The Fingerprints of God: Proving God Through Science – part 2

wizard-exposed

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain

If the skeptic demands Christians pull back the curtain and expose God, as Dorothy exposed the Wizard of Oz, then he will never be satisfied. And Christians need not “wring their hands” trying to fully accommodate them. After all, what would the skeptic say if he were required to replicate the big-bang, resurrect Charles Darwin for direct dialogue about his book, or show the world a living, breathing hominid before evolution could be believed?  Okay, that is technically a tu quoque fallacy [“thou too”: a retort by one charged with a crime accusing an opponent who has brought the charges of a similar crime] and an emotional response. Yet it does provide some measure of perspective for the skeptic—leveling the playing field to some degree. That response is intended to challenge the skeptic to consider that his demand for empirical science to prove the existence of God is not a legitimate demand. Rather, the discussion of proving the existence of God should have other criteria. Nevertheless, the skeptic is convinced of his position and believes science is the arbiter of truth—a.k.a. scientism. Therefore, as Christians, unafraid of challenges to the veracity of God’s word, we can confidently discuss these objections with some measure of science in hope to lead the followers of scientism into a fuller understanding of the true and living God.

science-lab

Scientism’s Creed and a World Run Amok

Scientific “conclusions” are rather rare. Often, the closest a true scientist will get to a “conclusion” is to posit a “theory.” When I was in the Navy learning electronics, I was taught Electronic Theory. Even though those theories have proven very consistent and they successfully propel technology to greater accomplishments, it is still considered “theory.” Scientists laud such a fluid methodology as superior to the a priori dogma of religion. Jerry Coyne, in his book Faith Vs. Fact, explains that “In the world of science, scrutiny is relentless, scary. But it’s a ‘quality control’ mechanism to expunge the dross. It’s not personal” (pg. 27). Furthermore, he states

Science comprises an exquisitely refined set of tools designed to find out what is real and to prevent confirmation bias. Science prizes doubt and iconoclasm, rejects absolute authority, and relies on testing one’s ideas with experiments and observations of nature. Its sine qua non [essential element] is evidence—evidence that can be inspected and adjudicated by any trained and rational observer. And it depends largely on falsification. Nearly every scientific truth comes with an implicit rider: ‘Evidence X would show this to be wrong.’

That is what I am calling Scientism’s “creed.” Scientism, according Douglas Axe in Undeniable: How Biology Confirms our Intuition That Life is Designed, isthe belief that science is the only reliable source of truth” (pg. 17).

I hope you see the irony in Scientism’s creed. On one hand, science has a built-in “quality control” feature meant to prevent any claim from ever becoming dogma. Yet, it relies on empirical evidence—a euphemism for “certainty.” If something is tested and “proven” in the lab, why does that not settle the case? In other words, the lab results—the “science”— which is meant to give answers, should never really be considered settled. There is always another question to ask, a better experiment to conduct. The skeptic demands that the Christian use a self-defeating, irrational system, designed to never settle a matter, to settle the matter of God’s existence.

Is it no wonder then that science has corroborated so well with postmodernism? Has science merely been swept away in the torrent of the philosophy that says “one can only know with certainty that we cannot really be certain of anything?” Or perhaps science birthed postmodernism. The Renaissance’s humanism begat a prevailing optimism for mankind called “modernism” that spanned into the Victorian era. It was thought that man’s rationalism, science, could and would indeed answer all questions of life and usher in a Utopia apart from God—enter Darwinism and Evolutionary theory. Maybe the subsequent, consecutive world wars deflated those expectations and gave rise to paralyzing doubt about everything. Whether science begat postmodernism, postmodernism influenced science, or if they were twins growing up together is insignificant; the resulting philosophically Dystopian world of the 21st Century shows there has been a sad humbling where optimism has largely given way to chaos. The passionate expectancy that science would be society’s imminent savior was doused. The aftermath is a philosophical desert. Yet the “New Atheism” of Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, Jerry Coyne, et. al. appears to have been a revival of modernism, a pitiful attempt of CPR upon the corpse. Yet, accepting no other savior, our present world maintains its faith that science is the only path to truth which will set us free. Thus, the arguments against the existence of God persist.

forensics

The Right Science Tool for the Right Job

Don’t get me wrong. I am NOT playing into the distorted claims New Atheists make that if Christians had their way, no one would need pursue science, and the world would be satisfied with ignorance, death, and disease—e.g. Jerry Coyne’s book. I am advocating for a balanced and right use of science that can help Christians speak to skeptics.

