God’s Word – Timeless Wisdom?

06 Oct
from Google Images

from Google Images

One of my favorite TV programs a few years back was The West Wing (1999 – 2006) with Martin Sheen starring as President Josiah (Jed) Bartlet. I thought Sheen did a very good job expressing what it might be like to hold the most important public office in our country, and, arguably, the world. One of the most memorable scenes[1] (at least for me) was when Sheen appeared before a small gathering at the White House where a woman, Dr. Jacobs, apparently a popular TV or radio personality who hosted a program where people called in to ask questions concerning how they should live their lives, sat in an informal gathering in the White House waiting for the President to ‘drop by’. In the scene President Bartlet was troubled over Dr. Jacobs’ glaring faux pas, concerning her lack of respect for the office of the President. She remained seated while everyone in the room, including President Bartlet, was standing.

No doubt President Bartlet would ordinarily have let the breach of etiquette pass without comment, but it seems Dr. Jacobs was in the habit of being a bit judgmentally cruel (for President Bartlet’s tastes) in her own program to allow him to let her blunder pass without addressing it. Dr. Jacob’s program apparently dealt with Old Testament answers to present day problems, and she had no problem declaring homosexuality an abomination as stated in Leviticus 18:22. With a bit of unconcealed sarcasm, President Bartlet asked Dr. Jacobs a few questions. For example, what would a good price for his youngest daughter be (Exodus 21:7) who is a sophomore at college and spoke fluent Italian? Leo, President Bartlet’s Chief of Staff, insists on working on the Sabbath, which is a ground for execution (Exodus 35:2). Should the President put him to death or should he call the police? Touching a pig makes one unclean (Leviticus 11:7-8j), so, if sportsmen in our country promise to wear gloves, could they still play football, since it is made of pigskin? President Bartlet concluded with asking if the whole town should come together to stone his brother for planting two different crops side-by-side, and should he burn his mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments from two different threads.

The scene was both entertaining and thought provoking at the same time. President Bartlet was a likable character, and one wants to side with him in the program. That’s just the way the program was written. Our sympathies, unless we are on our guard at all times, will tend to support Martin Sheen’s character, which he played so well. Nevertheless, Hollywood is never a good source for Biblical understanding or criticism.[2]

Aside from the obvious errors of President Bartlet’s concluding remarks,[3] what can we say about the scriptures that were correctly quoted and applied to modern behavior? The Mosaic Law was never the law of the United States. It was the constitutional law of Israel. It was never intended to be timeless wisdom or a universal moral code. The fact is that, as far as morality is concerned, Paul claims it was inferior to the law of love commanded by Jesus (Galatians 5:6; Colossians 3:11). Martin Sheen’s character, President Bartlet, although superior in intelligence to what I could ever hope to be, used his sarcasm in a manner that was not only out of context, but it probably needlessly offended many Christians (and perhaps religious Jews) who watched the program. The problem is that many critics today don’t like to try to understand why the Bible says what it says. They’re more comfortable indulging themselves in unwarranted sarcasm at the expense of religious people (usually Christians). The Old Testament was written by and to folks thousands of years ago. Its sometimes perplexing precepts, principles and punishments may seem odd, arbitrary and even severe to many of us today, but they weren’t so odd, arbitrary or severe to the folks living back then. They worked very well in accordance with the worldview at that time, and, if the worldview of some atheists or agnostics today were to change and recognize the existence of God, their new worldview might be more understanding of the ancient worldview of the Jews.


[1] This particular scene can be viewed HERE on YouTube.

[2] As I said HERE, this current theme about “making sense of the Old Testament God” is based upon the book: Is God a Moral Monster by Paul Copan. These are my thoughts about his book. He may or may not agree with the impression his book has made upon me, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading what Paul wrote and recommend his book to anyone who is looking for a good read concerning defending our faith.

[3] The Bible does not advocate death penalties for a farmer mingling his seed that is planted in the field or for wearing a garment made of two different pieces of cloth (Leviticus 19:19; Deuteronomy 22:9, 11).


Posted by on October 6, 2015 in apologetics


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3 responses to “God’s Word – Timeless Wisdom?

  1. Bev

    October 6, 2015 at 11:58

    I shared this on my FB page by copying and pasting the URL. That was before I noticed you had share buttons below the article. So if you track the number of shares, you have a +1 on Facebook.

    I never watched The West Wing when it was current, but about two years ago I was looking for something engaging to watch while I exercised on the treadmill and started watching The West Wing on Amazon Prime. I was immediately hooked and watched the whole series over a period of a few months.

    • Eddie

      October 6, 2015 at 17:03

      Hi Bev! It is always a pleasure hearing from you, and thank you for your share of FB. I don’t track anything anymore. I used to be very tedious on such things, but, now, stats don’t seem to matter much. But, I am glad when I find that someone appreciated something I had to say enough to share it elsewhere. Thank you. I’m always encouraged when you stop by. :-)

      I, too, never watched The West Wing when it was current. I was disappointed with myself when I found it so interesting, but I hardly ever missed it when it was picked up by one of the independent channels.

      Lord Bless you, Bev. By the way, I visited your website and looked at your pictures of old poles with insulators, while you were in Maine. I believe it was on your way to by the “Big Cookie”! I used to work for Verizon (Bell Atlantic/Bell of Pa.) before I retired. I have a small (very small) collection of insulators. I began working for Bell when they were fazing that type of plant out, but I did work on poles with cross-arms. It was a lot of fun, but I appreciate the ‘fun’ much more as a memory than when I was working.

      • Bev

        October 6, 2015 at 22:34

        Eddie, thanks so much for visiting my photo blog! I have neglected it for some time and should get back to updating it. It’s amazing how many old poles and insulators are still around. Take care and God bless. I’ll be back!


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