Perhaps better than anyone else, Bright proposed and explained a Christian approach to the Old Testament that honors both the OT's position as one of the two parts of the Christian Bible and the biblical mandate to rightly handle the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). That's not an easy task. As Bright explains in the Preface to the book The Authority of the Old Testament, the question he takes up is one that had plagued him for many years:
"I suppose that it is inevitable that it should have: it is a problem that no teacher of Old Testament studies can forever evade. Certainly I was unable to do so. I had long found myself troubled by the fact that so few preachers--myself included, I fear--really seemed to know how to proceed with the Old Testament, or were guided in their preaching from it, if they preached from it at all, by any conscious hermeneutical principles. . . It early became clear to me that the place of Old Testament studies in the theological curriculum was not something that could be taken for granted. I was driven to the realization that if I could not present my students with some positive position with regard to the place of the Old Testament in the Bible, and provide them with some guidance in their use of it in the pulpit, they might justifiably regard all that I was trying to teach them, however interesting it might be historically, as of questionable theological and practical importance."
What exactly is the question regarding the place and authority of the Old Testament? Bright sums it up as follows:
People who affirm "that the Old Testament is in each of its texts inspired of God and affords in all its parts a revelation of his character, purpose and will . . . . must still face the question: How are these ancient laws, institutions, and concepts, these ancient narratives, sayings and expressions . . . to be taken as authoritative over the faith and life of the Christian, and how proclaimed in the church?" (p. 18).
At some point in the course I teach on the Old Testament, I ask my students some version of Bright's question. After all, it doesn't do much good for a person to know the content of the OT if she doesn't have a good idea of how it should be used by the church (I teach students from the Bible Belt who are, almost to a one, religiously engaged).
So what would you include in a response to Bright's question?