Tag Archives: ethics

Don’t the Boundaries Promised to Abraham Imply that Modern Israel is Entitled to More Land?

The boundaries of the land God promised Abraham are given in Genesis 15:18-21:

On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates—the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites” (Gen. 15:18-21 nkjv).

These boundaries included all of the land occupied from the river of Egypt on the south to the River Euphrates on the north. As Israel made preparations to enter the land, they also captured some of the area on the east of the River Jordan, and 2 1/2 tribes were given this area (Num. 34:14-15). The area just west of the River Jordan was occupied by the tribes of Benjamin, Ephraim, Issachar, and one-half of the tribe of Manasseh.

No one can make a certain identification of the “river of Egypt.” Some identify it as the River Nile. But Israel was clearly not in the Promised Land when it was in Egypt. Others think this river is a desert stream that flows during the rainy season. This would concur with Kadesh-Barnea being the southern border. It was from Kadesh-Barnea that the spies entered the land.

At the least, the area promised by God to Abraham would be all of the area west of the River Jordan from Wadi-el-Arish on the south to the Euphrates River on the north. (The area occupied by the 2 1/2 tribes east of the Jordan River was not specifically promised by God.)

Does God’s promise to Abraham entitle modern Israel to expand its territory? We need to remember that God promised to chastise a disobedient Israel by taking away its national sovereignty, place it under foreign rulers, and exile many of its people (Deut. 28:15-68). These warnings were fulfilled first under the Assyrians and Babylonians and then under Rome (ad 70 and 135). Prophecies of the spiritual restoration of Israel in the last days have not been fulfilled.

 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God. I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. I will call for the grain and multiply it, and bring no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of your trees and the increase of your fields, so that you need never again bear the reproach of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations. Not for your sake do I do this,” says the Lord God, “let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel!” (Ezek. 36:27-32 nkjv).

How does this prophecy of Ezekiel relate to modern Israel in its current state of unbelief? It states that at some future time a spiritually repentant and renewed Israel will be given security and peace in her ancestral homeland. However, we can no more assume God’s blessing on the unbelieving state of Israel today than we could have assumed God’s blessing on Israel before its destruction by Assyria, Babylonia, and Rome. God allowed the reestablishment of Israel, but He often permits things He doesn’t approve.

It would be helpful to remember that the rabbis who survived the Jewish-Roman wars of ad 70 and 135 fervently taught that a return to the land should occur only under the leadership of the Messiah himself.

Because of all of this and other reasons the Torah forbids us to end the exile and establish a state and army until the Holy One, blessed He, in His Glory and Essence will redeem us. This is forbidden even if the state is conducted according to the law of the Torah because arising from the exile itself is forbidden, and we are required to remain under the rule of the nations of the world, as is explained in the book Vayoel Moshe. If we transgress this injunction, He will bring upon us (may we be spared) terrible punishment. (“Why Orthodox Jews Are Opposed to a Zionist State,” Neturei Karta International)

This seems wise counsel, given the warnings of Deuteronomy and the disastrous past attempts of Jewish nationalism to achieve independence in the land on its own. In contrast, the atheistic leaders of the Zionist movement1 had little patience with the heavenly ideals of the religious who advocated patience in waiting for Messiah. They employed worldly means—political intrigue, economic influence, propaganda, violence, and terror—to establish and expand the modern state of Israel.

What are we to think? Christians should have a heart of compassion for Israelis and Jews, but genuine compassion involves willingness to confront injustice. We are under no obligation to help an unbelieving and unrepentant national Israel use worldly means to acquire the land promised Abraham. We should take biblical prophecy with great seriousness, realizing we aren’t called to be mere spectators of history. We shouldn’t enable Israeli discrimination, injustice, and violence towards non-Jewish citizens and neighbors any more than we should enable that of other nations towards their citizens and neighbors.

In accordance with the words of the prophets, if the state of Israel continues to pursue a path of unbelief and injustice, it will bring judgment upon itself—and its supporters.

