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>Right to internet access?

2009 November 4 4 comments

> Finland is looking to make fast internet access a legal requirement and is couching the law in terms of “rights”. From Laura Vilkkonen, the legislative counselor for the Ministry of Transport and Communications,

We think it’s something you cannot live without in modern society. Like banking services or water or electricity, you need Internet connection,… Universal service is every citizen’s subjective right.

There are so many things wrong here.

What does she mean by a “subjective right”? Since when are banking and electricity rights? And how something that has barely existed in the course of history can philosophically be considered a right is preposterous.

Making high speed internet access a right mocks the concept of rights.

And it significantly impinges on the freedom or internet service providers in doing business.

Who is going to pay? If it is the consumer surely he should be free to choose a slower speed/ cheaper option, especially if the higher speed/ dearer option precludes any internet connection (though now a “right” the state will come to the party).

Coming soon to a government near you,

It is a view shared by the United Nations, which is making a big push to deem Internet access a human right.

In June, France’s highest court declared such access a human right. But Finland goes a step further by legally mandating speed.

That France legislates such measures is suggestive that such rights do not exist. The fact that the United Nations supports it is confirmation they do not.

Categories: internet, law

>On the provocation defence

2009 August 6 4 comments

>For those outside New Zealand there has recently been a widely publicised trial on the murder of Sophie Elliot by Clayton Weatherston. I did not follow this trial, nor did I follow the high profile murder retrial a few months earlier. However it is of course difficult to avoid knowing about it with frequent items in the newspapers and on television.

Weatherston admitted to killing Elliot but went to court in an attempt to have the murder charge downgraded to manslaughter invoking the defence of provocation. This defence was not successful and Weatherston was found guilty of murder.

According to the New Zealand Herald on the defence of provocation:

The defence is covered under section 169 of the Crimes Act 1961.

The provocation defence allows for a killing that would otherwise be classed as murder to be downgraded to manslaughter if it can be proven that the person who caused the death was provoked.

The provocation must have some relation to a characteristic of the offender.

It must cause the offender to lose the power of self-control of an ordinary person and have induced the offender to kill.

I am not certain whether the defence solely applies to verbal/ written provocation, or also physical provocation. I assume both. Though physical provocation may also lead to self defence.

It is important to note that provocation does not remove all culpability, it merely reduces the blame; and also, perhaps, affects sentencing.

There has been a significant amount of controversy following the verdict because the court case allowed Weatherston to reveal a significant amount of private data concerning Elliot. Complaints along the lines of continuing to persecute the family, insult Elliot from the grave, etc.

2 well written responses have been made by Glenn Peoples and Madeleine Flannagan. I just wish to make a variety of comments.

1. Murder is a horrible situation. It is horrible when it happens, it is horrible being reminded of it, it is horrible going through court, it is horrible on the anniversary of the victim’s death. In a broken world we have horror and while we can try and minimise it, it cannot be removed. Decisions about justice must be made on the principles of justice and mercy, not on the basis of preventing bad feelings. Else the law will become unjust and cause more, and even worse horror.

2. The provocation defence was not successful in this instance. Thus the law worked correctly. It is questionable that people consider changing the law based on a wrong case outcome, but to change it after a correct conviction?

3. Evil people do evil. They try and misuse the law to their advantage, they lie, they murder. Law changes do not affect evil men, they disregard them anyway. Removing this defence will not prevent evil people being evil, but it will damage those less evil. It will prevent legitimate provocation from being taken into account. It will also mean that criminals will falsely use other defences such as self defence and insanity to get reduced sentences or acquittal.

4. Culpability is not a dichotomous variable. People have partial blame. To disallow the discussion of events around a crime denies that there are considerations that need to be taken into account and can prevent justice being fully accomplished.

5. Much of this debate would be a non-issue if we did not allow the courts to be treated as entertainment. It is true that open courts have their benefits. Perhaps family court should be more open for example. But allowing anyone to attend a court case is a far cry from broadcasting audio or video. People may have a genuine interest in a case, but most people watching from their living rooms would not put in the effort to attend court daily and listen to the arguments. Allowing media into courts means that the case is effectively served up as entertainment, and it allows the media to sway public opinion by what they show and what they leave out.

