Fresh off his attack on America’s gun control laws, Piers Morgan set his sights on another set of laws that trouble him, the laws of Moses and the Bible. But before he called for an amendment to the Bible to recognize “gay rights,” Morgan actually asked his guest, Pastor Rick Warren, a very fair question, and Warren stumbled in his answer.
Of course, Morgan’s timing could not have been worse. After all, this was a Christmas Eve interview with a Christian leader, and Morgan is not exactly riding a wave of popularity. And to compare the Bible to the Constitution shows a real lack of understanding, let alone sensitivity. (According to Morgan, “Both the Bible and the Constitution were well intentioned but they are basically, inherently flawed.”)
Even those who do not believe the Bible to be God’s Word generally have the prudence not to call for an amendment to the Scriptures. The idea is patently absurd. (To quote Morgan again, “My point to you about gay rights, for example, it’s time for an amendment to the Bible.”)
Who will be responsible for making the amendments? Shall we amend the Bible on an annual basis? Shall we do it by regional vote? By age? By gender? Perhaps we can each amend the Bible as we please, whenever we like? (Come to think of it, in practical terms, that’s what a lot of people do on a daily basis!)
Morgan actually called for a “new Bible,” thereby making a mockery of his very position. (Note to Piers Morgan: If “the Bible” is merely a book containing the latest human opinion, it is not “the Bible.” This would be like calling for the manufacture of a “new car,” only to produce a horse.)
But putting this drivel aside, Morgan’s first question to Warren was actually valid. And while Warren, to his credit, unashamedly spoke of his faith in the Bible as God’s Word, noting that what “is flawed is human opinion” – not the Bible – “because [human opinion] constantly changes,” he failed to respond properly to Morgan’s question. This set up Morgan to make his ridiculous call for an amendment to the Bible. (To Morgan’s credit, at least he recognized that the Bible does prohibit homosexual practice, in contrast with the editors of the new Queen James Bible, who simply rewrote the troubling passages.)
To buttress his argument that the Bible was inherently flawed and in need of updating, Morgan cited the law of Moses that adulterers should be stoned to death. This dialog then ensued:
WARREN: That’s . . . a civil law for the nation of Israel.
MORGAN: But it’s still an element of the Bible that is flawed.
WARREN: Well, evidently, for that generation, that’s their – that’s their commandment.
MORGAN: Exactly my point. . . .
WARREN: But it’s not one of the moral laws.
MORGAN: No, but it’s still in the Bible, and it’s flawed.
This is where Warren’s response fell short.
First, the law against adultery was a moral law, not a civil law. The specific penalty for adultery, namely, stoning, was part of Israel’s civil law, but even at that, Torah law does not distinguish between moral law and civil law.
It would have been better to say, “We both agree that adultery is still wrong; it’s just the penalty for adultery that has changed. It’s the same with homosexual practice.”
Second, Warren offered a weak defense for the validity of this law, saying, “evidently, for that generation, that’s their – that’s their commandment.”
Actually, it would have been better to say that Israel was a theocracy, and as a nation, the people of Israel heard God speak his laws from Mount Sinai. America is not a theocracy and we are not trying to make America into a theocracy. Also, in the ancient Near East, the laws of Moses were actually more compassionate in many ways than the laws of the surrounding nations. But either way, laws like these were common at that time.
More importantly, Jesus, in the New Testament – which is part of the Bible! – spoke against the stoning of an adulteress, without downplaying the sin of adultery. So, Warren could have simply said, “We don’t need to amend the Bible. The Bible already dealt with the very question you raise.”
Of course, if Warren had the time, he could have asked Morgan what right our contemporary Western culture has to throw stones at ancient Israelite morality (no pun intended). For every person stoned to death in ancient Israel for sexual sins, countless thousands of people in Europe and America suffer and even die because of sexually transmitted diseases. I wonder how a line like that would have gone over on the show?
Ironically, after Rick Warren commended Piers Morgan for bringing up these issues, calling for more civil discussion, Moran agreed, saying, “The debate should always be respectful. It's the moment -- it applies to politics, too. . . . The moment it becomes disrespectful and discourteous and then rude and then poisonous, you never achieve anything.”
Perhaps Morgan forgot this principle when he vilified gun lobbyist Larry Pratt as an “incredibly stupid person”? But I digress. Calling for an amendment to the Bible is more than enough for now, and I have no desire to compare today’s gun laws with the Law of Moses.
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.