Old Testament & Christianity

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Old Testament & Christianity

Post by Sakhaiva on Fri Feb 11, 2011 6:00 pm

One of the main issues I have experienced with modern-day Christianity is how groups handle the Old Testament - in fact, whenever I hear of someone being *burned* by Christians, their gripes seem to revolve around troubles with legalism (which stem from how a church deals with O.T. stories.)

Consider: a friend recently invited me to her Women's Bible Study at her church (Independent Baptist bordering on Southern Baptist). Since the study was supposed to be based upon the importance of friendship between women, I decided to give it a go even though I am not Baptist (I'm ELCA Lutheran with just a dash of Yogic Samkhya for flavor). Well, the study very quickly delved into such things as *breaking the chain of sin* of the family (including families shamed with divorce - a'hem) and praying for our dead relatives (rather Mormon if you ask me). As the study continued, I began to feel like I was the only one who was not seeking perfection and even felt picked on at times. Especially when they spoke about *broken families* ... gotta say. The experience made me a bit frustrated because the study could have been great - it could have focused on friendships (as the title suggested it would.) I believe that 100% of the problems boiled down to how the author of the study teased out and dealt with the Old Testament.

My beef is that Old Testament stories were for and about the people of Israel during a limited period of time. Historic tales, ideological tales, proverbs and songs from a specific place during a specific time. Christianity, while allowing readers to reflect on past laws, people and events, is about the New Covenant which involves Unlimited Grace, Unlimited Mercy and a Love that knows no hunger. One has only to read Paul's letter to the Romans to understand.

So... what do YOU think about this subject? I am, by no means, any sort of scholar and welcome any and all feedback.

How do you think churches you have been involved with have handled the O.T.?

Do you think that O.T. laws - in and of themselves - do not and should not apply to today?

All thoughts are welcome Smile

(I'd like to interject that there really are church groups who are very, very good -though not perfect - at demonstrating authentic grace, mercy and love. St. Gregory's of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco, for example, feeds thousands of homeless each week through their amazing food pantry program; they feed people regardless of their social status, religion et al - and only food is given (with dignity) ... no cheesy t-shirts, brochures etc.)
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Re: Old Testament & Christianity

Post by DotNotInOz on Fri Feb 11, 2011 6:32 pm

Sakhaiva wrote:
My beef is that Old Testament stories were for and about the people of Israel during a limited period of time. Historic tales, ideological tales, proverbs and songs from a specific place during a specific time. Christianity, while allowing readers to reflect on past laws, people and events, is about the New Covenant which involves Unlimited Grace, Unlimited Mercy and a Love that knows no hunger. One has only to read Paul's letter to the Romans to understand.

You said it above. I've not an iota to add other than that I wish that those churches which claim to be literalists where the NT is concerned would live up to that.

St. Paul said Christian women must dress modestly and not wear gold jewelry nor style their hair any way but very simply to illustrate appropriate humility. Most of us are familiar, I'm guessing, with the dicta about women not speaking in churches and deferring to their husbands.

The excuses I've most often heard from such are that his society was somewhat more structured with more distinctly defined roles than ours as well as that those were different times. Some things such as the above are no longer customary or necessary today.

Okay, so just who determined that these are things not to be taken literally whereas others are? I've never gotten a satisfactory answer.
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Re: Old Testament & Christianity

Post by allthegoodnamesweretaken on Fri Feb 11, 2011 7:20 pm

I think the problem is, like you mentioned, the tales were written in a specific time, in a specific place, and a specific culture. If you don;t take them in the context in which they were written, then you don't understand them in the manner in which they were meant, and there is very little incentive today to understand them in the manner in which they were written.

That's not to say that a modern person with a modern understanding would be unable to gain any personal meaning from them, but we shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking that it was the same thing they meant thousands of years ago.

all
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Re: Old Testament & Christianity

Post by Sakhaiva on Fri Feb 11, 2011 10:27 pm

DotNotInOz wrote:

St. Paul said Christian women must dress modestly and not wear gold jewelry nor style their hair any way but very simply to illustrate appropriate humility. Most of us are familiar, I'm guessing, with the dicta about women not speaking in churches and deferring to their husbands.

