A challenge to Christians by an atheist

(Isaiah J. Armstrong) #1

I came across this video on YouTube and it’s by a YouTube atheist who regularly critiques online sermons and talks by Christians using street epistemology. If you are not aware of what that is, look here. A few years ago he did a video that he called a challenge to Christians. It’s a short two and a half minute video going through eight points that are in the bible. He wants to see how many points are Christians willing to agree with (I guess to see if we are “consistent” with our trust as the bible being authoritative). For example, he wants to see what Christians think about Numbers 5:19-21 (an unfaithful wife caused to miscarry the child) and how it relates to our stance against abortion today.

I want to get your opinions on this challenge. How would you respond? Here is the same atheist going over a response video by apologist James white:

Maybe we could walk through this together? If anyone is familiar with street epistemology, you will know that it is designed to get you to doubt your faith. It’s basically atheistic evangelism. The Capturing Christianity website has a few articles responding to it, if anyone is interested.

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(Isaiah J. Armstrong) #2

No one up to the challenge??

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(Lindsay Brandt) #3

This is my first time seeing this post even though I’ve been going through posts for a couple days now, seeing if there was anything beneficial I might be able to contribute. but yes, I want to take a look and jump in on this if I can! Give me some time, as I have two littles and a baby and work to do for a class that I teach (not to mention I tutor someone today!), but I will definitely get back to this! Thank you for posting this, because I had no idea what this was, street epistemology.

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(Heidi Mitchell) #4

Hey Isaiah! @O_wretched_man
I’m interested, but haven’t had a chance to listen to his challenge video yet.
We all could have a good conversation on street epistemology, as well!
Thanks for posting- hoping some can chime in with their thoughts on this in the meantime :wink:

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(Carson Weitnauer) #5

Hi @O_wretched_man,

What I have found is that it really helps with engagement if you can not only post the video but share some specific claims from the video that you would like to discuss together. If you will take the time to write out the arguments I think others will be empowered to help you discuss them.

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(Isaiah J. Armstrong) #6

@CarsonWeitnauer
Thank you for the advice!

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(Luna) #7
  1. Its possible before the snake was cursed it could talk or that when Satan possessed it then he could talk. So yes I believe he spoke to Eve. Do I know for sure? No. Why? Because its hard to tell of which genre Genesis sets itself in.

  2. While it says that Jonah was in the belly of the fish it doesn’t say that he was alive in the fish for 3 days. So personally I don’t think he was. His prayer if you read it in the next chapter speaks of him being in Sheol. Thats not a physical place in the world on the living accord to other scriptures.

  3. Yes I do believe Parents could have their kids stoned, but you have to read the verses. Read verse 20, what “Child” do you know is a drunkard?? To have a serious rebellious son/daughter like that brings dishonour to the family in a great way. Even in cultures that weren’t Biblical this was not tolerated. The verses before once again when read in context show that an obedient Son should not be done wrong by the parents no matter what they think. So the honour goes both ways.

  4. Here’s a video addressing that verse. I take the view of this guy who is explaining it.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgIcQqz7ZSE

  5. Here I take the view of this post.
    https://www.gotquestions.org/Numbers-abortion.html

  6. I do believe dead people rose from the dead. Jesus performed other Miracles of raising the dead so why would this seem any less impossible? Here is an article that helps explain my views a bit more.
    https://crossexamined.org/matthews-raised-saints/

(Note: I’m posting these links since better studied individuals have already talked about these things and I think they explain much better than I do about them.)

  1. Yes I believe this was ordered. This is another scripture taken out of context. This isn’t just about a wife. The is about anyone who leads others astray in the nation of Israel. In the OT the surrounding nations would serve false gods that were into orgies, the sacrificing of children, and sex with animals. Plus other things God considered very sinful. These things were judgment and a way to stop the spreading of rebellion and sin. If God is God and the giver of life then doesn’t he have the right to bring judgment?

8.Yes I do believe this. When it comes to Abraham God ordered the Sacrifice. When it comes to Jephthah he made a foolish vow that wasn’t asked of God nor condoned by him. Jesus even says something about this in the NT.

