The third question raised by Dimitri was "Do Christians need to obey Old Testament Laws?" While the prior questions could be dealt with summarily by pointing out the misapprehensions of the interlocutors thereof, this question requires a lot more work, as it touches on a number of major conflicts that have embroiled the Church from its inception to today. As such, answering this question will require us to look at it from a number of different angles and to address them one by one as time and space permit.
One of the main ways in which doubters both within and without the Church try to discredit the Old Testament and its teachings is by casting the allegation of "anthromorphism". Simplified, the argument goes like this:
- A passage of scripture shows God acting in a way proper to man: feeling emotion, considering, reflecting, reconsidering.
- God is a perfect being.
- Perfect beings do not feel emotion, consider, reflect, or reconsider. They are spiritual, and do not have hands, feet, or faces.
- Therefore, God did not do these things, nor does He have those parts, and the passage is thus untrue, and can be ignored.
Hopefully you have noticed the major assumption contained in this line of argumentation. In the third point, a mortal human has taken it upon himself to circumscribe God. In opposition to the God described in God's own words, and preserved by the power of the Spirit and the diligence of the Church through Scripture, a philosophical construct of the author's own making is raised up before the people for their worship. Why does God not do these things? "It is not fitting, it is not proper..." To these assertions, Scripture answers boldly:
"Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, 'What are you making?' Does your work say, 'The potter has no hands'?" (Isaiah 45:9)
Man is the image and likeness of God. (Genesis 1:27) When God appears to act like man in Scripture, we do not see that God has lowered Himself, but rather to what heights man has been exulted by God. We are the ones who have appropriated these characteristics from above, not He from below.
It is thus inappropriate to say that God does not have hands. The word יָדַ֥יִם (yadayim, singular yad) describes not only the five fingered appendage at the end of the human arm, but also the power to act on and affect the world. Thus our hands, being small mechanisms of flesh, muscle and bone with limited reach and power are mere shadows of the infinite strength, power, and subtlety with which God forms the world to His liking.
And yet, while God might manifest his "hands" in ways we cannot conceive of, He is not restricted to those means. He may, if He wishes, interact with the world through four pointers and an opposable thumb. His very best work was done this way.
It is the same with emotion. Though we misapply our energies: turning our anger against those who deserve our mercy, and vice versa, nonetheless these things are, utilized correctly, good. They are not a mere animalistic nuisance, but our inheritance from our Father. This principle is, in my option, best illustrated in C.S. Lewis's Perelandra: when faced with ultimate evil, the protagonist Ransom feels,
“[...]an experience that perhaps no good man can ever have in our world came over him--a torrent of perfectly unmixed and lawful hatred. The energy of hating, never before felt without some guilt, without some dim knowledge that he was failing fully to distinguish the sinner from the sin, rose into his arms and legs till he felt that they were pillars of burning blood. What was before him appeared no longer a creature of corrupted will. It was corruption itself to which will was attached only as an instrument. Ages ago it had been a Person: but the ruins of personality now survived in it only as weapons at the disposal of a furious self-exiled negation. It is perhaps difficult to understand why this filled Ransom not with horror but with a kind of joy. The joy came from finding at last what hatred was made for. As a boy with an axe rejoices on finding a tree, or a boy with a box of coloured chalks rejoices on finding a pile of perfectly white paper, so he rejoiced in the perfect congruity between his emotion and its object.”Our emotions fail us because we turn them to the wrong objects. It is for this reason that the prophet Jeremiah says, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) But God does not promise us that we will be without hearts, but rather, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26) And we must remember, that when this comes to pass,
"Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is."(1 John 3:2)
Man's disdain for the Bible's anthromorphism is not truly a zeal for the supremacy and glory of God, but a denial of the same. Stating that God in the Old Testament has not felt, has not seen, has not considered is a collateral attack on the God of the New Testament, Jesus of Nazareth who does all these things. It is said that God cannot do these things in order that one may say that Jesus cannot be God. But this is a lie, for God would not be God without Jesus!
In Jesus's sacrifice the passionate love and all-consuming glory of God is made manifest beyond the power of any other act to demonstrate. In this sacrifice He shows himself not merely to rule by strength, as do the powers of earth and heaven, but by right and worth! It is the crescendo of the symphony, the thesis of the paper, the climax and the purpose of life itself.
This purpose is not to segregate God and man, but to bring them together in Holy Communion. The Biblical number of completion is seven. This number is six, the number of man plus one, the number of God. Remember, "Hear, O Israel: The Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one."(Deuteronomy 6:4) The work of Christ and the mission of His Church is to bring man to union with God:
"And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all."(1 Corinthians 15:28)
I leave you with a warning for those who would persist in denying this reality. It is not denying the Divinity of Christ that draws Scripture's greatest opprobrium, but rather His humanity:
"I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist."(2 John 1:7)Gnosticism, which the above passage opposes, comes in many forms. All of them place human knowledge and philosophy above the Love and Revelation of God. Avoid them with your life.