I think that the courts should probably be open, but disallow the videoing and recording of cases, save what the courts wish to do for their own purposes. Reporting of cases should be forbidden until after the event. I even wonder whether defendants should be routinely given name suppression, as much as practical, with maintenance of this in cases that are successfully defended.

If this had been in place, then many of the things said by Weatherston about Elliot would have not be known by the public.

That being said, as the situation played out, most of New Zealand hold Weatherston in contempt, and probably more so than had the events not been played out in the media.

Categories: justice, law, media, murder

>The adulterous woman and capital punishment

2009 July 14 4 comments

>Blair asks how Jesus’ acquittal of the adulterous woman affects the Christian view on capital punishment.

In John 8:3,5 the leaders of the Jewish people (the experts in law and religious authorities) challenge Jesus as to what to do with a woman caught in adultery. They directly refer, Jesus, to the law of Moses which states such a person should receive the death penalty. While she has not committed murder she, according to Mosaic law is deserving none the less of the death penalty.

It is clear from the passage that they are not motivated by any sense of the holiness of God, obedience to the law or justice. Rather, their desire is to trap Jesus over a legal question to discredit him (verse 6).

In response, he does not contradict them on their point of law. Instead he issues a challenge to their understanding and application of the law. A challenge that is intended to expose their hearts: before Christ the only one who can administer the punishment they have called for is one who is without sin. Jesus isn’t making this point to a group of individuals who are self appointed but to the Jewish leaders (verse 3): those in authority who could ‘legally’ stone her. It appears to me that in Christ’s mind only those who were without sin could administer such a penalty (verse 7).

If the only ones who could administer such a penalty were those without sin – where then does this leave us if, as Christians, we advocate for the death penalty? Surely in the same position as those that Jesus spoke to in (verse 7).

In my mind it is clear from the passage, that as one who never sinned, Jesus considered himself the only one justifiably (from a legal, moral, ethical & spiritual sense) able to administer the death penalty, but in this situation he chose not to. Instead he asked her where her accusers were (after his challenge to her accusers), forgave her and in doing so ‘raised’ her from the dead (for without his intervention she was as good as dead) while commanding her to go and sin no more. (He met her as her redeemer for her sin, saving her from the death penalty. In choosing to exercise grace and mercy and not judgment or condemnation (verses 10–11) he set her free and restored her to be able to fully partake in society again as one forgiven and restored). This is evident from his question with regards to her accusers and in his command to go and sin no more.

Understanding Jesus’ approach to the Mosaic Law is important as it gives us greater understanding in the ways of God. Jesus frequently exposed the inadequate views of Jews of his day. He gave deeper perspectives on what the Law meant and he corrected inappropriate weighting of the Law, that is he showed them what was most important. As an example of the former Jesus taught that hating people in one’s heart contravenes the command not to murder (Matthew 5:21); as an example of the latter Jesus taught that tithing while proper (for the Jews) was less important than justice, mercy, and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23).

Therefore I am interested in Christian apologetics against the death penalty. I must say however that I have not read any that I find convincing.

There are several reasons why I don’t think this passage contradicts my perspective on capital punishment.

  1. Is this passage really part of John’s gospel?
  2. I am defending capital punishment for murder
  3. Mercy does not negate the permissibility of the death penalty, or even the necessity of it
  4. The Jews were not able to administer capital punishment in this situation
  5. The question was to give the scribes and Pharisees a charge against Jesus
  6. Jesus was a servant during the first advent
  7. Jesus did not address the question of capital punishment

I will address each of these in turn and then what I think Jesus words to the accusers and the accused imply.

Is this passage really part of John’s gospel?

There is considerable debate over the legitimacy of this passage. It is not found in the oldest manuscripts, it is found in Luke in some manuscripts. The ESV Study Bible states

There is considerable doubt that this story is part of John’s original Gospel, for it is absent from all of the oldest manuscripts. But there is nothing in it unworthy of sound doctrine. It seems best to view the story as something that probably happened during Jesus’ ministry but that was not originally part of what John wrote in his Gospel. Therefore it should not be considered as part of Scripture and should not be used as the basis for building any point of doctrine unless confirmed in Scripture.

