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James White, and Islamic Sharia Law Versus the Mosaic “Holiness Code”

February 7, 2017 2 comments

In a recent group discussion concerning James White’s conversation with a Muslim, it was stated by one person that some Christians (theonomists) are just as bad as Muslims with Sharia law, for wanting to impose the Mosaic law — “and I wouldn’t want to be under either system.”

I haven’t studied theonomy in detail, but to compare Sharia law to the Mosaic law is a very flawed idea, on several levels.  One very obvious difference here: has any theonomist or group of theonomists actually imposed Mosaic law, on any modern-day society?  But at a more basic level, this idea is an example of modern-day evangelical confusion regarding the role and purpose of the Old Testament law.  I also find it especially ironic that the same group that hosted James White for a discussion with a Muslim, is apparently quite unaware of James White’s own teaching and view on this very issue.  White’s sermon series “The Holiness Code for Today” (series available here), a recent series through the Levitical law, responded to this very mistaken idea – as he even said, an idea prevalent among unbelievers as well as many evangelicals – that the Mosaic law is some type of  “iron age, outdated morality only for the Jews”  (and now, even considered by some to be on the same level as Islamic sharia law).

As noted in a few recent blog posts (this one on Leviticus 19, also this one), James White explains (the historic Protestant view) that we recognize the overall moral precepts in God’s law, including the moral law as applied to the particular circumstance of the nation Israel as a nation of God’s people, a people in covenant with Yahweh.  The Mosaic law (Israel’s civil and ceremonial law) was not a harsh, obsolete code for an ancient Near Eastern civilization; it also was not a “covenant of works” requiring strict obedience to every precise point as a works method of salvation.  Mankind was always saved in the same way, by faith in God’s redemptive work, both before and after Calvary.  Yes, the Jews of the first century had turned the Mosaic code into a “works salvation” but that was not its purpose from the beginning, as is clear from many Old Testament texts, particularly passages in Deuteronomy and the Psalms.  Though it is true that some texts describe the Mosaic law as a burden, this view ignores the reality of the many scriptures that describe the Old Testament law in very positive terms.  The Mosaic law was instead a specific application of God’s unchanging moral law, to the situation of Israel as a nation, laws civil and ceremonial and meant to govern the people of God in their daily life.  Thus, the whole Bible stands together – there can be no excuse that in our day we don’t need to study the Old Testament; God’s moral law does not change, and we can benefit from study of the Mosaic code by considering, for each law, the moral precept behind the particular circumstance.

By contrast, here is sample of actual laws in the Sharia law system, a system that has actually been implemented in certain societies throughout history:

According to Sharia Law: (Basic Laws of Islam)

  • Theft is punishable by amputation of the right hand.
  • Criticizing or denying any part of the Quran is punishable by death.
  • Criticizing Muhammad or denying that he is a prophet is punishable by death.
  • Criticizing or denying Allah, the god of Islam is punishable by death.
  • A Muslim who becomes a non-Muslim is punishable by death.
  • A non-Muslim who leads a Muslim away from Islam is punishable by death.
  • A non-Muslim man who marries a Muslim woman is punishable by death.
  • A man can marry an infant girl and consummate the marriage when she is 9 years old.
  • A woman can have 1 husband, who can have up to 4 wives; Muhammad can have more.
  • A man can beat his wife for insubordination.
  • A man can unilaterally divorce his wife; a woman needs her husband’s consent to divorce.
  • A divorced wife loses custody of all children over 6 years of age or when they exceed it.
  • Testimonies of four male witnesses are required to prove rape against a woman.
  • A woman who has been raped cannot testify in court against her rapist(s).
  • A woman’s testimony in court, allowed in property cases, carries ½ the weight of a man’s.
  • A female heir inherits half of what a male heir inherits.
  • A woman cannot drive a car, as it leads to fitnah (upheaval).
  • A woman cannot speak alone to a man who is not her husband or relative.
  • Meat to eat must come from animals that have been sacrificed to Allah – i.e., be “Halal”.
  • Muslims should engage in Taqiyya and lie to non-Muslims to advance Islam.

