The Owner is opening a new series "Rediscovery of the Old Testament” that is designed to aid believer, who is not satisfied with his or her life to find out or refresh the basic tenets of Judeo-Christian tenets, history and spirituality. With this article we are initiating discussion of the importance of the study of the Old Testament for the believer to withstand the contemporary challenges and trials in the society for whom content and merit do not matter.
If the Bible for a believer is a language of faith, then more than half speaks in the tongue incapable to express fundamental truths.
Can one forget her or his own language? What if Christians are the ones who are not learning their first language? It is precisely what happens in the modern church, suggest the researchers. If the Bible for a believer is a language of faith, then more than fifty per cent speaks in the tongue incapable to express fundamental truths.
Only 55 per cent of responders surveyed knew that the Golden Rule is not one of the Ten Commandments. Only 28 per cent knew who was the Biblical hero of Esther. Only 29 per cent knew when the Sabbath begins. While only 30 percent did not know that Moses, not David, led Jews out of Egypt, nearly 70 percent correctly stated that Abraham did not enter Promised Land. Seven in ten responders knew that Abraham was the biblical figure willing to sacrifice his son out of obedience to God. More than half of responders stated that the Old Testament is mostly or entirely for Jews, but the New Testament for Christians. About 30 per cent stated that the Gospels are true Bible for Christians.
More than 80 per cent did not know what is the Prosperity Gospel. But nearly 90 per cent said that the statement “If I believe in God I will be blessed materially and have good health” was true. It is a result of many studies, which include national study the Pew Forum U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey in 2014 and 2019. What is evident about the questions is that none of them was difficult - they were basic. None of them tested for the nuanced formulations or details. For an average reader of the Bible, the answers should be widely known.
Professor of Old Testament Dr. Brent A. Strawn is on the spot-on when he writes that despite the claim of deep religiosity, a large group of believers are uninformed about the tenets, practices, history of major faith traditions - including their own. As an illustration, he points to the fact that only 49 per cent of Protestants had the question about the Golden Rule and Ten Commandments right.
“Christians are uninformed or quite uninformed if not ill-informed (perhaps mal-formed would be a better term) about even the most rudimentary details of their religion,” he wrote in his latest book “Old Testament is Dying”. He compares the knowledge and understanding of the Bible to the language of faith. Christians are not learning its vocabulary, syntax, and grammar, he argues.
The majority of Pastors or leaders devalue teaching how to study the Bible correctly. The singing or “worship” are the most accented moments in the church which do not require thinking and reflecting upon one’s life through the prism of the Bible. Some ministers are substituting genuine study of the text with their own sermons usually built on a plethora of read or heard catchwords peppered with the disconnected Biblical quotes. Others may preach quite prepared sermons but the research shows that neither they are assisting believers to acquire the language of faith.
Ministers who preach more composed sermons tend to choose “best topics” which “edify”, “encourage” or “motivate” talking happy message, not the truths about God of Abraham, Isaac and Yaakov. Professor Strawn observed that not less than 49 per cent of such sermons are based only on the texts of New Testament, just 17 per cent review some stories from Old Testament, and other sermons do not have Biblical reference. The addresses ommitting Bible outnumber the ones, which refer to the Old Testament.
He also noticed that a favourite “go-to-sermons” referring to the Old Testament, unrepresented or underrepresented 21 out of 29 nine books, that is 53.8 per cent of the Old Testament. For instance, such sermons would not mention books of Ruth, Esther, Obadiah, Nahum, Micah, Zephaniah or Haggai. These sermons discussed the bulk of stories from Genesis and Exodus but the remaining Torah was left off. Ministers would inform about the importance of promises and confessing them, but they would never explain the complete meaning of Abraham’s sacrifice.
There is a prevalent but mistaken opinion that the Old Testament is less important that the New Testament for believers. If this idea is deeply ingrained in believers, some may presume that the Old Testament is not needed. They would claim that Christ superseded Old Testament which is now relevant solely for Jews.
French philosopher Paul Ricouer would often point at the role of the context: first, it is not unimportant that the legislative texts of the Old Testament are placed in the mouth of Moses and within the narrative framework of the sojourn at Sinai.
German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, driven by his extensive study of justice in Old Testament, sheltered Jews facing Holocaust, and ventured to end the systemic injustice, Hitlerism. Dr Bonhoeffer, who is perceived as great Christologist, expressed his deep view of the importance of Old Testament in the life of the genuine believer. “In my opinion it is not Christian to want to take our thoughts and feelings too quickly and too directly from New Testament.”
As the early church, including the authors of the Apostolic letters, did not content themselves with saying that the New Testament alone was sufficient for the life of Christian believers, so none of contemporary Christians should fall in that trap.
This is first article in the Rediscovery of the Old Testament series.