OLD GOD v. NEW GOD and ROB BELL
We’ve all heard the phrases before… “The God of the Old Testament,” “The God of the New Testament.”
There is no denying that the Old Testament and the New Testament are different! In the Old Testament we see the dawn of creation, the birth of a people, the beginnings of a nation. It all starts out just peachy and then they bite the apple. It was an apple… right?! or maybe it was a peach!!!… And herein lies my point! Our ideas of the Old Testament and the “God of the Old Testament” have, over time, been so guided/misguided by images/movies/discussions etc. rather than the text of the Old Testament itself, that we have acquired a very distorted view of who this “God of the Old Testament” truly was. When we over-apply western thinking to both the Old and the New Testaments the point of it all can get smeared.
Rob Bell (pastor turned uber-spiritual advisor) made the headlines again this last week on Oprah’s “Super Soul Sunday” saying that the Church has got to stop basing the way it behaves on letters written thousands of years ago. Here’s the exact quote:
“The church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2000 years ago as their best defense. When you have in front of you, flesh and blood people, who are your brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and coworkers and neighbors and they love each other and they just want to go through life with someone.”
Let’s just all make our own little god and write a bible to go with that god. Yeah… that’s the ticket!
Over time, styles of writing change. Words change. Phrasing changes. But, the point of Old Testament is as relevant today as it was the days the accounts were written. It is a collection of actual happenings…true stories…real-time accounts. All 39 books are an interaction between God and the people He loves. He creates them. The picture of perfection is painted. They stray. And so begins the story of His loving attempts to pull them back to His side. The Old Testament covers thousands of years, but we have to see it holistically or we will miss its point entirely. God’s struggle to pull His people back is, at times, enormous! He goes to great lengths (and that’s an understatement) to pull them back. We see, in living color, the phrase “Love must be tough,” coming to life. He guides them. He protects them. He parts the sea for them. He rebukes them. He forgives them, and forgives them, and forgives them. Pull out certain verses, and even some of the stories, and all you might see is blood and gore, because it’s definitely in there! But, in its entirety, the Old Testament is an absolutely beautiful picture of love and redemption. Verses like Ezekiel 18:32 sum it up well… “For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!
Then comes the New Testament. A NEW GOD enters the picture. Right??? or at the very least the old God seems to “lay off” or something. There couldn’t be anything further from the truth. He simply (or rather… quite “complexly”) put the ENTIRE debt of mankind’s waywardness on His own son! At “the appointed time,” Jesus/GOD came to earth and took the sin of ALL mankind for ALL time on His own shoulders. HE/GOD paid the penalty for mankind’s waywardness. His mind didn’t change about sin or the penalties associated with it…He just took the punishment on His own shoulders… “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him” (Isaiah 53:5). Now, all that becomes necessary, is to admit that this is what happened. Accept His gift. Repent / turn. And follow Him. He made a way… where there wasn’t a way. The OCEAN between God and mankind, that our own sin had created, was PARTED on the cross! No words will ever do justice to what happened on that hill in Jerusalem. Well, maybe these words… “For God so loved the world…”
Old Testament God - Never was one.
New Testament God - Never was one.
Eternal God - Now we’re talking!
And… just to clear things up about the peach and the apple. Genesis 3:6. Go there. Read that.