THREE THINGS WE SHOULD STOP DOING WITH THE OLD TESTAMENT

Jayson Bradley had a fascinating article on his website on the three things we should stop doing to the Old Testament. I’ve thought about this a lot lately. The Old Testament is full of stories that are very violent, sexual, and just plain awful. It can be hard to reconcile these stories with the God we see in Jesus, and some of our attempts are just plain preposterous. His three things we should stop doing are:

Jayson Bradley had a fascinating article on his website on the three things we should stop doing to the Old Testament. I’ve thought about this a lot lately. The Old Testament is full of stories that are very violent, sexual, and just plain awful. It can be hard to reconcile these stories with the God we see in Jesus, and some of our attempts are just plain preposterous. His three things we should stop doing are:

  1. Ignoring the horror

When my daughter was eight, she decided she was going to read through the Bible. As a pastor, I was thrilled. That was until she came down a couple nights later and wanted me to explain why Lot was sleeping with his daughters (Gen. 19:30-36). . . awkward.

It’s humorous to me when Christians want to censor books, music, or media because of the questionable content. I mean, seriously . . . HAVE YOU EVER READ YOUR BIBLE!? It’s full of crazy, horribly sexual and violent stories.

  1. We whitewash OT stories for children

Many kids who’ve gone through years of Sunday school and youth group Bible lessons grow into adults who have a very different and one-dimensional view of humanity, God, and the Old Testament. When (if) they discover these stories for themselves, or when they’re confronted by a skeptic with the dark side of many of them, they’re surprised and can feel misled.

If you believe the Old Testament is inspired Scripture, you can’t just sing about building an arky arky out of gopher barky barky . . . you’re eventually going to need to work through the disturbing text that says God was so frustrated that he decided to kill . . . everyone (‘cept the arky crew of course).

  1. Turning the Old Testament into simple moral lessons

You experience this almost any time you hear an exposition on any Old Testament story in church. The text is reduced into simplistic equations and steps for living a godly, happy, or fulfilled life. Even more tragic than that, we take stories about God’s behavior in a specific situation and normalize it. If you do this, God will always respond this way…

Because the truth is:

Unlike Daniel, you can act with integrity and the lions might eat you

Unlike David, you can act with faith and Goliath may kill you

Unlike Joseph, you can act with purity and spend the rest of your life in prison

Unlike Elijah, God may not silence your critics with miracles

One of the things making the Old Testament so troublesome is that, instead of seeing it as the narrative of God’s creating and preparing a people for the incarnation, we tend to see it as the a collection of self-help stories.

Jayson finishes his post with this not insignificant tidbit:

Like life, the Old Testament isn’t easily explained or reconciled, and it doesn’t always resolve nicely. We need to be okay with that.

Somewhere between ignoring or explaining away the OT’s most difficult passages and letting their darker elements work us into a constant state of frustration is a place where, like Jacob, we can wrestle with God until he blesses us.

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