Skip to comments.Making Sense of Scripture's 'Inconsistency'
Posted on 01/07/2014 1:55:56 PM PST by Gamecock
I find it frustrating when I read or hear columnists, pundits, or journalists dismiss Christians as inconsistent because "they pick and choose which of the rules in the Bible to obey." Most often I hear, "Christians ignore lots of Old Testament texts---about not eating raw meat or pork or shellfish, not executing people for breaking the Sabbath, not wearing garments woven with two kinds of material and so on. Then they condemn homosexuality. Aren't you just picking and choosing what you want to believe from the Bible?"
I don't expect everyone to understand that the whole Bible is about Jesus and God's plan to redeem his people, but I vainly hope that one day someone will access their common sense (or at least talk to an informed theological adviser) before leveling the charge of inconsistency.
First, it's not only the Old Testament that has proscriptions about homosexuality. The New Testament has plenty to say about it as well. Even Jesus says, in his discussion of divorce in Matthew 19:3-12, that the original design of God was for one man and one woman to be united as one flesh, and failing that (v. 12), persons should abstain from marriage and sex.
However, let's get back to considering the larger issue of inconsistency regarding things mentioned in the Old Testament no longer practiced by the New Testament people of God. Most Christians don't know what to say when confronted about this issue. Here's a short course on the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament.
The Old Testament devotes a good amount of space to describing the various sacrifices offered in the tabernacle (and later temple) to atone for sin so that worshipers could approach a holy God. There was also a complex set of rules for ceremonial purity and cleanness. You could only approach God in worship if you ate certain foods and not others, wore certain forms of dress, refrained from touching a variety of objects, and so on. This vividly conveyed, over and over, that human beings are spiritually unclean and can't go into God's presence without purification.
But even in the Old Testament, many writers hinted that the sacrifices and the temple worship regulations pointed forward to something beyond them (cf. 1 Sam. 15:21-22; Ps. 50:12-15; 51:17; Hos. 6:6). When Christ appeared he declared all foods clean (Mark 7:19), and he ignored the Old Testament cleanliness laws in other ways, touching lepers and dead bodies.
The reason is clear. When he died on the cross the veil in the temple tore, showing that he had done away with the the need for the entire sacrificial system with all its cleanliness laws. Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice for sin, and now Jesus makes us clean.
The entire book of Hebrews explains that the Old Testament ceremonial laws were not so much abolished as fulfilled by Christ. Whenever we pray "in Jesus name" we "have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus" (Heb. 10:19). It would, therefore, be deeply inconsistent with the teaching of the Bible as a whole if we continued to follow the ceremonial laws.
The New Testament gives us further guidance about how to read the Old Testament. Paul makes it clear in places like Romans 13:8ff that the apostles understood the Old Testament moral law to still be binding on us. In short, the coming of Christ changed how we worship, but not how we live. The moral law outlines God's own character---his integrity, love, and faithfulness. And so everything the Old Testament says about loving our neighbor, caring for the poor, generosity with our possessions, social relationships, and commitment to our family is still in force. The New Testament continues to forbid killing or committing adultery, and all the sex ethic of the Old Testament is re-stated throughout the New Testament (Matt. 5:27-30; 1 Cor. 6:9-20; 1 Tim. 1:8-11). If the New Testament has reaffirmed a commandment, then it is still in force for us today.
The New Testament explains another change between the testaments. Sins continue to be sins---but the penalties change. In the Old Testament sins like adultery or incest were punishable with civil sanctions like execution. This is because at that time God's people constituted a nation-state, and so all sins had civil penalties.
But in the New Testament the people of God are an assembly of churches all over the world, living under many different governments. The church is not a civil government, and so sins are dealt with by exhortation and, at worst, exclusion from membership. This is how Paul deals with a case of incest in the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 5:1ff. and 2 Cor. 2:7-11). Why this change? Under Christ, the gospel is not confined to a single nation---it has been released to go into all cultures and peoples.
Once you grant the main premise of the Bible---about the surpassing significance of Christ and his salvation---then all the various parts of the Bible make sense. Because of Christ, the ceremonial law is repealed. Because of Christ, the church is no longer a nation-state imposing civil penalties. It all falls into place. However, if you reject the idea of Christ as Son of God and Savior, then, of course, the Bible is at best a mishmash containing some inspiration and wisdom, but most of it would have to be rejected as foolish or erroneous.
