Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Wow...the feedback was overwhelming yesterday...thanks to all who "let their voices be heard"!

As is true with all propositions, it doesn’t matter what you or I think or how either of us feel. This is issue of the roles within the family is no different. God is not a negotiator in heaven, giving and taking until all sides agree. The fact that for approximately 1,960 years the Church has taught this basic concept does not even matter when all's said and done …for surely the Church has taught several foolish notions that do not correspond with reality (can anyone say “flat earth”?)

Let’s not forget where true Truth is found. Where do we find objective truth? How do we push past impressions, feelings, opinions and traditions? The Bible, that’s where. So as to discover objective truth about life one must ask three focal questions.

-What does the Bible say?
-What does the Bible mean?
-How does it apply?

There can be no doubt what the Bible says about these issues, what the Bible means by what it says is where the debate begins, that’s for sure. Probably the clearest statement in the Bible which captures the roles and responsibilities of each member of the family is found in the book of Colossians. It says, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” Colossians 3:18-21 NIV. Fairly concise is it not? It is fairly straight forward really. This passage is the one we will focus on here, but there are others just as straightforward that I commend unto you for your own further study and enrichment (Husband to wife (1Co 7:2-5, 27; Eph 5:25, 28, 31, 33; Col 3:19; 1Pe 3:7). Wife to husband (1Co 14:34-35; Eph 5:22, 24; Col 3:18; Tit 2:5; 1Pe 3:1, 6). To be affectionate (Tit 2:4). To be faithful (Tit 3:11). Relation of, to the husband (Ge 2:18, 23-24; 1Co 7:2-5, 10-11, 13, 39; 11:3, 8-9, 11-12). Domestic duties of (Ge 18:6; Pr 31:13-27).)

But what does the Bible mean when it speaks of husbands being the head and wives submitting to them…and children being raised in the fear and knowledge of God?

One young born again women protested to me recently something to the effect, “the Bible says all kinds of things that we don’t take literally…like stoning people for adultery for example”. Her idea is that just because the Bible states that husbands are to be the head of their homes and wives are to submit to them, that it doesn’t actually mean that or at the very least, it is no longer something that need concern us today.

First of all, let us be very careful when we pick and choose what we’ll take “literally” and what we’ll feel free to pay no attention to. The tendency is that whenever one finds a portion of God’s Word that one doesn’t particularly care for one will simply ignore it and justify his or her disregard by saying, “that’s not to be taken literally”. So if a practicing homosexual reads in the Bible that the act of homosexuality is an abomination in the eyes of God (Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:26) all he or she would have to do is chalk that up to another issue “to not take literally”. After all he or she could reason, “not everything in the Bible is literal”. This kind of thinking can go on endlessly…Jesus is the only, exclusive way to heaven (John 14:6)…”well, that’s not literal”. Hell is a fiery pit of never ending destruction and the future home of the wicked (Revelation 14:9-11)…”oh, that’s to be taken figuratively”. On and on this logic will go with no end. There is not a single statement in the Bible that is beyond this kind of violence. Suddenly the Bible means nothing, it has no teeth and can no longer impose instruction or responsibility on anyone because any such threat to ones personal autonomy can be easily side stepped with, “I don’t take that literally”.

So what of those commands to put people to death for: murder (Ge 9:5-6; Nu 35:16-21, 30-33; Dt 17:6), adultery (Lev 20:10; Dt 22:24), incest (Lev 20:11-12, 14), bestiality (Ex 22:19; Lev 20:15-16), sodomy (Lev 18:22; 20:13), rape of a betrothed virgin (Dt 22:25), perjury (Zec 5:4), kidnapping (Ex 21:16; Dt 24:7), upon a priest's daughter, who committed immorality (Lev 21:9), witchcraft (Ex 22:18), offering human sacrifice (Lev 20:2-5), striking or cursing father or mother (Ex 21:15, 17; Lev 20:9), disobedience to parents (Dt 21:18-21), theft (Zec 5:3-4), blasphemy (Lev 24:23), Sabbath desecration (Ex 35:2; Nu 15:32-36), prophesying falsely or propagating false doctrines (Dt 13:10), sacrificing to false gods (Ex 22:20), refusing to abide by the decision of the court (Dt 17:12), treason (1Ki 2:25; Est 2:23)?

What did God mean? This is what He meant…are you read? KILL THOSE PEOPLE. Period. What else could He have meant? Is God in the business of sending mixed messages, blurry lines or easy to misunderstand council? Of course He is not. Now, as with any other portion of scripture this must be taken in context. One must understand that this was the Old Testament Law of God. This was how things were during those days, literally. He said it and meant it. We now live in the New Testament and the Law under which we are bound is the Law of grace and mercy. It’s one thing to say that something in the Old Testament no longer applies to us in the New; it’s a whole other thing to say that what was revealed in the Old was not to be taken literally. The profit of reading such things today is to allow gratitude to spring up within us that God interacts with us today from a position of grace, understanding that His ways in the Old Testament to this day are true and just... and are only avoided through His grace. Just because He extends grace to us today and we (the congregation/the Church) are no longer commissioned to carry out the wrath and justice of God does not mean that back in those days He didn’t actually instruct people to do so. It’s just that He has given us a new commission, to preach the gospel.

Let’s tie this all together. What possible justification would one have to say that when husbands are called to be the heads of their homes and women are called to submit to their husbands, in the New Testament no less, that a non-literal interpretation is warranted? Other than “I don’t like it” or “it just doesn’t seem right to me”? What legitimate, objective principle of interpretation (of any literature) could be called upon to justify that line of thinking? None. This is a New Testament Apostle writing a local New Testament church about how the New Testament family is to operate in the New Testament. What in the language or context would justify the statement, “that’s not literal”? I see nothing, nor does the vast majority of New Testament scholars, from various backgrounds and denominations.

more later...

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