Christians and the Old Testament Law
J. Daniel Hays’ understanding of how Christians should use the Old Testament law is a five-part process he labels principlism. His approach differs from the traditional approach of distinguishing between moral, civil, and ceremonial laws to determine what biblical laws Christians are to apply in their lives from the Old Testament. Hays explains the weakness in principlism, “as for a weakness it may tend to oversimplify some complex issues” (Hays, 2001, p.31). Another weakness may be found in the third step of applying the law, developing universal principles from the text. “These universal principles will often be related directly to the character of God and His holiness, the nature of sin, the issue of obedience, or concern for other people.” (Hays, p.32) This step relies on the individual interpreter and may leave the door open to a legalistic approach and application. However, if the universal principles are applied and appealed to with other Christians the legalistic approach may be nullified with interpretation and application clarity. The strengths are in examining and keeping the context of the laws in applying them to a differing audience today. Prior to the article, I was not aware of the traditional approach or principlism. Hence, Hays principlism approach is appealing as he states a strong case. However, I struggle to oppose the traditional approach. Hays’ approach is possibly great for interpretation but leaves open the possibility of disempowering the law of the Mosaic covenant by appealing to our intellect rather than God’s word.
Reconciliation of the Testaments
To reconcile the New Testament teaching that the Old Testament law is eternal and will never pass away (Matthew 5:17) and that believers are no longer under the law (Romans 7:1 - 6; Galatians 3 - 4); we may appeal to Jesus and his apostle’s teachings. Jesus came to fulfill the law not just observe or abolish it. The Old Testament law does not pass...
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