It is with fear and trembling that I undertake to write the following post. Pastor Jacob Prasch of Moriel Ministries is one of the greatest Bible teachers I have ever seen. His love of truth, his knowledge of the Word of God, His reverence for our Saviour Jesus Christ and his passion for the lost make him one of the leading Christian teachers of our day. How is it possible that a novice and layman such as myself should undertake to correct such a great man of God? The only way I can dare to do such a thing is to follow the lead of my master C.S. Lewis and characterize my complaints as the bleating of a sheep when it sees something that causes it distress.
What is the source of my distress? The other day I was watching a YouTube video where Pastor Prasch said something that was so wrong that I couldn’t believe my ears. He started off on solid ground by quoting the book of Hebrews:
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. (Hebrews 5:11 – Hebrews 6:2)
In this passage of Scripture, the author of Hebrews is telling us that there are many things to learn beyond the basics of the gospel. Anyone satisfied with the basics is a baby and needs to learn about righteousness through a careful study of the word of God. This is all very well and good, but then Pastor Prasch goes beyond what the Bible says and comes to a very disturbing conclusion:
The meat is the Old Testament. The meat is the Old Testament. The New Testament is mostly milk . . . Apart from the Book of Revelation which follows an Old Testament motif, the New Testament is mostly milk. (Pastor Jacob Prasch in his teaching on the Red Heifer)
The author of Hebrews does not say that the New Testament is mostly milk and Pastor Prasch has gone way beyond what the Bible says in this verse. Disparaging the New Testament as “milk for babies” and arguing that the Old Testament is for mature believers strikes me as fundamentally wrong and makes me want to make a number of bleats in protest.
For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (Matthew 5:18)
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. (Matthew 24:35)
Firstly and most importantly, how is it possible to characterize the four gospels that teach us about our glorious Savior, His life, His death, His teachings and His resurrection as mere milk for infants? How is it possible to characterize the eternally enduring words of Jesus Christ as less than the words of his servants and forerunners that will pass away after they are fulfilled? Is not the eternal more weighty and substantive than that which passes away?
I must stress that I am not arguing that there is no meat in the Old Testament. There certainly is and one of the reasons that I love and admire Pastor Prasch is his ability to bring forth amazing truths using his tremendous understanding of Jewish culture, his knowledge of history and his comprehensive grasp of the word of God. But his words trivializing the content of the New Testament run contrary to virtually everything that I understand about the Christian life and I cannot remain silent in the face of such an error. I must by every means show that this teaching is false and requires repentance. Let us, therefore, continue.
For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it. (Matthew 13:17)
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)
Does it really make sense that those who not only had but even wrote the Old Testament longed for the milk of infants revealed by Jesus Christ? Does it not rather make sense that having the milk for infants that could not bring true spiritual maturity, they longed for the solid food that explained the plan of God in a comprehensible way?
To the Apostles who have demonstrated the faith required to drop everything and follow him, Jesus teaches clearly without any parables. He calls them friends and he says that he has made known to them “everything that I learned from my father”. To those who have not yet chosen the way of faith, a step of faith is required and the teachings of Jesus are given in parables that are difficult to understand. What, then, is the milk for infants? Is it the teaching that is clear and explanatory or the teaching that is harder to understand? If the teaching that is clear and easy to understand is given to those who are more mature in their faith, what do we say of the New Testament verses the Old Testament? Is not the New Testament the solid food that leads to maturity and true understanding? Is not the Old Testament the milk for babies who were not yet ready for the revelation of the Son of God?
As I have discussed in many previous posts, God was dealing with some of the most horrible and vicious barbarians in human history in the Old Testament. Once the Ancient Hebrew barbarians had matured enough to receive them, God sent his Son Jesus Christ with the truly advanced and glorious teachings that made him the greatest moral teacher in human history. Pastor Prasch even recognizes this superiority of the teachings of the New Testament when he uses Hebrews to elucidate Leviticus and says that Hebrews is “an enlightened commentary” on the Torah. How could the amazing books of Hebrews and Romans be mere milk for infants while the Old Testament that they explain is the meat? How could the radically advanced teachings of the New Testament be milk for infants while the teachings given to fornicating and murderous barbarians is the meat?