The excuses I've most often heard from such are that his society was somewhat more structured with more distinctly defined roles than ours as well as that those were different times. Some things such as the above are no longer customary or necessary today.

Okay, so just who determined that these are things not to be taken literally whereas others are? I've never gotten a satisfactory answer.

Thanks DOT.

You brought up really good questions and I wish I had succinct, clean, and tidy answers. All I can do is ponder and wonder with you.

Regarding women and Paul, as mentioned in Paul's letters to Corinthians, a former pastor once explained to me that Paul was trying to distance the people from their former practices to avoid confusion. (In Corinth, as was documented, a woman's role in religion involved things such as temple prostitution. IOW, he wanted to draw clear boundaries.) Of course the Pastor chatting with me about this was a female ELCA Pastor/therapist/Doctor ... which brings us to women speaking in church and governing men. Wink

There is another theory, that Christianity originally promoted gender equality, however some naughty person came and added anti-female ideals later. Check it out here: http://www.religioustolerance.org/nfe_bibl.htm

Now regarding what to take literally and what to chalk up as figurative et al.... that is a question that denominations are made of!

We know quite a bit about the various people groups the collected letters were written to, the living conditions etc etc. When we use this background data and apply it to the various passages - keeping everying in context - the reader can better discern what was said to make a point v.s. what was absolute. Ideally this is the Pastor's job - if s/he had any proper schooling at all, they will know their history, languages & psychology inside and out.

In the end, I sort of wonder if some people are drawn to legalistic O.T. law because it's easier to point out what other's are "doing wrong" than to really show love.
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Re: Old Testament & Christianity

Post by Sakhaiva on Fri Feb 11, 2011 10:40 pm

allthegoodnamesweretaken wrote:That's not to say that a modern person with a modern understanding would be unable to gain any personal meaning from them, but we shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking that it was the same thing they meant thousands of years ago.

all

Thanks All... that is also a thought-provoking point. Certainly it is not so simple as "God said it, I believe it, that settles it."
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Re: Old Testament & Christianity

Post by Davelaw on Fri Feb 11, 2011 11:30 pm

as to the OT, specific rules and teachings for a specific people group-based on universal principles-we apply the principles not the minute detailed rules

as to Paul etc... context -time,place, grammar and common sense- in Corinthians Paul had just finished giving rules on how women should prophesy-proclaim the word-so silence does not mean silence


and Baptists praying for the dead? inconceivable
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Re: Old Testament & Christianity

Post by gillyflower on Sat Feb 12, 2011 9:33 am

Day after day, now, I am immersed in genealogy, family lore, family (and cultural/political) history and honestly the bible is that. In spades. Some people try to whitewash their family histories/lore - my ancestor didn't fight over slavery - it was all about states rights! - ignoring the 5 slaves he owned. Revisionist history. I see a lot of that going on in some churches.

As Dave said, the lessons are in the broad strokes and even that changes over time in family histories. Some things that are important at one time, are less so in another. Trying to live by another cultures rules? Trying to interpret what they *really* meant? It's kind of crazy to me. Do I care how my slave owning ancestor thought women should dress? Do I care how Paul thought women should dress? Only if I am interested in painting a picture of a man and his time.

The churches I've enjoyed go very lightly in the OT and put it in perspective. They don't use specific bits (women obeying men) to push their own political agendas which is something that I see the worst of the churches doing. They seem to think that if they cherry pick the parts they like from the bible they can create their perfect society. Never mind that it won't be perfect for one gender or people with a different sexual orientation. The churches I liked did not go in that direction.

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Re: Old Testament & Christianity

Post by Sakhaiva on Sat Feb 12, 2011 4:57 pm

Davelaw wrote:and Baptists praying for the dead? inconceivable

LoL!

