Modified Lutheranism and exegetical minimalism

Sinclair Ferguson's "The Whole Christ," includes a fine treatment of the ongoing applicability of the Mosiac Law to the life of the believer.

It strikes me that the position one takes on this question may relate to one's degree of exegetical caution.

The central question is, after all, how much you trust the hermeneutical ability of a Christian reader of Deuteronomy to be able to validly appropriate and apply Old Testament laws to a different era of salvation history.

A Modified Lutheran is exegetically cautious: the necessary distinguishing features of different kinds of law are not clear, the classic threefold-division is eisegetical, and any putative enduring spiritual meaning of a given law is unlikely to be accessible. The exegetically safe approach is to accept as enduringly valid only laws repeated in the New Testament, in which case no original deeper meaning needs to be unearthed. It seems this is likely to go hand in hand with an approach to the NT use of the OT that grants a free pass to apostolic exegesis because of their unique authority, but would be deeply wary of permitting any imitation of it (for example, Paul's identification of the rock with Christ in 1 Corinthians 10). Types the New Testament give us are allowable, but beware typological proliferation beyond the ones supplied.

But greater confidence in the hermenuetical ability of Christian readers expects that they will rightly be able to sort and place various elements of the Mosaic code, and relate them to Christ and the era of faith. It seems to me that this confidence better matches Paul's expectation of Christian readers, with specific reference to the stipulations of the Law: "Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he?" (1 Cor 9:9-10). But then maybe Paul's confidence justifies typological reading of our own. Proper controls on such readings are another discussion.

Thus we might expect to find that those open to the third use of the Law will be more exegetically confident and open to typology than those not, and vice versa.

Tom Underhill

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