Matthew 5:33-37

“Again, you have heard that it was said to an older generation, ‘ Do not break an oath, but fulfill your vows to the Lord .’ 34 But I say to you, do not take oaths at all – not by heaven, because it is the throne of God, 35 not by earth, because it is his footstool, and not by Jerusalem, because it is the city of the great King. 36 Do not take an oath by your head, because you are not able to make one hair white or black. 37 Let your word be ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no.’ More than this is from the evil one."

Honestly I think this guy kind of cherry picks verses just for the purpose to get people to doubt which obviously is his goal since he’s doing Street Epistemology. I would argue though that there is a point when you cross over into possibly some deception when trying to get people to doubt instead of just Question their own views. I’ve seen him debate and to a degree sometimes he comes off like he’s more so of an Anti-theist than an Atheist. Just my opinion though.

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(tim) #8

I’m not sure there is an answer here. The challenger has requested that believers confess the statements should they consider them to be true. One could speak out the statements they considered to be true, whilst remaining silent on others (as he has in fact requested). He hasn’t asked for an explanation to each item, and trying to explain will most likely do more harm than good. Such was the case with Dr. James’ response, which i found abrupt and assumptive ( “I always bear in mind that behind every question is a questioner” - Ravi).

The challenge is of course, a trap. Whether that is the challenger’s motive or not, it seeks to put one in a position where his words can be used against him at some stage.
Standard tactics used by the Tempter, when deceiving Eve and trying to deceive Jesus.

But every challenge is an opportunity to share. :slightly_smiling_face:
" No I don’t believe these statements, however I do believe in the scripture and the context that it was written in. If you like we can take the time to discuss them?
Speaking of truth, what is your take on truth?
Do you know there was only ever one man who claimed to be “the” truth?

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(Lindsay Brandt) #9

My first observation with the first video (I’m not even finished watching the video) is the pulling of verses out of context to try to trap us between our convictions and that which governs our faith. Pulling verses out of context and simply asking people to say “I believe all or some of these” or “I don’t believe” presents us with a false either/or, I am thinking: “Either you believe them the way I’ve presented them here or you don’t,” When, in fact, there is a third option: I believe these things not as you’ve presented them here, but I believe them properly framed in their contexts. Context gives everything its meaning, so to simply pull these out as if they are stand-alone statements (they most certainly are not) and ask people to confirm belief in them as presented is already a faulty approach. And in the second video, he starts out confirming that is what he wants. He says he is not looking for an explanation. So…I guess my question would be, “If you’re not looking for an explanation, why are you questioning what people believe and what they don’t? When we say we want to know whether or not people believe something, if we are being sincere, do we really ‘stack the deck,’ so to speak, so that the responses cater to our preformed answers?” People who are truly, sincerely looking for answers don’t set traps by being a contortionist with the text. They take the text, as it is, with its context, and wrestle with it in an honest way. “I really appreciate that answer, but all you had to say was, 'yes, I believe this happened.” I don’t think he understands that they cannot. I believe that would actually be my response. I would not say anything about believing or disbelieving any of the statements, because he specifically stated that he did not want explanation. So I am really not sure it would be wise for any Christian to respond to the challenge specifically here.

Second, his saying “Jesus ordered” this or that from the OT is okay, because it’s all the same God with different names is a gross misunderstanding of the nature of God, who God is, and ultimately affects how he and others understand the texts he is giving. He does bring up the concept of the Trinity, but does he understand the functions and roles of the different persons of the Trinity throughout redemptive history as recorded in the Scriptures? Though Jesus is God the Son, he has a different function and role than God the Father, which I think matters for our understanding of the Old and New Testaments. Furthermore, before Jesus became flesh, he was not called the Son of God, but he was the pre-incarnate Word of God, the Logos, so I think Dr. White is mistaken in his explanation of why Trinitarians should be okay with saying Jesus ordered this or that in the Old Testament. God’s Word accomplishes what GOD sets out to do but does not necessarily give the commands. Even in the New Testament, Jesus does the Father’s will. I understand Dr. White thinks this is okay and doesn’t have a problem with it, but I may. I am not completely sure how I would completely work this out if I was writing a paper, but these are my beginning thoughts and arguments on this subject.

