REJECTION IS NOT REFUTATION
Dr. Don Kistler, founder of the Northampton Press, was born in California in 1949, the second of five sons of Jack and Faye Kistler. He grew up on a dairy farm in Central California and graduated from Azusa Pacific College in Southern California in 1971 with a double major in public speaking and religion. He holds the M. Div. and D. Min. degrees, and is an ordained minister. Prior to entering the gospel ministry, Dr. Kistler coached high school and college football for over 15 years.
Dr. Kistler pastored a local church for four years. As part of his preaching and teaching ministry, he has spoken at conferences with such notable figures as Dr. John MacArthur, Dr. R. C. Sproul, Dr. D. James Kennedy, Dr. J. I. Packer, Dr. John Gerstner, Elisabeth Elliot, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, Dr. Michael Horton, Rev. Alistair Begg, Dr. Albert M. Mohler, the late Dr. James Boice, and Rev. Eric Alexander, to name just a few.
Dr. Kistler is the author of the book A Spectacle Unto God: The Life and Death of Christopher Love, and Why Read the Puritans Today? and is the editor of all the Soli Deo Gloria Puritan reprints. He was a contributing author for Justification by Faith ALONE!; Sola Scriptura; Trust and Obey: Obedience and the Christian; Onward, Christian Soldiers: Protestants Affirm the Church; and Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching.
He has edited over 150 books. He currently resides in Orlando, FL.
(The following is a transcript I wrote, taken from Lecture 2 of a seminar on Jonathan Edwards by Dr. Don Kistler, at Saint Andrews Chapel, Sanford, Florida, September 2003.)
Dr. Don Kistler – “People will often say “I don’t agree with you” but what does that prove? So what?”
“Let me tell you how this was driven home to me by the late Dr. John Gerstner. I was his pastor for four years (and you think you have pressure on the job). We used to drive to a Bible Study and I’d gotten a question in the mail from someone about Sabbath breaking (someone who was a very strict Sabbatarian) and they asked if anyone who did not keep a very strict Sabbath could REALLY be a Christian (that was the essence of the question).
I always drove Dr. Gerstner in his car and so I asked him, “how would you respond to this question?” I realized, you don’t ask him questions. He asks the questions.
Dr. Gerstner said, “Lets suppose for the sake of the argument that you are a practicing Sabbath breaker and I am a practicing homosexual.” He says, “Are you going to heaven or to hell?”
He said, “Am I going to heaven or to hell?”
I said, “You’re going to hell.”
He said, “So you’re violating one of God’s commands and you get to go to heaven but I am violating one of God’s commands and I have to go to hell. What is it, did I pick the wrong command, Don?”
“Well,” I said, “the scripture is not as emphatic about Sabbath breaking as it is about homosexuality. Paul calls that the lowest form of degradation that there is. The Bible never calls Sabbath breaking an abomination… errr.. how’s that?”
Gerstner responded, “How’s that?… How’s what?”
I said, “my answer.”
He said, “what answer? You fumbled around and tried to throw a few verses at me. Did you think you were going to intimidate me with a couple of verses? Now do you have an answer to my question or not?”
Panting for breath I said, “well, good and godly men have disagreed over the issue of the Sabbath, you know Calvin and Luther and your man Sproul.”
He said, “ok, Calvin and Luther and Sproul and you and me will all be in hell together. Now what is your response to my question? Why is it YOU get to go to heaven and you can violate a command of God and I can’t violate a command of God but I have to go to hell. What kind of a system are you running here?”
Well I am really sweating bullets… and so we pull up to the place we are going and I ask, “what’s the answer?”
He said, “we’ll talk about it on the way home.”
“On the way home? That’s another hour!”
Well he did this all the way home and when we got there I said, “now tell me what the answer is.”
He said, “we’ll do it next month.”
