Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Embarrassment: Leviticus 18, NY Times, and Albert Mohler

Leviticus 18:22 reads:
Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
In a New York Times opinion piece published last Sunday, Harvard instructor Idan Dershowitz argued that the prohibition was a late editorial addition, so that homosexual sex was permitted in the original.  Sometimes the New York Times deals with scriptural matters, but never in a way to support what the Bible says.

The following day, Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, answered at his personal blog with an essay defending the prohibition and repudiating Dershowitz.  Mohler rightly traces the distortion of Leviticus 18:22 to liberalism arising in Germany in the 19th century.  Liberals invented a historical-critical method with an a priori naturalistic bias.  Like his predecessors, Dershowitz applies liberalism to delegitimize scripture, removing from it divine authority.

In short, people don't want to do what God tells them to do.  They want to do what they want to so, so they attack the Bible.  Progressives today, who hate what the Bible teaches, deconstruct it to give it a new, acceptable meaning.  The thought behind progressivism is that it makes it better than what it was.  They conform God's Word to their own desires.  The epistle of 2 Peter talks all about this common strategy of apostates.  Dershowitz denies God's Word and then looks for a way to back that up.

Men aren't now really finding something new that's different than what the Bible has said and Christians have practiced for centuries.  It's not easier to do that, and they are not doing that.  They aren't suddenly smarter to be able to do that.  We weren't missing anything.  No one should expect already established doctrine and practice to change.  Something that is true is not going to change.  The liberals of the 19th century didn't discover anything.  They were making something up.

Mohler explains the motivation of liberalism as "embarrassment":
By the nineteenth century, liberal scholars, first in Germany, began to take apart the Old Testament. Partly, this was due to the European embarrassment of the character of God and divine laws revealed in the Old Testament in general. . . . The theological grandchildren of the early Protestant liberals are as embarrassed by the moral teachings of their grandparents as their grandparents were embarrassed by the moral teachings of the Old Testament.
How much of what Mohler writes here applies to Mohler himself and the entire Southern Baptist Convention?

Evangelicals have capitulated on cultural issues one after another for over a century out of embarrassment.  They haven't applied the JEPD theory to undo biblical doctrine and practice, but they have used other means to do so.  You can read this in some of the ambiguity of Mohler's writing.  I don't think I've read the terminology "moral instincts" that he uses here.  Why not "mandates" or something stronger than "instincts"?  For a long time, evangelicals themselves have disassociated themselves from the moral instruction of the Old Testament through different means, until now it isn't even required as a basis of morality among most evangelicals.  You hear this in these lines from Mohler:
For Christians, the most significant realization is that the crucial moral teachings of the Old Testament Holiness Code that are binding upon us are repeated, and often amplified, in the New Testament. Christians may eat shrimp without sin, for example, but are fully bound by laws against any sexual activity outside of marriage, the covenant union of one man and one woman.
I draw your attention to "crucial moral teachings."  Are we bound by the moral teachings of the Old Testament or just the "crucial" ones, which are also the ones "repeated"or "amplified" in the New Testament?  In this are the seeds of rejection of Old Testament morality.

A major way that evangelicals and now fundamentalists reject morality is by ranking certain teachings or practices as essential, of first importance, non-essential, or secondary.  If it is non-essential and secondary, you as good as don't need to believe it or practice it.  It will have almost no real or practical ramifications to you if you violate it.  It's now permissible, because it is non-essential.  If it isn't "crucial," then you don't need to heed whatever it is.

Liberalism voided biblical doctrine and practice.  That's the problem.  Those in Mohler's sphere do the same thing.  They have their own ways of doing it.  Right now, it's just a matter of extremes.  The Southern Baptist Convention is still fed up with homosexuality. They could garner enough opposition against that so as not to be too "embarrassed."  A key word in his article was embarrassment.  Evangelicals are embarrassed with a lot of Christianity.

Evangelicals were embarrassed with sacred music.  They were embarrassed with biblical modesty.  They were embarrassed with courtship.  They were embarrassed with prohibitions to movies and other popular entertainment.  They were embarrassed that they couldn't drink alcohol with everyone else.  For awhile, they're even embarrassed for dressing up for church, explaining that nobody needs to do that.  They have wanted to fit in for awhile and they have found ways to circumvent biblical teaching in order to avoid embarrassment.  Same sex relations might be the only way to differentiate evangelicals from the world anymore, because they are so much the same as the world in almost every way.  What I would say is that they have been embarrassed with God.  They still want to get to heaven, which is why the gospel is an essential, but they have moved almost every cultural, biblical practice into the non-essential category or called it an Old Testament teaching that's not repeated in the new, among other ways to dodge biblical obedience.

Believers have seen Leviticus 18:22 as a clear verse, applicable for today, but they run into some trouble with that verse, because they, like liberals, have already been using their own methods for abolishing Old Testament teaching.  Most of them would say that they are free from the Old Testament, that's what salvation is.  It's worse than that, but it's at least that.  Here's another verse in the moral code of the Old Testament:
The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.
That had one clear meaning and some specific clear application for all of Christian history until recently.  It has a lot of similarities to Leviticus 18:22 and is dealing with the same subject.  Christians became embarrassed with it.  They are now embarrassed with those who still practice this verse and do more to attack them, then they do those who violate the moral teachings of the Old Testament.  They are more apt to disassociate themselves with Christians than the world.

You'll notice the word "abomination" is in the verse.  You see that it says, "all that do so," because it isn't just a teaching for Israel, but for all men.  It's a universal in its application.  Using many various, liberal-like means, Christians haven't practiced this.  This is why we are today where we're at.  One leads to the other.  When believers won't stand on God's designed distinctions, those distinctions disappear.  If we won't stand for God's standard, then it will continue to disappear.  Now we're to Leviticus 18:22, and it looks like a sort of stand might occur there, at least to say something to remove some kind of responsibility.

"There, I said that, or I wrote that."  Will separation occur?  Will house-cleaning take place?  I expect there will be further embarrassment, capitulation and this moral stand will also pass away.  Mohler ends his essay by saying that God's Word stands.  It's true, it does.  Does it really stand with Mohler and the evangelicals?  For awhile, I would say, no, it hasn't stood with them.


Bill Hardecker said...

Mohler argues against the same German liberal scholarship that underscore his Bibliology. How does that work? Maybe it did. Methinks not. I appreciate your The Old Testament is still God's Word despite liberal, evangelical, and fundamentalist spins. I appreciate your article, Pastor Brandenburg. Thank you.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Their view of preservation proceeds from liberalism, their textual criticism Darwinian, it is true. I would say that underlies all their problems, but I think the bigger issue is lust and popularity and pragmatism, something more simple, embarrassment, the same motivation for liberals.