RE: [asa] A question on morals (OT and NT)

From: Dehler, Bernie <>
Date: Mon Nov 02 2009 - 13:33:38 EST

Hi Pete-

Thanks for your response. It was a good general response. But let me re-ask the question with more specifics, and is it possible to answer with a yes or no with small comments? (I understand your general response is that the NT rachets up the level of moral expectation on people from the OT.)

Given what you wrote, let me give a precise question with more detail.

Suppose a Christian boy is beat-up at school and his bike is destroyed by a bully. He says he wants to get even with the kid- eye for eye. He plans to destroy the other guys bike as well as hurt him physically. His Christian parents tell him it is wrong, per Jesus' teaching, to pay back evil for evil. The boy does it anyway. Is that a sin? Is it immoral? You will likely say 'yes' I'm guessing.

Now re-work the same scenario with a Jewish family. Since they are following the OT, is it s sin? I can't guess what you'd say. If yes, they are being held to an account above that which they have accepted from God in the OT. If you say no, then apparently there are different levels of morality from the same God?

Maybe your answer will be that people are only accountable for what they know, and reject. It just seems strange to me that one can do 'evil for evil' as a command from God (OT) while another says that the practice of 'evil for evil' is evil (NT). Christians and Jews have the same God but different moral directions.

So can you clarify using these two specific examples? Is the boy from the Christian family sinning because they have a higher standard, whereas the Jewish boy is not sinning?

From: Pete Enns []
Sent: Monday, November 02, 2009 10:18 AM
To: Dehler, Bernie
Subject: Re: [asa] A question on morals (OT and NT)


If that is the case, I am glad you are out of your church and seminary. The manner in which the Gospel "goes one better" than the OT is a basic Christian teaching. It summarizes much of what is happening throughout the NT.

So, let me put it briefly here. I will try to respond as I can in the next few days.

Jesus is the new and improved Moses, and Christians follow his teaching and now read the Hebrew Bible under the authority of the risen Christ. Some things that were valid once now no longer are. That is why, even though "eye for an eye" is in the mosaic legislation (and reflects ancient moral conventions), with Jesus we have reached-and I say this without hesitation-- a new level of moral teaching, which Jesus, as the Son of God and soon to be risen Savior--has the authority to give.

In other words, the authority of the OT--as serious as that is--is now subsumed under the authority of the risen Christ. Christians read their OTs with this in mind, front and center.

I realize that this is not very much in line with a more fundamentalist, rationalist system of the nature of the Bible (which you apparently came out of), for here you have "one part of the Bible contradicting another." But, suspend that reaction if you can. The entire NT--and I am only exaggerating slightly, if at all--is about engaging the question of how this new people of God, made of up Jews and Gentiles--are to be connected to Israel's Scripture while also seeing how very clearly the empty tomb moves beyond, eclipses, even subverts that Scripture. "eye for an eye" is only one example. Others include: temple, sacrifice, land, dietary laws, Gentile inclusion, etc., etc., etc. The Sermon on the Mount is just one succinct example of what is happening throughout. (And, as for the Sermon on the Mount, is it not interesting that Jesus is on a MOUNTAIN giving LAW to the people, often times prefacing with "you have heard it said but I say to you...." What do you think is happening there, Bernie?)

I am serious when I suggest that you can help yourself, if you want, by reading the NT from that point of view, with its over 300 citations of the OT, and well over 1000 allusions to the OT, and see the case the NT writers are making. A rationalistic expectation that the Bible does not behave this way is, strictly speaking, hardly a biblical view of the Bible.

Hopefully that wasn't a long-winded sermon.

Pete Enns
On Nov 2, 2009, at 12:18 PM, Dehler, Bernie wrote:

Yes- these questions are serious. In 25 years of attending church and attending seminary, they have never been discussed, and I'm thinking of them now.

If you could answer concisely I'd appreciate it. I'm afraid of getting a rambling sermon in response from some people.


From: Pete Enns []
Sent: Monday, November 02, 2009 9:03 AM
To: Dehler, Bernie
Subject: Re: [asa] A question on morals (OT and NT)


Forgive me for chiming in. I have been resisting thus far.

In all seriousness, are you serious?

Do you mean to say that you really have no idea how this kind of situation--the differences between the testaments--is to be addressed? Is this ACTUALLY a theological problem for you (which is hard for me to imagine), or are you more being the contrarian here?

Pete Enns

On Nov 2, 2009, at 11:35 AM, Dehler, Bernie wrote:

Since the OT says "eye for eye" but Jesus says in the NT NOT to do "eye for eye," would it be immoral (a sin, "missing the mark") for a Christian to insist on "eye for eye" justice since it is contrary to Jesus' teaching? If yes, then is it also immoral for a Jew to insist on "eye for eye'' justice as God told them (for a Jew, who rejects the NT but accepts the OT)? If no, then does that mean God has different morals for different people?

Remember- 'eye for eye' comes from the Bible (OT) and is from God.

This is related to the thread of the existence of absolute morals being an evidence for the existence of God, the giver of morals. One of my Christian friends says this is the best evidence, he thinks, for the existence of God (his favorite).

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Received on Mon Nov 2 13:34:17 2009

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