Challenge: Biblical Law Is Immoral

Posted: September 27, 2011 by Amy Hall in God Has Spoken, Weekly Challenge

The challenge this week comes from a press release from Orange County’s Backyard Skeptics, who staged a demonstration where they tore pages out of the Bible to show that 1) nobody can live by certain laws, and 2) some of those laws are immoral:

Many Christians feel the Bible is inerrant and has no contradictions or immoral passages. Most Christians have not read the Bible or can even recite the Ten Commandments. A recent Pew poll indicated that atheists know more about the Bible than Christians do.

To demonstrate that, when given a immoral biblical law, nearly all Christians agree with atheists that the law should not be used in today’s society. A group of atheists from Backyard Skeptics will be tearing those verses from the Bible much like one of America’s founding fathers Thomas Jefferson did. He cut and pasted verses when he created the Jefferson Bible – at only 88 pages!

Backyard Skeptics, the largest group of non-theists in Orange County, agree as well – those immoral verses should not be used as a ruler of morality. Should a woman who was raped be forced to marry her rapist? Should children be stoned for insubordination? Should non-virgins be killed on their wedding night? Both the Old Testament and New Testament have laws that no good Christian would live by. Backyard Skeptics founder Bruce Gleason agrees that there are many parts of the bronzed-aged text that teach fairness and goodness, but those verses are good whether or not you believe in an omnipotent law-giver. He says we are not desecrating the entire Bible – just those verses that, if followed, would land one in jail very quickly.

So there’s plenty to work with there! Have you thought through your relationship to the Law as a Christian? What is the Law? What was it for? Why don’t we follow it today? Should we?

Tell us what you would say to these atheists, and then we’ll hear Brett’s response on Thursday.

  1. Marcus says:

    Their mistake is that they have failed to distinguish between the different laws in the Bible. In the Bible, there are Universal Moral Laws such as the 10 commandments which are binding, and stem from Gods nature. There are also Ceremonial Laws such as dietary restrictions, circumcision, animal sacrifices ect. These ceremonial laws were laws that pointed forward in time toward Christ, and they foreshadowed his coming. They gave the Israelites hope that a savior would come, and redeem us from our sin. But we are no longer under any obligation to follow the ceremonial laws because we no longer need to look forward in time for Christ to come down and redeem us from our sin. Christ has already redeemed us from our sin when he died on the cross, and shed his blood.

    Moreover when we read the New Testament, in several places, it tells us that we are no longer bound by the ceremonial laws. For an example, in Galatians 3:24-25 “Therefore the law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor”.  Now Paul was not saying that we are free to ignore all of the laws in the Old Testament. In this context Paul was referring to the ceremonial laws in the Old Testament. We know this because  he said the “… Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ…”, now God’s moral laws do not lead us to Christ, but rather, they show us that we are sinners.  It is the ceremonial laws that are a tutor, and lead us to Christ, for they showed us what was needed for the remission of sin. The ceremonial laws foreshadowed the coming of Christ, but now that Christ has come we no longer need to follow the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament. 

    In conclusion, the ceremonial laws were shadows, that pointed us toward the reality of Christ, but now that Christ has come, we no longer need these shadows because we have the reality to which they pointed (Christ). We are still obligated to follow God’s moral laws, but not the ceremonial ones.  Also, when we read some of these laws, we have to take into consideration the culture of the Israelites, and the other people who lived during that time period. Unbelievers are so quick to take their modern judgements from our culture, and place them on these ancient cultures, some things have to be looked at from their cultural perspective. Now, unbelievers may think these laws are immoral, but on what basis do they raise any moral objections at all? They have no moral foundation to stand on. If there is no God, then nothing is neither good, or evil, and so there is nothing to complain about. When you reject God, you end up in moral emotivism. In other words, making moral statements is simply giving expression to ones feelings, or emotions, but ones feelings about something should not logically convince anyone that those feelings are the correct ones.