  1. The founders of Zionism were all atheists who denied the Torah. All the Torah sages of that time opposed them and opposed Zionism, saying that Zionism would lead only to destruction. (“Why Orthodox Jews Are Opposed to a Zionist State,” Neturei Karta International) Back To Article
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What View Did Early Christians Have of Involvement in the Military?

At the time of Christ, Roman power had neared its peak. Roman troops controlled a vast area stretching from England to the Black Sea and from the Rhine River to the deserts of North Africa. Though it was the most powerful government in the world, the Republic had fallen and been replaced by military dictators. Rome was notorious for its decadence and corruption. In spite of Roman corruption, the apostle Paul clearly set forth the principle that secular government is God’s agent to maintain the rule of law on earth (Romans 13:1-7). Because Paul addressed this principle to the Christian community in Rome, it is clear that the fact of governmental corruption doesn’t overrule the need for governmental authority. Human nature as it is, it’s hard to imagine civilized life without the influence of governmental power through police, courts, and legislatures. In fact, it was Roman justice, as flawed as it was, that protected Paul from certain death at the hands of his fellow Jews (Acts 23).

It is interesting that in spite of Rome’s corruption, her centurions were widely respected as men of competence and integrity. Polybius wrote that centurions “were chosen by merit, and so were men remarkable not so much for their daring courage as for their deliberation, constancy, and strength of mind.” All of the centurions mentioned in the New Testament are praised as Christians, God-fearers, or men of good character (Matthew 8:5,8,13;27:54; Mark 15:39,44-45; Luke 7:2,6;23:47; Acts 10:1,22;21:32;22:25-26;23:17,23;24:23;27:1,6,11,31,43;28:16).

Although honorable men of a pagan background served as officers in the Roman army, the early church was opposed to Christians in the military. Kenneth Scott Latourette wrote:

For the first three centuries, no Christian writing which has survived to our time condoned Christian participation in war. Some Christians held that for them all bloodshed, whether as soldiers or as executioners, was unlawful. At one stage in its history the influential Church of Alexandria seems to have looked askance upon receiving soldiers into its membership and to have permitted enlistment in the legions only in exceptional circumstances (A History of Christianity, pp. 242-243).

Adolf von Harnack summarized the reasons for Christian opposition to involvement in the military:

The shedding of blood on the battlefield, the use of torture in the law-courts, the passing of death-sentences by officers and the execution of them by common soldiers, the unconditional military oath, the all-pervading worship of the Emperor, the sacrifices in which all were expected in some way to participate, the average behaviour of soldiers in peace-time, and other idolatrous and offensive customs—all these would constitute in combination an exceedingly powerful deterrent against any Christian joining the army on his own initiative.

The early church, having a realistic view of the necessity for governmental authority but no illusions about its primary loyalty to Christ, didn’t approve Christian military involvement. Only after Constantine’s conversion made Christianity the favored religion in the empire did a destructive process begin that merged the religious authority of the church with the political and judicial power of the state. Soon Christians could no longer easily distinguish between the authority of Christ and of Caesar–usually with tragic consequences

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Is Cremation Wrong for Christians?

Although Christians have never universally condemned cremation, burial has long been their accepted practice — as it has been for Jews. The Jews neither burned nor embalmed the bodies of their dead. In their practice, bodies were washed (Acts 9:37 ), anointed with aromatic spices (2 Chronicles 16:14 ; Mark 16:1 ), wrapped (Mark 15:26 ;John 11:44 ), and entombed within a period of 24 hours (Genesis 23:4 ;Deuteronomy 21:23 ; Matthew 27:57-60 ;John 11:17,39 ).