The church itself is Independent Baptist (with Southern Baptist roots). The study, I just noticed, was put out by a gal named Dee Brestin who is PCA Presbyterian (the conservative branch). For some reason, I had wrongly assumed that she was Baptist. She was drawing on texts from Nehemiah to show how his people (previous generations) had offended God, and how Nehemiah's generation prayed to repent for the sins of the former generations. The point she was trying to make is that, in order to *break the chain of sin* in our own families, we have to ask forgiveness from God for the sin's of our forefathers.... just like they did in the book of Nehemiah. I found that to be unnecessary.



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Re: Old Testament & Christianity

Post by Sakhaiva on Sat Feb 12, 2011 5:11 pm

gillyflower wrote:Day after day, now, I am immersed in genealogy, family lore, family (and cultural/political) history and honestly the bible is that. In spades. Some people try to whitewash their family histories/lore - my ancestor didn't fight over slavery - it was all about states rights! - ignoring the 5 slaves he owned. Revisionist history. I see a lot of that going on in some churches.

As Dave said, the lessons are in the broad strokes and even that changes over time in family histories. Some things that are important at one time, are less so in another. Trying to live by another cultures rules? Trying to interpret what they *really* meant? It's kind of crazy to me. Do I care how my slave owning ancestor thought women should dress? Do I care how Paul thought women should dress? Only if I am interested in painting a picture of a man and his time.

The churches I've enjoyed go very lightly in the OT and put it in perspective. They don't use specific bits (women obeying men) to push their own political agendas which is something that I see the worst of the churches doing. They seem to think that if they cherry pick the parts they like from the bible they can create their perfect society. Never mind that it won't be perfect for one gender or people with a different sexual orientation. The churches I liked did not go in that direction.

Thanks Gilly; I stand in agreement with you.... except for the usefulness of interpreting what Paul meant. People seeking power misrepresent what they can (Biblical prostitution, if you ask me) and the only way to really combat their efforts is to know what was really said and why.

N.T. Write has made a career of it!

Making this a bit more personal... I've been questioning my own faith for years; am I really Christian? If Christianity is defined along the lines of the cherry picking, perfect society dreaming legalistic sort - then I cannot be, my very life condemns me. If Christianity is defined by things such as the theology of forgiveness, unlimited grace and genuine (unearnable) love... then count me in.
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Re: Old Testament & Christianity

Post by Beribee on Mon Feb 14, 2011 12:15 am

Sakhaiva wrote:
Making this a bit more personal... I've been questioning my own faith for years; am I really Christian? If Christianity is defined along the lines of the cherry picking, perfect society dreaming legalistic sort - then I cannot be, my very life condemns me. If Christianity is defined by things such as the theology of forgiveness, unlimited grace and genuine (unearnable) love... then count me in.

I couldn't agree with you more, Sak! I think that questioning your faith makes for a better Christian (or any religion, for that matter). I believe in forgiveness, grace and unconditional love, as well....so count me in, too!

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Re: Old Testament & Christianity

Post by gillyflower on Mon Feb 14, 2011 9:47 am

The Dalai Lama had two quotes today:

"Developing love and compassion and reducing anger and spite is a universal activity which requires no faith in any religion whatsoever."

"One may practice religion or not, but so long as we seek happiness and continue to live in society, love and affection are indispensable"

I don't know if that fits here or not but I thought they were good things to hear. I think it is harmonious with both of your religious views. I enjoy following him on Twitter.

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Re: Old Testament & Christianity

Post by Sakhaiva on Mon Feb 14, 2011 4:08 pm

Gilly..... you have touched on something really interesting! Does love need religion and/or spirituality? HHDL says 'no'.

I'm going to start a new thread..... as I think it could make a flavorful conversations. If we're lucky, it will get exciting and TED will have to lock it Wink
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Re: Old Testament & Christianity

Post by Davelaw on Mon Feb 14, 2011 4:19 pm

Sakhaiva wrote:
Davelaw wrote:and Baptists praying for the dead? inconceivable

LoL!

