Longtime readers of this blog know that I do NOT subscribe to the notion that the Judeo-Christian Scriptures are inerrant/infallible. Hence, as numerous posts here have made clear, this blogger accepts that those writings are full of errors, contradictions and figurative passages. Hence, from my perspective, most of the efforts to justify and explain away textual problems are often misguided, futile and self-deluding. Likewise, I believe that those who demand a literal understanding of Scripture in all instances will invariably tread the path of misinterpretation and heresy.
And, while this blogger believes that Marcionism was/is heretical, I do believe that there are clear differences between the God depicted in the Old Testament (angry, vengeful and jealous) and the one depicted in the New Testament (loving, forgiving and understanding). In fact, the denial by some Christians that any such differences exist has alienated many thinking people from the Church and caused others to reject those Scriptures as being hopelessly flawed and without value in our modern world. I have said it before - Making the Bible into something it was NEVER intended by God to be helps absolutely no one (believer or non-believer)!
Now, most Christians are aware of the concept of "progressive revelation." For the sake of clarity, I like Matt Slick's definition for CARM - Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry. He wrote: "Progressive revelation is the teaching that God has revealed Himself and His will through the Scriptures with increasing clarity as more and more of the Scriptures were written. In other words, the later the writing the more information is given. Therefore, God reveals knowledge in a progressive and increasing manner throughout the Bible from the earliest time to later time." This concept allows us to acknowledge the differences between the Old and New Testament depictions of the Divine without being forced to arrive at Marcion's conclusion that the two "gods" must be completely separate/different entities.
Even so, we should not delude ourselves that the concept of progressive revelation accounts for all of the differences/discrepancies between the way in which God is depicted in the two testaments. We must also allow that the men who actually wrote those accounts contributed some of their own thoughts/perspectives/prejudices to what they wrote. Humans get angry. We are sometimes vengeful and violent. We can be jealous and envious creatures. In fact, those are traits which most sentient creatures exhibit from time to time. Isn't it plausible - even probable - that such notions would intrude on our thinking about God? In other words, isn't it likely that some of those men and women (even acting under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) projected some of their own feelings and notions onto their Creator? Moreover, this tendency to remake God in our own image has the effect of making God much smaller than "He" actually is. God has the capacity to present many different faces and accommodate many different perspectives of who and what God is. In other words, regardless of what we think, the Hebrew God does have the capacity to be the God of the Old and New Testaments.
The failure of many Christians to deal with these tensions between the two testaments, however, is symptomatic of a much more extensive problem that many Christians have with the stark differences which are apparent between them. Intentionally or not, many Christians have simply ignored the Old Testament altogether or employed only those few passages which they consider to be benign (like the Psalms or Proverbs) or are otherwise consistent with their New Testament theology. Unfortunately, this presents a picture of ignorance and/or cognitive dissonance to outsiders and robs the individual Christian of a fuller and more accurate understanding of his/her faith.
A friend recently sent me an article by Jonathan Peterson of Bible Gateway in which he interviews the author (Brent Strawn) of The Old Testament Is Dying: A Diagnosis and Recommended Treatment. According to Mr. Strawn, the way in which most Christians regard the Old Testament is akin to how some languages fall into disuse and eventually die. In the article, Strawn reminds us that the fluency of the older generations in some language is not passed on to the younger generations, and that the language naturally deteriorates as a consequence of this fact. In similar fashion, Strawn says that the failure of many Christians to be fluent in the language of the Old Testament has robbed them of a significant part of their heritage and has impeded their ability to fully comprehend the spiritual language of their faith. Unfortunately, many of us have forgotten that the only Scriptures available to Jesus, his apostles and the early Church were the writings which we refer to as the Old Testament.
The same friend also forwarded me another article by Jonathan Peterson where he interviewed Michael Norton, the author of Unlocking the Secrets of the Feasts: The Prophecies in the Feasts of Leviticus. In the interview, Norton explains that many Christians aren't familiar with the Torah festivals or their significance for their faith. Norton goes on to point out that many Christians are completely unaware of the important contributions which these festivals can make to our understanding of God's will and our salvation through Jesus Christ. And, taken in conjunction with the other Peterson article, we could say that Norton's contributions underscore a concrete example of one of the very important elements of the Old Testament which most Christian's miss by neglecting or ignoring those Scriptures.
In short, I'm advocating for greater Christian awareness of the Old Testament. To be clear, I'm NOT advocating for incorporating the dos and don'ts of the Old Covenant into the tenets of the New Covenant (I believe the New Testament clearly repudiates such a notion). I'm also NOT advocating for an apologetics tour or endorsing efforts to reconcile "seeming" contradictions between the Old and New Testaments. I do, however, believe that (whether intentional or unintentional) Christian avoidance of the Old Testament carries very negative consequences for the long-term health and survival of our faith/religion. What do you think?