Archive for the ‘Moral Law’ Category

Response to Rachel Slick

August 28, 2013

By way of disclaimer, I happen to be a blogger on the team at CARM.  I didn’t mention this post to Matt Slick, nor does it represent his position or the position of CARM (well, it may, if they happen to agree).

I won’t address everything that Miss Slick said.  It is very sad to see a beautiful young woman departing from the faith, regardless of the reasons, because it means that she is giving up the world to come for the empty and fleeting pleasures of this world – demonstrating a lack of lasting spiritual beauty beneath the veneer, which will soon fade.

Let me address one point she made.  She stated:

This changed one day during a conversation with my friend Alex. I had a habit of bouncing theological questions off him, and one particular day, I asked him this: If God was absolutely moral, because morality was absolute, and if the nature of “right” and “wrong” surpassed space, time, and existence, and if it was as much a fundamental property of reality as math, then why were some things a sin in the Old Testament but not a sin in the New Testament?
Alex had no answer — and I realized I didn’t either. 

The answer to the question is that some things are wrong because they contradict the nature of God, and some things are wrong simply because God has commanded otherwise.  An obvious example is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – one tree in the garden.  Is eating fruit something in itself evil?  No.  Rather, it was evil because God had forbidden Adam to eat of the fruit of the tree.

The same kinds of things apply to, for example, the ceremonial law.  Eating bacon-wrapped shrimp was not wrong absolutely, but only because God had commanded the Israelites to abstain from such food.

It’s the classic distinction between things “malum in se” (evil in themselves – like murder or theft) or “malum prohibitum” (evil because prohibited – like driving after curfew).  I’m very surprised that neither Rachel nor Alex had that answer.

Moreover, this distinction should be obvious from the law itself.  To disobey God (in general) is clearly a contradiction of the nature of God.  Thus, it is also wrong to disobey particular commands of God, even if those commands have an only temporary purpose.  To make the matter easier to follow, consider the case of the command that we obey our parents.  This command may have its root in the nature of God, but the particular commands of our parents may not.  There is no eternal “eat your spaghetti” aspect of God’s character, yet it is sinful for a child to disobey his parents’ command to eat his spaghetti, because he is not obeying his parents.

I don’t believe that this particular issue is really the reason that Rachel abandoned God’s law.  Still, I would like to take this opportunity to help her see that her abandonment of God’s law was irrational.  Perhaps God will use this to draw her back to the faith – or to the faith for the first time, if she never believed.


Response to "Ten Things I wish the Church Knew About Homosexuality"

February 27, 2013

There’s a list of “Ten Things” that the author states he wishes “the Church” knew about what he characterizes as “homosexuality.” I’ll address each item in turn.

1. If Jesus did not mention a subject, it cannot be essential to his teachings.

a) Jesus did mention the subject of sexual sin, and he did so repeatedly. For example:

Matthew 15:19
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:

b) Jesus even specifically mentioned the example of Sodom as a group particularly worthy of judgment.

Luke 10:12
But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.

c) Jesus affirmed the whole moral law of the old testament, both by not destroying it, and by instructing his disciples to obey his commandments.

Matthew 5:17
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

John 15:10
If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.


Deuteronomy 7:9
Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;

d) Whether it is “essential” or not is not the point. The central message of Jesus was to repent (of sin) and believe the Gospel. The emphasis was clearly on the gospel, yet it would be foolishness to ignore repentance from sin. Understanding repentance from sin requires that we recognize what sin is. That applies to a broad range of sins, many of which Jesus did not discuss in depth.

2. You are not being persecuted when prevented from persecuting others.

This point is somewhat vague, but the obvious counter-points are:
a) It’s not in itself persecution to tell people to repent of their sins; and
2) It’s not in itself persecution to prosecute criminal behavior, including criminal sexual behavior.

3. Truth isn’t like wine that gets better with age. It’s more like manna you must recognize wherever you are and whoever you are with.

a) Truth is absolute and timeless. It doesn’t get “better with age,” but it does stay true.
b) Manna was sent from heaven. So was the moral law delivered to Moses. If you recognized that, we wouldn’t need to have this discussion.
c) Manna is not just whatever you want it to be, and neither is truth.

