Thursday, April 27, 2017

Unfaithful Reading

Reading the Old Testament, or even the entirety of Scripture, as though all things point to Christ is not the most faithful reading of the Word, even though it has become, perhaps, the most popular.

There are actually quite a few theological problems with this kind of reading, probably more than we will be able to cover in one short post.

But let's start here - if the words of David and Isaiah, which are most often brought into this kind of reading, are foreshadows of a Christ that has not yet come and has not yet been promised in concrete terms, then what did David and Isaiah think they were writing? Did they understand their own words, or were they just writing some kind of jibberish that God told them would "make sense one day. promise"? I think it's far more likely that David and Isaiah were writing out of their own hearts, and then our incredible Lord and Savior took the words of the king and the word of the prophet to the Cross with Him. After all, we know that Jesus was versed in the Scriptures that preceded Him. We know that He was considered to be both prophet and king. His audience would have recognized these words as kingly and prophetic, even if they were not considered messianic prophecy. 

And what about when God promises David that he will always have an heir on the throne? If we can only read this promise in light of the Christ that God, but not David, knew was coming, then this is quite troublesome. David thought God was making a promise to him. If it turns out that God was just making a promise, then how can we believe any word that God gives to us, any promise He makes in our lives? It may have nothing at all to do with us, and we can never know what God is mumbling under His breath when He makes it....You will always have an heir on the throne! because I have this secret plan up my sleeves that doesn't really have a lot to do with you, but it kind of starts here, so....

God's story centers on His relationship with His people; we cannot simply be His pawns. That's too difficult a reading.

Or what about the way that God deliberately reveals Himself to His people again and again and again through the Old Testament? If everything comes down to Christ, then whatever was known about God in the Old Testament was just so that we would one day recognize Him in the form of our own flesh. That seems kind of difficult, doesn't it? Especially when Christ Himself declares that He has come as a revelation of the Father. Do we have members of the Trinity working in different directions? If the Father is only trying to reveal the Son and the Son is only trying to reveal the Father, then God is playing some illusionary game with us, is He not? He's playing a game where He only ever pretends to reveal Himself, where He only ever fakes that we could ever truly know Him. 

That's not the God that I believe in. The God I believe in wants to be known. 

In the same way, to read the New Testament (after the Gospels) only in the light of Christ is to miss the incredible work of the Holy Spirit. It's to miss the way that the Spirit reveals God to us. It's to miss how the Spirit was central in empowering the disciples and the apostles not only to preach, but to heal, to persevere, to carry out the mission that God had sent them on. The apostles themselves talk about the power of the Spirit in their lives, how important the Spirit is to their work, how they could not do what they were doing if Jesus's promise was not true and the Spirit had not come to help them. But we read right past the Spirit to turn back to the Cross. 

We miss so much of the real, developing story of God in the Scripture when we read everything with a Christological lens. We have to take a great number of theological leaps. We have to introduce a number of questions that threaten the very heart of what we say that we believe about God. And we have to ignore the testimony of the Father, the Spirit, and the Son to read it in the way that we are. 

And it's also worth saying that this kind of reading - this Christological reading of the Scriptures - is actually quite a new phenomenon among Christianity. For much of the history of the faith, the church and her theologians have been much more focused on figuring out how the whole picture fits together than on trying to fit the whole picture into one scene. We'll take a look at some historical considerations tomorrow. 

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