House Rules

Reading: Ps 119.

Relationships and Rules and Regulations
Issue: What role(s) do the covenantal Torah regulations play in Christian life?
The OT already suggests some fluidity and flexibility according to Israel's circumstances.
Psalms treasure them; the histories affirm them; the prophets foresee restoration and change rather than abolition; Jewish messianic expectation awaited renewed justice and purified worship.
The NT writings reflect disputed positions already in Jesus' day and especially in the apostolic age:
Hebrews: they are ineffective, old, and passing away (so later Christian 'supersessionism').
James: they are the 'law of liberty', vital for life in Christ (so Calvin's 'third use of the Torah').
Galatians: they were (are?) a tutor and a trustee to train Israel to maturity.
Matthew: while they are limited, they contain 'treasures old and new' for the Kingdom's disciples.
Romans: sin frustrates their just intentions and drives us to Christ instead (so Luther).
Corinthians: they are instructive for the church, but Paul often treats them allegorically (so patristic and medieval exegesis).
Mark, Luke/Acts: Christ's work turns out to have transformed and relativized at least some of them (sabbath, food laws) (so later distinctions between ceremonial and other classes of commandments).
Relationships imply rules; rules reflect and structure relationships.
So OT and NT rules seem significant for Christian life (contra Marcionism), though Christ alone is definitive.
There are at least some internal distinctions between, say, directions for temple and tabernacle, regulations on relationships and justice, and rules on hygiene.
Jesus, then the apostles, then later generations issue a variety of rules (rulings, household codes, authoritative opinions, etc.) to order Christian communities.
Their authority, from Torah to today, is the Holy Spirit's authority.
These arise out of shifting (and often compromised) cultural locations and circumstances (for instance, Deut's justice laws and Paul's codes of gender conduct) and are bound to them, but their force is not restricted to them.
Then do we:
abstract generalizable principles from them?
condemn their respect for fallen and thus unjust circumstances?
read them allegorically in light of Christ's story?
imitate their circumstances so they will continue to apply directly?
ignore them and either prefer the clearer, less disputed material or obey the Spirit directly)?
My approach: Cultivate an 'apostolic sensibility' so we can maintain apostolic traditions of rule-keeping.
Learn OT and NT rules, in the contexts in which they operate.
Read them always in light of Christ, the church, and the eschaton ('faith, hope, and love').
Honor them and thus participate in the God-given relationships they manifest.
Respect the continuities and discontinuities among those relationships.
Pay attention especially to how NT writers do all these things.
Case study: Deut 21:10-14.