The chapter from Seitz’s 2011 book, The Character of Christian Scripture, seeks to explain how the two testament canon of Holy Scripture must be properly respected — particularly the Old Testament as Christian witness — or we inevitably end up with two separable canons, and then a third called the greater wisdom of our own day. This is what has happened and explains why there is such deep confusion over how the Bible declares its sense when it comes to marriage and sexuality. Here is a summary of the chapter circulating at Alastair’s Adversaria
Seitz proceeds to put his finger on what is perhaps the deepest concern explaining the strength of opposition to same-sex behaviour among many Christians, which is the very power of Scripture to speak with any degree of clarity into the present day at all:
If the Bible’s consistently negative word about homosexual conduct is wrong, or outdated, who will then decide in what other ways the Bible is or is not to be trusted or cannot comprehend our days and its struggles, under God? Appeal to Scripture’s plain sense is born of the conviction that the Bible can have something to say without other forces needing to regulate that or introduce a special hermeneutics from outside the text so we can know when and where it can speak.
Seitz suggests that, at the very heart of these debates is the issue of the Bible as two testaments, speaking ”˜of the same God in Christ, though in different dispensations and in different figural directions.’ At stake here are two creedal statements: that the Holy ”˜spake by the prophets’ and that Christ died and rose again ”˜in accordance with the Scriptures.’ What progressivism has done is to change the relationship between the testaments. The work of the Spirit is now regarded as ”˜fully detachable’ from his prior testimony in Scripture and the Old Testament is read, not as a faithful testimony to God in Christ but ”˜only of a developmental phase of religion en route to a NT religion and then a more enlightened Holy Spirit religion.’
It is also critical that we appreciate that sacrificing the Old Testament’s authority with respect to the New has broader ramifications:
For once one begins thinking along these lines, that is, of using the New’s allegedly “new religion” to sort out the “religion of a First Testament,” instead of seeking to hear God’s Word of triune address in both Testaments, appropriate to their character as “prophet and apostle,” it is then an almost effortless transition to believing both Old and New Testaments are themselves only the provisional proving ground for religious virtues said to be en route to a Holy Spirit’s fresh declaration of unprecedented “new truth” in our day.
I believe that Seitz here brings into sharp relief what lies near the heart of the concern that many of us have about contemporary developments in some churches in the area of teaching about Christian sexual ethics. The flirting of many evangelicals with forms of trajectory hermeneutics is just one example of the way in which the creedal understanding of the relationship between the testaments has become compromised. As Seitz observes, it is a fundamental conviction of Christian orthodoxy that is at stake here: that the Old Testament is authoritative Christian Scripture, a faithful and abiding witness to the triune God.