Christianity and Mosaic Law

After Jesus’ life on Earth and the actions of His disciples what is the relation of the Mosaic Law to Christians? Certainly Jesus adding even stricter commands to the Law (ie all thoughts of anger without cause are eqiuvalent to murder), and Paul’s letter to the Galatians indicates at the least not all of the Law is in effect but Jesus also said He came to fulfill the Law. In general there are around four camps of Christians (and other calling themselves Christians) regarding the Law.

-The first faction usually called “Legalists” insist on following all of the Law including its ceremonial aspects, thus this includes observing Kosher food laws, circumcision, etc. Some of the notable modern denominations advocating this are Herbert Armstrong’s Church of God and the Seventh Day Adventists.

-The second faction, the “theonomists” argue that the ceremonial law (ie such as Kosher Food Laws) are no longer in effect but moral and civil aspects are. Thus they would insist on legislating such laws as those banning adultery, homosexuality, etc. However given such accounts in the Bible as the women being stoned for adultery but being saved by Jesus, many argue that the penalties for many crimes should be reduced. For instance some have argued adultery should be punished by fines and flogging rather than actual death. However others have argued that Jesus saved the woman from spiritual punishment, not temporal. This view of course has been implemented partially by the Puritans in Massachusetts (although for instance in witchcraft those who admitted it were spared the death penalty) and remain strong among Calvinists today. Even non thenonomists have not failed to be influenced by them-for instance the Moral Majority (although many real theonomists think America and democratic governmental system to be ungodly).

-The third faction and probably the largest accept partially or fully at least some of the moral laws. This faction is fairly loosely defined. For instance most modern Evangelicals while arguing Christ freed people from the Law will certainly quote from the Ten Commandments without problem. It is the orthodox position for the overwhelming majority of Protestants and Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians also. There are many divisions over detail within this group including dispensationalists and covenantalists and etc.

-The fourth position or antinomianism argues all the Law has expired. This faction includes such unlikely allies as Hyper-Calvinists, Anabaptists, and Gnostics. It is often accused of being an excuse to sin although all of them hotly deny it. It may indeed me argued that many Christians are de facto antinomians by not thinking for instance fornication to be sin and freely committing it.

You are going to have a hard time finding any reasonable basis for an answer. What has happened throughout history is that the current rules for any religion are a mixture of tradition, what is currently playing in Peoria, and what the leader of a breakaway sect likes. Then the Bible will be dipped into to justify whatever the new rule is - or there will be a convenient revelation.
Christianity is hardly the only religion which does this, of course. It is just more obvious based on its supposed growth from and rejection of Judaism.

The debate within Christianity as to how the OT laws apply and which ones should still be in effect goes all the way back to the first century; see Acts chapter 15 which describes the Council of Jerusalem where they wrestled with the issue. The presenting problem then was: do Gentile converts to Christ have to follow Mosaic law? And specifically, do they need to be circumcised?

After debate on both sides, James (the leader of the church in Jerusalem) said,

So James seems to toss out all of the Law for non-Jewish Christians except for the restrictions on food sacrificed to idols, meat from strangled animals, blood, and sexual immorality. We’re not really given many clues as to why these Laws were given special importance by the Council. Paul, for example, had no problem with eating meat sacrificed to idols as long as it did not bother anyone he was eating with.