The Fork in the Road: A Reply to John, Part 1 (Regarding Hebrews 10)

[A comment I made yesterday, edited a tad, and moved to be a main post.]

John wrote,

Jay,

[His laws of pardon are] [r]epentance of sin, confession of fault, and prayer to God for forgiveness. 1 John 1.7 is a passage of great comfort, and it seems there is some covering going on there. But, at some point, there has to be a line that when crossed requires a specific response on my part. If it is not there, then anything I may do, anything whatever, is covered. I could not fall. I don’t understand the Bible to teach that I cannot fall. I do not know precisely where that line is. I do the best I can and trust God to take care of me. The fact that I can’t precisely identify the line, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Here lies a dead man. Something caused him to die. I may not know what the cause was, but he’s still dead. Continue reading

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The Fork in the Road: The Nashville Tennessean Weighs In

A week ago, Bob Smietana, a reporter for the Tennessean newspaper in Nashville, emailed me, asking for an interview for a story he was working on regarding the progressive Churches of Christ. I tried to set up a time, but our schedules never coincided.

His story was published today. I think you’ll find it to be an interesting read (even though I’m not quoted :roll:).

Here are a few excerpts — Continue reading

The Fork in the Road: Rich’s Question

Rich asked,

When I think of the concept of law within the Bible I think of anything I must obey. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” I equate the generic term ‘law’ with ‘commandments’ whatever they may be. Therefore, Paul isn’t contrasting generic law. He is contrasting ‘the law’ (old law) with new law (faith based obedience).

So, when you say there is no law today, only love, I understand that as opposite to the words of Jesus.

Please elaborate.

Continue reading

The Fork in the Road: Moral vs. Positive Law: Those led by the Spirit aren’t under law

Argument 2.

In Galatians, Paul continues to explain why obedience to the positive command of circumcision is pointless.

(Gal 5:18) But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

Now, we try take this statement, turn it on its head, and declare that “led by the Spirit” means “obey all the laws.” Obviously, that’s not Paul’s point.

(Gal 5:22-25)  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Plainly, Paul is saying that the old concept of obedience to a book of rules is replaced by submission to the work of the Spirit in our hearts. These are “fruit of the Spirit,” not fruit of my hard work or my obedience to God’s laws. Continue reading

The Fork in the Road: Moral vs. Positive Law: Love Fulfills the Law

I contend that Benjamin Franklin has it exactly backwards: moral law is higher than positive law. Indeed, I question whether God even makes positive law any more.

Argument 1.

(Rom 13:8) Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.

This and the several parallel passages from the Sermon on the Mount, Galatians, and James all point to the conclusion that if it’s not subsumed in “love one another,” it’s not law.

Moral law is whatever law is subsumed within “love your neighbor,” and by and large, positive law is any other command. Continue reading

Faith Lessons by Ray Vander Laan: Crossing the Red Sea

We continue to consider RVL’s lessons on how to think as the First Century Jews thought, that is, with an Eastern point of view. (“RVL” is what his students call Ray Vander Laan and how he often refers to himself.)

To think Eastern, it’s critical that you first see the picture before you try to draw the lesson. Don’t jump quickly to conclusions. Rather, study the story at length. What happened? Why did it happen?

Consider the Exodus. God told the Israelites to prepare to leave Egypt. They were not wealthy and certainly wouldn’t have had the ability to carry many of their possessions with them. They fled Egypt and were soon pursued by the Egyptian army on chariots. The crossed the Red Sea and watched as God destroyed the Egyptian forces

Now, put yourself in the place of an Israelite woman told to pack for the journey. Continue reading

The Fork in the Road: Moral vs. Positive Law: Background

Guy wrote a comment asking why I take such a dim view of positive law (and I do). I knocked out a quick comment, but I think the topic bears a more thorough explanation. It’s going to take several posts that dig deeply into the mind of God.

After some background, the first few posts will delve into the scripture’s teachings on moral and positive law. We’ll then look at some supposed positive laws to see whether the Bible really teaches what we often teach to be laws.

A little background

For those not familiar with the term, “positive law” is a law that prohibits something not intrinsically wrong. A “moral law” is based on fundamental morality. In civil law — the law of governments — we would say that the prohibition of murder is a matter of moral law, because murder is wrong even if the government doesn’t choose to punish it. However, the law setting a minimum wage is positive law, because general principles of morality don’t declare wages below $7.25 an hour immoral — although there certainly is a point at which wages are immorally law — which may be higher or lower than the federal minimum wage. Continue reading