I do not intend to address this debate here. I am prepared to interact with this passage and I am happy that this event is possibly true—it has similarities to the question about paying taxes to Caesar—but I do think the caveat is worth keeping in the back of one’s mind.

I am defending capital punishment for murder

In my post I specify that my defence is restricted to murder. I am prepared to extend this to related crimes such as treason and espionage.

I made this restriction as the reason for execution of murderers is not the same as the reason for other crimes. The Israelites were to execute men who drew their neighbours away to worship foreign gods (Deuteronomy 13:5; 18:20). While this is appropriate for the ancient Israelites because of God’s redemptive plan, I don’t think God intends for Christians to kill every infidel in the current age.

Thus even if Jesus does qualify the punishment for adultery within the Mosaic Law (I am not certain he does), this may not affect the appropriate punishment for murder in Gentile nations.

Mercy does not negate the permissibility of the death penalty, or even the necessity of it

There are 2 related questions concerning this (or any) punishment.

  1. Is this punishment acceptable?
  2. Is this punishment required?

If a punishment is: acceptable but not required, then not having such a punishment within the justice system is a possible scenario. In the case of theft, one country may prescribe a fine, another a jail term.

But even if a punishment is required, there are times when we may not give a full punishment. Offering mercy is allowed within a legal framework. One should not show favouritism. Note that when a man knows he deserves a punishment he is more receptive to mercy.

The Jews were not able to administer capital punishment in this situation

The Jew’s were not legally allowed to execute criminals under Roman occupation. When the Sanhedrin brought Jesus before Pilate he said

“What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.”

The question was to give the scribes and Pharisees a charge against Jesus

Because the Jews were unable to execute people under Roman law the question was to try and catch Jesus. It is similar to the situation when they asked him if it was lawful to pay taxes or not. The Jews were not interested in understanding Jesus’ interpretation of the Law, they were trying to place him in a catch-22 position.

Jesus was a servant during the first advent

Jesus is God. He is the judge of the world. And we are fully at his mercy. John the Baptist recognised he greatness as did many others.

Jesus was sent on a mission to earth 2000 years ago. That mission was as a servant to men. That is partially why many did not recognise him as a Messiah as they were looking for a king. Now Jesus is in and of himself a king. He
set up a kingdom. And he will return as king and judge. But this was not his role during the first advent. So while he is judge by right, Jesus the man denied his role as (an earthly) judge at that time. He submitted himself to the authority structures when appropriate during his earthly sojourn. Where Jesus did act in “judgment” over situations, it was as an eternal judge, not temporal; e.g. “Your sins are forgiven you.”

Jesus did not address the question of capital punishment

Jesus’ words in this situation do not specifically say whether or not capital punishment is appropriate for this or any crime. And I am uncertain if he did elsewhere. However he noted that all men must face judgment and we need to be ready when we die, whether justly or unjustly.

So what of Jesus’ response to the accusers and the woman?

Jesus response to the accusers did not exactly deal with the issue of the appropriate punishment for adulterers. It dealt with the hearts of the accusers. And this is frequently Jesus’ modus operandi. People come to Jesus with a question about justice, or requesting a judgment and Jesus speaks to that person’s heart. When the man asked Jesus to intervene so an inheritance was divided fairly Jesus spoke to the man’s covetness (Luke 12:13). Jesus was not necessarily saying the other brother had done the right thing, Jesus was using the man’s plea to focus him on things eternal. Note also in this example that Jesus refuted that he was an appropriate judge in the specific scenario.

Therefore I am not certain that the statement

Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.

says anything about the appropriate punishment for adultery. Jesus is speaking to the hearts of the men bringing the accusation.

Jesus response to the woman was clearly redemptive.

Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8)

God does not want people to be condemned, Jesus came to redeem them. John 3 says

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

So Jesus does not condemn this woman yet still exhorts her to leave her life of sin.

Still, the focus on redemption leading to life could hint at the possibility that allows an alternative to the death penalty, compare Ezekiel 18, and note also item 6 above.

Conclusion

The several reasons above show why I think this particular passage does not obliterate capital punishment for murder; and I am not even certain the Jesus is suggesting that capital punishment is inappropriate for adultery (in a Jewish context).

