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05 February 2010



"I'm glad that the God of the Old Testament is not the one we worship today". So, there are different Gods in the Bible?

No, but 'orthodox' Christianity has a long history of Our-God-is-Much-Better-than-the-Nasty-Jewish-One antisemitism. And many OT passages do show the folly in simplistic sola scriptura style reading approaches; it is, I think, largely a *good* thing that even Evangelicals thinks (mostly) than stoning gays or treating women like property are not sensible or ethical beliefs and behaviours. And the common Christian hermeunetical approach - reducing the OT to a series of easy Jesus-prophecies/analalogies - *does* lead naturally to viewing the OT as little more than a warm up act, with a full version of God revealed in the gospels. Plus, you have all the "Judaism has no concept of Grace" (it does) and "We have the same OT as Jesus read!" (we don't)distortions of the Jewish scriptures, which don't help.

NB - I think a Jew would invoke the Shema as a reason for *not* accepting a trinitarian God, so the passage you cite is hardly - intrinsically - a knock-out proof text *for* your theological position!

Many happy returns! (And your comment did make me feel a bit less old, which is also cool ;-)).


I agree with you GV (no surprise).

Ryan, I think we touched on this subject a while ago, so I'll open it up here:

You are right, OT Judaism does of course have a concept of Grace, as outlined in God's provision in the sacrificial system especially. NT Wright I believe deals with these issues regarding how we are to understand the Pharisees in Jesus' day in great detail. The point is that they did not have some simple works-based-salvation religion. Rather, they had an extremely sophisticated one, which was equally redundant but harder to expose (though Jesus had little trouble in doing so). It wove in threads of grace, substitutionary atonement...you name it. The tools they had to work with were nothing less than the revealed word of God. They knew a lot of facts about their religion, but hadn't pieced it together correctly. They blinded people with science.

Their problem was that they didn't understand the correct emphasis. They didn't understand the full extent of the implications of what they had learned. Many of them ended up practising a sophisticated religion which left no room for repentance and humility before God. No personal accountability, no "relationship". It's a trap which is easy for all religious believers to fall into, even this side of the cross, and one risk which Jesus was keen to highlight. How sophisticated and difficult to discern it was: even some of those those who *prophesied* and did miracles in God's name will be told "I never KNEW you"! Circumcision of the heart is what we need.

I think the folly you talk of in "simplistic sola scriptura style reading approaches" is in the "simplistic" nature, not in the "sola scriptura".

That we do not advocate "stoning gays" or "treating women as property" does not mean that we have simply picked and chosen which OT laws (moral, civic and ceremonial) we're most comfortable with keeping. That is a superficial premise, and a common Liberal error. This issue is clouded by the fact that many Christians do not know exactly why certain laws are no longer applied, (or at least cannot articulate it) and often as a result draw erroneous conclusions about why these distinctions have been made. Even despite this mass-ignorance, we should not be trying to promote a religious approach which seeks to somehow consolidate that ignorance into something meaningful. "Lots of people don't understand this, so let's capitalise on that to make up our own rules".

There are legitimate, biblical justifications for the current orthodox approach to OT law. Have you read any academic works which systematically explain this approach which you often denounce? It would be good to understand the basis and extent of your objection.


"So, there are different Gods in the Bible? Who'd have thought it? Try this for size. This is the same God."

I trust that we can agree that this was written in OT times - before the different (but still cruel) god of the NT who has a place called hell. It therefore makes no reference to the "NT god" and can cot be counted as evidence for your position as it occurred before this NT/OT distinction. It would also be circular reasoning to apply it - as well as a submission to authority to blindly accept it over the very clear differences between NT and OT god. It may keep a believer happy, but it wont convince anyone who does not buy into your faith - but that may mot be your aim.

Attempts to claim the jews did not fully understand scripure is a type of post hoc protective phrasing fallacy that tries to defend the arguers presupposition.


>>(moral, civic and ceremonial) we're most comfortable with >>keeping. That is a superficial premise, and a common Liberal error.

Not really. Does Leviticus - if you look at it *objectively*- really differentiate between merely ceremonial,local laws and binding moral ones to the extent assumed in the Church or is this something *imposed* on the text by later Christians? I'd argue the latter.

And I think the liberal error you're referring to is the 'we use garments with mixed fibres!" one, which I'm not actually citing. I'm speaking more broadly. Is the view of men and women in (say) Genesis one that can be interpreted literally and still accord with the contemporary, relatively 'feminist', evangelical ethos? One problem with the evangelical conservative approach is that it suggests that past Christians - however many and how notable - who had equally Sola Scriptura theologies that are unpalatable today must, somehow, have been reading them wrong. Which is certainly possible, but negates the idea of one simple meanings easily available to *all* (and it does amuse me when evangelicals give reading assignments in response to these types of questions; how Sola Scriptura is *that*?). Arguably, the historical record far more supports Catholic ideas on the necessity of the magisterium.

>>>>Have you read any academic works which systematically explain this approach which you often denounce

'Explain' is the wrong word. 'Come up with arguments, some of which are good, and some of which are...not so much' would be more accurate. I don't see how having faith in NT Wright or similar 'explaining' (Revealed Truth style?) why homosexuality is always wrong should be conflated with faith in scripture itself, although I understand the temptation of gays-are-always wrong but straights can ignore the no-sex-with-menstruating-women justifications. And I have read (most of!) Gagnon, who is considered the best author (from an evangelical perspective) on this topic.

