My Thoughts. . .
Thursday, October 17, 2019
Change culture and you change law. What was wrong fifty years ago is lawful now. Since the New Testament was written by men who lived in first century culture, may we change, alter, or ignore some commands tied in with that culture? Is that allowance granted by plain scriptural statements or by our wish to justify our cultural substitutions? Whether those changes are made based upon expediency, inference, or a fluid culture, are those choices made with God’s approval? If our changes are based upon our societal whims, are they actually valid? When such changes are practiced as biblical, does God acquiesce and allow it even though it negates what He has revealed in scripture? If so, where is that divine compliance given in detail?
Paul wrote to the Corinthians stating, “Since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2). Moses mentioned a man leaving his parents and being joined to one woman (Genesis 2:25). Yet, despite their failure to follow those scriptural guidelines, some like Jacob and David were described as faithful. Both are mentioned in God’s Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11:9, 20-21, 32). Divine history informs us that both had multiple wives or bed partners. Did culture have anything to do with it? In our culture, such practice is unlawful. Yet God states concerning them, “These were all commended for their faith” (Hebrews 11:39 NIV).
Cultural changes may be seen today in the view our country holds on abortion. It was illegal until the Supreme Court case in 1973. Abortion was limited to about 20 weeks into the pregnancy. However, with time, that limit was increased until just before birth. Now it is being sought in some states that if the baby survives all efforts to abort it, it may be allowed to die from exposure. About 650,000 are aborted each year in the USA. Body parts are being sold for profit from those babies. The pre or newborn have no legal rights even though healthy at birth IF they are unwanted. Over the next fifty years our cultural laws may be written that will allow euthanasia for any individual who is judged to be of little or no benefit to society. Will these changing cultural practices be viewed as biblical?
Allowing culture to justify our changes in how biblical commands are to be performed is not new. Jacob and David stand out in the Old Testament. Samson is aligned with the faithful in Hebrew 11:32. His history is given in Judges 13:24 to 16:30. There is one action that stands out as an illustration of his “faith.” He killed over four thousand Philistine infidels. His largest number slain was by taking his own life which would now be labeled suicide. He was successful and faithful in killing the enemies of Yahweh. Would one be considered faithful today if he killed one individual in the name of Yahweh or Jesus? He lived in a different culture and the law he lived under was the Old Testament.
The Jews substituted the synagogue system for the Temple when they were in Babylonian captivity. When they returned, they brought that man-made creation with them. Jesus accepted that tradition without controversy. The Jews added four cups of wine to be consumed at different times during the Passover meal. This tradition was also accepted by Jesus without any negative rebuttal.
Western Culture changed the holy kiss to a welcoming handshake. It changed a table, seating all twelve apostles and Jesus, to a small one whose only purpose is to display the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine. Yet we refer to IT as “the Lord’s table” and speak of gathering around it to partake! Culture mentally changed the word “slave” to “servant” or employee, and the word “master” to employer while reading Ephesians 6:1, 5-6, 9; Colossians 4:1; and 1 Timothy 6:2. It changed “house to house” assemblies to “church buildings” with rules and attitudes while in that sanctuary or auditorium. Culture took sandal wearing men out of the pulpit and dressed them in suits, shirts, and ties with shining shoes. Then in the twenty-first century it is regressing back to the sandals.
Luke reveals the Jewish culture of using four cups of wine during the Passover feast by mentioning the last two of the four in the partaking of the Lord’s supper (Luke 22:17, 20). Matthew and Mark bypass Luke’s first cup and combine its dialogue with the last one (Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:23-25). Culture plays a part in how an event is understood and believed.
These cultural events are a thorn for those who refuse to understand that the New Testament was written by men who lived in first century for people living in that culture. When one reads our culture into the Bible, as if Paul and others were living in the twenty-first century, that tendency is an effort to harmonize in the wrong direction. If one rejects first century culture in favor of ours, he may end up binding what God has not bound and loosing what God has not loosed (Matthew 16:19; 18:18).