Using scientific evidence for proving God’s existence reasonably gravitates to the matter of origins—creationism vs. evolution or old universe vs. young universe. Approaching the study of origins from a “purely scientific” perspective is a very tricky endeavor—for atheists as well—and is really “the wrong tool for the job;” that is, if one defines “purely scientific” as a laboratory experiment producing empirical results. The methodology for studying origins is not the unemotional, strictly objective, sterile laboratory, exclusively-based-on-empirical-data sort of science that people (and scientists) like to think it is. The scientific method is full of assumptions and rabbit trails. In the process of science, those assumptions have to be acknowledged and the trails have to be explored before one can determine if they lead to anything useful. Certainly the laboratory is part of the process. But that’s the point—it is a process. The laboratory, when used exclusively, is not the right tool for the origins job. Better yet, it is not the only tool for the job.

The “right tool for the job” in studying origins is Historical Science using abductive reasoning. Dr. Meyer addresses this in The Signature in the Cell. He explains that “abductive reasoning infers unseen facts, events, or causes in the past from clues or facts in the present” (pg. 153). The syllogism Meyer begins with is:  If it rains, the streets will get wet. The streets are wet. Therefore, it rained. The logical fallacy is obvious because several alternative explanations can cause wet streets—a nearby sprinkler system, a city water truck, etc. Nevertheless, we use abductive reasoning all the time to reach accurate conclusions. A case-in-point can be taken from history: we can know Napoleon Bonaparte once lived without using a time machine to return to 18th century France and see him for ourselves. We have artifacts and other evidence to observe. The best explanation for the present artifacts, records, and the European political landscape is that Napoleon existed. A past event can be proven using present information.

Abductive reasoning is used in forensics. A detective pieces together information, or “clues,” left behind from a past event; though he was not a witness to the event. He incorporates a variety of techniques from multiple disciplines. That approach to the task does not make it unreliable science. Rather, it is a different kind of science than the so-called empirical, laboratory experiment. It is really the only possible kind of science that can be used in the study of origins.

Historical scientists, including those studying origins, are detectives. They begin making observations [not yet “evidence”] like a collection of puzzle pieces. Those pieces are then interpreted by the investigator to form a hypothesis…a hunch…a theory. The theory is pursued logically and new information either proves or disproves it. When gaps in the story arise, plausible leaps are made to keep the theory progressing. The more leaps there are, the less viable the theory becomes. Eventually, if more gaps (questions) arise than connections made (answers), the theory cannot be sustained and it must be abandoned. However, when the pieces do align, they give us a great deal of certainty. In opposition to postmodernism, our world does operate in certainties. Abductive reasoning gives us a large measure of stability. We know who we are as a culture, looking back on where we’ve come (history). We govern ourselves using abductive reasoning in our judicial systems, absolving the innocent and convicting the guilty.

Concluding Remarks

The purpose of this blog entry was to lay a foundation and establish the trajectory for proving God using science. I find it helpful to first hash out some of the philosophical perspectives. Doing so communicates how I see the world and how I see other people seeing the world. Hopefully it sheds light for reader and author alike.

Another goal was to shrink the size of the foe. The “Goliath” of science can appear like an indomitable adversary to Christians who lack a background in science. By exposing some of the weaknesses of the skeptic’s demands, the Christian can be strengthened and thereby encouraged to give himself to further study and contemplation. I was encouraged to read some of my inclinations were also voiced by Douglas Axe. Whether one is an elite, walking the hallowed halls of Cambridge’s science departments or “your average Joe,” he can intelligently debate religion vs. science issues. In fact, the fundamental questions and answers remain the same, no matter what league you are in. Douglas Axe explains it this way, “We’ll see [in this book] that mastery of technical subjects isn’t at all needed in order for us to know the answer to the big question [to what or to whom do we owe our existence?]. Common science will be perfectly adequate” (pg. 10).

In the next blog, I’ll deal with the “Intelligent” part of Intelligent Design— making the connections between God, intelligence, information, and DNA.

