Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Dr. Laura Again


Well, here it comes around again, the infamous letter to Dr. Laura, which was then picked up and inserted into the script of “The West Wing”, a network television drama aimed at pushing the agenda of the left here in the U.S.  Here is a clip; I think it contains pretty much all of the original letter.


I recently saw the letter posted on Facebook with the appropriate affirmation of its worth, followed by a number of hearty echoes of “Bravo!” in the comments section.  Obviously, a rapid fire laundry list of claims such as contained in the letter is not something that can be answered in response of similar length, at least not if you wish to give a serious response rather than something like “that’s not true, you misunderstand, and that’s taken out of context."  Those may be valid responses, but they are hardly winning arguments.

But then on top of the shots fired in the Dr. Laura letter itself, the comments section quickly organized itself into a volunteer firing squad with even more salvos of anti-Jewish and anti-Christian ammo expended. After the "case closed/no possible answer" tone of the letter itself, I am quite sure most of those reading the comments were sure the enemy had been completely vanquished.

But God provided us with a Proverb that is worth remembering at such times: "The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him." (Proverbs 18:17 ESV)

In what might be termed a tactical retreat, I chose to address some of the issues raised in that post and a few raised in the comments.  Though still being far short of a full response, I hope this will not drag out to a length which none will take the time to read.  With that in mind, the claims made in the actual letter written to Dr. Laura are:

1. God sanctions slavery. Leviticus 25:44 and Exodus 21:7  

2. God’s law does not allow contact with a woman during her menstrual cycle. Lev.15: 19-24.

3.  Burnt offerings are a sweet smell to God. Lev.1:9

4. Death penalty for working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2

5. Eating shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10

6. You may not approach the altar of God if you have a defect in your sight. Lev. 21:20

7.  Details for trimming hair. Lev. 19:27  

8. Touching the skin of a dead pig. Lev. 11:7-8

9. Planting two different crops in the same field. Lev.19:19

10. Death penalty for blasphemy. Lev.24:10-16

Now, most of the above become meaningless stabs at the Judaeo-Christian ethic once one becomes aware of proper Biblical categories.  The Moral Law, the Ceremonial Law, and General Equity.  Remember, God had a specific purpose for the nation of Israel (i.e., I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed Genesis 26:40

Certainly I can give no better explanation than that found in the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, as found in points 2 through 5 under Chapter 19 of that document, titled “Of the Law of God”.

2. The same law that was first written in the heart of man continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness after the fall, and was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables, the four first containing our duty towards God, and the other six, our duty to man. (Romans 2:14-15, Deuteronomy 10:4)

3.  Besides this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, his graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits; and partly holding forth divers instructions of moral duties, all which ceremonial laws being appointed only to the time of reformation, are, by Jesus Christ the true Messiah and only law-giver, who was furnished with power from the Father for that end abrogated and taken away. (Hebrews 10:1, Colossians 2:17, 1 Corinthians 5:7, Colossians 2::14, 16-17, Ephesians 2:14,16)

4.  To them also he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any now by virtue of that institution; their general equity only being of moral use. (1 Corinthians 9:8-10)

5.  The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof, and that not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it; neither doth Christ in the Gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.

So let’s use these categories: moral law, ceremonial law, and civil law as a starting point. This last, civil or judicial law, also has a caveat, as mentioned in the confession, in what is called there the general equity.  In this context, general equity means the value of the law as it may be applied in principle, if not specific application. This is a fairly simple one to grasp, so let’s start with it. The judicial laws given to Israel are based on underlying moral laws, many of them given in the Ten Commandments.  You might say they help flesh them out.

  A perfect example of that is found in Deuteronomy 22:8, which states that when you build a house you must put a railing around the roof so no one dies falling from it.  Since, in our society, it is not at all common for us to use the flat roofs of our houses as a place of walking, conversing with others and even sleeping in warm weather, the details no longer apply.  However, the underlying moral principle is to avoid the accidental death of others from an obviously dangerous situation.  The general equity of that ancient law given to Israel is found in a modern day application of the principle.  Ever heard of an ordinance that demands that back yard swimming pools have a fence to protect toddlers and small children from wandering in and drowning?  Its moral roots, whether you knew it or not, come from God’s Old Testament Law for Israeli.