I will add that Paul thought that death remained an appropriate punishment from the state in certain situations. Paul said,

If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. (Acts 25)

Categories: adultery, justice, law, murder

>Does the death penalty prevent reconciliation with God?

2009 June 25 5 comments

> Now on to jc_freak’s objections.

Now in the case of the death penalty, rehabilitation clearly does not apply.

I don’t see why not in principle. Convince him that he should not murder again.

I think that Christians should no longer support retributive capital punishment. I agree with you that we cannot expect worldly governments to live by Christian principals. Indeed, I agree with you that it may not be wise for Governments to act like churches at all, since, to some degree, governments need to interact with worldly people (war comes to mind as something that Christians should avoid, but governments need to often pursue).

I think God has expectations for governments and that they are best to govern according to God’s desires. They will be judged on how they governed. The government is not the church. God has requirements for the church and requirements for government. They need not be the same. The church perhaps should not pursue war, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that members of the church cannot fight in war.

But I think that Christians need to avoid supporting the death penalty because of our call to evangelize. We, as Christians, need to remember that when the government kills a convicted murderer, there is a very good chance that that person is going to Hell. This is not something we should pursue, but something that we should be actively avoiding. The longer we can keep those men alive, the more opportunities we have to reach them…. I also understand the principal that the threat of death may cause a criminal to seek salvation, but this also assumes a Christian justice system that actively works to teach criminals the gospel. This we do not have, so the concept doesn’t really apply.

But we can still evangelise. The state is required to do her role and the church is required to do hers. I don’t think the justice system has to be overtly Christian (though it should be godly) and teach the gospel; I think the church should evangelise within the jails.

But to your main point which is the key to this discussion. Now I agree that we should not pursue men going to hell, but I take issue with your assumption that the longer men are kept alive the more opportunities we have to reach them. This sounds somewhat reasonable but is it true? C.S. Lewis asked the question whether a man condemned to death in 30 days is any less likely to seek God than the man incarcerated for 30 years. And I think Lewis has a valid point. People need to face their own mortality. A murderer who has been caught and knows he is to die in a month is forced to face his mortality. He is forced to look thru to eternity. He is likely to ask if there will be any reckoning for his actions. Whereas the man who gets incarcerated for the rest of his life does not necessarily have these issues placed in such stark contrast. He may adapt to life in prison and continue to live a life avoiding God. I am not convinced that a longer duration of life, even if it gives more potential opportunities to witness, makes a man more likely to respond to the gospel. I wonder if facing a short life may be as or more effective in the path to repentance.

There are a couple of other issues that arose in the discussion. I said

And if a murderer murders in prison, or arranges one from prison, does the state bear some responsibility because they did not execute him. And what of the victims who are hell bound because they died before they heard the gospel

to which jc_freak responded,

Let’s take the second one first. If a murderer kills an unbeliever, and that person is hell bound now, then why would that influence the way the now treat the murderer? Should we be less inclined to see that person in heaven? I dont really understand here.

That may be because you separated my comments out.

As far as the criminal killing while in prison, I did say that I support incapacitation as a reason for the death penalty, which is what you are talking about here. If a person is too dangerous to keep alive, then it is understandable to kill him.

Murderers have murdered in prison and they have arranged contract killings from within prison. The point here is that by not executing the murderer after the first crime (so that they may respond to the gospel) we have allowed him to be in a position to murder a second time and the victim of the second murder may not have heard the gospel.

Lastly,

My issue is that not whether the death penalty is present, but why it is present and how it is being used.

Bad laws and misuse of the law—yes those are very real issues, but side issues. We must establish the legitimacy (or not) of the death penalty as a punishment. Is it intrinsically allowable for the state; is it expected of the state? If it is, there may still be reasons to oppose it on pragmatic grounds. Disregard for the law and excessive numbers of innocent people being executed for example.

Categories: criminals, justice, law, murder

>Reasons for sentencing criminals

2009 June 24 3 comments

> In response to my post defending the death penalty a few months ago jc_freak raises some issues and several objections. Firstly he gives some helpful philosophies surrounding reasons for sentencing.