Advertisements

The Fingerprints of God: Proving God Through Science

A constant drum beat in our age is the skeptic’s mantra: “Prove God exists using Science.” It seems as though every public, social media comment promoting God is vehemently attacked with this sentiment. Even though the essence of the question is “as old as dirt,” each generation deals with it afresh. This series of blog posts is my attempt to contribute to the discussion in our times. Perhaps it will assist some Christians with speaking to friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers about the hope of Christ that is in them.

telescope

Perspective

The only difference between our generation and previous generations in trying to prove the existence of God by observing the natural world is the sophistication of the data. The ancient king of Israel wrote, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him…?” King David “considered” the heavens using only his eyes to see the night sky. Today, massive rocket-launched space telescopes can travel a million miles from Earth in order to peer into deep space using giant mirrors detecting the slightest traces of infrared light. I suspect that if David saw these telescopes’ dazzling images of galaxies, stars, super-novas, and nebula, his conclusion would be the same: “What is man that You take thought of him?” Modern information yields age-old conclusions. Truly David’s son Solomon had it right when he said “there is nothing new under the sun”—even though we know a lot more about the sun and what is under it.

helix-nebula-unraveling

The complexity of science stands as a Goliath-like foe taunting Christians to dare challenge its impenetrable theories and conclusions. Often times we average Christians feel as though we are resigned to sit in the bleachers as spectators watching the intellectual champions fight the battles we cannot. We tell ourselves, “I do not have a PhD in Astrophysics or Molecular Biology. Who am I to refute science?” We often stick our heads in the sand, exercising “blind faith,” appealing to more learned Christians and theologians. Unwilling to face the implications, we shrug our shoulders in ignorance and go on. As I was writing this blog, I came across this article by the Pew Research Center citing the worst case response—apostasy—is on the rise:

About half of current religious “nones” who were raised in a religion (49%) indicate that a lack of belief led them to move away from religion. This includes many respondents who mention “science” as the reason they do not believe in religious teachings, including one who said “I’m a scientist now, and I don’t believe in miracles.” Others reference “common sense,” “logic” or a “lack of evidence” – or simply say they do not believe in God.

Let me encourage you to neither live in passive ignorance nor renounce the faith because of science. Instead, educate yourself to the degree you are willing and able, then by faith launch your stones against the adversary. The fact is, God has providentially placed each of us within a sphere of influence comparable to our ability. Admittedly, most of us would be pummeled in a debate against Richard Dawkins or the late Christopher Hitchens. The encouraging thing is that you and I will never have to! God has placed other Christians in that sphere who can. The likes of Ravi Zacharias, Alister McGrath, and John Lennox come to mind. These men are among those great intellectual champions we admire from a distance. But, like the young fan watching his favorite sports hero on television, who then goes to the back yard and mimics them for hours honing his own skills, we too can learn from our apologetic champions and put those skills into action in our own arenas. You and I typically traffic among people within our own “league.” Our sphere of influence is among those having a similar background and education. We are satisfactorily equipped to converse about these topics with our peers.

Furthermore, I maintain that the answers to the tough questions, whether they are posed by Dawkins, your brother-in-law, or your co-worker, are essentially the same. The only differences between us and the juggernauts may be the breadth and depth of knowledge about the data and the level of sophistication in the arguments. But we can identify the arguments and concepts, understand them biblically, and do quite well in defending the faith. You will find that the truth concepts are within grasp without having to master the science. Nevertheless, being able to dialogue with your friends about science to some degree will help. The world around us is enamored by science. Because they are interested in science it behooves us to be able to speak to them intelligently and respectfully.

ID DNA evolution

Intelligent Design

The scope of scientific knowledge is vast, spanning Physics, Cosmology, Geology, Biology, and etc. This blog will be limited to introducing concepts and arguments largely from Intelligent Design (ID) scientist, Dr. Stephen Meyer in his book Signature in the Cell . I will also add to those concepts using my own background in Semiconductor (or Integrated Circuit) Failure Analysis and Theology.

The ID community has done a spectacular job in promoting and buttressing the “Cosmological Argument.” The Cosmological Argument, accredited to Thomas Aquinas, states that every effect must have a cause. It is an elaborate name describing a simple concept. It speaks to a truth that mankind knows intuitively as we look at the world around us and as we consider the heavens—“Surely somebody made everything! It’s all just too complex with order and too spectacularly beautiful to have happened by chance.” The recent ID effort has sought to argue for the existence of an intelligent designer using science and the philosophy of science. They make no claims about WHO that grand designer is. (Actually, that is consistent with the theological framework that God has revealed truth to mankind by two methods: General and Special Revelation.)  Since ID is focused on General or Natural revelation (the physical world), it cannot identify the Designer. I will seek to argue that using Scientific means, we can go further than ID and state that the Intelligent Designer is Jesus Christ.

Humans are the Greatest

Taking cues from Scripture, the best place to prove the existence of God is with mankind. Genesis 1:27 “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (NASB) Mankind bears the “fingerprints” of God most clearly.

