Soteriology v. Ecclesiology

At ETS last week, the Toms – Schreiner and Wright – debated Paul and justification, along with Frank Thielman. The discussion was illuminating on many points, but on one central point it frustratingly kept missing the point.

Schreiner accused Wright of a false dichotomy between soteriological and ecclesiological emphases in Paul, arguing for a both-and instead of an either-or. Amen! But Schreiner himself pretty much kept the dichotomy intact, simply tilting the balance over in favor of soteriology rather than ecclesiology.

The debate ended up a fruitless debate over “emphasis” and “priority,” and was really a debate about individual v. corporate emphases in Paul. Schreiner, as a Baptist, naturally wants to put the individual front and center; Wright, as an Anglican, has a more churchly reading of Paul.

Two responses: Why are we using systematic theological terms like soteriology and ecclesiology to expound Paul in the first place? Did he think in those terms? And, more importantly, the only way to really break through the dichotomy that Schreiner rightly rejects is to raise questions about the category of “individual.” If persons are relational, then there simply is no non-corporate salvation, nor non-soteriological corporate life in Christ.

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