4. You cannot call it “special rights” when someone asks for the same rights you have.

a) People who want the “right” to sleep with someone to whom they are not married are not asking for rights that I have. I have the right to sleep with my spouse, and not with anyone else.
b) People who want the right to call their fornication “marriage” are not asking for the rights that I have. I don’t have the “right” to call my fornication “marriage,” and neither does anyone else.
c) People who want the right to marry same sex are not asking for the rights that I have. I have the right to marry opposite sex, and they have that same right – they just have no desire to exercise that right.

5. It is no longer your personal religious view if you’re bothering someone else.

a) I’m pretty sure one of the major reasons for having rights to express people’s personal views is exactly because they bother other people. If they didn’t bother other people, why would the state need to protect such speech?
b) It’s not just our personal religious view – it’s the view of our churches.
c) It’s also not just our personal religious view, our the view of our churches, but it is an actual matter of fact, revealed by God.

6. Marriage is a civil ceremony, which means it’s a civil right.

a) This argument seems to be based on the particular cultural conventions of modern Western society. Modern society is not a source of truth – it’s traditions and norms shift over time.
b) Homosexuals don’t usually want to marry (in the normal sense of that word), because they are not interested in the opposite-sex obligations of marriage.
c) Even if in some sense marriage is a “civil right,” surely does not mean that there cannot be limitations on it.

7. If how someone stimulates the pubic nerve has become the needle to your moral compass, you are the one who is lost.

Don’t worry, that’s not the needle of our moral compass.

8. To condemn homosexuality, you must use parts of the Bible you don’t yourself obey. Anyone who obeyed every part of Leviticus would rightly be put in prison.

It is always sad, but not surprising, when people are so morally bankrupt that they think the civil laws of Leviticus are bad laws – evil laws. But what is the basis for that moral judgment?

9. If we do not do the right thing in our day, our grandchildren will look at us with same embarrassment we look at racist grandparents.

Again, what is the standard of what is “right”? If the Bible is the standard, it is those who are exalting homosexuality that will be embarrassed on the day of judgment.

10. When Jesus forbade judging, that included you.

This text is an important text:
Matthew 7:1-2
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

So is this text:

John 7:24
Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

And so is this text:

1 Corinthians 6:2
Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?

And most people who appeal to the first one are not even aware of the other two, or the proper harmony amongst them.

A full explanation would exceed the scope of this post, but suffice to say that Matthew 7:1-2 does not mean that we cannot or should not pass moral judgments on people or behaviors. If it did, that would mean we cannot say that murder is wrong, or say that thieves are sinning in what they are doing. That’s an absurd result, and it should demonstrate the absurdity of applying the verse to say that we can’t say that criminal sexual acts are sinful.


Rule of Faith and Life

March 10, 2010

A reader (who I’m not naming to protect the reader’s privacy) wrote the following comment, to which I will respond, line-by-line:

“Turretinfan, you have espoused the view that for an act to be considered immoral, we must find the condemnation of such an act in Scripture.”

This seems like an accurate description of my position, although (as discussed below) certain implications you have drawn from this are not correct.

“Scripture is not only your rule of faith regarding theological positions, but moral ones as well.”

The moral law is one important branch of theology. We say that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are our supreme (and the only infallible) rule of faith and life. We see this same sentiment in the fathers as well, especially those who preceded the scholastics.

Scripture itself teaches this:

Deuteronomy 8:3 And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.

Matthew 4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Luke 4:4 And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.

Deuteronomy 5:33 Ye shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess.

Proverbs 4:4 He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live.

Psalm 37:23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.

Proverbs 2:20 That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous.

Psalm 143:8 Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.

The Westminster Confession puts it this way:

Under the name of holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the Books of the Old and New Testament, which are these: [list of 66 book canon is presented, but I have omitted it] All which are given by inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life.

– Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 1, Section 2

Augustine similarly speaks of the rule of life (vitae regulam).

Augustine (writing in A.D. 387):

The man, then, who is temperate in such mortal and transient things has his rule of life confirmed by both Testaments, that he should love none of these things, nor think them desirable for their own sakes, but should use them as far as is required for the purposes andduties of life, with the moderation of an employer instead of the ardor of a lover.

Latin text:

Habet igitur vir temperans in huiuscemodi rebus mortalibus et fluentibus vitae regulam utroque Testamento firmatam, ut eorum nihil diligat, nihil per se appetendum putet, sed ad vitae huius atque officiorum necessitatem quantum sat est usurpet utentis modestia, non amantis affectu.