The church itself is Independent Baptist (with Southern Baptist roots). The study, I just noticed, was put out by a gal named Dee Brestin who is PCA Presbyterian (the conservative branch). For some reason, I had wrongly assumed that she was Baptist. She was drawing on texts from Nehemiah to show how his people (previous generations) had offended God, and how Nehemiah's generation prayed to repent for the sins of the former generations. The point she was trying to make is that, in order to *break the chain of sin* in our own families, we have to ask forgiveness from God for the sin's of our forefathers.... just like they did in the book of Nehemiah. I found that to be unnecessary.




thats not exactly the same as praying for the dead-it may be unnecessary for most; but it may be useful for those in a generational cycle of violent abuse or addiction to look at things that way.

BTW, i'm an independent Baptist who just wished my Lutheran ex-wife a Happy Anniversary (its the 20th of our marriage and the 17th of our divorce.)
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Re: Old Testament & Christianity

Post by Sakhaiva on Mon Feb 14, 2011 4:25 pm

Beribee wrote:

I couldn't agree with you more, Sak! I think that questioning your faith makes for a better Christian (or any religion, for that matter). I believe in forgiveness, grace and unconditional love, as well....so count me in, too!


Hug2
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Re: Old Testament & Christianity

Post by Sakhaiva on Mon Feb 14, 2011 4:27 pm

[quote="Davelaw"]
Sakhaiva wrote:
Davelaw wrote:and Baptists praying for the dead? inconceivable

LoL!

The church itself is Independent Baptist (with Southern Baptist roots). The study, I just noticed, was put out by a gal named Dee Brestin who is PCA Presbyterian (the conservative branch). For some reason, I had wrongly assumed that she was Baptist. She was drawing on texts from Nehemiah to show how his people (previous generations) had offended God, and how Nehemiah's generation prayed to repent for the sins of the former generations. The point she was trying to make is that, in order to *break the chain of sin* in our own families, we have to ask forgiveness from God for the sin's of our forefathers.... just like they did in the book of Nehemiah. I found that to be unnecessary.




thats not exactly the same as praying for the dead-it may be unnecessary for most; but it may be useful for those in a generational cycle of violent abuse or addiction to look at things that way.{/quote]

True Davelaw... good point. However, we cannot say that it is commanded in order to receive forgiveness.

BTW, i'm an independent Baptist who just wished my Lutheran ex-wife a Happy Anniversary (its the 20th of our marriage and the 17th of our divorce.)

silent Very Happy
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Re: Old Testament & Christianity

Post by Davelaw on Mon Feb 14, 2011 4:36 pm

Sakhaiva wrote:

True Davelaw... good point. However, we cannot say that it is commanded in order to receive forgiveness.


I don't believe in conditional forgiveness- God forgives ALL.
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Re: Old Testament & Christianity

Post by DotNotInOz on Mon Feb 14, 2011 5:23 pm

Of course we don't need religion or spirituality in order to behave with love and compassion toward others, or there'd be a bunch of agnostics and atheists behaving consistently quite nastily.

Love, whether we like to think of it this way or not, is basically a social transaction. If I do or say something nice to you, you're more likely to return that to me.

Think about people you don't like much. You're much less likely to offer help to them than to a friend or family member whom you love.

Now, religions and various spiritual practices generally teach that the people we dislike or consider our enemies are the very ones we must try hardest to behave lovingly and compassionately toward. But I don't think most of us make that much effort unless we're really focused upon living up to such ideals or have other motives. Granted, sometimes it may be more loving to leave such people alone, especially when we've tried to be nice and been rebuffed more than once. Basically, we choose to do so mostly because we know from experience we're not going to complete a love transaction with that person--all give and nothing in it for us unless we enjoy giving and giving with no return, which often borders on self-sacrifice to no good end if we don't have limits.

Same thing when it comes to loving oneself. People with little self-esteem aren't content because they're unable, unwilling or simply don't know how to love themselves. If you value yourself and care properly for your mental and physical health, both will generally be better and stronger than when you do not.

Obviously, this is a simplistic view, but I think there's merit to the idea that love is a transaction: We give it hoping to get it.
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