11 Things Atheists Criticize About the Bible, But We Know Better

It’s been a long time since I have posted here. I have been focusing on Spanish materials and many other aspects of my work. But recently a blog post entitled “11 Things the Bible Bans, But You Do Anyway” caught my attention. I wrote, in a matter of minutes, a detailed point by point response, to the post at this site. Now I realize that the original post comes from this site. At any rate, I thought I would rewrite my answers here. Hopefully no one will get sucked in by the weak reasoning of the people who posted this in the first place.

The point of the original author was that the Bible contains many stupid prohibitions, and Christians are stupid to believe it. And the author provides 11 ideas to prove it. Here they are:

1. Round haircuts (Leviticus 19:27)

2. Playing football (Leviticus 11:8)

3. Fortune-telling (Leviticus 19:31, 20:6)

4. Pulling out during sex (Genesis 38:9-10)

5. Tattoos (Leviticus 19:28)

6. Wearing polyester and other mixed fabrics (Leviticus 19:19)

7. Divorce and remarriage (Mark 10:8-12)

8. Letting people without testicles into church (and tenth generation children of illegitimate children, Deuteronomy 23:1-2)

9. Wearing gold (1 Timothy 2:9)

10. Eating shellfish (Leviticus 11:10)

11. Wives defending their husbands by grabbing their husband’s opponent by the testicles (Deuteronomy 25:11-12)

The author goes on to criticize the ban on homosexuality as well, and trudges out the oft-repeated platitude that if we accept what the Law of Moses says about homosexuality, we must be consistent and prohibit all of the above as well.

How ought we respond to this?

1. First of all, it’s not as if Christians haven’t thought long and hard about these and other passages, or that such sentiments come as a surprise. The writer of the original post ignores centuries of thoughtful reflection on these topics, and acts as if he’s the first to notice. But we Christians have very careful rules established to determine how to relate the Old and New Testaments and determine what is applicable today and in what way. In practice we may be inconsistent in our application of the Bible to life, but our interpretation of the Bible makes perfect sense if one takes the time to investigate.

2. One rule we use to mediate the relationship between the OT and the NT is that if a prohibition in the OT is repealed in the NT, it is no longer valid. The whole idea in the OT about unclean animals and foods was done away with in the NT (see Peter’s vision on Acts 10:9-16). So it is not inconsistent to obey other laws in Leviticus but not obey food laws. We can effectively scratch #2 and #10 off our list of 11. They are no longer an issue. But, you might object, weren’t those laws random and ridiculous when they were in force? No, not really.

The point of such laws is that Israel as a nation needed to be distinct from the nations around it in order to form and maintain its identity as a people. Food laws were one of the ways to maintain that distinction. And there was a rationale behind which animals were forbidden. From Genesis 1 on, God was all about separating things into separate categories and not mixing them. The word for that idea is holiness.  Israel needed to be holy – separate from the nations around it. So the animals that mixed elements from other animals were forbidden. Animals that chewed the cud AND had split hooves, creatures that lived in the sea AND walked on legs instead of swimming, etc, were forbidden. Israel was to be a nation that didn’t blur its boundaries, and refused to eat animals whose composition and behavior blurred such boundaries.

So, no, there was no moral reason not to eat such animals, but the prohibition was not a random one. God wanted to form a distinct nation that would in time bring salvation to the other nations. And to do so, he gave them a separate diet and hygiene, among other things. Once Jesus came bringing that salvation, the apostles were charged with taking that salvation to the nations. So now the idea was not to be separate from the nations but to go out into them. Acts 10, mentioned above, makes that very connection: Peter’s vision was not so much about food but about contact with ‘unclean’ Gentiles (non-Jews). The Gentiles and their culture were no longer unclean, including the food they eat. And so we see apostles living like Gentiles and adopting their culture in order to share the good news with them, rather than insisting that they adopt Jewish culture.

In short, in the preceding I show that the original rule wasn’t stupid, that the changeover wasn’t haphazard, and that Christians have a rationale for ignoring these two prohibitions found in their Bibles. Enjoy your bacon and shrimp, everyone!

3. The prohibition against round haircuts and blended fabrics (#1 and #6 on our list above), while not specifically repealed in the NT, clearly fall under the same umbrella. Blended fabrics was all about mixing things that should not be mixed, in order to avoid mixing and intermingling with the pagan nations around Israel. Now such rules are a non-issue, because we are a new Israel that incorporates Gentiles on the basis of faith in Jesus, not on the basis of adopting Jewish culture. I’m not really that crazy about tattoos, myself (#5 on our list), but I would still place it in the same category.

4. Another item in which a former prohibition has been repealed is #8. Israel’s worship emphasized that access to God was limited. Certain people were only allowed so far. The temple had several areas, and depending whom you were, you would not be allowed to pass a  certain point. The point was not that God didn’t love everyone the same, but that God limited access to himself because of sinful humanity, and the layers of exclusivity were a visual reminder of that. Even among healthy Jewish male priests the same rules applied: in the center of the temple complex, only the high priest could enter, and only once a year.

But in the New Testament Jesus dies for humankind, and according to the book of Hebrews he gives us – all of us who believe in him – direct access to God. So whether you are Jew or Gentile, male or female, rich or poor, slave or free, whether you have perfect health or you have, like those mentioned in #8, ‘damaged goods’, God invites you to draw near to him through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

5. That leaves us with #3, 4, 7, 9, and 11, all of which have less to do with the difference between the Old and New Testaments and more to do with the author failing to read the passages in their historical and literary contexts.

6. The sin of Onan in pulling out during sex (#4) was not that he pulled out, but that he did so in order to avoid a sacred obligation to his deceased brother’s family. In those days it was important to produce offspring and continue the family name. But sometimes men died young, and if they had brothers, it was the brother’s duty to provide offspring for the deceased brother. Then it was their duty to financially provide for such offspring. Onan was more concerned about saving money than he was about his brother’s family line, so he pulled out in order to avoid spending the big bucks on raising a kid for this brother. But note that he didn’t do so by refusing to sleep with his brother’s wife. He shacked up with the widow and did the equivalent of spitting on his brother’s grave. If you do something similar, you are guilty of this very justifiable prohibition. Otherwise ignore it.

7. While we are on the subject of being fruitful and multiplying, let’s tackle #11. I admit that this is the strangest of the prohibitions on the list. My gut reaction is that this only got in Deuteronomy’s rulebook because someone had recently done something like that. But it might be that in those days when two men got into a fistfight, women made it a habit of attempting to grab their opponents by the family jewels. Who knows? Even here, I think, there is a logical rationale: as mentioned before, producing offspring was all-important in Israel, an obligation stemming from Genesis 1 itself. So the idea is that if two men are fighting, they are bound to get a few scrapes and bruises, but it would be far worse to eliminate an opponent’s ability to have kids than it would be to let the guys just duke it out. A foreign idea, maybe, to our ears, but it has its own internal logic.

8. The prohibition of wearing gold (among other things) in 1 Timothy (#9 above) should be read in connection with the similar recommendation in 1 Peter 3:3-5. People should invest their time and money in cultivating their inner, spiritual beauty, not in enhancing their physical beauty. In that culture women needed to attract men, and the apostles say they should do so by displaying the qualities that really matter, not by enhancing their physical appearance. And people shouldn’t go to church meetings dressed in a way to draw attention to themselves. They should be modest. Rather than being a foolish, random prohibition, I think it is quite relevant for Christians today. I see too many people doing in church just what Paul and Peter urge us not to do in these passages.

9. Divorce and remarriage (#7 above): Jesus prohibited divorce and remarriage because men were using divorce as a ‘legal’ way to dump their wives and hook up with another woman without getting stoned for adultery. Jesus took away that loophole in order to protect women – who in that society could not realistically survive financially without being under the wing of either a father or a husband – from being dumped for something simple as burning their husband’s toast and then being forced out of necessity to remarry. Jesus was saying that men should not be able to get away with that kind of thing without being held responsible.

