Articles

The Old Testament is Gone?

May 15, 2018

So, according to pastor Andy Stanley, well-known pastor/evangelist in Alpharetta, Georgia, modern Christians should “unhitch” their minds from the Old Testament. Yes, he avers, it is inspired, but it is not necessary; in fact, it is a drag on many moderns, including, specifically, modern Christians.

Say this about Stanley: he’s not timid. Only a handful of far-left, literally “outside the pale” theological types have ever suggested such a breach throughout two thousand years of Christian history. 

Personally, since I was saved at seventeen, I have always felt “helped by” not “hitched to” the OT.

But the facts: 

1. Not a single NT author did not quote the OT; that alone should give us pause from throwing it away. Shall we unhitch from their OT quotes? 

2. The websites indicate that the NT has over 250 direct quotations from the OT, with over 1000 references or partial quotations. No unhitching there! 

3. The NT opens, in two of the gospels, with lengthy genealogies, spanning from creation to Jesus, as if to say, “You cannot possibly appreciate what you’re about to read if you don’t take about 1500 hundreds of years of history seriously.” Or “How is it possible to understand the crowning act of the divine drama if you don’t have some acquaintance with His previous fifty acts? You want the denouement of the story without a set-up?” Literature students regularly get flunked for that sort of a thing.

4. Jesus quotes from twenty-four OT books. Too bad He didn’t get the memo from Alpharetta.

5. Many early Jews and Christians memorized the entirety of what we call the OT; what a prodigious waste!

6. The NT explicitly, and often, states that what happened to the people of the OT period are to be “examples’ for NT believers. (I Cor. 10:6, Jude 7, James 5:10, and many others.) How about the entire eleventh chapter of Hebrews with its scores of heroes of the faith---all from the OT?

Interestingly, Pastor Stanley focuses on the church council reported in Acts 15, at which the question as to whether or not converted gentiles should be forced to keep the Jewish law was dealt with. This is where, he says, the “unhitching” occurred. Past tense. The decision was critical, and the issue was a burning one. Is a person saved by faith alone, or by faith plus the keeping of the law? The issue arose often in the early church and was addressed clearly: one is saved by God’s sheer grace by which he comes to believe, savingly, in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus.

The instructive thing about the Jerusalem council, however, is just this: in the formal declaration which the council sent out, they said no to circumcision, but added to gentile (!) converts: “…that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.” Two of those proscriptions---“blood” and “things strangled”--- relate to OT Jewish rituals, not to NT salvation. They were not legislating, obviously, for all modern gentiles, but they did feel free to mandate that, in that historical context, it would be wise to observe Jewish law. (Acts 15:22f) That while we are free from the OT ritual law, as the NT incessantly states, we accept, in our context, the wisdom of certain OT practices. So much for unhitching the church from OT ritual. 

There is an upside to the suggestion. It would be an ecological plus. No more bulky Bibles, just slim New Testaments. And without the Psalms, because, obviously, they, like much else in the OT, may be “inspired” but are problematic and unnecessary for modern Christians to worry with.  

I have no personal animus toward Pastor Stanley, but it is impossible not to use the words “oceanic stupidity” at his tossing the back-story of our salvation---the incredible richness of the entire story of redemption. 

One wonders how two millennia of saints---Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Luther, come immediately to mind---would see the unhitcher. Would they have understood the phrase “theological pipsqueak?”  Seriously. 

Like Amos (yes, I know, an OT irrelevance), I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I offer a prediction: this act by the pastor is not the first time he has walked away from NT truth (his “inclusive” position of homosexuals is well known), and it won’t be the last. 

I am for staying forever hitched and forever helped by God’s entire written revelation.