Studying the extremities of the natural world, from far away galaxies to subatomic particles, shows us the eternality and power of God. But those divine attributes are just the introduction to the Being revealed to us as God. The closest, natural expression—evidence—of God is man, the pinnacle of His creation. The temptation for me is to jump to discussing the attributes that give us the highest resolution of God, holiness or righteousness—at the least, morality. But these aspects fall into the Anthropological and Ontological arguments. [The Anthropological argument is that man’s morality and self-aware search for God proves God exists. The Ontological argument is the concept that man’s ability to imagine no greater Being than God, proves God exists.] For the secularist, these philosophical and metaphysical arguments are inferior to empirical, scientific data.

Therefore, in the spirit of being all things to all men, this blog will consider some empirical data resident in humans. Drawing from Dr. Meyer, the biological evidence of intelligence residing in DNA has no other logical explanation than an intelligent designer.  Secondly, Dr. Meyer teaches us that the entire study of origins is based on abductive reasoning of the scientific information. [I’ll explain abductive reasoning more thoroughly in the next blog entry. Basically, it is reasoning that infers knowledge of past events derived from present information.] This is an important counter-argument against the presupposition that science is strictly, bare empirical evidence. This sword cuts both ways. In other words, Christians can benefit from using science to argue science. One line of argument Christians should abandon is their oft-used claim that science contradicts its own Scientific Method. That is not entirely true. The standard “Scientific Method” approach we were taught in Junior High science is a mainstay, but it’s not the only definition of “science.” Ironically, the God-skeptic that we deal with in our common-man life does not know this either. And thus, he lays down the gauntlet: “Prove God using Science.”

Therefore, after arguing for the empirical evidence of an Intelligent Designer, I will apply the same abductive reasoning to the Bible and show that the Intelligent Designer is indeed the God of the Bible. The next blog entry will lay a philosophical foundation necessary for building my case.

Christian Apologetics and Homosexuality: Jesus, The Loving Lawgiver

 mt sinai

This post marks the conclusion of this series dealing with the question, “How can Christians claim the Bible forbids homosexual acts, but then ignore all the other Old Testament laws? In rebutting the question, I’ve made several negative arguments. I disagree with its implications and its presuppositions. I disagree with its theology and its mischaracterizing orthodox Christianity. So, is there anything positive I can say? There is, but nothing about the question.

Instead of dealing any more with the question, I want to offer a positive argument about the topic of homosexuality and the Law of God. If the question presents wrong thinking, then what is right thinking? What is Christ’s teaching? I touched on this in the third post when I stated, “By describing the law as ‘holy and righteous and good,’ Paul juxtaposes the character of the law with the character of the Lawgiver.” That is key. Understanding the Lawgiver provides clarity, confidence, and comfort regarding His Law.

Surely the boldest statement I’ve made thus far in the series is this: “The New Testament firmly upholds the prohibition [of homosexuality] as seen in the teaching of Christ….” This is primary not because I said it, but because it points to the only begotten Son of God. If Jesus Christ has revealed His position on a matter, then it is forever settled.

Who is Jesus and why should I listen to Him?

This may come as a shocking revelation to some: Jesus is God. Actually, it should shock each of us. Try to take in the severity, meaning, and implications of that. I will take it even further. Jesus is Yahweh. That is right. Jesus is the Covenant-making, Law giving God of both testaments. There are some who erroneously speak of God by addressing the Father as Yahweh and the son as Yeshua. Don’t misunderstand me here, I know that God the Father is not God the Son. I am saying that the names Yahweh and Yeshua refer to the same Person, the Son. Where is the proof of that? We have to look at both the Old and New Testaments.

Exodus 3. Moses approached a bush that was on fire but was not consumed. The burning bush was a theophany, a tangible manifestation of God. God instructed Moses to remove his sandals for he was on Holy ground. God did not pick a holy place, suitable for Him to appear. No. The ground was made holy because of the very presence of the thrice-holy God upon it. God is impeccable, utterly righteous. At this occasion God commissioned Moses to be His spokesperson. He ordered Moses to return to Pharaoh and demand Israel’s release. Moses then asked God a question: “Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God revealed His covenant name “YHWH”, the Tetragrammaton (“four letters”) from which our English Bibles translate the Hebrew “Yahweh” as “I AM.”

