Thursday, April 22, 2010

Has your church embraced Schleiermacher?

Surely not, right? Schleiermacher emphasized subjective spiritual experience over objective theological truth and ultimately paved the way for 20th century mainline Protestant liberal abandonment of historic orthodoxy. Not my church!

Well, John Sailhamer, in The Meaning of the Pentateuch, argues that your church probably swallowed many of Schleiermacher's assumptions a long time ago and never even knew it:
Under the influence of Schleiermacher, evangelicals, in practice if not in theory, edged increasingly closer to the notion that the OT did not belong to the church but was more nearly associated with the religion of ancient Judaism. Such a view was considerably at odds with the classical orthodox view of the OT. (p. 133)
Sailhamer says far more on this topic than I could begin to distill here. I do think it's important for dispensationalists in particular to weigh Sailhamer's exhortation, not dismiss it on the grounds that "we're not really evangelicals."

Piper was right. This book will rock your world.


Bob Hayton said...

Agreed. I'm about 2/3 of the way through and getting to the really good parts. It's all been good and very helpful.

I just posted on Sailhamer's contention that Genesis itself is crafted in such a way as to teach that Joseph's life is typical of the coming Messiah King (of Judah's line).

Dan said...

However, to be fair to 'dispensationalists', many, or at least some, do not argue that the OT has nothing to do with the church. Instead, when God makes a promise to Israel, it is illegitimate to transfer that promise to a believer in the church today. For example, God promises certain material blessings connecting with keeping the Mosaic covenant, blessings which are emphasized throughout Psalms. Yet a believer in the church has to completely redefine those promises to apply them to himself. For example, promises of health or material wealth in light of obedience cannot be legitimately applied to me as a NT believer in the church without arriving at some kind of health and wealth gospel/approach. Furthermore, the OT reveals God's character, which never changes, in the context of His interactions with His people, which do not look identical throughout all of history.

Additionally, the idea that certain parts of the Bible don't apply to me is not a new one - several of the early groups which plagued the church, such as those following Marcion in the 2nd century AD, rejected the OT - perhaps for different reasons, but we shouldn't give Schleiermacher credit for being original.