On Giving the Old Testament CPR
As a followup to my recent post on the death of the Old Testament, I want to provide two direct solutions to breathing life back into the church’s use of it. The problem is not just that the Old Testament is often absent from the the life of the church, but in its presence it is not used well.
The simplest, most immediate solution is to starting singing the Psalms in worship. Not worship songs loosely based on a psalm, such as Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” inspired by Psalm 103, but singing actual psalms. Singing the Psalms is a direct access point to the vocabulary and proper use of the Old Testament, and can be done with no real changes in the life of a congregation. It brings the Old Testament front and center in the worship service, and singing scripture makes it much easier to hide it in your heart. It is impossible to sing the Psalms in worship and for the Old Testament not to be present well. A fantastic tool for learning the psalms in metre is the 1650 Split Leaf Psalter app, though this is probably stylistically so far outside of what evangelicals are accustomed to be workable. The new Trinity Psalter Hymnal (2018), jointly published by the OPC and URCNA, is a helpful means of readopting psalmody to the life the church in a way that is more familiar.
The second way to draw the Old Testament back into the church healthily is through confessional catechesis. Reformed confessionalism supplies a framework to be immersed in and use the vocabulary of the Old Testament well. The Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms in particular, as well as the Heidelberg Catechism, are tools designed to teach the basics of the faith to congregations. These catechisms provide a structure by which the Old Testament can be better understood, and allowed to breathe on its own without being relegated to outside church life or animalized. Confessionalism sets a direction of understanding for people when they hear the scriptures preached and when they’re studying them on their own. The catechisms do not teach hermeneutics, but they do function as boosters to engage with the Old Testament well. Catechesis will help revive the dying Old Testament.