Refuting Scripture

Got to thinking the other day (which, as we all know, is a dangerous thing :wink: )…

From The West Wing:

This is based off of an e-mail letter that was going around a while back challenging Dr. Laura’s stance on homosexuality (it’s quoted in the “Dear Dr. Laura” thread). Now when someone brought this letter up here in the “Dear Dr. Laura-would she answer?” thread (and also here in the “Following the Bible(?!?!?)” thread), several people jumped in and refuted the letter point by point, attempting to knock down those counterarguments using various means (relativity to the times, parables, and whatnot - read the threads for details). I don’t want to argue each and every point, so for the sake of this discussion I will assume that those counterpoints are at least valid points of view, if not accurate Biblical interpretation.

Now, one of my favorite pieces of religious writing is the Rev. Dr. Walter Wink’s “Homosexuality and the Bible”. One of the reasons I like this is because he says, Yes, the Bible says homosexuality is a sin, but it also says quite a lot of other things are sins that today we’ve wholly abandoned, yet we continue to see homosexuality as a sin.

So, here’s my point - in the article, he refutes the Bible’s admonitions of homosexuality (notably Rom. 1:26-27) very similarly (and just as educatedly) as the folks who refuted the points in the Dr. Laura letter.

Please tell me why, then, should we be expected to accept that the refutations to the points in the Dr. Laura letter are sound, but that Wink’s refutations are not? (NOTE: This is no way meant to malign any of the posters in the above-linked threads.)



[sub]I know Polycarp’s just going to love seeing me in this thread but anyhoo.[/sub]

I’m not sure I quite understand the question Esprix, but here’s my thoughts on what I think you’re asking.

I think that in general the refutations to the Dr Laura letter are based on Jewish law since the questions are based entirely on Leviticus. Jewish law was then and is now very explicit. There were judges and arbitrators to make rulings in cases of disputes of the law and the laws themselves went into a fair degree of detail so as not to be ambiguous. This included the use of various illustrations and case studies which can be used as precedents from the thousands of years covered by the OT. Added to this there are still courts or similar to give rulings on any vague areas of law so these questions can be resolved fairly definitively.
Now Wink’s refutations include quite a few points of New Testament ‘law’. This is nowhere near so clear cut, with no distinct rulings on individual matters and IIRC only one reference to setting up a court of Christians to judge disputes so that matters between Christians don’t get taken into ‘heathen’ courts. Wink’s refutations, while admittedly educated and well thought out, are no more than speculation on the intent and knowledge of the writers of the NT. He speculates about Paul’s knowledge of psychology and makes assertions about our modern knowledge of the reasons behind homosexuality being inherently more accurate than the knowledge of the NT Christians. While he is almost certainly correct in both assumptions his answers don’t constitute fact.
It is the fact that there are no ‘graven in stone’ rulings and precedents on these and other matters in the NT that have allowed people to give so many interpretations to so many parts of the book.
So basically IMHO it comes down to our having to accept the refutations of Dr. Laura because the law being questioned is quite explicit in it’s wording, the courts have ruled on the matter in the past and left precedents and there are still courts capable of making a ruling on these matters of Jewish law even today. The answer then becomes fairly black and white.
No one is going to feel compelled to accept Wink’s refutations because he is not a recognised court, is making assumptions based on education and not law and there are no precedents in the NT that clarify the picture very much. Added to this few Christians are going to accept it because it requires an acceptance that Paul is capable of writing material that contradicts G_d’s will. The wholehearted acceptance of the NT, if not the whole ‘Bible’, as the unerring word of G_d is fairly central to most Christian faiths (at least in theory), Asking them to believe this would probably be tantamount to asking them to abandon their current faith.

Gosh, darn, esprix- is that not what I have been saying all along?

  1. The OT Laws do not aplly to Christians- we have a “New Covenant”- this includes the one about homosexual sex. In any case, altho Homosexual sex is certainly condemned in the OT - it is not singled out as being much worse than wearing a linen/wool mix in ones clothes, or having sex with ones wife during her period. Note also, the OT Laws are for the Jewish folk, only- there is nothing wrong with goyim eating traif.

  2. Yes, there are two Pauline verses that likely condemn gay sex. They are both in of long lists of many, many other sins, which are just as bad, including: drunkeness, debating, envy, the proud, boasting, fornication, coveting, the decietful, backbiters, inventors of evil things, & idolators- etc. Oddly enuf, the “gay haters” seem to never mention all these others, and are in many cases guilty of several of these. I also want to point out that Paul thought it was best for NO-ONE to have sex at all, for any reason, including man with wife.