Just a sample list from among a huge body of law.

Seriously – where is the moral precept behind these Sharia laws?  Anyone who honestly studies the Mosaic law will recognize that it is not merely some ancient-age law code, and that it was nothing that should be compared to Sharia law.

In addition to White’s study, another good reference for understanding the Mosaic law is A.W. Pink’s The Divine CovenantsI do not agree with everything in Pink’s work, and especially in the Davidic and New Covenant section Pink went too far astray into the spiritualizing hermeneutic — but that is another topic.  However, the section on the Sinaiitic covenant is quite helpful, as here he considers the ideas of various commentators and responds with good scriptural arguments to the idea that the Mosaic covenant was a “works salvation” covenant.  For consideration here, an excerpt from this section that looks at the Mosaic law and the scriptures in great detail:

at this point we are faced with a formidable difficulty, namely, the remarkable diversity in the representation found in later Scripture respecting the tendency and bearing of the law on those who were subject to it. On the one hand, we find a class of passages which represent the law as coming expressly from Israel’s redeemer, conveying a benign aspect and aiming at happy results. Moses extolled the condition of Israel as, on this very account, surpassing that of all other people: “For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?”  Deut. 4:7, 8). The same sentiment is echoed in various forms in the Psalms. “He showed his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation; and as for his judgments, they have not known them” (Ps. 147:19, 20). “Great peace have they which love thy law, and nothing shall offend them” (Ps. 119:165).

But on the other hand, there is another class of passages which appear to point in the very opposite direction. In these the law is represented as a source of trouble and terror—a bondage from which it is true liberty to escape. “The law worketh wrath” (Rom. 4:15); “the strength of sin is the law” (1 Cor. 15:56). In 2 Corinthians 3:7, 9 the apostle speaks of the law as “the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones,” and as “the ministration of condemnation.” Again, he declares, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse” (Gal. 3:10). “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law” (Gal. 5:1-3).

Now it is very obvious that such diverse and antagonistic representations could not have been given of the law in the same respect, or with the same regard, to its direct and primary aim. We are obliged to believe that both these representations are true, being alike found in the volume of inspiration. Thus it is clear that Scripture requires us to contemplate the law from more than one point of view, and with regard to different uses and applications of it.

God’s People Are Not Offended By God’s Word

May 20, 2010 Leave a comment

How well J.C. Ryle expresses my own understanding:

two points appear to my own mind to stand out as plainly as if written by a sunbeam. One of these points is the second personal advent of our Lord Jesus Christ before the Millennium. The other of these points is the future literal gathering of the Jewish nation, and their restoration to their own land. I tell no man that these two truths are essential to salvation, and that he cannot be saved except he sees them with them with my eyes. But I tell any man that these truths appear to me distinctly set down in Holy Scripture, and that the denial of them is as astonishing and incomprehensible to my own mind as the denial of the divinity of Christ.

One thing I frequently struggle with is the true spiritual condition of those who profess Christ, yet show a general lack of fruit in their lives, including in their attitude towards some (supposedly) non-essential doctrines, especially in regard to matters regarding the past (creation) and the future (God’s future plans):  the very things for which we must trust our God the most, since a) we weren’t there in the past, and b) we cannot know the things of the future.  I realize that this is not something for us to know (the true hearts of others), that such things are in God’s hand, and so continually I bring the matter in prayer before God even as I pray for God to give them the heart-change that only He can do.

It comes back to something Jim McClarty has expressed, very simply:  God’s people are not offended by God’s word.  God’s people love God’s word.  Our understanding of spiritual matters comes from the Holy Spirit present in all believers, and we can only understand spiritual matters when we have the mind of Christ.  (1 Corinthians 2:11-14).  Barry Horner has also expressed the basic thought that all true believers have within them a natural love for God’s people, Israel, within the bounds expressed in Romans 11, that “As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs.”

