Although God reveals something (that is makes something known) at a certain point in history, it does not mean that things where different before they were revealed – they were only not revealed.
This might seem obvious, but considering how the relationship between the OT and the NT is severed in liberal biblical scholarship, this point has to be made.
At the center of this controversy is the expression progressive revelation.
As J. I. Packer points out in his book God has Spoken, the term means something quite different in liberal theology than it does to evangelicals.
Whereas evangelical hold, writes Packer, that:
Then, in New Testament times, just as all roads were said to lead to Rome, so all the diverse and seemingly divergent strands of Old Testament revelation were found to lead to Jesus Christ, prophet, priest, and king, mediator, sacrifice, and intercessor, crucified, risen, and coming again. (p. 81)
Liberal theologians have an evolutionary outlook on revelation. God did not disclose himself to a greater and greater degree, but instead explains Packer:
…liberal theology has used the word [progressive] to express the idea that the history of revelation is really the history of how Israel’s thoughts of God evolved from something very crude (a tribal war-god) through something more refined (a moral Creator) to the conception of God taught by Jesus (a loving Father… (p. 81
As Packer goes on to note, this leaves them getting rid of the Old Testament as the New Testament, in their view, contains an evolved understanding of God. The later refined conceptions of God cancel and over-ride the former crude conceptions and so the OT is much like a scrap-book full of mistakes and the NT is the finished product.
Two conclusions can be drawn from this:
- Either this is governed by a naturalistic outlook where God doesn’t really exist, or if he does we can’t know anything about him. In this view ‘progressive revelation’ equals ‘evolved conception of God’.
- Or it is God who does the revealing but there is a progression from crude to refined, and what he revealed previously about himself was untrue.
This are of course heinous conclusions. For as Packer writes:
The New Testament revelation rests at every point on the Old as its foundation, and to remove the foundation once the superstructure is in place is the surest way to dislodge the superstructure itself. Those who neglect the Old Testament will never make much of the New. (p. 82)
There are eternal truths, there is no progression of truth or reality.
What is being talked of in the OT takes place in the NT.