Loopholes in Laws

June 14, 2011

An author I admire is Ed Welch. His following post at CCEF analyzes the fact that people change over time, as they grow in their faith. We all try to find a loophole in the rules we try to follow, and try to bend the rules to meet our own self interests. But when we have the focus of a relationship with God, our bending rules, and finding loopholes becomes less.
“Biblical counselors, of course, believe that Scripture is true. But like everything else in the Christian life, we grow in this conviction. We believe it is true right now, and we expect increased confidence in Scripture next year, perhaps with a few doubts and questions along the way.

And this growing confidence is a big deal. If you listen to novice counselors talking about Scripture, and then put those same words into the mouths of growing veterans, they will sound very different. The difference might be that the vets have a more tested confidence that Scripture is, indeed, the very words of God. I have noticed the same thing in sermons. When sermons are inspiring, it’s because the preacher’s confidence in the Word of God is contagious. With this in mind, we are always eager to grow. We are on the prowl for evidences that Scripture is trustworthy.

One evidence is this: Scripture gives fewer laws over time.

When I was in seminary I drove a school bus. Little did I realize that I was actually conducting a sociology experiment in which I was the society’s king, or despot in this case.

The first day there were no rules. After all, the cherubs could do no wrong and they would, no doubt, do right simply to please their benevolent bus driver.

By the end of the day there were two. No standing while the bus is moving. No sticking anything out a window.

By the end of the second day there were two more. No profanity. No bullying.

By the end of the third day there was one more. No fighting.

After two weeks I simplified the growing list of laws back to one. You must do whatever the bus driver tells you to do. This wasn’t actually one law. It was a way to add another thousand or so laws in order to exert my supreme will.

Governments follow this same pattern. Religions do too. We are unruly people who find loopholes in the existing laws, so more are added as a way to keep society running smoothly. Sometimes there are so many laws that they become summarized as, “do whatever I tell you to do.”

With this in mind, when you read Leviticus you have reason to be concerned. Here are a lot of laws, and we are only at the third book of the Bible. Add a few more years and Scripture will be a very big book, and everyone will be a lawyer. Who would have thought that so many laws would run their course and be discarded when Jesus Christ came to us as a human being? The details of the sacrificial system had served their purpose. The moral laws too received a severe editing.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Galatians 5:6)

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2)

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34)

A book of human origin will multiply laws. A book of divine origin will always take us by surprise, and this is a surprise. Laws are abolished and fulfilled in Christ. Those that remain are decidedly minimalist. Is this any way to run a kingdom? Yes, if the citizenry has changed its mutinous ways.

When you leave kids home alone for the first time, you leave a long list of do’s and don’ts. But when they are older and can figure out their responsibilities, we leave them with a simple, “See ya later.”

Christ has come – that’s one reason there are fewer laws.
The Spirit has been given – that’s the other (Ezekiel 39:29).

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19-20)

We are not morally superior to the Old Testament saints, but we do have advantages over them. We have the Spirit. We are no longer like the children on the school bus with an ever increasing list of rules to follow.

This is what lies behind Augustine’s exhortation, “Love God and do as you please.” The ethic for those who have the Spirit is to love God and then get creative in expressing his self-giving love to others. No one could invent such an ethic. No one would trust us with such a minimalist ethic. No—the ways of God are different, his scripture reflects that, and our faith is built up.

Edward T. Welch, M.Div., Ph.D., is a counselor and faculty member at CCEF and holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with a neuro-psychology specialty from the University of Utah as well as a Master of Divinity degree from Biblical Theological Seminary. Ed has been counseling for over twenty-six years and has written many books and articles on biblical counseling.