A really old debate is back: Does the Old Testament belong in Christian Bibles?

NORMAN’S QUESTION:

Do the Old and New Testaments belong together?

(Commenting from a stance critical toward Christians, Norman adds that ignorance of history underlies their “comfortable view that the Bible is one and that there is no problem between the Old and New Testaments.”)

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

This classic and complex theme is erupting anew thanks to a U.S. Protestant megachurch pastor cited below. Also, churches have long faced strife over the authority and interpretation of the Old Testament due to the now-disputed teaching (that was carried over into the New Testament) against homosexual relations.

In this “Religion Q&A” item (your new postings via the website always welcome!!), Norman accurately calls attention to some history. The status of the Old Testament became a pressing issue the church needed to decide in the 2nd Century A.D. Marcion of Pontus, among others, drew a radical distinction between what he saw as the problematic Yahweh of the Old Testament versus the loving God and Father of Jesus Christ in writings that were to form the New Testament.

The church declared Marcion a heretic and consolidated for all time that the Old Testament is part of its Bible alongside the New Testament books, authoritative Scripture for Christians as well as Jews.

Norman further observes that influential 20th Century liberal Protestant thinkers in Germany such as Adolf von Harnack and Rudolf Bultmann echoed Marcion by downplaying the spiritual worth of the Old Testament. He says they “unknowingly contributed to the rise” of the so-called German Christians with their “non- and anti-Jewish” version of the faith. This movement pretty much gained control over Protestantism and accommodated the blatantly anti-Semitic Nazi rulers. Theologians like “neo-orthodox” titan Karl Barth courageously defied this unbiblical heresy in the great Theological Declaration of Barmen (1934).

Regard for the Old Testament as Christian Scripture raised numerous questions of application. From earliest times, Christianity dispensed with many Jewish laws, including ones Jesus himself would have observed as a faithful Jew. Direct divine revelations in the New Testament canceled two major aspects for non-Jews, the kosher food laws (see Mark 7:14-19 and Acts 11:4-18) and the circumcision of males born into the faith or joining through conversion (see Acts 15:1-20).

Christianity saw other Old Testament laws under three categories. Many elaborate rules on ceremonies and sacrifices became moot when Rome destroyed the Jerusalem Temple (A.D. 70) and Christians developed their own rites. Second, ancient rules governing civil society were bypassed when Jews lacked their own nation while Christianity became a missionary faith seeking believers in all nations.

That left the third category of moral laws that remained in force. There was, of course, some debate on which were binding. In the late 20th Century, liberal Protestantism began dropping the tenet about homosexual acts, though it still upholds the other sexual prohibitions in that Leviticus 18 passage (adultery, incest, sexual exploitation of animals).

The 2018 debate over the Old Testament is raised by the Rev. Andy Stanley, a former Southern Baptist minister trained at Dallas Theological Seminary. That “Dispensationalist” school emphasizes that God’s purposes operate differently in distinct eras, a point everyone might accept as a generality depending on what this means specifically. In 1995, Stanley founded Georgia’s independent North Point Community Church, which reports 30,000 members at six campuses.

In an April 29 sermon, available on North Point’s Website, Stanley said the Old Testament is “divinely inspired” but a back story to show “God on the move through ancient, ancient times.” It is not “the go-to source regarding any behavior in the church.” Stanley said Jesus’ original apostles “elected to unhitch the Christian faith from their Jewish Scriptures and, my friends, we must as well.”


Continue reading “Does the Old Testament belong in Christian Bibles?”, by Richard Ostling.

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