Have you heard of William Dembski? He is a noted mathematician and philosopher and a founding Senior Fellow with Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture – a strong proponent of intelligent design. He believes that the tenets of science should be “subjected to severe scrutiny.”
Here’s how his words would apply to theology: “Anyone who has studied the history of theology knows about ‘the pessimistic induction’. The pessimistic induction says that all theological doctrines of the past have to varying degrees been wrong and required modification (some were so wrong that they had to be abandoned outright). No human system of theology is written in stone. Human doctrines should never be venerated. Every system should now and again be subjected to severe scrutiny. This is healthy for theology.”
The 3-Category System
For decades, Christian seminaries and bible schools have taught students a system used to determine what laws of Moses we should obey today. Those students became pastors. Those pastors taught what they were taught. This all started when believers realized that some commands cannot be followed today and further, some commands should not be followed today. The system was designed (by man) to determine what laws apply to believers today.
Time to scrutinize the system
First, what is the system? The system states that the entire law of Moses can be broken down into three categories: Civil, Ceremonial and Moral.
How is this applied? To apply this test we are told, we look at each law through the lens of the system to determine if it falls into the civil, ceremonial or moral category. If it is a moral commandment, than it is likely one we should heed today. If is is ceremonial, then it does not apply to us. If it is civil, then it is for the state to apply, not us. Simple, right? Well, not really.
A false and broken system
Let’s expose three things that make this a false and broken system. First, this is a man-made system. Nowhere in Scripture do we find this 3-category test listed. That should be a clue.
Second, it does not work. We can verify this by asking a collection of Christians to identify whether specific laws are civil, ceremonial or moral. Typically, we get varying answers. Some think a law is civil while others think it is moral or ceremonial. Here’s the problem: all of these people believe they are guided by the Holy Spirit.
Third, and most egregiously, this man-made system is now given greater authority than the Word of God itself. It is “the filter” which determines what commandments we will heed. In practice, it is elevated above Scripture and comes between us and the Word of God.
It is a good thing to ask tough questions of the things we believe. It is the right way to find out if we hold convictions or mere opinions. Opinions are a dime a dozen. Anyone with many opinions and few convictions is an unstable person.
Question: How many laws are there in the Bible that apply to you today? This is not a trick question. I know you can read (or you would not be here) and I am confident you can count. So, grab a piece of paper and write down that number. My hunch is that you can’t. Don’t be too hard on youself. You were likely taught a broken system and now experience some confusion.
Here’s the thing: The way we show our love for our Messiah, is by obeying his commands. If we don’t even know how many there are, how on earth are we confident that we are obeying him blamelessly? Hmmmm! That’s a good one to think about.
So, how DO we solve the problem of determining which laws apply today? Good question. That is something I will cover in another post – if the Lord wills.