The Old Testament and Modernity
A response to Jaybird’s inquiry concerning the applicability of certain aspects of the Old Testament in modernity
Which brings me to ask how do you know what we’re able to toss away from the old covenant and what we, seriously, totally need to keep?
Is it stuff you know in your heart?
To explore the question it’s necessary to understand that historically man’s experience in reality is established on two categories of the experience of existential tension: the ‘compact’ and the ‘differentiated.’ The experience engendered in the ‘compact’ is symbolized, as Voegelin tells us, by the “time of the cosmos, the intracosmic gods, and the language of the mythical tale and its personnel.” The symbols used to express the ‘differentiated’ mode are “the polarization of cosmic time into the time and timeless of the tension; and the flow of presence; the world-transcendent God; and the language of noetic and spiritual life.”
The response to Jaybird’s inquiry appears difficult because we are living in an age whose political, moral, and intellectual ‘disturbances’ reflect, in part, the problems brought about by the changes in the above modes of experience both existentially and in the ‘polis.’ Further, Holy Scripture as Voegelin argues, rejects the myth of the intracosmic gods, explicates a continuing flow of pneumatic insights, and represents a profound movement in the ‘language of truth’ as it is experienced in the divine/human relationship.
Scripture (God’s Word), defines/requires that man is a being divinely constituted, not only to live and exist in this cosmos, but more importantly, he is constructed to dialogue with God. Consequently, the process of this dialogue, the experience itself and the forthcoming symbolizations represent the truth of reality as long as they are not deformed, Voegelin argues, by “doctrinal reflections.” And, while I agree with Voegelin that “doctrine” can eclipse not only the humbling and perfect experience of being in spiritual oneness with Divine Being, I’m not so sure it is the problem he thought it was/is.
However, Jaybird’s question may give credence to Voegelin’s pronouncements on the deleterious effects of ‘doctrine’ on the spirit/soul in that it is illustrative of a society effectively derailed by ideological disturbances, more and more refusing to acknowledge the theophanic event, who finds itself spiritually in decline to the point where the process of “experiential reactivation and linguistic renewal” of the truth of reality no longer have a dominate role in community and represents that point in time when the symbol “separates from its source in the experiential Metaxy, (and)the Word of God can degenerate into a word of man that one can believe or not.” In other words, boys and girls, we are in some really deep doo.
Re: Jaybird’s query we must first give our friend a great deal of credit for not loading his inquiry with “premises devised to make the search impossible.”
The answer and my reply after a couple of fingers of Maker’s Mark and a couple of hours of discussion with my autodidact-theologian wife out on the veranda is for you to read, and read closely Acts 10, Acts 11, and Gal. 2 of the Word of God. The answer is found within. Jaybird, if you’d like we can discuss and differentiate these three chapters and address the seminal aspect of your inquiry which is the spreading of the Gospel to the Gentiles. And yes, Jesus changed the water to wine. I only hope it might have been a decent Pinot Noir.
…what we, seriously, totally need to keep?
We need to ‘keep’ that which permits us to exist in a condition where, we, as Jesus Christ said, “…love the Lord your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment, and the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt., 37-40).
My wife remarked that she is obliged, as a Christian, to “adore and obey!”
I find it rather fascinating that it wasn’t I who answered your question but God, Himself, …..in the Gospel.
Voegelin once commented that “The gospel, to be heard, requires ears that can hear; philosophy is not the life of reason if the questioner’s reason is depraved (Romans 1:28).” To your credit you have not lost the question; many in our culture have, and they are probably lost (though miracles are the leitmotif of the metalepsis).