  1. Retribution. When someone does something wrong, they are responsible for their actions, and must pay it back.
  2. Deterrence. When someone does something wrong, punish them in such a way as to make anyone else who may commit that crime afraid.
  3. Rehabilitation.When someone does something wrong, punish them in such a way to convince them the act was wrong so that they would never do it again.
  4. Incapacitation. When someone does something wrong, prevent them from ever being able to do it again.

One must remember that sentencing is something done in the course of carrying out justice. Thus while each of these positions may have validity, and in fact more than one can be ascribed to, there is primary philosophy which the others need to accommodate.

Sentencing is about retribution (as defined above). Justice demands that wrongs be righted. A thief must return what he stole, and perhaps cover the costs of the victim being without his property. The object is owned by the victim and not the thief, even while it is in the possession of the thief. One can hardly advocate rehabilitation while the thief retains the stolen property.

Deterrence is also a secondary reason in sentencing. Forms of deterrence can be draconian. Hanging men for stealing food and amputating limbs of thieves are effective deterrents, both for the criminal and citizens. But this is hardly just. The talion limits punishments to the level of the crime, thus justice is primary over deterrence.

Incapacitation is related to retribution, it is the last step for a recalcitrant criminal. The criminal’s history is such that his future is predictable. One could say he is being punished for the crimes he is bound to commit.

Thus retribution (and incapacitation) are primary, and deterrence and rehabilitation secondary. That being said, the message of the cross is rehabilitation. Mercy triumphs over judgment. Note Ezekiel’s message to the Jews,

But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? (Ezekiel 18)

A primary reason need not be the most important reason. Jesus offers us rehabilitation; yet he still deals to the issue of retribution via the crucifixion.

I will deal with the objections in my next post.

Categories: criminals, justice, law

>Dating of the Hammurabi Code

2009 May 24 6 comments

> When was the Code of Hammurabi written?

Similarities have been noted with the Law of Moses. For example in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia parallels are identified for Exodus 21:2, 15, 18, 22, 24, 28-32; 22:7,10; Leviticus 19:35f; 20:10; 24:19f; 25:39f; Deuteronomy 19:16f; 21:15f, 18f; 22:22; 24:1, 7.

Legal codes from ancient history can be helpful in understanding why specific laws existed. They can show us that a certain way of thinking was more widespread in the ancient world. It is claimed that Moses borrowed from Hammurabi because the latter antedates Moses. Other legal codes include those of Ur-Nammu and Eshnunna.

There is no intrinsic problem with the Bible having parallels to a prior code. The parallels may be because similar issues were being faced by the community. And the Bible claims to be historical, thus it interacts with nations surrounding it. God can approve of the practices of other nations or disapprove of them. Frequently we see the prophets condemning Israel for her actions which are worse than their pagan neighbours. Because God may approve or disapprove of a nations laws it is important to look at the differences as well as the similarities.

Nevertheless, I am not convinced that Hammurabi antedates Moses. I have previously mentioned my disagreement with secular ancient chronology.

Hammurabi was a king of Babylonia. Dating of the reign of Hammurabi is difficult and as has been noted several times, the chronology of ancient history is highly dependant on the chronology of Egypt. The chronology of the Egyptians is known to be a mess, even by those holding to the traditional dating. Alternate secular Egyptian dating systems have been proposed. Peter James, author of Centuries of Darkness states,

Numerous synchronisms have been drawn between Egypt and Mesopotamia, but many of these are based on unproved assumptions. Of those that are genuine, closer examination reveals that in many cases Mesopotamian chronology is actually dependent on Egyptian – and not the other way around. For example it is clear (Brinkman 1976) that the list of kings for the late Kassite period in Babylonia, conventionally 14th-13th centuries BC, has been heavily restored from Egyptian and Hittite evidence. (Hittite dating is directly dependent on that of Egypt.)

Scripture alone demands an Egyptian rewrite.

My knowledge of Babylonian history is limited. I am going to propose an alternative date for the code based on scriptural considerations and various secular synchronisms.

Pinches dates Hammurabi c. 2000 BC. Van De Mieroop dates him c. 1800 BC. Other suggestions based on shorter chronology suggest c. 1700 BC. Based on king lists Hammurabi son of Sin-mubalit son of Abil-Sin belonged to the First Babylonian Dynasty.