Dr. White goes on to explain that the command to stone a child isn’t really talking about a child but is talking about someone in their teenage years to early adulthood. Then the atheist (I hate saying “the atheist” as if he’s a label, but I am not sure if I heard a name; I will go back to the beginning and listen after I finish my thought here) says, well what if it was a 7-year-old child Dr. White? I would respond, “And what if God ordered that everyone has to own a unicorn?” The fact is that it isn’t talking about a 7-year-old child makes that question speculative and irrelevant. He is trying to see if we would simply, stupidly follow this God even if He was unjust or some kind of maniacal, evil God. God has demonstrated throughout the whole of Scripture that He is not, so I don’t think that question is relevant or a fair question. Christians don’t just blindly follow God absent of any evidence of His character. Because Christianity is based upon a relationship, we know the God in whom we put our trust and hope and faithfully follow.

I have not finished watching the videos yet, but these are pretty major and are faulty understandings that are right away putting him on shaky grounds even with his stated purpose, even if he doesn’t want to argue or debate it, and I would probably start there in a response to him, I think…though I would try to frame the approach with questions.

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(Lindsay Brandt) #10

So, he asks why we feel the need to explain this so much. Well…again, he says he is only doing this to give Christians a chance to say what they believe. That’s what he is doing but not really a why. Now he wants to know why the need to explain so much. When someone pulls statements or event details out of context, they deserve and demand explanation. When they are being presented as stand-alone statements when they are not, then the truth about what they are is being twisted, and therefore, what Christians are saying they do or do not believe is being twisted. And yes, if you put the statement up there that says “God is love,” I definitely would expound upon that, because that also has a context and can be twisted to mean something it does not.

The one part I am really wanting to hear from others about is where the atheist starts with the question ‘does every law God utters, whether it’s civil law or not, have a moral component?’ I don’t think so, and I have some thoughts, but I’m uncertain of what exactly my response would be. Some of the laws were given to set the Israelites apart as holy, and I don’t believe holiness is the same thing as morality or being moral. Furthermore, any moral component in laws given from God would be only be moral on the basis of God’s goodness, therefore, making it objective–not subjective and relative. I’m not sure I understand why he is saying, ‘isn’t embracing the covenants, the old and new covenants, embracing relative morality?’ Is he saying that because he thinks that only the people under the covenant are going to be judged by God’s law, making it relative? If so, that is an incorrect understanding. The covenant was a relational agreement between God and this people, and obedience to these laws was to come about out of faith in God and in response to what He had done for them. This does not mean no one outside of that covenant relationship was to be held accountable by the same moral and holy principles/standards that were the foundation for those laws (at least the ones with moral components). What it does mean is that these people had freely agreed to obey God, and therefore these laws, in response to who He is and what He had done for them and would continue to do for them if they obeyed out of faith (without faith, it is impossible to please God). Am I understanding correctly? Anyone have any thoughts on that?

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(Claire N Streb) #11

@O_wretched_man Great post! It gave me a dream of Ravi and other RZIM speakers in one corner of the boxing ring at Madison Square Gardens and the video guy and his friends in the other corner. After hours and hours of the good guys clearly winning the arguments, people in the crowd start shouting at the opponents “We love you! Believe the truth!” over and over, then spontaneous worship breaks out, and the whole place is filled with singing and praise in His honor, and all the opponents get saved. Wow! I’d go to that event! :grinning::heart:

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(Isaiah J. Armstrong) #12

@psalm151ls

I agree with everything you said. Great insights!

In the covenant relationship between God and Israel, you certainly have the right idea. I’m currently reading Paul Copan’s Is God A Moral Monster? and he goes into more depth on the overall nature of the Levitical law system. The laws did not take the place of faith, but instead was God’s way of holding the nation of Israel to a much higher moral standard than their pagan counterparts. The laws was not at all perfect (as Hebrews 8 points out) but was used by God to fulfill his promise to Abraham about blessing the nations of the world through his offspring (which became Christ and his sacrifice for the world’s sin). Paul Copan really has some good insights on the Mosaic law:

