Have you ever heard the claim that Christians are walking contradictions because they don’t follow all the Old Testament laws (e.g., offering sin offerings, Leviticus 5:5–6)? Consider the following verses and think about whether Christians obey these commands, and if they do not, why don’t they?
Nevertheless these you shall not eat . . . the swine, though it divides the hoof, having cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. (Leviticus 11:4, 7)
You shall not wear a garment of different sorts, such as wool and linen mixed together. (Deuteronomy 22:11)
Many Christians eat bacon or wear garments made of different materials (which was but one of many illicit mixtures that defile). So how can they possibly claim to believe the Bible and follow God?
The answer is not as difficult as it may seem, and yet is overlooked by non-Christians, and even some Christians, who have not read or at least fail to understand some basic theology. Did rules ever change in the Bible? Of course they did. Let’s look at one example.
From the beginning man was vegetarian (Genesis 1:30). The Bible lists a number of covenants after this and usually there were some associated rule changes at this time. When there was a new covenant with Noah, man was allowed to eat clean and unclean meat (Genesis 9:3). With Moses, meat eating was even more strict, limiting them to eat only meat that was clean (e.g., Leviticus 11:47). In the new covenant in Christ’s blood, this was further opened up (Romans 14:1–4).1 And in heaven, we will be vegetarian again to complete the cycle (there will be no death in heaven [Revelation 21:4], so no meat will be available).2
Food permitted to be eaten
||Vegetarian foods, clean and unclean meats
||Vegetarian foods, clean meats
|New Covenant in Christ
||Vegetarian foods, clean and unclean meats
For instance, Christians recognize from the Bible that when a new covenant came about, certain rules changed, were modified, or affirmed. Some of these covenants are the original Edenic,3 Noahic, and the new one in Christ’s blood.
So God’s rules to man can change at various covenants (but God’s character has never changed). With regards to various laws, there are also some changes, but it may not be as “cut and dried” as the example above regarding food.
Two Major Schools of Thought
Now here is the tricky part: developing a theological basis from the Bible on the subject regarding law changes. Let’s look from a bird’s-eye view at the change from the Mosaic to New Covenant. From a big picture, there are two popular theological schools of thought (with many variations). They are dispensational and covenant theology.4 These views have similarities and differences. They differ in the way they look at how the laws change. There is more to it than this, but we will get to that in a moment:
- Covenant Theology:
- rules apply unless done away with in the next covenant. In other words, each covenant is seen as part of a greater covenant that now has modifications where the rules are still in effect unless abrogated or modified ultimately by the New Testament by God.5
- Dispensational Theology:
- previous rules tend to be done away with in the New Covenant unless reiterated in that covenant. In other words, the New Dispensation generally does away with previous Mosaic rules because those rules were given to a specific group of people, and new rules need to be stated.6
Both of these schools of thought affect the way Old Testament laws are viewed. Both sides agree on many laws because so much was reiterated, changed, or commented on in the New Testament.7 But some things went away, such as the sacrificial stuff in Leviticus 5:5–6, which Christ fulfilled. Both of these schools of thought answer why Christians do not adhere to all the Mosaic laws.
There are Christians whose theologies do not fit into either of these camps or are variations of them. For example, within Dispensationalism there is (among others) Classic Dispensationalism, Revised Dispensational, Progressive Dispensationalism, and one theologian even used the term “Leaky” Dispensationalism.
On the other side of the coin, there is New Covenant Theology which finds some middle ground between Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology, but starts with a Covenant Theology basis as opposed to Dispensational basis.
This short response keeps me from going into the details of each position and their nuances. Furthermore, Answers in Genesis does not take a position on this theological debate.8 We encourage people to know what they believe on this debate as the authors and editors know where they stand on this issue, but have refrained from giving those positions favor in this response.
From here, we let your denomination go further. So if you are interested in pursuing these theologies in more detail, then I suggest you contact your local pastor and elders and do further research to get into the finer details. This is all said to teach the reader that Christians have a biblical basis for certain law changes and can easily answer the claim that Christians are walking contradictions.
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- Some still preferred to utilize diets that exclude meat, even though it was permitted in Scripture. For example, Daniel, who lived under the Mosaic covenant, followed a vegetarian diet instead of eating the king’s delicacies while in captivity, and this was not a sin. In the New Covenant, some who are weak eat only vegetables (Romans 14:2). Of course, there are those with health issues that avoid meat. This is not sinful, since the New Testament does not command every Christian to eat meat, but allows it. Further, this answers the verse mentioned previously in Leviticus 11:4, 7.
- Some may argue that meat could still be eaten without death, e.g., lizard tails can be removed and regrown without the death of an animal. If such could be designed to have no pain in heaven, this could theoretically allow meat to be eaten in a perfect heavenly state. Though, would such a thing be necessary in a perfect state? Likely not.
- Hosea 6:7 Some theologians make distinctions between what have been called the Edenic covenant, the Adamic covenant, and the covenant of works. For the purposes of this example, we have chosen to utilize the term “Edenic,” but this should not be seen as an endorsement of a particular theological position.
- In rare cases, some other Christians hold to views different from these two, but to answer this alleged contradiction I am going to stick to the main two theologies that Christians adhere to. So please forgive me if I have not dived into one of the other theological positions.
- Leading Covenant Theologian Greg Bahnsen stated: “The methodological point, then, is that we presume our obligation to obey any Old Testament commandment unless the New Testament indicates otherwise. We must assume continuity with the Old Testament rather than discontinuity. This is not to say that there are no changes from Old to New Testament. Indeed, there are — important ones. However, the word of God must be the standard which defines precisely what those changes are for us; we cannot take it upon ourselves to assume such changes or read them into the New Testament. God’s Word, His direction to us, must be taken as continuing in its authority until God Himself reveals otherwise. This is, in a sense, the heart of “covenant theology” over against a dispensational understanding of the relation between Old and New Testaments.” Greg L. Bahnsen, By This Standard: The Authority of God’s Law Today (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, second printing, 1991), p. 3.
- Leading Dispensationalist Charles Ryrie states: “Now the Mosaic Law was done away in its entirety as a code. It has been replaced by the law of Christ. The law of Christ contains some new commands (1 Tim. 4:4), some old ones (Rom. 13:9), and some revised ones (Rom. 13:4, with reference to capital punishment). All of the laws of the Mosaic code have been abolished because the code has. Specific Mosaic commands which are part of the Christian code appear there not as a continuation of part of the Mosaic Law, or in order to be observed in some deeper sense but as specifically incorporated into that code, and as such they are binding on believers today. A particular law that was part of the Mosaic code is done away; that same law, if part of the law of Christ, is binding.” Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology (Colorado Springs, CO: ChariotVictor Publishing, 1982), p. 305.
- Where they disagree is where it gets interesting. . . .
- Answers in Genesis (AiG) is a unique ministry for this time — a biblical authority ministry. AiG is a parachurch ministry staffed by church members from various denominations (e.g., Baptist, Evangelical Free, Christian, Lutheran, Presbyterian, etc.) to focus on specific issues and challenges of today’s culture surrounding biblical authority. So internal theological debates are not the focus here at the ministry, so long as the debaters use the Bible as authoritative in the debate, which seems to be the case with this issue. Please do not get us wrong, this is an important debate, but we will let others lead the fight on this one. For more on our biblical authority stance please see: “Where Do We Draw the Line?” Bodie Hodge, AiG website: http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2009/10/19/where-do-we-draw-the-line.