Peter and the “shellfish” argument

As the Episcopal Church and other denominations have taken positions of that support the full inclusion of LGBT Christians and marriage equality, those in support of that position point out that the ritual law of the Old Testament was suspended after the resurrection, and arguing that Levitical prohibitions are still in force for some things and not others doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Conservative voices in the larger church call this the “shellfish argument” and generally dismiss it. Al Mohler, the leading voice in the Southern Baptist convention characterizes the argument this way:

“Look,” we are told, “the Bible condemns eating shellfish, wearing mixed fabrics and any number of other things. Why do you ignore those things and insist that the Bible must be obeyed when it comes to sex?”

Mohler goes on to dismiss the argument saying that the explicit removal of ritual purity laws in Peter’s vision in the 10th chapter of Acts only refers to things, not people.

Fred Clark, writing on his blog Slacktivist takes strong exception with Mohler’s reasoning.

“But while popular, this view utterly contradicts Peter’s own interpretation of his vision. If Mohler is right, then Peter was wrong. If Peter was right, then Mohler is wrong.

For Peter, his rooftop vision wasn’t about kosher dietary laws — it was about people. He says this explicitly: ‘God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.’

That’s a very different conclusion from the one Mohler draws. Mohler says this story — this scripture — is about purity laws. Peter says this story is about God’s commandment that no people should be excluded as impure.

I’m going to have to side with Peter on this one. Peter was right. Mohler is wrong.”

Go check out the full argument and Clark’s reasoning. God does seem to be less worried about how we feed ourselves than how we treat one another.

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