Tag Archives: Law

Old Testament Law and the Design of Redemption

Moses & the 10 Commandments, by James Tissot, late 19th century.

Why don’t Christians follow all the laws of the Old Testament? Why do we think it’s OK to ignore all those prohibitions on eating shellfish and bacon, and wearing mixed fabrics, and so on? Are Christians hypocrites in doing so? I have heard that charge from skeptics before, so let’s work through that today.

I was listening to a theology class on my phone the other day, and the teacher stated that God made the old Mosaic covenant of the Law, with all of its sacrifices and rituals, as a temporary state of affairs[1]. This made me think of how we as engineers sometimes have to plan for the lifecycle of a product. We typically design the product to resist certain loads, to survive in certain environments, and to have certain functions. But sometimes, we also have to design temporary structures or products where the end of the product life is also a significant part of the design, such as designing to facilitate deconstructing it at the end of its life. Think of something like temporary structures for large concerts where quick and easy disassembly of stages are a key part of the design. While many temporary structures for things like world expos have remained in use after the event they were built for (i.e. the Eiffel Tower),  their purpose was to fill a role tied to a specific event; and when the event came and went, they either needed to be transitioned to a new purpose, or removed. This is exactly what we see in the Mosaic laws. Some, like prohibitions on murder, theft, etc, are moral laws that will remain in effect for as long as humanity endures. But other portions that were ceremonial or cultural had a planned life cycle with a replacement in mind from the beginning.

In the beginning, God created humans with basically only one rule to follow: “Don’t eat from this one tree, and I’ll count that obedience as righteousness. Break that rule, and die.” [Ge 2:16-17] They were under a “covenant of works” [2]. But they did break that one simple rule, and spiritual death, or separation from God, was the result. The necessary consequence of sin (rebellion against God, or failing to meet His perfect standard) is separation from Him, or death. But God promised an eventual solution in the “fullness of time” [Ge 3:15, Mk 1:14-15, Ga 4:4-5, Tt 1:2-4, 1Ti 2:6], and in the meantime, made merciful allowances for humans, where He would accept animal sacrifices as substitutes for the guilty person. The animal sacrifices didn’t really do anything to cleanse us of those sins against God [He 10:4], but they were a constant reminder to us that the payment for sin is death [He 10:3], that in all fairness, it should be us paying that price, and also that God in His mercy had provided (and would provide) a substitute.  He could’ve just left humans in that state of spiritual death until they died physically, at which point they would be eternally separated from God (i.e. in hell). He could’ve  started over with new free-willed creatures each time the previous ones disobeyed. Or He could’ve made creatures without free will that would never disobey…  but also never freely love. Instead, He chose to demonstrate His love and mercy in a way, and to a degree, that would not have been possible in those other scenarios; He extended grace – unmerited favor – to them and offered a way to be reconciled to Him, through the keeping of a prescribed set of laws, though the law was “only a shadow of the good things that are coming.” [He 10:1] But really, even from the beginning, it wasn’t the keeping of these laws that saved people –  it was the trust in God’s promise of a future Messiah that resulted in the keeping of the Law. For no one born in sin could keep God’s law perfectly, so the law served not to save us, but to convict us and drive us toward Him who could save [Ro 3:20]. In fact, throughout the history of God’s interaction with man, He stated that He desired hearts that obeyed Him out of love rather than mere outward ritual [De 10:12, 1Sa 15:22, Mic 6:6-8 Pr 21:3, Ho 6:6]. But bringing that about would require a transition to a new phase of the lifecycle of redemption, where internal changes could be brought about, through the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit [He 8:10, Ezk 36:26-27, Ro 8:8-9].

And so, at the right time, God the Father sent God the Son to live a perfect life, fulfilling the covenant of works that Adam & Eve failed at, and then becoming the perfect sacrifice that really could cleanse our sins. If you read through the book of Hebrews, which compares Christ’s work to that of the old Law, there are two words that summarize that book: “better” and “completed”. Over and over again, the author of Hebrews makes the point that Christ’s work is better in every way than the Mosaic Law, and that Jesus completed, or finished, what was incomplete in the Law.

Lastly, there is still another phase to go. We are told of a future time when God will remake this world, and we will dwell in a “new heaven and a new earth”, and the dwelling of God will be with men [Re 21:3]. In the beginning, God walked in the Garden of Eden with Adam & Eve, until they broke fellowship with Him. Then we were told that when Jesus was born, He would be called Immanuel: “God with us” [Is 7:14, Mt 1:22-23]. And John tells us that “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” [Jn 1:14]. And after Jesus’ mission was complete, the Holy Spirit would dwell in believers permanently. But then when God’s plan of redemption is completed someday, He will dwell among a redeemed and glorified people forever. And so, through a long process (from our perspective), God will redeem His people, and restore what was marred in man’s initial rebellion. Thus God’s design lifecycle for His plan of redemption will be complete. But that first phase exemplified in the Old Testament law has already been completed in Christ, and there’s no going back to that once you’ve tasted of the goodness of that second phase of God’s plan.  So no, Christians are not hypocrites for not following various ceremonial and cultural laws of the Old Testament, but rather we are simply following along with God’s phased plan of redemption.


