Thursday, March 15, 2012
You ask a good question. Many non-Christians think they have the Christian stumped when they ask questions like this.
You want a good response to the question: "Do you really expect me to believe that they [the Jews] made it all the way to Mount Sinai thinking everything was permissible only later to be told that it was to be avoided by God?"
I think you are on the right track with Rom. 2:15. However, I'm not sure I would quote it at someone, simply mention it in a paraphrased way. But first, I would say something like, "No, I'm not trying to get you to think that the Jews didn't know what was wrong or right until Sinai. Of course they knew wrong from right. Everyone knows wrong from right. Even you. In the same way you know wrong from right, you also know that wrong and right are objectively wrong and right and this is because God made it to be this way. And yes, I am telling you that you believe in God and the fact that you use terms like wrong and right, in an objective way, proves it." Rom. 2:15 is certainly in the background of this kind of answer.
I don't know of it would be helpful to share this part with the non-Christian, at least in every case, but it would be good for you to know. God did not give the Law to the Jews at Sinai because they had never heard of right and wrong before. He was giving it to them because he was creating a relationship with them; a covenant relationship, with rights, promises and expectations, blessings and curses. It had nothing to do with knowing what right and wrong was. It had to do with God, the creator of the universe, naming them and calling them out to be a people, his people and he their God.
It was God telling the Israelites, I'm your God and you're my people and this is how we're going to relate to one another from now on. You guys do these things and I'll do these things. I'm your God and this is how its going to work.
All the nations had their gods and all the nations had codes of behavior that their gods expected them to fulfill and to perform as part of their worship. It just happened that because YHWH was THE God his requirements were also the absolute requirements of the universe.
I hope this helps.