According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The New Perspective Revised - "Paul and Messianic Judaism," Parts 4-1

Messianic Judaism: An Introduction
Jewish life is life in a concrete, historical community. Thus, Messianic Jewish groups must be fully part of the Jewish people, sharing its history and its covenantal responsibility as a people chosen by God.
At the same time, faith in Yeshua also has a crucial communal dimension. This faith unites the Messianic Jewish community and the [Gentile] Christian Church, which is the assembly of the faithful from the nations who are joined to Israel through the Messiah.
Together the Messianic Jewish community and the Christian Church constitute the ekklesia, the one Body of Messiah, a community of Jews and Gentiles who in their ongoing distinction and mutual blessing anticipate the shalom of the world to come.
Do you think separable bodies — the Gentile Christian Church and the Messianic Jewish community — fractures the One Body? Do you think it is what Paul had in mind in his mission?
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Where Christians Got it Wrong with Paul
by Scot McKnight

Mark Nanos is on a mission to expound for readers of Paul a Paul who never broke from Judaism. His project, and here we are sketching some of what he says in the book edited by Mike Bird called The Apostle Paul, is both about rhetoric and theology. Nanos, who plays golf well and is a Jewish scholar of Paul, has been stumping for his themes for more than a decade.
The rhetoric is clear: Christians have explained their faith, in particular the theology of Paul, at the expense of Judaism. They have made Paul a champion of freedom by arguing Judaism was slavery, Paul a champion of universalism by arguing Judaism was exclusive and ethnic, and Paul a champion of a religion of grace, faith and love while Judaism comes off looking like a religion of merit, works and legalism. In a strange irony, Nanos then says “those values that Christians champion… are instead inferior to the values Jews actually uphold” (163). I get his point, but he’s done the same thing he’s accused Christian scholars of doing: comparative descriptions come off as comparative denunciations. But Nanos has the larger end of the stick on this one; he’s right; Christians have failed to comprehend Judaism because they’ve settled for caricatures that they can use to champion their own faith. Though Luke Timothy Johnson, in his response, thinks Nanos has kept a binary opposition by talking about Judaism as if it were “normative Judaism.” Johnson’s contention is that Judaism was more diverse than Nanos suggests. And Campbell thinks this perception of Judaism derives from Melanchthon.
Can you point to a text or texts where you think the Jewish apostle, Paul (or Peter), did not observe Torah? Do you think Paul observed Torah completely? Would you say Paul’s gospel is a kind of Judaism, but still Judaism? Or did he crack the door?
The theology of Paul, then, needs another explanation. If the traditional view made Jews legalists, the new perspective (Nanos argues) makes Jews ethnocentric. He wants to argue neither of these categories belong on the table.
Paul never left Judaism and the only difference between Paul and other forms of Judaism is that Paul’s Judaism had Jesus as the Messiah. Paul was Torah-observant, never left being Torah-observant [I'd quote Acts 23:6 here, but he doesn't; there Paul says "I am a Pharisee"], and Paul’s mission was to expand the Shema faith of Judaism — One God — to include Gentiles. So, Paul’s mission was including Gentiles into one Judaism. Freedom from the Torah is only for non-Jewish Christians; Jewish Christians remained under the Torah. Schreiner’s response focuses on Paul no longer being Torah observant, and he points to Peter in Galatians 2:11-14 (eating with Gentiles) and Paul saying in Romans 14:20 that all foods were clean.
It is big, then, for Nanos to say a major cutting edge between Paul and other forms of Judaism was that Paul permitted Gentile “conversion” without becoming “proselytes” to Judaism. You could convert to Judaism but did not have to become a Jew by undergoing circumcision. Paul opposes proselyte circumcision for Gentile “converts” to Judaism, because circumcision entails Torah observance, and Gentiles don’t have to obey the whole Torah.
Nanos, then, has a narrowed meaning for “works of the law”: it’s about circumcision. Works of the law ultimately leads to changed ethnicity or to ethnic Jewishness.
