Old Testament Christianity

I do not mean to offer an exhaustive discussion about this but thought that I might offer a few things that bug me about the Old Testament imagery that I often see in the church these days. With that in mind I offer these words that are often used in church circles and my rants about them:
  • altar: I grew up in the Episcopal church where we had an altar located at the front of the building. Looking back I think that it is an odd carry over from the days of animal sacrifices. Not sure but I think that it was probably initiated by Roman Catholics who see communion as a re-sacrificing of Christ in communion.
  • priest: In my childhood church leaders were priests and we addressed them by "father". This idea is such a throwback to a Levitical order. Why do church folks continue to be so infatuated with titles like reverend, pastor or bishop when Jesus seemed to indicate that we should not be all about titles?
  • tithe: The idea that God is owed ten percent is an interesting idea. My thinking is that Moses had to give the Israelis a number because of the hardness of their hearts. Even so, I cannot imagine why anyone would mention such a limiting idea to folks who are called to generosity and loving charity.
  • prophet: Over the years I have witnessed strange things spoken by so-called prophets. My reading of the verses that speak about spiritual gifts doesn't leave me with the idea that God wanted to establish the position of prophet but rather raise up prophetic people. We limit this idea when we call people by a gift.
  • law: My life was been a convoluted mess when I embraced the idea that the bible was all about rules for living. Could it be that our desire for rules or laws is a sign that something is broken? It seems to me that Jesus spoke to this brokenness in the Sermon on the Mount when he contrasted internal brokenness and ineffective external laws.
  • sabbath: I am not thinking so much about the idea that humans need a day of rest but more about the idea that one specific day should be designated as that day that we go to a religious building. This idea seems to be rooted in Judaism where people worshiped on the Sabbath. Seems to me that worship is more of a lifestyle than a day.
I wonder what you think about these words. Do you think that churches today have embraced ideas that are rooted in the Old Testament? Or maybe you see things much differently than I do. I would love to hear your perspective.


  1. An insightful comment from a FB friend:

    "love this, bob... and to your question, yes. unfortunately, 'give me that old time religion' often translates in practice as OT law. your thoughts brought to mind these verses from the NT:

    the law came by moses, but Grace and Truth by Jesus the Christ (john 1.17)

    the veil remains across their heart every time moses is read (2 corinthians 3)

    except your 'right-ness' exceed that of the scribes and pharisees, you're not going to understand the kingdom of God (my paraphrase - the pharisees confused 'righteousness' with moralism/law)"

  2. I heard someone say recently that our desire to be under law was much like the temptation to eat at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil instead of the tree of life.

    The letter kills, (in the day you eat of it you will surely die) but the Spirit gives life (no condemnation for those who are in Christ and walk after the Spirit)

    1. Great point and comparison of the law to the tree.

      Thanks for sharing Ma!

  3. I do hope that churches have embraced the Old Testament and ultimately, our heritage of children of God. I was teaching a class last week on Galatians, and one person in the class actually said that the law doesn't matter anymore! I was shocked at this gentleman's comment. Either we take the bible as a whole or not at all. That doesn't mean we take every word literally (as some of the language is figurative) and that we DON'T consider cultural and historical context. It's saddens me when people just view the bible as a rule book for life rather than viewing it for what it truly is - a story of how God has dealt with his people. And I think by holding both the OT and the NT as equal we can come closer to understanding that story and our place in it. we ought not forget the words of Jesus himself "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." (Matt 5:17)

    1. Not sure that I am tracking your comments to my post Stephanie? Which of those six words I used do you take exception to?

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. I don't really object to any of the words you mentioned, though some are antiquated and most people probably won't know what they mean. But I think it's worth educating them on it. I was mainly responding to your question after the list: "Do you think that churches today have embraced ideas that are rooted in the Old Testament?"

    4. Thanks Stephanie. I resonate with:

      "holding both the OT and the NT as equal we can come closer to understanding that story and our place in it."

      Even so, I get a bit concerned when people do not interpret the OT through the life, ministry and teachings of Christ.


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