|A347 : by Tony Garland |
Can you offer any response to the claim that the Old Testament is solely a shadow for the New Testament to come?
Sure (tongue in cheek): the Book of Mormon and the Q'uran
I mention the Book of Mormon and the Q'uran because these both claim to "complete" the Christian New Testament. At least in the case of the Q'uran, the argument would be made that the NT can't really be understood without these subsequent revelations—that the NT is incomplete and possibly even misleading on its own.
To infer that we must read the Bible backwards is dangerous. The New Testament is not needed in order for the Old Testament to communicate God's inerrant word sufficiently and clearly. If it were otherwise, then God bungled the job and judged Israel (and people at large) based on information that was other than it read at face value—essentially leading them to conclusions which were inaccurate. Is that the God we serve? Is that how Jesus and the prophets viewed and used God's Word in the OT?
If the Old Testament is a poor shadow of what God really planned to do, then it was incomplete and even misleading. Ignoring what that infers about His character for a moment, it also puts the readers of the Old Testament in a conundrum at the close of the OT. They have this Holy book which they are held responsible by God to know and respond to (especially upon the arrival of John the Baptist and Jesus), but they can't know for sure what it means! When John and Jesus immediately start preaching about the Kingdom of God being "at hand" and "near," neither one defines what they mean. So their listeners are left with this (purportedly incomplete and puzzling) shadow to define it for them. But how can this be if Jesus scolds them for not knowing the Scriptures (Mat. 21:42; 22:29; 26:54-56; Mark 12:10, 24; 14:49; 15:28; 4:21; 24:27; John 2:22; 5:39; 7:38, 42; etc.)? What a conundrum! They are responsible for a proper response—a matter of grave importance for the nation, not to mention one's personal destiny—but all they have is a beggarly, even misleading shadow to guess from? NOT!
The problem here is not fuzzy Scripture: Christians of this ilk don't like what the Old Testament says—especially in regards to Israel. They harbor, somewhere down in there, a reluctance to track what God has clearly said about His chosen nation (they continue to bristle at this notion—even though none other than Paul asserts rejecting disobedient Israel remains elect: Romans 9:4-6; 11:28). Some may have been taught otherwise, but others—even when exposed to passages which show otherwise—refuse to embrace what God has said about Israel in His plan. My experience is that many won't be persuaded from Scripture because they refuse to give the OT equal precedence in their interpretive grid to the NT. To them, the OT is beggarly, incomplete, and incomprehensible without special NT "glasses" through which to read the OT. Never mind that multitudes had no access to these special glasses from Malachi to Matthew—and even as late as the close of the NT canon.
They contend that the Church as Jesus’ bride is more than sufficient in taking this role in transforming the world. Do you have any response and any parts in Scripture that challenge this claim?
I would agree, the Church as Jesus' bride is more than sufficient (equipped) in taking the role of transforming the world. But that's not really the point, is it? We might as well say that Jesus was sufficient to wipe out the Romans and establish His kingdom at the First Coming. Or that the Holy Spirit was sufficient to have spoken the creative words instead of the Father in Genesis 1. It's not about capability: it's about God's will and purpose. What has God revealed about how things will occur and who will be used? How has God determined it will go down?
Besides all that, the Scriptures and history show that the Church age will be no more successful in converting the world than Israel was before her in being faithful to her calling as a kingdom of priests.
As to parts of Scripture that challenge this claim: the Book of Revelation. What does it say about the success of the Church in converting the world to Christ ushering in a golden age? Pretty clearly, the Church age ends in disobedience and apostasy among the nations — a similar situation as Israel's disaster at the First Coming. (To be clear: the Church will be successful—in its primary calling as a tool of God to redeem the elect—but the apostasy of the professing church and the godlessness of society at large will eclipse its ability to transform the world.) Of course, those of the persuasion you describe may dismiss Revelation as a political or apocalyptic book—certainly not describing a literal, future scenario: an impending disaster where God must step in to clean house to get the job done.
Besides Revelation, there's the plethora of OT scriptures which clearly describe Israel's role among the nations in the millennial setting—which serves as a gateway between the here-and-now and the eternal state. But then, if the OT is a poor shadow and can't really be trusted as to what it says, then this evidence won't be convincing to those who embrace replacement theology. Their mantra is: unless it is explicitly restarted in the NT, then it has been effectively abrogated in the plan of God and we can safely ignore what was said back then. To them to believe otherwise is to be "hyper-literal" or "Judaizing the gospel" as you put it.