Response to Charles Cutter's
"The Godless Commandments"
by Joseph Grant Swank, Jr., Pastor, New Hope Church
March 3, 2005
There are 26 stipulations in the Old Testament by which Jehovah gave command to put to death. One can read them right there in the Bible.
As Charles Cutter has written in his editorial, "The Godless Commandments," he has set forth some of these stipulations. Using these he thereby points to a barbaric deity, namely the God of the Bible, who needs to be doused and forgotten.
He is wrong.
The biblical stipulations were given by a civil deity establishing a civil culture called the Hebrew culture. God set forth severe penalties for breaking certain laws He brought into existence. God set forth severe penalties because the spiritually fallen mortal is exceptionally stubborn, inclined to write his own religion and call it ordained by Jehovah.
Further, Jehovah had to establish a civil culture with barbaric cultures surrounding it. Pagan systems were to right and left of the newly formed Hebrew community. Therefore, in order to get the point across that the Hebrew culture was to be absolutely law abiding, Jehovah had extremely severe punishments for those who trespassed, hence in some cases the stipulations calling for the death penalty.
These punishments may appear unreasonable to some today for we live in a culture with laws, courts, judges, juries, police, and all sorts of guardians against the barbaric. But when Jehovah established the Hebrew culture out of nothing, there were no laws, courts, judges, juries, police and guardians against barbarism. There were only the laws set by Jehovah and the severe penalties for breaking those laws set by Jehovah.
All of this is not understood by such as Charles Cutter, therefore, they brashly cut through the Bible as if it is nonsense at best and torture at worst.
However, those who believe the Bible to be divine revelation understand the cultural backdrop to the various sections of the Bible. Therefore, what we read makes sense within the cultural backdrop and time span in which the various passages were scribed.
It is interesting to note that with the severe penalties for breaking the God ordained laws, very few instances are recorded in the Bible where those penalties had to be leveled. In other words, the Hebrews, stubbornly rebellious as are we all, by and large abided by the laws, even to the keeping of the Sabbath holy — refraining from work, etc.
I would challenge Charles Cutter and those of like skepticism to establish a civil culture from nothing, using limp laws and lax penalties. It would not work. Anarchy would result.
Even today there are times when civil individuals cry out for severe punishments against lawbreakers, this is so especially when anarchy impinges upon civil culture.
So we understand how crucial it is to have severe penalties. They help keep stiff-necked mortals in line. They also assure law-abiding persons that there is a penalty to be paid by those who set out to undo our civilization.
In the Old Testament, God set forth "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," for example. That had to be in order to corral stubborn, rebellious mortals into treating neighbors civilly. And in most cases during the Old Testament history, such worked within the Hebrew culture. When it did not, then penalties were exacted upon the trespassers. It all goes to making up a civilization. It’s necessary in a spiritually fallen world.
Harsh punishments keep people from treating one another meanly, at times utterly cruelly. Jehovah of course knew that principle, therefore, He enacted that principle in putting in place the Hebrew people and their society.
I don’t expect Charles Cutter to accept this explanation. The Charles Cutters tend to go on their skeptical ways debating ad infinitum.
I write this explanation however for believers who reach out for the rationale behind the severe penalties listed in the Old Testament in particular. Therefore, it is my prayer that believers will now understand that part of the Scriptures.
Now as to the Ten Commandments that are referred to by Charles Cutter, all the more the United States needs to be reminded of that marvelous, powerful ten. And our culture needs to abide by them throughout all time; they keep us in line, even the unbelievers.
So for America, the Ten Commandments need to be displayed wherever, just as I wrote in my article, "Show Ten Commandments Wherever," posted on this site.