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Wed, Jan. 22

As times change, so too does Bible interpretation<BR>

I'm not shy about asking for help, and now I need some with this thing called moral relativism. Why is it bad?

In her letter to the editor, Virginia Beidelman disagreed with my thinking about homosexuals and the Bible, which is fine. I'm glad that she thought about it herself rather than just accepting someone else's opinion.

She said that just because the punishment is different today for disobeying biblical truths, that doesn't mean that a sin is no longer a sin.

I agree with that largely, but have a problem with part of it. The fact that punishment is different today means that we are not following the biblical commandments about punishment. Can we deliberately disregard those and still say that all the others apply?

Also, we don't even consider many of the biblical sins to be wrong today. Most of us eat bacon or shrimp occasionally, or wear cotton-polyester shirts, and we don't feel guilty about it; yet those things are called abominations in the Bible. Just like homosexuality.

So how do we know what is a sin and what isn't?

It seems to me that this is something each society has to decide for itself. Mrs. Beidelman calls that "moral relativism" and puts it down, but I'm inclined to call it collective common sense. It is the collection of laws and customs that we live by. Some come from the Bible; some do not.

Surely none of us would agree with the biblical commandment to execute the son who disobeys his parents. Today, we might even punish the father if he is being cruel to the son. Is this a "spiral into decadence" as Mrs. B. put it?

Some random thoughts about morals being related to time and place:

• The old commandments were given to the Jews to follow in Israel 3,500 years ago (Deut. 6:1). No one said anything about applying them to other people or other places. However, many Christians believe that if it's in the Bible, it is biblical truth – so it must apply to us.

• Each faith has opinions about what is sinful – things like alcohol, gambling, dancing, movies. If the Potter's House declares that something is sinful, does that apply to Baptists and Catholics also?

• The U.S. Constitution originally provided for slavery. We changed that part 76 years later. The Bible also provides for slavery – how do we change it?

• Islamic countries live closer to their religion than we do. They worship the same god and have many of the same commandments, but Muslims generally follow their Koran better than Christians follow their Bible. Which faith fits better in our rapidly changing world?

Muslims believe that cutting off a hand is proper punishment for stealing. Should we urge them to change? If you worship on Sunday and I worship on Saturday, should you urge me to change?

• Two centuries ago, in a Christian nation, Jean Valjean stole bread to feed his desperate family, and went to prison for life. What's fair punishment for Valjean today?

• In tropical climates, native women often leave their breasts uncovered. Missionaries decided that this was sinful, and tried to get the women to cover up. They also decided that there is only one acceptable way to have sex – the "missionary position." Natives thought missionaries were dumb.

• I just don't understand why moral relativism is bad. Sure, we must have values to go by, and we do. But why must these values be the same for all groups of people, and never change? Please help me!

I've heard preachers say that we cannot pick and choose which parts of the Bible to obey. Why not? We do it all the time. We just don't want to admit it.

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