>>>> Rather, they had an extremely sophisticated one, which was equally redundant but harder to expose (though Jesus had little trouble in doing so)

I'd be interested in what source you're using for your account of the beliefs and practise of the Pharisees. Hopefully it's an actual Jewish one. Passion of the Christ style caricatures tend not to be accurate. Example (from , a Woody Allen book aside, the nearest Jewish book to hand..):

'Though Pharisaism is depiected negatively in the New Testament, the Pharisees themselves were highly critical of hypocricy among their own members. There is some dispute abmong scholars as to whether the original Pharisees were minimalists, who were mainly concerned with the laws of ritual purity of food and with tithes, or were maximalists, who applied the rituals of the Temple to the home and synagogogue, upheld popular traditions and made the study and interpretation of the torah the centre of religious.The very name of the group has beenn variously explained as meaning those' who kept themselves separate'from ritual defilement, or as those 'who interpeted' the written text of the torah, thus devloping the Rabbinic Tradition'

(from a "Dictionary of Jewish Lore and Legend" The pictures are cool).

And one could always engage in some Reductio ad Wikipedium ;-).

One impetus for liberal theology is that there are many cases when historical fact contradicts the foundations of 'evangelical' beliefs; the ethical, and honest, thing to do in such a situation is to condsider that, as fallible human beings, our READINGS of scripture can be wrong.

Andrew T

Some well-put points there, GDB. Thanks for taking the time to post them.

One only has to look at the very different strands of Judaism that exist today from the Reform to the Hasidic to see how believers in the same Word can have such varying interpretations of how to apply it.


And, in any case, Judaism *isn't* a faith 'about' proof-texting from a Revealed Truth (hence the importance of the Jewish calendar, and the Talmud), and , in Christianity, Jesus Christ - not the Bible - has the status that the Qur'an has in Islam....


Andrew, Did you know that there are an estimated 38 000 different christian denominations - many the result of bitter differences about how to interpret the same "word"?

We can see it today - proddies vs tims, creationists vs theistic evolutionists, misogynists vs femminists, westboro baptists vs, gay friendlies. The anglicans vs the anglicans, Free church vs Free church continuing......

Like the rest of them, are you equally conviced that you are right and they are wrong?

Andrew T

Billy, I have never claimed to have all the answers and be "right" all the time but with even many people with whom I have differences in opinion I still find it interesting and worthy of study of how they reached their conclusions and if I can learn any lessons from that. Ultimately The Holy Bible is the final authority and standard for believers and, I would venture, it is the encroachment of humanist liberal theology, the elevation of mere tradition into religion and outside attacks that have led to most of the divisions in the Christian church. A back to Scripture approach is what is needed rather than more "We do things the right way because we always have done since the year dot" unthinking approach.


"Does Leviticus - if you look at it *objectively*- really differentiate between merely ceremonial,local laws and binding moral ones to the extent assumed in the Church or is this something *imposed* on the text by later Christians? I'd argue the latter."

Depends what you mean by "imposed". These differentiations were "imposed" on the law by Jesus himself, even if he did not use names for their categorisation. Same for the apostles.

This article seemed to sum it up quite well: http://www.tenth.org/qbox/qb_000806.htm

"Our answer is that we are doing what the New Testament does, namely reflecting back on the Old Testament from the perspective of Christ’s finished work. Furthermore, we are forced to reflect on the New Testament examples in which certain laws are set aside – such as the dietary laws and the sacrificial system – while others are rigorously enforced – such as the moral laws of the Ten Commandment[s]. There is a logic at work that is not seen in the Old Testament because it is the work of Christ that produces this logic."


>>>>Our answer is that we are doing what the New Testament does, namely reflecting back on the Old Testament from the perspective of Christ’s finished work

Some might query whether that's real or merely self-serving scholarship. Starting with an agenda - the OT is 'about' Jesus - and then 'discovering' the 'real meaning' to Levitical laws - or even treating any mentions 'blood' or 'sacrifice'- is (at best)a disservice to the *primary* nature of OT texts. That's not 'reflecting' (not least as the Bible is hardly any *less* the story of God's Chosen People followed by Incarnation unless one can reduce the former to pat Jesus prophecies are Passion-analogies).

>>>>It specifies three categories of the Old Testament Law: the moral law, the ceremonial law, and the civil law. The moral law, that which represents God’s own moral character, is summarized in the Ten Commandments.

At best,that's a later (self-serving)'innovation' rather than an innate quality of the OT.There are 613 Mitzvoh or commandments in the Torah (or Pentateuch, or whatever you want to call it) and, if one wanted to differentiate them, it would be a division of laws about Man and Man and laws about God and Man (unless one wanted to argue that there are 603 'ceromonial or 'civil' laws)NOT moral/ceremonial/civil. And even that's somewhat arbitary. Are laws against (for example) idolatry 'civil' or 'moral'? Does the fact that the OT law presupposes (which you'd agree with) that good civil law *must* be in some way founded upon faith in God not suggest that such civil v moral distinctions are false dichotomies? Also, from a TRUE sola scriptura perspective, the fact that such civil/moral/ceremonial scholarly concepts date back to last week, a hundred years ago, the Reformation, or whatever ,is, essentially, irrelevant.


Some of the rifts were as fundamental as the nature of Jesus, salvation and how believers should live in a "god honouring" way - not a "we do this because we always have" approach.

I think you oversimplify the cause of the differences - I think there are several causes - personal agendas, inappropriate interpretation, literalism and biblical inconsistencies. To solely blame external sources is wrong.

I would believe if god were to speak plainly to folk. It seems the whole denominational mess is an example of people left to do the best they can without the direction of a god. This makes a "back to scripture approach" somewhat difficult and we are still faced with the problem with what to do about gays and women wanting leadership roles - you all use the same book.

I hope you have been reading some proper evolution books as I suggested.


>> the elevation of mere tradition into religion

Are we to believe that this is a recent pheneomena? Tradition - as a source of Christian theology - existed BEFORE the now-recognised canon of Scripture.

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