What to do with the Old Testament...

Tim Spivey had an interesting post the other day called What Good is the Old Testament? His primary question was simple: How do you view the Old Testament?

The question that I want to tackle (very briefly and somewhat tenatively) is a hunch that I have on how we might honor the Old Testament as Scripture and yet avoid some of the problems that have been created and experienced by other types of interpretation. Ultimately, this is a very sensitive theologial and hermeneutical issue for many of us in Churches of Christ.

My working hunch is this: What if instead of doing a hermeneutical dance with the Old Testament (keep the moral law, discard the ceremonial law), or just functionally throwing it away altogether (yeah, that's the OLD Testament), what if we were to read the Old Testament as Narrative.

Allow me to explain. I'm not saying that we only pay attention to the stories. (You know, ignore Leviticus altogether and focus on bears mauling kids and hills of foreskins.) I'm saying that we look at the Old Testament to discern what God is doing and what we can learn about God and His mission in the world. So for example, instead of simply reading the story of Hannah as a nice story about God giving a barren woman a baby who just happened to be Samuel we would read it as a narrative about the character and mission of God. In doing so, we would come to recognize that this story is not so much about a desperate, barren woman (although it certainly is about that), but more than that it is about a God who is sovereign over what seems irreversible. It tells us about a God who is at work in the world to turn the structures of the powers and principalities on their heads. It is about a God who raises up his "anointed" to put things back to the way they were always intended to be. So instead of this being a nice lesson about praying with emotion and sincerity without a mediator (although that is certainly here) we instead learn something about the nature and mission of God which transcends which part of the book it is from. 

The same might be for the ceremonial law. What can we learn from rules and regulations about menstrual cycles, mold in the house, and dietary restrictions? We learn about a God who is serious about the implications of living together as God's representatives in the world. We learn that there is no area in life from which God and the reality of being his people is removed. We learn that the way we set ourselves apart from the culture in which we live, for their sake, is important to God and therefore important to us.

What do we do with the Old Testament? Maybe instead of looking for things that do or do not apply we need to understand that it is the story of God and of his people. Therefore, it is OUR story as well.