Dear Friends,

Should we read the Ten Commandments in a “normative” way or in a “regulative” way? In fact, should we generally read the Bible in a normative or in a regulative way? Boring? Not really; it is an important and useful thing to think about.

One simple example will help you to understand. If you go to spend a couple of hours at the regulative park, it would look like this. You come to the entrance. A sign tells you to walk 50 yards ahead, then sit on the bench for 10 minutes.
Another sign at the bench tells you to take the path that branches to the left; go to the swings; swing for 15 minutes. At the swings there is another sign which tells you to take the path to the right; walk till you come to the ice cream truck; buy any type of ice cream you want. I’ll stop there. I think you get the idea about how the regulative park works.

How is the normative park different? When you come to the normative park entrance there is a big sign. It says, “All animals must be on a leash. Pick up your pet’s poop. No unauthorized motor vehicles allowed. No loud music.” That’s it. You can play ultimate; sit and read; sunbathe; have a barbecue – it’s up to you. Don’t break the norms; everywhere else there is freedom.

One other aspect about the regulative way. Generally speaking, if the Bible is silent on the matter, in other words there is no regulation, then you do not do it.

I believe the proper way to read the Bible, generally speaking, is in the normative way, not the regulative way. I am not going to use this brief blog to argue for the normative way, but I will take a few moments to illustrate what it means for our life.

People complain about the Ten Commandments as if they are restrictive. But they are not. They are a testimony to dynamic freedom. Take a simple example. “You shall not bear false witness.” First of all, how is it important to human flourishing to bear false witness against your neighbour? The truth frees. Lies darken and blind and damage. Second of all, one type of speech is forbidden – bearing false witness. But everything else is open! Poetry, songs, slogans, haiku, jokes. Fantasy, fiction, history, scientific hypotheses. Third, we can go further. The commandment applies to every language and dialect, but it does not restrict language. The commandment does not say, “Only speak 15th century BC Hebrew.” It says, “Do not bear false witness against your neighbour.” This is freedom from God for true, godly, human flourishing.

George +