Citation: Augustine, On the Morals of the Church and the Morals of the Manichaeans, Two Books, Book 1 (On the morals of the Church), Chapter 21 (Section 39)

Augustine (writing in A.D. 387):

What of justice that pertains to God? As the Lord says, “You cannot serve two masters,” [Matthew 6:24] and the apostle denounces those who serve the creature rather than the Creator, [Romans 1:25] was it not said before in the Old Testament, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve?” [Deuteronomy 6:13] I need say no more on this, for these books are full of such passages. The lover, then, whom we are describing, will get from justice this rule of life, that he must with perfect readiness serve the God whom he loves, the highest good, the highest wisdom, the highest peace; and as regards all other things, must either rule them as subject to himself, or treat them with a view to their subjection. This rule of life, is, as we have shown,confirmed by the authority of both Testaments.

Latin text:

Quid de iustitia quae ad Deum pertinet? Nonne cum et Dominus dicat: Non potestis duobus dominis servire [Matthew 6:24], et Apostolus redarguat eos qui creaturae potius quam Creatori [Romans 1:25] serviunt, in Veteri Testamento prius dictum est: Dominum Deum tuum adorabis, et illi soli servies [Deuteronomy 6:13]? Sed quid opus est hinc plura dicere, cum sententiis talibus ibi plena sint omnia? Hanc ergo iustitia vitae regulam dabit huic amatori de quo sermo est, ut Deo quem diligit, id est summo bono, summae sapientiae, summae paci libentissime serviat ceteraque omnia partim subiecta sibi regat, partim subicienda praesumat. Quae norma vivendi, ut docuimus, utriusque Testamenti auctoritate roboratur.

Citation: Augustine, On the Morals of the Church and the Morals of the Manichaeans, Two Books, Book 1 (On the morals of the Church), Chapter 24 (Section 44)

Augustine (writing in A.D. 387):

This discipline, then, which is the medicine of the mind, as far as we can gather from the sacred Scriptures, includes two things, restraint and instruction. Restraint implies fear, and instruction love, in the person benefited by the discipline; for in the giver of the benefit there is the love without the fear. In both of these God Himself, by whose goodness and mercy it is that we are anything, has given us in the two Testaments a rule of discipline. For though both are found in both Testaments, still fear is prominent in the Old, and love in the New; which the apostle calls bondage in the one, and liberty in the other. Of the marvellous order and divine harmony of these Testaments it would take long to speak, and many pious and learned men have discoursed on it. The theme demands many books to set it forth and explain it as far as is possible for man. He, then, who loves his neighbor endeavors all he can to procure his safety in body and in soul, making the health of the mind the standard in his treatment of the body. And as regards the mind, his endeavors are in this order, that he should first fear and then love God. This is true excellence of conduct, and thus the knowledge of the truth is acquired which we are ever in the pursuit of.

Latin text:

Haec tamen disciplina de qua nunc agimus, quae animi medicina est, quantum Scripturis ipsis divinis colligi licet, in duo distribuitur, coercitionem et instructionem. Coercitio timore, instructio vero amore perficitur eius dico cui per disciplinam subvenitur, nam qui subvenit, nihil horum duorum habet nisi amare. In his duobus Deus ipse cuius bonitate atque clementia fit omnino ut aliquid simus duobus Testamentis, Veteri et Novo, disciplinae nobis regulam dedit. Quamquam enim utrumque in utroque sit, praevalet tamen in Veteri timor, amor in Novo; quae ibi servitus hic libertas ab Apostolis praedicatur. De quorum Testamentorum admirabili quodam ordine divinoque concentu longissimum est dicere et multi religiosi doctique dixerunt. Multos libros res ista flagitat, ut pro merito, quantum ab homine potest, explicari et praedicari queat. Qui ergo diligit proximum, agit quantum potest ut salvus corpore salvusque animo sit, sed cura corporis ad sanitatem animi referenda est. Agit ergo his gradibus, quod ad animum pertinet, ut primo timeat deinde diligat Deum. Hi mores sunt optimi, per quos nobis etiam ipsa provenit, ad quam omni studio rapimur, agnitio veritatis.