The next category we might consider is that labeled the ceremonial law.  The ceremonial laws, as outlined for us in that part of the London Baptist Confession were those which God gave to the people of Israel, as ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ and his grace; and partly containing instructions of moral duties.  Some of the ceremonial laws were put in place to teach the people about God and the coming Messiah or other principles which believers should follow, and had no overarching moral precept except for the obvious fact that since they were God’s commands it would have been wrong for the ancient nation of Israel to disobey them

Often their primary purpose was that God was seeking to differentiate his people from the surrounding nations so that they would not conform to pagan worship and culture.  For an example of a ceremonial law let’s consider Leviticus 11:7-8 “And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you.  Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you.”

That command, which happens to be one of those mocked in the Dr. Laura letter, is one of the ceremonial laws.  Clearly it is does not contain a moral element, for in the New Testament, God told the apostle Peter that going forward, those laws concerning the abstinence from certain foods were no longer in force. If it had been immoral to eat them, the principle taught by that law would have remained.  Though at first glance it might seem that the ban on eating pork and shellfish was originally given for Israel’s good to keep them from getting sick due to spoilage, closer inspection seems to reveal that is probably not the case.  Refrigerators were still far beyond the horizon in Peter’s day, just as they were in the days of Moses.  Rather, the laws concerning which foods which were not to be eaten reflected that they were a people different, set apart, Holy. 

While we are on the subject of ceremonial law, we might note that in our Dr. Laura letter, it is suggested that stoning is the penalty for planting crops side by side and burning is the punishment for wearing garments made from two different materials.  This is another case where you will need to be familiar with your Bible to avoid having the wool pulled over your eyes, or in this case we might say having the mixed linen and wool pulled over our eyes.  In Leviticus 19:19 and again in Deuteronomy 22:9-11 these commands are found, and yet I can find nowhere in the Bible that a death penalty is named for breaking these clearly ceremonial laws.  But if you buy into the “addition” to scripture, it does add a measure of outrage doesn’t it?

That leaves the moral law, and since there were two laws cited in the Dr. Laura letter which fall under that category, let’s look briefly at them.  The first one mentioned was when the letter writer sarcastically commended the Dr. Laura character for calling homosexuality an abomination.  The narrative even states the text where the law is stated: Leviticus 18:22. You may want to read Leviticus 18 for yourself, but be sure to consider more than one verse pulled from its context. At the very least read Leviticus 18:1-5, 24-30.

These verses serve as a set of bookends for the long list of what are repeatedly call abominations, and are stressed as the very reasons that the Canaanites were to be destroyed from out of the land. Verses 6-20 describe every conceivable combination of incestuous relationship that would cause us to blush just in the reading of them. 

These are all things the Canaanites had done to defile the land.  And if that weren’t enough, verses 21-23 add child sacrifice, profaning God’s name, homosexuality, and even bestiality to the list of atrocities that nation had been sinking deeper and deeper into the whole time Israel was in bondage in Egypt. Could these be part of the ceremonial law and no longer in force as some might plead?  Obviously not since the Canaanites were defiling the land before the ceremonial or civil laws were even given to Israel.

That leaves them to the category of moral law.  Child sacrifice?  Yes, clearly that is covered by the broader command thou shalt not kill.  Profaning God’s name? Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD your God in vain. Homosexuality? Thou shalt not commit adultery.  Of course, some would try to argue that the definition of adultery only applies to those who are married, but Jesus seems to have taken a different stance when he states that anyone who looks at a woman with lust has committed adultery with her already in their heart.  Obviously what is covered by the command against adultery is a bit broader than just the strict definition of one word might suggest.

That leaves just one of “charges” against Judaism (and by implication, Christianity), as named in the Dr Laura letter to address, and that’s slavery.  There are a lot of facets to be considered on the subject of slavery as found in the Old Testament writings, compared to what we think of it today.  When we think of slavery, what immediately comes to our minds is the type of slavery that existed in this nation prior to 1865.  That type of slavery is clearly condemned in the Old Testament.  Exodus 21:16 says:  And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death. 

Stealing a man, which is exactly what happened to those who were transported to this country as slaves, was punishable by death according to the laws given by God to Israel.  In light of that, can anyone honestly make the claim that the form of slavery which took place in this country was condoned by God?  Now, compare that text to the one mentioned in the television episode.  Exodus 21:7 And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do.  To be fair, for maximum shock value if we were to read this in another translation, (the ESV for example), it does use the term slave in place of maidservant.  But that only goes to reinforce the range of different forms of slavery.  But how do we know that?  We might begin by reading the two verses that follow the one in question:  Exo 21:8-9 If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her.  And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters.

