Friday, June 21, 2024

Common Legalist Arguments - Part VI

In my last post in this series, which was but a few moments ago in geological time, we went over the idea that if portions of the law predated Sinai then those things are binding after Sinai. We saw that this argument does not work. The point is to find a way to bind Christians to the Sabbath, or tithing. The Sabbath did not long predate Sinai but other things did, like animal sacrifice. That existed from the very start. Cain and Abel, Noah, and Abraham all practiced animal sacrifice. We know animal sacrifice is no longer required today. Abraham was circumcised, and circumcision is no longer required today. Therefore, it is not true that if things were done prior to the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai then they are required today.

This time, I would like to address what I consider to be a very strange approach that many take to validate their views on law keeping - claiming that since God is eternal then the law is eternal, too.
I have recently started seeing this claim quite frequently.

God is eternal, therefore the law is eternal.

I don't know how many of you are familiar with logic. I think anyone who wants to think deeply on any subject at all should be familiar with logic. Logic helps us form our thoughts correctly.

It is especially good to learn about logical fallacies. These are guidelines to help you recognize and avoid poorly formed arguments. Understanding logical fallacies help us to understand such things as why name-calling is not a valid argument. "You're wrong because you're a Nimrod worshipper," falls down for specific reasons. It's good to understand why.

One particularly useful logical fallacy is "non-sequitur". That's Latin for "does not follow". This is when someone mistakenly claims one thing is caused by another unrelated thing.
For example, a blatant non-sequitur would be, "It just rained, therefore I need to buy a cat."

What in the world does the one have to do with the other? Nothing. You might search and find maybe one instance where the person had some good reason for buying a cat after a rainstorm. It's possible. But finding one instance does not mean purchasing a cat naturally flows directly from rainy days, as if "rain, therefore cat". You could say, "It just rained therefore the grass is wet." That follows naturally. Wet grass does come from rain. "Rain, therefore wet." Or, you might say, "It just rained, therefore wipe your feet when you come inside." Dirty feet come from mud and wet grass. That follows. But buying cats? No.

In this same way, saying the law is eternal because God is eternal is a non sequitur.

We will grant God is eternal. He is. But so what is that to the law? God is not the law and the law is not God, so what does God's eternality have to do with the law? Nothing. It does not follow that because God has an attribute, therefore the law also has that attribute. The law doesn't get that attribute any more than you or I do. God is merciful, was the law merciful? No (HEB. 10: 28). The law had no provision for mercy. The law might have told humans to be merciful, but the law itself was not merciful. God is graceful, but the law was not. Grace came through Jesus (JON. 1: 17). God has attributes the law did not, so why does God being eternal make the law eternal? It does not.

Certain big concepts flow by necessity from God's nature - goodness, wisdom, justice, love, intellect, etc. The specifics of Torah law do not necessarily flow by necessity from God's being in the way things like mercy, authority, or numbers do. It does not follow that because God is good therefore a shofar must be blown on the first day of the seventh month.
"God is good, therefore shofar" is just as non sequitur as "rain, therefore cat".

The entire argument is at its very core completely illogical.


Knowing that right now someone is out there complaining, "Logic is created by men and doesn't apply to God because words words words....", I will move on to looking into the workings of the claim. If the law proceeds from God's being necessarily, then it has to be eternal in the past because God is eternal in the past.

Some laws cannot possibly have been eternal in the past. Have you read the list of Torah laws? Any national law for Israel could not possibly have been eternal. You cannot have a national law for Israel before there was an Israel. You cannot have a law about tassels on garments before there were garments or weaving.

Any ceremonial law could not be eternal in the past. You cannot tithe before there were humans and increase. You cannot rest before there was creation and work. You cannot sacrifice animals before there were animals, or burn incense before there was incense, or travel to Jerusalem three times in a year before there was a Jerusalem or a year.

If the law was eternal in the past, then how can Paul claim it came 430 years after God made a promise to Abraham (GAL. 3: 17)? He could not. Paul did not say it was written down, or given, 430 years later. Paul's point was unambiguously that the promise predated and superseded the law. He then goes on to the law "was added" (v. 19). In Romans 5: 13 he says "until the law" and "there is no law". How can Paul speak this way if the law was eternal in the past? He cannot.

