Christians Who Can’t Agree on Who The Old Testament Is For and When or If It Applies
I usually blog about my views about singleness and marriage, but as I find myself questioning the Christian faith, I sometimes like to make the occasional posts about that too.
Even though I sort of find myself not entirely grasping the Christian faith any longer (I am somewhere between agnostic and Christian), my understanding of spiritual matters or the Bible tend to be consistent with an orthodox (note the little “o” – I have actually had people confuse “orthodox” with “Greek Orthodox” – no, I do not mean “orthodox” as in the “Greek Orthodox” church or denomination) and conservative views and understandings.
As far as that goes, I believe in sola scriptura – but not in what I have deemed “hyper sola scriptura.”
God sometimes spoke to believers in the Old and New Testaments via inward thoughts of the Holy Spirit, via angelic messengers, dreams, handwriting on walls, prophets, via creation (ie, nature, as the book of Romans mentions), etc.
I see nothing in the New Testament which says God halted using any and all extra-scriptural means to communicate with followers of Jesus.
I do believe that Christians should check their beliefs against the written word, and if their dream, vision, or belief conflicts with the written word, they need to really reconsider it. (I have written about things like this before, like in this post: (Link): Contemporary American Christianity’s Fascination with NDE Stories – and in one or two other posts.)
What annoys me are the “hyper sola scriptura” type of Christians who automatically brush off, or brush aside, the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Let’s say you are a Christian who’s going through a tough time, and you prayed about it, and you felt God spoke to you inwardly and told you something about your situation, or God spoke some word of comfort. I believe something like that is orthodox and not un-scriptural.
I believe God the Holy Spirit can and does still communicate with people that way – but your hyper sola scripture-ist will scoff at that.
Many of the HSSs are probably tempted to chalk something like that up to superstition or believe it borders on WoF (Word of Faith) theology (I do not agree with WoF, by the way).
Do I think some Christians are too quick to attribute a thought or feeling to God, or that they don’t read the Bible enough, and that this can be dangerous or problematic and lead to Christians accepting false beliefs or teachings? Yes.
But it still remains God gifted believers with the Holy Spirit to guide them at times, because sometimes, the Bible is not always crystal clear on some topics, or does not explicitly mention others.
The Bible does not, for example, instruct people on which college they should attend, what they should major in, and what career they should pursue after graduating, and those are all fairly serious life questions.
You cannot flip to Galatians chapter 4 or Hebrews chapter 2 to find a ‘biblical’ answer to the question, “What career should I enter into?”
One of the things I find odd about HSSs (Hyper Sola Scripturists) is that they almost seem – like atheists – to deny the supernatural.
I mean, HSSs will admit to belief in supernatural events already recorded in the Bible, such as Jesus being born of a virgin and Jesus walking on water, but they behave as though God never, ever, interferes in a miraculous way in the world today, and I see nothing in the Bible that says He does not.
I’m not even talking about “speaking in tongues.” You have Christians today who fuss and bicker about “is that gift for today or not?” I don’t know if that gift is for today or not, but that sort of thing is not really what I am discussing in this post.
Jesus told His followers they would do greater things than He, and I don’t think He meant strictly spiritual matters such as spreading the Gospel, of telling someone today about Jesus by handing the person a Gospel tract.
Jesus gave sight to the blind and raised people from the dead during His time, for pete’s sake, and I think He was alluding to that sort of thing.
One clue that Jesus was in fact alluding to that is that after the ascension, Peter and some of the other guys miraculously healed people, eg, Acts 15:15
- As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by.
If supernatural manifestations were limited to Jesus only, as HSSs seem to believe, why does the Bible say other people who spoke in Jesus’ name also healed people and did supernatural things? Why did Jesus say that those who came after Him would do greater things than He did?
IS THE OLD TESTAMENT NOT FOR CHRISTIANS TODAY?
Anyway, one annoying thing I’ve noticed in the last 2 or 3 years – well before then too, but it has escalated the last 2 years – are Christians who bicker over the application of the Old Testament.
And I do not just mean the fighting I see about, “The Bible says people weren’t supposed to eat shell fish and wear cloaks made from mixed fabrics, is that for today?” I’m not talking about those types of passages and teachings.
Ironically, Christian (and radio host) Chris Rosebrough, who is very conservative, and (Christian blogger and author) Rachel Held Evans, who tends to be more liberal, agree that the “Bible is not about you.”
I definitely know that Rosebrough almost gags just mentioning the name “Rachel Held Evans” on his radio show (he cannot stand most of her theological views), but what I find funny is that she is pretty much on the same page as he is regarding the Bible in some contexts.
Evans wrote the following post several months ago (at least I think it was this page, it may have been another on her blog):
(Link): The Bible: It’s Just Not That Into You (by RHE)
Here is an excerpt by RHE:
- While this product [that personalizes Bible verses for each user] may be an extreme example, it points to the profound influence of Western individualism on our reading of the biblical text.