Always examine the text in context. It would seem that the slavery spoken of in this context might not fit into our preconceptions which are based on 18th century America.  In fact, it must be mentioned that in ancient Israel, selling oneself into slavery was often the last defense against starvation, and this is very likely the context of this passage.  An impoverished father, because he can’t feed his family “sells” a daughter to a wealthy and hopefully honorable man with the understanding that when the daughter came of age, the man or his son would marry her. By doing so, he saves his family from starvation.  While that may still offend our 21st century sensibilities, it’s still a far cry from what the scoffer would have you believe the text means. 

The poverty level at that time, in fact throughout much of history, has been such that the poor were constantly at risk of not having enough food to sustain them.  With that in mind, much of what is termed slavery in the Old Testament might be better understood as indentured servitude (if you’re not familiar with that term, it was a common way for poor people to gain passage to the Americas in the 17 and 18th centuries) or even an early form of a social safety net.  Of course, that does not mean that every time slavery mentioned in the Bible it was of such a relatively benign sort, but it does show that there was more than one form to consider.

I do believe that should serve as a somewhat less than brief answer to the attacks in the Dr. Laura letter.  That does still leave a few statements from the comments section that followed on the Facebook post which prompted this defense. The following are a few of them with my response.

“That is funny. Just goes to show that all of these major religions, man written ramblings are complete rubbish.”  I always enjoy a good self-refuting statement.  Since this very comment was “man written” can it be dismissed as rubbish?  But the Bible says this: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Related comments;And all written and then rewritten by men”  and “The bible was translated from sanskrit and aramaic to hebrew, greek, latin. What we read in English today? I would hazard a guess and say that it doesn't resemble what was once put to papyrus.”  While most of that reflects common objections that Christians have been dealing with for millennia, the Sanskrit claim was a new one to me.  Some internet searches didn’t reveal any similar claims, but if I were to guess, it might come from one of those pseudo-historical programs so popular on cable television around Christmas and Easter which seek to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of Christians under the guise of “new discoveries” but are little more than conjecture. Yes, Sanskrit is an ancient language and some think it is the language from which most other languages sprang.  Hebrew is also an ancient language.  Did it find its origins in the Sanskrit language?  Maybe, but I have seen no evidence that the Old Testament was not originally written in Hebrew, except for some of the late books which may have been written in the Aramaic that was gradually replacing Hebrew as the common language of the Jews by the time of Jesus. 

The New Testament was originally written in Greek with the exception of a few portions of Aramaic.  Did you know that there are hundreds of times more manuscripts in existence of those New Testament writings than those of any other ancient text?  Likewise, the oldest copies of New Testament manuscripts are far, far closer to the date of their original writing than for any other writing from ancient history (some so close they may actually have been copied from the original). Furthermore, those manuscripts of the New Testament are also far and away more consistent with each other (and with our modern Bible) than those other ancient texts. In other words, if you reject the New Testament because they are “copies of copies”, then consistency would demand that you also say we have no idea what the writings of men such as Plato and Aristotle were about, or for that matter whether such men even existed.  Most of ancient history would need to be re-categorized as mere legend. 

And yet another objection that would attempt (but fail) to give Christianity a bit of a pass on this subject can be found in this comment: “… Old Testament has been roundly rejected as any sort of guidepost, for most modern day Christians…”  There are numerous instances in the New Testament where Jesus Christ confirms every aspect of Old Testament scripture. Given that the definition of a Christian is a Christ follower (after all, its in the name!), can you really consider someone to be a Christian who rejects the words of Christ? But its probably best to let Jesus himself answer the question:

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Matthew 7:21-23 


One last objection from the comments section: "The answers come from within, what feels right to you, where your personal connection with God may take you. There is no other reality, as no human experience has ever returned successfully from the afterlife, to explain what is really happening behind that big, black and infinite curtain." 


I would suggest that, though its an extremely popular view today, those who actually believe that reality is dependent on human experience and morality on feelings should seriously consider not only the eternal ramifications, but for today's society as well. 


The Old Testament is filled with prophesies concerning the incarnation of Christ, in which God the Son took on human flesh.  The Old Testament speaks of his life, his substitutionary death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead – all recorded many centuries before the birth of Jesus, and confirmed in the New Testament writings of the apostles. Reject the Old Testament at your own peril, but with it you will need to also reject Jesus and the New Testament along with him. But remember, when you reject Jesus, you are still left to the judgement of a Holy God, so perfect in justice that every act of wrongdoing must be punished. But that Holy God is also so loving and merciful that he sent his own Son to take that punishment for those who will repent and believe. Those who reject Jesus as Lord and Savior will receive the justice their actions have earned.  

 So yes, there is one who has successfully returned from the afterlife and he has explained what is really happening there. His name is Jesus.  The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, testify of him and give ample warning of the peril of rejecting him.