Marcionism & Churches of Christ Or What Value, Really, is the "Old Testament?": How We Got Here, Part 4
The dispensational hermeneutic first articulated by Alexander Campbell in his Sermon on the Law (read more here) has become part of the DNA of Churches of Christ. Classic hermeneutic manuals like Dungan's Hermeneutics devote considerable energy in establishing this hermeneutic while virtually ignoring "commands, examples and inferences." B. W. Johnson further inculcated this hermeneutic through his widely read and reprinted sermon (on both sides of the keyboard ironically) series in 1899 called "The Two Covenants." Probably among the most influential means of traditioning this point of view though has been the Jule Miller film strips.
There is a legitimate distinction between covenants. There is history, movement and development in the Story of God. Yet sometimes, it seems, that such emphasis has been placed on the distinction between the Testaments and even the radical abolition of the "Old" Testament that some (perhaps many) quietly developed the theology that the First Testament is irrelevant at best. Perhaps an example of this would be the famous preacher N. B. Hardeman in his Tabernacle Sermons.
Let it be remembered, brethren, that you and I, as Gentiles ... were never subjected to the law of Moses. It was never applicable unto us. Its promises were never ours, neither its threats nor punishments. Strange, it is not, therefore--passingly so--that, notwithstanding two thousand years have passed since it was taken out of the way and nailed to the cross, there perhaps are peopole to-night, never included in it, that are blinded, deceived, and deluded by the thought that they are amenable to it? ... On the pages of God's word it is clearly declared that the law is blotted out, wiped away, stricken from existence, become dead, that we might serve in newness of spirit and not in the oldness of the letter" ("Rightly Dividing the Word the Word of Truth," Vol 1, p.11)
The language of Hardeman is harsh and even extreme. How would folks in the pew hear this language directed against the "Old" Testament? There is no doubt that NBH believed the Hebrew Bible was inspired. But the impression left is one that says the OT is of limited importance. The tendency to codify positions arising out of debate is all to common yeilding woeful consequences.
It should be pointed out that Hardeman's position, as quoted above, rests on a serious misunderstanding of not only the "Old" Testament but also of Colossians 2.14. What was "nailed to the cross" was not the Old Testament but the cheirographon which refers to the I.O.U/sin-debt that we have incurred not the Hebrew Bible or even the "Old Covenant."
It is one thing to make the claim that we "believe" in the "Old Testament" and quite another to take it seriously enough to let it shape and mold our faith and life. If we take the "New Testament" seriously then we will have to take the Hebrew Bible seriously enough to let it even impart "doctrine" to us (cf. 2 Tim 3.16). Rather than being an addendum that we might get around to at some point the Hebrew Bible is essential to the Christian faith.