“No, we’re not doing it next month. I want to sleep between now and next month.” Continue reading
Atheist/agnostic professor of religious studies at UNC Dr. Bart Ehrman explains how there is no academic scholars in the Western world who doubts that Jesus existed:
“This is not an issue for scholars. There is no scholar in any college or university who teaches classics, ancient history, new testament, early christianity, who doubts that Jesus existed. He is abundantly attested in early sources. Early and independent sources indicate that Jesus certainly existed. Paul is an eyewitness to both Jesus’ disciple Peter and the brother of Jesus. Like, I’m sorry. Atheists have done themselves a disservice by jumping on the bandwagon of mythicism because it makes you look foolish to the outside world.”
Graeme Clarke is is the Emeritus Professor of Classical (Ancient) History and Archaeology at Australian National University:
“Frankly, I know of no ancient historian or biblical historian who would have a twinge of doubt about the existence of a Jesus Christ”
HT: Steven Bancarz
By Dr. Jason Lisle (original source here)
Recently, someone sent me a link to an article appearing in Scientific American – a popular science magazine. The article is entitled “15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense.” The article was extremely revealing, but not in the way the author probably intended. The article exhibited a very common problem we often see among evolutionists: ignorance of creation literature. Creationists have written literally thousands of peer-reviewed publications showing how modern scientific discoveries confirm creation and biblical history. These range from layman-level articles, to highly technical scientific publications.
Unfortunately, most evolutionists are too intellectually lazy to read these. Consequently, the majority of evolutionists are badly uninformed about creation.
Not only are they uninformed about creation, but most evolutionists are misinformed. They have heard other evolutionists claim that creation scientists believe a particular thing, but they didn’t bother to check. Instead, most simply repeat the claim and the myth is reinforced rather than corrected. This tends to result in straw-man fallacies. Namely, an evolutionist will misrepresent what creationists claim, and then refute that misrepresentation. Indeed, most of the article’s criticisms are against a position that no informed creation scientist holds. They are not claims that are published and defended in peer-reviewed creation technical literature. So, far from refuting creationist “nonsense”, the critic has actually merely revealed his profound ignorance of the topic.
Second, the article reveals another problem commonly found among the most ardent defenders of particles-to-people evolution: a lack of critical thinking skills. Let’s face it. When it comes to origins, evolutionists simply don’t reason rationally or scientifically. They might reason very well when it comes to other areas of thinking. But for some reason, when it comes to origins, logic seems to disappear. We see several examples of this in the article. So, let’s examine the article’s claims, and see if they (1) fairly represent what creation scientists teach, and (2) stand up to rational scrutiny. I will put the article in purple font, with my comments in black.
The problems begin with the article’s subtitle:
Opponents of evolution want to make a place for creationism by tearing down real science, but their arguments don’t hold up.
This subtitle contains the first straw-man fallacy: it claims that creationists are against science – indeed that creationists are “tearing down” science. This is false. As a creationist, I really like science! I like it so much that I spent years in graduate school to obtain a Ph.D. in astrophysics. Furthermore, most of the active researchers in creation science have a Ph.D. in science, such as Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson, Dr. Georgia Purdom, Dr. Tim Clarey, Dr. Andrew Snelling, Dr. Danny Faulkner, Dr. Russ Humphreys, Dr. John Hartnett, to name just a few. If they are so anti-science, then why do they spend their lives doing science?
Students of logic will also recognize the “no true Scotsman” fallacy in the critic’s subtitle. Note the phrase “real science.” Presumably the critic wants us to think that his position is scientific and the creationist position is not. And he tries to persuade by simply redefining “true science” as that which corresponds to his beliefs. But anyone could apply that rhetorical trick. I could say, “real science is creation science” and that would have no more logical weight than the critic’s assertion.
We also see an example of the question-begging epithet fallacy. This is the fallacy of using rhetoric in place of logic to persuade someone. One such epithet is subtle: evolution is contrasted with creationism. The addition of the ‘ism’ on ‘creation’ but not ‘evolution’ rhetorically suggests that creation is a belief, whereas evolution is not. But no logical argument is made for this, and nothing could be further from the truth. It is empty rhetoric, without any logical merit.
When Charles Darwin introduced the theory of evolution through natural selection 143 years ago, the scientists of the day argued over it fiercely, but the massing evidence from paleontology, genetics, zoology, molecular biology and other fields gradually established evolution’s truth beyond reasonable doubt.
