A. From Last Chance To See:
"I really get [annoyed] at people who quote scripture at me, because most of these "discussions" follow the following scheme:
Random person: "--A-- is true because of --random passage from the bible X--."
Me: "But --random passage from the bible Y-- completely contradicts that."
Random person: "Atheists don't understand --passage Y--/the bible/christianity."
So, my question to you would be this:
What about all the wrong, barbaric, immoral, nonsensical, contradictory stuff in the bible? You know what I'm talking about.
Leviticus especially is very explicit, literal and full of such things. How exactly can I interpret that any other than barbaric/immoral/etc.?
And why is it somehow a valid argument to quote the nice things from the bible in support of somethings, but not the bad stuff to disprove that claim?
Mind you, I think all this mindless quoting, whether by me or them, doesn't constitute any kind of valid argument at all, I just get peeved at their constant insistence that I am somehow misrepresenting what the bible says."
B. Scary Fundamentalist Weighs In:
"To respond to your question in a few sentences, the Old Testament needs to be read in light of the fulfillment of the Law in New Testament. The kingdom of God was transformed from a physical nation of Israel (perishable) into a spiritual nation of believers (imperishable) Food laws, for example, are translated into a spiritual context in Mark 7:14-23.
C. Ball Bounces.
The behaviour you complain of is known as "proof-texting", and the subject, I believe, would be, ahem, "Bible Difficulties". A few general observations:
1. The Bible is viewed as a progressive revelation. What is tolerated or even commissioned may be abrogated down the road.
2. In the light of this, as SF points out, the Old Testament (OT) is interpreted in the light of the New Testament (NT).
3. Christ specifically said that the OT was about him. Christians therefore view Christ as the interpretative key to the entire Bible. Christ raised the standard for expected human conduct to a higher level. He showed less tolerance than Moses for, e.g., divorce. Even being angry at someone constitutes you a murderer in Christ's eyes, and motives of the heart count as much if not more than actions.
4. The OT covenant was a theocracy -- a nation of believers. So, the laws covered everything from religious worship to how to treat your mule to how to resolve property disputes. They were offered in a cultural context, and one interpretive key is to consider what the laws of surrounding nations looked like.
As a theocracy, it was a place where Yahweh, the Holy One, sought to dwell. Much of the OT is about the magnitude of the difficulty of a holy deity dwelling among sinful human beings. Much of the laws, severe as they sound to us, are saying as much about God's holiness and what his holiness demands as they are about the sinfulness of certain behaviours. In fact, from Genesis 3 to the end of Revelation, the book is all about effect reconciliation between a holy God who cannot compromise his holiness and sinful man who cannot possibly live up to God's holy standards. But, as you might like to say, goddidit!
5. God, as the author, giver, and sustainer of life, has, unlike his creatures, the reserved right to take life away. He may commission instruments both natural (the flood) and human, (Israel or other nations) to effect this. God, has the moral right and indeed obligation to act as the Judge of the universe. This may entail dreadful and fearful punishments.
God has a moral obligation to act as the world's Judge, but has no corresponding obligation to act as its Saviour. It is indeed good news that God freely loved this rebellious world and offered his Son as a way of making peace, while continuing to honor man's free will to either accept or reject his offer.
6. We stand today on 2,000 years of Christian history, and 4,000 or 5,000 years of Judeo-Christian revelation. What may appear wrong, or distasteful, or even monstrous to us today may appear so precisely because of the positive leavening effect of Christian revelation -- that people have value, have rights, deserve to be treated a certain way, etc. It is not at all certain that, had there been no Christianity, that people would have this understanding or behave as decently as they generally do today.
Having said that, there are certainly troublesome aspects of Leviticus, and if you want to provide specific examples, I will do my best to comment on them.