Jesus and, incidentally, Paul, both recognize that there are valid exceptions when divorce is allowable. Jesus mentions that if your spouse commits adultery, you might find it necessary to divorce. Paul mentions the possibility involving cases of abandonment by an unbeliever. I would use the precedent afforded by these exceptions to add another: when wife and/or children are threatened by severe harm from their husbands. What is sad is not the prohibition given by Jesus but the misuse of it by Christians who force wives into staying in abusive, hostile marriages for fear of sinning by divorcing. Jesus’ point was to protect women from cruel husbands. He is to be applauded, not ridiculed. But Christian misuse of this prohibition goes directly against the spirit of the command, and is to be condemned.

10. Down to one: fortune-telling. Sorcery of any form is a pagan ritual, not a harmless pastime. It involves going outside the religious establishment and paying an unauthorized, self-proclaimed religious person to consult what turn out to be demonic forces about important choices pertaining to your future rather than using the brains and wisdom God gave you and resorting to prayer when that is not enough. It is condemned by both testaments, and rightly so.

So there you have it. I sat down an hour or so ago, and pumped out this article without so much as getting up or checking other resources, and I answered all 11 objections to the Bible without a sweat. I’m not saying it is always this easy. There are much more demanding objections to Christian faith. But the Bible is not stupid, as the original 11 point post claims. And we who believe it are not stupid for doing so. Blessings to all who have an ear to hear.

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08. September 2009 by Dave Gifford
Categories: Uncategorized | 102 comments

Comments (102)

  1. Excellent response to the article. Thank you. Just a comment to add to point # 6 (in response to objection 4). Keeping the family line going was especially critical since God promised to send a redeemer, “the seed of the woman” promised in Gen. 1. God continually narrowed down which family that redeemer was going to come through. First, God selected Abram, then Issac, then Jacob. At the point of time when Onan refused to carry on an offspring to keep his brother’s line going, the Israelites did not know which tribe God was going to select or use to fulfill His promise. In fact, we later learn that God chose to work through the tribe of Judah and Onan could have had a part in what God was doing. However, because of his selfish choice, God chose to work through Judah himself and his daughter-in-law Tamar.

  2. Thanks, Steve, although obviously, the ‘seed of the woman’ was only going to come through one family, so the ‘critical’ aspect to the law that you mentioned would have only applied to that family…

  3. So, by your logic, outdated, unnecessary and repealed restrictions in the Bible should no longer be adhered to. In that case, I take it that you also agree that homosexuality no longer needs to be condemned, because, in this day and age, what reason could there be for homophobia?

  4. Hi Rachel,

    The point of the author whose arguments I criticize in the post is that the 11 prohibitions are ridiculous, so the ban on homosexuality is also ridiculous, and we should jettison the Bible completely. I didn’t mean to write on homosexuality in this post, but focused on showing the logic of the 11 prohibitions. But since I mentioned homosexuality I suppose I should have followed up on that.

    In my opinion, it seems clear that the New Testament repeaTs the prohibition against homosexual practice several times. So the Old Testament restriction against homosexual behavior has not been repeaLed.

    On another note, I wouldn’t agree with your understanding of my logic. My logic is that if God gave a commanded or a prohibition, one better have significant biblical justification for no longer complying with it. One should be able to show that the practice has been repealed within the Bible itself, or that some New Testament change has rendered it unnecessary, or that by applying it in a literal fashion today we are distorting or undermining its original intent. I believe we do not have the right, without biblical justification, to decide what is unnecessary or outdated.

    My post was to try to show that some of the items were repealed within the Bible itself, that some are rendered unnecessary because of changes in the Bible, and that some are still quite applicable today. And if that is true, then the original author’s blogpost about the ridiculousness of applying the Bible is unfounded.

  5. “In short, in the preceding I show that the original rule wasn’t stupid, that the changeover wasn’t haphazard, and that Christians have a rationale for ignoring these two prohibitions found in their Bibles. Enjoy your bacon and shrimp, everyone!”

    You don’t even touch on the real reasons associated with dietary rules (actual health concerns such as trichinosis) and assume that you can suss out God’s intention of creating them so as to separate Israel from surrounding nations. Which is some pretty bold bullshit. The whole post is a giant equivocation designed to justify the cherry picking of what Biblical tenets to enforce or ignore.


  6. The discovery of trichinosis and health benefits came centuries later. It is not the ‘real reason’ for the rule, but a later discovery that shows God’s wisdom in giving the rule. The animals ruled out of Israel’s diet were those that mixed categories found in other animals (chewing the cud and cleft hooves, sea creature but walks, etc). That is the ‘real’ reason, i.e., the reason given in the text itself. If trichinosis is the ‘real’ reason, then why did God later allow eating pork in the book of Acts? They didn’t have refrigeration or other modern food preparation conveniences in NT times anymore than they did in OT times.

    God DID separate Israel from surrounding nations, and the distinctions found in diet, dress, worship and marital prohibitions only reinforce that. According to the New Testament, believers legally ‘die’ with Jesus on the cross and are ‘reborn/resurrected’ to new life in him, in anticipation of their future physical death and resurrection. They died to the world in which the law governed, with its dietary distinctions. They rose to a new creation, in which those dietary laws no longer apply. This is the opposite of cherry-picking. It is an attempt to correlate the messages of the Old and New Testaments.

    Many Jewish people have lost their lives to defend their dietary scruples (look up 2 Maccabees 7 for an example), and I admire that. Were those rules in force today, I would obey them and would hope to emulate the Jewish peoples’ tenacious fidelity. I try to help my students appreciate the faithfulness of the Jews in Jesus’ day, and how difficult the NT message would have been for them to swallow.

    About cherry-picking, there are a number of commands and prohibitions that go against my inclinations, but I don’t cherry pick or reinterpret to get around them. For example, I don’t have a problem, personally, with the idea of women being pastors. In and of myself I think the idea is rather uncontroversial. Why not? But I read 1 Timothy 2 and I find myself forced to take a conservative position on the matter. It strains my relationship with many people in my denomination who allow for women in ministry, including female friends with whom I went to seminary, and like I said, it goes against my initial instincts, but I am going to be faithful to it unless someone comes along and convinces me with cogent, forceful arguments that take the text seriously rather than “Oh, that was for the first century”. (Note to all: I will not approve comments on the women in ministry issue, because they would derail this comment thread. Please stay on topic.). I may not be as faithful to some commands as I ought to be, and I try to do better each time. But I refuse to sweep them under the rug just because they limit me or go against my instincts.

  7. Sooooooooo basicly you ignore whatever parts you want and live your lives by the others. If one part is bull how do you know the others aren’t. Ah ignorance

  8. Pingback: Q: 11 points The Bible Bans? | Splat

  9. Okay, I accept your logic absolutely; you won’t ever finding me denying a lot of what the bible teaches us is outdated. But who’s to say the rule on homosexuality is not also outdated? You said yourself reproduction was incredibly important at the time of writing and the fact it is no longer that important is why some of the points above are no longer valid. Who’s to say homosexuality wasn’t also prohibited for this very reason? Additionally, is it morally correct for us to continue reproducing, bringing children into a world that struggles more and more every day to provide for them? On those grounds, is it not arguable that the rule against homosexuality is outdated and should be revised? I think at some point religion can conflict with morality. I think the bible stands for a lot of good things, but this is where my morals override religion. I refuse to judge someone as a sinner for giving this world the one thing it needs to most, and arguably the one thing God wants it to have: love.