Now fast forward to the New Testament. John 8 records Jesus’ confrontation with the Jewish leaders, the scribes and Pharisees: “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.’ Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.” Why did the Jews pick up stones to kill Him?  Because they were carrying out the punishment of blasphemy from Leviticus 24:10-16. Jesus indeed made His point and they got it. By saying “I am,” He laid claim to the covenant name of God that had been revealed to Moses in the burning bush. Perhaps it could be translated this way, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born YHWH.” It is a double entendre communicating His eternal self-existence and His identity as Yahweh. Philippians 2:9-11 says it well “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

All of this proves the importance and the profundity of the truth, Jesus is the Lawgiver. Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the Sovereign who makes the Laws. He is the one who established the Moral, Ceremonial, and Judicial Law of Moses.

God’s Law is delightful

What is the correlation to our topic? I merely have to connect these dots: just as the Lawgiver is holy and benevolent, so are His Laws, including those about sexuality. Surely most, Christians and non-Christians, agree that at a minimum Jesus was holy and good. The Bible is filled with descriptions of the utter benevolence and lovingkindness of God demonstrated by the giving of His law. Just read Psalm 119.

Since Jesus, the Lawgiver and Creator, has made men to marry and have sexual relations with women exclusively—one man married to one woman—then this is what is noble, good, holy, and right. It is not restrictive, it is best. The Psalmist writes, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.”

For my final conclusion, I say that I can understand how the biblical truths conveyed here can be utterly frustrating to someone struggling with same-sex attraction. The truth may defy your “natural” feelings and even conflict with your understanding of God. But I want to encourage you to consider that while such emotions are real, they are sinful, and they can be changed into peaceful conformity of righteousness through the saving and sanctifying work of God in Christ. And we all have equally deep struggles against sin. These same things apply to every boy, girl, man, and woman who struggles with heterosexual promiscuity as well. You are not a worse sinner than any other. The God of Romans 8 can forgive you too by paying your penalty, removing the curse of the Law, and changing you by giving you a new heart, making you a new creation  with a renewed mind, “created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Flee to Him by faith and with repentance. Jesus says to you even now, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

 

 

Christian Apologetics and Homosexuality: I know who doesn’t ignore the Old Testament Law.

three greats

The entire purpose of this blog series is to address the question “How can Christians claim the Bible forbids homosexual acts, but then ignore all the other Old Testament laws?” If its logic and implied conclusion is valid then the LGBTQ apologist has succeeded in correcting the traditional Biblical Christian’s error, removed the moral obstacle, eased the consciences of Christians and homosexuals, and progressed in gaining universal acceptance of homosexuality as not only an accepted practice, but even a good and moral practice.  The question at hand is worthy of critique because embedded within its foundational premise is a widely believed but somewhat distorted evangelical doctrine taken from Romans 6:14 and Ephesians 2:8, “We are saved by grace and not by law.” This popular doctrine is shared by traditional, evangelical Christians and LGBTQ Christians alike. The LGBTQ apologist is saying that traditional evangelicalism simply needs to apply the truth consistently. If evangelicals were only consistent, non-hypocritical, then they would see what we see—that homosexuality is okay. It is a powerful, emotive proposition. Liberal, Protestant churches accepted homosexuality long ago, and now with “gay marriage” being the law-of-the-land, some evangelical Christians are being persuaded as well. The reasoning in this question seems to satisfy some in their quest for a biblical justification for homosexuality. It is a monumentally important question.[Please note that I am in full agreement that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. My contention is that the distortion arises from convoluting this doctrine of salvation with sanctification.]

This fourth installment of the series continues my analysis and rebuttal of the primary question above. I maintain that the question itself is full of erroneous presuppositions, theological error, and should therefore be dismissed altogether. This series will hopefully serve to correct the LGBTQ apologist and to give the evangelical Christian assurance that his theological heritage, resting on its biblical foundation is solid and must not be abandoned. I fear though, that he does not know his theological heritage.

The Evangelical-Reformed Connection

One error in the question is its sweepingly false notion that it properly identifies and represents orthodox Christian doctrine. It begins, “How can Christians claim…?” Though, the questioner identifies and represents a popular Christian doctrine, zie has not identified and does not represent historic, Protestant, Christian doctrine. (See the third blog post which addresses the doctrine.) The popular doctrine is novel within the scope of Church History. This should cause the Christian to pause. As Paul warns in Galatians Ch. 1, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”

Modern, Evangelical Christianity is Protestant. Its branch of the Christian family tree forked at that major division known as the “Protestant Reformation.” Like it or not, your doctrine was forged by the likes of John Calvin, the father of Presbyterianism. For instance, that bastion of evangelicalism, Dallas Theological Seminary, was started by a Presbyterian, Lewis Sperry Chafer. It’s safe to say Chafer was not thoroughly Reformed, but “DTS stands on the shoulders of great men [Reformed Theologians] like Spurgeon.” I cannot cite the quote, but I recall hearing it during a chapel service I attended sometime between 1993 and 1997.

