Progressive tightening of the Law?

Discussion in 'The Law of God' started by Skyler, Oct 6, 2010.

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  1. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    Incest is one of the sins drawn from the broad application of the seventh commandment, hence related to the sins of fornication and adultery, cf. Westminster Larger Catechism #139 (above).

    The "Mosaic" Law, e.g. Leviticus 18, was part of civil law given Israel for Israel, a particularized form of law given for the unique constitution of the Old Testament theocracy of Israel, not strictly applicable to all other nations.

    Here is a summary of Leviticus 18 prohibitions under this category:

    Do you see that the "Mosaic Law" included even some relations that were not by blood, but rather by law?

    There were reasons based on notions of extended family, and preserving tribes that applied, and thus were part of the civil law given Israel.

    That doesn't make the law without moral principle, but it does show how the particularized law given Israel, was civil law given only them.

    Skyler, you still have not defined what exactly you are referring to when you refer to "incest"- is incest within four degrees of consanguinity? three? two? Does it involve in-laws? step-parents?

    We don't have this issue with adultery- it is sexual relations outside of marriage. That's commandment Seven, and it is moral perpetual law.

    And of course there, the Word of God gives us a basis for understanding the broad application of commandment Seven, including our Lord's teaching about it in the Sermon on the Mount.

    One question you might be asking is whether the full import of Leviticus 18 was binding beforehand, e.g. on Adam and Eve.

    I don't think so.

    It seems implicit that close intermarriage was necessary at first, certainly in violation of Leviticus 18.

    Perhaps, along the way the gene pool got progressively mutated to the point that at the time of Leviticus, God gave a particularized form of law to Israel.

    Now that is reasoning that is speculative, the reason is not given in Scripture.

    But it seems clear that a Leviticus 18 definition of "incest" was not binding ab initio, nor is it strictly binding on all nations today.
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2010
  2. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Quote from Lynnie
    If God forbids it in His Word and it is now everywhere and at any time wrong for individuals to transgress the bounds set for affinity and consanguinity in God's Word, then it is a moral law that should not be transgressed.

    The case of the situation at the beginning of humanity doesn't change things because it had God's special sanction; God in his wisdom sanctioned them. God in his wisdom knew that the brother -sister relationships of Adam's immediate offspring were acceptable in these particular circumstances.

    None of these relationships e.g. brother marrying sister, nephew marrying aunt, are moral now, because God has condemned them. It is not "if...then" case law or ceremonial law, but moral law, because it is wrong for e.g. brothers and sisters to marry in any and every circumstance.

    First or second cousin marriages are not condemned in the Torah, but some things maybe lawful but not expedient. People have to decide for themselves whether they think it wise to marry their first cousin, especially if they are expecting to have children.

    Quote from Lynnie
    Abraham was a pagan from Ur of the Chaldees - where they worshipped the Moon Goddess - before he came to faith in the true God. He was saved by grace through faith and not works, and his life was less than perfect even after he believed, as our lives are. He was learning more and more how to live as he ought as a believer in the One Living and True God.
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2010
  3. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Perhaps John Brown can provide some clarity (from A Compendious View of Natural and Revealed Religion)

    The fact that there is nothing in God's relationship to men that inherently forbids incest doesn't mean that the prohibition against it is not a part of the moral law.
  4. Grillsy

    Grillsy Puritan Board Junior

    Indeed! But I was saying that it isn't necessarily any worse than any other couple genetically. It depends upon the genes.
    Again, I do agree with you in the sense you mention. I hope you understand what I am trying to say :)
  5. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate

    Grills...yup, you never know, so many bad genes out there. Ultimately we have to try to let God lead us in marriage and trust His sovereignty.

    Ruben-I thought the moral law, by definition, is binding on all people at all times. No?

    I realize there was a debate between Frame and Grudem If I recall correctly about telling lies, but even there, wasn't it when two different moral laws came into conflict that they debated about telling a lie to save a life, like Rahab and the spies? ( not saying that it is OK to lie).

    So God can define sin but then make exceptions if He chooses and tell somebody to sin? Slippery slope here, is that confessional?

    I thought Acts 15 settled this.

    Richard, Tamar was a daughter of David, not a pagan, and she said to her half brother Absalom: "Don't, my brother!" she said to him. "Don't force me. Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don't do this wicked thing. What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you." But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.

    I get the impression it was permitted, like polygamy.

