – (“isha”, feminine, but not to another man), and they shall become one flesh (this term can refer to the combining of man and woman as one flesh in their conceived children, which excludes sex with animals).  These restrictions also apply to women, since the verse ends with “and they (plural, both the man and his wife) become one flesh.”

2. Marriage is a lifelong commitment.  Jesus said, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9), “And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:12, NIV). 

3. All sexual acts that fall outside of this definition of marriage are what modern English translations of the Bible call “sexual immorality”.  The Greek root word is “porneia”, sometimes translated as “fornication”.  Dictionary.com defines fornication as “voluntary sexual intercourse between two persons not married to each other”.  These sexual acts include pre-marital sex, incest, rape, pornography, homosexuality, prostitution, adultery, bestiality and orgies.

These are God’s instructions for humanity, regarding sexuality.