So I was telling you about how doubt came in after my church broke up and I wasn’t feeling God’s presence. Another thing is always in the back of my mind, and sometimes the front: lingering doubts about the Old Testament.
I’ve read some authors who have highlighted the great things about the Old Testament. I can find in there a God of justice and mercy and love. I’ve also found it really helpful to think about the whole Bible as the unfolding narrative of God’s people, ala N.T. Wright, and that the OT represents the early acts of a story; we’re in the next-to-last act.
The Creation accounts no longer cause me problems either; I don’t feel I have to either be a creationist OR a liberal. Indeed, the Creation accounts really feel like God’s Word to me since I threw out Ken Ham at age 17.
But the fact remains that the Old Testament causes me a lot of discomfort. There’s a lot of it which seems wrong to me – wrong compared to what I know about God through Jesus.
So I had a strange reaction when Mennonite scholar Ray Gingerich came last year offering a radical reading of the Old Testament… I understood it like this: If Christ is our ultimate revelation of God, then those parts of the OT which are inconsistent with Christ can be understood as less binding, or as a less true revelation of God. (We wouldn’t dare use the word ‘wrong’, but that’s what we’re skirting around, I think.) The OT is a diverse canon of writings… they can’t all be true, argues Ray (I think).
It’s a tempting road to go down. For someone brought up in a conservative Baptist church like me, it seemed to be letting go of a very important doctrine of scripture. (Ie the authority of scripture, I guess.)
So Ray’s solution didn’t solve anything for me. I just felt torn. And I remain so.
I certainly don’t think the Old Testament is the same sort of collection of writings as the New Testament. And it’s so important to avoid the flat-book of much fundamentalism, where every piece of scripture is claimed to be as important as every other bit. But it’s another leap to go from these things that many evangelicals can affirm to what Ray is saying.
Jesus accepted the Old Testament as scripture, and that’s probably the strongest argument for me to hold a high view of the OT.
So here I am right now reading Chronicles and hoping to hear God speak there. I’m sure he will, but I don’t know just what the OT is at the moment. And some of the things in it bother me. When I read about God’s chosen people slaughtering other people, it makes me question Christianity.