Anyone who continues to claim the national and ceremonial laws are past eternal have created an issue. Laws that exist before the things they govern exist. So, what are the implications of this? This can only mean one of two things:
1) There are untold myriads of hidden laws out there, existing for no good reason, governing things that have yet to come into existence, or might never come into existence. We have no way of knowing what legions of laws there might be. Clearly, this is ridiculous.
2) The 613 Torah laws are perfect and are the only ones that flow from God's being. No more and no less. For some reason, because God is such and such, therefore the thread in Israelites and only Israelites clothing had to be blue. "God, therefore blue thread." But not other colors of thread, and not other people. Blue is the perfect color because God is such and such. For some reason, God is such and such, therefore the High Priest is prohibited from marrying a widow. That's just how things had to be. "God, therefore no widows." Clearly, this is also ridiculous.

I am not saying the laws are ridiculous. I am saying making them past eternal and tying them directly to God's being is ridiculous.

The sheer absurdity of this claim should be coming into focus.


If the law proceeds from God's being necessarily, then it has to be eternal in the future because God is eternal in the future and unchanging. If the law is eternal in the future, then no law can be removed or altered.

Are parts of the Old Covenant law no longer binding? Yes. Name one. Circumcision. Then the law isn't eternal. Most people will readily admit the ceremonial and the national laws are gone. That's 2/3 of the law gone! The law cannot be both eternal and gone. That violates the law of non-contradiction. Hebrews 7: 12 says:

(HEB. 7: 12) For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.

What! A change? Yes, the unchanging law has changed. That means it's not eternal.

When Jesus died, the veil to the Holy of Holies was torn in two (MAT. 27: 51), signifying the way to God was now open. No more Day of Atonement with its ritualistic national cleansing would be necessary (HEB. 10: 19-22). None of these laws are eternal in the future.

But it wasn't merely some slight alteration. The entire Levitical system, with its Temple and its ceremonies and its tithes and offerings and its appointments and its holiness rituals and its condemnation, was removed. Not just changed , removed. Read II Corinthians 3: 7-16. The old ministry and all its laws have passed away, replaced by a whole new system. Therefore, not a single one of those many laws can be eternal in the future.

So, not only is the premise incorrect that the law is eternal, but it is easy to see the argument "God is eternal, therefore the law is eternal," is non-sequitur.


Let's not be coy here. We all know the one law many people are really after is the Sabbath day.

When we start defining what is moral law, we have to start defining why certain things are moral. Once we start scrutinizing the Sabbath, we see it has no moral component at all. The only thing in the world it has going for it is that it's in the Ten Commandments. We explored that in the article. "Is Ceremonial Law Removed?". The argument "Ten Commandments, therefore moral" is just as non-sequitur as "God, therefore the law is eternal". Let's briefly scrutinize the eternality of the Sabbath.

If the moral law is eternal, and the Sabbath is a moral law, then the Sabbath is eternal. Yay! But...

Genesis 1: 5, God created day and night. How can the Sabbath day exist before there was day? Let alone the seventh one. It cannot. Most Sabbatarians point at Genesis 2: 2 to justify the Sabbath day. How can we look here in Genesis for the Sabbath yet it existed eternally before that?

In the Kingdom there will be no day or night or need for the sun (REV. 21:22 - 22: 5). No day or night means no weekly Sabbath day. The Sabbath day is utterly dependent on day and night - by definition and by law! It could not exist before there was a sun, and it cannot exist after the sun is gone. How can the Sabbath be eternal when we can demonstrate from the Bible that the concept of day and night are not eternal?
You could also look towards the point of the Sabbath - rest. How can we have a rest when there is no longer any toil to rest from? The definition of a Sabbath rest is not simply rest, it is rest from assigned regular duties. No toil, no point to rest. Just like in Eden. What did Adam have to rest from? He was in paradise! So it will be in the future.

This is an exercise in contradictions.

Now, we have but three choices:
1) Revelation is wrong. If the Sabbath is eternal because God is eternal, then day and night must also be eternal because the Sabbath needs them. So, you get an eternal Sabbath at the cost of Revelation being wrong.
2) The Sabbath is not a moral law. If all moral laws are eternal, and the Sabbath has a beginning and an end, then the Sabbath is not a moral law. Because day and night had a beginning and will have an end, we cannot say the Sabbath is eternal. If all moral laws are eternal then the Sabbath cannot be a moral law.
3) The Sabbath is redefined contrary to the law and reason into something utterly unlike what we read in the law. Some people do this in order to claim the Sabbath exists outside of time (e.g., "angels keep the Sabbath" - proof please). That's not what the law says, though. We are talking about the law.