Here we have the fallacy of elephant-hurling. Rather than providing actual evidence for Darwinian evolution, the critic simply claims that there is overwhelming evidence for it, and lists many fields of science. This would be acceptable if he later gave specific examples from these fields that establish his claim. But he doesn’t. His attempt to persuade is mere rhetoric with no logical merit.
Note that the kind of evolution we are discussing here is the kind Darwin believed in – that all organisms on earth are descended from a common ancestor through progressive modification over billions of years. We might call this “Darwinian evolution.”
It is also sometimes called “neo-Darwinian evolution” (since this includes the specifics of mutations and genes which Darwin did not know). It is significant that we do not mean “evolution” in some generic sense of change. Rather, we are debating a very specific claim about how organisms change.
Today that battle has been won everywhere–except in the public imagination. Embarrassingly, in the 21st century, in the most scientifically advanced nation the world has ever known, …
It doesn’t seem to even occur to the critic that there might be a connection. Could it be that the reason the United States is so scientifically advanced is because we employ creationist thinking? The creationist presumes the world is upheld by the mind of God, so we expect to find patterns in nature. The creationist believes his senses and mind were designed by God, and therefore have the capacity to learn about nature. These biblical convictions justify our faith in science. But if the universe were just an accident, if our senses are merely the result of accidental mutations, why expect science to work?
…creationists can still persuade politicians, judges and ordinary citizens that evolution is a flawed, poorly supported fantasy.
Again, we see a question-begging epithet fallacy. Presumably, we’re supposed to think, “how terrible that people can be convinced that evolution is a poorly supported fantasy!” But that would only be a problem if evolution were not a poorly supported fantasy. Second, notice that the critic does not mention the many scientists that have been persuaded that evolution is a poorly supported fantasy. But if he mentioned that, it might be harder to maintain his façade that science somehow supports Darwinian evolution.
They lobby for creationist ideas such as “intelligent design” to be taught as alternatives to evolution in science classrooms.
There are several problems here. First, there is a whopping big difference between biblical creation, and the intelligent design movement; yet the critic does not distinguish between these two. Most of the creation scientists I know are not affiliated with the intelligent design movement. Creation scientists like myself are not primarily concerned with applying political pressure to get alternatives to evolution taught in secular schools. Neither are we opposed to this. It is simply not our focus. Continue reading
Article by Tim Challies (original source here)
When it comes to the age of the universe, Christians find themselves in a bit of a conundrum. At least, those Christians do who hold to a traditional interpretation of the first two chapters of Genesis—an interpretation that leads them to believe the universe is something less than the billions of years indicated by contemporary understandings of the scientific data. Those, like me, who hold to a six-day understanding of creation have to face this question: Why does the universe look so old? Why does it look older than it actually is? This is a question Dr. Albert Mohler took on at a Ligonier Ministries conference several years ago and his response was (and remains) helpful to me.
Before I comment on his answer, I want to point out that all Christians, no matter their interpretation of the opening chapters of Scripture, have difficult questions to face as they attempt to strike harmony between Scripture and science or, better, between God’s book of special revelation and God’s book of natural revelation. Those who believe the universe is ancient have to grapple with the existence of death before the fall, for example, or why the creation account is so clearly laid out as if it all takes place in six literal days. It is not only young earth creationists who have to admit the existence of difficult questions.
As Dr. Mohler considers the age of the universe he tells why he is drawn to the six-day view: “In our effort to be most faithful to the scriptures and most accountable to the grand narrative of the gospel, an understanding of creation in terms of 24-hour calendar days and a young earth entails far fewer complications, far fewer theological problems, and actually is the most straightforward and uncomplicated reading of the text as we come to understand God telling us how the universe came to be and what it means and why it matters.”
But why, then, if the universe is so young, does it look so old? His first answer is this:
The universe looks old because the Creator made it whole.
