Christian BoyLove Forum #65436
1. There are literally hundreds of commands in the Old Testament Law. The issue at hand in Acts 15 is the question of how many of these laws are to endure? They choose the two things that were applicable to the nations outside of the law (sexual immorality and idolatry) and for a reason really unknown to us... just one of the holiness laws (keeping away from blood). As we look to the writings of Paul (and the other NT letters), which give a very thorough exposition of do s and don't s for the Christian church, we see that they preserve the sanctions against sexual immorality and idolatry but let the blood issue go completely.
2. My point about the modern world holding to this view is really a tangent to my main argument. It is not necessary for the modern world to agree with anything on this list to make it an authoritative list from a Biblical point of view. Citing modern opinion was merely to show that even a generally ungodly, non-religious view point would see this list of sexual practices as wrong. One could imply from this an evidence that these expectations are somehow known to man via, say, his conscience. Again, it makes absolutely no difference if in the modern world or in any other period of history, items on this list were disregarded. What matters is that the list is consistent throughout the Bible and upheld by the old and new covenants. I should make a further clarification and say that the way it is upheld in the new covenant is not by repetition of it's every detail (ie: the list is not specifically repeated in the NT even though some things are mentioned eg. homosexuality). It is upheld rather, by the New Testament's singular promotion of marriage as the only valid form of sexual expression and all other sexual practice as relegated to the broad categories of "fornication" and "adultery".
3. If the disciples didn't quite have it figured out yet and were still in transition. If, as you claim, their view eventually evolved to the point they were able to recognize they were wrong to think something immoral that isn't. Why can't our understanding of God's will and providence continue to evolve even to this day? Why is there no room for future generations to evolve just as the first generation did?
To answer this briefly:
The NT records a transition from the Old Covenant (before Christ) to the New Covenant (in Christ). It took the apostles a little while to understand that all nations would be included in the New Covenant and under what conditions. By the close of the Apostolic period this was fully resolved. It was not a question of evolution of view as much as one of realising all the implications of the New system that was already in place.
I'm also not implying they were wrong in telling the new Gentile converts to keep away from blood. The reason they said this is not really explained in the passage, their reasoning remains a mystery to us. All we know is that as the NT letters went out no further mention was made of the instruction and clarity was given as to our freedom from the need to practice the various holiness (and non-moral) aspects of the OT law.
As to our understanding of God's will and providence: for those of us who believe in a closed cannon of Scripture the premise goes basically like this:
Jesus came and gave His thumbs up on the OT Scripture. He then appointed his disciples to be eye witnesses of his life, words, death and resurrection. These men he commissioned to spread his message. These men and the men they directly (in their life time and under their supervision) authorised are the authors of our new testament. Thus, this body of Scripture all has Jesus' sanction. This body of Scripture claims to be God's complete revelation sufficient for Christian teaching and training, able to lead one to faith in Christ and not to be added to. From this we get the authority of Scripture.
For us who believe in the authority of Scripture, no new or variant theology is permitted other than what agrees with this authorised revelation. There is no room for an "evolving" theology.
Roman Catholics hold a different view on this point. They believe that the church can evolve theology and new revelation and they see the bible as a seed from which a tree of theology has grown and that the tree does not have to resemble the seed at all. I mention this last by way of contrast to the "Scripture alone" view that I personally believe.