John Piper recently offered up a pointed response to a key critique of the Bible in his “Ask Pastor John” podcast series, addressing those who point to Leviticus 20:13 to claim that the Bible backs the killing of homosexuals.
That verse — which is often cited by atheists and other Bible critics — reads, “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”
Piper responded to a listener’s question on the matter by saying that it is “crucial” that Christians be able to answer critiques of that verse, but said that “it is not difficult” to do so, offering listeners a point-by-point analysis as well as a related analogy to assist.
“Suppose a book is written for the military and in Chapter 1 it deals with how soldiers should relate to each other during basic training stateside. Chapter 2 deals with how soldiers should relate to each other and to their captured enemies on the battlefield,” Piper said. “Chapter 3 deals with how soldiers should relate to each other and to their captors if any of them is taken captive and imprisoned. And the fourth chapter deals with how they should relate to each other and to the enemy if they are infiltrated behind enemy lines.”
He continued, “Would anyone accuse a soldier of disobedience if while he is captured as a prisoner of war he obeys the instructions in Chapter 3 rather than the instructions in Chapter 1? No. Nobody would. That is the way the book intends to be used.”
Piper went on to compare the contents of this hypothetical military manual to the structure of the Bible, saying that the scriptures were “written under God’s inspiration” over a 1,500-year period during times in which the Lord chose to deal with human beings in different ways.
In essence: the relationship between man and the Almighty has changed over the course of time.
“Not everything that the Bible designed for God’s people Israel under the judges or under the kings or that God designs for Christians under the apostles in the New Testament is the same,” he said. “Putting to death adulterers, putting to death homosexuals, putting to death the sons who curse their parents, all these penalties belonged to a particular season in the history of God’s dealings with his covenant people, and those dealings have changed dramatically with the coming of God’s Son Jesus Christ into the world.”
He proceeded to offer up some places in the Bible that he believes Christians can point to in an effort to help atheists and others who believe that the Leviticus verse, among other points of scripture, are essentially problematic contradictions when juxtaposed against other portions of scripture — an idea that Piper naturally rejects.
“We see the first pointer of how things have changed dramatically in Matthew 5:17 where Jesus says, ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them,’” Piper said. “So all the Old Testament finds its completion and fulfillment in Jesus — and that is a basic truth that a person needs to understand.”
It was in Jesus’ life and death that he said that the Old Testament reached a climax and was “dramatically altered,” citing Hebrews 8:13 as discussing the closing of an old covenant and the beginning of a new one based on Jesus. That verse reads, “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”
“And, for example, the death of Jesus is the once-for-all sacrifice for sins so that the entire Old Testament sacrificial system of offering animals comes to an end,” Piper said. “Hebrews 7:27 and 9:12 say Jesus is the final Lamb of God. The whole Old Testament sacrificial system is over. It doesn’t apply anymore.”
Piper said that all of the commands in the Old Testament no longer applied after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Among a plethora of other examples, the pastor discussed regulations surrounding food, noting that Mark 7:19 shows Jesus calling all foods clean, thus wiping away the dietary laws of the Old Testament.
And he also cited Matthew 5:38-39 in which Jesus addresses other changes, saying, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
Piper concluded the podcast by specifically returning to Leviticus 20:13 and the idea of executing homosexuals. To illustrate his point that God’s relations with mankind have changed, he cited how Paul dealt with a major instance of sexual impurity in 1 Corinthians 5:1, stating that Paul didn’t call for execution in the New Testament verses and, instead, implored believers to use church discipline.
“[In] 1 Corinthians 5, the early church was confronted with a man who was having sex with his stepmother evidently. It might have been his mother-in-law or it was an intrafamily horrendous sexual sin that even the nations around the church thought was evil,” he said. “It goes like this: ‘It is actually reported that there is a sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among the pagans, for a man has his father’s wife’ (1 Corinthians 5:1).”
Piper continued, “When Paul dealt with that — which was in the Old Testament an offense so egregious it would have been dealt with by stoning, killing, execution — Paul did not, of course, prescribe stoning or execution. He prescribed church discipline.”
Read and listen to Piper’s arguments in their entirety here. TheBlaze previously tackled issues such as this in a 2013 series called “Inside the Bible.” See what experts told us about the topic of stoning here.
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