Accordingly to a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2, God did not create a universe that began in an infant or primordial state before maturing over billions of years, but a universe that actually began in a state of maturity. When it was still young it already looked mature because this was God’s design. Indeed, this was the case with the first human being. “When he made Adam, Adam was not a fetus; Adam was a man; he had the appearance of a man. By our understanding that would’ve required time for Adam to get old but not by the sovereign creative power of God.” Adam and Eve were created whole, mature, grown up, and were placed in a garden that was also whole, mature, and grown up. “The garden was not merely seeds; it was a fertile, fecund, mature garden. The Genesis account clearly claims that God creates and makes things whole.” There is our first answer, that the universe looks old because God created it to look old. This was design, not deception, just as was the case for Adam, the human being who had no history, no parents, no infancy, no childhood.
The second answer is this: The universe looks old because it bears the effects of sin. Sin is an evil intruder into the world and one that brought about God’s judgment. This judgment was expressed in the catastrophe of the great worldwide flood and in a million lesser catastrophes since. These catastrophes have marked, stained, and scarred all that God created. We bear the effects of sin in our tired eyes, wrinkled skin, and aching bones, and in equivalent ways the earth is marked and marred by sin. Paul says in Romans 8 that the world is groaning, “And in its groaning it does look old. It gives us empirical evidence of the reality of sin.” The universe looks old rather than young to display the evidence and consequences of sin, for once we see this we are but a short distance from considering the joy, necessity, and beauty of redemption. A suffering world is crying out for the deliverance that will come.
To my mind these are compelling answers, though they are admittedly somewhat speculative in that neither one can appeal directly to chapter or verse. I will give the final word to Dr. Mohler: “At the end of the day, if I’m asked the question ‘why does the universe look so old?’ I’m simply left with the reality that the universe is telling the story of the glory of God. Why does it look so old? Well that, in terms of any more elaborate answer, is known only to the Ancient of Days. And that is where we are left.”
Email To Russ Miller (CreationMinistries.org):
“My child’s school is teaching her she evolved from primates. Are there any valid examples of evolution?”
Answer: Millions of examples of Micro-evolution, better called micro-adaptations or variations, could be shown. Adaptations are simply ‘kinds bringing forth after their kind’ as Scripture tells us will happen. These are caused by the sorting or loss of the genetic data they inherited from their parents. Never has a viable example of Darwinian/Macro change, such as a primate becoming a human, been found. This would require the addition of massive amounts of new and functionally beneficial genetic information. Real science, based on the observation of existing evidence, knows of no viable example of nature adding this kind of data to an existing gene pool. Thus, Genetic loss (Gene Depletion) + Selection prevents Darwinian style change to occur.
Some Further Russ Miller Quotes:
“Darwinian evolutionism is a religious belief that puts one’s faith in a single celled creature having come to life before mutating to bears, beavers and biology professors. Yet it’s estimated a single celled bacteria requires genetic data that’s 10,000 times more complex than a space shuttle. 1 in 10 to the 50th power is considered absolute zero & the odds of life forming by natural processes has been calculated to be 1 in 10 to the 40,000th power (1 in 10 to the 18th would cover every second for 30 billion years). Mathematical probability alone refutes Darwinism.”
“The next time you’re asked if you believe in evolution, correctly respond, “I believe in Biblically and scientifically correct micro-evolution.” Let me explain. Darwinists show kids pictures of brown moths and yellow moths; then discuss how they’ve descended from a common ancestor over ‘millions of years.” Well, drop the “millions of years” and I agree they have a common ancestor, it was a moth. They’ve simply ‘brought forth after their kind’ as God’s Word tells us will occur and as real science always finds. This is micro-evolution, not never-observed Darwinian-macro evolution. The ability to micro-adapt was placed in their gene pool from the start by their Creator who gave His created kinds a tremendous range of genetic variation which allows them to adapt to various climates & conditions.”
“Population studies show if we began with 4 couples (off the ark) 4,500 years ago and averaged 2.2 kids per couple we’d have around 7 billion folks today…which is what we have.”
“We constantly hear about the search for THE missing link, as if such a discovery would cause the Darwinian chain to materialize. But macro evolution requires billions of links leading from the supposed first cell to the millions of kinds of plants and animals living on earth today, yet never has a viable link of any kind been found that proves Darwinian change occurred; and Darwinism requires billions of these links. Scripture warns us to avoid false science, which some believing will err concerning their faith. Indicating that finding a ‘missing link” would cause the whole Darwinian chain to come together is science falsely so called.”
