Trivializing the Old Testament

26 Feb

This past year, seeing the unity of Scripture more and more, I am without a doubt, loving the Old Testament more than I ever have before.

I thank the Holy Spirit using authors like Christopher Wright and Graeme Goldsworthy, more specifically biblical theology to create such an excitement and fascination with the Old Testament.

I recently found my notes from Dr. Block’s Old Testament course and I thought you might find some of his comments on symptoms that we as preachers might be trivializing the Old Testament interesting and thought provoking.

Except for the actual quotes, I will paraphrase a little:

1. We avoid it.

2. We stick to walk through the Bible Approaches to the OT.

3. We primarily use it for illustrations of New Testament truth.

4. We use it primarily as proof text.

“OT texts are [ab]used when we need biblical foundation for our dogmatic or ecclesiastical agendas, but seldom do we deal seriously with these verses in context. Genesis 1, 2 is read only in debates with evolutionists. Deuteronomy 6:4, 5 is cited as proof of the unity of God. Judges is turned to as evidence of the way the Holy Spirit normally operated in OT times. Gideon and his fleece become a paradigm for discovering the will of God. Malachi 3:10 is a “useful” text at the end of the fiscal year. We discuss the OT theologically but seldom do we consider it contextually.”

5. We only preach it selectively.

6. We focus primarily on the human characters.

“When we preach from the OT, especially narrative texts, we focus on the human characters, often treating them as examples for us to follow, even when the biblical author deliberately characterizes them negatively, and even though in most books the primary character is God.”

7. We force-fit a text to make a practical point.

“In their drive to be “practical” many preachers move too quickly from the text to application, forcing upon a passage lessons alien to the text and ignoring the profound theology that is reflected in the text. Consequently, we fail to transform people’s minds by teaching them to think biblically and make them dependent upon us for the application of biblical truth.”

8. We spiritualize it.

9. (Now for a controversial one…) He says, we read the Old Testament Through New Testament Lenses.

“Instead of reading the New Testament in the light of the Old, we read the Old in the light of the New. It is true that in the light of the cross we understand so much better the significance of God’s revelation in ancient Israel, but it is inappropriate to allow an uncritical understanding of Hebrews 11 to replace and drown out the message of the book of Judges as established by normal grammatical historical interpretation.

Along with that, he writes “Many are driven by the notion that we must find Christ on every page of the Bible. Thus Pink finds Joseph to be a type of Christ in 101 ways. Melchizedek is a type of Christ. So are Noah, Isaac, Jacob, etc., and the tabernacle speaks primarily of Christ. N. Geisler (Christ the Theme of the Bible, p. 31) opines: “Viewing the Old Testament Christocentrically is not a hermeneutic option; for the Christian it is a divine imperative. On five different occasions Jesus supposedly claimed to be the theme of the entire Old Testament.” (Matt 5:17; Luke 24:27,44; John 5:39; Heb 10:7).

Luther (Farrar, p. 334) comments, “Here (in the Old Testament) shalt thou find the swaddling clothes and the man¬ger in which Christ lies. Poor and of little value are the swaddling clothes, but dear is Christ, the treasure that lies in them.”

It is true that from the perspective of the divine author of Scripture Christ is the heart and goal of all revelation (cf. Luke 24:25 35). This is an underlying assumption of Christian exegesis, but it is not the starting point.”

I am not actually not sure I agree with Dr. Block here, but he is after all Dr. Block and I am just Josh Mack.

10. We are satisfied with sloganizing the Old Testament even if those slogans don’t mean anything.

“We congratulate ourselves for singing Scripture with songs like the following when we do not have a clue what they mean:

“O Lord, you are the lifter of my head” from Psalm 3:3

“You are the king, you are the lamb,
The seed of Abraham
The Holy One, God’s only son,
You are the king of who I am.”

“El Shaddai, El Shaddai, er kam ka na Adonai” (ostensibly from Psalm 18).

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