Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Conclusion of Tom Wright's wonderful book on Paul

Finished Tom Wright's wonderful Paul and the Faithfulness of God. What a masterpiece! Again I can do nothing better than quote some of the gems from the final Chapter:
  • Paul's theology...was not simply an elegant organisation of the central elements of Jewish belief, reworked around Messiah and spirit. It was the beating heart which ensured that the lifeblood of prayer and God-given energy was animating the whole project.{though maybe the Holy Spirit had a role like that as well?}
  • Paul was precisely not an isolated, detached thinker. That is why the isolated thinkers in the western academic tradition have had such difficulty with him, seeing confusion in his pastoral skill and contradiction in his subtle paradoxes. He was a man of action, of performative fulfilment. He was both thinker and doer, regarding his thinking  as itself a form of worship, and his doing, too, as a sacrificial offering through which he was to implement the already-accomplished achievement of the Messiah. He was an integrated whole: razor-sharp mind and passionate heart working together.
  • what we have from him are precisely letters, not treatises. His writings...embody...the overall aim, not of communication merely, but of community.
  • When the Nazis were constructing a newly integrated form of would-be philosophically grounded community, they found anti-semitism to be an ideological necessity...There could not be two chosen peoples...there could not be two histories... hence the anguished discussion... of just how deeply committed to the Nazi cause was... Martin Heidegger.
  • Indeed part of the task of NT scholarship in the 21st C... is the long overdue liberation of exegesis and theology and ... early Christian history... from the dark gravitational pull of the whole post-Enlightenment European philosophical and political matrix.
  • But if Marx was ... significantly different from his ancient semi-predecessors [like the writer(s) of Daniel] he was ironically on the same page as the very different (but equally Epicurean)  post-Enlightenment Social Darwinist thinkers who believed in a 'progress'... whether officially atheist or would-be theist, all such theories effectively deified the process itself.
  • The answer to all this is not to abandon history but to do it better.
  • Theology, in the NT is not an end in itself, but a ... central ingredient in the healthy life of the community of Jesus' followers. Just as the principal and ultimate goal of all historical work on JS Bach ought to be a more sensitive and intelligent performance of his music, so the principal and ultimate goal of all historical work on the NT ought to be a more sensitive and intelligent practice of Christian mission and discipleship.
  • What we call 'philosophy', 'religion' and 'politics' and Paul's engagements with them, were not interesting side-lines...For Paul, everything grew in the field of God's new world.
  • Paul did not see himself as simply snatching souls out of the world's wreck in order to populate a platonic heaven...the point was that the new creation launched with Jesus' resurrection was a renewal of creation, not its abolition and replacement.
  • He saw the church as a microcosmos, a little world... the prototype of what was to come... Paul was an evangelist... but there is surprisingly little evidence that he wanted his communities to be energetically outgoing in their own propagation of faith. Enough for the moment, it seemed, that they should be - united and holy.
  • Paul's gospel was a Jewish message for the non-Jewish world... If Paul had not gone on attending synagogues he would not have continued to receive the standard... synagogue punishment of 'forty lashes less one.'
  • The heart of Paul's gospel is not 'this is how to be saved' or 'get on board before the parousia' but Jesus is lord.... The point was to name the Messiah, to announce him as lord, at the culture-forming places, the cities to and from which all... roads ran.
  • Fuller integration, fuller reconciliation, is always the Pauline aim, and I hope I have gone a good way to achieving it {you have Tom!}
  • If I were to try to summarise... in Pauline language, I might end up writing something like the letter to the Ephesians {Tom is quite right to consider this as probably genuine, the arguments against are very feeble}.
  • History, and exegisis and a branch of history, have for too long been isolated from Theology, and the mutual suspicions and recriminations between the two are far-reaching and deeply damaging.
Tom concludes this brilliant book as follows:
Old praise dies unless you feed it, says Herbert. The renewed praise of Paul's doxologies takes its place at the...fusion of worlds where Paul stood in the middle, between Athens and Jerusalem, between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the world, between Philemon and Onesimus, between history and theology... between heaven and earth. This is language formed in the shape of the cross, both as the decisive apocalyptic event in which the covenant faithfulness of the creator God was unvieled once and for all and as the character-shaping truth which was now carved into world history and into the hearts and lives of all those 'in the Messiah'... For Paul, prayer and theology meet in his personal history, as in the once-for-all history of the crucified and risen Messiah. Paul's 'aims', his apostiolic vocation, modelled the faithfulness of God. Concentred and gathered. Prayer became theology, theology prayer. Something understood.
 Wonderful!  Buy, read and feed on the wisdom.

PS listening to a wonderful performance of the New World Symphony, conducted by Sir Roger Norrington - aged 80.

1 comment:

Steve Finnell said...


Virtually all denominations and religious cults deny that the Bible is the infallible word of God. They do not believe the Scriptures are absolutely trustworthy. Many question that the Bible is the final authority for faith and practice. Most deny that the Bible is the incontrovertible written truth of God. More than a few believe that the Bible has been mistranslated; rendering it to be an unreliable source for God's inerrant word. Too many agree that the Bible is not a trustworthy account of history, the gospel of Christ, and instructions for living the Christian life.


1. They trust, supposed, new revelations from God in the form of catechisms and other completed books. They do not accept the Bible, as the final authority of God. This supplants the Bible as the inerrant authoritative word of God.

2. They use creed books, and statements of faith to supersede the teachings of Scripture.

3. Bible commentaries and books about the Bible are considered to be accurate accounts and explanations of Scripture, however, the Bible itself is not consider to be the infallible word of God.

AN EXAMPLE OF THE DENIAL OF THE INFALLIBLE WORD OF GOD. (Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.)

More than a few say that "for" has been mistranslated and actually means "because of". That changes the meaning of Acts 2:38 to mean "repent and be baptized because your sins have already been forgiven.

You cannot say that "for" has been mistranslated and claim that you believe the Bible to be the infallible word of God. How could you, then, assert that the Bible is absolutely trustworthy.


FAITH: John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

Can men deny that believing Jesus is God's only begotten Son, is essential to salvation, and then claim that they believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God?

REPENTANCE: Acts 2:38 Peter, said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Can men reject the fact that repentance (repentance is making the commitment to turn from sin and turn toward God) is essential to having sins forgiven and then assert that they believe the Bible to be trustworthy?

CONFESSION: Romans 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

Can men deny that they must acknowledge Jesus as Lord in order to be saved and then say we believe the Bible is the incontrovertible written truth of God?

WATER BAPTISM: 1 Peter 3:20-21...through the water. 21 Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you---not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience---through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

Can men deny that water baptism is essential to salvation and then claim that they believe the Bible is the authoritative, irrefutable, inerrant word of God?