“The Bible says creatures will bring forth their kind and warns us to beware of false science; yet billions have lost their faith due to Darwinian bait & switch con games presented in science classes. For instance, texts present a Biblically correct example of a variation within a kind (also called micro-evolution or adaptation), such as a fly bringing forth a fly with shorter wings (caused by the sorting or loss of the parent’s genetic data), then switch the discussion to Darwinian (macro) evolution which requires the addition of new and beneficial genetic data. Observation-based science is a Believer’s true friend so don’t be fooled by false teachings and put your faith in the Word of God.”
“Following the 1969 moon landing, moon rocks were aged using radiometric dating techniques. One rock was sliced into pieces & sent to 8 labs for testing. As usual, a wide range of dates (10,000 to 3.6 billion years) were obtained with only the desired age of 3.6 billion years being published. But New Scientist magazine reported, “Signs of volcanic activity indicate the moon formed “just a few million years ago.” Well, that’s only about 1% of what we’ve been told and couldn’t this also prove the moon is just a few thousand years old? Absolutely! Since no one observed the creation of the moon, I’ll humble myself to accept God’s uncompromised Word.”
“Jesus said Satan was the father of lies and one of the Devil’s most successful tactics is to get man to twist what’s good into something Satan can use to serve his evil purposes. Take ‘natural selection.’ 24 years before Darwin’s book came out, Biblical creationist Edward Blyth showed how natural selection eliminated harmful mutations & helped creatures adapt to various climates in the post-flood world. Darwin twisted this into something that has misled billions of people yet, as I like to point out; natural selection is God’s Quality Assurance program. It removes genetically weaker variations & mutations, preventing them from corrupting the gene pools our heavenly Father created. Without natural selection most creatures would go extinct within 1,500 years.”
“FB message: “There are 100’s of creation myths. What evidence do you have that the Bible’s story is the right one?” Thanks for your vital question as where a person will spend eternity hangs in the balance! A great way to tell the Truth from the 1,000’s of myths about our origins, whether they are evolution, creation or alien based, is by the 100’s of Biblical prophecies fulfilled. Then add to the Bible’s amazing ability to correctly predict the future the Archaeological finds that always support the Scriptures; the Biological proofs, as kinds only being forth after their kind; and the Geological evidences of the Global Flood and it’s what I call a ‘Done Deal.'”
“Hebrews 11:3 tells us we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God through faith, so the things which are seen were not made of things which appear. Our DNA doesn’t appear to the naked eye, yet our DNA contains the data to produce more than 100,000 different proteins, each with a unique function. Human technology can store data on the surface of a computer chip. However, DNA stores data in three dimensions and, if written out in 500 page books, a pinhead sized holder of DNA could hold enough data to make a pile of books that would extend from earth to the moon 500 times! Talk about incredible design! Romans 1:20 tells us the invisible things from the creation will be clearly seen so unbelievers will stand without excuse. Put your faith in the Word of your Creator.”
Article by Sinclair Ferguson (original source here)
Answer the question “Is there a God?” in around 775 words? Is this perhaps the easiest assignment Tabletalk has ever commissioned, since the answer is so clear? There are no consistent atheists, only people hiding from God. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Ps. 19:1). God is the inescapable given who undergirds all things.
Or, is this the hardest assignment Tabletalk has ever commissioned? A comprehensive answer might fill an entire library. What follows, then, is only a stray fragment from one chapter in a book in that library.
➝ 1 God the Creator is the only solution to Gottfried Leibniz’s and Martin Heidegger’s ultimate riddle: “Why is there something there, and not nothing?”
Ex nihilo nihil fit—“Nothing comes from nothing.” Let us note that nothing is not a “pre-something”; it is not “something reduced to a minimum.” Nothing is NO thing, no THING. Nothing—a concept impossible for the mind to comprehend precisely because nothing lacks “reality” in the first place. To transform Rene Descartes’; famous dictum Cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am) we can say, Quod cogito, non cogito de nihilo (Because I am, I cannot conceive of nothing).
