Many Evangelicals today are becoming more and more aware of how to do grammatical-historical biblical interpretation. What we fail at is discussing the assumptions we bring to the Bible before we even get to thinking about authors-and-audiences-and-contexts. The result? Most of our theological bickering, I would argue, is because everyone starts out with either the assumption of continuity or discontinuity, and we discuss all the issues except that one.
What do I mean by continuity and discontinuity? I’m referring specifically to how we approach the relationship between the Testaments. Some see language of “fulfillment” in the New Testament, and get to the idea that everything in the Old is obsolete unless the New Testament says somewhere explicitly otherwise. Others, however, will start with the assumption that whatever God said in the Old is still just as true and binding, unless of course further revelation has told us differently. Do you see these differences? Think of it as the difference between Marcion and the Westminster divines, or some other extreme example.
This may seem like hermeneutical garbley-gook to you, but it seriously has practical implications. I run into this most frequently when discussing baptism, especially with “New Calvinists.” The biggest reason they cannot accept paedobaptism is because the New Testament doesn’t explicitly command it. I’ll save the baptism issue for another post, but I want you to see the underlying differences here. In one system, if the New Testament doesn’t explicitly confirm something, that something isn’t binding. There is assumed discontinuity between the Testaments. In my view, however, I assume continuity between the Testaments unless the New Testament tells me something has changed. Do you see the difference?
Do not get the idea here that this discussion only applies to gray-haired men in ivory towers–this applies to you, this applies to us. Why? Every one of us interprets within one of these assumed frameworks.
Now, if I explained that well, it should beg the question: which approach is more biblical? What are the reasons we assume continuity? What are the reasons we assume discontinuity? This post wasn’t meant as a defense of my view, but rather to raise the question. People don’t only argue in circles when defining words differently, but they also argue in circles when they don’t expose their own assumptions. My cards are on the table.