“The Bible and the Christian Faith, Forward and Backward,” by Andrew J. Schatkin
The other day, I saw a television interview with a well-known pastor Joel Osteen. This pastor was questioned on the matter his view and presentation of the Christian and, if you will, biblical position on homosexual activity and he stated that he followed the scriptural position on the matter. The pastor was asked how he could take this position so at variance with the modern world and the interviewer suggested that Pastor Osteen adopt a more progressive position on this issue. Pastor Osteen stated that he would not move from the scriptural position, which would be the same 400 years from now.
Let me state initially that, according to the scriptures, homosexual behavior is seen as disordered and wrong, but I myself as a Christian entertain no hostility to our gay brothers and sisters and I certainly abhor any form of discrimination at all directed to the gay community. Initially, I note the fallacy and intellectual error of this television commentator on this issue. Because something is new and current does not make it any more true and valid than an ancient thought system, whether from the Bible, St. Augustine, Plato, Aristotle, or John Milton. Every book, every thought, every idea, and every concept, old or new, ancient or modern, must be weighed on its own and weighed on its own intrinsic merits.
Let us take some examples of biblical thought and ideas and I am sure you will see that the Bible, far from being backward, is in far advance of most current, modern, and faddish political hype. Let us taken a closer look at the Ten Commandments, or Decalogue, which to my mind represents advanced ethical thinking. The first Commandment forbids the worship of any other gods than the Jewish god Yahweh. This commandment virtually commands monotheism since other gods the gods of polytheistic systems are out of the question. There is only one god who has created everything and is the source of all justice and power. This commandment is a great thought advance, excluding polytheism and the many gods and goddesses of that day in the surrounding environment, often depicted with rampant sexual images. Mother goddesses and temple prostitution were common. This first commandment rejected this primitive thinking and erotic depictions, often the result of connecting food and harvest and rain with gods, goddesses, and temples with sexual activity.
The second commandment is also a great intellectual advance, forbidding the making and worship of a graven image or a carved image of wood or stone. The Jewish god is spiritual and without sex. The pagan nations surrounding the Jewish nation practiced idolatry on a grand scale. Again, a great advance in the idea of god as a spirit. The gods of Greece and Rome and the Hindu pantheon are nothing resembling the elevated god of the Jews’ view that God is total spirit and the claim in these commandments that the Jewish god is the sole and true god.
The tenth commandment is a great and significant moral advance, forbidding envy as thought pattern and disorder a weakness that all men and women share. This commandment seems to focus and concern itself with our innermost thoughts, termed envy and covetousness. The commandment is a prohibition of certain kinds and forms of mental activity. The intellectual advance here is enormous.
I would now like to talk about the depth of thought found in the sayings of Jesus and their equally-advanced thinking. In Matthew 5, Jesus says the poor in spirit are blessed. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says the poor are not poor in spirit, but are blessed (Luke 6). These two sayings are huge moral and ethical advances. Here Jesus tells us not to help and aid the poor, many times said in the Hebrew Bible in the Psalms and Prophets, but outright says that poverty is a blessing—an incomprehensible statement. Jesus says later that anger is equivalent to killing (Matt 5:21), and then states that to look at a women with lust is adultery (Matt 5:27). Jesus then raises the moral bar even further with the statement that whoever divorces his wife except on the ground of unchastity makes her an adulteress (Matt 5:31). Jesus then says that you have heard it said an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but he then says do not resist evil and turn your cheek turn to the other (Matt 5:38). The statements about anger and lust are Jesus’s attempt to get at the root of these sins, i.e. anger leads to killing and lust to adultery. Finally, Jesus says love your enemies, love your neighbor, and pray for those who persecute you. Anyone who reads and reflects on these sayings cannot but conclude, along with my discussion of the Decalogue, that the modern world and its so-called trendy advanced thinking, incorrectly termed “progressive,” compared to the biblical revelation, is in fact backward and the Bible represents an advance in all respects.
I suggest that our modernist friends and brothers reconsider their thinking in light of what I have just discussed and perhaps reach the conclusion that the modern world has much progress to make and that the Bible, far from being backward, is far in advance of our society of “anything goes as long as it makes you feel good and causes no overt harm.”