Citation: Augustine, On the Morals of the Church and the Morals of the Manichaeans, Two Books, Book 1 (On the morals of the Church), Chapter 28 (Section 56)

Augustine (writing in A.D. 387):

But why say more on this? For who but sees that men who dare to speak thus against the Christian Scriptures, though they may not be what they are suspected of being, are at least no Christians? For to Christians this rule of life is given, that we should love the Lord Our God with all the heart, with all the soul, and with all the mind, and our neighbor as ourselves; for on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Latin text:

Sed quid hinc plura? Quis enim non videat eos qui contra Scripturas christianas haec audent dicere, ut illud non sint quod homines suspicantur, certe tamen non esse christianos? Nam christianis haec data est forma vivendi, ut diligamus Dominum Deum nostrum ex toto corde, ex tota anima, ex tota mente 91, deinde proximum nostrum tamquam nosmetipsos 92. In his enim duobus praeceptis tota lex pendet, et omnes prophetae 93.

Citation: Augustine, On the Morals of the Church and the Morals of the Manichaeans, Two Books, Book 1 (On the morals of the Church), Chapter 30 (Section 62)

“Therefore, the God given faculty of rational thought which separates man from beast cannot in any way condemn an act as immoral unless it has scriptural warrant to do so.”

This does not follow. One’s innate knowledge of God’s law may lead one to condemn certain things as immoral without being taught from Scripture. However, of course, all those who understand original sin must also see the danger of treating one’s conscience as though it were infallible. One conscience is, therefore, a bound on what one is permitted to do, but it does not serve as a rule by which we are to condemn others. To condemn others, we need a higher authority than our own conscience.

“Is this your position?”

Not quite. See the distinctions above.

“Why is homosexuality immoral?”

Why it is wrong may be different from how we know it is wrong. It is wrong because it contrary to the moral law of God. Whether God’s nature necessitated that or whether it was a voluntary law is an interesting question that’s not really germane to our discussion.

We know it is wrong both from Scripture and (for many of us) from conscience.

“Is it simply because the Bible condemns it as such?”

See above. We know it is wrong from the Bible. The reason that it is wrong is the moral law, which is revealed to us clearly through the Bible and less clearly through the light of nature.

“If the Bible were silent on the issue of homosexuality, would it have been moral to engage in it?”

It wasn’t moral prior to Scripture being written. Scripture reveals God’s law to us – it is not itself the basis of morality. Rather Scripture is the revelation of God’s law. The Bible would have been silent on the issue of homosexuality, if it were a matter of indifference. It speaks against the sin because one of the purposes of Scripture is to show us the way we ought to live.

“Why has God condemned homosexuality; is this something that He has communicated to us?”

We might argue over whether God has communicated the reason for his condemnation clearly. It should be apparent that God created Eve (not Steve) for Adam. Consequently, we might reasonably infer that one reason for the prohibition on homosexuality is is contrariety to the Creation ordinance of marriage. This looks like a voluntary law (as opposed to a natural law), but again whether it is or not is not really germane to this discussion.

“What are the inherent principles involved?”

I don’t know what this comment refers to.

“My position is that the natural law is the rational agent’s participation in the eternal law.”

It looks like the commenter’s position is borrowed from Aquinas: “It is therefore evident that the natural law is nothing else than the rational creature’s participation of the eternal law.” (Summa Theologica, 1st part of the 2nd part, Question 91, Article 2)(link)

I do not know whether the commenter would also agree with Aquinas:

Article 6. Whether the law of nature can be abolished from the heart of man?

I answer that, As stated above (4,5), there belong to the natural law, first, certain most general precepts, that are known to all; and secondly, certain secondary and more detailed precepts, which are, as it were, conclusions following closely from first principles. As to those general principles, the natural law, in the abstract, can nowise be blotted out from men’s hearts. But it is blotted out in the case of a particular action, in so far as reason is hindered from applying the general principle to a particular point of practice, on account of concupiscence or some other passion, as stated above (Question 77, Article 2). But as to the other, i.e. the secondary precepts, the natural law can be blotted out from the human heart, either by evil persuasions, just as in speculative matters errors occur in respect of necessary conclusions; or by vicious customs and corrupt habits, as among some men, theft, and even unnatural vices, as the Apostle states (Romans 1), were not esteemed sinful.

– Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 1st part of the 2nd part, Question 94, Article 6 (link)

Such an admission tends to undermine the use of “natural law” standing alone as a rule for others, even if it is an individual’s participation in the eternal law (whatever that is supposed to mean). The light of nature leaves the individual without excuse, but it can be obliterated (variously) as to many details, and consequently is not an infallible authority from which to build a system of morality by which we condemn others.