Perhaps the main reason cremation was not customary among Jews and Christians was its connection to pagan ritual. Further, the belief in resurrection held by Christians and orthodox Jews may have led to some superstitious dread of destroying the body. (Obviously, resurrection wouldn’t depend on the condition of the body after death.)1 It appears, however, that cremating a body was not viewed as a denial of belief in a bodily resurrection. Bodies were cremated during war or plague due to the danger of disease and contamination. The men of Jabesh Gilead burned the bodies of Saul and his sons, and then buried the bones (1 Samuel 31:12 ), possibly because they had begun to decompose after having been hung on a city wall by the Philistines. This example alone provides a clear indication that cremation is not an issue of ultimate spiritual importance. (Jonathan, whose body was burned along with Saul’s other sons, was one of the most remarkable and morally upright Old Testament figures.)

The reason that the treatment of the human body after death is such a sensitive issue for both Christians and Jews hinges on the significance of human life. Human beings are a little lower than the angels ( Psalm 8:4-5 ) but created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27 ). Today we possess a body that is both a corruptible “shell” (1 Corinthians 15:42-49 ) and the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19) which serves as the medium for the expression of our personal identity in this life. We are destined to live forever in real resurrection bodies that carry over our identity from the one we leave at death (1 Corinthians 15:50-55).

It follows that Christians believe that the body should be treated with appropriate dignity. A decision to have one’s body cremated should not be made lightly. Agreement among family and loved ones should be sought by the persons responsible for the decision. If carried out without adequate preparation and forethought, cremation could have serious emotional complications for loved ones.


1 . See the ATQ article, How Can a Decomposed Body Be Resurrected?

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Why Is Dressing Modestly Important?

Is dressing modestly just an outdated cultural standard from the 50s? Turn on the television, go to the movies, or flip through the pages of just about any magazine and it appears that our society has lost the value of modesty. People dress in clothing and styles that are designed to reveal and to bring considerable attention to their bodies.

To suggest that we need to dress with modesty is often looked on as “restraining” or “limiting our freedom.” This argument, however, overlooks the personal rewards of living and dressing modestly.

Modesty in dress sends a message of purity and honor. It puts an emphasis on and values the inner person over outward attractiveness. It says that a person is worth far more than what meets the eye. There is a depth of character that rises above beauty or charm. When we dress modestly, we are saying that we posses inner qualities for which we should gain appropriate attention and value from others.

When we choose to dress in a provocative way, we send a message that we believe our value comes from our looks rather than from our heart. Skimpy clothing says that our worth is in our sex appeal. This is a weak foundation to build self-esteem or self-worth. What happens when we age and the wrinkles start showing? Where will the sense of value and worth come from then? For various reasons (e.g. past sexual abuse, low self-esteem) some believe that their worth comes from how good they look and how many heads they can turn. But that can leave a person feeling empty and alone. All of us, ultimately, want to be pursued and loved deeply because of our hearts and minds, not for our bodies. Dressing in a showy fashion puts the focus on our outward appearance, not on our heart.

The Bible places a high priority on modesty. In 1 Timothy 2:9 , for example, it teaches that Christian women are to dress modestly. They are to focus on their inner attractiveness rather than being overly concerned about outward appearance. This does not mean that they shouldn’t take care of themselves, look their best, and enjoy their beauty. It means that they should not use their God-given beauty for selfish, self-centered reasons, like competing with other women or gaining the lustful attention of men.

Modesty demonstrates self-control, which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit ( Galatians 5:22-23 ). Those who understand the principles of modesty acknowledge human sexuality and the tendency toward self-promotion. But they control those inclinations by choosing to express themselves with humility. Immodesty, on the other hand, can create a false sense of security and self-esteem because it puts too much emphasis on outward appearance.

It can be difficult to maintain modesty when we think of it in terms of it being “limiting.” But if we consider the personal rewards of modesty — self-respect, honor, and self-control — the price is too high not to be modest.

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Why Are Christians Opposed to Public Nudity?

Sexuality and individuality are sacred gifts. Although nudity is necessary under certain special circumstances, as when a person is examined by a physician1 or taking a shower in a locker room, indiscriminate nudity is degrading.

Humans were created as image-bearers of God. Although we share many characteristics with the animal world, we have been entrusted with a degree of dignity that surpasses our animal kin.