Take your pick.


Maybe by this point you are thinking, perhaps the national and ceremonial laws aren't eternal but the moral law has to be. Supposedly the moral law flows naturally from God's own moral nature, therefore the moral law is eternal because God's moral nature is unchanging. Then why not say that? Why not claim "the moral law" instead of "the law"?

I'll tell you why. People do not make this argument to get others to stop murdering or coveting. What they want is to justify the non-moral laws on their cherry-picked list, like tithing, meats laws, holy days, and the weekly Sabbath.

Let's ask that tough question, though. Is the moral law eternal?

What about the law against adultery?
That's a law everyone can agree is a moral law. How could that exist before there was marriage? In the future, no one will marry (MAT. 22: 30). The law about adultery does not exist if marriage does not exist. Just like the Sabbath without days.
The moral law prohibiting adultery is not eternal.

What about the law against murder?
How can the law against murder exist before humans could die, or continue on after all humans are immortal? All humanity will eventually be immortal (I COR. 15: 26). The law about murder does not exist if mortality does not exist.
The moral law prohibiting murder is not eternal.

What about the law against covetousness?
How can the law against covetousness exist after the fullness of the Kingdom has come, and we have fully received the inheritance we are promised in Jesus, and we are fully possessors of all things? How do we covet what is already ours? In the future there will be no such thing as limited resources. Everyone will have more than plenty, and then some. The law about covetousness does not exist if limited resources does not exist.
The moral law prohibiting covetousness is not eternal.

What about the law against idolatry?
How can the law against idolatry exist after everyone lives in the direct presence of the true and living God? Who among us, when we live in the fullness of the Kingdom of God, would ever, ever turn back to worshiping anything less? It's absurd! The law against idolatry does not exist if the worship of other gods/things/etc does not exist.
The moral law prohibiting idolatry is not eternal. This one has the best chance of being eternal, but it seems somewhat childish to me to presume perfected beings will need a law.

"But those acts are still wrong even if they are impossible to commit," someone is no doubt saying right now. That's like saying it's a sin to kill a dinosaur. There are no dinosaurs, but it's still a sin to kill one. Makes sense? No. And here we go, back to myriads of unknown laws governing things that do not and might never exist.

"The law is eternal..." STOP! No, it isn't. Not even the moral laws are eternal.
Turns out eternality is not an attribute of moral law and this claim never mattered in the first place. This entire argument is a pointless exercise in futility, and a distraction.

This is a problem some people solve by leaving it obscure and refusing to deal with it. Somewhat reminds me of the situation in my last post, "Willful Ignorance". It is easier to bury the head or to make sweeping generalities than to investigate it and realize you've invested so much of your time, energy, and money in a mistake.


Now that I feel we've examined plenty of evidence against the eternality of the law - where is the evidence supporting this claim? Where is the proof it is eternal?

In the "Willful Ignorance" post, I complained about a person who was demanding a proof text so he could avoid studying a topic that threatened his preferred interpretations of scripture. Here today, I am demanding some kind of evidence, but not so I can avoid the evidence, rather because I would like some and cannot find any. Show me a proof text that the law necessarily emanates directly from God. Show me the proof that the law existed eternally in the past, or will exist eternally in the future.

There is none. This is what we call a baseless assertion. Something is just said to be true and that's that.

It only makes sense that the ones making the claim should prove their claim.


If the law is not eternal, and does not proceed from God necessarily as if to say "God, therefore law", then where does the law come from? This is a critical piece of understanding for you. Critical!

>>>>>     It isn't God therefore law, it's Covenant therefore law.     <<<<<

The law is not an attribute of God, as if to say the law exists because of God's nature. Also, the law does not exist as an entity all on its own. People get caught up partly because the body of law was given a name and is called Torah. Torah is not some thing that exists all on its own apart from anything else. God did not come down to Sinai to give Moses two tablets, then went away for a bit, and returned later on with a covenant to keep those laws. No. He came to Sinai and gave the Covenant ...which consists of the laws, and the blessings and the cursings.

