Moral Relativity & Interpreting the Law

It is morally acceptable to stone homosexuals, Christians, and adulterers to this day in other cultures. How well does that mesh with what you consider morally acceptable?” (Xander)

Personally I find that abhorrent and reprehensible. Again, it is taking life that may not be deserving of such a penalty. I think when we read the Torah we are not quite getting what is being said there (logistically and lawfully). I raised the point about adultery already and the problem people have with interpreting that law in Torah.

But let’s make this clearer in understanding – more close to home. Some states have the death penalty for the act of pre-meditated murder. However, for other acts of murder (2nd degree) there may only be a stiff jail term. And for even lesser offences within the murder hierarchy (manslaughter) someone may see short stints in prison – even extended probation. However, it’s all ‘thou shalt not murder’.

The problem with present Christians and their view of the Torah is they don’t understand what it is they are reading – they see a narrative and an ethical code – but it’s a law code….and it needs to be interpreted as such. In the case of something like ‘You shall not commit adultery’ (Ex 20:14) – well at what point of severity is the stoning to occur? Anyone that cheats is to be killed? Or is it more like a hierarchy – like murder is? One needs to remember, ‘eye for eye, tooth for tooth, and life for life’…the only thing deserving of death is ‘murder’ (not adultery according to that measurement for judgment). Adultery that ends in murder would make more sense in this context as to what was deserving of ‘death’.

But far be it for current Christianity to really get down and dirty with the texts to start revealing the methods of the Torah (functions as law). Christians really have no clue how to approach those texts…and law can change. Judaism is aware of this. Christians should be aware of this – just cannot grasp God provided a law that can change. Movements away from slavery, genocide, and segregation are supposed be the norm as humans seek ‘peace’. One needs remember this is a God of peace we supposedly serve.

*Comment first presented on Xander’s blog ‘The Immoral God’

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3 thoughts on “Moral Relativity & Interpreting the Law

  1. Here is what Bertrand Russell says about personal ethics and I happen to agree with his points on the subject.
    Bear in mind that the gender bias used (“man”)is also outdated and it just shows Russell’s language to be ironically morally outdated as well, kind of funny. In essence, we are all responsible to push our morals toward a higher mental consciousness; just as the women’s movements of the past century has pushed men to acceptance of the equality of the other gender.

    “No man (human) is wholly free, and no man is wholly a slave. To the extent which a man has freedom, he needs a personal morality to guide his conduct. There are some who would say that a man need only obey the accepted moral code of his community. But I do not think any study of anthropology could be content with this answer. Such practices as cannibalism, human sacrifice, and head hunting, have died out as a result of moral protests against conventional (traditional) moral opinion. If a man seriously desires to live the best life that is open to him, he must learn to be critical of the tribal customs and tribal beliefs that are generally accepted among his neighbours.” – Russell, “Individual and Social Ethics”

    • Russell is not merely talking about traditional hunter-gatherer societies in this comment rather he is talking about all human societies that are not willing to be self-critical about their moral values. He simply uses sacrifice, head hunting as points of emphasis.

  2. “In essence, we are all responsible to push our morals toward a higher mental consciousness” (Johnny)

    I agree 100%. I think if we stuck with the status quo then many problems in society would not get fixed – ex: the environment. Many problems would still exist (ie: segregation). And many problems can still arise (ie: battle for land resources).

    I believe in a vigilance to one’s own moral conduct on this planet.

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