In general, these Pauline list of sins are directly against what JC himself taught, which had a very strong bent towards tolerance. After all, we are not “Paulians” we are Christians- so we should listen to JC first.

Many of the old testament laws were concerned with keeping people clean and kosher. Since the death of Jesus has rendered all Christians permanently clean and since kosher laws were explicitly rejected in the NT Christians no longer have to follow those either. However, the moral laws in the OT still have validity. The commandments about sexual matters fall under the moral laws. They are still useful as guides to behavior and as to what does or does not please God.
In the essay by Dr. Wink he dismisses what he admits are clear prohibitions by Paul with assertions that Paul did not understand as much as Dr. Wink does about the nature of sin and the nature of homosexuality. If Dr. Wink really thinks he understands more about his religion than the founders of his religion did, he should start his own religion with his writings in the place of Paul’s. Homosexuality is included in lists of sins because it is a sin. If it is not than neither is adultery, idolatry, lying, or stealing. Dr. Wink’s assertion that there is no sexual ethic in the Bible is just libertine wishful thinking. The Bible says what it says, you can either accept it or reject it but you can’t make it say something else by wishing.

**puddleglum wrote:

The Bible says what it says, you can either accept it or reject it but you can’t make it say something else by wishing.**

True enough, but values and mores do change over time. Consider slavery. In the times when the Torah and NT were being written, slavery was acceptable. It’s practice is condoned in both the OT & NT. Yet today, no rational thinking person would accept it or practice it. The social attitudes toward slavery have certainly changed, without God’s intervention, why can’t the attitudes toward homosexuality (or homosexual acts) also change?

Freyr, I answered this one in another thread.

Slavery is a permitted thing. One is (according to the Bible) allowed to own slaves. If we, as a society, choose not to own slaves, then we don’t have to. Similarly, the Bible allows us to eat meat. If we choose, however, we don’t have to eat meat. We’re not violating any commandment by not eating meat or not owning slaves.

Homosexual behavior, on the other hand, is a forbidden thing. Just as (Orthodox) Jews today will not eat pork, even if everyone else on the planet eats it, so to homosexual behavior cannot be permitted just because society has become tolerant of it.

Zev Steinhardt


I take it then that you don’t have sex with your wife/husband during her/your menstrual cycle?

What about other moral laws in the OT? Dt. requires two witnesses in a capital crime. Should we base US law on this? Exodus says that if a man owns a bull which he knows to be dangerous, and the bull kills someone, he should die. Should we enforce this law today with, say, Pit bulls instead of bulls?

Genesis says that God is pleased by the smell of roasting animal flesh. Should we continue sacrificing animals? (I realize that animal sacrifice is a ceremonial, not moral law, but you said that we should use OT laws as guides to what “does or does not please God.”)

Should we still have cities of refuge for criminals like they did in the Old Testament? Should we follow the procedure for an unsolved murder in Dt. 21? If not, why not? Is this not a moral law? If not, how should we treat unsolved murders? Why did God see a need to give a rule, eliminate it, and then not replace it with a something better?!

Esprix, sorry to hijack your thread, but I want get the STRAIGHT DOPE on this point from Zev.

**Zev wrote:

Slavery is a permitted thing. One is (according to the Bible) allowed to own slaves. If we, as a society, choose not to own slaves, then we don’t have to. Similarly, the Bible allows us to eat meat. If we choose, however, we don’t have to eat meat. We’re not violating any commandment by not eating meat or not owning slaves.

Homosexual behavior, on the other hand, is a forbidden thing. Just as (Orthodox) Jews today will not eat pork, even if everyone else on the planet eats it, so to homosexual behavior cannot be permitted just because society has become tolerant of it.**

So, to summarize; because it has God’s sanction, slavery is permitted, whereas homosexual acts are forbidden?

Puddleglum commented:

Neat! You must have one of those new Talking Bibles! The ones my wife and I use just sit there and don’t say a word. You have to pick them up and read them.

And it helps if you use your mind in doing so. That, after all, is one of the things you are to love the Lord with when you become a Christian.

As for Walter Wink, may I presume you’ve never read the book Esprix refers to? We have, as part of a Church-sponsored study. And I’d say that the last thing he wants to do is be a libertine. Rather, he’s a sincere Biblical scholar and moral theologian who is trying to make sense of Scripture for the modern age. (Not “accommodate Scripture to the modern age.”)

