In answer to the question found in my title, sadly there are some Christian leaders who certainly seem to think so. They seem to have little time for the Ten Commandments, and think Christians today need to move beyond them. One famous American pastor has just come out saying basically this.
Andy Stanley has been saying some rather unhelpful things for a while now concerning the Old Testament and how Christians should relate to it. See for example this earlier article of mine on this matter: billmuehlenberg.com/2018/05/12/one-bible-two-testaments/
Now the pastor is telling us we need to basically give the Ten Commandments the flick, because they really have nothing to do with Christians. Thus both the OT and the 10 Cs have now come under attack by this American pastor. As he said – in part – in this recent column:
The Ten Commandments are from the old covenant. The Ten Commandments played a significant role in God’s creation of the nation of Israel. It gave them moral guidelines and helped separate this new nation from their neighbors. This was part of the formal agreement (or covenant) God created with his people, but Jesus’ death and resurrection signaled the end of that covenant and all the rules and regulations associated with it.
Jesus didn’t issue his new command as an additional commandment to the existing list of commands. He didn’t say, “Here’s the 614th law.” Jesus issued his new commandment as a replacement for everything in the existing list. Including the big ten. Just as his new covenant replaced the old covenant, Jesus’ new commandment replaced all the old commandments.
Participants in the new covenant (that’s Christians) are not required to obey any of the commandments found in the first part of their Bibles. Participants in the new covenant are expected to obey the single command Jesus issued as part of his new covenant: as I have loved you, so you must love one another.
Hmm, how are we to assess all this? First it can be said that the New Testament makes very little sense without the Old Testament and a clear understanding of it. And in many ways the centrepiece of the Old Testament is the Decalogue – the Ten Commandments.
Second, it needs to be pointed out that there has indeed been a long-standing debate concerning how Christians are to understand the law in general, and which parts of the Old Testament continue into the New Testament and which do not. I have addressed some of those issues elsewhere, eg: billmuehlenberg.com/2018/10/08/the-law-and-the-christian/
It certainly can be a complex and nuanced debate requiring a lot of careful attention. See more on this here as well: billmuehlenberg.com/2015/01/30/leviticus-law-and-love/
Hardly any sensible Christian believes that absolutely everything from the OT carries over into the NT today. Few believers insist for example that we should be offering various sacrifices at the temple in Jerusalem. Of course a major reason for this is there is no such temple there today to bring offerings to. And Jesus is our full and final offering, something the OT sacrifices prefigured.
And hardly any sensible Christian believes that the OT has absolutely nothing to say to us, or is completely irrelevant to the life of the Christian. It appears that Stanley however may be moving in that direction unfortunately. Heretics in the past such as Marcion tried to convince us that nothing from the OT was of any use or relevance for NT believers. Thankfully he was roundly condemned for such aberrant views – both then and now.
But as Stanley and others keep moving in Marcionite directions, we need to interact with them, and call them out if need be. Consider this rather bizarre claim of Stanley’s that “church leaders essentially kidnapped the Jewish Scriptures and claimed them as their own” in the second century. Kidnapped the OT Scriptures?
That was all the Scriptures there were in Jesus’ day – and that of the very early church. Eventually the NT canon was established by inspired writings. But they were all built on and based upon what God had already written in the Hebrew Bible. The early church was not replacing what was found there, but building on it and supplementing it.
Thus Stanley is on dangerous grounds when he keeps telling us that the NT replaces the OT, the New Covenant replaces the Old Covenant, and the ‘law of love’ (whatever exactly that means) replaces the 10 Commandments. At the very least, language of “replacement” is rather reckless and dangerous in this context.
Yes the New Covenant is a “better” covenant but it did not arrive in a vacuum. It is based on what had gone before. And when Jesus spoke of the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:35-40), it came from what we already have in the OT: loving God fully. Indeed, that is taken from the OT (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 to be exact). And the second great commandment that Jesus gave is also straight out of the OT (Leviticus 19:17-18).
Yet Stanley thinks the Sermon on the Mount is another replacement. But this is foolish in the extreme. Jesus for example did NOT deny the Sixth Commandment or claim it is somehow replaced or made irrelevant when he spoke about hatred. Yes internal hatred is what results in external acts like murder. But Jesus is NOT claiming that therefore killing someone is now just peachy.
He simply took the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 and showed us that outward actions spring from inward motivations. And not all the 10 Cs were only about external acts anyway, with the Tenth Commandment about inner sinful desires: covetousness.
Are we really to believe that Jesus does not give a rip about stealing or lying or murder? Yes, he condemns lustful desires in the Sermon on the Mount, but he does NOT therefore say there is nothing wrong with the outward act: adultery.
Stanley may be uncomfortable with this truth, but Jesus even says this in the Sermon on the Mount: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). To try to pit the Sermon on the Mount against the Ten Commandments is not only unhelpful but theologically harmful.
The former flows out of the latter. You cannot have one without the other. Yes, in a sense Jesus gives us a higher and deeper and fuller take on all this. But recall that the words of promise concerning the New Covenant are already found in the Old Testament. Jeremiah 31 had laid it all out over a half millennia earlier.
So it is not as if Jesus and the NT are giving us some surprising and brand new stuff here. It was all found in the OT already, at least in embryonic form. Jesus simply ran with the Hebrew Scriptures and gave them their full and proper elaboration.
Jesus did NOT have a low view of the Ten Commandments or of the Old Testament, Again, the Hebrew Scriptures were the only Bible Jesus had. He quoted from them frequently, as did the apostles. They regarded those 39 books as Sacred Scripture. They knew it was the very Word of God.
Once again, there is continuity and discontinuity between the Testaments, and there are legitimate discussions to be had over all this. And these debates have been going on for centuries now. Moreover, there is indeed some room to move in this area. So this is not a new debate, nor am I just picking on Stanley here, as others have run with positions similar to his.
But great care must be taken with these matters. To wrap things up, it seems that we can rightly speak of the Sermon on the Mount supplementing and augmenting the Ten Commandments, and we can rightly speak of the New Testament supplementing and augmenting the Old Testament. But we are on rather shaky biblical and theological ground to speak merely in terms of replacement.
The Christian Bible contains 66 books, not just 27. Christians are not Marcionites. We know that our faith is built on and grows out of what preceded it in the Hebrew Scriptures. To downplay or minimise the OT and the 10 Cs is not all that helpful, and not all that Christian.
I would suggest that most Christians today are largely illiterate when it comes to the First Testament, and I think I can safely say that most have likely never read through all 39 books found there. We do NOT need pastors further contributing to this unhelpful deficiency by telling Christians we can basically ignore not just the Ten Commandments but the Old Testament as well.