Perfecting God’s “Perfect” Law?
Every so often I am simply astonished by how theologically minded individuals can perform radical surgery on the Bible to cop out of adherence to moral depravities. What further amuses me is the blatantly ignorant “there are no Biblical contradictions” statement. Biblical depravity and contradiction always rears its head whenever criticism of the Old Testament is at hand. Defenders of Biblical integrity then argue that we cannot know God’s plan and so examples of child sacrifice and genocide may be brushed aside – sometimes God just needs to get his hands dirty to get the job done (and because those Egyptians and Hittites were going to sheol anyway). But do these sweeping apologetic brushes do for the law what they can do for their god’s character?
Any Biblical scholar, Christian or otherwise, knows that the Jewish religion is built on a strictly adhered to and enforced law of God, the Mitzvah: the 613 commands found in the Torah. This law is somewhat problematic for contemporary Biblical literalists for several reasons, the most obvious being that it just isn’t cool to put people to death for everything anymore. For example, 1 of the 613 commands, found in the famous ten commandments no less, is to “remember the Sabbath” (Ex. 20:8-9) – this included foreigners (so no “the law was only for the Jews” excuse here). Adventurous Bible enthusiasts that read beyond the commandments are rewarded with finding out the punishment for failure to comply: “…you are to observe the sabbath…. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death…whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people… whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall surely be put to death” (Ex.31:14-15).
The great thing about the example of the Sabbath is that Jesus came along and made fools of the law-abiding Pharisees specifically concerning that subject. Of course we recognize that Jesus did not dismiss the law, but merely re-interpreted it – Matthew 5:17-20 is quite clear on that. It would, however, take the writings of a self-appointed apostle of Christ to diminish the law in light of the messianic figure’s death. But how does Paul’s lawlessness jive with explicit statements in the Old Testament concerning such a perspective? Paul proclaims, “All things are lawful; but not all things are expedient. All things are lawful; but not all things edify” (1 Cor. 10:23). Yet in the Old Testament, David cries out, “The Law of the LORD is PERFECT…” (Ps. 19:7). Isaiah agrees, “…the Word of our God will stand FOREVER” (Is. 40:8), which is later cited in 1 Peter 1:25 (of course, not one of the Pauline letters).
How does someone critique or even fulfill something that is already perfect? Perfection, by definition, is unchanging; perfection is as good as anything can possibly be. The law is perfect. The Bible says so. Or perhaps David had a little too much wine. The law, according to the Christian “re-interpretation” or “fulfillment,” was obviously not perfect. If it was perfect, there would have been no need for God to send… himself… or his son… or both… to die. That is, unless, you’re drinking the kool-aid. Theologians, professional and amateur alike, it appears, are answerable only to the conclusion already in place, not to the result of critical evaluation; only a theologian could explain how a perfect entity can be even more perfect by, in all practicality, reversing itself.