 The Tripartite View of the Law in Church History

John Calvin’s teaching on the division of the law into Moral, Civil (Judicial), and Ceremonial may be the most recognized statement of the “Reformed” tripartite view of the Law, (See section 14 here from Institutes of the Christian Religion.), but it’s not the first. A look at Calvin’s footnote shows that he draws upon the teaching of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica. That places the doctrine back to the 13th Century. Yet, Aquinas was not the originator either. He drew from the well of theological thought that had even much earlier origins. One of the most recognized church fathers, Augustine of Hippo, expressed similar doctrine in the late 4th century. I can recommend this article from the Westminster Theological Journal 61:2 (Fall 1999): 175-207 for a more thorough source treating the historical development of Aquinas’ view of the Law. Another excellent resource is Jonathan Bayes’ article  from Reformation Today, Issue 177. To be fair, I will include this blog from the Gospel Coalition and this interview of Dr. Thomas Schreiner for opposing views. However, my purpose here is not to defend the doctrine so much, but rather to prove that the doctrine of the threefold division of the law has a long and distinguished pedigree in church history.

Returning to John Calvin (1509-1564) as my historical place marker, I now move forward chronologically. The great Reformed confessions of Protestant doctrine that stand as faithful, though not inerrant, expressions of biblical truth consistently teach the tripartite division either formally or practically. By “practically” I mean they may use the alternate phrase “the three-fold purpose of the Law” which expresses how the Law pertains to the daily life of the New Testament Christian. Namely, the Law is to be a mirror, a restraint of evil, and a guide of what pleases God. Some of the confessions of faith and creeds include the Reformed Church’s Belgic Confession Article 25 (1618); the Presbyterians’ Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) chapter 19; The Congregationalists’ Savoy Declaration (1658) chapter 19; and the Reformed Baptists’ 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689) chapter 19.

In addition to Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and these confessions of faith, the threefold division of the law is supported by such stalwart theologians as John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, and Charles Spurgeon, to name only three of many. I know there are other great theologians who differ. But again, my point is that the doctrine has a rich tradition with highly regarded proponents and is shared by vast numbers of Christians now and in times past. And it is also my point that this tradition is arguably representative of historic, orthodox, Protestant doctrine. For the LGBTQ apologist or the evangelical Christian to represent the popular, contrary doctrine as normative Christian doctrine is simply an error.

In conclusion, it is clear that the modern evangelical Christian—be he either unsympathetic to or embracing of the LGBQT perspective—should be aware that to be among those who think negatively about Old Testament Law is to be out-of-step with much of historic Christianity, with the Apostle Paul, and with Christ who said of Himself, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. ‘For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished….’”

Christian Apologetics and Homosexuality: The Role of the Old Testament Law for the New Testament Christian

Should Christians embrace homosexuality as normative since they ignore the rest of Old Testament Law?

The significance of this question is huge. LGBTQ apologists are attempting to entice Christians away from orthodoxy by arguing for Biblical precedence on this very point. And the angle by which they approach this is the popular evangelical doctrine, “We are not under the Law but under grace.” Why do I call this a “popular evangelical doctrine” and not “biblical doctrine” since it is a quote of the Apostle Paul in Romans 6:14?

A Background of Controversy

I do so because the popular doctrine skews the balance of biblical doctrine by having one truth eclipse another. Prominent Dispensational theologians from my alma mater, Dallas Theological Seminary, were engaged in a highly visible, public debate with John MacArthur in the late 1980’s and 1990’s in what is known as the “Lordship Salvation” vs “Free Grace” controversy. At stake was the centerpoint of Christianity, the Gospel. One side accused the other of “easy believism” and “antinomianism” (without law) while the other accused “legalism” and “works-based salvation.” The debate affected arguably millions of Evangelicals. As John MacArthur states about his book that launched the debate, The Gospel According to Jesus, “There are now [2003] about half a million copies in circulation, and the book is still in print. That is almost unprecedented for a polemic book dealing with a theological issue.” Evangelicals were faced with a decision to make: which side are you on? Is the Law good or is it bad? Does it have a place for Christians or not?