Like two sides of the same coin, we have human hardheartedness and divine forbearance. God put up with many aspects of human fallenness and adjusted accordingly…First, the Mosaic law was temporary and, as a whole, isn’t universal and binding upon all humans or all cultures. Second, Mosaic times were indeed “crude“ and “uncultured” in many ways. So Sinai legislation makes a number of moral improvements without completely overhauling ancient near Eastern social structures and assumptions. God “works with” Israel as he finds her. (p 60-61, italics original)

This is just the beginning, he goes into specific laws that we may find appalling or very odd into individual detail, but I’m not quite half way done the book yet. Anyway, what he means here is that the Mosaic law was catered to a certain people in a certain time frame of history. If God went full on with his moral commands right away (God’s standard on human equality and dignity was established since the creation story), chances are Israel would have completely disregarded God altogether. What did the people want? They had just come from Egypt as slaves. You can imagine that their moral compass had been severely damaged. One example Copan gives is the passage in Joshua 10:22-27 when Joshua kills five Canaanite kings by hanging their bodies on trees the whole day.

So the nitpicking of certain Mosaic laws that he puts on his list do have an important historical context of which they were set in. So why don’t we stone adulterers today? Because we have a much better understanding of what God’s grace is through Jesus Christ and the cross, plus we understand that only God has the right to righteously judge those who do wrong. If we take judgment into our own hands, we play God instead. You can see in the New Testament how the Pharisees took the Mosaic law and twisted to the point of corruption when they took the place of God.

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(Matt Western) #13

Hi @O_wretched_man,
regarding Numbers 5, this might be of interest? I’ve had an atheist suggest (heatedly) that it sanctions abortion.

@Luna, just a question regarding Jonah and the whale. If in Jonah 1:17, it states that ‘God prepared/appointed a big fish’ (a miraculous event), why then would not Jonah be kept alive for 3 days in the belly of the whale (probably a less miraculous event than God steering a fish). You do make a good point about Jonah crying from the depths of Sheol (place of the dead). I suppose we have to think, which is figurative. Jonah being physically alive in the belly of the whale for 3 days, and poetically crying from Sheol, or Jonah being dead physically, and being literally in Sheol and calling from there. Interesting to consider… :slight_smile:

Regarding Jepthah’s rash vow vs Issac;

  1. God tested Abraham to see if he loved and trusted Him more than his only son (through whom God had explicitly promised a great nation). God initiated this as a test of Abraham’s faith.
  2. Jephthah’s rash vow was not asked for by God. Just because fallen humans do foolish things or make foolish decisions in the Old Testament, does not mean that God sanctions it.
    .
    There is also a suggestion that Jephthah did not actually kill his daughter, but she was lamenting her inability to have children because she was to remain a virgin…
    https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/rethinking-jephthah-foolish-vow/

Great post, good one to get you thinking…

regards
Matt

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(Luna) #14

I’m not exactly sure what you’re asking cause I’m not sure how it would conflict between God sending/preparing the fish and Jonah dying I don’t think it was needed for him to be alive honestly. He was thrown off a boat and already knew death was possible from that experience. I think its a miracle that he was swallowed and resurrected. Now I have no straight forward proof of it and I do believe God can do anything so if he was alive the whole time I’m not shocked. I just think its more probable that he was dead. I mean no air for 3 days, or food, or water. If he didn’t die immediately or at all he came very close to it. lol

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(Matt Western) #15

sorry, I said it was a question, but it ended up being a commentary. Hehe, my bad…

I agree with you, there are a large number of miracles in the book of Jonah.

  • God preparing a fish for his purposes
  • Jonah may or may not have died. Either he was alive (miraculously for 3 days), or even more miraculously he was raised from the dead.
  • Fish vomiting up Jonah
  • Plant prepared by God to shade Jonah
  • worm prepared by God to eat the plant

An atheist would look at all of those and say ‘miracles don’t happen, therefore discard the whole book and disprove the Bible and God’s existence’.

