A response to 11 Things the Bible Bans, But You Do Anyway

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture

Question:  I’ve just read an article, 11 Things The Bible Bans, But You Do Anyway by Sam Greenspan, and it’s got me a little worried. I know if something is in the Old Testament, we do not have to follow those laws… but I am concerned about the ones that are not in the Old Testament. Could you comment on those? Also, can you let me know if it is okay to play football? Based on this article, I’m worried about the whole pigskin thing.

Answer: I’ll be happy to address your question… although, you put me in a bind. You see, it is not true that we do not have to follow the Old Testament laws. It’s just that we don’t have to follow them for salvation. After all, we are saved by grace and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). But we still should not lie, steal or murder, right? So, although Christians don’t “follow those laws” anymore, those laws should follow us… like Ephesians 2:10 follows Ephesians 2:8-9.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8–10, NIV)

Let’s keep our concepts clear. I agree with you that the law can no longer condemn us (Romans 8:1), but I don’t agree that we should abandon the Old Testament laws altogether. They are still the cornerstone of civilization. But most importantly, following God’s commands proves that we love his children. It also proves that we love God himself.

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,” (1 John 5:1–3, NIV, emphasis mine).

So, I cannot in clear conscience do what you asked. I cannot look at a critic’s list of complaints — then isolate the New Testament infractions from the Old Testament infractions based only on that distinctive — and then defend only the New Testament challenges… because Jesus died for all sins… regardless of location. But — and in spite of the fact that his blood covered every infraction listed in both testaments — Jesus did not toss the law aside …as many Christians do. Instead, he fulfilled it.

“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.” (Matthew 5:17, NIV)

As such, the Old Testament does not just go away when we receive Christ. So, what about the rituals? Why don’t we still sacrifice animals? (Exodus 12:21) … and is not performing these sacerdotal rituals an equivalent offense to murder? (Exodus 20:13). Not at all! “Go and kill the Passover lamb” and “Thou shalt not murder” are different types of statutes… and when people confound these in their arguments, they make what is known as a “category error.” A category error is a logical fallacy that makes the argument it contains invalid.

To demonstrate, let’s look at the first half of number 8 on Greenspan’s list of the “11 Things The Bible Bans, But You Do Anyway.”

8. Letting people without testicles into church. Whether you’ve been castrated or lost one or two balls to cancer isn’t important. The Bible doesn’t get that specific. It just says you can’t pray. Deuteronomy 23:1 reads (this is the God’s Word translation, which spells it out better), “A man whose testicles are crushed or whose penis is cut off may never join the assembly of the Lord.”

Now, I understand that the author is having some fun here… and one of my suggestions is that you read this article for entertainment and do not take it seriously. But this is a teaching moment… and there are two equivocations in the above statement.

In the first one, he equates the Old Testament’s “assembly of the Lord” with the New Testament Church. These are not equivalent… and people who purposefully obfuscate the definition of a word or concept are guilty of equivocation… another logical fallacy.

Greenspan commits this blatant error… but notice how he does it. He simply states the false equivalency in the section’s title! So a casual reader assumes the equivalency is true before he engages the commentary… and that’s plain old sneaky! So note this well: if someone’s being sneaky, this means that he doesn’t have the goods in the cold light of day — and here’s the “duh!” that proves it: we absolutely do allow the men without testicles into our churches. In fact, we let them in with such impunity that we don’t even check!

Now, Greenspan’s lie was subtle. But at the end of the day, it was easy to see. This technique is sometimes called “straw-manning” an argument. Strawmanning is setting up false conditions in an argument in an effort to “win” the argument. But, since it’s a logical fallacy, the argument containing the straw-manning has no standing. It’s just a collection of words with no logical merit. Where the premises are invalid, the conclusion is invalid.

This second equivocation is where he says that the person can’t pray. Just read Deuteronomy 23:1-8. It just doesn’t say that. It does say that a testicularly challenged man can’t enter the assembly of the Lord… but it doesn’t say anything at all about prayer. The truth is that a man can pray all he wants — with or without testicles! Yet, the equivocator said that God’s law stopped him from praying… and that’s a lie!

So, note two things. First, the author lied about the data. It simply doesn’t say what he said it said. Second, the author tried to recast that unfortunate soul who had a ritual exclusion from the assembly into a poor oppressed man whom God wouldn’t even let pray … like God was some communist warlord holding a gun to his head! This makes the man a more sympathetic character in literature, though… and God, therefore, more horrible! … but it’s all a lie. Yet, how many people who read this know this? Few, I’m afraid. People tend to swallow what they’re fed.

We get the word “strawman” from the idea of a man knocking down a human-looking man made of straw so he can appear victorious. But, just as a person made of straw is not a person, so an argument based on equivocation is not an argument. It’s just a guy talking (or writing)… so ignore him.

Now that you know why this whole article is useless except for comic relief, I will humor your request and address the two “New Testament” challenges… the first being that we shouldn’t wear gold in church, number 9 in the list.