And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:5)
Since our maturity as Christian believers is determined by how well we emulate the life of Jesus Christ and obey his commandments, how could the words of Our Lord, his example and the example of his chosen Apostles be anything less than our primary resource as we try to live the Christian life? In the book of Philemon, we see how a mature Christian should exhort a weaker brother to do the right thing. In the letter to the Corinthians, we see how Paul addresses division and carnality in the church. In the book of Acts, we see the example of a healthy body of believers functioning in a hostile world. How could the comprehensive study of the examples given to us by the Apostles of Jesus Christ not be our best pathway to Christian maturity?
But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way. (1 Corinthians 12:31)
In a previous post, I shared my long struggle with pornography and the incredible blessing of how God freed me from masturbation and lust two years ago. Almost all of the insights gained on that long journey to freedom came from my study of the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. From my perspective, therefore, the New Testament was the guide that led me to Christian maturity in the most difficult struggle of my life. How could I even conceivably believe that the New Testament is merely milk for infants when it has been so instrumental in growth and maturity in my own life?
as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
. . .
What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8)
Finally, Paul was a student of Gamaliel who was the grandson of the great Jewish teacher Hillel. He had a thorough knowledge of the Old Testament and describes himself as zealous and faultless in his keeping of the Law of Moses. And yet, he describes everything he had before coming to know Christ as garbage. Dismissing the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus as milk for infants may seem appropriate to Pastor Prasch, but the Apostle Paul clearly felt differently.
In a previous post, I shared my determination to try to understand what others have said in the best light possible no matter how much I disagree with it. Let me, therefore, give my best interpretation of what Pastor Prasch taught in his “red heifer” teaching.
It is clear that we live in a lawless time where many Christian teachers have forsaken the truth of God’s word. That Pastor Prasch is aware of this and seeks to correct those who are in error is obvious to anyone who has even a passing familiarity with his teachings. I believe that what Pastor Prasch is saying here is mostly directed at teachers who ignore the teaching of the Old Testament and instead focus on the basic teachings of the New Testament. These are the “Red letter heretics” that I discussed in a previous post. They tend to be antinomians and they reject the difficult teachings of the Old Testament preferring to stick to the “Jesus loves you” message of the gospel. What Pastor Prasch meant to say, therefore, is that in order to be a fully equipped teacher and pastor, you must have an understanding of deeper truths for which our primary source is the Old Testament.
That he really meant to criticize pastors and teachers and not believers is clear if you listen to his message on the “red heifer”. Pastor Prasch talks about the difference in training required between a paramedic and a cardiovascular surgeon. He the goes on to argue that in order to be the spiritual equivalent of a cardiovascular surgeon you need a thorough knowledge of the Old Testament. But does every Christian need to be a spiritual cardiovascular surgeon? I think this idea contradicts Paul’s teaching concerning the different functions of the different members of the body of Christ and is extremely dangerous. The last thing I want is a believer without God’s calling to attempt to perform spiritual surgery. Even if we interpret his words as applying only to teachers, however, the essence of the error taught by Pastor Prasch cannot be escaped. He elevates the importance of the Old Testament and trivializes the importance of the New.
A Deeper Issue
This incident is symptomatic of a much greater issue that divides the church. On the one hand, many Christians reject the Old Testament for its obvious barbarism. Some go so far as to reject the moral principles found in the Old Testament law and embrace antinomianism. On the other hand, many Christians embrace an immature understanding of hell and the Old Testament. Some even go so far as to embrace legalism and believe that obedience to the law is required for salvation. How do we resolve this dilemma? How do we bridge the divide between the Old Testament and the New?
One thing is absolutely clear. We cannot do as Pastor Prasch has done and simply make the opposite error as those we dislike in the naive hope that the two errors will somehow balance each other. Our enemy celebrates every time a Christian embraces an erroneous teaching for any reason. As hard as it is, we must seek to find and embrace the truth even if it incorporates elements that have been twisted into error.
In this website, I have chronicled my attempts to find a comprehensive understanding of God’s word. I reject the sappy “Do whatever you want and because Jesus loves you everything will be fine” understanding of the infant in Christ. I similarly reject the “follow these inscrutable and inflexible commands or God will burn you in Hell!” understanding that seems to characterize so much Christian teaching. Rather, I have sought to find a rational faith where the principles of the law are derived from a perfect and omniscient love. If I have found any success in this endeavor, it was in seeking the “meat” that gives us spiritual understanding in the entire word of God and not just in the Old Testament. I pray that Pastor Prasch will join me in this quest and seek the “meat” that leads to true understanding in the New Testament as well as the Old.