"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Friday, October 16, 2009

Semi-Marcionism



"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness"
-2 Timothy 3:16

Nearly daily, I find myself in a seminary context. I've been having a re-occuring reaction when discussing theological issues with Christians (especially strict old school dispensationalists). Many times an issue that will come up where most every other Evangelical friend I have will take a different stand. This may be the issue of the Sabbath, or how a covenant works, or the nature and method of worship. Every conversation is starting to end the same way. I quote or exegete Scripture and the other person says that Scripture is not authoritative or binding. They don't say it in that way, but the effect is the same. You see, when this happens, I tend to be quoting or exegeting the Old Testament.

I want to call it Marcionism, but that is too harsh. Marcion saw the Old Testament as containing a different God. This Semi-Marcionism of today sees the same God in the Old Testament, but with a different system of religion, so not authoritative today. The buzz words are "fulfillment" and "radical discontinuity." These words usually communicate that the Old Testament may have been fine in its day, but now is passe. Back then, God was concerned about those things, but He got over it.

If one argues that "there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God," one is told either that is Old Testament and not repeated in the New Testament (even though my wording is a quote from Hebrews 4:9) or that Christ fulfilled the Law and we don't need to worry about it anymore.

If one argues that worship is covenant renewal based on Exodus 24, one is told that is Old Testament worship and New Testament worship is completely different. Different how? Now it is "in Spirit" (whatever that means). Why? Because it is. Fulfillment! Radical Discontinuity! New Covenant trumps old covenant!

Let's be honest. Most American Evangelicals treat the Old Testament as Apocryphal. It contains some interesting history and background, but it is not really Scripture and authoritative like the true canon: The New Testament. True, it is never stated that way. Instead, it is either couched in language of "fulfillment" or the new covenant trumping the old. But the effect is the same. The Old Testament's theology is seen as no longer binding or true unless stated in the New Testament. Radical discontinunity becomes a convenient way to disregard 2/3's of the Bible.

Fulfillment is certainly a Scriptural concept. I know Christ fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5:21). Some of that mean that there are some things in the Old Testament that no longer apply (such as national or ceremonial Law). But fulfillment does not mean abolish. (Matt 5:17) By thinking fulfillment means abolish, the concept has been applied too broadly and come to merely mean: the Old Testament has no authority. The Old Testament is pictured as a different religion of the Jews. Even if the Old Testament presents a doctrine in a certain way, our particular understanding of the New Testament is all that counts. Christianity is seen to contradict the old (read: outdated) ways and so "fulfillment" is just another word for abolishing a bad thing rather than development of a good thing. The Sabbath, how a covenant works and the method and nature of worship are then all bad things we don't like, that God finally got right in the New Testament. We quote Augustine: "The New is in the Old contained, and the Old is in the New explained." We don't mean it though. We really mean: " The New is in the Old in certain parts, and the Old is in the New explained away."

The real reasons we dismiss the Old Testament:

1) We don't read the Old Testament.

Our time answers to the demands of real life. This is legit, to a degree. Life requires work. But when we get a free moment, we'd rather not think, but unwind. So we watch television and surf the web. If we do devotions they are from the New Testament, and when we read the Old Testament, it is not as someone under authority, but as story.

2) We aren't taught the Old Testament

Measure your Old Testament sermons compared to New Testament sermons. Then, when the Old Testament is taught, how often is theology in view rather than marriage tips from Song of Solomon and Ruth, parenting tips from the Patriarchs, and trusting God generically in generic situations?

3) We don't like the Old Testament world

The Old Testament deals with people as a group. As nations and families. We function as individuals. There is a distinction between clergy and laypeople. We hate hierarchy and authority. There are kings. We are democrats. People go to war in the Old Testament. We like peaceful and happy Jesus, not wrathful and angry Yahweh. The Old Testament contains these people called prophets, and we think prophecy is just prediction. If we ever read the prophets, we find more judgment and commands than we desired, and when we come to the prophets we find they don't "prophecy" like Nostradamus and the prophecies do not become "fulfilled" in the way we think they should be. So, we ignore and neglect the prophets and merely assume it is for scholars to confirm and give us the two sentence version.