  10. Thanks, Jack, for your thoughtful response. My answer on why I think homosexuality is not also outdated is that the prohibition of homosexual intimacy is repeated numerous times in the New Testament. Though many sweeping changes came at the time of the New Testament, the stance on homosexual behavior did not.

    I would agree with you that overpopulation should give us pause regarding having so many children. But I don’t see that as an argument for homosexuality in any way.

    I personally don’t have a problem with bringing more love into the world. I would love to see more love in the world, and surely God does too. But it is not loving to get someone else to use their body in a way that it was not meant to be used. If you really love someone, you will point them toward God and the good. What is being given to the world is not what it needs (love), but what it craves (sex, sex torn from its roots in a Creator and the way he has fashioned his creation).

  11. You people disgust me. Grow up and think for yourself instead of lazily adhering to some book of fairytales. You people belong to the past. Hurry up and die out already. We live in an age of reason and logic, not MAN-MADE stories and mumbo-jumbo written millennia ago.

  12. I suppose the world needs more people like you, Pete, people who:

    1. so easily express their disgust with others,
    2. who publicly wish that those whose opinions differ from their own would die out,
    3. who offer brief, sweeping ad hominem attacks (we are so lazy, subservient, illogical)
    4. who fall prey to chronological snobbery (was written long ago so it must be wrong – sorry Aristotle, but you are too ancient to have anything to say)
    5. who do the above as a substitute for offering substantive, courteous responses to the articles they read.

    Thanks, Pete, for being such a beacon of the reason you praise so highly. I’m sure the world of the future will be much better with people like you in charge. I feel safer already.

    Reason and logic are wonderful. I teach introductory logic at a bachelor’s level. But there are limits to reason and logic (deduction) have to do with the validity of statements, not their truth. And science (induction) has to do with repeatable, observable truths, and can’t pronounce on the unrepeatable events of the past. So if we are confronted with astounding eyewitness statements regarding an individual like Jesus, we can either write it off since we have had no similar experience to compare it with, or we can accept the possibility that maybe something happened then for which we simply have had no parallel today. Both approaches make sense, but the latter seems the more open-minded of the two. In addition, we can look at the moral teachings of Jesus, and decide if we would want to live in a world where people were logical but also sacrificed of themselves to help others reach their potential, or if we would like to live in a world where reason and logic by themselves make our decisions for us. You know, the reason and logic that tell us that the strong shouldn’t waste their time on the weak, that tell us nothing should be done unless it is cost-effective or expedient. Hard logic is cold and harsh if it is not supplemented by love, the kind of love that CHRIST and CHRISTIANITY introduced to the world, the kind of love that ultimately will not flourish over time without CHRIST and the CHRISTIAN MESSAGE as its foundation.

  13. Amazing amount of rationalizing here to justify bigotry, hatred and ostracizing. Seems pretty un-Christian (by Jesus standards).

  14. I’m sorry, Mark, I am not sure I understand your comment. Where are the bigotry, hatred, and ostracizing, and un-Christian comments in my post or my comments?

  15. I do not see any rationalizing here by D. Gifford. He gave his honest and Biblical answer to the world’s attempt to sway people away from the truth that God our creator has given us. Now, I know some of you will just get madder and madder, and YOUR hatred for the truth will spill over in the form of intolerance. The responses to Gifford’s blog are quite revealing how Satan has the world duped! The strong person wrestles with God and with him/herself and finds the inner strength to face their sin and see how it separates from a holy God. Strength is displayed by a repentant, and confessing heart/life. Strength is falling before an all powerful God asking for mercy and grace. Weakness is cowering behind words and arguments about intolerance. Weakness is hiding behind supposed Biblical errors. Ultimately, weakness is cowering in the dark embracing sin. Wake up and see that God truly loves all people, but He does not overlook sin. Judgment is coming! Please turn to Jesus before it is too late.

  16. To my understanding, the reason why you think homosexuality is wrong is because the Bible says so and it says homosexuality is wrong a lot of times. The other day a friend told me that she hates it when people call Christians hypocrites because we are all sinners and we are all human so we can’t help it. How come homosexuality isn’t seen as a sin that Jesus can forgive? Is it our job to judge others on their sexuality and who they happen to love? I don’t think that homosexuals only have sex to show their affection. I think they have actual loving relationships where it doesn’t exactly mean they have to have sex to show love. Although, you might be right about some couples, but it’s the same with straight relationships. They may be together because of love, or desire. Also, I don’t think they are hurting anyone by being in a relationship. They aren’t killing anyone, they aren’t burning down buildings, but they are having sex with someone they want to. Why is that wrong? Why is that anyone else’s business other than theirs? Why do you care where they put their body parts? If they aren’t asking you to do that with them, then it shouldn’t be your problem right? If they are harassing you and making you feel uncomfortable because they want to do something you don’t want to do, then I believe that is wrong. However, I do believe there are straight people who do the same thing. It might not be you, or anyone you know, but there are heterosexuals out there that will harass other heterosexuals to have sex. We’re all people, gay or straight, and I think the prohibition on homosexual intimacy that is stated in the Bible is wrong. I would really appreciate a quick response.

  17. Hi Caroline, thank you for your comments. Here is your quick response:
    1. I agree with you wholeheartedly that Christians should not harass homosexuals, legislate against them or interfere in their affairs. The New Testament says to be at peace with all people as much as it depends on us. And a lot of Christians see themselves on some mighty crusade to use any means necessary to stop homosexuality. I am not one of them. We believe what they do is wrong by God’s standards, but it is not an action that brings immediate harm or danger to anyone, as you mention, so it is not something we should try to regulate by law. I limit myself to saying that it is wrong and that if someone wants to be a Christian, this is one of the things they must work through. But in terms of living in society, I just want to get along with people and show them Christian love to attract them to the Christian faith.

    2. I agree that many Christians get all repulsed just by the thought of sexuality and sexual deviations. That is a hangup from the Victorian era, I think, and a bit of Gnosticism thrown in, where the spirit is good and the body is evil. That is not good Christian theology. I myself am not that terribly concerned with where non-Christians want to put their body parts. My concern is with telling people the good news about Jesus. Part of that good news is the freedom and forgiveness Jesus offers to all kinds of sinners. Homosexuality IS a sin that Jesus can and does forgive.

    3. The only context in which it matters to me where others put their body parts is when they are Christians, because in that case they are not being consistent with their beliefs. Within the church, we want to urge each other not to engage in practices which we believe God prohibits. We don’t do it as police, trying to catch people and punish them. We do it as brothers and sisters, who want the best for each other and help each other move forward. And in cases where someone refuses to listen to the church, they are then considered unbelievers – not because of their homosexual behavior or whatever, but because of their unwillingness heed the church’s repeated calls to holy living. The problem with many Christians, and I think you hint at that, is that we often let other sins slide through, but we are stricter about homosexual behavior. That is unfortunate. There are people who get their knickers in a twist about homosexuality but don’t bat an eye at gossip and destructive criticism, lying, cheating, etc.

    4. Why I believe that homosexuality is wrong is that God’s original design for creation was that we bring order to the world and fill the world with people who do the same. Human plumbing is clearly designed to advance the reproductive part of that. But human beings rebelled against God’s design, wanting to be the ones to decide what to do and not to do. One small part of our rebellion, as Romans 1 indicates, was homosexual behavior. And so God made it clear that we should not engage in that. Society is not ultimately about leaving everyone alone and letting them do whatever they want. It is about calling them back to the original plan of making our world a place that blesses humankind and conforms itself to God’s will. And so we as a church urge all people to become Christians. And part of that call is the call to get back to the original plan of one woman, one man. If someone doesn’t want to be part of that, that is their business, and I am not going to pressure or harass them. If I want freedom to practice and share my faith, I have to be ready to give others freedom to follow their own convictions.

    I hope this helps you see where I am coming from. Blessings to you!

