I recently read a generally excellent book but something struck me as wrong. The book affirmed one must believe in the authority of Scripture, “especially the New Testament.” What can such a statement possibly mean?
At best, the authority of the NT can be contrasted with the Old if what is intended is direct applicability. The story of Abraham being given a covenant of circumcision is revealed to us with just as much authority as the Great Commission and the command to baptize, but Christians heed the authority of the Great Commission by baptizing disciples, not by circumcizing them.
Nevertheless, it is confusing to make a blanket statement about Biblical authority and then say, “especially the New Testament.” Consider our most obvious prooftexts for the authority of the New Testament:
And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures (2 Peter 3:15-16 ESV).
Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages” (1 Timothy 5:17-18 ESV).
What is the argument here? “Scripture” is a term used throughout the “New Testament” for what we call “the Old Testament”–the Hebrew Scriptures. In these two passages we find other “New Testament” writing being included as “Scripture.”
In other words, we never see any question about whether or not the “Old Testament” is especially authoritative. That is simply an understood premise. But what we find in these two cases is evidence that the “New Testament” is just as authoritative as the “Old Testament.”
How do we go from “New Testament” teaching that it is just as authoritative as the “Old Testament,” to saying that the Bible is authoritative, “especially the New Testament”?
I don’t see how that works.
Personally, I wish we would throw out the terms “Old Testament” and “New Testament” altogether.