Following traditional dating we have the following (approximate) claims

  • 1750 BC in traditional Egyptian chronology corresponds to the 12th and 13th Egyptians dynasties
  • The first Babylonian dynasty ended with the fall of Babylon
  • The fall of Babylon is dated c. 1500–1600 BC which corresponds to the beginning of the 18th Egyptian dynasty

Following Scripture we have the following data

  • The very earliest date for the beginning of the Egyptian dynasties is c. 2200 BC
  • Moses led the exodus of the Israelites out from Egypt around the time of the 12th and 13th dynasties (which may also correspond to the 6th dynasty)
  • The 18th dynasty was of some duration. The beginnings of which are possibly about the time of Samuel and Saul

Comparing secular Egyptian and Babylonian synchronisms and and correcting the dates from the biblical data we have Hammurabi ruling about the time of Moses at the earliest.

While I am confident in the reduction of the date of the Hammurabi Code, I have not established significant synchronisms between Babylon and either Israel or Egypt. More data or a closer review of the data may lead to a more exact and more confident date.

This suggests that the the correspondence between the Hammurabi Code and the Law of Moses is unlikely due to the latter’s dependence on the former. The Hammurabi Code may be dependant on the Mosaic Law based on chronological considerations alone. Both codes could relate to underlying customs of the Ancient Near East. Or they both could have some relationship to prior laws. Many who hold to the Mosaic authorship of Genesis propose Moses had access to more ancient Hebrew records.

>Obeying the Law thru faith

2009 March 6 4 comments

>I was listening to a talk recently about understanding the Law. He discussed many of the issues such as type and antitype, old covenant and new covenant and gave a helpful distinction between covenant and dispensational theology. What struck me however was a helpful comment about sacrifice.

Post crucifixion we live under grace. It is not our obedience to the Law that saves us, rather our trust in Christ. Actually it is not our trust that saves us, rather we trust in Christ’s salvation that he obtained thru death.

Now Paul says that not only can the Law not save us, it was never intended to.

Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. (Galatians 3)

Much has been written about law and grace. What I specifically want to address is faith for those under the Law. Paul makes it quite clear that men are and always have been saved via faith. We have faith in Christ now. The ancients had faith in God then. Habakkuk mentions the righteous will live by faith (Habakkuk 2) and Paul reminds us that Abraham was justifed prior to the Law (Romans 4). I have no difficulty agreeing with what Paul is claiming, what I found difficult to marry is his claim about the Law being unable to save, and commands in the Torah suggesting otherwise.

“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. (Deuternomy 30)

Paul mentions there was nothing wrong with the Law. It wasn’t unable to save us, obeying the Law could save but it is sin that is in us that prevents us obeying the Law. And the curses and cautions in the Law allude to God’s knowledge that the Israelites would fail. Nevertheless, there seems to be the suggestion in passages such as Deuteronomy 30 and others that the Israelites were able to obey the Law and live by it.

The insight given by the recent talk was the issue of sacrifice. It was offering sacrifices which was the activity of faith by which the people under the Law were saved.

I think that all men at all times are saved by faith. Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Queen Sheba, the Ninevites, and all the Israelites who trusted in God. So how does this work under the Law?

The term “Law” has multiple uses. It applies to the Torah as a whole: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. It also applies to the specific commands contained within the last 4 books that God gave at Sinai and during the following 40 years. These laws are often divided into moral, civil, and ceremonial. Included in this, or in addition to them, are the laws surrounding sacrifice. What to offer, why to offer, and how to prepare sacrifices and participate in them.

One can consider the Law here as a set of rules, and the sacrifice as the mechanism of forgiveness for breaking the rules. We have a set of rules that God knows the Israelites cannot keep (due to sin, not due to the Law) and a mechanism for which forgiveness can be obtained.

For these ancient Hebrews it was not obedience to the rules that saved them, it was faith in the sacrifice that saved them.

This is the key point.

They had to trust God that the sacrifice that he had specified would somehow remove their offence. We understand now that the particular sacrifices in themselves did not take away their sins (Hebrews 10), rather they just were the type pointing to the true sacrifice of Christ. Whatever clarity, or lack thereof, they had at that time concerning the animal sacrifices is less important than the faith they had in the God who had appointed the sacrifices; the God who told them that this was the path of redemption.

