A Directional Error

The NT Interprets the OT, Not the Other Way Around
(A hermeneutical error suggesting both the weakness of Theonomy and paedo-communion)

I was recently blessed to attend this year’s Twin Lakes Conference. While perusing the book store, I was further blessed to stop and have a conversation with Dr. Guy Waters (RTS, Jackson.)

As such conversations will, we wandered over a number of topics. One comment from Dr. Waters particularly stuck with me as related to a number of subjects we’ve discussed here. I thought it might be worth bringing up and seeing if this is relevant to the rest of you.

With Dr. Waters’ permission, here is a summary of this part of the conversation:

We had been discussing the recent conversations here on Theonomy and paedo-communion. I asked Dr. Waters what he thought was the seminal error in these two positions. He responded that it appeared to him to be a hermeneutical one. Specifically, he thought that both positions make the same directional error of interpreting the NT in light of the OT, rather than the other way around.

I find this is a valuable insight. On the one hand, it is not to say that the OT plays no role in the interpretation of the NT. Rather it is to say that Theonomy and padeo-communion have this role out of balance. The NT’s interpretation is not subservient to the OT. Nor is there a one-for-one reciprocal relationship between the NT and OT, as if they have equal influence over one another.

Rather, consistent with the teaching in such passages as Matt 5:17, Col 2:16-17, and the book of Hebrews as a whole, the OT is subservient to the NT. When it comes to interpretation we might say that the NT is authoritatively determinant of what the OT means.

It appear to me that this is not how Theonomy and paedo-communion proceed. In the case of the first, Theonomy appears to not reckon sufficiently with what Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law means for the nature of the continuity/discontinuity of the Law in this dispensation (era). With reference to paedo-communion, one particular way this error shows up is seen in affirming too high a degree of continuity between the Passover and the Lord’s Supper.

Again, the error is addressed by paying closer attention to how the NT rules over the interpretation of the OT. I’m not suggesting that Theonomic or paedo-communion brothers necessarily disagree with this hermeneutical principle. All I’m suggesting is that their application of it is less than consistent with the Bible’s own.

– Reed DePace