Q. One of the major arguments in your Galatians commentary, about which I think you are fundamentally right, is the issue is ecclesiology, though there are sub-themes involving soteriology and eschatology and Christology. The thing that strikes me about this is how ill-prepared post-Enlightenment folk, and especially Protestants are, to think about Galatians as NOT mainly having to do with how the individual gets saved or justified. Sociologists talk about corporate identity in that world, about how group identity is primary and individual identity is secondary, and in a sense you are stressing Paul is saying much the same, whereas modern individualistic readings say the opposite. For Paul, your individual identity is defined by what group you are in— ‘if anyone is in Christ…. then……’ How in this age of radical individualism do we get folk to understand this whole thing about group identity of Jew and Gentile united in Christ?
A. I totally agree of course – and I very much see the problem. It’s both our radical individualism and the fact that western Christianity as a result is so incredibly split, with churches on the same street that doctrinally and liturgically are quite similar having little or nothing to do with one another. And people planting churches totally independently with no thought for other Christian presences in the area. Paul would simply not have understood it. Perhaps part of the answer – only part – is communities like Taize in France which are ecumenical and regenerative . . . and encouraging people to look around locally and think ‘We Christians in this town/city need one another…’ and see what can be done together rather than apart . . . ?