So where does this leave us? There are only two possibilities. If Christ is God, then this way of reading the Bible makes sense. The other possibility is that you reject Christianity's basic thesis---you don't believe Jesus is the resurrected Son of God---and then the Bible is no sure guide for you about much of anything. But you can't say in fairness that Christians are being inconsistent with their beliefs to follow the moral statements in the Old Testament while not practicing the other ones.
One way to respond to the charge of inconsistency may be to ask a counter-question: "Are you asking me to deny the very heart of my Christian beliefs?" If you are asked, "Why do you say that?" you could respond, "If I believe Jesus is the resurrected Son of God, I can't follow all the 'clean laws' of diet and practice, and I can't offer animal sacrifices. All that would be to deny the power of Christ's death on the cross. And so those who really believe in Christ must follow some Old Testament texts and not others."
There is no biblical inconsistencies.
Not that this former Atheist could find.
“Inconsistencies” happen when tradition and doctrines contradict scripture.
The bible in itself, when interpreting itself does not contradict.
And it also helps you from wandering into certain cults that are out there.... (As well as in FR as well.)
Tim Keller ping for later
>>There is no biblical inconsistencies.
Not that this former Atheist could find.
Inconsistencies happen when tradition and doctrines contradict scripture.<<
Interestingly (and may I suggest ironically?) the naysayers yell about “picking and choosing” Scripture.
As with so many things in life, the entirety makes sense. It is the pickers and choosers who adulterate the message given to us.
Dice and slice at your peril.
Moses gave the law but only to the Jews - no one else.
Jesus gave us the new covenant, replacing the old covenant, not doing away with the Law but fulfilling/perfecting it. Christians are under Grace [unmerited/undeserved favor] and our law is to love God with all our heart and love others as ourselves [and walk in the Spirit].
Paul wrote extensively about those Jews who attempting to bring the church back under the law but he said if you go back to the law you make Christ of none effect.
The law was a tutor leading to Christ. It demonstrated the incapacity of humans to perfectly keep a perfect law. Jesus “fulfilled law”. When Peter and the others met in Jerusalem to decide whether circumcision would be required of Christians they decided not. The law had fulfilled its purpose, but since it was a perfect law, many of the things it forbade are still wrong, like murder, adultery, theft, idolatry and so on. It doesn’t mean the law is still in force.
The argument of the atheists and secularists is invalid, but it is still effective. That’s because trying to explain why it is invalid requires quite a bit of exposition, a lot of which is only comprehensible to people already familiar with the Bible and Christian theological ideas. They can toss this grenade out, and by the time you could defuse it, the audience has lost interest and walked away with the impression that you are a hypocrite.
One way to counter that is simply to flip the accusation back at them. Tell them that Muslims are completely inconsistent when it comes to following verses from the Quran. Then demand to know why they are not out publicly condemning the Muslims for their inconsistency. If they tar you unfairly as a hypocrite, tar them right back as a religious bigot.
If the New Testament has reaffirmed a commandment, then it is still in force for us today.
The whole of Torah was reaffirmed in the New Testament, right out of the lips of Yeshua:
Mat 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
Mat 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
Mat 5:19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
So your contention is that there is a contradiction?
Not in the Bible, but rather in the traditions of Christendom.
Thanks for the ping, G.
God gives us some fairly succinct answers in Romans. One of the easiest to remember is Chapter 6 verse 14 “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”
That verse is the 20 second crash course in dispensationalism.
1Co 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
Why is it we hardly ever hear you under the law guys say "Old Testament? It is always "Torah." Is it because you guys don't believe there is a New Testament?
By the way, verse 17 in the passages you cited is the key to verse 19. The New Testament doesn't promoting unrighteousness and ungodliness. There is a difference in living a righteous life because of an external law, and, having being regenerated by Christ within, living a righteous life because one's very nature has been changed.
The New Testament doesn’t promote unrighteousness and ungodliness.
And then the reeeeaaaallly fun part comes when you read it every day and study it more and more, ALL of LIFE becomes meaningful and Glorifies God. It all fits together, and we can’t even see it all! I’m so excited, and it’s not from the black raspberry ice cream I just had.