If you want more on why the Ten Commandments are the Old Covenant, read our article "If You Love Me, Keep My Commandments".

In Armstrongism, people regularly take a verse out of its context, create a whole new context for it, then hold it up as proof of their point. We call this "proof texting. The law has a context, too. That context is the Old Covenant. The law is not an attribute of God but of the Old Covenant.
It is wrong to extract the law from its proper context then invent a whole new context for it. "Here ya go! I've taken the law out of the Covenant, and now it stands all on its own and it's eternal and it's binding on everyone. Yay!" No. That's not how this works.

The Old Covenant law only exists within the bounds of the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant is the framework within which the law exists, along with blessings for keeping them and curses for breaking them. The Covenant is what makes it binding. We cannot just extract the law from its context, give it a whole new context (like it stands all on its own), and then proclaim what a wonderful thing we've done. Doing that might it look like we've gained ourselves a Sabbath day, but in reality it butchers the narrative and dissolves the law. It's the doctrinal version of proof texting.

And what does Paul say about the Covenant?

(HEB. 8: 13) In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

And so it is.

So, I say once again, it isn't God therefore law, it's Covenant therefore law.


I would leave it at that, but I know there's someone reading this who is still bothered by something. Something is still irritating the back of their mind. You are bothered by the relation between God's morality and our responsibility to behave appropriately, and how that correlates to moral law. So, I want to finish up by fleshing out this moral law thing a little bit more. I think it deserves the attention.

God is a god of goodness. Not all things are goodness. There is good and there is evil. Anyone who is on "team God" agrees to behave in a manner consistent with God's morally good nature. We call this morality.

One side says the moral law must remain because God's nature is moral and the law is the expression of that morality. This is why some people say the law is eternal. They are trying to explain this relationship between God's morally good nature and our obligations to behave in a morally good manner. They believe law, specifically the Old Covenant law, is the only way that morality can be expressed.
The other side (including me) says the Old Covenant law was but now is no longer the expression of that morality, and the Covenant is gone along with all its laws ...yet morality remains.

How? How can you remove the law that says "you shall not murder" and yet murder remains wrong?? How can there be morality but not be a specific moral law??? Does not compute!

Remember in the article "What Use Is The Old Law?" when we saw how sin existed before the law? 

(ROM. 5: 13-14a) For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses...

Sin exists apart from the law. The law did not create or define sin, it only gave a knowledge of sin.

Just like sin, righteousness also exists apart from the law.

(ROM. 3: 21) But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law

The very idea that the moral law is necessary for morality is contradicted here. Furthermore, Paul openly says the law is not where righteousness comes from.

(GAL. 2: 21) I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.

Sin doesn't come from the moral law, AND righteousness doesn't come from the moral law? How?? To be as blunt as I can - the law is not the essential component that many people think it is.

God doesn't need law to be good. That's obvious! Goodness is simply one of His attributes. He is goodness. But if God can do it without law, then law is not this essential thing people assume it to be. There is something greater than the moral law, something that does emanate directly from God's nature: love.

(I JON. 4: 8) He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

You must divorce both sin and righteousness from the Old Covenant law. Laws are not the only way to achieve moral goodness. You can tap directly into God's nature.

It's not like the ones who insist on the moral law are completely wrong. The moral law was good. It was a reflection of morality. There are definite similarities between the Old and New Covenants. But the Old Covenant law was only meant to be for a certain people in a certain place for a certain time until a certain goal could be achieved, and that goal was the first coming of Jesus Christ (GAL. 3: 19, 25).

The problem is people put all of their eggs in the basket of law when there is a better basket. The Ten Commandments aren't the only way to define morality. The entire moral law in the Old Covenant isn't the only way to define morality. Can they help? Sure! But they aren't essential. There is another way. The moral laws of the Old Covenant were replaced by something even older, even greater, even more foundational. What came after them is what came before them. The new law is the oldest law. Specifically, the Royal Law of Love.

(ROM. 13: 8) Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.
(ROM. 13: 10) Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
(JAS. 2: 8) If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well
(I JON. 4: 21) And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

We are not called to lists of laws, but to liberty. Even so, morality remains.

