Tossing Ballast Overboard

I write today from the perspective of a mariner—but not a seasoned one.
My sailing experience is limited to one particularly lovely summer afternoon on a very small craft on Lake Erie, years ago. Since that time, I’ve enjoyed my share of fishing boats and even ski boats. My time on cruise ships has been largely focused on eating as much seafood as I can every chance I can in the dining hall.

Not once did I think about asking the ship captain about ballast tanks.

Probably because I didn’t know they existed.

Ballast, I have learned, helps stabilize the boat, keeping it on an even keel or trim. Ancient ships used solid ballast such as sand bags or large rocks that could be moved from one part of the vessel to the other at need. Live ballast is comprised of crew members on a sailboat leaning on the windwardside of the boat. Modern ships use water stored in tanks at strategic places.

Bottom line, ballast is necessary for safety and for economy on the ship.

So why, you ask, am I talking about ballast in today’s Front Porch Swing?

Throughout church history and right up until today there have been attempts to toss the Old Testament out of the ship. After all, the God of the older testament was angry and controlling. It was either His way or death or some severe punishment. God’s people, the Israelites, often made stupid choices—some so sordid we blush to read them in a church service.

But the God of the newer testament, Jesus Christ, is so loving, kind and gentle that everyone loves Him. Today several conservative Bible teachers, pastors and authors express concern that the older testament will prevent seekers from coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Strange miracles don’t float well in the skeptic’s sea. Thousands dying from a God-ordained plagues offends the sensibilities of post-moderns. And honestly, who reads poetry that doesn’t rhyme? The Creation account in Genesis is like comic book material compared to the profound “truth” of evolution. Or at least…these seem to be the prevailing opinions.

Even Christian writers are producing books trying to make the Bible fit evolutionary theory. Or worse, tossing out the Genesis account completely.

All right, then. Why not? Why not just “unhitch” the old, antiquated wagon with squeaky wheels and a doubtful cargo? Why not remove all those offensive and ridiculous stories and just read the new edition.

I deliberately chose to use the word “unhitch” because Andy Stanley, a well known, respected (at one time at least) pastor and author has written a book entitled, Irresistible. Stanley uses the word unhitch to encourage his readers to essentially discard the older testament. Just share Jesus. His warning is that we will lose an entire generation of post-moderns.

I first read about Stanley’s book in a Christianity Today article. The last edition of World magazine contains a stinging review of Stanley’s book. Having read Marvin Olasky’s review of Irresistible caused me to wish Olasky would evaluate God In His Own Image when it is released next June. The contrast between my book and Stanley’s is dramatic. My book begins with a clear statement that we cannot pick and choose between the Old or the New Testaments. We don’t have two different Gods in two distinct books.

I have chosen throughout my book to use the terms “older” and “newer” testaments. Old suggests it is very old and probably outdated. But the fact is, we have but one book, the Bible, consisting of an older and newer section. How can we unhitch what God has “yoked” together? We have 66 books written by 40 authors over a period of 1500 years in two major languages but bound together by one story, one theme.

How can I say I love Jesus and reject His Bible, the one He used in the synagogue? How can I accept Jesus or even understand and appreciate what He taught without the older testament? Jesus quotes from the older testament. He treats the characters in the first half of the Bible as real people with true stories about their feats and failures. Can I accept Jesus as the greatest teacher and reject Jonah or Noah, the first mariner? (I wonder what Noah used for ballast?)

No, I believe what post-moderns and every other seeker is looking for is authenticity and truth. When the church service becomes the theater or a rock concert, why should they come? Better venues and better bands perform in the other culture outside the church. The Church is God’s family, where broken people like you and me should remove our masks to authentically love one another—including the postmodern whose life is empty after pursuing all this world offers.

God’s love and truth, both in the older and newer testaments—even when it is difficult to absorb and receive—is the ballast to keep the ship trimmed and on even keel on increasingly stormy seas. As Jesus firmly stated, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Beware of tossing the ballast overboard.

You may not like where your ship ends up.

Thanks for visiting The Front Porch Swing today.

Perhaps some of the stories in the older testament trouble you; would you prefer to “unhitch” the older testament to avoid embarrasment or offending a seeker?

How do you feel about using the terms “older” and “newer” instead of Old and New Testaments?