Posted on Jan 24, 2013 by Tom Gilson
Unbelievers love to bring forth unreasonable commands from the Bible to prove that it’s wrong. Leviticus 19:19 is one of their favorites:
“You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind. You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material.
Now, that certainly seems odd, doesn’t it? But Jonathan Morrow explains it all clearly enough in Think Christianly. On page 166 he quotes Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart:
These and other prohibitions were designed to forbid the Israelites to engage in fertility cult practices of the Canaanites. The Canaanites believed in sympathetic magic, the idea that symbolic actions can influence the gods and nature…. Mixing animal breeds, seeds, or materials was thought to “marry” them” so as magically to produce “offspring,” that is, agricultural bounty in the future.
I had never heard that before. Had you? Naturally I wondered whether it was something I could count on. Are Fee and Stuart right? Is this true?
I didn’t know. That makes rather a weak position to hold then, doesn’t it?
Do you know whether Fee and Stuart are right? Answer quick now, and do it on your own — no googling allowed!
You wanted to look it up, didn’t you?
That means you didn’t know it was wrong. You didn’t know it was right, either, but that’s surprisingly irrelevant.
Suppose you did look it up and found it false. The very fact that you had to look it up shows that the “unreasonable command” objection fails. For the command is unreasonable only if it is unreasonable in its context, and if we don’t know the context we’re in no position to judge it unreasonable.
Some biblical commands are not so culture- and context-dependent. We can recognize them by how frequently and in how many different contexts they are presented, and by the strength of their connection to identifiable culture-transcending principles. By those tests, Leviticus 19:19 is clearly tied to one time and one place, unlike commands relating to (for example) love for God and neighbor, honesty, integrity, and sexual behavior.
When atheists and SSM advocates laugh at Lev. 19:19 and other culture-dependent commands, what they’re really displaying is their ignorance of their own ignorance. They don’t know the culture they’re denigrating; and either they don’t know that they don’t know, or else they don’t care that they don’t know.
See more on this from Tim McGrew here and following.