In what is becoming a growing trend by the mainstream media to try and change the Bible to accommodate their political agendas, MSNBC news anchor Lawrence O’Donnell went on a nine-minute rant against the Bible (the video is below), because of the issue of homosexuality and calling for banning the Bible from use at Presidential inaugurations because “no one believes” all of the Bible. Unfortunately, O’Donnell’s comments represent a spirit of open hostility against Christianity and a fundamental misunderstanding of the Old Testament Law and the Gospel. This article will briefly explain his error and show that while O’Donnell talks about God’s wrath he has forgotten completely about God’s grace and mercy. And this is why many Christians do indeed believe every single chapter of the Bible.
Here is O’Donnell’s attack:
At first glance, even to a Christian, it may appear that O’Donnell is making a legitimate argument. He clearly supports gay rights and opposes the Bible’s declaration of homosexuality as a sin (because the word “homosexual” is not in the version he checked). And while O’Donnell understands that Christians do believe it, his argument is that there is no one truly believing all of the portions of the Bible (specifically the calls for death penalty for certain sin listed in the Mosaic law) or else there would be churches “burning people at the stake” every day. After all, the Bible demands the death penalty for certain sins.
So why aren’t churches following these commands? Is it because they do not believe? – so goes O’Donnell’s position. However the purpose of the Mosaic Law (the law given to Moses from God, which Mr. O’Donnell is referencing) was to be a reflection of God’s Holy Nature. The Lord, the Creator of all living creatures, is our Father. And like any parent, he has set morals, values and rules for humanity. The Mosaic Law, given to the Israelites in the days of Moses (ca 1500 BC) were these rules – and they were to be adhered to by the Israelites so they could be a shining example of living a godly lifestyle to the rest of the world.
The Bible’s Death Penalty Provisions
Here are some of the laws in the Bible that demand the death penalty:
Murder: He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death. – Exodus 21:12.
Adultery: And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. – Leviticus 20:10.
Rape: But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die. But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter: — Deuteronomy 22:25-26.
Homosexuality: If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. – Leviticus 20:13.
Persistent Disobedience To Parents: If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear. – Deuteronomy 21:18-21.
And there are other examples as well. Does this seem harsh? Well it should. It is a reflection of God’s moral standards. This is how The Lord views these sins – as worthy of death. That is how serious they are to him. This author has worked in Youth Ministry for five years, meeting and spending time with many parents of teenagers over that period. And rest assured – every decent parent has their own “line” that will incur their absolute and immediate wrath (say coming home to find their teenage children having a party with drinking and drugs and a large number of children running around the house). This was the other purpose of the law: to let us know we are in big trouble with God.
Doesn’t a good parent, lay out laws and warnings for their children? A parent may say in advance: “If I ever come and find any drinking or drugs in this house, you are going to get it!” Sounds harsh right? Yeah, the law always is. Now for the disobedient child who later gets caught in that situation the immediate thought of that teen is normally: “my parents are going to kill me!” And the parent, upon coming home and busting said teenager is thinking: “I am going to kill him!” Well, the death penalty Scriptures cited above, is God seeing our sins and saying “I am going to kill that kid!”
But you may say to this, “a parent might think that in their minds, or even say it out loud, but they don’t actually kill their child. They just punish them and forgive them.” And that is precisely what our Father in Heaven does. And this is where O’Donnell’s lack of Biblical knowledge undoes his entire argument. While the Law of Moses had many rules on morality and harsh punishments, it also has an extensive system of forgiveness. The numerous rules and rituals for atonement were given by God so that people could be forgiven of these sins. How many people? All people who would seek it. The moral law was actually tougher than stated in the video. There was one caveat to God’s moral law that O’Donnell did not mention – if a person broke one law, it was as bad in God’s eyes as breaking all of them: “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.” (Deuteronomy 27:26).
So wait, does this mean that all people are guilty before God and are cursed for breaking just one rule? Yes. The Lord will not abide with sinful rebellion in His Heavenly Kingdom and the stain of one violation of God’s perfect morals results in being cursed. This is the bad news. But the good news is God provided a sacrificial system of atonement whereby the people could be forgiven.
Those who try to paint the God of The Old Testament as angry, harsh and violent, always seem to neglect this. But God made it clear that forgiveness was readily available to those who sin:
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” – Leviticus 17:11.
In order for there to be forgiveness, blood had to shed. And God gave specific instructions on the sacrifices of animals by the appointed priests to make atonement for the sins of the people. Here is one example:
And thou shalt cause a bullock to be brought before the tabernacle of the congregation: and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the bullock. And thou shalt kill the bullock before the LORD, by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And thou shalt take of the blood of the bullock, and put it upon the horns of the altar with thy finger, and pour all the blood beside the bottom of the altar. And thou shalt take all the fat that covereth the inwards, and the caul that is above the liver, and the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, and burn them upon the altar. But the flesh of the bullock, and his skin, and his dung, shalt thou burn with fire without the camp: it is a sin offering. – Exodus 29:10-14.
The shed blood of the bull was a substitute atonement. Yes, in order for forgiveness, something had to die and blood was shed. This too may seem harsh but sin is a messy, ugly business. And God being perfectly just, must see that justice is served. But rather than putting His own children to death, God provided a substitute sacrifice to atone and “cover” the sins of the people. This is why you do not see (and Mr. O’Donnell could not mention) people being “burned at the stake” at all in the Old Testament.
So how often were these sacrifices to be done? Every day: “Now this is that which thou shalt offer upon the altar; two lambs of the first year day by day continually. The one lamb thou shalt offer in the morning; and the other lamb thou shalt offer at [evening]:” (Exodus 29:38-39).