4) The Old Testament is long

We have the New Testament at about half the length of the Old Testament. We prefer to read the New Testament instead...though we really merely repeat what we've heard other people say about it because,

5) We prefer a tradition of supposed biblicism (we'd rather claim to be Biblical than read the Bible)

We hear others talk about the Bible and give us a few conclusions. We trust them and think by doing so, we are Biblical. So if something else is argued, even if the Bible is referenced, we think it is not "Biblical." Nevermind "searching the Scriptures to see if it is so."

We ought to be honest. Either Evangelicals should relabel their Old Testaments as Apocrypha or start taking them seriously. I don't know what is meant by fulfillment and radical discontinuity anymore other than that person does not think the Old Testament functions as Scripture. We must have a theology of the Old Testament that recognizes what Paul said about the Old Testament: "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

16 comments:

Andrew said...

Hah very good post Jared. This brings me back to the constant refrain I'd hear in the willow-creek style Baptist church of my upbringing "That's in the Old Testament!" (meaning it doesn't "count" as a bible verse).

Obviously Catholics go even further by "confusing" the covenants by making them unified to a greater degree than anyone else. But I thought it was funny showing a Dispensationalist that the "priesthood of all believers" in Peter's epistle actually comes from Exodus 19:6 and that a general priesthood and a hierarchical priesthood are in no way contradictory. Though that's probably a point where even the Reformed would say "OLD TESTAMENT!".

feetxxxl said...

THE SUBSTANCE OF THE NEW COVENANT

it was acknowledged that no one could follow the law. christ became the source of the grace thru which we receive god's righteousness by faith.

the spirit of the triune god now lives in all believers and it is thru this intimacy dynamic that he seeks a relationship with believers.

believers no longer have relationship to god thru regulation as in deut 28, but directly to him, as depicted by the torn curtain.


it was the love of christ(love is the fulfillment of the law) that fulfilled the law, and it is thru this same love that we do the same thru his grace in living out the three commandments of love. god first loved us and it is by this love that we love god, ourselves, and our neighbor, who under the new covenant is EVERYBODY ELSE. this same love is reaffirmed by christ in his directing us to love one another as he loved us.


the ENTIRE law is summed up in the 2ND COMMANDMENT. all new covenant law being solely for making us conscious of NOT LOVING our neighbor as ourselves. apart from that the new covenant law, the new covenant is without regulation. "everything is permissable but not everything is constructive."


under the new testament we are directed to test EVERYTHING with our transformed minds, to see if it of the christ's spirit and of god's perfect will.


THE OLD COVENANT

"what is called old will become obsolete and soon pass away."

the spirit of god's relationship with his people was also intimate, but it was thru regulation, the purpose appears to be to create a seperate people. there are countless number instances where god directed specific persons of his people "the spirit of god came to -----------and he-------.



THE EVOLVEMENT OF MAN


it appears that the reason for the diffence between the old and new testament has to do with the evolvement of man, which science has designated as the "spiral dynamic". from believers relating to themselves as the group(hunter gatherers) they are part, to the essence of individualism(an identity apart from the tribal group), to seeing themselves a member of a planetary community(that regardless of ethnic, culture, or religion we all share a oneness in being created by the same spirit)

Jared Nelson said...

feetxxxl-

Ok. I don't really know what to make of that mess but thanks for visiting...

feetxxxl said...

apart from making a comment about something you didnt want to discuss, what have i said that isnt scripturely supported............so as to be denoted as a MESS?

or is it that you trump scripture with church doctrine?

or is it that it wasnt written in a particular form?

im realy curious about "mess" and whether you are capable of owning what you meant, being that we are both believers and share the same oneness in christ?

feetxxxl said...

perhaps in spite of your belief you are still clinging to, like the pharisees, generationally handed down understandings.

there is only one spirit, its essence is love, peace, joy, kindness,patience,gentleness,self-control, faithfulness, and goodness embracing it is but a light yoke and an easy burden.


challenging understandings do not come against christ, because scripture says "test everything", what comes against christ are those things that would come against the fruit of the spirit.

