Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Ten Commandments Gleaner Online News

Recently on the Gleaner Online News section the following information was offered. I offer a few comments:

Ten Commandments are a primary source of wisdom about the loving character of God. They are a promise of what God will do in the hearts of those who trust Him. They are spiritually focused and not meant to be used as a political tool to manipulate men.
The Ten Commandments are not about the loving Character of God as much as about how man should relate to God and to his fellow man. In none of the ten does not God even say that He loves man, in fact if it is about the character of God then God does not want man to have the freedom to choose between religious philosophies. If the 10 commandments is a transcript of God's character then God is very selfish, for man's benefit, yet not offering religious freedom. However the point of the 10 commandments is to teach man not to be selfish to actually care about others and have the wisdom to choose to serve a God who is real rather then a pretend God. The ten include promises as well as threats and are not totally spiritually focused as the last ones deal specifically with societal interaction. If the 10 are really a transcript of the character of God then they would not even be possible to use them to manipulate man. The 10 are actually a summation of all the laws given at Sinai, thus the two tables, one for the people and one for God as part of the covenant system common in the Eastern nations.

While most Jewish and Christian depictions follow the first understanding, modern scholarship favors the latter, comparing it to treaty rite in the Ancient Near East, in the sense of tablets of covenant.

Diplomatic treaties, such as that between Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II and the Hittite King Hattusilis III, circa 1270 B.C.E, were duplicated on stone with a copy for each party, and the subordinate party would place their copy of the pact in the main temple to his god, in oath to the king (cf. Ezekiel 17:11-19). In a pact between a nation and its God, then, the Israelites placed both copies in their temple.

Practical Purpose of the Law
The Ten Commandments also have practical legal, moral and political implications that define the appropriate place for God’s law in society. While Americans desperately need spiritual renewal by having the law of God written in their hearts, if individuals resist allowing God to restrain evil in the human heart, according to Romans 13 the state will use external means to preserve safety and security.
The second paragraph contradicts the first paragraph now it has political implications whereas in the first paragraph it "not meant to be used as a political tool to manipulate men. " This is much more sensible aside from the contradiction as clearly the purpose of the 10 was an attempt to mold the new nation coming out from something like 400 years of slavery. It should also be noted that the law written on our hearts does not mean the 10, the meaning in the old testament and new is the entire law, the torah, which is summed up in loving your neighbor as yourself and loving God. Romans 13 is another subject all together so I won't deal with it here.

Misapplying the Law of God
Today's promotion of the Ten Commandments is fraught with potential difficulties and some irony as well.
First, there is disagreement as to what the Ten Commandments say and mean, with Catholics and Protestants numbering them quite differently.
Since the 10 were not named there are simple numbering differences As Wikipedia says:
Religious groups have divided the commandments in different ways. For instance, Catholics and Lutherans see the first six verses as part of the same command prohibiting the worship of pagan gods, while Protestants (except Lutherans) separate all six verses into two different commands (one being "no other gods" and the other being "no graven images"). The initial reference to Egyptian bondage is important enough to Jews that it forms a separate commandment. Catholics and Lutherans separate the two kinds of coveting (namely, of goods and of the flesh), while Protestants (but not Lutherans) and Jews group them together.
Second, there are those pushing the Ten Commandment Movement who would like Biblical commands to become the law of the land, an unconstitutional and divisive goal since people disagree about what the law essentially means.This
This idea of a movement which desires the 10 to be the law of the land is so tiny as to be of little significance. There are likely more who desire communisim then those of Reconstuctionist who believe:
Civil laws must be changed to match the Bible's moral rules. That is, anything that is immoral (by their standards) is also to be criminalized.
Due to the extreme nature of this group as well as their small amount of supporters it is at least now of no significance, generally these people are used as a method to scare people about religious zealots who are out to destroy other's lives.

Third, when it comes to the first table of the law of God involving acts of worship and devotion to Him, the government has no legitimate jurisdiction. And the irony is that those who are the strongest advocates of the Ten Commandment Movement argue that the Ten Commandments have been done away with and are no longer binding.
This is the kind of presuppositions that ruins many an argument. Very few Christians believe the 10 are done away with, they are still there still teaching still leading to Christ still pointing out sin. What these Christians refer to is the binding nature of obedience to the 10 commandments as a method of obtaining Salvation (which is in fact never really developed in the Old Testament). Very Christains say ok now you can steal and kill, they see the 10 as a moral teacher not as requirements for salvation. For many in the Adventist movement however by binding they mean you must observe the specifics of the commandment to keep the sabbath in the specific Jewish time frame they inconsistantly don't demand the type of Jewish strict obedience to the Sabbath commandment.

A Transcendent Code of Right and Wrong
"Just as the law can save no one—not even our beloved country—no state, no law, can change individual hearts and minds or stop criminals from carrying out their evil deeds. Public posting of the Ten Commandments will not achieve this result," says Gregory W. Hamilton, North Pacific Union public affairs and religious liberty director. "But they do serve as a model to demonstrate that there are rewards and punishments—traditional moral values that the magistrate must uphold in any civil society worth its salt."
Here is agreement among most Christians. The posting of the 10 serves moral needs. However there is also historical issues involved which deal with the laws of our Western nations having some relations with Jewish law as seen in the 10 commandments. Relating to the Christian principles that were involved with the establishment of the United States.

In a world of instability and moral ambiguity, the Ten Commandments remain a transcendent code of right and wrong. They are an eternal standard unmoved by cultural fads and political whims—a standard for all people because they were written by the Eternal God, the Creator of the universe.

They are only an eternal standard for those who so choose to accept them as such, just as the first section of the 10 deals with man's relation to God, if no God is accepted the first of the 10 will have no meaning or importance. If the first section is questioned then the second half can be easily questioned. So in fact the cultural fads and political whims have a direct effect upon how people view the 10. The 10 are a transcendent code for those who accept a transcendent God. To those who don't accept transcendent God the 10 can still be important as history and cultural development for the Western World.

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