Nanos is not alone in thinking Paul didn’t have a “conversion” but instead a “calling” to the Gentiles. I think Nanos’ point can be sustained in some ways but his perception of “conversion” could benefit from conversion theory studies themselves, in which conversion is measured by identity change and not by swapping religions. So, I would argue was converted to a whole new frame of mind but that doesn’t necessarily mean he changed religions, which is the (anachronistic, a la LT Johnson’s response) categories he presses into service. Nanos thinks the term “conversion” muddies the water, and he’s right. So he uses “calling,” which I think muddies the water. Paul’s change is more than simply vocational. He saw everything anew through and in Christ. So convert is a good word, but I would want to respect Nanos’ concern to make sure this does not necessarily mean Paul swapped religions.
The issue, for Nanos then, between Paul’s Judaism and others is “chronometrical”: What is appropriate now that the crucifixion and resurrection have occurred? Are we in a new era or not? Paul says Yes, others say No. In other words, it is eschatological. Or, perhaps even more nuanced, hermeneutical. How do we explain where we are in God’s plan? And it revolves around whether or not Jesus is the Messiah.
The big issue of this whole discussion can be expressed as questions: Did the apostle Paul think all Jews had to believe Jesus was the Messiah to be saved, or to enter the kingdom of God, or the Age to Come? Did he think non-messianic Jews were just as saved as messianic Jews? Was historic Judaism sufficient or did one have to embrace messianic Judaism? Johnson thinks Nanos doesn’t give sufficient attention to the newness in Paul’s gospel.
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The New Perspective Revised
In my life time the most significant book on Paul has been E.P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (1977) because it both shifted interest in Judaism but completely shook up how scholars understood Paul. Since Sanders there have been major articulations of Pauline theology, including those of J.D.G. Dunn and N.T. Wright, but they build on and take further what was said by Sanders.
In Mike Bird’s new book, The Apostle Paul, there are four views of Paul: the Reformed view by Tom Schreiner, the Catholic view by L.T. Johnson, the post New Perspective view by Douglas Campbell, and the Jewish view of Mark Nanos. Today’s post will look at Campbell’s piece.
What do you see as the major problems with the traditional reading of Paul? What do you see as the major problems with the New Perspective on Paul? Do you think Campbell’s reading helps us forward?
In essence, and Campbell gets this right when many don’t, the core of the New Perspective is a new view of Judaism and a new view of Paul rooted in that new view of Judaism. The “old” perspective on Paul, it is argued, overcooked Judaism into a works-based religion. This led to religion being man’s attempt to justify himself, and the whole gospel of Paul was read as a response to this fundamental anthropological pride. Hence, we read in folks like Tim Keller of two options: performance vs. grace/faith. I see this all over, so Keller’s not alone. The New Perspective calls this into question because it argues that this “performance” stuff emerges from a false view of Judaism and therefore from a Judaism Paul could not have been opposing. Paul’s concerns were elsewhere. Put differently, the old perspective thinks Paul’s concerns were anthropology: the human arrogance of self-justification before God, and that means the essence of gospel preaching is to get humans to perceive their pride. Again, this is not what the New Perspective thinks Paul was on about.
Campbell, however, goes beyond anything being said by the New Perspective, though he agrees completely with its view of Judaism. He thinks the New Perspective explanations of Paul — Dunn, Wright, oddly not really dealing with Sanders — are not good enough and so he revises those explanations. I would say he radically revises.
1. Campbell thinks Paul’s theology turns on three axes: that it is revealed by God to him, that it is Trinitarian (and here he is thoroughly Nicene and orthodox), and missional (his message arises from his mission).
2. Campbells thinks soteriology and gospel are one and the same. [I disagree, but only in emphasis or order.] And he thinks that gospel is found, not in Romans 1:18-3:26, which is classic, but in Romans 5–8. He finds here a God whose work in us cannot be stopped, and he finds an ethic that transforms through the Spirit and transcends the Jewish Torah. [This last point leads to Mark Nanos' strong disagreements.] He is Barthian and Torrancian in his approach.
3. Campbell doesn’t really follow the assignment, which was followed by Schreiner and Johnson, which means we get his closer reading of how to read Romans 5–8.
4. The three persons of the Trinity are indistinguishable in Romans 5–8. Humans are fundamentally relational beings. Christ determines humans not Adam. Since Christ is the solution, Moses is not. (He calls this “thinking backward,” which is a variant of the “from solution to plight.”) The ecclesial approach of Paul is family and he uses the term “brothers” for the Body of Christ.