    I'll stick with my DNA and laws of the land prohibition for now, I don't think there is any convincing biblical evidence of this being morally sinful like murder, theft, adultery, lies, and so forth.
  6. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    The moral law does forever bind all; but if God tells Abraham to kill his own son, Abraham is not sinning (even in heart and intention) to carry that out. He's obeying God, and that can't be sin; but ordinarily, it is quite sinful to kill your offspring, and doing as an offering to God merely adds to the offense. We run a grave risk of enslaving God when we think that the law somehow restricts His own authority. 1 Corinthians 5 seems to put at least one category of incest on a plane of wickedness not reached even by ordinary fornication.

    I wonder if the consumption of shellfish stopped carrying a risk of hepatitis when Christ ascended. I thought Acts 10 had dealt with this.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2010
  7. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate

    "Incest" is a vague term, the man with a stepmother isn't the same as a virgin brother and sister. So far it seems like you could make a case either way on brother and sister ( Abraham, Tamar, Adam's kids).

    I thought about this a lot with my daughter from Romania. If you don't know birth parents, would you not let your kid marry someone from the same nation, no matter how small the chance that they are related? What about American adopted or from anonymous sperm donors? [We did find out a bit this summer, she has three brothers ( different fathers). A bit of a creepy subject, and in the end, you have to trust God to lead them in marriage.]

    Ruben, they call it Mediterranean roulette these days if you eat shellfish on the Med sea, the risks are so bad. Think of them as the cockroaches of the ocean crawling around on the settled sewage. Its not a sin to eat it, but yuck, do you want to?
  8. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    No: being in full possession of my faculties, I avoid almost all seafood. But the problem with assigning a hygienic reason for the prohibition of shellfish is that the prohibition was revoked.

    The Confession asserts that marriages within the degrees of consanguinity prohibited by the Word are not lawful, and no legal shenanigans or mutual consent can render them so. That is a moral law that binds and directs the manners of all mankind. But, as in the case of Abraham being told to kill Isaac, God can make a particular exception, which He did for the family of Adam Or at leas that's what I understand John Brown to say.
  9. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    It wasn't permitted at all as a reading of Leviticus 18 will confirm. The (bad) attitude of Amnon and Tamar to God's law doesn't change things.

    Your practical argument from genetic problems due to incest, doesn't explain why relationships of affinity are also forbidden.

    Incest is forbidden apart from a very short period at the beginning of human history, which makes it as near universal a law as might be. The fact that this law was flouted or ignored by various individuals in the Bible doesn't change anything.

    "When you come to the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, 'I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,'
    you may indeed set a king over you whom the LORD your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the LORD has said to you, 'You shall never return that way again.' And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.(Deut 17:14-17, ESV)

    The fact that the above law was flouted by Solomon and others like his father, doesn't change the fact that polygamy is morally wrong and was introduced by vengeful Lamech of the Cainites.

    We are no longer in the childhood of the Church, so Christians should take an even more dim view of their brothers and sisters in the Israel of God, marrying more than one spouse at a time or marrying incestuously, or if we ourselves are ever tempted to go down such a route. We are to be a holy nation.

    The food laws were to teach the Israelites about not ingesting moral filth and not having close felowship with pagans. They sometimes coincided with good hygiene practices, but that wasn't their meaning or purpose. They pointed to spiritual things.

    If God was interested in hygiene, he could have given a much longer manual. Any meat, not just pork, can be bad for you if not cooked and prepared properly. Pork and shellfish are perfectly acceptable meats if reared, cooked and prepared properly.

    See James Jordan's "Pig Out". This is no endorsement of any erroneous material by Jordan.
  10. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate

    This is a serious question, I am not just trying to argue.

    If it was morally wrong to marry a half sister or be polygamous in the same way murder and adultery are morally wrong, why didn't God through Nathan speak to David on that?

    If a person could be stoned for homosexuality or adultery or even cursing their parents, why the tolerance for the other stuff? Why did prophets speak so much about forsaking the sabbath, and not a word about polygamy or half sisters ( except maybe Ezra, and in that case it was because they were foreign wives, not multiples.) I just don't see how you can claim a moral equivalency or prove it was moral, not ceremonial.

    Before the law they tithed, there was a sabbath, there was knowledge of a blood sacrifice, Noah had clean and unclean animals, headship was male. All of that was part of the understanding of God's order for us, long before Moses. And Adam was given only one wife. But they married sisters.
  11. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    We know of this being voluntarily entered into by Abraham and Jacob, which is another reason why the modern Church can learn from it, in a way that is different from learning from that which was added at the time of Moses i.e. it wasn't just added at the time of the Old Covenant.

    But it was commanded that he could eat what he wanted. Therefore the cleanliness of Noah's clean animals wasn't with respect to eating but to sacrifice.

