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Do you wear cotton/poly blends?

Does you clothing have four tassels, one on each corner? Do you eat bacon or shellfish? Do you trim your beard (you do have a beard, right)?

These are questions often raised, typically rhetorically, by sceptics and those looking to discredit Christianity.

See, each of those questions is tied to a part of the Mosaic law. The implication is that if you don’t follow the letter of the law, then you really don’t believe the Bible. You only believe the parts you like and disregard those that you don’t. Sure, you claim you are obeying God and that your beliefs come from him, but your treatment of the Old Testament betrays you. It exposes that you are simply following a man-made teaching, using the bits and pieces of the Bible that fit your agenda. Sort of like Thomas Jefferson, but without the inconvenience of all that (literal) cutting and pasting.

But is that really the case? Of course not!

The real heart of the matter is Biblical hermeneutics … how do we rightly interpret the Scriptures? Our first step is to understand what the original author intended to convey and, importantly, how his original audience would have understood it.

Unfortunately, it is at this first step that the critics and sceptics close the book and stop engaging with the text (assuming they’ve truly started).

From that initial understanding, we need to move on to understand the differences between ourselves and the original audience. We are from a different time, culture, and—in the case of the OT and parts of the NT—Covenant (we’ll come back to this last point shortly). What would have been painfully obvious to the common Hebrew man 3000 years ago might not be so obvious to us today … some due diligence is definitely in order!

Next, we need to get at the guts of the passage … what principle is being taught?

From there, for OT texts, we ask if our understanding of the NT changes how we should understand the OT teaching. For example, our reading and understanding of animal sacrifice mandated in the Mosaic law is greatly illuminated by understanding the sacrifice of Jesus and how that fulfilled those aspects of the law.

Finally, with all we’ve learned we need to ask how the passage impacts us and how we should apply the principles in our life.

So back to our original point, if Biblical hermeneutics were to be properly applied to those passages from Deuteronomy and Leviticus it would become clear that those commands applied specifically to those men and women living under the Old Covenant in theocratic Israel – not to those of us today living under the New Covenant.

So, as it turns out, it is not a case of not believing the Bible or of selectively picking and choosing what we like. It’s a case of fully and properly studying God’s word to ensure we understand both its meaning and application in its full context. This is simply something many critics and sceptics simply do not appear to have the desire to do.

For an example of this type of hermeneutic in practice, check out Greg Koukl’s article Should Christians Tithe?.

p.s. For a good, introductory teaching on Biblical hermeneutics check out Todd Friel’s Herman Who? The method briefly explained above is more clearly explained in that DVD, though I did thankfully find an overview of it on another blog … I have no idea where my notes from it ran off to and my house is currently a disaster due to renovations!