I’ve become convinced that its important for the Church to inoculate our young people with a healthy dose of catechesis before we ship them off to college, just enough so that when they first hear about Nietzsche or really study Darwin they won’t freak out and presume that what the Church taught them in 6th grade confirmation is the only wisdom the Church has to offer.
I’ve been working on writing a catechism, a distillation of the faith into concise questions and answers with brief supporting scriptures that could be the starting point for a conversation.
You can find the previous posts here.
10. Is the God of the Old Testament the same as the God of the New?
Were the evangelists who wrote the New Testament liars?
To disavow the God of the Old Testament not only commits the oldest of heresies, it makes unintelligible the central claim of the New Testament: that the God who raised Jesus from the dead and made him King of the Earth is the same God who raised Israel from slavery to a king in Egypt.
Both testaments of scripture testify to the one Word of God, the Logos, the Son.
The Word that takes flesh in Mary’s womb is the selfsame Word that spoke creation from nothing into being.
Because scripture is not the literal word of God but the mediated, collective witness to the Word of God, Jesus Christ, its testimony is not always clear or consistent, which can lead to the conclusion the two testaments depict two different gods.
The variation in how the testaments depict the one God; however, should be attributed to the differences of perspective among their witnesses not differences between their gods.
“There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” – Matthew 19.17
11. How we do understand divine violence and wrath in the Old Testament?
Short answer: In submission to the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.
Longer answer: The Old Testament is the witness of Israel and the prophets to God and, as such, it narrates their experience of God and narration, by necessity, requires language and even our best language hang like ill-fitting clothes on the true God.
To believe that my sin can provoke a change in God (wrath) is idolatry.
It is to make God a god, another object in the universe.
Israel’s relationship with God, to which the Old Testament testifies, was most frequently marked by their sin.
Sin is something that turns God into a projection of our guilt and self-loathing so that we no longer see the true God at all. Instead we experience God as a judge, a paymaster, as angry and vengeful and violent. Thus the Old Testament’s depiction of God’s anger towards Israel’s infidelity reveals more about Israel’s infidelity than it reveals the true God.
Moreover, Israel’s election to love God in the world was also an election to suffer. The Old Testament is not simply any people’s testimony to God; it is the testimony of a people who often found themselves oppressed in a world that knew not God. Thus the Old Testament’s depiction of God’s anger and violence towards reveals more about Israel’s hunger for justice than it reveals the true God.
Finally, Jesus Christ is the full revelation of God. Christ reveals perfectly to which the Old Testament can only point. And in Jesus Christ we discover a God who commands us to turn the other cheek, love our enemies and pray for them; a God who commands us to put away the sword and would rather die than kill.
‘No one has ever seen God; it is God the Son who has made Him known.’ – John 1.18