Lennox, in chapter 6; Miracles, a step too far? of his latest book “Can Science Explain Everything?”, quotes from Dawkins and makes some points below:

The nineteenth century is the last time when it was possible for an educated person to admit to believing in miracles like the virgin birth without embarrassment. When pressed, many educated Christians are too loyal to deny the virgin birth and the resurrection. But it embarrasses them because their rational minds know that it is absurd, so they would much rather not be asked.[

Lennox, John. Can Science Explain Everything? . The Good Book Company. Kindle Edition.

  • The laws of nature exist are cause/effect, and by them we can predict future events.
  • atheists view the universe as a closed system
  • from the theistic perspective, the laws of nature predict what is bound to happen if God does not intervene.

One little quote I like is this one:

The second objection to miracles is that now we know that there are laws of nature and can describe them, miracles are simply impossible—this is Hume’s famous objection. However, I don’t think this objection holds water. Let me illustrate.

Supposing this week I put £10 in the drawer of my desk. The following week, I put in a further £20. And then the week after, another £10 note is added, and the drawer closed and locked. The laws of arithmetic allow me to predict that the next time I open my drawer, I shall find £40. But suppose when I next open the drawer, I find just a single £10 note: what shall I conclude? That the laws of arithmetic have been broken? Certainly not! I might more reasonably conclude that some thief has broken not the laws of arithmetic but the laws of the land and has stolen £30 out of my drawer.

One thing it would be ludicrous to claim is that the existence of laws of arithmetic make it impossible to believe in the existence of such a thief or the possibility of his intervention. Quite the reverse is true: it is the normal workings of those laws that cause us to believe in the existence of the thief and his activity in my house.

Lennox, John. Can Science Explain Everything? . The Good Book Company. Kindle Edition.

It’s quite a good little book, and covers at an entry level a lot of subjects. I have thought it might be a good evangelistic tool to give to a friend… If a person was interested in more, then Lennox other books cover things in more detail…

I think based on the whole prayer in Jonah chapter 2, I think he was alive, and prayed to God while alive but there are two well thought out views (https://www.gotquestions.org/did-Jonah-die.html).

Anyway, I suppose the point of it all was the sign of Jonah pointed towards the greatest miracle of them all ; Jesus being raised from the dead. Amazing!.. :slight_smile::slight_smile: (https://www.gotquestions.org/sign-of-Jonah.html)

Another probably more confronting point from Jonah, is that God told him to go and preach to Israel’s enemies. Ancient Ninevah was extremely brutal to their captive enemies: if Israel had been the subject of Ninevah’s cruelty; you can identify with Jonah not wanting to go and preach to them. Imagine having to go and preach to people who were cruel to your own people. :worried:

in any case, I’ve gone off topic a bit from the ‘challenge to Christians’ video… :slight_smile:

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(Scott Dockins) #16

@O_wretched_man,

I watched the first video and half of the response video from Dr. James White, and conclude that this challenge lacks “context” since the challenger expects Christians to agree/disagree with his chosen statements minus explanation, removing the context of said events in Scripture which grossly affects what one is agreeing too.

Which seems to be the challenger’s goal since he (an admitted atheist who is open to the possibility of a God…agnostic?) is challenging the moral character and nature of both God and Christians…which is humorous since he adheres to an atheistic worldview. Why?

Because his challenge attempts to lay the seeds of doubt within the Christian mind by causing us to agree with his “biblically referenced” statements by agreeing/disagreeing with them via moral judgements.

And, depending on what un-contextual statements of his we agree or disagree with will cause us to doubt our trust in God if we disagree with statements that seem unjust, or doubt or morality and God’s if we agree with his comments that appear unjust, thus sowing doubt…which is the goal of street epistemology.

I commend your willingness to engage with opposing worldviews but the challenger (I forgot his name) isn’t interested in a reciprocal conversation but a recorded video of a Christian agreeing/disagreeing with his un-contextual points.

I don’t find this to be a fruitful atmosphere for respectful and reciprocal dialogue.

Though, we can clearly see the tactics of street epistemology in both videos, especially the second.

The videos may be beneficial as a learning tool to help us engage with similar people, but fulfilling the challenge puts Christians in an unfair corner. How?

By having us (Christians) agree/disagree with his un-contextual statements via recorded videos, leaving said recorded videos to the mercy of misinterpretation by internet audiences for eternity via the removal of context.

