On Using Refuted Arguments

Many years ago, Dr. Laura made a comment on her radio program stating that the Bible declares homosexuality an abomination, and that should settle the matter. This was subsequently parodied in an episode of the West Wing, where the President pwns a Dr. Laura-like character by quoting chapter and verse from Leviticus several outmoded laws, asking her to clarify them for him. Eventually, the President’s list was expanded with other outmoded laws and circulated as Internet chain mail.

When all this first happened, J.P. Holding wrote an excellent refutation of it.

Anyone with a general understanding of how a Christian approaches law and grace already knows how ridiculous this argument (if you can even call it that) is. The Old Testament Law points to a morality far higher than it espouses; a morality written into the hearts of every person on this planet. Ultimately, if we let the Greatest Commandment and the Second Greatest Commandment together be our guides, then we will fulfill the Old Testament Law without having to dive into the minutiae of it. That morality that exists in conception and can exist in point of fact by the grace of God, is the morality we aspire to.

Because we understand that a higher morality exists, we therefore seek to achieve it. It hasn’t been realized yet, and so we keep trying. What it is, even between religions and societies, is fairly consistent. That’s why I say it is an object of conception–we know it when we see it, but we haven’t seen it yet. Even the most die-hard atheist can admit that society isn’t as moral is it should be, and knows deep down that we need to somehow fix the broken parts.

Despite the fact that the West Wing clip (and the letter it spawned) stands refuted (specifically by Holding and generally by a Theology 101 understanding of law and grace), atheists continue to circulate it on YouTube. The Blog for Why Won’t God Heal Amputees just posted it again.

Therefore, here’s my question to atheists: How many times do Christian apologists have to refute the same arguments before you’ll stop using them?

About Cory Tucholski

I'm a born-again Christian, amateur apologist and philosopher, father of 3. Want to know more? Check the "About" page!

Posted on January 20, 2011, in Apologetics, Morality, Religion, WWGHA. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Just because you claim it to be refuted doesn’t make it so. And therein lies your conundrum.

    The “refutation” boils down to calling it all natural law, and the Bible is correct, because natural law is correct, and God made natural law, so there! Voila!

    Bah, philosophically this is such a crap argument, and hence the “refutation” is by most people named differently. So until you *do* come up with an actual refutation, then I suspect the letter and the arguments will come up again and again.

    So, should I or should I not kill my neighbor who worked on Saturday / Sunday? What is the real argument here?

    • The real argument has been discussed several times by me elsewhere.

      Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament Law. It no longer applies. We are saved solely by God’s grace. The Law is no longer covenantal for us as it was for ancient Israel. It is superseded by the covenant of grace, which was sealed by Christ on the cross when he became the perfect sacrifice, the Lamb of God, taking away our sins.

      That’s the crux. I don’t see why this is so difficult to understand.

      • Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament Law. It no longer applies.… I don’t see why this is so difficult to understand.

        Perhaps because your scriptures record Jesus as saying quite insistently that the old laws of the prophets were certainly not to change until heaven and earth pass away.

        Of course, the Christian scripture is fiercely contradictory on this point, so one would have to be rather selective in reading the scripture to think it clear.

      • Let’s read Matthew 5:17-20:

        Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

        The Law certainly won’t pass away. Moral principles, which can be derived from the Law, are inviolate. The Law provides a blueprint for Christian living. It shows us what God considers right and wrong. Somethings we can get ourselves (lying, adultery, stealing, murdering), but other things require a special revelation because they aren’t immediately obvious (fornication, homosexuality). The Law isn’t perfect, unblemished ideals; rather, it points at those ideals (Heb 10:1; cf. 2 Cor 3:6). Through the Law comes knowledge of sin (Rom 3:20), and sin gets its power from the law (Rom 5:14, 7:5, 7-25; 1 Cor 15:56). Vicious circle.

        Jesus fulfilled the righteous requirement of the Law for us, which is something we couldn’t do ourselves (Rom 8:3-4). Therefore, we are now done with the Law (Rom 7:6, 10:4) in the sense of it being a guardian for us (Gal 3:24), as we are now under grace (Rom 6:14-15). We no longer need the guardian. Now we live by authentic faith in Christ.

        I can consider each of your articles at a different time.

      • If nothing else, you hopefully now can refrain from claiming you don’t see why this tortuous reasoning is not clear.

  2. How many times do Christian apologists have to refute the same arguments before you’ll stop using them?

    When you actually conclusively refute something, rather than merely declaring something refuted and moving on.

    • Explain to me how this particular argument (the West Wing clip/Dr. Laura letter) was not refuted.

      • The closest thing to a “refutation” in this post was your link to J.P. Holding’s response, which is underwhelming at best. (Ben Finney below sums that up pretty well, I think.) You then proceed to prattle on about your (and i intend much emphasis on the word “YOUR”) belief that some over-reaching, “higher morality” exists, which you substantiated with nothing more than mere opinion.

        Not refuted.

      • Higher morality does exist. This is reality. I don’t need to prove objective reality.

        If “the sky is blue, while the grass is green” was integral to this argument, I wouldn’t need to prove that because you already know that’s true. As you know that higher morality exists, otherwise, by what can you judge our society inferior to the “ideal society” by? I know you don’t think that the citizens of this planet are living in an ideal society. Such a society exists in conception only, and you judge this society by it, and arrive at the conclusion that it is inferior. It falls short.

        You know what I’m saying is true, and therefore I don’t have to prove it.

  3. The irony here of course is that the Bible is nothing but a long litany of refuted arguments, which is why it has never convinced a majority of humanity, and why even Christians themselves have progressively abandoned (er, sorry, “figuratively reinterpreted”) more and more of it.

  4. The Dr Laura/West wing argument has an assuption that goes something like: “I follow all the rules that are written in the bible”. Now you (Cory Tucholski) do not hold this assumption, so the argument is not directed at you. The argument is directed at other people.

    I agree that you have refuted the argument for your current set of beliefs. Other people have other sets of beliefs that do not refute the argument.

  5. J.P. Holding wrote an excellent refutation of it.

    I’m surprised you think that excellent. It fails quite early on. To quote Holding:

    It’s as well to start here with the core point of the letter, which is a logical chain that runs as follows:
    * Lev. 18:22 is used to condemn homosexuality/same sex marriage.
    * But Leviticus has a lot of stuff that people wouldn’t follow today.
    * Therefore, the Levitical ban on homosexuality is also outdated/outmoded.

    That’s a straw man, which Holding then spends the rest of the essay beating up.

    The conclusion we are invited to draw, by both the Dr. Laura letter and the clip from West Wing, is: Therefore, the scripture itself is not the authority that we evidently use to decide what scriptural rules to follow.

    Scripture instructs us to do many things. We evidently don’t consider many of those instructions to be binding (kill someone for working on the weekend, for example). So we are using some authority external to scripture for deciding what rules to follow.

    The Holding article, and yours, do not refute that.

  6. Note that Jesus isnt asked if he can summarize the law into a single commandment instead the scribe already assumes he can and merely wants to know what it is…It is interesting that Jesus reply does not come from any of the actual laws themselves not even from the Ten Commandments. The second commandment in turn comes from Leviticus 19 18…Jesus answer emphasizes the sovereignty of God over all humanity possibly a reflection of the fact that Marks audience lived in a Hellenized environment where polytheism was a live possibility. What Jesus instructs as the first of all commandments is not simply a recommendation that humans love God but a command that we do so.

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