There were also sacrifices for the Sabbath day, the start of a new month and for the feast days of the Jewish religion found in the Old Testament. All these sacrifices providing covering for the numerous sins of the people. All this was a demonstration of God’s mercy which He revealed Himself, even in the days of that oh-so harsh Mosaic law. Here is God, in that same Old Testament, describing Himself to humanity:
“And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,” Exodus 34:6.
“ The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression..” – Numbers 14:18.
Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. – Micah 7:18-19.
To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him; – Daniel 9:9.
Rather than wanting to punish and destroy us, God longs to have mercy on us and forgive us. This is the true nature of God. Yes, there is no tolerance of sin. But where sin exists, God’s mercy and grace to forgive is even greater. This is the God of the Old Testament and He backed this up by providing a daily system for the atonement and covering of sins, no matter how small or great.
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. – Isaiah 1:18.
So Why Aren’t Bible Believers Doing Atonement Sacrifices Today?
“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” – John 1:29.
The sacrifices of the Old Testament, while providing atonement, were “coverings.” They covered the sin spiritually, but did not fully reconcile that person back to The Lord. All these ancient animal sacrifices for forgiveness were just a foreshadow of the ultimate sacrifice – God sacrificing His own Son for humanity. Jesus Christ, lowered Himself from His Divine throne in Heaven and was born as a human being on Earth for this very reason – so that He could be the final, perfect sacrifice to provide forgiveness for all sins forever. John The Baptist, who was sent to announce the arrival of the Messiah, knew this, which is why he declared Jesus “the lamb of God”, making a reference to the Old Testament sacrifice, but noting that Jesus would be the Divine Sacrifice, that would provide eternal forgiveness and atonement with God.
At the Last Supper, Jesus took the cup of atonement, drank by Jewish people during the Passover Seder and said: “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the [forgiveness] of sins.” (Matthew 26:28).
God’s law today lets us know that we are sinners and are in “big trouble” and need a sacrifice to atone for our sins. Jesus, the Savior, became a willing sacrifice on the cross, as an eternal being who lived a sinless life, and was able to provide full forgiveness for those who lived on Earth before and after him for all time. God took His wrath for all of the murders, rapes, lies, racism, genocide, abuse, homosexuality and all other sins committed and poured it out on Jesus. Jesus Christ willingly took the punishment and paid for humanity’s forgiveness with His Divine blood. Remember, God would not be a good God, if He permitted sins to go unpunished. That is not justice, that is corruption. But through the death and sacrifice of Jesus, and the shedding of His perfect blood, God’s justice was satisfied.
It was the fulfillment of God’s original plan to reconcile His disobedient children back to Him. And all it takes is faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, to receive that forgiveness and receive eternal life with God. All the sins you have committed will be punished. The only question is if you will continue to resist and deny God, die in your sins and suffer damnation or believe in the Gospel, God’s plan of reconciliation and be forgiven.
Yes Mr. O’Donnell, We Do Believe The Bible!
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” – John 3:16-17.
Lawrence O’Donnell certainly posed an interesting and passionate argument in making his case against the Bible. Unfortunately, it only referenced one aspect of God – that He is indeed a divine and perfect Judge of right and wrong. And as such, will punish every sin. But God, fortunately is also a loving, merciful, patient and compassionate Father. So while The Lord does indeed want to “ring his kid’s little neck” when we are out of control committing all sorts of sins, whether it be lies, stealing, fighting, sexual immorality or just having impure thoughts, God also, in His love for us, like a great parent, is more than willing to forgive. All we have to do is believe, the precise thing O’Donnell says no one does.
Well Mr. O’Donnell, hear this loud and clear – I believe the Bible. All of it. As do the many Bible-believing Christians all over the world. And those same laws on the death penalty which you misunderstood, was God announcing His feelings about those actions to the world (and rest assured, it is not hard to find many people today who would say “all rapists should be put to death”). God is indeed repulsed and angered by sin (like a good parent who has morals and values). God does want to see sin rightfully punished (like a good parent who does not spoil his children rotten). Which is why He created a method to have us forgiven and have justice be served (like a good parent who has compassion on those same disobedient children and instead of actually wringing their necks, grounds them for six months).
And Jesus Christ, who gave His life as the final sacrifice, provides that forgiveness of sin forever. But it takes belief and faith in God’s Word, which many born-again Christians have today. So if a person is willing to get to know God, and not put Him and the Bible on trial, they can know and believe in Jesus Christ as well. The book of James says: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” If you open your heart to God with humility, He will come closer to you. And if you believe and have faith in Jesus, your sins will be cleansed forever and you will receive a new spirit that seeks to please God and not rebel (hence the term “born again”).
Ironically, during Jesus’ ministry on Earth, He was approached by Jewish leaders who had caught a woman in adultery and wanted to see if Jesus would have her executed on the spot, citing the exact same death penalty law that Mr. O’Donnell mentioned during his rant (and notice they have the same level of anger and arrogance towards Jesus as Mr. O’Donnell has). Jesus’ response to their challenge sums up the nature of God:
And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. – John 8:1-11.
Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, did not seek to destroy the woman. He sought to forgive her. We have all sinned. God, who sees everything, has caught all of us “in the very act.” We all deserve death and hell. But God loves us and is ready to forgive. We just have to believe. And that belief comes through reading, understanding and knowing the Bible. Rather than ban the Bible from inaugurations, this country and its leadership needs it more than ever. Lord willing, Mr. O’Donnell will understand this and start believing too.