While it’s true that prolonged exposure to nudity tends to make a culture less sensitive to it, no culture could ever be completely desensitized. Indiscriminate nudity is a misguided attempt to recapture an innocence that, since the Fall ( Genesis 3:6-11,23-24 ), is no longer available.

It would be wonderful if lust and wrongful sexual attention weren’t a problem, but realistically, in our imperfect world, there is a tendency to look upon others merely as objects for personal sexual gratification or control (Matthew 5:28). Westerners also place an inappropriately high value on physical attractiveness, as well as setting unrealistic standards for it. To idolize a temporary, culturally defined standard for beauty is destructive. It bases individual worth on physical attractiveness rather than character, objectifies people, promotes exploitative relationships, empowers the pornographic industry, and is doubtlessly an important factor in the modern epidemic of bulimia and anorexia. Indiscriminate nudity would place an even higher value on anatomical perfection, further degrading our human values and making self-esteem even harder for the average person to attain.2

The Bible doesn’t dictate the norms for the type of clothing to be worn in every society, but it requires modesty.3 First Peter 3:3-6, for example, exhorts women to seek the beauty that comes from within (“the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit”). Peter said that women should place a greater emphasis on spiritual beauty than on mere physical adornment. They shouldn’t dress merely to accentuate their physical beauty, but be concerned as well with the effect their appearance has on others, using beauty as a means of edification.

The Bible also tells us that our bodies are holy, temples of the Holy Spirit:

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:19-21).

It isn’t that the nude human body is “dirty” and needs to be covered. This idea is a perversion of Christian teaching. The body isn’t something of which we should be ashamed. It is a creation of God, and, in spite of human irresponsibility, something that we should celebrate and honor. Nearly everyone in the West, including conservative Christians, agrees that Western art would be impoverished without work of great artists who treat nudity with dignity. Exposed skin isn’t the only issue—otherwise we would be in agreement with the strict Muslim view that modesty requires a woman to cover as much of her body as possible.4 It isn’t that the sight of the nude body is “dirty” but that it is holy—too precious to be shared with strangers. Indiscriminate nudity deprives husbands and wives of the joy of reserving the visual part of physical intimacy for each other alone. In our fallen world, the love between husband and wife is the only place where sexual intercourse still expresses the innocence of Eden. Only in a loving marriage—where genuine intimacy is nurtured by fidelity—is the beauty of each individual partner free to bloom.

Working through our culture, our enemy strives to degrade our perception of sexuality to mere expression of animal instinct and pleasure. Christians need to be on guard against anything that degrades the God-ordained dignity of human sexuality—including indiscriminate nudity.


1. Interestingly, under such circumstances, there are specific required procedures and special legal protections shielding patients from sexual advances by caretakers. These laws not only apply to physicians, but also to counselors who have a privileged access to the secrets and intimate facts of a person’s life. Back To Article


2 . Most people realize that besides wearing clothing to protect ourselves from the elements, we clothe ourselves to enhance our appearance and enable modesty. The testimony of thousands of generations of people in nearly every culture is that the world would be a less attractive place if everyone went around naked. Even the most beautiful people know that clothing enhances their attractiveness. But even more important, appropriate attire serves as a shield against voyeurism at the same time it protects others from an uncomfortable sense of being subtly (or not so subtly) manipulated. Back To Article


3 . The Jews were modest people. Jesus’ disciples probably shed their outer garments when working as fishermen, but they, along with other God-fearing Jews, would have been scandalized by public nakedness that was part and parcel (as in the Hellenistic gymnasium) of a Hellenistic culture whose degeneracy easily surpassed the seediest “tenderloin district” of a modern metropolis. Back To Article


4. Strict Islamic culture requires women to wear long gowns and veils in public. Such cultural requirements place an unfair burden on women, requiring them to be the primary guardians of sexual dignity while depriving them of the opportunity to become fully developed persons and full partners with men. Back To Article

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