That leads to another Descartes-esque thought: Quod cogito, ergo non possibile Deus non est (Because I think, therefore it is impossible that God does not exist). The cosmos, my existence, and my ability to reason all depend on the fact that life did not and could not come from nothing, but requires a reasonable and reasoning origin. The contrary (time + chance = reality) is impossible. Neither time nor chance is a pre-cosmic phenomenon.
➝ 2 This God must be the biblical God, for two reasons. The first is that only such a God adequately grounds the physical coherence of the cosmos as we know it.
Second, His existence is the only coherent basis, whether acknowledged or otherwise, for rational thought and communication. Consequently, the nonbeliever of necessity must draw on, borrow from, indeed intellectually steal from a biblical foundation in order to think coherently and to live sanely. Thus, the secular humanist who argues that there are no ultimates must borrow from biblical premises in order to assess anything as in itself right or wrong.
I have recently tried a simple but unnerving experiment, directing my mind to think its way into the assumption that there is no God, and then to explore the implications. I strongly discourage performing this mind experiment. It leads inexorably to a dark place, a mental abyss where nothing in life makes sense, indeed, where there is no possibility of ultimate “sense.”
Here, all that we think of as good, true, rational, intelligible, and beautiful has no substructure to give these concepts coherence. Thus, the nature of everything I am and experience becomes radically deconstructed and disconnected from my consciousness of them. That “consciousness” that seems intelligible is then an unjustifiable fabrication of my own imagination. And then that imagination ceases to have coherence in itself.
In essence, then, my highly complex consciousness becomes merely an inexplicable series of intricate chemical reactions grounded in no rationality and having no inherent meaning. “Meaning” itself in any genuinely transcendent sense is itself a meaningless concept.
As experimenters in the pilgrimage of consistent atheism, we will then conclude that it is the “atheists” who are driven to despair, as they yield to the unbearable conclusions of their premises, who are the only consistent atheistic thinkers with the courage of their convictions. Those who calmly claim to be atheists are unmasked as in fact refusing the conclusion of their professed convictions, repressing what they know deep down to be true (that God is)—the very point Paul makes in Romans 1:18–25.
The novelist Martin Amis recounted a question that the Russian writer Yevgeni Yevtushenko asked Sir Kingsley Amis: “Is it true that you are an atheist?” Amis replied, “Yes. But it’s more than that. You see, I hate Him.” Far from being able to deny the existence of God, he confessed both God’s existence and his own antagonism toward Him.
Amis was not alone. Neither a knight of the Realm, nor any of us, can escape being the imago Dei (however mutilated). We can therefore never deny the Deus of whom we are the imago. For God has placed a burden on us: “He has put eternity into a man’s heart” (Eccl. 3:11). As Augustine said, our hearts are restless until we find our rest in Him.
Why then does the Bible not ask the question, “Is there a God?” Because its first sentence answers it: “In the beginning, God… .”
Article by Tim Keller: Making Sense of Scripture’s ‘Inconsistency’ (original source here)
I find it frustrating when I read or hear columnists, pundits, or journalists dismiss Christians as inconsistent because “they pick and choose which of the rules in the Bible to obey.” Most often I hear, “Christians ignore lots of Old Testament texts—about not eating raw meat or pork or shellfish, not executing people for breaking the Sabbath, not wearing garments woven with two kinds of material and so on. Then they condemn homosexuality. Aren’t you just picking and choosing what you want to believe from the Bible?”
I don’t expect everyone to understand that the whole Bible is about Jesus and God’s plan to redeem his people, but I vainly hope that one day someone will access their common sense (or at least talk to an informed theological adviser) before leveling the charge of inconsistency.
First, it’s not only the Old Testament that has proscriptions about homosexuality. The New Testament has plenty to say about it as well. Even Jesus says, in his discussion of divorce in Matthew 19:3–12, that the original design of God was for one man and one woman to be united as one flesh, and failing that (v. 12), persons should abstain from marriage and sex.
However, let’s get back to considering the larger issue of inconsistency regarding things mentioned in the Old Testament no longer practiced by the New Testament people of God. Most Christians don’t know what to say when confronted about this issue. Here’s a short course on the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament.