[1] Dr. Gerry Breshears, audio lecture, as part of Biblical Training Institute’s “Academy” program.
[2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Ch. 25: The Covenants Between God & Man”.

How to Get Away with Murder

7 half-week_embryo
Baby at 7 1/2 weeks after conception

There is a curious inconsistency in American law right now. Many states have laws stating that if a pregnant woman is murdered, the assailant will be charged with not one, but two, murders. Even if she is only injured but the fetus is killed, murder (or manslaughter) charges may be brought against the assailant for the death of the fetus. 23 of those 38 states count the killing of the fetus as murder/manslaughter at any stage of pregnancy from fertilization to birth.[1] For instance, Scott Petersen in California was charged in 2004 with 2 counts of murder after he murdered his wife who was 8 months pregnant.[2] But most of these state laws also have a very specific exception for when the intentional killing of an unborn child is not considered murder: when the person doing the killing is an abortionist. But what’s changed for this exception? What, precisely, is the difference between the criminal and the abortionist?

Is one killing and the other not? No. Clearly, the baby is alive in both cases prior to the act, and dead afterward. In the case of late-term murders and late-term abortions, the presence of detectable heartbeat, brainwaves, metabolism, and response to stimuli makes it clear that the baby is alive in both cases. The absence of these signs of life (and the dismemberment common in abortion)  makes it clear the baby is very much dead after both acts. But even in the first trimester, there are certainly enough signs of life to say the object being killed is not inanimate (fetal heartbeats, for instance, have been detected at 22-30 days after conception, brainwaves as early as 6 weeks, 2 days).[3] Even assuming the baby were just a “clump of cells” as some like to say, there is no question that they are living cells at the very least.

So both involve killing something, but is abortion killing a human? That’s really the only question that matters, isn’t it? If the baby isn’t a human, then why are are people like Scott Petersen sitting on Death Row with two counts of murder against them instead of just the mother’s murder? I’ve heard abortion compared to having a tumor removed, that they’re both just unwanted, parasitic blobs of tissue. The claim that a fetus is just a clump of cells or a “blob of tissue” is a bit of an oversimplification as the the baby is already made up of roughly 1 billion cells and has most of its adult organs formed by the time its embryonic stage is complete at 8 weeks (from conception). At best, that “blob” comparison is only valid for the first few days after conception.  Of course, the tumor alluded to would also be considered living cells, and animals also exhibit the same signs of life like heartbeat, brainwaves, breathing, and response to stimuli. So what makes this rapidly developing “clump of cells” human? First, it has human DNA, and it gets this individual-specific DNA within the first  day after conception, as 23 chromosomes from the father and 23 chromosomes from the mother are combined to form a new 46-chromosome human with all the genetic information needed to form a fully-functioning human. The degree of development doesn’t change this basic genetic criteria. It has the same DNA at 80 years old that it did 1 day after conception. Second, an adult human is the natural consequence of the development of this “blob of tissue”. While a tumor may share a person’s DNA (with certain mutations), tumor growth never results in the formation of a new person.

So it’s human. But why think this baby is a separate human? Isn’t it just a part of its mother’s body? The baby’s connection to the mother (the umbilical cord) is one of life support. If you were connected to another person for an emergency blood transfusion, would you then become part of that person? Of course not. Your dependence on the other person does not change your status as a person. One could also point to things like its unique set of fingerprints (present by 10 weeks). After all, we’ll often use these to uniquely identify a person throughout their life post-birth. Of course, the baby often having a different blood type from it’s mother and a different gender half the time clearly confirms it is not part of it’s mother’s body even though it resides inside her body. But even with the same blood type and gender, and before unique fingerprints have formed,  DNA testing will show the baby is a distinct, separate human from it’s mother as half of it’s 46 chromosomes came from the father to form a genetically unique human.

So the baby seems to be unequivocally a distinct living human. But is killing it murder? After all, murder is more than just killing. In cases of self-defense or protecting innocent life, killing an assailant is not considered murder, but justifiable homicide. Does abortion fall into this category? That is how it’s viewed in these legal exemptions for abortionists. But generally, the other exceptions have to be justified by saying that an innocent person might’ve been killed or some other serious crime would’ve been committed if the assailant hadn’t been killed first.[4] Yet, the unborn baby seems to be the very picture of innocence, having had no chance to do anything malicious to anyone that should warrant death.

In the end, we need to recognize that the abortionist is committing murder by intentionally killing a unique, living, innocent human without provocation. And what’s worse, through decades of scientifically, philosophically, and legally false propaganda, generations of women have been tricked into supporting institutionalized murder on an epic scale. I haven’t used any religious rationale in this post, just basic reasoning and science. But notice how the science supports the historic Christian position that abortion is wrong. This is to be expected if Christianity really is the true revelation of our Creator, for science is simply the observation of the physical world He has made.


[1] http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/fetal-homicide-state-laws.aspx, accessed 9/20/2015.
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Peterson, accessed 9/19/2015.
[3] http://www.ehd.org/science_main.php?level=i, accessed9/19/2015.
[4] Other noncivilian justifications include the carrying out of legal duties by agents of the state such as judges, police, etc, or soldiers following lawful orders in wartime.