Jared Nelson said...

You may be trying to pick a fight, but I don't really know what you are fighting about other than over-generalizing things. Paul says the OT is authoritative Scripture as does Christ. Some things have been fulfilled and realized in Christ like the ceremonial law, but the way of salvation has always been by grace through faith, God has always been who God was revealed to be in the OT, and God's moral law is a reflection of His character and we are still to be conformed to it.

So, again, I don't know what you are arguing but thanks for visiting...

feetxxxl said...

i would have to diasagree. the thing that showed god's character was not his laws but his love.

it was a love that directed slavery as a way of avoiding mass exexcution(1kings..solomons slave labor camps) under the old covenant. but it was the same love that made slavery an untolerable evil under the covenant of christ.

it was the same love that made adultery an executable offence under the old but made the same punishment under the new a violation of the 2nd commandment.

it was that same love that exiled isreal for their polytheism, and then returned them.

bottom line... it is this love(god's love) that christ (god ) says we are to have toward each other, that the law is an addendum to, rather than vice versa, that the law(moral code) is upheld and christ's love is an addendum to it.

and yet this love is not of ourselves but it is his love thru us, from the spirit from the one who lives in us.

Jared Nelson said...

1) I say the law is a revelation of the Character of God because God did not decree some things good and others bad by arbitary whims, but in conformity with God's nature. (i.e. I am not a nominalist) God does what is good not because goodness is a principle above God, but because God is good, and in God revealing what is good in the law is a revealing of God's character.

2) The command to love is law. It is a summary of the law, (mark 12:28-31) not an "addendum" either way. The solution to our violation of love/the law is not another law, even of Christ's legislating, but forgiveness and grace gained by Christ's keeping of the good law, giving us our salvation from the wrath promised us for our failure to love.

The Gospel is not a law of love, it is salvation from the penalty of the law.

feetxxxl said...

yes god is good, and also yes he is love. but i know of no scripture that says god is the law.

if righteousness is apart from the law, then why would we choose to be led by that which is apart from righteousness. when we can chose to be led directly by the spirit?

god being spirit, god being love, therefore god's love being spirit.....the law making us conscious of NOT god loving our neighbor as ourselves, while the spirit leads us in our loving.

again................. anything without love is nothing and gains nothing.

Jared Nelson said...

A) You said “if righteousness is apart from the law, then why would we choose to be led by that which is apart from righteousness?”

The Law also does reveal God's righteousness. You should quote the rest of the verse:

Rom 3:21 "But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it."

B) You said: “no scripture that says god is the law”

It depends on what the meaning of “is” is. “God is the law” is too generic for anyone to unreservedly agree with such a statement. Here is how we ought to understand “is” in these various statements that “God is love,” “The law is love” and “God is the law.”

1)God is (possessing the character of) Love

Not, what you think or feel as love is all we mean by God. Instead, Love is part of God's nature. As God is good, God is love. God is love speaks to the character of God. (1 John 4:8)


2)The Law is (summarized as) Love

By this, we mean what Christ meant when he summarized the law as loving God and loving neighbor (Mark 12:28-31). Thus by the Law is Love, we mean the essence and summary of the law is love.

3)God is (seen/revealed/bore witness to) in the Law

It is not a far stretch to say if God is love, as God's nature includes the characteristic of love, and if the law is summarized by love, then we can know the character of God in the Law. (as Romans 3:21 tells us)

C)“anything without love is nothing and gains nothing.”

True but incomplete. Remember that love is not against the law. Trying to love, i.e. follow the law, without GRACE gains nothing. Let us think of this in a more Trinitarian way. God's character is revealed in the law, yet we are not able to fulfill or keep the law, so Christ fulfills the law on our behalf and the Spirit begins to enable us to keep the law, though not perfectly yet. The Law is not the means of spiritual growth, but it is not an evil thing that is abolished, but a good thing we cannot attain to by ourselves, and need Christ's substitution and the Spirit's enabling to reflect. The Law reflects the character of God and to desire to conform to the law as the measurement of godliness is not evil, but good, so long as we do not desire to conform to the law as the means of salvation and reward.


God's standards are based on his character so we cannot make up or feel our way to God's will. It has been revealed in the law. Our inability to perfectly keep it should drive us to Christ, for without Christ we are without hope to love perfectly. Only by Christ's work are we able to obtain access to the Spirit. Do not skip to the Spirit and ignore the law and Christ's work. May the Law drive you to Christ and then the Spirit can enable you to look again to the law stripped of its curse by Christ and see it as the character of God and for you to begin to fulfill love.

feetxxxl said...

your whole premise is that the law is love. that god is the law

please give the annotation to support it.

why do you consistently ignore, my denoting that it isnt about our love but christ's love thru us.



everthing that is done is done in christ.

15christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.



and why do you ignore that by loving thru christ's love we automatically follow the law and in addition fulfill it.

where does christ say follow the law the way i followed the law.

Jared Nelson said...

Again, I'm not quite sure what you are arguing for. Saying "by loving thru christ's love" isn't very specific as to what that is measured by or looks like.

As for Scripture, I've cited Scripture references, but if you don't want to look them up then I will reproduce them and a few others here:

God is (possessing the character of) love

1Jn 4:8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

The Law is (summed up by) love

Mar 12:28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, "Which commandment is the most important of all?"
Mar 12:29 Jesus answered, "The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Mar 12:30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'
Mar 12:31 The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

Christ fulfilling the Law:

Mat 5:17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

We fulfill the law:

Jas 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well.

God's righteousness witnessed by the Law:

Rom 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it.

feetxxxl said...

the entire law is summed up in loving your neighbor as yourself. therefore this is all the direction we need. the entire law is to make conscious of NOT doing this directive.

OUR LOVE IS THRU CHRIST WHO WHOSE SPIRIT LIVES IN US.

what does his love look like?

it looks like the sermon on the mount. it looks like the greatest among will be your servant.

it looks like 1cor13: 4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

it looks like the fruit of the spirit..........love, joy, peace, kindness,patience,gentleness,self-control,goodness, and faithfulness.........the fruit of the spirit of god, the fruit of the spirit of love.

Jared Nelson said...

I really don't know where to go from here. I think many of your statements are too broad to be useful. You said "the thing that showed god's character was not his laws but his love." Then "god is love" and then "the entire law is summed up in loving your neighbor as yourself." (which misses love for God) and then "therefore this is all the direction we need."
And then gave additional direction with 1 Cor 13, Matt 5-7. You rage against the law prefering love, then admit the law is summed up by love, then refuse specificity then cite specificity.

So I'm sorry, you have not put forth any coherent answer on my defense of the Old Testament as Scripture (as Paul sees it 2 Tim 3:16-17) or that the Law is a revelation of the character of God (Rom 3:21, Mark 12:28-31, etc).

I'm not really interested in debating generalities. Thanks for visiting.

feetxxxl said...

the purpose of scripture is to point to the spirit of the triune god.

this in addition is the purpose of the law as well. that is why it is holy as well. but what points to the spirit is not the spirit.

if there is road sign pointing the direction at the fork in the road as to what fork to take to get to a particular town. that sign is not the town.

the law was weakened by the sin nature. surely you are not saying that the love of god or god is weakened by the sin nature.


1.Romans 8:3
For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man,

Jared Nelson said...

Theological discussion is based on mutual understanding of each other's position. Since you do not care to understand my positions and I cannot decern your meaning from your vague comments, further dialogue is not meaningful.