The Old Testament devotes a good amount of space to describing the various sacrifices offered in the tabernacle (and later temple) to atone for sin so that worshipers could approach a holy God. There was also a complex set of rules for ceremonial purity and cleanness. You could only approach God in worship if you ate certain foods and not others, wore certain forms of dress, refrained from touching a variety of objects, and so on. This vividly conveyed, over and over, that human beings are spiritually unclean and can’t go into God’s presence without purification.
But even in the Old Testament, many writers hinted that the sacrifices and the temple worship regulations pointed forward to something beyond them (cf. 1 Sam. 15:21–22; Pss. 50:12–15; 51:17; Hos. 6:6). When Christ appeared he declared all foods clean (Mark 7:19), and he ignored the Old Testament cleanliness laws in other ways, touching lepers and dead bodies.
The reason is clear. When he died on the cross the veil in the temple tore, showing that he had done away with the the need for the entire sacrificial system with all its cleanliness laws. Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice for sin, and now Jesus makes us clean.
The entire book of Hebrews explains that the Old Testament ceremonial laws were not so much abolished as fulfilled by Christ. Whenever we pray “in Jesus name” we “have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus” (Heb. 10:19). It would, therefore, be deeply inconsistent with the teaching of the Bible as a whole if we continued to follow the ceremonial laws.
Law Still Binding
The New Testament gives us further guidance about how to read the Old Testament. Paul makes it clear in places like Romans 13:8ff that the apostles understood the Old Testament moral law to still be binding on us. In short, the coming of Christ changed how we worship, but not how we live. The moral law outlines God’s own character—his integrity, love, and faithfulness. And so everything the Old Testament says about loving our neighbor, caring for the poor, generosity with our possessions, social relationships, and commitment to our family is still in force. The New Testament continues to forbid killing or committing adultery, and all the sex ethic of the Old Testament is re-stated throughout the New Testament (Matt. 5:27–30; 1 Cor. 6:9–20; 1 Tim. 1:8–11). If the New Testament has reaffirmed a commandment, then it is still in force for us today.
The New Testament explains another change between the testaments. Sins continue to be sins—but the penalties change. In the Old Testament sins like adultery or incest were punishable with civil sanctions like execution. This is because at that time God’s people constituted a nation-state, and so all sins had civil penalties.
But in the New Testament the people of God are an assembly of churches all over the world, living under many different governments. The church is not a civil government, and so sins are dealt with by exhortation and, at worst, exclusion from membership. This is how Paul deals with a case of incest in the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 5:1ff. and 2 Cor. 2:7–11). Why this change? Under Christ, the gospel is not confined to a single nation—it has been released to go into all cultures and peoples.
Once you grant the main premise of the Bible—about the surpassing significance of Christ and his salvation—then all the various parts of the Bible make sense. Because of Christ, the ceremonial law is repealed. Because of Christ, the church is no longer a nation-state imposing civil penalties. It all falls into place. However, if you reject the idea of Christ as Son of God and Savior, then, of course, the Bible is at best a mishmash containing some inspiration and wisdom, but most of it would have to be rejected as foolish or erroneous.
So where does this leave us? There are only two possibilities. If Christ is God, then this way of reading the Bible makes sense. The other possibility is that you reject Christianity’s basic thesis—you don’t believe Jesus is the resurrected Son of God—and then the Bible is no sure guide for you about much of anything. But you can’t say in fairness that Christians are being inconsistent with their beliefs to follow the moral statements in the Old Testament while not practicing the other ones.
One way to respond to the charge of inconsistency may be to ask a counter-question: “Are you asking me to deny the very heart of my Christian beliefs?” If you are asked, “Why do you say that?” you could respond, “If I believe Jesus is the resurrected Son of God, I can’t follow all the ‘clean laws’ of diet and practice, and I can’t offer animal sacrifices. All that would be to deny the power of Christ’s death on the cross. And so those who really believe in Christ must follow some Old Testament texts and not others.”
The Absurdity of Unbelief Lectures by Jeff Johnson, ThD: