Perspectives On Social Ethics Part II: Old Testament Perspectives On Social Ethics -- By: Charles C. Ryrie

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 134:534 (Apr 1977)
Article: Perspectives On Social Ethics Part II: Old Testament Perspectives On Social Ethics
Author: Charles C. Ryrie


Perspectives On Social Ethics
Part II:
Old Testament Perspectives On Social Ethics

Charles C. Ryrie

[Charles C. Ryrie, Professor of Systematic Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a series of four articles, first delivered by the author as the Louis S. Bauman Memorial Lectures at Grace Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, Indiana, February 10–13, 1976.]

No discussion of social ethics would be complete without some reference to the Old Testament. Indeed, many popular treatments of the subject do little more than refer to a few of the better known prophetic denunciations of injustice and insensitivity to the poor as the principal basis for stirring up Christian involvement in social issues today. Such an approach is not only overly simplistic, but it also shows a lack of theological acumen so necessary to a proper use of the Old Testament in relation to Christian conduct. Here, for example, is a statement that might have been more carefully formulated:

As Christians, we in no way minimize the inspiration and authority of the Old Testament, although we believe that the New Testament clarifies and consummates the Old Testament disclosure of God’s nature, purpose, and will. Before turning to the New Testament, then, we need to remind ourselves of what the Old Testament teaches in this area. And indisputably the Old Testament teaches a social ethic which stands as an abiding challenge to any policy of quietistic withdrawal from the rough-and-tumble of politics. In God’s name the Old Testament demands that injustice be fought, righteousness be established in society, and the orphan, the widow, the stranger, the poor, and the oppressed be made the objects of protection and provision.1

Then after citing some important Old Testament passages which cry for justice, the same author concludes: “Unquestionably, therefore, the Old Testament insists on social justice. Passionately it affirms that the evidence of a right relationship with God is a right relationship with one’s neighbor—and this implies a willingness to struggle for his rights.”2

Permit one who was born in Missouri to ask a few “show me” type questions. (1) Does the New Testament always clarify and consumate the Old Testament disclosure of God’s nature, purpose, and will? Or does it sometimes reveal changes in God’s purpose and will, though not in His nature? (2) If the Bible teaches that a Christian is to be involved in the rough-and-tumble of politics, he may ask, What kind of politics? Republican or Democratic—both of whom ...

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