Saturday, 10 August 2013

The gospel according to Paul

The New Testament letter-writer Paul is a guy about whom there are a wide range of views. Some see him as a raving misogynist, and there are a few passages in his letters that seem to back this up. For others, Paul was a legalist who emphasised personal morality and purity far more than Jesus did. Again, some portions of Paul's letters lend weight to this idea.

I'll soon be starting the second year of my theology Masters, with the first module being all about Paul and his theology. Our main course text is 'Reading Paul' by Michael Gorman; a book I wasn't familiar with but have been intrigued by as I start to dip into it. Gorman sets out to paint the broad sweep of Paul's theology and, while I'm sure he has something to say about the misogynistic and legalistic passages, it's the big picture I've been reading about so far.

Describing Paul as 'a proclaimer of the good news of God's intervention in human history through Jesus Christ', Gorman says this (introducing me to a new word in the process):
This good news was not a private message of personal salvation, though it included the salvation of individuals. It was a political announcement, or better a theopolitical announcement (politics involving God), that challenged – and challenges – the very core of how people relate to one another in the real world.

Gorman tries to summarise this overall message of Paul's with eight phrases, in an attempt to give a framework that might help us make more sense of what we read in Paul's letters. I'm looking forward to digging in to Paul's writings as I haven't really read them with a clear framework in mind and I do find such things help to increase my understanding.

Each element of Gorman's framework has a chapter in his book and I may well blog about some of them over the coming week. In the meantime, here are the eight elements:
  • 'In the fullness of time'
  • 'The gospel of God'
  • Even death on a cross'
  • 'God raised and highly exalted him'
  • 'Justified by faith and crucified with Christ'
  • 'Called to be saints'
  • 'Conformed to the image of God's Son'
  • 'The glory about to be revealed'

My course starts back with a four-day residential block right at the end of August. We'll be focusing on this module about Paul's theology and I'm excited to find out what's in store!

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