22 October 2007

How Should Christians View the Old Testament?

"We further affirm our belief that the Old Testament is not contrary to the New, for in both the Old and New Testaments eternal life is offered to mankind through Christ." from Article Four: The Scriptures (CC-SST)

Indeed, the statement from the Synod of St. Timothy's Articles of Religion (which is drawn from the Anglican 39 Articles of Religion) is true and accurate. But what does it mean? This is a matter that many Christians study and discuss. I'd like to share some of my views with you today.

1) The Old Testament is a reliable source of historical information.
In spite of the many contemporary scholarly assaults on the reliability of the historical information contained in the Old Testament, I accept its historicity as genuine and valid. Far from disproving the Old Testament, science has an uncanny knack for proving the truth of Scripture (including many Old Testament 'fables') more often that it disproves them.

2) The Old Testament is a reliable source of prophecy.
Obviously, as a Christian believer, I see the Old Testament as the prophecy of Christ. From Christ's presence in the Creative act (see Genesis 1:1 in Hebrew), to the promise of a redeemer in Genesis 3, to the Burning Bush, the Prophetic voices, and even the visitor in the Firey Furnace, Jesus Christ is testified to throughout the Old Testament.

3) The New Testament is the fufillment of the Old Testament.
Let's take a look at this concept more deeply. The New Testament takes Old Testament principles and morphs them into something greater. While the New Testament is not contrary to the Old, the New Testament supercedes the Old in matters of faith and morals. As a result, things that we see in the Old Testament do not set precidence for Christians of the New Testament. War, a common occurance in the Old Testament between Israel and other nation-states, is transformed into a spiritual reality. Christians are not to care for the changes and chances of this world's nations, for they are soldiers of God's Kingdom against the forces of Satan. We have a different battle to fight. The Death Penalty, once demanded for many immoral and sinful acts, was commuted by Christ himself when he pardoned the woman caught in the act of adultery. The genuine death penalty that exists is no longer a civic concern but a spiritual one - the ultimate separation of the evil from God's eternal love at the day of Judgement.

4) The New Testament and its covenant supercedes the Old Testament and its covenant.
The Church is the Israel of God. No DNA lineage or national identity can lay claim to being God's Chosen People. Only the Church, called by Christ's name, washed by Water and the Spirit, and earnestly seeking Christ the Savior can rightly be called the Israel of God. This belief, often called supersessionism or replacement theology, is an integral part of the message of the New Testament. This is not a form of anti-Semitisim, though sadly many people have twisted it to become anti-Semitic. All people, Jew and Gentile, have access to God through Christ Jesus.

Indeed, the Old Testament is not contrary to the New; it is a foreshadowing of it; but its morals and practices have been given new and deeper meaning by Jesus Christ in the Gospels and throughout the New Testament.


All original material (C) 2007-2010 by Father Robert Lyons.

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