So when I come across someone who professes faith in Christ, yet is very offended by some of the things clearly taught in scripture, I am troubled and wonder about their true spiritual condition.  It is one thing to be challenged by God’s word, and then to search the matter out and attain a better understanding  — something we all face in our walk with Christ.  After all, we are all finite creatures, limited in our understanding and so we continually learn as we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But what about the case of one who consistently shows only hatred of particular doctrines, who refuses to even consider the possibility, and refuses to look at what God’s word has to say about the matter?  I have observed such behavior in regards to the Bible teaching regarding creation, as well as with respect to God’s people, the Jews.  Add also the case of people who profess Christ but *vehemently* reject God’s sovereignty and insist on man’s free will.

Looked at another way, we are all being sanctified, being made ready for Christ in this life.  As a popular song lyric (from Wayne Watson) says, “One day Jesus will call my name.  As days go by, I hope I don’t stay the same. I want to get so close to Him, that it’s no big change on that day that Jesus calls my name.”  People who in this life hate God, will not be happy in heaven — such a place would be miserable for them.  To take the analogy further, if someone in this life says they love God, but hates Jews and detests the idea that God will in the future restore them to a place of prominence among the nations:  how are they going to react after this life?  Will they really be happy in heaven, in the presence of God, when they learn that truth which in this life they hated?  Again, as J.C. Ryle expressed, “the denial of them (the two truths) is as astonishing and incomprehensible to my own mind as the denial of the divinity of Christ.”

Certainly all believers desire the salvation of the lost generally, and all believers have at least some concern for Israel and at least recognize their place in history.  Even in my early days as a Christian, though I knew nothing about eschatology (in any form) or any  doctrines beyond the basic gospel message of salvation for sin through Christ’s blood shed on the cross, I never hated or despised any person, or any people group including the Jews, and appreciateded the basic historical facts concerning the role of Israel in history.  From my basic reading from Christian bookstore material, I found it an interesting, curious fact, that the Jews as a people still existed, unlike all the other nations of the Bible times.  I could not have explained why, or connected it with God’s future purposes, but still noted it.

So how do I respond to the professed Christian who generally shows very little interest in spiritual matters and spends the vast majority of his time in secular business pursuits?  That Christian who views regular church attendance as important (in a legalistic way), looks down on those who don’t attend every Sunday and Wednesday as being carnal and worldly, yet scorns any extra devotions or study as being superficial and unnecessary — “I do my daily Bible reading” and “knowledge puffs up” (therefore we shouldn’t study so much) .  More troubling still is that professed believer’s oft-stated hatred of Jews and anything related to the Jewish people — including his insistence that God is through with Israel, and his utter abhorrence of the idea that God would choose anyone based on physical characteristics (i.e., ethnicity, therefore Israel has no greater importance than any other ethnic group).  Can such a person really be a Christian, who expresses such hatred of Jews and puts them as morally on the same level as Muslims (this after I point out that no Jews have tried to blow us up, doing the terrorist acts of many Muslims in this country)?  He won’t get into discussions concerning the actual Bible texts, but only says “you’re wrong” and dismisses the subject.

My responsibility to that person remains the same — love your neighbor as yourself; and do good to your enemies.  I cannot know such a person’s true spiritual condition, but can only judge it in light of what he says and the extent to which it agrees or disagrees with God’s word — but in the final analysis this is something I really must trust the Lord to deal with.  Meanwhile, as Spurgeon said concerning those who cannot yet see certain doctrines (and in this context he spoke specifically about the Millennial kingdom), pray for them — do not try to argue with them with words, for they must come to understand it for themselves, not by external arguments from other people.  I also consider the truth of 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 (the believer’s rewards), that the hardened and doctrine-unbelieving Christian is losing out for himself, only harming his own future enjoyment and the full capacity to love God that much more.  Another great scripture to remember is that God has called us to live in peace and to get along with each other, as much as possible (1 Corinthians 7:12-16).