Last post I described how I have been on a journey working out what I think is true, or not, about the Old Testament. This post I try to draw some conclusions.
This post is very much a personal reflection about a journey I am still on.
For years I didn’t think much about the Old Testament. I read it sometimes, looked up passages occasionally, appreciated Isaiah and Ezekiel. But I didn’t really spend much time considering what I thought about it. After all, I am a christian, living in the new covenant, and following Jesus is my greatest priority. Of course I needed to understand Jesus in his Jewish context, and that meant in the context of the Hebrew scriptures, but I didn’t need to have a settled view on the many difficult questions raised by the Old Testament.
Eventually, a couple of years ago, I started to pray that God would lead me into a better understanding of the Old Testament, especially the difficult questions. And then I began to do some reading, thinking and research. And I think God has started to lead me somewhere.
So here is where I am up to. I’m not finished yet – there is much I have yet to work out. But I think I can at least see a little way ahead.
I’ve been reading a few books on the Old Testament lately. Paradoxically, this is probably the one I most disagreed with, yet also the one I gained the most from.
Last year I posted about how christians are gradually becoming more accepting of the theory of evolution.
As part of that post, I reviewed the work of Denis Lamoureux, Associate Professor of Science and Religion at the University of Alberta in Canada, based on some online slideshow teachings he has produced.
I have now read his book on the same subject. What’s it like?
I have been considering the implications of Peter Enns’ suggestion that, in the light of the evidence, we should understand the Old Testament differently than we have done in the past. In a comment on the post Interpreting the Old Testament, Brisancian has asked a number of questions about how we can know what’s true.
I thought the questions were important enough to answer in a new post. Quotes from Brisancian’s questions are shown as blockquotes.
Previous posts on topics related to Peter Enns’ book Inspiration and Incarnation: The Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern Literature and Variation in Old Testament teachings.
Finally, how Jesus and the New Testament writers interpreted the Old Testament. It wasn’t the same way we do it today.
I’ve blogged about Peter Enns’ book Inspiration and Incarnation, and about his first topic, The Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern Literature. Now I want to look at his second topic.
There are variations in teaching within the Old Testament. What do these tell us about God and his revelation to us?
Understanding the Old Testament isn’t always easy. As well as Genesis-evolution, there are many apparent inconsistencies, within the Old Testament, and between the Old and New Testaments.
And those who have read a little about ancient Middle East archaeology, history and literature may have noted similarities between Biblical accounts of creation, the flood and the law, and earlier writings covering similar themes.
This 2005 book by a respected Old Testament scholar aims at addressing a few of these issues based on good scholarship, in a way that is helpful to christians.
But how much are christians free to change while remaining true to God and the Bible?
Many christians fear any change is a slippery slope that will lead them right away from being faithful to God’s revealed truth. Is change a slippery slope?
Most of us doubt our faith at some time, and it isn’t much fun. Tim Keller said: “Believers should acknowledge and wrestle with doubts”. But the book of James says a person who doubts is “like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:7). How do these things fit together?
I imagine we all have doubts about all sorts of things we think are true, whether it is religious belief, politics, personal relationships or other choices we make. For many christians, especially those raised in christian families, adult life requires many aspects of belief to be re-considered.
How should we deal with this?
I recently wrote about how academics in christian universities and colleges in the USA are finding their professional conclusions coming into conflict with the faith statements of their colleges. But this is an issue that to some degree affects all christians.
How should we respond when secular learning seems to contradict traditional christian belief?
It seems inevitable that there will be a tension for christians between academic knowledge and faith. But sometimes the tension becomes very personal in its impacts, and feelings are high on both sides. These issues have come to a head a number of times in recent years at universities and colleges in the USA.
Many years ago, in a mis-spent youth, I completed some formal theological study. For one subject, I studied the prophet Isaiah. Just this week I prepared and led a study on Isaiah, and renewed my awe of this amazing man.
I really think he had the deepest understanding of God of any person who lived before Jesus, and more than most people since.
This will probably be the last in this series of posts on Understanding the Bible in the 21st century.
When it’s all said and done about the Bible, sometimes more is said than done. But the purpose of the Bible is not to simply read, but to lead us to action. What does the Bible call us to do if we choose to follow Jesus?