Re-imagining Paul

Re-imagining Paul October 9, 2019

The one who wrote Romans, a letter that has formed the backbone if not the entire skeleton of most of Christian theology from the 3d and 4th Century onwards, deserves an image. We need to think with terms of who he is.

Was he an apostle? a theologian? a missionary? a church planter? Do we need multiple terns with hyphens to define this man? The missionary-theologian? an apostolic-missionary?

Some to think he was a Sunday 11am Preacher? Was he? What did preaching even look like in the 1st Century house churches? Was it more like teaching in a small group? More like a living room group? A back deck evening gathering?

 I like what Michael Gorman does with framing Paul in his new book, Participating in Christ: Explorations in Paul’s Theology and Spirituality:

Paul is:

(1) a messianic theologian whose entire theological program is grounded the conviction that God’s resurrection of the crucified Jesus means that Jesus is both the Messiah of Israel and the Lord and Savior of all peoples; in Jesus God has inaugurated the messianic, or eschatological, age;

(2) a theologian of the cross and resurrection who sees in the cross the representative, reconciling, and revelatory activity of God in his Son, which is the central scene of the central act in a grand narrative of salvation; this salvific death is confirmed and completed by the resurrection of Jesus;

(3) a narrative theologian whose christological narrative carries within it a corresponding narrative spirituality—that is, an account of how participants in the reality of Christ crucified and resurrected ought to live. including concrete practices that derive from the narrative itself;3

(4) an ecclesial theologian who is confident that God has called the church to be the sign of the new age,4 and as such it is shaped by the story of Jesus the Messiah, in whom the church lives and who lives in the church; and

(5) a spiritual or even mystical theologian whose fundamental conviction about individuals and communities being “in Christ” means that Christology inherently has spiritual and ethical consequences (both personal and corporate), as well as theological consequences with respect to our overall understanding of the God encountered in Christ.

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