  18. Dave,
    I keep thinking of a logical train of events that doesnt make sense. You have defended points in the Bible that seem illogical so it seems this is a good place to bring this up.

    If God created man and put us on this earth to love him, worship him, rejoice and sing songs about him. Why didnt He just MAKE us love him? I mean, he made us HAVE to sleep. He made us HAVE to eat and breath. Why didnt he just make us love him?

    I think it is because he didnt want just a planet full of robots. If he made us believe in him then he wouldnt be truly loved. Ex. If I program this computer to display “I love you” everytime I hit the spacebar, the computer doesnt really love me. It is just programed to say that. It is not true love if the person doing the loving is forced.

    This is the reason I believe he gave us freewill. An amazing gift. There is only true love when you dont HAVE to love. The ability to deny God is actually a gift from God.

    But Christianity seems to grind their beliefs into every child. Children are taught to believe in X Yand Z or be punished in HELL FOR ALL ETERNITY. Isnt this programming a direct confliction of what loving God is? Isnt this just forcing someone to love, which is exactly what God avoided. God went out of his way to give us Freewill and people just take it away from their children.

  19. Hello, I am a Pagan priestess, and I was interested to know why you think that my faith is wrong. Is it because your God tells you to, or have you another reason? Just to get things strait here, I’m a Wiccan, and i know a few people think that we are evil people who sacrifice animals, curse people, and worship the devil. However, I, nor any Wiccans that I know have done these things. We believe in a Goddess and God, and believe that all gods are a facet of deity, and no one is right or wrong, we just have different ways of worshiping. We would never intentionally harm a person, because of the Wiccan Rede, which says “An ye harm none, do what ye will.” I think its lovely that you have such a strong faith and have done research into its history. Also, would you mind telling me your views on women, and the view that men should be head of the household?
    Best wishes, Hazel

  20. Hi Hazel, I am traveling to bury my father right now so will keep it short: Don’t remember ever mentioning Wicca, just fortune-telling and sorcery in the article. I don’t claim to know much about Wicca. Yes, I would think it was wrong because it conflicts with my faith. As for men being the head of the household, that takes more nuance to answer. I think the basic principle is that if there are two members of a group it is probably better to have one who has the ultimate word in decisions. But another principle that needs to be added to that is that one who makes decisions that affect others needs to be eminently sensitive to how those decisions affect those others. To the extent that I support the one I need to support the other, otherwise I am condemning women to suffer under a bunch of chauvinist idiots. Personally my wife and I consult with each other about all big decisions and we tend to reach a consensus, but we also have our separate areas where we make decisions without consulting each other unless we think it best to check first. ‘Male headship’, properly practiced, shouldn’t look or feel like male headship, in my opinion.

  21. Hi Dave, I’m terribly sorry for your loss, Thank you for answering me in this difficult time. And sorry for not making it clear, Wicca is a branch of Paganism. I believe you said that Fortune telling is a pagan thing, and involves consulting with demons. Let me assure you, we do not consult with demons, in fact, we don’t even believe in demons or the devil. Wicca is a mixture of old religions from before Christianity, and we are very earth based. Some of us practice fortune telling, while many do not, it is not limited to paganism. When you say it conflicts with your faith, I see no reason for them to conflict. I see Christianity as a wonderful religion, teaching love, and joy. At least when it is taught as Jesus taught it, and does not involve harm, racism, and burning my people. Nature teaches diversity, and i believe we are all on different paths to the same place – A deep, and loving connection with Deity, and the knowledge to care for others.
    Thank you for your reply on how women are viewed, also, as I am a priestess in my religion, I wondered what you thought about women becoming priestesses in yours. Perhaps you are not Catholic, and you have different views on this, but the Pope said that a woman being a Priestess, is as bad as pedophilia. I was very shocked to learn this, and perhaps you could shed some light on his reasoning.
    I hope you are well, Hazel

  22. Hi Hazel, sorry I haven’t been able to comment, I am traveling and in conferences all week. In the post I was using the word ‘pagan’ in a loose sense, referring to non-Christian religions – to include the worship of Baal in the Old Testament, to give one example. Fortune-telling is part of some ‘pagan’ religions in this loose sense. I realize that Paganism can be used in a more specific sense as you use it, and I wasn’t referring to that. Sorry about the confusion. The loose sense of the word is well-established, so I think you are going to have to accept that it is used in both ways.

    As for fortune-telling being a matter of consulting demons, I agree that someone doing fortune-telling probably doesn’t think he is consulting demons. That is why I wrote “to consult what turn out to be demonic forces”. That is to say, from my perspective the forces he is consulting are demonic. I hope that clarifies what I was trying to say.

    I would prefer not to derail this comment thread with the introduction of women’s ordination, a touchy subject in my own tradition. Suffice it to say that my denomination permits women to be ordained to be pastors, but that I tend to be more cautious on the matter, and that I would never say something like you said the pope said. I affirm and applaud my female pastor friends who are trying to obey what they believe is God’s will for their lives. Whether or not our denomination did the right thing in opening up ordination, on the other hand, is a matter of debating a very complicated biblical passage. Thanks for your comments, many of which I agree with wholeheartedly. Blessings to you, Dave

  23. Is there a revised version of the Old Testament for Christians? It seems to be full of things that Christians can ignore.

  24. I don’t think any of it should be ignored. But all of it should be read in the context of a plan with a series of progressive stages. So we need to know what stage of the story we are reading in any given passage, and adjust accordingly.

  25. Can you explain the context of the jealousy ritual in Numbers 5? I came across this and I honestly do not understand why it’s worth knowing that Moses thought that this was a reasonable ritual to follow.

  26. Hi Bridget, yeah, that is one text that I find personally difficult. Why is there no test for the unfaithful husband? Why put women through such an ordeal? Here are the only helpful bits I could find in my library:

    1. Word Biblical Commentary: “Theologically the section bears further witness to the moral seriousness of the priestly literature. Marital deceit is a matter of such seriousness that the truth must be discovered. It is harmful to the sanctity of the community at large, and destructive of one of the bases of community life. That the ordeal as a judicial method is inadequate, and possibly unjust, is obvious enough to modern perceptions. Nevertheless it does bear witness to a proper concern for objectivity in justice, and in this particular instance, the only one cited in the OT, the procedures demanded proof of guilt and favored the defendant.” “In Num 5 miscarriage is most unlikely from the purely physical effects of drinking water and dust. Only a guilty conscience, prompted perhaps by the oath and the solemnity of the occasion, might produce one. In any event there seems little danger to the innocent in such a procedure. The advantage of it was that, to the ancient mind, it was sufficient to remove the destructive effects of suspicion and fear within relationships. Modern practice of the ordeal would obviously be indefensible, but a modern moral seriousness, aiming for healthy relationships, has to recognize the destructive effect of suspicion, and find means to allay and eliminate it.”

    2. When Critics Ask: Handbook of Bible Difficulties: ” Now, given that the text says the woman was placed under an “oath” before God with the threat of a “curse” (v. 21) if she was actually “guilty,” the bitter water would have worked like a psychosomatic lie detector. A woman who believed she would be cursed and knew she was guilty would be so affected. But those who knew they were innocent would not.
    Furthermore, the text does not say anyone actually drank the water and experienced an enlarged stomach. It simply says “if ” (cf. vv. 14, 28) she does, then this will result. No doubt just the belief that this would happen and that one would be found guilty would have convinced the woman who knew she was guilty not even to subject herself to the process.”

    3. Is God a Moral Monster? (Paul Copan): “This priestly court was actuallly arranged for the protection and defense of women, not to humiliate them before proud husbands or prejudiced mobs. This law protected women from a husband’s violent rage or arbitrary threat of divorce to get rid of his wife cheaply.”

