Is the Bible Relevant?
What the world says:
"The Bible is irrelevant."
"We'd be better off without having to follow the Bible. Blindly following the Bible's messages without looking at them with a critical eye is a sure way to set yourself up for problems. Society changes with time, and society was a lot different two thousand years ago than it is now. Verses in Leviticus among others are especially problematic."
What is the truth?
Today we have the breakdown of marriage, breakdown of moral values, children in decline, lack of absolutes (relativism), decline in education, disunity, perversity, pornography, lack of commitment, lack of resolve, hating ourselves while celebrating the terrorists, outlawing Christianity while supporting everything else, belief in the lie that it is one's "right" to not be offended (when reality is that I am offended daily and we must learn to be offended and to offend graciously) and call another opinion "hate speech" as yet another subtle tactic to silence the free speech of Christians and conservatives, etc.
What is the Bible's message? Essentially, it is that there is a Holy God. Man has sinned. We were given the Law to see our sin and how we could not please God by trying to fulfill the law since we are all sinners. We were a people without hope, but God provided a way. He came Himself as Jesus Christ to fulfill the law and make the ultimate and perfect sacrifice on the cross. Now, an eye does not have to be taken for another since every eye that needed to be taken for another was taken at the cross. We no longer have to sacrifice lambs since the Lamb of God made the ultimate sacrifice. At the cross, Jesus took our resumes full of sin and offered His resume of perfection to us. And better yet: He rose again so that we can live a new life in Him. That's the message. That's what it all points to. Leviticus says be holy and honor God. Some of the New Testament verses discussed mentioned glorifying God no matter the circumstance. It's about God!
What is a critical eye? Pulling just particular verses out of context and then making a generalized conclusion for the whole Bible is not a critical eye.
Society has changed, but are there absolutes? Yes! Absolutely!
Let's look at Leviticus. Leviticus 20:13 states, "If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them." The argument: "Looking at the rest of this chapter, other 'abominations' include a child disrespecting his/her parents (Leviticus 20:9), men shaving their beards (Leviticus 19:27), and planting fields with two crops or wearing blended fabrics (Leviticus 19:19)." The argument is that if we can do without Leviticus 19:19, 19:27, and 20:9, then "why wouldn't we get along without Leviticus 20:13?"
While these verses in Leviticus are "part of a larger code of holiness ethics," which contain the verses below, we again must consider the larger context. For example, Leviticus 19:28 states, "Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD." Does this mean tattoos are a sin? No! I know Christians with tattoos. The larger context is to not act as the pagans do and the pagans at that time had special markings on their bodies to which this verse references.
Also, it is easy to look only at the verses deemed too pesky, and ignore the more easily understandable ones that are still reinforced or looked upon favorably. For example, consider the full context of Leviticus 19:
- v. 3: Respecting parents.
- v. 4: No idolatry.
- vv. 5-8: Honor God with your sacrifices (Christ sacrificed Himself and fulfilled the need to sacrifice animals, but this is applicable to the other "sacrifices" we offer to God).
- vv. 9-10: Feeding the poor.
- v. 11: Don't lie and steal and deceive.
- v. 12: Don't swear falsely or profane God's name.
- v. 13: Don't defraud your neighbor or rob or "rip off" an employee.
- v. 14: Don't mistreat the blind or deaf.
- v. 15: Don't pervert justice; judge fairly.
- v. 16: Don't spread slander or endanger your neighbor's life.
- v. 17: Don't hate your brother and be "straight up" when you have to confront someone.
- v. 18: Don't seek revenge; love your neighbor as yourself (Hey, Jesus quoted that!).
- vv. 20-22: It is sinful for a man to sleep with a girl promised to another man (even if the girl is a slave).
- vv. 23-25: How to have a fruitful harvest.
- v. 29: Don't make your daughter a prostitute.
- v. 30: Honor the Sabbath (Go to church).