And as for making up a new religion, I tend to like the one I have, myself. The Founder of it said moving things like “Judge not, lest you be judged” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And when a woman was caught in active sexual sin and brought to Him, He refused to condemn her to death by stoning, and defied the men who brought her to Him to allege they were sinless by starting the stoning.

Be glad to tell you more about my faith sometime if you like. It means a lot to me.

I have one question:

Jab- because the “Old Covenant” applied ONLY to the Jews.

Yes…slavery is permitted unless it is against the law of the society. Homosexual acts are forbidden, regardless of the law of the society.

DITWD: What was Jesus? A Catholic?

You just don’t get it. If God is All-Knowing, He should have been able to get it right the first time. It should not have been necessary for Him to EVER change the rules. Human beings had not changed so much in just 4,000 years (more or less) to make it necessary to change the rules. And, even if we had, God would have known EXACTLY how we would change and would have taken this into account when He first laid down the Law.

Unless you are arguing that “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is just wayyy too complicated for Moses and his people to understand?

What kind of God permits slavery? Surely not a god who loves every person, including those who would be made into slaves.

**Captain Amazing wrote:

Yes…slavery is permitted unless it is against the law of the society. Homosexual acts are forbidden, regardless of the law of the society.**

The Judeo-Christian God says slavery is okay, there’s nothing immoral about it, but homosexual acts are immoral.

Have I got it right?

Here’s the thing. Dr. Laura is Jewish. That means that she really does follow all those silly laws about not eating horses and wearing poly-cotton blends and such. So you can’t call her a hypocrite, like you could all those christians who cite Leviticus for the anti-gay laws but ignore all the others.

Observant Jews follow the law because it’s the law. It doesn’t have to make sense, God asked them not to so that’s what they do. Now, humans can come up with some ideas about WHY the rules are the way they are, but observant Jews feel they have to follow them EVEN IF they don’t make sense.

That’s what you have to remember. It doesn’t have to make sense to human rules, since the whole point is to submit to God’s will, not human desire.

Well, I can’t tell you about Christianity, but, in Judaism, slavery is tolerated while homosexual behavior is forbidden. Yes, you heard right, Freyr.

Zev Steinhardt

That has to be one of the saddest things I’ve ever read.


A believe I shall be quoting Zev next time I explain to someone why I don’t think that the Bible is the word of God.

Umm, folks- there was nothing immoral about slavery some 4000 years ago. Even in this great nation, a majority did not think it was immoral until some 150 years ago. You cannot judge those of the past by the morals of the today. Geo. Washington & Thom Jefferson, who were both great beleivers in freedom & the 'rights of man"- both owned slaves. And, around then, folks were starting to have second thoughts about slavery.

Many slaves were "POWs’, who if not enslaved, would have been killed. Many criminals were enslaved, as there were no prisons to speak of. Slavery 4000 years ago- was often the “humane alternative”. What is "hard labor’- but legalized slavery?

When the Hebrews “enslaved” their own people, it was more like a “bondservant”, where a man, with no goods or skills- could “sell himself”- and after 7 years would be freed with enough to get him a start. True, the hebrews were not this nice to outsiders they captured in battle, etc- but even then they were not treated as bad as many other nations seemingly did. However even if the Isrealites treated their foriegn slaves as badly as everyone else did- again, in those days, slavery often was the humane alternative.

Don’t be guilty of the crime of “presentism”- ie judging those of the past by todays standards- remember, a couple hundred years from now it is YOU that will be judged. What have YOU done to get Chimps or Dolphins the full rights of humans? A hundred years from now, all of us who eat meat may well be considered “inhuman savages”. You must strive only to be a humane man of the present, you don’t know what the future will bring, and neither did those of the past.

It would be hard to show me a “great man” of several hundred years ago, that could stand up to todays standards- and MUCH harder to do that with someone several THOUSAND years ago.

Zev- good job, bro.


So, let me get this straight:

  1. Slavery is wrong now, but it wasn’t 4,000 years ago
  2. Slavery was better than the alternative, usually death
  3. Slavery wasn’t really slavery, more like indentured servitude

You remind me of a lawyer arguing that his client didn’t commit a murder because he has an airtight alibi, it was self defense, and he was insane to boot!

Now, I will be the first to agree that morals and norms change over time. But this is not just any book of laws: it’s the Bible!

Whatever happened to Ps. 19?:

And besides, aren’t we told that “The Lord changeth not”?

If you want to argue that the ancient Israelites’ moral code should be judged by the standards of their time, fine. But most people in America consider it the law of God, not an ancient tribe of goatherds. So excuse me if I hold it to a slightly higher standard.