Israelites prior to Christ knew that all men were sinners.

Enter not into judgment with your servant,/
for no one living is righteous before you. (Psalm 143)

“If they sin against you— for there is no one who does not sin…” (1 Kings 8)

Behold, you were angry, and we sinned;/
in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?/
We have all become like one who is unclean,/
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment./
We all fade like a leaf,/
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Isaiah 64)

The Law was never given to save people and it was never suggested that they could fully obey it, even at the time it was given by Moses. It was understood at the time of Moses that people cannot obey the Law, that is why the sacrifices were mandated at the same time the Law was given.

>Unclean food: Do God's commands change at his whim?

2008 November 16 4 comments

>Most Christians have no concerns about eating pork. Many Jews do. God clearly forbade the eating of pig meat at Sinai, yet Christians don’t consider it forbidden. Several questions that I can think of or that I have seen asked include:

  • Is eating pork acceptable?
  • Why was it banned at Sinai but acceptable millennia later?
  • Can God give contradictory commandments?
  • Which command takes precedence?
  • What basis in Scripture is there for accepting the later commandment rather than the previous commandment?
  • Why is it wrong for the Hebrews but not for the Gentiles?
  • Is morality or God arbitrary?

The issue here is understanding the reasons for which God sets laws.

Some laws reflect God’s righteousness. Examples of sins directly against God would be murder, adultery, worshipping anything other than the true creator. These laws exist because of the nature of God. These laws are directly determined by the nature of God and his morality. Honouring anyone above the creator dishonours the creator. Unlawfully destroying the image of God in a man steps outside man’s domain and assumes God’s domain; not to mention the source of murder is in hatred which God despises.

The Hebrews had many laws and not all of them were in the above category. The offence against God in breaking these other laws was disobedience. Now disobedience is a major sin which implies that obedience is very important; but this does not mean that the forbidden action in and of itself offends God’s righteousness. Whereas breaking laws like murder are acting in disobedience as God has commanded not to, but they are sinful both in their disobedience and in their intrinsic action.

Parenthood holds an analogy. I forbid my children to do many things. Some verboten actions are always wrong, but others are somewhat arbitrary or temporary based on the child’s age. All broken rules are disobedience but several are also morally wrong.

One could label these 2 types of laws,

  • Moral laws: Breaking these contravene God’s nature.
  • Legal laws: Breaking these contravene God’s commands.

Legal rules can potentially be for a season. They could be for all time on earth but cease in heaven. They could be forever to test our obedience to God.

God forbidding Adam to eat from the tree of the knowledge-of-good-and-evil was probably an obedience rule. Other examples would be eating vegetables pre-Fall versus eating meat post-Flood; not eating pig, rabbit, and camel for the nation of ancient Israel but eating these foods okay for Gentiles and Christians.

So why did God command the Hebrews not to eat pork?

Eating pork was not banned for the same reason as murder. It was in some respects arbitrary. This is seen in the temporary nature of the command.

And [Jesus] said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” ( Thus he declared all foods clean.) (Mark 7)

The sin of eating pork is therefore not intrinsic to the pig meat itself, it is the disobedience of Jews to God concerning this specific commandment.

It is helpful to seek the underlying reason for the ban. This will give us the reason for the temporary nature and give us understanding into God’s character and his reasoning in this example.

I think the commandment was to teach the Hebrews about holiness. They had to think about what food was acceptable and what was not. This is similar to other laws such a the the ban on ploughing with unclean and clean animals yoked together or making cloth with 2 different types of thread.

God made categories of clean and unclean so the Hebrews could learn to distinguish between them. Clean and unclean symbolise holy and unholy. God belongs to the category of holy and he wants the Jews to be holy also.

Of course there was never a ban on Gentile consumption of pork, nor a ban for Hebrews/ Israelites pre-Sinai. However Christians trace their spiritual heritage thru Israel; Christianity was not so much a new religion, more a greater revelation of God, namely thru Jesus his son. Now that now we have a fuller revelation in Jesus these old rules have changed. We have a new and better covenant.

Categories: ethics, holiness, law