Monday, February 4, 2013

An Observation about a Common Appeal to Jesus in Contradiction to the Old Testament

I often hear people who want to critique the "violence" of Scripture argue that one ought to use Jesus as our model in order to judge the Old Testament text as good or evil, as true or false depictions of God. Now, don't get me wrong. I think the entire Bible speaks of Jesus, and so Jesus is the Word spoken to us in both the Old and New Testament.

But what many of these people argue is that Jesus can  be used to throw off an Old Testament truth or ethic. I think this is contrary to Scripture for two reasons.

The first is that Jesus Himself says that the entire Hebrew Bible speaks of Him, and that He has not come to annul any of its teaching (i.e., the truthfulness and goodness of its theology and ethics). Instead, He has come to fulfill them, meaning that all of those Old Testament texts of violence are not done away with by Him, but rather upheld and fulfilled by Him. They represent who He is as much as all of the nonviolent texts that are geared toward His faithful people.

But the second thing that has always baffled me about this thinking is that every scholar I know admits that Paul's comments concerning the Scripture being profitable for godliness, that the man of God may be equipped for every good work, is primarily a reference to the Old Testament.

In other words, it is the Old Testament that is sufficient to equip the man of God for every good work, precisely, because it is theopneustos "God exhaled." Many neo-errantists, in "Schleiermacheresque" fashion, who collapse illumination into inspiration try to make the argument that this means that God breathes into the error-laden text to speak to us through the remnant of what is left of the truth in order to critique those things in Scripture that are not good and true. However, it does not say that the Scripture is "breathed into," but that it is "God breathed," sharing the larger theology seen throughout Scripture from Genesis to Revelation that God declares by His words and creates life (it is not the picture of God breathing into something like the human in Genesis 2 in order to animate it--it would read very differently if it was).

Hence, what these two things tell us is that none of the truth and good of Scripture was annulled by Jesus (in fact, He condemned the Pharisees as children of Hell for annulling the Word of God for the sake of their supposedly enlightened and more ethical cultural ideals), and this means that ALL of the Old Testament theology and ethics are true and good and exist as a sufficient source to equip the man of God for every good work, as it all is God-breathed and teaches us who Jesus/God really is.

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