“Please explain your position.”

Hopefully the explanation above suffices.

– TurretinFan

Unconditional Love and Obedience

October 11, 2009

God loves his elect unconditionally and consequently gave His only-begotten Son to be their ransom. We who are loved unconditionally cannot earn that love, either by faith or works. It is simply bestowed upon us out of the riches of his grace (Ephesians 2:7), mercy, and compassion (Romans 9:15). Nevertheless, we ought not only to believe on the Son, but also unconditionally to obey the commands of God. We do so, not hoping for any eternal reward, but simply loathing and detesting the sin for which our Savior died. Perfect love, Scripture tells us, casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Show your love of God and your appreciation for the Son of God by avoiding sin. You will neither merit heaven nor increase your justification, but you will be walking as children of light (Ephesians 5:8).

Wisdom on Lying

April 1, 2009

Proverbs 12:22 Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight.

Proverbs 17:7 Excellent speech becometh not a fool: much less do lying lips a prince.

Proverbs 10:18 He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool.

Psalm 120:2 Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.

Psalm 31:18 Let the lying lips be put to silence; which speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous.

Especially appropriate for this day of the year.


The Old Testament Law – Tripartite Analysis

October 31, 2008

To provide some background for discussion of the law of God, it is important to understand the categories involved:


The law of God in the Old Testament is of three kinds:

1. Moral

Moral law, because it reflects the character of God, is enduring and immutable. It never was and it never will be permissible to worship any god but God, it never was and never will be permissible to worship God other ways than He ordains, it never was and never will be permissible to dishonor God’s name, it never was and never will be permissible to appropriate all seven days of the week for our work, it never was and never will be permissible to dishonor the authorities over us, to kill, to steal, to lie, to covet, and so forth. In short, it is always the case (for all history) that we must love the Lord our God wholeheartedly and love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

2. Ceremonial

Under the Adamaic, Noahic, Abramic, Mosaic, and Solomonic administrations of the covenant of grace, the worship of God was manifested in certain outward ceremonies that were designed to point to Christ. Eminent among these ceremonies were the rite of animal sacrifice, the practice of tabernacle and later temple worship, and in some cases a specialized priesthood. These things all have been fulfilled in Christ, the one true and perfect sacrifice. He is our high priest and his sacrificial work is finished. Consequently there is no more sacrifice and no more priestly class among us. There were other associated ceremonies as well, such as dietary laws and laws related to physical cleanliness as a picture of spiritual cleanliness. All these ceremonial laws, being fulfilled in Christ, have been done away.

3. Civil / Judicial / Juridical

This third category of laws were the laws specific to the Mosaic administration of the nation of Israel. They are the laws by which the country was run. They are not binding on all humanity. Nevertheless, they are important as to their “general equity,” by which I mean that they show to us a just system of government. There are moral aspects of the civil law of Israel, and these moral aspects remain significant. There were circumstantial aspects, and these aspects necessarily vary under different circumstances. Finally, there were ceremonial aspects, and these aspects have been fulfilled or supplanted in the New Testament.

Errors Distinguished

There are four major (and numerous minor) errors that arise from holding to expired portions of the law (Judaizers and “Extreme” Theonomists) or to disposing of still-relevant portions of the law (“Extreme” Two-Kingdomists and “Extreme” Dispensationalists / Antinomians).

1. Judaiziers

Judaizers seek to impose part (or perhaps all) of the ceremonial law on Christians. Thus, for example, the Judaizers argue that it is necessary for Christians to be circumcised.

2. “Extreme” Theonomists

The term “theonomist” has a wide range of meanings. In some cases, folks who call themselves “theonomists” will insist that virtually all and every detail of the Mosaic law with respect to the Nation of Israel must be followed. The problem with this approach is that it overlooks the fact that the Mosaic law was tailored to two particular forms of government and accompanied a nation-state that has ceased to be.

3. “Extreme” Two-Kingdomists

I am using the term “extreme” here because I’m not sure all “two-kingdom” folks would say this description applies to them. In some cases, it appears that “two-kingdoms” folk treat the civil law of Israel as though it were entirely ceremonial. Thus, these folks say that the civil law is essentially done-away-with and consequently for instruction on how governments should be just, we must appeal exclusively to “natural law,” the light provided by God in general revelation.