    If unbelievers would put the same amount of time that they invest in trying to discredit the Bible into actually doing some research, so that they can understand these issues, they would not raise these sort of objections. I’m convinced they don’t have any real interest in getting answers to these questions.


  2. Adrian Urias says:

    The easy answer is: Jesus!

    God may command or give laws even God thinks are immoral. Like divorce. God hates divorce, yet permits it. Why? Cuz our hearts are hardened, or, in layman’s terms, we suck. God doesn’t suck, we humans totally suck. We suck so much, God had to lower the bar from His perfection to our suckiness.

    Also, this sort of law was given to a kind of theocratic nation. America is no such place. It was for certain people for a certain time. That time has come and gone. Jesus saves!

    You could also tackle each one of these examples individually. For an epic treatment of this individual issues, see Paul Copan’s amazing book “Is God A Moral Monster:” From what I recall, a raped women was outcast. Having to fend for herself, she’d probably die. So, instead of going through all that, the rapist is forced to take care of her so she doesn’t have to go through all that. She kind of becomes his burden. So stuff like that shows that there are good reasons for these weird sounding laws. Just cuz you don’t see an explanation don’t mean it isn’t there…

  3. > 1) nobody can live by certain laws

    Well, duh! Basic Christianity 101 FAIL.

    > 2) some of those laws are immoral

    I wonder how atheists know when something is “immoral?”
    What is their objective standard for morality? Usually they try to argue that morality is determined by consensus, but they give away objectivity in doing so (even if they insist that they don’t) because the consensus is not static and gets blown around and changed according to the winds of Zeitgeist. Ante-bellum plantation culture, f’rinstance. Or 1930’s Germany.

    Plus, the excellent points above from Adrian and Marcus.

  4. My first quick thought – Adrian – God does NOT, and CANNOT give immoral laws. He didn’t provide for divorce – Moses did. I don’t see where God’s understanding of marriage has EVER changed. He has never “lowered the bar” because of our complete inability to keep the law – he sent propitiation (Jesus) to pay for the fact that we can never keep it. Only *the world* wants to lower the bar.

    Now I’ll go think about all that other stuff that needs unpacking…

    • Adrian Urias says:

      Why can’t God give substandard laws? Why did God, for so long, permit divorce law? If it’s so impossible, then he shouldn’t have allowed it. Yet God did. And that’s because humans can’t fulfill God’s perfect law, so God allows such laws.

      I never said God’s understanding of marriage changed. Please don’t ascribe that to me. God’s ideal is heterosexual monogamy. He keeps this ideal while allowing people to get divorce, even though it is contrary to his ideal. Why? Because some of God’s commands are simply dependent on our situations. Because humans aren’t going to carry out God’s perfect will, He gives substandard laws which are much easier to carry out. This doesn’t mean God changes his understand of what is the best plan of action.

    • Adrian Urias says:

      or basically, are you saying Moses didn’t carry out God’s (permissive) will when he wrote that law?

  5. Dawn says:

    First and foremost, what standard are they using to judge anything as immoral? How can they call anything good? This is their biggest problem and needs to be addressed seriously. I have yet to hear an atheist provide an answer to this question that doesn’t fall apart on examination.

    There also seems to be a flawed understanding of the nature and purpose of these laws they hate so much. They are isolating them from their historical and cultural context, applying them to our modern time and system of government, and then declaring them to be immoral. They also fail to distinguish between laws given to govern a particular type of nation and laws meant to be obeyed by individuals.

    Everyone else has raised the same points, I think, and gone into good detail so I’ll refrain. The only other thing I wonder is whether they are even capable of coming to a proper understanding of the law. How much of it is spiritually discerned? Even if they could, I’m with Marcus in that I doubt they are even interested in having their thinking corrected on this issue. Because if this was a genuine obstacle to faith for them I would think they’d avail themselves of the wonderful books and articles written that address this issue thoroughly. Instead they elevate skepticism as a virtue above all others.