    I myself don’t feel very satisfied oer comfortable leaving it at that. But I confess I haven’t had the time to investigate every passage of the Bible in depth, and don’t have access to a wider library here in Mexico on Numbers 5. Blessings, Dave

  27. The only further thing I can think of to say is that perhaps in that particular historical and cultural context, this practice was the best way God could deal with the issue of suspicion. This may have been the most progressive option possible at that time and place.

    Jesus once said that Moses permitted divorce because of the people’s “hardness of heart”, but that Jesus himself, in his time, now forbade certificates of divorce, specifically to protect women from husbands who wanted an easy, legal way to dump their wives and take another woman. My point in mentioning this is to show that some of the OT laws were cases of God condescending and accommodating the weaknesses of his people in that time and place because they weren’t yet ready for more mature ways of handling that issue. Numbers 5 may be an example of such accommodation. Hope that helps.

  28. “The discovery of trichinosis and health benefits came centuries later. It is not the ‘real reason’ for the rule, but a later discovery that shows God’s wisdom in giving the rule.”

    Strange, it seems that you are implying that modern medical and dietary concerns like trichinosis could not have been the reason for the law, because mankind was not aware of the existence of trichinosis at the time. Which would make perfect sense if the law was made by, well, man. But supposedly, the law came from God. Whos is omniscient. Who knows all things. Surely he knew about trichinosis, right? I mean, the Bible should be FULL of things justified by then non-understood scientific principles. God would have understood them. Im getting the feeling that you think those laws were written by intellectually-limited men, and not an all-knowing God.


  29. Hi Will

    I don’t have any problem with someone saying that God knew in advance that prohibiting pork would help the Israelites avoid trichinosis. Like I said, the later discovery of trichinosis “shows God’s wisdom in giving the rule.” But the answer to the question “Why is that rule in the law?” has to do with not mixing categories of animals, as I mention in the article. It was put in the law because God wanted his people not to mix things that he didn’t want them to mix, to emphasize the need for holiness in all areas of life. So, no, I don’t think the laws were written by intellectually limited men. I think they were laws that God put in place for theological reasons, and the whole trichinosis argument has nothing to do with why God put that rule in the law but is merely a side benefit of that law.

  30. I feel like your logic does indeed have holes in it, and that you didn’t fully explain the bit on homosexuality. You said “If a prohibition in the OT is repealed in the NT, it is no longer valid.”
    Then you go on to say. “(#1 and #6 on our list above), while not specifically repealed in the NT, clearly fall under the same umbrella.”

    This is either a very weak point in your logic or else you think yourself equal in status to the writers of the bible or it’s teaching traditions.

    When I read the bible I tend to place the words of the NT higher than the old. I also tend to place the words of Jesus higher than the others who speak in the NT.

    With this in mind we remember that Jesus said. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

    As I have been taught and have read several times, this dictum replaces the old ten commandments and the morality used in the old Testament.

    This would seem to repeal your view on much of the things you claim are so integral to the Christian faith.

    Also, if you find that the collective views of Christians over the years of their interpretations of the bible are trustworthy in regards to the relationship between the OT and the NT then those same people over the years have had a hand in the Inquisition, the conquest of the lands over the years and the division of the holy church into hundreds of denominations.

    Some might say that the bible is the only answer and that is the be all and end all in the argument.

    My view is that the best judge of morality is between you and god. You have not a Crystal ball to see into the hearts of others and know exactly what god has told them.

    He has several times instructed holy people to do things that others felt was wrong. Moses was to sacrifice his son on the alter. Jobe sat idle while his family died of pestilence. St. Joane of Arc took up the sword and the Gospel, and was burned at the steak by Christians who claimed to ‘know gods teachings’

    I’m gay, I’m Christian, I’m American, and I am not ashamed. I belive that you need to do much more work to convince me that a consenting act of sexual nature is against god if I truly love the other person. But you most certainly will never convince me that it is not okay to love another outside of that physical act.

    Also, just to make a point. I would never have ‘Chosen’ as you have suggested, to be homosexual. Given the choice, (and of this I am ashamed), because if God made me as he intends then it is selfish to suggest that I want to change his design, but I would never have wanted to grow up different from anyone else. I would never have chosen to bear such a burden but it is not my place to chose.

    In my heart I know that the reason I am the way I am, and more and more people in the nation as well are speaking out, is because God is trying to move the hearts of good and reasoning christians like yourself that there are some errors and inequities in your logic.

  31. Hi Jeremy

    Thanks for your comments. Just a couple clarifications:

    1. I never claimed that the “collected views of Christians over the years” are perfect in their interpretation of the Bible or anything else for that matter. My point was just that the author of the post I responded to was just grabbing a few verses and throwing them together to show how supposedly barbaric the Bible is, and saying “Ha! Answer that!” But he was ignoring the volumes of thoughtful analysis the church has given to these verses and to the relationship between the Old and New Testaments in order to do so. That would be like me writing a post making wild claims about biology without taking the time to find out what experts in biology have to say.

    For you to haul out the Inquisition, etc so quickly is just an ad hominem argument. The church has done abominable things in its history. But that doesn’t mean that its explanations of these matters is wrong.

    2. My point about #s 1 and 6 falling under the same umbrella would be this:

    a. The prohibitions against playing football and eating shellfish (#2 and #10) are no longer in force, according to Acts 10, because God repealed them in the NT.

    b. The rationale which we can see behind the repeal is that before, Israel was not allowed to intermix and intermarry with the nations, and needed other visual reminders in their diet, etc, reminding them that there were things God did not want to be mixed. But now the church is an international body where such mingling and intermarrying is allowed. So the visual and dietary reminders are no longer necessary. Circumcision is another example of a visual barrier between Jews and Gentiles that was also clearly rescinded in the NT.

    c. Round haircuts and mixed fabrics (#1 and #6) appear to be two more examples of such visual reminders about not mixing things. The prohibition against them is not repeated in the NT (as the prohibition against homosexual activity is). And the laws about haircuts and mixed fabrics were not moral laws but cultural.

    d. Therefore, though the NT doesn’t clearly repeal the commands against round haircuts and mixed fabrics, we have every reason to assume they are no longer binding on them.

    So I think the logic is solid, even if the lack of a clear repeal doesn’t make it airtight. And I certainly don’t think I make myself equal in authority to the writers of the Bible!

    3. I don’t think it is a good practice to put the words of the NT over the old, or the words of Jesus over the other writers. Everything God says is good, and it is a matter, not of giving preference to one word or the other, but to comparing his words and comparing the context in which each word was written, to see how they relate.

    4. The love commandment does not ‘replace’ the Ten Commandments. It summarizes them and shows the principle that was always behind them. Jesus himself said that the law and the prophets were SUMMED UP by the commands to love God and love our neighbor. The command to love doesn’t sweep away anything God previously commanded. It merely highlights the attitude with which we are to carry them out. And when you read the OT law you discover that love was always part of the law. Jesus wasn’t saying anything new when telling us to love God and love our neighbor. The new part is that we love “as I have loved you” – that is, with a love that is willing to die on the cross for the person loved.

    5. I don’t claim that homosexuality is merely a choice. I believe there are genetics involved. But there are also genetics involved in alcoholism. Yet people who struggle with that must make choices in order to do what is best. So I think it is a combination of both nature and morality. And I would never want to make light of the burden, as you put it, that is on your shoulders. I feel for you. I have other burdens on me, things I feel drawn to do because of the way that I am hardwired, but I resist because I know that they are off limits for me. These things are never easy for any of us. Shame on those who would just tell you that it is easy just to make the right choice, like switching from Coke to Pepsi or somesuch. I applaud everyone who says no to the urgings and promptings of whatever kind that well up within them, and stay faithful to God instead. Because I know from experience how hard it is, and don’t claim to be the best at that. But we move forward toward the prize.