    It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife. (I Corinthians 5:1, ESV)

    Incest is not a pecadillo just because thousands of years ago at the dawn of time, in a completely different context, the start of the race, God ordained in His providence that Adam's immediate offspring would have to marry brothers and sisters.

    He said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. (Matthew 19:8)

    Polygamy isn't a pecadillo, but since the Old Testament Church was in the childhood state of the Church, God in His wisdom may not have emphasised it through His prophets. How widespread was polygamy among the Covenant people and was it more practised among some of the kings?

    Look at how difficult the disciples found Jesus' teaching on divorce, because they - being OT believers in the Second Temple period - had such a low and flexible views of marriage. The disciples wanted and expected a marriage that they could abandon relatively easily.

    The disciples said to him, "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry." (Matthew 19:10)
  12. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Here is James Durham:

    Thus far of incest. Perhaps the key question to take away is why incest is called confusion.

    With regard to the distinction introduced by John Brown, consider this:

    With regard to the Lord's dispensation (speaking of the fourth commandment):

    (On the 7th Commandment he says that he does not think the frequency of polygamy among OT saints means God dispensed with His original institution.)
  13. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    It may well be to do with the fact that Man was created in God's image as male and female (and also child) i.e. there is plurality in humanity as well as unity, in reflection of the Holy Trinity. Inter familial relations like those of incest mar man's imaging forth of the Triunity.

    With incest, there is a confusion of the integrity, completeness and unity of the basic family unit as a reflection of God's interpersonal relations within the Triunity.

    A number of the sins against the Seventh Commandment can be looked upon from the perspective of a denial of God's Image - as respects His Unity and Plurality - in Man.
  14. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    py3ak, that's what I was looking for. There are moral laws, then, that are based upon a command of God, but not immediately upon His character. Thus, he can command contrary to those laws without violating his nature. Right?
  15. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    In essence, yes, I think that is the force of these assertions. Of course, John Brown includes things that proceed from the nature of God or his relations to men. That can in turn raise some other questions, but it seems clear that it is part of Reformed theology to recognize that God can in some instances require what in others He forbids, without at all diminishing the binding authority of the normal rule.

  16. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate

    There are moral laws, then, that are based upon a command of God, but not immediately upon His character. Thus, he can command contrary to those laws without violating his nature. Right?

    In essence, yes, I think that is the force of these assertions. Of course, John Brown includes things that proceed from the nature of God or his relations to men. That can in turn raise some other questions, but it seems clear that it is part of Reformed theology to recognize that God can in some instances require what in others He forbids, without at all diminishing the binding authority of the normal rule.

    Thank you for the further clarification and discussion. I thought people were asserting a moral law based on God's eternal holiness and purity, and saying He makes exceptions to that. Whew.

    This place can be so helpful sometimes!
  17. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Well I'm not so sure that the incest laws aren't a reflection of God's purity and holiness and are there to protect the reflection of his Triunity in the human family.

    The launch of the human race at the beginning may be an unusual enough an event for there to be reasons why it was not immoral for brothers to marry sisters in that small window at the beginning.

    It was necessary for the unity of the human race that brothers married sisters in that second generation.

    Now that the rules regarding incest have been republished by God in the Torah, I don't believe we can say that this is merely practical or positive law, and doesn't reflect something about God Himself. Incest - along with all the grossest breaches of the moral law - was punished by death in the Old Covenant; or at least was open to being punished by death as a possibility.

    In a similar way, part of the evidence that the weekly Sabbath wasn't and isn't purely a positive law from God, but rooted in Himself, is the fact that it too was open to the death penalty.

    The maleness and femaleness, i.e. the diversity within unity, of Man is closely associated in this text with Man being made in God's image. There are other texts that touch on the human family reflecting the Triunity.

    The incest laws are dealing with preventing the wrong type of relations within the unity of the family. The family unit may not - at a fundamental level - reflect the unity, diversity and order of God in the Intertrinitarian relationships if the laws on incest are broken. Man was made to image-forth and glorify God both as an individual and in his social relationships, not least in the fundamental unit of society, the family and the extended family.

    Quote from Lynnie
    I don't see a totally insuperable problem here. The human race - in its unity - had to get going before the various family units could reflect God's unity, diversity and order. The unity of the race is important for guilt and sin being transmitted by a federal head and also salvation by a federal head.

    Once the human race got going, God's plan for ordinary human life should be the norm. Adam and Eve's children were in highly unusual circumstances at a highly unusual point in history - the dawn of history.

    That wouldn't contradict the fact that it was God's will that in "normal" circumstances - i.e. the rest of human history - humans reflect the Triunity (and also avoid some genetic problems and psychological tensions) by marrying in the way that was republished in the law at Leviticus 18.
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2010
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