ouch not; taste not; handle not”; “the unclean thing” (Col. 2:21; 2 Cor. 6:17) are texts to which I gave at one time a decidedly literalistic interpretation. Both admonitions seemed to apply strictly to the physical, in that two of the body’s five senses were singled out. Doubtless this approach is not entirely incorrect, but I’ve come to feel that it is too limited; a great deal more is involved. Although the author did not intend their application in just this way, I think that no scriptural impropriety will be involved. “The unclean thing” in the late twentieth century exists in other sensory areas with deadly results to the unwary. From the eye to the brain--that seems to be the modus operandi
, the sensory path. And then the brain translates ideas and attitudes into action.
It’s becoming increasingly clear, though, that there’s a new approach to uncleanness that’s been worked out by--well, he’s known by many names, Satan being considered an old-fashioned one by some “enlightened” souls, but I imagine he still answers to it. Be that as it may, in less sophisticated times objects and attitudes were pretty clearly labeled “clean” or “unclean,” the labeling thus making a rather clear-cut decision necessary. Simplistic perhaps, but relatively uncomplicated, and suited to horses and buggies and kerosene lamps. For nuclear-powered intellects, though, we’ve an entirely new approach. Nothing is unclean; everything must be accepted on the same level. Therefore, what’s to forbid?
The latest example I found of this monstrous distortion occurred in a magazine I was leafing through. In the blandest, oiliest, and most unadorned terms, an author discussed a subject so depraved, so obscene, so utterly beyond the pale of even rudimentary moral behavior that I was struck dumb. His attitude was that some people are “this way” and others must “accept them.” More than that, he depicted and dissected with obvious, salacious relish every conceivable detail involved in this particular depravity. Scornfully he spoke of “middle-class respectability and moral standards,” then asked, “Who’s to say what’s normal?” In other words, who’s to say what’s clean or unclean? For that matter, who’s to say that anything is unclean?
To me this seems utterly diabolic. For when sin is labeled “evil” or “unclean” one can avoid it if he chooses to. But when wrong is mislabeled right, and the unclean is declared clean, the perils are greatly increased. Then one must make a supreme effort to (a) inform himself as to the “clean” and “unclean” in life’s spiritual war, (b) analyze the effect of contact with the “unclean” in a moral sense, and (c) avoid any such contacts, even at the risk of being thought completely “out of it” by those who’ve already deadened their spiritual sensibilities. The latter hazard seems always, when one is young, more horrible than the leaping flames of the persecution pyre.
It would be interesting, I think, to invite the author I’ve referred to and others of his breed to come to my home for a little experiment. I think I’d have chocolate candy to serve and beautiful(?) crystals of potassium cyanide. Since nothing is “unclean” and everything “has equal value,” I’d urge them strenuously to “refresh themselves” with the delicious perfumed cyanide. They’d refuse, of course. It’s “unclean” as food for a human being. As a matter of fact, I doubt that they’d even want to touch it, let alone taste it. Cyanide kills.
And so does “the unclean” in the spiritual realm. That death, though, is eternal.
As always, Christ’s purity and power are the answer to human need, human proclivity toward filth, human inability to see moral danger. Paul’s advice is both timeless and timely. “Whatsoever things are pure . . . think on these things” (Phil. 4:8).