    6. From my perspective it is extremely presumptuous for you to

    a. Compare yourself with Abraham (not Moses), whom God called to sacrifice his son (your having sex is just like Abraham being told to end the life of his own child!), and

    b. Suggest that God is the one telling you to act on your homosexual desires (hmmm, maybe God is the one whispering in my ear to try to get me to cheat on my wife, too!), and

    c. Suggest that he is doing so in order to correct the supposed errors of other people (your gayness is in order to save me!).

    All despite the fact that homosexual practices are condemned uniformly throughout the Bible. I am sorry to write in such a tone, and please believe me it isn’t to put you down as a person, but only to show you just how presumptuous and self-serving and convenient your logic is. By that logic you are a big hero comparable to Abraham, sure of God’s leading in your life and the lives of others, and people like me should bow before you in gratitude and hang on your every word because you have come to rescue us from the error of our ways. And you didn’t find any of this in the Bible, but you came up with it by your own logic and authority. Wow. Jeremy, I think you are smarter and better than reducing yourself to that kind of logic.

    7. Finally, far be it from me to try to convince you to love others less. If your love is the kind of love that sees the good in others and desires to have the good, then you are seeing something of the image of God in them and appreciating that. If your love is the kind of love that wants the other to flourish, even if it means sacrifice on your part, then you are loving as Christ loved. How could I ever wish that someone would love LESS? No, I want to call you to MORE love, not less. The kind of love that says, if I really love you I will plead with you and urge you to do God’s will, what God has revealed in his Word, because that is the way you will flourish. The kind of love that does not settle for inferior happiness but that goes for the full blessing that comes from obedience and faithfulness. The kind of love that says “I will keep my friendship with you within the limits that God has set, both because I love God and because I love you and want the very, very best for you, even if it limits the ways in which we may express and nurture our friendship.”

    I have this theory that in the new heavens and the new earth, the communion and intimacy we share will be complete. Jesus said there will be no marriage in heaven because we will be like angels, not marrying and giving in marriage. But I don’t think – and please I realize this is only my own personal conjecture – I don’t think it is because we will be asexual and non-intimate and sterile. I think it means that our communion and intimacy will be so close that marriage won’t be needed. The love between everyone there will be deeper and purer than the best marriage ever realized in this life. And sex may even have some kind of role in that life, I don’t know. It would seem strange of God to resurrect our bodies and leave a part of them useless for eternity. Where I’m going with this is that I think the longing we feel for intimacy is a good longing, a longing that will ultimately be fulfilled, by God who loves us and by our brothers and sisters in Christ when we are all glorified. But many of the choices we make to try to foretaste something of that fulfillment now, are misdirected and take us further from that final goal. If we love God, we will honor his commandments about how far to love others and in what ways. And we will trust that in the end he will honor the promises he has made with us, and we will see that our obedience to him was not in vain.

    Many blessings to you, Jeremy.

  32. Let me first start by thanking you for your careful consideration of my argument. The idea that you are willing to defend your points makes it clear to me that you are indeed willing to think for yourself and not to simply re-issue the wisdom your brothers and sisters in Christ have deemed correct.

    I would like to also make something clear, I think that when you say that I am comparing my stature to that of Abraham that you know this is disingenuous at best. My point was only to use a situation that is well known from the bible to illustrate a point. That no matter how well you think you know God or the bible, you can never be completely 100% positive that what you believe is without error. What is important is to continue to seek guidance with the heart and with faith, and if what we know of God’s will changes in us we must change with it as well.

    In using the opinions of others and the self about what the bible and what God is trying to tell us, I believe our attitude must match this sentiment. My point is that the “Ha! Answer that!” type of attitude which attempts to use logic and reason in order to defeat the will of God through proving fallibility should NOT be answered back with similar attitudes, reasoning, and logic.

    I feel a more powerful argument is to suggest that there is something more important than cold and calculated logic which is faith and love. The simple fact that Christianity has splintered into thousands of denominations is evidence of the folly of trying to use pure logic to support the Bible. You yourself say that your argument can not be airtight, and you are indeed correct about this. That is impossible.

    The center argument of atheism is usually that logical dictates are more important than emotional connections. This is a Greek philosophy, the philosophy that we should strive to separate from our emotional self and transcend by becoming purely logical and calculating individuals.

    The argument against this philosophy is that a collective (or a communion of peoples) is more powerful and important than an individual. And the most powerful tools we have to commune is through a sheared love.

    i.e. the greeks say logic is > emotion where the Christians believe that positive emotion is > than logic.

    Through communion in love we move closer to God’s design. Where as logic can easily be manipulated by negative emotions and is not to be trusted by itself.

    I would like also to clarify, my goal is not to suggest that I’m some sort of champion for a cause that God alone has given me, but to point out that there are some glaringly large moral blind spots in the christian/conservative viewpoint abroad. The roles of womanhood vs. manhood, the complex community issues concerning homosexual relationships, the idea that political leanings are more important than socially acceptable behavior, and the hypocritical condemnations of other major religions (i.e. Islam) are areas that the Christian community has focused on to the exclusion of other much more important issues lately.

    The attitudes of people in general seem to be Judgment before Mercy. We should not seek to use logic to tear down the arguments of others, such as the atheist who you are seeking to counter, but instead to intuitively ask the more important question….WHY are you seeking to prove atheism to be the answer. Why is it so important for you to prove the bible “wrong”. What is it in your life that makes you so non-trusting of the christian community.

    If you had taken this approach you might come to find that this individual as been personally offended by some of the actions of other religious people.

    In short, I believe that atheism and turning away from God is a result of people who have been hurt by the sins of the faithful. So the answer is not to logically call out why an atheist is wrong, but to seek forgiveness on behalf of the Christian community as a whole for not making God’s love for these atheists more clear and tangible in their lives so that they may come to know him too.

  33. Hi Jeremy,

    Let me say I agree with a lot of what you wrote here – many are atheists because they are offended, many Christians are belligerent and hypocritical and need to admit their (our) failings, one’s attitude of humility is extremely important, and love overcomes much of the hard feelings and triumphs over logic. Where I might differ is that there are also other reasons people become atheists (the influence of professors, friends and the media). Also, most Christian presentations on emotions try to downplay or even suppress emotions, so your idea that Christians believe emotions > logic is kind of weak. And, I was not trying to be disingenuous about comparing you to Abraham. Maybe I misunderstood you by connecting dots in your comment that you did not mean to have connected. If so, I apologize.

    And finally, I think that seeking forgiveness for Christian failings is important, but that does not mean that it is wrong to call out why atheists are wrong when they are misrepresenting what the Bible says. They have a responsibility to accept correction and apologize when they are wrong, too. In addition, Christians need to know that our position is not as ridiculous as atheist critics make it sound, and gain more confidence (though I agree, not arrogance) in speaking about such things. For the most part I try to be patient and understanding when I answer others. But in my post I may have displayed some of the impatience I have after hearing SO many of the same, wrong-headed arguments on the Internet over and over, shared so smugly and arrogantly. Dave

  34. This all sounds like a lot of rationalizing to avoid having to admit that the Bible is full of contradictions or that Christians pick and chose which parts they want to follow and ignore the rest. We are always told that God is the same and never changing, yet we have the old law and the new law. Did he change his mind? Did the people who went to hell for breaking the old law get a new trial when the new law went into effect?

  35. Hi Carla, sorry for the delay in approving your comment. Actually, I thought I had already done that.

    I don’t think the Bible is full of contradictions, only apparent contradictions that, when one digs deeper, get resolved.

    God is the same always. He is reliable, and we can depend on him. But he has revealed his plan in stages, and has accommodated to the culture of people at each stage of the plan, giving them what they could handle at that stage. God doesn’t change his mind, but has been building up to things in stages. And some of those stages appear to the casual observer like changes of mind, but the more I study this the more I am convinced that this is not the case.

