Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Old Testament authority

How is the OT relevant to us today? In what way can we say that it is authoritative for us as Christians? There is so much that is different - so many commands that we do not keep. Does it have anything to say to us?

Chris Wright helpfully points out the nature of OT authority in his Old Testament Ethics for the People of God. For starters, we have to realise that 'authority' is a bigger term than 'command'. Clearly, we do not keep many of the commands of the OT, but that need not mean that it isn't authoritative for us. Once we've got that clear, there are at least four avenues by which the authority of the OT upon us becomes clear.

The reality of the God of the OT - 'the reality of the identity of YHWH implies the authority of an ethics of worship and response. Inasmuch as we encounter the reality of this God in the pages of the OT we encounter that authority also... [T]he reality of YHWH's character implies the authority for an ethic if imitation and reflection of that character in human behaviour. We ought to behave in certain ways because that is what YHWH is like, and that reality is sufficient authority.'

The reality of the story of the OT - 'the reality of this story, rendered to uson the pages of the OT, carries authority for an ethic of gratitude in view of God's actions for Israel in the past, and an ethic of missional intentionality in view of God's purposes for humanity in the future.'

The reality of the word of the OT - 'the reality of this word, delivered to us in the scriptures of Israel, carries authority for an ethic of covenantal obedience for us as for Israel, for we know the One who said these things (Heb. 10:30).'

The reality of the people of the OT - 'the reality of this people, rendered to us in the OT Scriptures, generates an ethic of paradigm and analogy, in which we assume the moral consistency of God and ask, "If this is what God required of them, what, in our different context, does God require of us?"'

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