Favorite dish of the theological Left & skeptics: Shellfish

This is one of my all-time favorites bits, originally posted in 2007.  It addresses a very common argument used by atheists and those on the theological Left.  The argument they use is wildly illogical but never seems to go away.

I just added another response at the end that I can’t believe I didn’t put in the first time: The claim that Christians are inconsistent if they say homosexual behavior is a sin if they don’t also avoid shellfish, mixed fibers, etc. would mean that they anyone claiming to be Christian who complained about bestiality, child sacrifice, adultery, gay-bashing, etc. would also be inconsistent if they didn’t obey the Jewish ceremonial laws.  That is transparently false.  You should use this counter-argument against “Christians” making the shellfish / mixed fiber / etc. claim: Unless you also follow the Jewish ceremonial laws, then you shouldn’t advocate for any of your [allegedly] biblical views about government, helping the poor, gays, abortion, etc.

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shellfish.jpgAs always, this is about careful thinking and proper analysis of the Bible and not about picking on homosexuals.  We are all sinners in need of a Savior.

Many liberal theologians, skeptics and pro-gay lobbyists use the “shellfish” argument to undermine and/or dismiss parts of the Bible they disagree with, often mocking about how they love shrimp and such.  They use the same reasoning with other Old Testament restrictions such as not eating pork or mixing fibers in garments.  This video by Jack Black is a recent example.

Their argument goes like this:

  • Yes, Leviticus 18:22 says Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
  • But Leviticus 11:10 says, And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of all the living creatures that are in the waters, they are an abomination unto you
  • Therefore, the Bible cannot be the word of God and homosexual behavior must be moral because the Bible is an undependable, contradictory book that equates shrimp eating with sexual immorality.  And people who teach that homosexual behavior is a sin are bigoted hypocrites who only follow the parts of the Bible they like.

Here’s a sample of how they present their conclusions.  Search for Leviticus shellfish or see sites like God Hates Shrimp for more examples.

The above exercise proves that anti-gay fundamentalists selectively quote the Bible. They enthusiastically and openly embrace those parts of the Bible which affirm and justify their own personal, pre-existing prejudice against gay people, while declining to become as enthusiastic about verses like the ones listed above.

After all, how many times have you heard a fundamentalist say that eating shellfish was an abomination? But they sure don’t hesitate to say it about gay people, do they? What does that tell you?

Actually, I find those questions to be ironic, because I think the facts will show which side is most likely to pre-judge, selectively quote the Bible and take it too literally.  I hope they take this analysis seriously and reconsider whether their premises and conclusions were sound.

On the one hand, their argument is effective because it is catchy and very few people know how to respond to it.  Many people can’t even articulate the simple Gospel.  When was the last time anyone read Leviticus?

On the other hand, their argument is ineffective because the facts do not support it.  Also, it deliberately and unnecessarily undermines confidence in the word of God.  I expect that from skeptics and non-believers, but I am always disappointed that those claiming to be Christians use it to attack the word of God.

The argument appeals to those who take passages literally when it suits them.  Both passages say abomination (or detestable, depending on what translation you read), don’t they?  And if eating shellfish is obviously a morally neutral act then homosexual behavior must be as well, right?

However, if you follow the basic principle of reading things in context and you attempt to understand the original languages better on difficult or controversial passages, then you’ll realize that the shellfish argument is not supported by the facts.

The short version: There were different Hebrew words translated as abomination.  They were used differently in the individual verses and were used very differently in broader contexts.  The associated sins had radically different consequences and had 100% different treatments in the New Testament.  

The longer version

1. The words translated abomination in the original Hebrew are different.  In Lev. 11:10, it means detestable thing or idol, an unclean thing, an abomination, detestation.  This word is typically used in the Bible to describe unclean animals.

In Lev. 18:22 the Hebrew term תּוֹעֵבָה (toevah, rendered “detestable act”) refers to the repugnant practices of foreigners.  As noted below, the word is also used to describe bestiality, child sacrifice and incest.

Therefore, the whole “same word!” argument self-destructs immediately.

2. Even a plain reading of the passages shows that the homosexual behavior is considered detestable to God, whereas the shellfish are to be detestable to the Israelites because it made them ceremonially unclean.  Those are key differences.  Being detestable to God is quite a bit different than being detestable to a person.

3. The broader contexts show completely different types of regulations.  Read Leviticus 11 and Leviticus 18 yourself and note the contexts.  I’ll wait here.

The beginning and end of chapter 11 make it clear that this passage is about dietary rules just for the Israelites:

Leviticus 11:1-2 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Say to the Israelites: ‘Of all the animals that live on land, these are the ones you may eat:

Leviticus 11:46-47 These are the regulations concerning animals, birds, every living thing that moves in the water and every creature that moves about on the ground. You must distinguish between the unclean and the clean, between living creatures that may be eaten and those that may not be eaten.

Now consider the beginning and end of chapter 18, where the Israelites are told not to be like the pagan Canaanites.  God expected the Canaanites to follow these moral laws and was about to vomit them out of the land for failing to do so.  Therefore, they obviously weren’t Jewish ceremonial laws.

Leviticus 18:1-3 The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices.

Leviticus 18:30 Keep my requirements and do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came and do not defile yourselves with them. I am the Lord your God.”

4. The punishments for eating shellfish and homosexual behavior were radically different.  There were about 15 things in the Israelite theocracy that could result in capital punishment, and homosexual behavior was one of them (And no, I’m not suggesting that should be the punishment today.  The punishments were for the Israelite theocracy, which is clear when you read the context of those passages.)  But eating shellfish just made one ceremonially unclean for a period of time.

Again, note how the moral laws with their steep punishments are tied to offenses God held the pagans responsible for, yet the unclean animal passages were for the Israelites only and were brief (It could have been for health reasons and/or symbolic reasons.  Animals on the ground were like the serpent and thus symbolized sin and pagan religions often sacrificed pigs).

 Leviticus 20:13 “‘If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

Leviticus 20:22-26 Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them. But I said to you, “You will possess their land; I will give it to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am the Lord your God, who has set you apart from the nations.

‘You must therefore make a distinction between clean and unclean animals and between unclean and clean birds. Do not defile yourselves by any animal or bird or anything that moves along the ground—those which I have set apart as unclean for you. You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.

5. The ceremonial dietary laws were clearly and emphatically overturned in the New Testament, whereas the commands against homosexual behavior (and other sexual sins) were not.   Also see Acts 15:28-29 (It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.)

6. The claim that Christians are inconsistent if they say homosexual behavior is a sin if they don’t also avoid shellfish, mixed fibers, etc. would mean that they anyone claiming to be Christian who complained about bestiality, child sacrifice, adultery, gay-bashing, etc. would also be inconsistent if they didn’t obey the Jewish ceremonial laws.  That is transparently false.  You should use this counter-argument against “Christians” making the shellfish / mixed fiber / etc. claim: Unless you also follow the Jewish ceremonial laws, then you shouldn’t advocate for any of your [allegedly] biblical views about government, helping the poor, gays, abortion, etc.

And if someone tries to play the “Leviticus is outdated” card, remind them of this verse and ask if it still counts: Leviticus 19:18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

Remember, anyone calling themselves a Christian should be seeking to hold the same views as Jesus.  And Jesus fully supported the Old Testament law — every last letter and mark.

Here’s another answer from Tektonics, a terrific apologetics website:

A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Aren’t there ‘degrees’ of abomination?

The point of this question – aside from the matter of not knowing what ritual purity is all about – is lost; if there is a sincere interest in knowing if there are “degrees” of abomination, just ask this simple question: Are there degrees to which things may be found “abominable”? Are the works of a robber baron not less abominable than those of a murderous dictator? In any event, if shellfish is a matter of ritual purity only, and homosexuality is a matter of higher morals as argued, then indeed, eating shellfish would have been a lesser abomination. (Indeed, the fact that the words used for “abomination” in both passages are different suggests that by itself. The word used for the shellfish is used only a few times in the OT, always of unclean animals, whereas the word used for homosexuality is used for things like bestiality, incest, and child sacrifice!)

So if anyone uses the shellfish argument with you, ask a few questions to see if they have really thought it through.  Everyone I have ever seen use it was either unaware of these responses or deliberately ignoring them. 

Also see Problems with Pro-Gay Theology and Responding to Pro-Gay Theology.

A commonly misinterpreted verse: Jeremiah 29:11

Alternate title: For I know the plans for you, declares the Lord, plans to punish you for your disobedience by keeping you in captivity for 70 years, not 2.

 

jeremiah 29

Captain Buzzkill is back, ready to irritate some people by highlighting a popular but commonly misunderstood Bible verse!  But we can’t ignore 2 Timothy 2:15: Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.  Getting Bible verses wrong isn’t a felony, but if we love God and our neighbors we’ll want to be careful with his word and humbly change our views once we realize we’ve been mistaken.

Here’s the verse:

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

I used to misinterpret it. I can’t remember the last time I heard it used correctly. It is one of the top 10 searched verses on biblestudytools.com and often seen on blogs, Facebook, t-shirts, mugs, etc. as a blanket promise that God has great worldly things planned for you (jobs, health, etc.) or as a general message of consolation.  But even if part of the message is technically true (yes, God does know the plans He has for you), is that what the specific passage really means?

It is a fantastic verse in its context, but people rarely use it the correct way.  Reading just a little more of chapter 29 makes a big difference:

Jeremiah 29:1 These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.

For starters, verse 11 is part of a letter written to some specific people in rather unusual circumstances.

Jeremiah 29:4 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon . . .

Jeremiah 29:10–11 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

That specific promise isn’t for all people at all times, or even all believers.  The more you read of chapter 29 – and chapters 28 and 30, for that matter — the more obvious the real meaning becomes.  If you are an Israelite living in Babylonian captivity over 2,500 years ago, then that promise is all for you.  Otherwise, you should consider the context.

Consider the opening of chapter 28:

Hananiah the False Prophet

1 In that same year, at the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the fifth month of the fourth year, Hananiah the son of Azzur, the prophet from Gibeon, spoke to me in the house of the LORD, in the presence of the priests and all the people, saying, 2 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. 3 Within two years I will bring back to this place all the vessels of the LORD’s house, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon.

Or why not quote Jeremiah 28:11 instead of 29:11?

11 And Hananiah spoke in the presence of all the people, saying, “Thus says the LORD: Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all the nations within two years.” But Jeremiah the prophet went his way.

So a false prophet predicted they would be back in 2 years and the real prophet says it will be 70 years.  Verse 29:11 could have easily said, “I know the plans for you, declares the Lord, plans to keep you in captivity for 70 years, not 2.”  How do people turn 29:11 into a blanket promise of goodness?  Only by reading it out of its context.  

And how would the commonly used theme be reconciled with passages like John 16:33, where Jesus promises tribulation rather than prosperity?  (“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”)

And as commenter Bridget noted, how do you reconcile the popular view of that passage with the Holocaust, the persecution of Christians in the early church and beyond, or even a glance at the newspaper?

But don’t be disappointed!  There is actually a great message in Jeremiah 29:11: God is merciful and loves to forgive.  God makes huge promises and keeps them. He controls the future.  He knew exactly what would happen 70 years later.  The Israelites were taken into captivity because of their rebellion and worship of false gods, but God promised to bring them back. And He did. But He did not make a generic promise to all people and at all times to prosper them.  That message is foreign to the text.

Some people share that verse with non-believers as if it applies to them, but that gives a false sense of security. God’s real message to them is the opposite. If they don’t repent and believe, what are his plans for them?  They will spend eternity in Hell.  It is hard to imagine a bigger difference than a blanket promise to prosper you versus a promise to send your unrepentant self to Hell.

But does that mean that we don’t have words of encouragement for people?  Not at all!  There are 31,172 verses left in the Bible, with plenty of words of compassion.  If you want to encourage people, try Matthew 11:28-30 instead:Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. That points them to Jesus, and it applies to believers and unbelievers.

Or you can encourage and comfort believers with the correct application of Philippians 4:13 (another commonly misinterpreted verse) by reminding them that they can be content in any situation if they do everything through Christ.

So should you be a Bible-nanny and whale on people who misuse this or other verses?  Should you interrupt the sermon if your pastor reflexively uses that passage?  Of course not.  But I encourage you to be careful when reading any passage and gently point out the correct meaning wherever you can.  (“Why yes, God does know the future and He does make and keep great promises, just like He did to the Israelites in Babylonian captivity.”)

And you should read or listen to the Bible daily so that you regularly cover all of it.  You’ll be surprised how often you look at popular verses differently when you see them in their proper context.

As often happens, the real meaning of the verse is better than what we wanted it to mean.  So feel free to use the verse, but explain it properly.  It isn’t some lame consolation prize to teach that God knows and controls the future, and that He makes and keeps enormous promises — such as his promise to adopt you, forgive all your sins and eternally bless you if you repent and trust in Jesus.

Always read more than just one verse!  In fact, my rule of thumb is that if I don’t know the general context of a verse then I shouldn’t be quoting it.

Also see Reading the Bible in Context for a very important lesson and more examples.

Unlikely common ground

One of the few things that nearly everyone agrees upon — conservatives and liberals alike — is that the sex-slave trade is immoral and should be stopped.  There are a few liberal extremists that try to argue that prostitution is somehow empowering for women, but even most of them agree that kidnapping people or tricking them into slavery is wrong.

So what should be done?  Here are some ideas:

Reduce the supply

1. Institute the death penalty for slave traders.  Hey, it was good enough for the Israelite theocracy!

Exodus 21:16 “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.”

Seriously, there needs to be some serious consequences for something so evil.  Put a few of them to death and that would save countless people from becoming slaves.  Or at least make it life without parole.

2. Increase education for at-risk groups, so they know the scams the traders use (i.e., offering jobs as nannies in other countries, then taking their passports).

3. Expose and de-fund Planned Parenthood, because they systematically hide statutory rape and sex trafficking.

Reduce the demand

1. Publicize the names and pictures of the customers and punish them.

2. Reduce access to pornography, which certainly fuels the demand for these girls.

Thoughts on tithing: Something to offend everyone!

money2.jpg

It is stewardship campaign season so I wanted to rerun this post from 2008, which had an interesting comment thread.  I’m also adding this link describing a plan for giving generously.  The four suggestions were simple and excellent.  One that has worked well for us is the Lifestyle Cap:

Lifestyle cap.  As we earn more, we should give more. If you are wealthier than you used to be, have you done more to increase your standard of living or your standard of giving? 

Living below your means — not just within them — is a great place to be.  As you cap your lifestyle in terms of cars, housing, clothes, vacations, etc. you’ll be amazed how much more you have to give and save.

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I have mixed views on the Biblical concept of tithing.  On the one hand, I think 10% is a nice, round number and a great amount for people to give.

But I don’t see New Testament support to make it a requirement for Christians, and I see many preachers take Old Testament verses that were just for the Israelites and project them onto the New Testament.  The only NT passage that I am aware of that mentions tithing is Matthew 23:23, and that was to point out the hypocrisy of the listeners (“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices-mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former”).

Also, 10% was not the upper limit for the Israelites.  My guess is that many of the people reading this could give more than that.  We’re in the richest 2% of people who ever lived, and I think that as a country we’re wasting a huge opportunity to put our wealth towards advancing the Gospel and his kingdom around the world.

Some think they can’t afford to tithe, though God expected the poorest Israelite to give 10%.  If you really want to give 10%, you can find a way.  Think of it this way: If your boss cut your pay 10%, what would you do – die?

And the hypothetical wage cut figure really isn’t 10%, since your contributions are tax deductible.  Roughly speaking, going from 0% giving to 10% would reduce your spending by roughly 8% or less.  And if you are already giving, say, 5%, then it would only impact you by 4% of your income.

Most importantly, I really don’t like to over-emphasize anything that might turn giving into a legalistic enterprise, because that can take the fun out of it.  Giving should be joyful!

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Yet if we really believe what Jesus said and don’t consider this next passage just a sound bite, our giving habits will reach into eternity.  Right after we die I think we’ll have some serious regrets about how we handled our money much of the time, and some serious joy over the good decisions we made.

Matthew 6:19-20 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Is that enough of a contradiction for everyone?  How do you help turn people on to the joys of giving without making it legalistic and burdensome?

Don’t be slaves to the 10% target, but don’t assume you are limited by it, either.  You may be able to give much more.  Are you taking advantage of the opportunity you have in this life to help advance God’s kingdom?

And when you give, give intentionally and give to God first.  Don’t give him what is left over.

P.S. Here’s a good article on why the often-used example of Abraham is not a good justification for requiring tithing.

Here’s a bumper sticker I can support

This is much better than the “Coexist” sticker.  I have nothing against coexisting — and actually like the idea — but I deny the “all religions are equally valid” nonsense.

There are over 100 passages in the New Testament noting that Jesus is the only way to salvation, and you can’t flip many pages in the Old Testament without seeing the Israelites in trouble for worshiping false gods.  It is impossible for Christianity and another religion to both be true on the essentials of the respective belief systems.  It is such simple logic, but out of ignorance or political correctness too many people deny it.

Hat tip: runlevel 5 (pointer)

Favorite dish of liberal theologians & skeptics: Shellfish

This is one of my all-time favorites bits, originally posted in 2007.  It got a bunch of traffic recently when linked to by another site, so I thought I’d re-post it.

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shellfish.jpgAs always, this is about careful thinking and proper analysis of the Bible and not about picking on homosexuals.  We are all sinners in need of a Savior.

Many liberal theologians, skeptics and pro-gay lobbyists use the “shellfish” argument to undermine and/or dismiss parts of the Bible they disagree with, often mocking about how they love shrimp and such.  They use the same reasoning with other Old Testament restrictions such as not eating pork or mixing fibers in garments.  This video by Jack Black is a recent example.

Their argument goes like this:

  • Yes, Leviticus 18:22 says Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
  • But Leviticus 11:10 says, And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of all the living creatures that are in the waters, they are an abomination unto you
  • Therefore, the Bible cannot be the word of God and homosexual behavior must be moral because the Bible is an undependable, contradictory book that equates shrimp eating with sexual immorality.  And people who teach that homosexual behavior is a sin are bigoted hypocrites who only follow the parts of the Bible they like.

Here’s a sample of how they present their conclusions.  Search for Leviticus shellfish or see sites like God Hates Shrimp for more examples.

The above exercise proves that anti-gay fundamentalists selectively quote the Bible. They enthusiastically and openly embrace those parts of the Bible which affirm and justify their own personal, pre-existing prejudice against gay people, while declining to become as enthusiastic about verses like the ones listed above.

After all, how many times have you heard a fundamentalist say that eating shellfish was an abomination? But they sure don’t hesitate to say it about gay people, do they? What does that tell you?

Actually, I find those questions to be ironic, because I think the facts will show which side is most likely to pre-judge, selectively quote the Bible and take it too literally.  I hope they take this analysis seriously and reconsider whether their premises and conclusions were sound.

On the one hand, their argument is effective because it is catchy and very few people know how to respond to it.  Many people can’t even articulate the simple Gospel.  When was the last time anyone read Leviticus?

On the other hand, their argument is ineffective because the facts do not support it.  Also, it deliberately and unnecessarily undermines confidence in the word of God.  I expect that from skeptics and non-believers, but I am always disappointed that those claiming to be Christians use it to attack the word of God.

The argument appeals to those who take passages literally when it suits them.  Both passages say abomination (or detestable, depending on what translation you read), don’t they?  And if eating shellfish is obviously a morally neutral act then homosexual behavior must be as well, right?

However, if you follow the basic principle of reading things in context and you attempt to understand the original languages better on difficult or controversial passages, then you’ll realize that the shellfish argument is not supported by the facts.

The short version: There were different Hebrew words translated as abomination.  They were used differently in the individual verses and were used very differently in broader contexts.  The associated sins had radically different consequences and had 100% different treatments in the New Testament.  

The longer version

1. The words translated abomination in the original Hebrew are different.  In Lev. 11:10, it means detestable thing or idol, an unclean thing, an abomination, detestation.  This word is typically used in the Bible to describe unclean animals.