The Free Grace controversy was such a hot topic for the Dispensationalists for the same reason it concerns our question about there being a biblical argument for homosexuality. The topic hit very close-to-home on a fundamental tenet of Dispensationalism, namely the duality of, or separation between, the Old Testament and the New Testament. That foundation was part of the backdrop for stressing “saved by grace alone through faith alone” and “once saved always saved” but at the expense of any expectation of personal holiness (see Hebrews 12:14). The practical effect in the pew was a very pejorative view of Old Testament law. For them, to view the law favorably was tantamount to being a Pharisee, Jesus’ earthly antagonist. The doctrine communicates that there is absolutely no place for the Old Testament Law for the New Testament Christian. And this doctrine now finds welcome support by the LGBTQ apologist. The “Free Grace” doctrine, with its staunch opposition to the Law, is now being used by LGBTQ apologists to promote a theological argument favorable to homosexuality. I’m not making an ad-hominem argument against my Dispensationalist brothers’ doctrine.  The point is, you can see the doctrine residing in the question: “How can Christians claim the Bible forbids homosexual acts, but then ignore all the other Old Testament laws?” It is no wonder that the LGBTQ apologist can stump some Christians by asking the question; because a large number of Christians do indeed ignore all the “other” Old Testament laws.

The Ten Commandments are for Today

The Covenantal position, in my view, provides the best biblical theology for addressing the  role of the Law for the Christian. I point to Reformed theologian John Calvin’s statement of the doctrine of the Law, not as proof, but for a definition: “We must bear in mind that common division of the whole law of God published by Moses into moral, ceremonial, and judicial laws.” (See section 14 here from Institutes of the Christian Religion.) With the Law of Moses divided into parts, we are able to make better sense of the Apostle Paul’s multiple uses of the term “law” in the book of Romans. It helps us understand which laws remain and which do not. While Romans 6:14 seems to support the LGBTQ / Free Grace position and disfavors the Law: “you are not under law but under grace,” Romans 7:12 speaks favorably of the Law, “So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.”

In Romans 7:12, Paul juxtaposes the character of the law with the character of the Lawgiver. The Law is holy and righteous and good, because God is holy and righteous and good. It is that quality of the Law that gives it the nomenclature “Moral Law.” The Ten Commandments are uniquely set apart in Scripture, written in stone by the very finger of God amidst smoke and fire and fear. They serve as standards, transcending the 613 civil and ceremonial laws that governed ancient Israel socially and religiously. It is not hard to make the connection that the 613 laws were detailed, specific out-workings of the ten. Christ had this perspective too it seems, evidenced by His further summarizing the Law of Moses this way:“…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

The point being made here is that the Moral Law is eternal. It cannot and must not be ignored today. It expresses what is holy and righteous and good for all of mankind, God’s preeminent creature, made in the very likeness of God. The Moral Law existed prior to its being codified on Mt. Sinai; it permeated the temporary Mosaic Covenant laws; and it continues to govern the consciences of the New Testament believer. For example, it was sin to murder before Moses, during Moses, and after Moses. As to the new covenant believer, what other Law could God have meant when He spoke through the prophet Jeremiah saying, “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, ‘I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’”?

For the above reasons, it is evident that the question posed:  “How can Christians claim the Bible forbids homosexual acts, but then ignore all the other Old Testament laws?” perpetuates a wrong, but popular, doctrine that Old Testament Laws are to be dismissed. They are not. The Moral Law remains.  Let us go forward with confidence in the manner Paul writes in Ephesians 5:3 “But immorality [porneia-sexual sin] or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints….

Christian Apologetics and Homosexuality: Both the Old and New Testaments Prohibit Homosexuality

Since I’m writing in the public square on the topic of homosexuality from a Christian apologetic, the first blog post (below) addressed the “elephant in the room” in order to hopefully get the obstacle of “homophobia” out of the way. My aim was to point out the following: the duplicity of those who falsely accuse Christians of hate—ergo “the separation of church and hate”; to show that I am not a ranting and myopic blowhard, nor am I like many Christians who are now capitulating to the culture and embracing homosexuality with apologies. I also aim to prevent Christians from being lulled into apathy by the poppy seed field of cultural immersion. That, I fear, is the most dangerous possibility for the Church.

