I have read the Apostle Paul long enough to know that if he were alive today he would be a serious blogger, seizing every opportunity to advance his Gospel, be it by letter or internet. The reason I make such an assertion in the first place is not just to tickle the imagination, but to ask ourselves a very serious question: “What is it that is informing Paul to make the stances he does on the various issues of the day? I ask this because crystallizing the underlying root for Paul’s arguments could be vital to assuring that we are formulating our own stances on today’s issues in conformity to God’s kingdom mission.
In order to identify the basis for Paul’s arguments we will examine the Letter to the Galatians, as this highly polemical letter is most analogous to that of present day blogs. It is when we examine Galatians closely that one point appears elemental for grasping the source for Paul’s discourse: that Paul’s writing is guided by his view that the crucifixion set in motion the end of the ages.
Notice that Paul frames his arguments in Galatians with two statements that deal with the cross (and presumably the resurrection) as initiating the new creation and so the end of the old era, what some scholars call the “already-not-yet”:
Galatians 1:4 (ESV) “[The Lord Jesus Christ] who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.”
Galatians 6:15, “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.”
Jesus’ death here has initiated an end-time exodus with cosmic ramifications. All of our old presuppositions and values must pass muster with the cosmic-shifting cross. For Paul, the way humans had previously categorized themselves were now no longer valid, this is seen as a central conclusion in the letter:
Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Thus, the Jewish effort to circumcise Gentile Christians in Galatia, leading to divisions in the church, was actually for Paul a futile attempt at turning back the hands of time to a pre-cross era. Now I’m sure that most of my readers are not advocating for racial segregation, slavery, or patriarchy, but we often fail to recognize the ways we can re-categorize that function today much like circumcision did in Paul’s day. We demarcate based on Conservative or Liberal, Reformed or New Perspective, Evangelical or Emergent, and this can have a deep effect on whether we sit together at the same table as fellow covenant members in Christ. Thus, it is vital that we allow Paul’s exhortations from within his end-time positioning to help us pin-point ourselves within a post-cross era where our own designations likewise “amount to nothing”. This may mean that our own precious categories are no longer valid (at least momentarily set aside) in a pursuit of ecclesial unity. Like Paul, in light of the crucifixion we must do away with human categories that are a root for division in God’s end-time story and perhaps begin blogging within a conceptual framework as those “in Christ”.The point above is crucial for actualizing ecclesial unity that is supposed to characterize God’s end-time people. I often am dismayed at the rising polemic towards evangelicals, many concerns of which I am likewise deeply and wholly sympathetic, but appear to be generating a sort of reverse circumcision. Must Evangelicals now become like us? Or should we hear Paul again:
Galatians 4:12 “Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong.”
As those who live, move, and have their being in the resurrection era, all seemingly opposing parties should be aiming at becoming like each other! Of course, I have neither the time nor space to develop how this would work out in every situation, but I sense that embracing a disposition of sensitivity and openness that will give an open ear to other’s arguments, and even be shaped by them, is a good starting point.
I am painfully aware that I have merely scratched the surface, but learning to deliberate from within a Pauline historical framework which is both new creational, in relation to earthly ways of sorting each other out, and unification driven, in measuring the truthfulness of our statements, will prove essential to ensuring that the results achieved by our blogging will be useful for the kingdom. Of course, we must continue to dialogue, even disagreeing—remembering that “iron sharpens iron”. But this should never be cause for division. After all, Paul’s sometimes weighty theological arguments—“Hard to understand” even by those in his own day—were always aimed at making sure those of differing back grounds, status, gender, and race would sit down together and share food and drink. Will our blogging pursue the same?
A big thanks to my friend, Lawrence Garcia, for this article!