4. “Extreme” Dispensationalists / Anti-Nominians

“Extreme” Dispensationalists and also Anti-Nominians take the view that all the laws of the Old Testament are done away with, including the moral law. This error arises from a failure to understand the nature of the moral law, and the relation of God to the law of God. God does not change, and consequently the definition of morality does not change.


The issue of God’s law is not a simple one to be handled carelessly or callously. We must be careful to observe to do all that God has commanded us, and yet we need to be careful not to bind men’s consciences beyond what the Word of God states. Excess in the first regard leads to legalism, excess in the second regard leads to antinomianism. There is one way to see the path to stay on it, without going either to the left or to the right: that one way is by careful attention to the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures.


Friday Menu: Rotini with Meat Sauce

February 16, 2008

I recall some years ago visiting a hotel, and encountering a young man wearing a yarmulke. We met in the lobby of the hotel. After we got on the elevator, he asked me for a favor. He asked me if I would unlock the door of his hotel room for him. You see, the hotel has electronic locks, and operating the hotel’s lock was, in the view of this Jewish man, a violation of the Sabbath.

Oddly, he had not the least compunction in asking me to violate the Sabbath for him. I disagreed with the man’s theonomy, and so I agreed to assist. I pressed the elevator button for him, and I unlocked his door for him. I thought it would be pointless to dispute the matter with him.

Later I investigated whether this was normal or not. After all, normally if something is wrong, it is wrong to ask someone else to do that wrong thing for you. One cannot ask a stranger on a train to murder one’s father, nor (thought I) could one ask a stranger in a hotel lobby to violate the Sabbath. It turns out that the standard Jewish response to the latter question is to distinguish.

Apparently, the standard Jewish answer is that the Sabbath is only for the Jews, not for the Gentiles. Thus, it’s perfectly ok for me (who the young man assumed to be a Gentile) to break the Sabbath, but not ok for me to kill (since prohibitions on murder are more universal).

Why do I bring this up now? The reason I bring it up is because I had a tasty dinner of Rotini with Meat Sauce on a Friday during Lent. I’m interested in Catholic opinion on the matter. Do Catholics think that Lent applies to Christians that are not Catholics? What about to formal/material heretics? In other words, is Lent to Catholics as the Sabbath is to Jews?

On the other side of the spectrum, I am aware that Ramadan in some Muslim countries is enforced by the police. It is not a defense to a charge of breaking Ramadan in any public place that you are not a Muslim.

Furthermore, such a view is not entirely outside Catholicism. Recall that the Fourth Lateran Council decreed:

68. Jews appearing in public
A difference of dress distinguishes Jews or Saracens from Christians in some provinces, but in others a certain confusion has developed so that they are indistinguishable. Whence it sometimes happens that by mistake Christians join with Jewish or Saracen women, and Jews or Saracens with christian women. In order that the offence of such a damnable mixing may not spread further, under the excuse of a mistake of this kind, we decree that such persons of either sex, in every christian province and at all times, are to be distinguished in public from other people by the character of their dress — seeing moreover that this was enjoined upon them by Moses himself, as we read. They shall not appear in public at all on the days of lamentation and on passion Sunday; because some of them on such days, as we have heard, do not blush to parade in very ornate dress and are not afraid to mock Christians who are presenting a memorial of the most sacred passion and are displaying signs of grief. What we most strictly forbid however, is that they dare in any way to break out in derision of the Redeemer. We order secular princes to restrain with condign punishment those who do so presume, lest they dare to blaspheme in any way him who was crucified for us, since we ought not to ignore insults against him who blotted out our wrongdoings.

So then, the simple question is: is my consumption of Rotini with meat sauce on Friday during Lent a mortal sin for me, or only for my Catholic neighbors? Is Lent more like Ramadan or the Jewish Sabbath? And if the latter, would you please pass the meatballs?


UPDATE: I realize that Orthodox views on Lenten fasting are somewhat diferent. I’d be interested in Orthodox thoughts on whether it is sin for Reformed Christians to violate the various prohibitions on eating, drinking, and sex during that period.

Further Update: Thanks to Reginald for his well-reasoned response from a Catholic perspective here (link). If I may summarize his answer: in his view it is more like the Jewish Sabbath, in that it is permitted for non-Catholics to ignore the fast, because the moral basis of obligation is dependent on the duty of Catholics to obey their church.

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