The “Forward Tilt” of the Bible (Ortlund)

The Deity of Christ (Theology in Community) by [Morgan, Christopher W., Peterson, Robert A.] As Christians who follow in the steps of Christ and his apostles, we view the Old Testament as God’s Scripture that portrays Christ by way of promise, prophecy, foreshadow, type, and so on.  Raymond Ortlund calls this the “forward tilt” of the Bible.  After examining and explaining a handful of OT texts that speak of Christ’s divinity, Ortlund writes,

“…There is a forward tilt built into the Bible. It is not imposed by the dogmatist. It is embedded within. As the story moves forward from the “unfinished symphony” of the Old Testament to the denouement of the New, its truths intensify in clarity. There is no reason why that progress of thought should not include the deity of the Christ. Not all Christian exegesis of the relevant texts is convincing in all respects, and doubtless some of my proposals here have failed to satisfy some readers. Still, ‘the Scripture, foreseeing’ [Gal. 3:8] requires the faithful interpreter to allow for the clearer light of the New Testament to dawn in the Old. I believe that is warranted in the case of the divine Christ.

Disciplined by cautious exegesis – indeed, compelled because of that caution – I must conclude that the deity of the Christ is unmistakably, if mysteriously, revealed in Old Testament texts. The key passages raise questions more than they answer questions. But that is a valid function of the Old Testament, for incomplete revelation is still revelation and a fitting preparation for the full Christ of the New Testament. Psalm 45 rejoices in one who is both royal groom and eternal Ruler. Psalm 110 esteems the son of David who also towers over David as God’s final answer to worldwide human rebellion. Isaiah 9 celebrates the birth of a child who, as our divine warrior and endless benefactor, will advance David’s kingdom successfully and infinitely. Daniel 7 reveals heaven’s decree of worldwide, eternal authority conferred on a celestial being who stands forth also as a man. These passages cannot convincingly be made to say less, and their assertions are consistent with the later faith of the Christian church.

I appreciate these insights, especially how Ortlund said that Christ is “unmistakably” yet “mysteriously” revealed in OT texts.  That’s a great way to say it as we think about the progressive nature of the Bible which has Christ at the center.  Like Augustine famously said, “The New is concealed in the Old, and the Old is revealed in the New.”

Raymond C. Jr. Ortlund, “The Deity of Christ and the Old Testament,” in The Deity of Christ, ed. Christopher Morgan & Robert Peterson, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 58–59.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI