In the Bible, it is frequently argued, God commands his followers to do horrible things. Therefore (so the reasoning goes) he cannot be a “good” God.
Two things frequently cited are the treatment of Sabbath-breakers and homosexuals. Both items merit the death penalty.
Which means, the critic states, that Christians should kill gay people for the crime of loving another human being, and the Sabbath-breaker for the crime of working on a particular day of the week.
There are two problems with this criticism. First and foremost, there are reasons that both of these things are wrong. Second of all, God most certainly does not command Christians to kill gay people and Sabbath-breakers.
For the Sabbath, we have to journey all the way back to Genesis 1. God created the world in a single “work week” -- Sunday through Friday. Six days. The seventh day (Saturday) he set aside as holy, and declared it a day of rest. So, when the Mosaic Law was given, God reiterated the day of rest and commanded that those who violate that day be put to death.
It’s that serious.
In modern times, we have found that human beings actually work their best if they completely rest one day out of seven. This means that the Bible was actually ahead of its time in commanding people to rest one day out of seven.
This leaves only a single nitpick: that the Sabbath is supposed to be the last day of the week (Saturday), and Christians celebrate it on the first day of the week (Sunday). The reason is simple: God commands the first fruits of everything, including our time. So instead of giving him what is left over (last day of the week), we give to him first (the first day of the week) and use what is leftover.
Okay, the Sabbath is easy enough to understand. But why kill a man just because he loves another man?
Homosexuality is a violation of God’s intent for humankind. Specifically, the command to be fruitful an multiply, as well as the common sense joining of one sex to the other.
Again, in Genesis, we read that woman was made for man, and that she is given to him in marriage. The ideal marriage is one man with one woman, becoming one flesh and remaining joined forever. And, producing, raising, and caring for children.
After the Fall, sin and death enter the world and now the ideal isn’t always possible. God doesn’t strictly forbid polygamy, and he creates rules for divorce. These aren’t approved courses of action, but their necessity means that their regulation becomes the order of the day.
However, Leviticus makes it clear that homosexual unions are an abomination. They aren’t just forbidden; they are called an abomination to the Lord. So serious is God that this is wrong that he mandates the death penalty for those caught in it.
It’s too much to hope for that these brief treatments brought the skeptic to understanding why these things are sin. Likely, he’s even more convinced of the barbaric nature of the Bible. So, I’m not asking for understanding, but empathy. Accept, for now, that these are the reasons that these activities are wrong in the eyes of God, and let’s move on to the real issue -- why God is not commanding Christians to kill the transgressors.
It seems cut and dried. Exodus 31:15 states clearly that Sabbath-breakers are to be put to death: “Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death.”
And, flipping to Leviticus 20:13, we find that people who engage in male-on-male sex are to be put to death: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”
There it is, in the Bible, in black-and-white. God commands the death of those who break the Sabbath, and those who are gay. Can the Christian hope to argue otherwise?
As it turns out, he can successfully argue the contrary. Any critic who has a passing familiarity with contract law should accept the argument as valid.
God has made multiple covenants with his chosen people -- the Bible records at least three covenants, which work exactly like a modern contract. What we read in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy is called the Mosaic Law, and it is a contract specifically given to the people of Israel under Moses prior to entering the Promised Land. God promised prosperity and peace if they followed this contract.
They didn’t. And requisite punishments followed. Then the people would renew the contract. The last renewal occurred during the reign of King Josiah, just in front of the Exile.
Since the people of Israel didn’t follow the terms of the contract, any legal system would consider them in breech. Once a contract is breeched, it is null and void.
That means every bit of the Mosaic Law is now null and void -- including the enforcement clauses -- due to the Israelites’ breech of the contract. With the enforcement clauses no longer in force, Christians are not allowed to take the law into their own hands and punish sinners (such as homosexuals and Sabbath-breakers). The ultimate justice of God will take care of sinners.
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Great explanation Cory. I like the way you used the title to gain interest too. I hope you continue posting these apologetic articles. You are good at it. You have probably read - Is God a Moral Monster? by Paul Copan. If not you should.
God Bless, Mike