Thanks for the post brother.

God bless.

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(Scott Dockins) #17

I am in total agreement sir.

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(Scott Dockins) #18

Brother,

I do believe that if God inacts a law it will always have a moral component because God is Holy (…a Good and Loving God in essence and nature).

Though, from a human perspective it may be difficult to percieve this moral component apart from keeping His Holiness (the Good and Loving Essence of God) at the forefront of our minds when reading difficult passages becuase “we” are not “God” ourselves, and are supremely ignorant of God’s ways (though not compeltely).

If objective morality exist…there must be a moral law…and if a moral law…a Lawgiver - Ravi Zacharias (paraphrase).

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(Lindsay Brandt) #19

Hello, Scott! Thank you for your thoughts and for responding. Sorry for the trickery with the picture of the couple in my profile pic :slight_smile:, but I am actually a sister :slight_smile:. I’m not fond of taking selfies or just having pictures of just me lying around, so pictures of my husband and me and pictures of my kids are all I have available for profile pictures right now.

I was hoping someone would speak up about this, so thank you for doing so. As I was writing my response, the question came up in my mind about the how holiness and morality are related. I know they have a relationship…and I guess I always just assumed I knew how they are related, but to tell you the truth, I have never really thought about it, so thank you for responding to my little “bone” I threw in.

With respect to this argument that Ravi gives, it is an argument given to someone who agrees that there is good and evil and yet tries explaining that sense of morality we have by some other means than a good God that gave it. So, here, I am not saying that there isn’t an objective moral law or that God doesn’t exist or that God doesn’t at all give moral law.
Though God certainly gives moral law, it does not logically follow that all God’s laws are moral. I am not sure about all of God’s laws necessarily having a component of morality, because some of them are practical, and some of them serve sanctification purposes, and saying that it’s just because we can’t understand or comprehend really isn’t an argument that grounds the claim “all God’s laws must be moral,” because if we cannot comprehend or fully grasp the purpose of all the laws, then we would not be able to make a claim, either way, as to whether all of the laws have a moral component or not–because we don’t have the understanding to say so.

We know that some of the laws did not necessarily have a moral component, but they were, rather, put in place as a foreshadowing of Christ and what he would accomplish (also to teach us what is necessary for reconciliation with God: the shedding of blood). For instance, some of the laws concerning the appointed feasts the Israelites were to observe have been fulfilled in Christ. Though related to morality, these did not necessarily have a moral component. These point to a greater reality of sanctification in Christ. To use another of Ravi’s quotes, which very much fits this conversation, “Christ did not die to make bad people good but to make dead people live” (a paraphrase, I think, as I don’t remember the exact wording). So if that is the case, then some of the laws having to do with sanctification have nothing to do with good and bad (morality) and everything to do with holiness and sanctification, which are related to, but not synonymous with, morality. What do you think?

Either way, there are indeed moral components in God’s laws, and my question was why would he say that embracing a covenant with those laws that have moral components the same thing as embracing moral relativism? That is what I was not sure I was understanding correctly. The only way I know how to make that make sense is if he is thinking God is assigning these moral codes/standards to just the people who enter into covenant with God, implying that those moral codes/standards do not apply to people outside the covenant. My problem with that is that God doesn’t make one law for some and another for others (the talk about OT vs. NT may come in here, but I’m going to stay away from that for a bit, because I think it will convolute the point I am trying to get to); every person is held accountable for violation of God’s law, so none of the morality embedded in any of God’s laws would be relative. It applies to everyone. The difference is that the people entering into the covenant agree to obey the law, and God says He will dwell with them and be their God and that they will be His people. The covenant signifies that free will is involved, that in order to receive God’s blessings and the atonement we need to be reconciled to God, we have to freely enter into that covenant relationship with Him and be obedient out of faith. The surrounding peoples were still judged under God’s law with the same moral components (why else would God have the right to enact His judgment upon them?), but they did not enter into covenant with Him.

This is how I have it worked out in my mind :slight_smile:. , but I really am not sure I am understanding accurately why he drew the conclusion he did about the embracing of the covenant equaling the embracing of moral relativism. Please let me know your thoughts! Loving this conversation!