At what point do laws become oppressive or a means or control

(Andrew Cirel) #1

I once saw a piece of film which showed when cars became popular, but because there were no laws, people drove them how they saw fit. It was chaos and there were loads of accidents. It showed that as soon as you had more than one person with a car in a location you needed some laws. So, laws were brought in.
I love the 10 commandments and Jesus’ 2 commandments that summaries them. These give order, but allow room for freedom of expression. For example, they don’t tell you how to dress, what to eat or where to leave your bible. However, all of the laws in the old testament make me feel very uncomfortable. Sounds like a religious version of a Police State when a few men in power try to control everyone else. Jesus doesn’t seem keen on it either seeing how he reacts to the Pharisees who were running things by those same laws.
Would God really give all those commands?


To the Hebrews yes. They weren’t meant to apply to the entire world.

(Laura) #3

I like the car analogy, and it seems the same with people – we would probably not do too well without laws! I think we take for granted how many rules and social codes we have learned over our lives, especially the ones that are not always overt or spoken out loud.

I can understand questioning the OT laws, and I think we have to keep in mind just how different this culture was than ours. As a nomadic people, they didn’t have jails, and I wonder if that’s why some of their punishments were harsher than what we would give today. So much has changed since then – our expectations for different age groups, gender roles, and most importantly, as Christians we believe that Jesus has paid for our sins, and we do not need to make atonement for them anymore. But yes, God did give those laws to the Hebrews, and Romans 7 is one place in the New Testament that talks about the law, pointing out that by the law we are made conscious of sin. It is a way of pointing us to Jesus Christ.

(Phil) #4

I see you are new to the forum, and would like to welcome you. It is good to have you here. Your post reminds me of my favorite verse Micah 6:8, where it is said that we are to live justly and love mercy. There is a tension between justice as we see it and mercy, and we live in the tension. Perhaps when we fall too far towards wanting justice, we can become oppressive. And we often fail in the humility also mentioned in the verse, and selfish desire really pushes us to the oppressive and manipulative side.
Even in the New Testament things are not so clear, as we have a tendency to pick and choose which of Paul’s instructions to follow.

(Christy Hemphill) #5

One thing that helped me come to grips with the Old Testament laws is work by William Webb on hermeneutics. He argues that we should look at Scripture through a lens of a “redemptive trajectory.” The OT law brought the Israelites closer to God’s ideal of justice and peace than the standards of their cultural and historical peers and made things significantly better for marginalized and oppressed groups in that time. But it was not some kind of objectively ideal society. Jesus pushed the redemptive trajectory even further with his teaching and Kingdom message. The church continues the trajectory as we are guided by the Holy Spirit. So the ideals shaped by the New Testament that pushed Christians to abolish slavery and advocate for education and civil rights for women and girls are a continuation of God’s redemptive trajectory, moving even beyond some of the guidelines given to the cultural context of the early church in the New Testament.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #6

I’ve been reading John Walton’s book Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament, where he devotes a whole chapter to “law” in the ANE and the Bible. Supposed codes of law, such as the Codes of Hammurabi, Urukagina and Ur-Nammu were most likely legal ‘treatises’ which acted as advice to the courts, in order to give legitimacy to the king, rather than necessarily being legally binding. Perhaps the law in the Torah can be interpreted the same way, as legal ‘advice’, which is not necessarily legally binding. We do not ‘have’ to put adulterers and blasphemers to death, it is only advised to.

(Andrew Cirel) #7

I was enjoying reading the forums and then I wrote my question only to realised it was 2am in the morning (UK) and I had work the following day so better call it quits.
So, thanks for all the replies and the welcome. I will have a proper think about what you’ve said over the weekend.