In Lev. 18:22 the Hebrew term תּוֹעֵבָה (toevah, rendered “detestable act”) refers to the repugnant practices of foreigners.  As noted below, the word is also used to describe bestiality, child sacrifice and incest.

Therefore, the whole “same word!” argument self-destructs immediately.

2. Even a plain reading of the passages shows that the homosexual behavior is considered detestable to God, whereas the shellfish are to be detestable to the Israelites because it made them ceremonially unclean.  Those are key differences.  Being detestable to God is quite a bit different than being detestable to a person.

3. The broader contexts show completely different types of regulations.  Read Leviticus 11 and Leviticus 18 yourself and note the contexts.  I’ll wait here.

The beginning and end of chapter 11 make it clear that this passage is about dietary rules just for the Israelites:

Leviticus 11:1-2 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Say to the Israelites: ‘Of all the animals that live on land, these are the ones you may eat:

Leviticus 11:46-47 These are the regulations concerning animals, birds, every living thing that moves in the water and every creature that moves about on the ground. You must distinguish between the unclean and the clean, between living creatures that may be eaten and those that may not be eaten.

Now consider the beginning and end of chapter 18, where the Israelites are told not to be like the pagan Canaanites.  God expected the Canaanites to follow these moral laws and was about to vomit them out of the land for failing to do so.  Therefore, they obviously weren’t Jewish ceremonial laws.

Leviticus 18:1-3 The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices.

Leviticus 18:30 Keep my requirements and do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came and do not defile yourselves with them. I am the Lord your God.”

4. The punishments for eating shellfish and homosexual behavior were radically different.  There were about 15 things in the Israelite theocracy that could result in capital punishment, and homosexual behavior was one of them (And no, I’m not suggesting that should be the punishment today.  The punishments were for the Israelite theocracy, which is clear when you read the context of those passages.)  But eating shellfish just made one ceremonially unclean for a period of time.

Again, note how the moral laws with their steep punishments are tied to offenses God held the pagans responsible for, yet the unclean animal passages were for the Israelites only and were brief (It could have been for health reasons and/or symbolic reasons.  Animals on the ground were like the serpent and thus symbolized sin and pagan religions often sacrificed pigs).

 Leviticus 20:13 “‘If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

Leviticus 20:22-26 Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them. But I said to you, “You will possess their land; I will give it to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am the Lord your God, who has set you apart from the nations.

‘You must therefore make a distinction between clean and unclean animals and between unclean and clean birds. Do not defile yourselves by any animal or bird or anything that moves along the ground—those which I have set apart as unclean for you. You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.

5. The ceremonial dietary laws were clearly and emphatically overturned in the New Testament, whereas the commands against homosexual behavior (and other sexual sins) were not.   Also see Acts 15:28-29 (It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.)

And if someone tries to play the “Leviticus is outdated” card, remind them of this verse and ask if it still counts: Leviticus 19:18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

Remember, anyone calling themselves a Christian should be seeking to hold the same views as Jesus.  And Jesus fully supported the Old Testament law — every last letter and mark.

Here’s another answer from Tektonics, a terrific apologetics website:

A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Aren’t there ‘degrees’ of abomination?

The point of this question – aside from the matter of not knowing what ritual purity is all about – is lost; if there is a sincere interest in knowing if there are “degrees” of abomination, just ask this simple question: Are there degrees to which things may be found “abominable”? Are the works of a robber baron not less abominable than those of a murderous dictator? In any event, if shellfish is a matter of ritual purity only, and homosexuality is a matter of higher morals as argued, then indeed, eating shellfish would have been a lesser abomination. (Indeed, the fact that the words used for “abomination” in both passages are different suggests that by itself. The word used for the shellfish is used only a few times in the OT, always of unclean animals, whereas the word used for homosexuality is used for things like bestiality, incest, and child sacrifice!)

So if anyone uses the shellfish argument with you, ask a few questions to see if they have really thought it through.  Everyone I have ever seen use it was either unaware of these responses or deliberately ignoring them. 

Also see Problems with Pro-Gay Theology and Responding to Pro-Gay Theology.

