Rabbi Mark Levin, founder, Congregation Beth Torah: No one lives by biblical law. If they did, polygamy would be legal, and anyone gathering sticks on Shabbat could be legally killed.
What do we mean when we say, “The Bible prohibits people from doing that”?
All religions stipulate who has the authority to interpret the Bible and by what methods. Those people — rabbis, priests or imams, for instance — are given the authority of authentic interpretation. Each religion proposes a method of authentic interpretation by which scripture must be understood.
When someone says they live by biblical law, they mean, “By my method of interpreting the intention of the Bible, that’s prohibited.”
Never miss a local story.
Reform Judaism, an ethically liberal religious movement, could not accept the inequality of women and went in search of a principle by which to change what had been traditional practice.
The principle they found was “God created humanity in the divine image …” (Genesis 5:1). But we must understand that the revulsion at the inequality of women, and later of public rejection of gays and lesbians, led to the search for a new principle of interpretation that would legitimate equality, not the other way around.
So what do people mean when they say that “the Bible prohibits” same-sex marriage? They mean that they see no precedent for it in the Bible, and by their interpretation of the Bible, gay and lesbian sexual relations are prohibited.
But the former is open to interpretation, and the latter is simply untrue, as the Bible says nothing at all about lesbian sexual relations. It’s an extrapolation from the interpretation of Leviticus 18:22 regarding men.
Most of the people whom I have seen that say, “the Bible prohibits that,” don’t personally apply other biblical laws. Instead they mean, “According to the prejudgments and understandings I bring to this argument, I think this is wrong.”
Rarely do I find someone who is consistent about such interpretations in their own lives. They simply demand that others conform to their prejudgments, without being aware exactly of the reason why. When someone says, “the Bible prohibits that conduct,” I want to know several things:
Whose interpretation of the Bible are you using?
What method of interpretation are you using?
And most critically: Are you living the rest of your life consistent with that method of biblical interpretation, and if not, why do you think you can impose this on me?
Pastor Aaron Lavender, Grace Baptist Church: Christians are bound by a much greater authority than the hundreds of laws from Moses’ time. The Bible says, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2).
The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus is our ability, through the Holy Spirit, to act upon the principles and precepts of God’s authoritative word. Our inability to obey all such principles does not negate its authority over our lives. God’s word is still God’s word, regardless of our attitude toward it or our adherence to it.
The Bible, in the Old and New Testaments, teaches God’s will for man as it specifically relates to gender and marriage. According to God’s word, he made only two genders, male and female. People are created one or the other and not both.
God also established marriage as a union between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24). God created both male and female as heterosexual beings with natural desires for the opposite sex. Anything else is condemned by God as being an abomination (Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:26-27).
Biblical law is not the same as Mosaic Law, the law of God. That law was specifically given to, and geared toward, formulating the moral and spiritual basis of Israel’s covenant with God.
Mosaic law contains more than 630 decrees, covering the ceremonial, religious, moral, social and civil framework within which the Israelites were to live. The Ten Commandments can be considered the basic outline.
With the fulfillment of the law by Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:17-18) came a new era. The mark of the people of God is no longer circumcision and law observance, but faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:24-25). All of this was in fulfillment of the promise God made to Abraham before the law was given at Sinai (Galatians 3:1-22).
God loves all sinners and hates all sin. If a person confesses his sinfulness before God and receives Christ into his heart as his Lord and savior, that person will be saved eternally (Romans 10:9-13).
To ask questions or comment on the Voices of Faith, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Voices of Faith will return to its regular format next week.