Bird’s Eye View of Paul (3)

Quick follow up to the post y’day on introducing Paul.

Michael Bird includes this quote from Scot McKnight’s book Jesus and His Death: Historiography, the Historical Jesus and Atonement Theory (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2005), 374.

“Paul’s theology is not systematics; instead, he is grasped best when at least the following seven Pauline principles are kept on the table as we proceed through his letters. First, the gospel is the grace of God in revealing Jesus as Messiah and Lord for everyone who believes; second, everyone stands behind one of the twin heads of humanity, Adam and Christ; third, Jesus Christ is the centre stage, and it is participation in him that transfers a person from the Adam line to the Christ line; fourth, the church is the body of Christ on earth; fifth, (salvation)-history does not begin with Moses, but with Abraham and the promise that God gave to him, and finds its crucial turning point in Jesus Christ – but will run its course until the consummation of the glorious Lordship of Christ over all; sixth, Christian behaviour is determined by the Holy Spirit, not the Torah; seventh, Paul is an apostle and not a philosopher or a systematic theologian. These principles spring into action when Paul meets his various threats (circumcision, wisdom, gifts, works of Torah, ethnocentrism, flesh, rival leaders, and eschatological fights about the Parousia or general resurrection).”

I think this helps to ‘capture’ Paul.

It’s a good reminder of the ‘big scope’ of Paul’s theological vision – and of course he would be first to say this gospel is not his creation, but has been given to him by God (Gal …).

It’s also a good reminder of the many and persistent forms of threat and opposition he and his gospel faced throughout his ministry.

It’s a good reminder that for Paul the Holy Spirit is central, not only in becoming a ‘new creation’ but in empowering and enabling a believer to life the Christian life and fulfil the Torah.

It’s a good reminder that Christianity is essentially corporate in nature – the covenant community is the realm in which faith in Christ finds true expression.

Should there be a more explicit place for the cross & resurrection in these 7 principles? (and I confess this may be an unfair question in that I have not yet read McKnight’s book although it is on my to do list).


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