Two responses to my essay are a common variation of what is generally argued as refutation against the bible, and they are good arguments.
The first argument is to look at all the garbage offered as punishment to those who "curse their parents" or the severity of death for the smallest infraction. Who in the world, in this enlightened age, would want to follow those prescriptions?
Nobody of any intelligence, and I agree with that.
Second argument is that you can make the bible say anything, and that is precisely the strength of my own argument, as is the first argument, above.
What does the Old Testament law say in the words of Isaiah, called the "universalist" prophet?
How about the presumption of innocence? (Isaiah 54:17)
Right to face your accuser, with God's vindication(Isaiah 50:8)
Right against self incrimination is also implied in both these scriptures.
Also, you will notice in Deuteronomy 19:15 that two witnesses are required for all acusations and those witnesses are not to be provided by the government. The two main biblical examples I can think of where the state provided witnesses was in the story of Ahab and Naboth (not too good), and Judas betraying Jesus (also not so good).
The Supreme Court, in fact, recognized that our right against self incrimination has its analogue in the bible (Miranda vs Arizona, footnote 27).
Of all the stupid, ridiculous laws in the OT, the main teaching in every case is that the accused is to be protected, not only in personal cases, but also against usury laws, and even slaves were to be freed if they escaped to another free man(Deuteronomy 23:15-16).
The laws were given with the constant reminder that "you were once strangers in a strange land". The implication from this was that recognition of justice always took precedence over the "majority rule".
In the New testament, you will see that Jesus, in is great "thesis on the law"(Matthew chapters 5-7), recommended that any two individuals could settle all matters out of court. So, while he said that not one jot or tittle of the law would be done away until all was fulfilled, he actually placed the settlement of arguments within a framework of "two or three".
You will see that Jesus expanded on this principle in Matthew 18:15-18, where he pointed out that any two people could settle trespasses between themselves, using the "two witness" rule of Deuteronomy 17 and 19.
As Jesus pointed out, "whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose will be loosed in heaven".
This doesn't imply that some human can become a recognized power of God, but that any two people could simply decide among themselves to settle a matter, and it would have God's recognition.
Further, said Jesus, if it couldn't be settled between two or three, take it before the community or the church. He didn't recognize government as official arbiter. In fact, Jesus said if your adversary didn't want to accept the conclusion of the community, treat him as a "gentile or tax collector".
That doesn't indicate that Jesus would want matters settled by tax collecting powers of state.
Also, Jesus did not approve of the legal system within Jewish culture. While he admitted that scribes and Pharisees "sit in Moses' seat", he then went on to condemn their actions, calling them hypocrites.
Scribes and Pharisees represented the popular legal "lay" authorities of the day, yet Jesus said they "shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in".
If you compare that to Matthew 18:15-18, you will see that Jesus allowed any two people to settle matters outside of "Moses' seat".
This same message is copied in Luke 11:52: "Woe unto you lawyers! For ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves,, and them that were entering in, ye hindered".
This is merely the repetition of a teaching in Isaiah 29:11:
"And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a closed book that is sealed..."
Verse 16: "Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, he made me not? Or shall the thing framed say of him that frameth it, he had no understanding?"
Jesus' teachings merely returned the idea of government as it was intended to be, taught to children, and children's children, remembering the idea of mercy, presumption of innocence, and not condemning. "Judge not that ye be not judged".
Second argument: You can make the bible say anything. Exactly! And this is where Paul's teaching is quite valuable. Can we have any legitimate, "approved" understanding of God? Not according to Romans 8:7:
"Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the laws of God and neither indeed can be".
This leads us to a very logical result corresponding to the argument above:
Any attempt to organize people according to God's law would inevitably lead to a confusion of disagreeing concepts as to what God's law is. If you don't believe that, simply look at the continually splintering groups of ex-WCG members who can't find the proper "handle" on truth.
But that's exactly what Jesus said would happen for such people in Matthew 10:34-38.
So, if the carnal, natural mind cannot be subject to God, and if all attempts to follow Jesus result in splintering and speciation, even to family members, we cannot assume, under any process, that if there is a God, "He" doesn't desire us to unite, but rather to begin thinking as individuals.
Jesus said "Beware the leaven of the Pharisees". And what does leaven do? It grows, expands, includes more and more until it exhausts all possible growth, and then it collapses.
This compares generally to a process called entropy. In any organized system, the attempt to expand that organization will result in chaos of related systems, simply because energy can neither be created nor destroyed. The resulting breakdown of order in relate systems, chaos, is the process generally recognized as entropy.
So, "you can make the bible say anything". based on the teaching of Jesus and Paul, what does that tell us?
It tells us exactly what Jesus said in Matthew 18:15-18, that there are no legitimate authorities. The presumption of innocence is to override the power of an "eye for an eye", which Jesus specifically prohibited to his followers.
So, the natural mind cannot be subject to God, there must be the presumption of innocence, and we cannot directly exercise an "eye for an eye", which means we have no power whatever to control or organize or rule over others.
But then, Jesus told us that he who would be greatest of all should be servant of all.
But let's take Paul's teaching in Romans 8:7 and see where he went with it. If there is no power of the mind to organize according to God's law "legitimately", can there be some decision procedure, some algorithm, some 'freewill" act by which we can declare ourselves God's elect?
Paul said it can;t be done, as we see from Romans 8:29-30. The logic is simple enough: if God foreknows, predestined. called, and glorified his own children, there simply is no decision procedure whatever by which we may recognize ourselves as "elect". Can't be done.
And in case you think Paul might have meant something else, he repeats the idea more directly in Romans 9:16-22. There simply is no decision procedure by which we may organize ourselves as God's representatives.
This is fully consistent with Jesus' teachings, who said we could settle matters among ourselves by ourselves, that we could exercise the rule of law that recognized presumption of innocence, right to face the accuser, trial by jury(1 Cor 6) and right against self incrimination, also provided in Isaiah 54:17.
These are all principles incorporated into the US Constitution in the form of the Bill of Rights.
Further, Jesus' teaching that we are free to settle matters within the church and outside of courts is recognized in the First Amendment.
So yes, you can "make the bible say anything", but that is the very reason why both Jesus and Paul pointed out that we are free to develop our own social process, always remembering that we are no better or no more exalted than any other person in our standing before truth. All men and women are created equal.
If any religious leader says otherwise, he's simply a liar.