    People go to hell for rebelling against God and his authority, for saying “Screw God and his way, I’m ditching him and doing things my way”. People don’t go to hell for having broken individual, specific laws. There of course were earthly punishments for breaking the law. But we don’t have to assume necessarily that everyone who was punished under the law of Moses went to hell. And the message of the New Testament is that hell is not the last word. God has gone to great lengths to save people from hell.

  36. I believe a loving, caring and compassionate God would not be pleased by the brutal killing of his own innocent children. But, I wonder why the Old Testament talks so much about animal sacrifice and then later contradicts itself. And, how can brutally killing an innocent animal wash away your sins in the first place? I really don’t understand the logic. If I were the father of two sons, would I be happy if the elder one brutally kills the younger one and “sacrfices” him to me? Strange thing is that some parts of the Bible is against animal sacrfice. Read Psalms 50: 7-14. It says clearly that all the animals belong to God and he dislikes it when we kill them. And I know that the CVA (Christian Vegetarian Association) is going to agree with this.
    Didn’t Jesus Christ say in Matthew 5:22 that anyone who calls someone a fool would go nearer to hell? Then, why does Jesus himself says, “Fools!” in Matthew 23:17 and Luke 11:40? Even St. Paul says “Foolish Galatians” in Galatians 3:1. Now, Deuteronomy 13:12-15 says- If you find out a city worships a different god, destroy the city and kill all of its inhabitants… even the animals. Now, the first question is- Would God really want his own children killed just because they don’t worship him? The second question is- What about the innocent children and the innocent animals? They are completely innocent. Why should they be killed? If the Bible really is a “holy” book, then explain all this to me.

  37. Thanks for your comments and your searching, Wright. The idea of animal sacrifice repulses me, too. But I think it’s because I live in a safe and sanitized culture where I don’t have to kill animals with my own hands for food, I have never lived in the midst of violence, and my contact with death is minimal and is always dressed up at a funeral. But we ‘brutally kill’ innocent animals for food, so I guess it is not so great a logical leap to accept animals dying for our spiritual benefit as well.

    You said you didn’t understand the logic of animal sacrifice. Basically the idea is that sin is a capital offense against God’s authority. So sin merits death. But God graciously provided a sacrificial system by which animals received the death penalty that the worshipers deserved. Otherwise God would not accept the worshiper into his presence. This was a temporary arrangement until Jesus came as the Son of God and received the penalty that we all deserve. So now there is no longer a need for animal sacrifice.

    As for Psalm 50, it does not say clearly that God dislikes it when we kill animals. What it says is that God doesn’t like it when we offer sacrifices on the one hand but live immoral and unjust lives on the other. God is complaining here about the hypocrisy of being religious and using religion as a cover up for evil. So the point about animals is to say that what God really wants is our obedience, not empty sacrifices and religiosity. The people were not doing God a favor by sacrificing animals and yet living ungodly lives. The animals were already his. The point of the animals is to cleanse a repentant worshiper. But they weren’t repentant. So in their case, killing the animals wasn’t productive or helpful for anyone, just a waste.

    The question about calling someone a fool seems a contradiction on the surface, but with a little bit of reflection quickly clears up. Jesus’ comments in Matthew 5 have to do with insulting someone out of personal anger, the kind of hurtful name-calling when you have had a falling out and need to be reconciled. Note the language of anger and the need for reconciliation in that passage. But the times when Jesus and Paul called others fools was not out of anger, a desire to hurt anyone, or lack of love for the person. Jesus was trying to get the religious leaders of his day to see that what they were doing and saying was indeed foolish. He was using shocking language to call attention to the hypocrisy in their lives. In Paul’s case, he clearly loved the Galatians and was writing because he wanted to restore his relationship with them. But he, too, had to resort to strong, firm language in order to emphasize the seriousness of the Galatians’ rejection of his gospel message. So to sum up, to call someone a fool out of a desire to hurt them or lash out at them in anger is wrong. It is equivalent to murder. To call someone a fool in order to call attention to the foolishness of what they are doing, out of a sincere desire to rescue them from that foolishness, is right. It is the equivalent of saving their life.

    The last issue you mentioned, the issue of killing even the children and animals when destroying an enemy city, is the hardest one for me personally to swallow. I agree with you that it is pretty harsh from our perspective, by practically any perspective. The logic or motive at least is clear and sensible: Israel was to be a nation separate from all idolatry, unmixed in any way with false religion, so they shouldn’t leave any trace of that idolatrous culture to lure them away from God. The country they were establishing was to be free from all that. And so the point is not “we hate those people, they need to die” but “their religion is evil, no trace of it should be left to tempt you.”

    But why even the babies and the animals? That’s a tough one, for me. But Paul Copan’s book Is God a Moral Monster? suggests that this language was deliberately exaggerated, in both Israel and other neighboring nations’ literature. He also says that there were exceptions and alternatives. Rahab is an obvious exception, she was spared when they destroyed Jericho. There are passages about driving the Canaanites out, so that looks like being driven out of the land was an alternative to staying and being annihilated. The Canaanites didn’t have to die unless they chose to stay and resist the establishing of the nation of Israel in that land in Joshua’s day. Copan dedicates three whole chapters to this question, and I haven’t got round to reading them carefully yet. But it seems that the ‘all-or-nothing’ language in Deuteronomy might be tempered by conditions, qualifications, exceptions and alternatives. It might not be as bad as it sounds.

    I hope the preceding is helpful for you to see that even these issues can be resolved or at least diminished somewhat. The Bible is indeed a holy book, or better, a holy anthology of books. But it is about cultures and times that were very different from our own. And through those times God met the people where they were at, and took them a few steps farther. God worked with his people gradually, weaning them little by little from things which were wrong, accommodating himself within limits to their hardness of heart in some areas in order to change them in the areas that apparently mattered more at the moment. I think he still does the same today. Keep searching and wrestling, Wright. Blessings to you.

  38. Thanks for your quick response.
    But that’s not all. There are more contradictions in the Bible.
    Deuteronomy 5:17 says- Do not commit murder.
    Deuteronomy 13:9 says- Kill him.
    Which one should we obey?

    Samuel 18:10 says- They next day an evil spirit from God…
    I thought evil spirits came from Satan.

    Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
    Matthew 5:43
    If anyone rejects me publicly, I will reject him before my father in heaven.
    Matthew 10:33

    If a man has sexual relations with an animal, he and the animal shall be put to death. If a woman tries to have sexual relations with an animal, she and the animal shall be put to death. They are responsible for their own death. Leviticus 20:15-16

    Why kill the poor innocent animal? And how exactly is it responsible for its own death. It isn’t. Only the human is to blame.

  39. More self-contradictions in the Bible:

    Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
    Matthew 5:43
    contradicts with…
    If anyone rejects me publicly, I will reject him before my father in heaven.
    Matthew 10:33

    Deuteronomy 5:17 says- Do not commit murder.
    contradicts with…
    Deuteronomy 13:9 says- Kill him.
    Which one should we obey?

    Samuel 18:10 says- They next day an evil spirit from God…
    I thought evil spirits came from Satan.

  40. Ha, ha. It seems you are stuck right now.
    I know you can’t refute the fact that the Bible is full of self-contradictions. Whether we like it or not, we can’t argue with the facts.
    Also, there are four Gospels. Only one of them can be correct. So, that means the other three are wrong. Now, we don’t even know which one is correct and which three are wrong.
    Also, I find it hard to digest the fact that some people believe that God will reject those who reject Jesus Christ. That is complete rubbish.
    Remember that God will judge you by your actions. God does not care whether you are a Hindu or a Muslim. God does not care whether you are a Sikh or a Christian.
    God will only judge you by your actions. Live a righteous life. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with being a Christian, but I am saying that there is nothing wrong with not being one either. God loves his children and he won’t judge them by their religions.