If you are inclined to tune me out because of the title of this installment, I urge you to reconsider and please allow me the opportunity to state my case and then determine if it has merit—even if you disagree. It is a difficult balance in this world of ours to walk the tightrope of showing that we really do care about people while also saying, “But God says homosexuality is sin.” If I say it, you may either run away or hold up your fists. But if I don’t say it, then I’m being disingenuous and unfaithful to the Word of God. Any Christian who sacrifices the “sin” part of the Gospel on the altar of so-called “love” or “political correctness” abandons the message of the Gospel. Conversely, any Christian who does not approach people with grace AND truth is not being like Jesus. Do you see the difficulty—that loving your enemies acknowledges the Christophobe is an enemy (that’s Bible language) but an enemy to be loved and shown genuine kindness?

The Question

I will now finally get to the point of this second post which is to analyze a common biblical and theological question about Christianity and homosexuality:

How can Christians claim the Bible forbids homosexual acts, but then ignore all the other Old Testament laws?

The quick answer to this question is, “They can’t.” or “They shouldn’t.”

That begs the next question, “Why not?”

My hunch is those of the LGBTQ would also answer it that way. They would do so because they see duplicity (hypocrisy) between Christian doctrine and practice. That accusation sometimes takes the form of, “You say the Bible forbids homosexuality, but it also forbids eating shellfish and you don’t have a problem eating shrimp.” I first heard this argument in a blasphemous video circulating on the internet during California’s Proposition 8 vote. In their mind, all would be right in the world if the Christian would simply be consistent and ignore the Old Testament law prohibiting homosexuality too. But consistent Christianity is not their true concern. What is really being stated is, “Since Christians ignore Old Testament laws, then they have to ignore (accept) homosexuality.” The agenda is clearly to demand universal acceptance.

I also answer the question in the negative, but for a very different reason. The question simply does not accurately represent historic, orthodox Christian doctrine. Here’s my analysis of the question:

  1. Christians claim the Bible forbids homosexuality. Check. The questioner and I agree here.
  2. Correlating homosexuality with “other” Old Testament law infers it is strictly an Old Testament law and is not prohibited in the New Testament. That’s a failure in the question.
  3. Christians ignore Old Testament laws. There’s the major error. It’s bad doctrine and it simply isn’t true of Christians, from the past and in the present.

Some Answers

Let’s look at the first two of those three points.

First: Christians claim the Bible forbids homosexuality. Indeed the Bible does. The clearest prohibition is found in Leviticus 18. In the context of prohibiting incest, adultery, child sacrifices, and bestiality, verse 22 states, “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female.” You cannot get any more direct than that.

Recent objections to this claim include a notion that King David and Jonathan, the son of King Saul, were gay. This stems from the Bible’s clear account of their uniquely close friendship. 1 Samuel 18:1 “…the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul….Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.” Then following this verse, it recounts “And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David….” It is assumed here that Jonathan was naked and made a sexually provocative act.

Such an interpretation is a clear case of reading a desired viewpoint into the scriptures (eisegesis) rather than extracting what the Scripture says for itself (exegesis). The fact that this is a modern interpretation indicates that Biblical scholarship for the last two millennia and beyond never saw it— and that’s because it just isn’t there. I am aware of no credible extra-biblical sources, rabbinical sources, nor of any evidence in Judaism that supports this aberrant view. My cultural argument is that such an interpretation once again shows the double standards of our society. It is highly offensive and sexist to not allow men to have dear, close, and thoroughly non-sexual friendships.

Secondly, the position that the prohibition of homosexuality is relegated to the Old Testament exclusively is an easy fallacy to rebut. The New Testament firmly upholds the prohibition as seen in the teaching of Christ and the Apostle Paul. For your reference, this brief video of Pastor Voddie Baucham provides succinct and lucid arguments supporting the case of Jesus’ position on homosexuality.

Granted, Jesus never said “Homosexuality continues to be a sin in the New Covenant.” But neither did He say, “Homosexuality is no longer a sin.” Nor did He say, “Homosexuality was never a sin.” So then, how did He address it? Jesus prohibited it by affirming the opposite, the thoroughgoing Biblical principle that men and women were created to marry for life. This was said in the context of disallowing easy divorces. Jesus prohibited divorce except for cases of infidelity (porneia in Greek), more broadly, all sexual immorality, as set forth in Old Testament. (Hat tip again to Pastor Voddie Baucham and The Village Church’s article on this which cites several Greek Lexicons for reference.)

In the next installment, I will contend that it is false to say Christians ignore Old Testament law; but if any do, they are simply out-of-step with historic, orthodox Christian doctrine, the Apostle Paul, and Christ Himself.