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Q. What is the Old Testament?
A. The Old Testament is God's ethics explained in a collection of many types of writing.
Q. Is this ethics required for salvation?
A. No, not in the Christian view. The Christian view is that salvation comes from faith in Christ.
Q. Then what is the point of the Old Testament for Christians?
A. Those with true faith in Christ should want to follow Christ which clearly includes trying to adhere to God's will, and God's will includes the ethics of the Old Testament. Jesus prayed that "Thy will be done" (Thy referring to God). James said "faith without works is dead". Being ethical is referred to in Christianity as "works". Since faith should imply works, works are proof of faith.
Q. Is there any other benefit to following God's ethics?
A. Yes, the Old Testament repeatedly points out that a society that follows God's ethics will prosper but an unethical society will fail, for example in Deuteronomy 28. In an ethical society, people can trust each other and this trust makes the society strong. It also makes life better for moral people.
Q. What about those Christians who claim to have faith without works?
A. Their faith is a lie.
Q. But millions of Protestant claim this.
A. Modern Protestants are the world's biggest liars and their faith is the ultimate lie. These modern Protestants all believe that they are like prophets and have a direct line to God who tells them what to do. Of course this is nonsense and what they interpret as God's word is nothing more than their own emotions telling them what to do. So in fact their faith is in their own emotions, not in Christ or God. Their worship is self-worship. They do this in God's name, violating the third of the Ten Commandments which says not to misuse God's name. How can I be sure of this? Jesus addressed modern Protestantism directly here:
“Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’
What kind of fruit does modern Protestantism produce? Clearly bad fruit, every modern Protestant society today is a moral disgrace.
Q. But wasn't the Reformation all about overthrowing the unjustified works of the Catholic Church?
A. Yes, but these works weren't God's works. The Catholic Church also misused God's name to invent works in the name of God that aren't actually works of God. Martin Luther rejected these Catholic works but offered no substitute. John Calvin fixed this by correctly pointing out that true faith should produce true works as found in the ethics of the Bible. Though Luther and the Eastern Orthodox Church disagree on many theological points, this is one point on which they are in complete agreement.
Q. So then Protestantism was on the right path?
A. Yes, on this issue, early Protestantism was on the right path. This was true of all early Protestant sects influenced by Calvin and was especially true of the Puritans. And what were the fruits of this form of Protestantism? The Enlightenment, the British Empire, and the United States. Not bad, I think. Judged by these fruits, the early Protestants were doing something right.
Q. So where did Protestantism go wrong?
A. In America in the early 1800s in the Christian Second Great Awakening. This was time of public fairs full of snake oil salesmen, and religion was much the same. All kinds of religious claims were being sold to the public, but the one that took hold, the easy remedy for salvation, was that an emotional experience that one took to mean "accepting Christ" was the means for Salvation. In particular, a preacher named Charles Finney promoted this view. This was a clear rejection of John Calvin's views including his view of the relationship between faith and works. So Christian works died for Protestants. From this point on, Protestant societies went into moral decline.
Q. Didn't Christ come to replace the Law with Faith?
A. The whole concept of "the Law" is misunderstood. The Old Testament is not a law book, it is a book of ethics. The Old Testament contains laws that were specific to the Israelite society of that time. These laws are examples of applied ethics, but these laws were never meant to be eternal, not even for Jews. The part of the Old Testament that contains these laws is called the "Torah" in Hebrew, and Torah means "teaching", not "law". Of course some laws are so basic that they are in fact fundamental ethical principles, so they are eternal because ethical principles are eternal. The obvious example of this is the Ten Commandments.
Q. So then what is all this talk about "the Law" about?
A. In fact it is the Pharisees who made Judaism legalistic. They focused on law instead of ethics and then they added their own laws. Jesus particularly objected to the added laws of the Pharisees. Jesus defended the Old Testament in Matthew 5:17-20. In English translations, Jesus seems to be defending "the Law" but in Hebrew versions of Matthew that were found, Jesus says "the Torah", not "the Law", which means that Jesus is defending the teachings of the Old Testament. Paul attacked the Law which is not what the Old Testament is really about and is largely a construct of the Pharisees.
Q. How can one be sure that the Old Testament is really about ethics and not law?
A. Just read it. What do the prophets talk about? What does most of the Old Testament talk about? Is it law or is it ethics? Read it and decide for yourself.
Q. Aren't Jews the ones who follow the Old Testament?
A. Not at all. Most Jews today are Rabbinic Jews and Rabbinic Jews follow the Talmud, not the Old Testament. The Talmud is based on the Old Testament but twists it beyond recognition and explicitly rejects God's authority which is replaced by the authority of the rabbis (Talmud, Bava Metzia 59a-b). The Orthodox rabbis of today are the direct descendants of the Pharisees. It is Orthodox Jewish law that every Orthodox rabbi must be taught by another rabbi which connects in an unbroken chain back to the Pharisees from the time of Jesus.
Q. Should Rabbinic Judaism be hated for twisting God's word?
A. No. Catholicism and modern Protestantism also twist God's word. We should focus on improving ourselves instead of hating others for being misguided.
Q. Is all Judaism so misguided?
A. No, Karaite Judaism follows the Old Testament, but it is a small sect of Judaism.
Q. Who else follows the Old Testament?
A. The Puritans followed the ethical principles of the Old Testament better than Jews ever did. The ethical principles of God are available to anyone who wants to follow them. Unfortunately it seems that few major religions are interested in God's ethics today. That is why the modern world is such a mess.
Q. How should a Christian follow God's ethics today?
A. Read the Bible and follow it.
Q. But many parts of the Old Testament seem archaic. How should these parts be applied?
A. One needs to understand the historical context and use this to find the underlying principles which can be applied today. I admit that this isn't easy. So it is best to do this with the help of an Old Testament Bible study group.
Q. Where can one find a good Old Testament study group?
A. I offer an online Old Testament study group here:
I also plan to offer a local group in El Paso where I live. You can also ask your priest.
Q. Are you, the author, Christian?
A. No, my beliefs are similar to Karaite Judaism.
Q. Why should we listen to you if you aren't Christian?
A. Jesus considered the good Samaritan to be his neighbor. The Samaritans weren't just any group, like most pagans. The Samaritans worshipped the same God as the Jews and had almost the same Torah. So Jesus's point was that people who share the same God and same ethics, and prove this by actually helping each other, are neighbors even if they have different beliefs and different ethnicity. True neighbors should help each other, so I would like to help Christians understand the Old Testament.
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