  41. I am disappointed that you are laughing smugly because I haven’t answered your comments as quickly as you would have liked, Wright. Especially after I responded to your first post quickly and courteously. So if you post the hundreds of supposed Bible contradictions that are out there, do you think I am obligated to respond promptly to each and every one? I am not stuck regarding the things you mentioned. If I felt embarrassed about the supposed contradictions you posted, I wouldn’t have approved them. The truth is I don’t feel a moral obligation to answer every single commenter to this article I wrote almost 3 years ago, but I try to do so as I am able, but I have been very busy because I have a busy ministry, and now I happen to be on vacation and don’t plan to respond right now. I hope to get to it eventually.

  42. Answers:
    1. Matthew 5.43 is what Jesus tells us to do – love our enemies. Matthew 10.33 is what Jesus will do, one day reject those who reject him. So there is no contradiction. We love our enemies and leave the justice to Jesus, because justice is his business, not ours.
    2. Deuteronomy 5.17 outlaws taking the law into one’s hands as a private citizen and murdering someone. Deuteronomy 13.9 describes a public execution after a trial. There is no contradiction whatsoever.
    3. Samuel 18.10 isn’t a contradiction either, it is just something you as an individual don’t understand. God is sovereign over all of creation, and at times gives evil spirits permission as he does also in the book of Job. The spirit in question has evil motives, but God uses even evil for his good purposes and brings good out of evil.

  43. These are repeats from your other post except the Leviticus 20 question. And this Leviticus 20 question is not a contradiction, just something that from your cultural perspective is disagreeable to you. You probably grew up as I did, watching Disney movies with cute little animated animals, so the thought of killing an animal sounds repulsive to you. I sympathize with you to a large degree. But I doubt many people from earlier, more rugged, generations would have the qualms we tend to have with such things today. The legal need to make an example of the offender and his horrendous act, as well as the desire not to leave any reminder of such a repulsive deed, must have made it a wise thing to do, to dispose of the animal as part of the ritual of executing the offender. And the society, three or four thousand years before the emergence of organizations like PETA, wasn’t ready for arguments like yours.

  44. God will also judge you by your actions. So please think twice before saying that Jesus’ words are rubbish. And I am curious to know what credentials you have for letting us all know what God thinks? I base my confidence on the Bible, which is not full of contradictions as you say. What do you base your confidence on? I am not angry, and I hope I don’t come across as such by writing this. But any number of people can claim to know what God thinks and does and will do. The Bible has tested credentials on which to base its claims. On what basis do you know you are right, Wright?

  45. Yes, that’s exactly what I said. God will judge you by your actions. He won’t judge you by whom you believe. And, yes, I am not a Christian, and so are you saying that I am going to hell because of that? Because, that’s exactly what’s written in the Bible.
    Sorry, wise and holy Buddhist monks, you all are going to hell because you didn’t believe in Christ.
    Also, I never said that Christ’s words were rubbish. I said that the words in the Bible are rubbish, which means that it gives us the wrong information about Christ. If Jesus Christ did exist, he would never scold someone by calling names.
    And, no matter what, the idea of killing an innocent animal for a crime it didn’t commit is ridiculous.
    And, please don’t bring PETA into this. I’m not talking about PETA. My sense of justice says that no innocent should suffer, whether it is a human or an animal. If a boy tries to rape a girl, will you punish the girl? Similarly, if a human tries to have sexual relations with an animal, only the human should be punished.
    And, then, it is also written that he who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her. I strongly disagree with that. We have two eyes. We have every right to look at what is in front of us. But, all we need to do is control our desires. I agree that we should not commit adultery, but I disagree with the statement which says that he who looks at a woman lustfully has committed adultery with her. Also, it is invalid nowadays. Do you see the way girls use to dress nowadays. They dress like prostitutes, don’t they?
    How can you blame a man for looking at them? They shouldn’t have dressed like that in the first place. Also, what’s wrong with looking at them as long as he doesn’t make any move?
    So, I think Jesus never said those words. But someone else inserted them into the New Testament.

  46. Thanks for your comments, Wright. Just a couple clarifications on my part: I don’t know what you think about PETA. And I wasn’t evaluating PETA pro or con by mentioning them. I was just saying that ancient Israelite society would not have been ready for such a mindset as we have today. And, in case it wasn’t clear enough before, I am saying that I share your sensibilities for the most part about how innocent animals should be treated. I, too, bristle at the idea of killing the animal when it had done nothing wrong. And your analogy about similarly killing a girl who gets raped is right on. I just wanted to explain why I think such laws about killing the animals back then would be considered understandable in Moses’ day, and why our sensibilities would not have made much sense to them.

    I am not sure how productive this conversation could be if it continues. You seem to have it all figured out, but based solely on your own personal intuitions or whatever. You confidently proclaim what God would and would not do, and what Jesus would and would not have said. How you reach this certainty you do not divulge. And anything you disagree with in the Bible you can either just treat it as rubbish or come up with conspiracy theories to the effect that Jesus never said such things and others put words in his mouth. And you seem fine with blaming other people for causing you to act in certain ways. If a girl dresses provocatively, that seems to relieve you of the responsibility of disciplining and controlling your eyes and your thought life. How convenient. And you also conveniently remove beliefs from the realm of actions, and limit God’s judging others to their external actions. All of these put together combine to put you in the driver’s seat, and make the Bible and everyone else subject to you and your opinions.

    One final comment: Yes, I believe that God judges us also by what or who we believe. I can’t see how you can so easily justify separating actions and beliefs as you do. The decision to believe or not believe a certain way is itself an action. And I believe in the need to believe in Jesus Christ for salvation. But that doesn’t mean I say you, or Buddhist monks are necessarily going to hell. That may be the case, and could even probably be the case. But it is not my right to judge. God is a good God, and God is just. No one is going to be in hell for random, arbitrary reasons. No one is going to hell just because they were born in a place where Christianity never got preached, or because they couldn’t swallow this doctrine or that. The truth is that we all deserve to be in hell for our sinful rebellion against God. But the good news is that God has graciously decided to save many of us, and like the animals we have been talking about, an Innocent one died unjustly for our evil actions, so that the slate against us could be wiped clean. And we acquire this clean slate through belief in and submission to Jesus. Thus I am a missionary, because I want the word to get out and see people saved rather than be judged as we all deserve to be judged. Mercy triumphs over judgment. Blessings to you, Wright.

  47. Yes, most of what I said are based on my own opinions or my own sense of justice. But I do have the Bhagavad Gita to back me up. Hindus call it their holy book, but actually it is not just a holy book of the Hindus, but a universal holy book. There is nothing about Hinduism or any Hindu Gods in this book. Instead, it teaches us about selfless action. It teaches that the world and everything in it belongs to God. It teaches that every creature belongs to God, and killing an animal for any reason other than self-defense is a great sin.
    That’s exactly what I believe too. Though my beliefs come from my own intuition, I later found out that they get along well with the Bhagavad Gita. It is a real Holy Book, because instead of telling us to believe in some Gods or Goddesses, it tells us to live a righteous life.
    And, also I just wanted to express my opinions to someone who is an expert or Christianity. It does not mean that I hold some kind of grudge against Jesus or the Bible.
    I am an animal rights activist, and so I can’t tolerate any kinds of animal cruelty. Since, the Bible has some passages that shows cruelty to animals, I want to know more about them.
    Also, have you heard of the Christian Vegetarian Association? If you haven’t, you can just Google it. I get along with their beliefs too.
    Blessings to you, as well.

  48. I think our conversation would have got off to a better start had you begun with this comment rather than some of your earlier, more negative comments. Thanks again, Wright.

  49. Can you explain what’s the meaning behind Matthew 23: 9?