“I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” (1 Timothy 2:9–10, NIV)

First, this passage does not forbid women from wearing gold. It uses gold as a comparison. The teaching here is not about jewelry; it’s about a Christian woman’s comportment. But you can’t tell this in Greenspan’s treatment of the verse because he leaves off the second half — and the second half contains the point!

Now, it is axiomatic in language — and not just in the Bible — that no word has a meaning outside of its context, but Greenspan ignored this. Why? He wanted to make a point that God was not making. But why again? So he could make fun of him! This is infantile… and this demonstrates why this article is not worthy of the attention we are giving it (… but you are.. so we persist).

But why am I making such a big deal out of this? Because the Bible mentions a lot of things (like gold in this verse) in order to talk about other things (like a Christian woman’s comportment in this verse). When this occurs, we cannot take the supporting information and make a doctrine out of it… because a passage is not about its supporting structures. It’s about what it’s about. Now, you can say that gold is of lesser value than a woman’s character… there’s warrant for that. But the passage does not forbid its wearing.

Second, modest dress is relative… and what is considered modest varies over time and across cultures. So, this passage cannot be about its details (gold, pearls, expensive clothes) because they can vary in cultural importance. It’s about the principle, put first-things-first! Once that’s in place I can make the argument that looking good in church is a good deed that’s appropriate for a woman who purports to worship God in certain societies — and that not wearing gold in cultures where it is appropriate, would be the greater wrong — the greater immodesty!

Greenspan has made no honest attempt to compare Scripture with Scripture in his list. His objective is to make fun of God, and his overall method is to strawman God. In this case, he tries to characterize God as a kill-joy who won’t even let people dress up. This is unconscionable… but this is how Greenspan rolls.

The only other “New Testament” issue in this list is the alleged ban on divorce — number 7 — and again, the author steps all over the truth with his starting statement. “The Bible is very clear on this one: No divorcing. You can’t do it.”

He’s half right; the Bible is indeed very clear on this one… but you can get divorced. Now, God doesn’t like it… but Greenspan said that God said you can’t do it… and since Greenspan has proven himself unreliable, let’s listen to Jesus instead.

“…. Some Pharisees came to him to test [Jesus]. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.” (Matthew 19:1–8, NIV, emphasis mine).

It doesn’t get much plainer than that. Moses — the lawgiver — permitted divorce… and Jesus, the law-fulfiller — reminded the Pharisees of that. Where does the assertion that divorce is simply not permitted come from? From the same place divorce comes from — a hard heart, not a clear head.

But if God had not allowed the safety valve of divorce in a marriage (as the author implies) then he would seem to be an unreasonable tyrant. This verse shows that there was indeed a time when divorce was not permitted… but now that’s no longer so. So, what kind of “scholar” simply ignores our current state and locks the human/God dynamic back at 1400 BC? He is a blogger, not a scholar… and we’re raising a generation that doesn’t know the difference because they don’t care to know the difference.

So, why ignore the inconvenient truth that the opposite of his assertion is true — that God does indeed allow divorce? Because divorce is so common today that forbidding it would seem draconian… and that’s what he’s going for. The author wants to characterize God as capricious and out of touch. His article is saying “Look at all these eleven silly things about God!... therefore… faith in God is silly, too!” …and people swallow his tripe thinking that the arguments are well reasoned.

But before I leave you, let me cover the most important Christian topic ever — American football — item number 2 on the list… and again… I understand that, whatever else the author is doing, he is also being funny… but Greenspan is taking a shot at God and pretending to do it logically. The problem is that he begins this section with a qualifier. “Football. At least, the pure version of football, where you play with a pigskin.”

Now, that’s really going out of your way to make fun of God. Who actually uses a pigskin? We say it; it’s in the language. But footballs haven’t contained any pig products for over 100 years… although the balls used by the NFL still contain cow materials… the outer cover being leather.

There’s even better news, though. We have newer, cheaper and more common balls that are made from rubber and synthetic materials… so they contain no animal products at all! This is a joy to the thousands of vegan football players who are simply taking over the sport! How is this not the NFL saying, no matter what your religious, philosophical or gastronomical beliefs, football wants you!

Now, how serious do you think I was in the above paragraph? I hope my tone came through as playful. So, although you could guess by what I’ve written that I am against vaulting animals over humans (which is often associated with veganism), my comments were more comedic than scholarly… and here’s perhaps the most important lesson for a younger person today.

People with a hearty emotional intellect may not all agree with me on vegan football, but they could still enjoy — or at least tolerate — my comments. But even if they hated them, they would not lose any sleep over them. But people who aren’t so emotionally hearty — like a young, inexperienced reader or a person who has a chip on his shoulder — would likely leave negative comments. The trick to life is don’t be one of those.

Learn to shrug off the vast majority of what you read on the web. Consider most of it to be entertainment. Consider virtually none of it to be scholarship… and consider little of it to be worth more than a light engagement.

I pray that this all helped.

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