Both Johnson and Schreiner criticize Campbell for insufficient attention to the rest of the Pauline corpus.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Finding the Apostle Paul
by Scot McKnight
Paul gets bashed a bit these days as more and more Christians realize the anchor of their faith is Jesus. But all orthodox Christian faith is at the same time rooted in the biblical witness and not just historical methods. Biblical faith deals with Paul because Paul’s letters — thirteen of them in traditional counting — not only take up lots of pages in your New Testament but his mission and message shaped 1st Century Christianity at deep levels.

Which of these readings of Paul do you think is most like Paul, or most accurate? Why do you think Paul has “fallen out of favor” with so many today? Why do you think others make Paul so central, even more central than Jesus/Gospels?

Biblical faith, then, deals with Paul. Careful readers of Paul’s letters know that there are some major, major disagreements over how to interpret Paul. So the question is not Jesus have I loved, Paul have I known, but which Paul? Last week we sketched the 1st chp in Michael Bird’s edited volume, The Apostle Paul, another Zondervan Counterpoints book. That chp represents a Reformed, or Calvinist, reading of Paul. Today we look at Luke Timothy Johnson’s study of Paul. Three quick facts: Johnson is Catholic; he is one of the most prolific and significant NT scholars; his sketch of Paul may be Catholic but it shows that when it comes Catholicism, Paul’s letters are not the primary source for creating Catholic distinctives. So, in the end, this is the historian’s Paul, the Paul who emerges from the canonical letters who also thinks — contra many in the academic guild — Paul wrote all thirteen letters.

1. Too many of those who sketch Paul’s theology limit the evidence: he was not a systematic thinker; each letter emerges in context and in contact with issues at hand for his mission; there was a school around Paul; Paul prefers personal relationship and communication.

2. Those who find a “center” in Pauline theology are mistaken, and here he pushes against finding it in Epicureanism, Stoicism, Palestinian Judaism, or apocalyptic — or his struggle with the law or the narrative theology of the new perspective. If we consider all letters, we don’t have a center but themes of a missional apostle.

3. Johnson thinks we have to find the matrix of personal religious experience, the religious experience of his readers, and the compex of traditions and practices already in play at the time of Paul.

4. Christology: an exceptional sketch of Paul’s christology, focusing not so much on Christ as on Lord but it all begins with the resurrection. Holy Spirit is prominent in this sketch. Jesus’ resurrection was an eschatological event. Jesus has representative significance.

5. Cross: a scandal for the Jews; supreme sign that God did not spare his Son, was a sacrifice for sin; an expression as well of Jesus’ faith in God and love for others. It is about his faithful obedience. And the cross is a pattern for human behavior: cruciformity.

6. Salvation: it is accomplished by God and it is not about the accidents of life but basic existential existence; his death was not primarily liberation from systemic powers but from sin and sinfulness. Nanos’ response pokes Johnson for inconsistency here since the remaining portions of this chp seem to move in a more social, if not political, direction. He’s not a proponent of the empire theorists today. Salvation does not just rescue but transforms. The language of salvation explores five different metaphors, none of which is sufficient but each of which is adequate and pointing us to the fuller realities of salvation: diplomatic, economic, forensic, cultic, kinship. He sees an inaugurated salvation: here and not fully complete yet. But salvation is social in that it ushers people into the new community. Schreiner’s response calls out Johnson for a lack of attention to the grace of God and to the importance of faith for justification and to Johnson’s emphasis on corporate (not individual) election.

7. Church: the local assembly; mostly Gentile churches; sketches leadership in elders and superintendents and servants… more than a voluntary association but derives from the call of God. Paul dealt with boundaries over against both Gentile/Roman world and Jewish world. Jewish believers follow Torah; Gentiles believers need not. Paul had egalitarian ideas that crashed at times against social realities, and Douglas Campbell thinks Johnson needs to work more on this element of his chp as Campbell thinks the social tensions arise in the non-Pauline letters.

Surprisingly, hardly a thing on eucharist or baptism.


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