I’ve just finished reading a couple of the Psalms from the Old Testament as I try to do every morning. I find them spiritually valuable in the way they depict the inner life. Phrases like, “the waters have risen up to my neck, I sink in muddy depths and have no foothold; I am swept away into deep water, and the flood carries me away. I am wearied with crying out, my throat is sore…” (Ps 69, NEB). That same Psalm also includes this: “Pour out thine indignation upon them and let thy burning anger overtake them…Give them the punishment their sin deserves; exclude them from thy righteous mercy…let them be blotted out from the book of life.” How different that is from Jesus’ teaching to “love your enemies and do good to those who persecute you.”
How different the image of God found in the Old Testament from that found in the New Testament. Science is always updating its findings by experiment and discovery. Religion is based on experience and revelation, but unlike science, religion often seems content to remain static. Just as science repudiates and corrects its former judgments by new discoveries; religion should correct its former judgments by new insights and revelation. Why doesn’t religion, like science, exercise the same freedom to repudiate the false understandings of an ancient peoples view of God? I suppose a big part of the reason is “biblidolatry.” If you maintain that the Bible is the literal word of God in all its parts, worship it, so to speak, you automatically close the door to new insights, new experiences and new revelation. The religious folk of New Testament times could not accept the teachings of Jesus for that very reason. “It is written, but I say…” I think God is saying the same thing today, “It is written, but I say…”
I’m always baffled by Christians who rally round the “Ten Commandments” rather than the “Beatitudes.” Our understanding of the nature of God, like everything else in this world, is a gradual thing. Jesus enlarged the image of God from the image of God the Old Testament people held. This is why one part of the Bible is called an Old Testament and the other part the New—and the concepts of God between the two are oceans apart. Yet many people put the two together—and live a religious life of intolerable contradiction.
Those who really love truth must be ready to relinquish those ideas about God which belong to a time when people had not thought through the problems they tackled, had not received the New revelations provided by history and science concerning the world in which we now live. Without relinquishment and even repudiation of such ideas of God, we live “religiously” in a world that is flat and has four corners!