Recently, Truett Seminary’s professor of theology Dr. Roger Olson shed light on his low view of the Old Testament in a comment on his blog. Olson states:
I would go so far as to say that we should not focus on the cultural meaning, the circumstances, etc., except out of historical interest. Everything we need to know about God and salvation is in the New Testament. The OT was types and shadows. It provides some context for understanding the New Testament, but it provides nothing essential for doctrine or practice that Christians cannot find in the NT.
The post itself has many disappointing comments about the Old Testament and Olson’s “interpret everything through a lens of love” theologizing, but his comment in view shows where the rubber meets the Marcion-esque road he is traveling.
I would go so far as to say that we should not focus on the cultural meaning, the circumstances, etc., except out of historical interest.
While readers of the OT should certainly do their due diligence in allowing cultural meaning, circumstances, and varying contexts to properly inform interpretation, to relegate such categories of the inspired OT scriptures to mere “historical interest” is to diminish the importance of God’s Word to his people. The OT is not a powerless historical record but the very texts given for the supernatural renewal of the minds of God’s people, both before the NT and today.
Everything we need to know about God and salvation is in the New Testament.
This statement made by itself is not off-base. However, in the context of the surrounding statements, Olson’s assertion that the NT is sufficient for “everything we need to know about God and Salvation” implies that the OT serves very little if any value to the Christian life, not to mention interpretation of NT texts. This idea runs contrary to the orthodox understanding of the two-part Christian Canon of Scripture and the NT’s own testimony to the value of the OT.
The OT was types and shadows. It provides some context for understanding the New Testament, but it provides nothing essential for doctrine or practice that Christians cannot find in the NT.
The OT certainly contains types and shadows but to make a blanket assertion that the OT is only types and shadows, and I believe that is what Dr. Olson is communicating here, is to not see and understand the theological depth and complexity of the OT. The OT serves a much greater purpose in redemptive history and the lives of the people of God than a text consisting of merely types and shadows of things to come.
Olson fails to understand the importance of the character of scripture as he continues to say that the OT provides “some context” for the NT. The OT is the VERY context of the NT! Olson’s idea of discontinuity between the OT and NT is certainly not supported by early Christian history nor could one possibly support the idea from the writings of the Apostles. If it can be, I would be very interested in reading such materials.
Dr. Olson finishes by saying the OT “provides nothing essential for doctrine or practice that Christians cannot find in the NT.” He again repeats the assertion that the NT is fully sufficient for faith and practice, relegating the inspired and precious scriptures of the saints of old as unnecessary.
It is worth noting that Roger Olson is not an Old Testament professor, his area of study is in theology. However, one cannot properly “do” theology without a proper understanding of the character of the two-part Christian canon. Dr. Olson’s relegation of the OT to mere “historical interest” is disturbing on various levels. I hope this discussion will open our eyes and point us to a renewed thankfulness and love of God’s gracious gift of his Word to us today. A Word that exists in unity, power, and eternal significance.