- Passages that were originally written for groups of people, and intended to be read and applied in a community setting (the nation of Israel, the various early churches, the first followers of Jesus), have been manipulated to communicate a personal, individual message…thus leading the reader away from the original corporate intent of the passage to a reaffirmation of the individualistic, me-centered, and consumerist tendencies of American religious culture.
That sounds remarkably similar to comments Rosebrough has made on his radio show before.
If you listen to Rosebrough’s “Fighting For the Faith” program, one of his constant critiques, especially of preachers such as Steven Furtick, is how Christians tend to make the Bible about themselves.
Rosebrough used the phrase “Narcissistic Eisegesis” a.k.a. “Narcigesis” whenever a Christian does this. You can listen to an example (Link): here.
Jeremiah 29:11 – CONTROVERSY
One Bible verse in particular that gets brought up in these discussions is Jeremiah 29:11 which reads,
- “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
I have watched billions of programming hours on Christian networks such as DayStar and TBN the past 8, 9 years, and yes, Jeremiah 29:11 is used frequently, in that it is applied to the current audience.
A preacher may turn to the camera and say something like, “I know you are going through a difficult time now, but you just hold on! Because it will get better, this pain is not for nothing, remember God tells you in Jeremiah 29:11 that it’s part of God’s plan for you. God has a plan for your life!”
So, obviously, even if Jer. 29:11 was primarily intended only for Jewish audiences 3,000 years ago (or whenever it was written), Christians today are appealing it to, and applying it to themselves.
Now, I’m a little confused why some Christians get upset or pissy about this sort of thing.
Why does it get their goat if a Christian in 2014 is undergoing some sort of tragedy in their personal life, trying to make sense of it, and turns to Jer 29.11 for comfort, or believes it may apply to her personally? Maybe the Holy Spirit is fine with a Christian in 2014 applying Jer 29.11 to herself.
By the way, I am not convinced that Christians today should not regard portions of the Old Testament as being for them today.
I realize Jesus fulfilled all the Law, so that things such as the dietary laws in the Old Testament don’t apply to believers today, but I don’t see anything indicating that Christians cannot or should not apply something such as Jer 29.11 to themselves, or that the concept of it can never apply.
If you think about it, Jer 29.11 is the OT equivalent to Rom 8:28. It’s basically saying the same sentiment (not identical, but somewhat similar), but in different words:
- And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Are the HSSs saying that passages such as the following do not apply to Christians today, merely because it was first penned by an Old Testament Jewish person, to and for Jews?
- The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer.
Would a HSS say that the Lord does not hear cries for mercy today, and does not accept the prayers of Christians? I mean, if you want to get real picky about it, that verse from Psalm was written by a Jew, for, I presume, other Jews.
Everything in the Old Testament, and even most of the New Testament, was written by Jews for Jews (other than anything by Luke, and stuff like Romans and Galatians).
Does that mean Gentile Christians should assume, “Most of this stuff doesn’t apply to me?”
I think HSSs carry the “remember the original author intent/ purpose/ audience” rubric a little too far at times.
When arguing with Pharisees and Satan, did Jesus not constantly utter phrases such as “It is written,…” and “you err because you know not the Scriptures?”
You know what “Scriptures” Jesus was quoting from and alluding to? The Septuagint, that’s what. It was the Greek translation of the Old Testament around in Jesus’ day. The New Testament was not even in existence yet. So isn’t it a little moronic to say that the Old Testament is not for believers today?
I understand that aspects of the Old Testament, again, do not apply, such as dietary rules and tithing commentary.
But who’s to say something like Jer. 29.11 cannot or does not apply to a Christian today, in certain circumstances? What if the Holy Spirit specifically calls Jer. 29.11 to the mind of a hurting Christian who has prayed to God for hours or days for some kind of hope, answer, or encouragement, and Jer 29.11 is the response she gets in her mind or spirit from God?
Even the New Testament says that the Old Testament was written for believers after Old Testament times:
- For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
I think it’s short sighted to insist that absolutely none of the promises in the Old Testament are for believers today, including ones at the time directed to Jews only.
It’s also just been a minor annoyance of mine the past several years that I keep seeing Christians disagree with each other on this specific topic. I used Rosebrough and Evans as examples, but I’ve come across other Christians on the internet and on Christian television programming who have been doing the same thing.
I see one Christian one minute on one blog or television show apply Old Testament promises to Christians today, and five minutes later, another Christian comes along on another site or TV show and says Christians should not be doing that, because, they claim such promises are applicable only to the original audience of that book or letter.
So, who am I to listen to? Christians cannot make up their minds about this issue, and many of them claim to be “sola scriptura.”
Related post, off site:
I don’t know if I’m necessarily in agreement with this author, but it’s an interesting perspective:
(Link): Creationists talking about creation (or, on theological mass re-education)
Related posts, this blog (well, kind of related):