- v. 31: Don't go to spiritists and mediums (palm readers, ouija boards, witches, etc.).
- v. 32: Respect the elderly and revere God.
- vv. 33-34: Do not mistreat foreigners, but love them as yourself.
- vv. 35-36: Do not use dishonest standards, measures, weights, or quantities. Be honest.
- v. 37: Obey God.
Now let's consider the full context of Leviticus 20 (NOTE: I will focus on principle of the verse, not the death penalty called for in some. And while some, like verse 18, call for banishment, this does not mean that the individuals in question cannot be restored to their community, just as we are in constant need of Christ's forgiveness):
- vv. 1-5: Don't sacrifice your child to a false God.
- v. 6: Don't go to spiritists and mediums. Worship only God.
- v. 7: Be holy.
- v. 8: Obey God.
- v. 9: Do not curse your parents. If one curses his or her godly parents and rebels against what they say, then the end result will be death, spiritually, which can be applied from many of these verses.
- v. 10: Do not commit adultery.
- v. 11: Don't sleep with your mother or step mother.
- v. 12: Don't sleep with your daughter-in-law.
- v. 14: Don't marry a woman and her mother.
- v. 15-16: Don't have sex with an animal.
- v. 17: Don't commit incest.
- vv. 19-20: Don't have sex with your aunt.
- v. 21: Don't marry your brother's wife.
- v. 22: Obey God.
- v. 23: Don't live like the pagans do.
- v. 26: Be holy.
- v. 27: Don't be a spiritist or medium.
Should we throw all of that out because some of the verses are from a different culture? Should we mistreat foreigners and give our daughters up as hookers? Of course not, and those who argue against Leviticus 20:13 would agree. So, I could just as easily make a counter-argument similar to the argument and say, "We get along just fine by following these other commandments." Shouldn't we consider Leviticus 20:13 (the one that speaks against homosexuality)?
Yet, there is a small amount of verses that seem difficult in today's world. I think we must consider the context even beyond Leviticus 19-20. The theme of Leviticus mentioned in the NIV Study Bible says the following:
"The key thought of Leviticus is holiness . . . -- the holiness of God and man (man must revere God in 'holiness').In Leviticus spiritual holiness is symbolized by physical perfection"
In cases of banishment…
"Before he can reenter the camp, however, he has to offer the prescribed, perfect sacrifices (symbolizing the perfect, whole sacrifice of Christ)."
Even in the larger context than Leviticus, the Old Testament (OT) often shows external signs of an internal reality. If someone worships idols, curses his or her parents, or has sex with an animal, or other abominations, then he or she is dead spiritually, which really is worse than a physical death, especially eternally speaking. Externally, boys were circumcised, but this pointed to the later internal reality of the "circumcision of the heart," a heart changed by God (see Romans 2:28-29).
Think about how an owner has to more severely discipline a puppy than the adult dog "which knows better." God's people had a different relationship with Him in the earlier times than when Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law. God was and is concerned with making His people holy - reflecting His glory. The Old Testament was more external in the relationship between man and God, while the New Testament is more internal in the relationship between man and God.
That is a lot of theology and verses from Leviticus. In the right context, we could certainly share and respond with the above, but in engaging an unbelieving world, that will likely not be as fruitful on the onset.
In considering what's being said, truth and the Bible, how are we to respond to the world when the world says, "The Bible is irrelevant"?
Does this include all of the Bible or just parts of the Bible?
If only parts are irrelevant, then what parts are relevant?
What are the toughest parts of the Bible to accept and why?
What parts of the Bible do you agree with? Are these relevant or irrelevant?
What is a critical eye?
What kind of world is your ideal world?
Is Jesus relevant? If not, why not? If so, what is Jesus' relevance for today?
People commit evil. What determines whether something is good or evil?
In view of evil occurring in our world today, where is the hope?
Which response is the most engaging so that it may bring discourse and productive discussion, perhaps even to presenting the Gospel? What are some other possible responses that promote discourse?