(GAL. 5: 13-14) 13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

When Paul says, "the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law" THIS is what he means. He means the law witnessed to love. (MAR. 12: 29-31)

Is "love" as specific as we would like it to be? No. We like instructions, details, particulars. Finding few in the New Testament, we start digging in the Old Covenant, and there we stumble if we aren't careful, not understanding covenants. Please read our article "What Use Is The Old Law?"

So, how then do we know what to do? We grow up and no longer need the school master, that's how. We walk by faith. We follow the Holy Spirit.

(ROM. 7: 6) But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.
(GAL. 5: 16) I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

All this talk about getting to the more foundational principle of love means the law is not the eternal, essential component it is claimed to be.

If you really want to burn your biscuits, read our articles on how our righteousness before God does not come from obeying the New Covenant laws, either. Our righteousness comes from our participation in Jesus Christ by faith. It is His righteousness imputed to us that makes us righteous before God. We are considered righteous because He is righteous, and He is in us. Any obedience to the royal law of love is merely a result of our relationship with God, not some cause of it.
I suggest you read Martha's article "Abraham's Faith and Works - or Faith and Parachutes, Part 3". She knocks this idea out of the park.

But that is too much for this already lengthy article. I leave you with what I've already said.


"God is eternal, therefore the law is eternal," is illogical and incorrect. God is not the law, and the law is not God. Righteousness does not come from the law.

The laws of the Old Covenant, good as they were, are not mandatory results of God's nature, as if to say "God therefore Old Covenant law". The moral law does not exist as necessary extensions of God's nature. Sin and righteousness exist apart from the law. So, we cannot say that just because God is eternal, or even God's nature is moral eternally, therefore the law is eternal. It does not follow.

The assertion is baseless. No evidence is given for why the law is eternal, it is just an empty claim people make.

I have shown how the law cannot have existed eternally in the past, and cannot exist eternally into the future, therefore the law is not eternal. The premise being false means the conclusion is false.

Every single Old Covenant law, whether ceremonial, national, or moral, was a term of that covenant. When that Old Covenant ended, all of its terms were dissolved. We are now under a New Covenant, with new terms. We are called to liberty, but not to vice.

What, then, defines righteousness if not the moral law? The answer is faith, love, and our relationship with God in-dwelling. God is not law, God is love.

Love finds its expression in good works. We were made for this! But these are results of our relationship with God. They are results of righteousness, not causes of it. All of this is apart from law. 

You probably need an ice pack on your head after this post. I can relate. None of this made sense to me at first, either. It is supremely difficult for a person conditioned to thinking in terms of law to stop that and think in terms of faith. I really do recommend you read Martha's series. It will help.

I leave you with a prayer. I pray that God helps you to understand, after prayerful consideration. God bless you.

[Also see Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart V]


It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )

Acts 17:11



Miller Jones/Lonnie C Hendrix said...

As usual, a well-articulated and logical exposition on the current and future applications of Torah. God and the universe he/she/it created is logical. If we follow its lead, the Holy Spirit guides us away from confusion toward logic. God cannot and does not author fallacious reasoning or answers, but we sometimes do.

As you point out, proof-texting (lifting a passage out of context and using it as evidence) is the epitome of a hasty generalization. It is both lazy and misleading.

The legalist falsely characterizes those who advocate grace and salvation through Christ as lawless - as trying to do away with law. They completely ignore the scriptural evidence that Christ fulfilled the Law and instituted a NEW Covenant based on better terms - rendering the Old one obsolete.

Another argument that these folks employ occurred to me while I was reading your post. They quote I Peter 1:25 and Isaiah 40:8 as proof of the eternal nature of Torah. Yes, God's word(s) endures forever (including Torah), but they completely ignore or dismiss the fact that Scripture is clear that its use and applicability has been modified by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Christ summarized God's Law into two great commandments and distilled it to its essence for the people of the New Covenant - LOVE. Hence, if you truly love God and your neighbor, a specific commandment against murder is rendered redundant and unnecessary. Moreover, even this "keeping of the law" is only an expression of love and gratitude. In other words, we stand clean before God because of Jesus Christ, not because of anything we've done or haven't done!

xHWA said...

Thank you!

And yeah, that is a really good point you realized. Thank you for sharing that. I will have to think on that a while.