Why Stay "Hitched" to the Old Testament?

Earlier this year, controversy swirled around pastor Andy Stanley when he said in a sermon that Christians should "unhitch" their faith from the Old Testament. In a podcast interview with Jonathan Merritt last week, he tried to clarify what he meant by expanding on his earlier comments. He said, “I am convinced for the sake of this generation and the next generation, we have to rethink our apologetic as Christians, and the less we depend on the Old Testament to prop up our New Testament faith the better because of where we are in [the] culture.”

But we see in Psalm 78 precisely the opposite:

Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.
He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, 7 so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments;

For the sake of this generation, and all the generations, we must tell them about the mighty deeds of God, including the ones recorded in the Old Testament. We must not hide them lest the children — the upcoming generations — be like their fathers, who did not believe in God and who were destroyed.

If we hide the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might, and the wonders that He has done — the very substance of the Old Testament — we will cut our children off from one of God's primary means for setting their hope in Him. In Truth78's family devotional, Glorious God, Glorious Gospel, the chapter about knowing God's promises answers the question, "Why teach children the Old Testament?" It says,

The Old Testament narrative is an amazing testimony to the faithfulness of God in bringing about His sovereign purposes. Throughout the varied stories, themes, and events of the Old Testament, we see one overarching storyline — the progressive revelation of God choosing and redeeming a people for Himself, a people who are to be set apart, “holy” to the LORD. A people bound, guided, and protected by the promises of God. Promises made by God are always shown to be promises fulfilled by God. God always does what His says He will do. No one is able to thwart His purposes. All creation, whether rock, water, bird, or man, serves God’s grand design and plans.

Why teach children the Old Testament? Because

it is within this context that they can better understand and appreciate the Gospel. The Gospel is the culmination of God’s promises and purposes for His chosen people. Every promise in the Old Testament provides an unshakable foundation for understanding and trusting in the Gospel. Every Old Testament promise points forward to the meaning and necessity of the perfect work of Christ. God’s good and wise providence over the people of Israel is the same providence acting to save His sinful people through the death of His beloved Son. Recounting these past promises is meant to give God’s people — children included — confidence for the future as we anticipate Jesus’ return, our resurrection unto eternal life, and the establishment of His everlasting kingdom.

Stanley hopes to downplay the Old Testament, thinking that will lead people closer to God. But doing that will block their way to God. And this effect will be most pronounced on children, the very ones God commands parents to tell.

Albert Mohler talked at length on his blog about what Stanley said and the many reasons believers should be concerned about it. He said Stanley's apporach is not a new way of thinking about the Bible. It is very similar, he said, to the ancient heresy of Marcion, "who argued that the Old Testament must be repudiated by the church."

So it is that every generation is in danger of failing to disciple the next generation. Though most believing parents still affirm the goodness of teaching the Old Testament to their children, we are no less in need of the warning, and hope, of Psalm 78. Our temptations to hide God's mighty deeds from our children can take subtle forms. Whether it’s regular family devotions crowded out by the start up of school, sports schedules, and friends; the pull of entertainment, screen time, and endless electronic distractions; or the timidity of not knowing where to begin, we need to carve out and protect time to tell our children and the coming generations the glorious deeds of God.

It's easy to read the history of the Israelites in the desert and wonder how they could be so foolish, so repeatedly disobedient, so ungrateful for all God had done for them. In light of their desert wanderings, it makes sense that God would warn them repeatedly not to forget Him and all His mighty deeds. But we are just as prone to forgetfulness and folly, to distraction and neglect. Writing in the New Testament, Paul urged the believers in Corinth to remember their history. Writing about the idolatry of ancient Israel, he said, "Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come" (1 Corinthians 10:11).

The Old Testament was written for our instruction. May we, by the grace of Jesus, in the power of the Spirit, and to the glory of God, heed His warning. And may we also glory in God’s mighty deeds, teaching them to our children so that they might set their hope in Him.

Wondering where to begin teaching your children the Old Testament? Glorious God, Glorious Gospel, the interactive family devotional, is designed to help parents instruct the mind, engage the heart, and influence the will of their children.

It answers the questions Who is God and what is He like? Why do I exist? How am I to act toward God? What is my greatest problem and need? What has God done to solve this problem? How can I be saved? and How should I now live? 

Each of the 15 chapters builds on the previous one, providing a logical flow of thought from the Old Testament (chapters 1-8) to the New (chapters 9-15). It covers the progressive unfolding of God's redemptive plan so crucial for understanding the person and work of Christ, and presents a clear, succinct summary of the Gospel. 

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