What do you do when you disagree with Jesus?

C’mon, you can admit it.  Sometimes you read what Jesus said and your first instinct is to disagree or disobey.  So what do you do then?  See I disagree with Jesus and read the whole thing.

This is where real-live, actual, gritty, street-level discipleship either happens, or begins to collapse. To a man, we Christians claim Jesus Christ as our Lord and Teacher. That being the case, we necessarily claim to believe that we have been entrusted with the Teacher’s Guide. This will have an impact on our thinking, when we come to these forks in the road.

There are fundamentally two ways of handling such experiences, and only two:

  1. We change; or
  2. We try to change the Word.

Over the years, we boys here at Pyro have (among many other things) Biblically evaluated the movements of those who opt for #2. There are 1000 ways to take that route. You see it in “evangelical” feminists,  “evangelical” evolutionists,  “evangelical” egalitarians,  “evangelical” homosexuals and the like. You see it, not merely in his conclusions, but in the way Rob Bell approaches the issue of Hell. These are the people who falsely envision the Christian life as a series of negotiations with God as with an equal, rather than an series of conquests of the Cross over the pagan outposts within us all.

There are 1000 ways to take Route #2, and all have the same end on one level or another.

Disciples take the former option.
And false teachers take the first option.  They start the rationalization machine: Paul was a misogynistic “homophobe,” the Israelites wrote what they wanted God to have said, Jesus didn’t really say all that, and on and on.  It is your basic Dalmatian Theology, where they claim that the Bible is only inspired in spots and that they are inspired to spot the spots, or Advanced Dalmatian Theology, where God is also changing spots and adding/removing spots, and, oddly enough, He is only telling theological liberals and progressives.

So the net is that they get to sit in judgment of God and become the authors of what is “really” in the Bible.  What could go wrong with that?

Run, don’t walk, from “churches” denying that the original writings of the Bible turned out exactly as God wanted them to and who won’t submit to what God revealed in his word.

Passages they probably didn’t teach you in Sunday School: Jeremiah 13

If you haven’t read all the Bible, you are missing out (for a lot of reasons).  One of the lesser reasons is that there are so many interesting things you’ll be surprised to find there.  Today’s example is Jeremiah 13.  Hat tip to my youngest daughter for flagging this to me.  I’ve read this passage a couple of times, but it didn’t stand out to me until she noted that in The Holman Standard translation it uses “underwear” instead of “loincloth.”

Note how God says that the Israelites who refuse to hear his words are like dirty underwear and good for nothing.  If they would have listened to him they would have been a “name, a praise, and a glory.”  They completely missed out and were judged for it.

Jeremiah 13 1:-11 The Ruined Loincloth

1 Thus says the LORD to me, “Go and buy a linen loincloth and put it around your waist, and do not dip it in water.” 2 So I bought a loincloth according to the word of the LORD, and put it around my waist. 3 And the word of the LORD came to me a second time, 4 “Take the loincloth that you have bought, which is around your waist, and arise, go to the Euphrates and hide it there in a cleft of the rock.” 5 So I went and hid it by the Euphrates, as the LORD commanded me. 6 And after many days the LORD said to me, “Arise, go to the Euphrates, and take from there the loincloth that I commanded you to hide there.” 7 Then I went to the Euphrates, and dug, and I took the loincloth from the place where I had hidden it. And behold, the loincloth was spoiled; it was good for nothing. 8 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 9 “Thus says the LORD: Even so will I spoil the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. 10 This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing. 11 For as the loincloth clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the LORD, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listen.

We aren’t the Israelites, but one thing hasn’t changed: There is only one God and He does not like for people to worship false gods.  If you read the Old Testament you’ll find one warning after another about not following other gods — as well as one case after another when the Israelites failed to obey that command.

The New Testament teaches over 100 times directly and indirectly that Jesus is the only way to salvation (it isn’t just John 14:6).  Despite what false teachers will tell you, other religions do not lead to the one true God.

If you are a Christian, you should read the Bible regularly and never teach that other religions are valid paths to God — that is, unless you want to be like good for nothing rotten underwear.