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June 17, 2011 / Daniel

God without Religion? Andrew Farley and the OT Law

Recently I came across Andrew Farley’s new book God Without Religion: Can It Really Be This Simple?  It is the sequel to his earlier book The Naked Gospel.

In this new book, Farley argues that Christians today are too religious.  We have added too many rules and regulations to the simple truth of the gospel.   Farley challenges us to live as “new covenant” Christians.   He highlights discontinuity between the OT and the NT.  And he makes it clear that he is not at all fond of the OT Law.

He believes that the Law had only one purpose–to reveal sin.  God set before Israel an impossible standard and challenged them to keep it.  1500 years later, he says, “Surprise!  The joke is on you.  I was just proving to you that you were sinners and that you need Jesus.”    Is that really what God was like in the OT?   Certainly, defining sin is one function of the Law, but it’s not the only reason that God gave the Law to Israel.

Moses didn’t seem to think that the Law was impossible to keep.  Deuteronomy 30:11-14 says,

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.  It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”  Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it” (NIV).

Or what about King Josiah?  He “turned to the LORD…with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses” (2 Kings 23:25). Or how about Zacharias and Elizabeth?  Luke says that they “kept all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly” (Luke 1:6).

Now, of course, none of these texts suggest that any of these individuals were sinless.   Perfection is not in mind.   Josiah sinned.  As did Zach and Liz.

The problem with Farley’s approach (and with Luther’s, for that matter) is that the OT Law didn’t demand sinless perfection.  It demanded allegiance, a faith commitment to YHWH, the God of Israel (Deut. 6:4-6).   God knew that Israel was going to fail.  That’s why he gave them the sacrificial system.

When God sent Israel into exile, it wasn’t because they weren’t perfect.  It was because they stopped worshiping YHWH and started worshiping idols.


What do you think?  Is the OT Law impossible to keep?



Leave a Comment
  1. Dan H / Jun 17 2011 1:21 pm

    Look, I’m in Chicago and my brothers are asleep, so I don’t have much time. The law also showed they were guilty. There needs to be a payment for my personal and National wrong. I’m no scholar { in man’s eyes). It seems THE god of Israel provided a way for them to still have a relationship with them, and we see when this question comes up in the NT (romans) the OT way never paid for anything. It covered it until God paid what was needed to appease his own perfect sense of judgement. Now that that is acomplished that is why it is imperative to our growth that we do not look to the method whose purpose was to show a nation, that is no longer even a nation, that when they turn from god their nation would be cursed. Now i have a question. Who’s your daddy????

  2. Daniel / Jun 17 2011 1:25 pm


    How do you understand the statements where it says that people kept the law and were blameless? Even the Apostle Paul said that his righteousness according to the Law was blameless (Phil. 3:6).


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