Saturday, November 29, 2014

Pauline Studies as a Formal Theology

One prediction I made about a decade ago was that the hyper TRs in the Reformed world, after having dealt with theonomy and Federal Vision by means of biblical theology arguments, would themselves turn on Biblical Theology and deal with it accordingly.

To say it another way: it's hard to see any rapprochement between biblical and systematic theology in the modern TR conversation.  Note:  I do not criticize Reformed people.  I am in the Reformed tradition.   In any have reason to boast of being a Calvinist, I have more:

Catechized on the 8th day, of the people of Scotland, of the tribe of Cameron, a Scot of Scots, a blogger in the church, as to righteousness under the Law, condemned.

No, I do not think the Church Universal (yeah, I said it) would be as well off today if not for the Reformed faith.  However, it's hard to be optimistic about the future.

Some thinkers have attempted to show the limits of Wrightean acceptance and I like their summaries. I think Mr Wedgeworth did a good job summarizing the issues.  This post isn't to condemn or vindicate Wright, though I am sympathetic to his general project. 

Rather, I think Pauline studies can be used as a guideline for how the church interacts with culture, controversy, and the world (or "civitas" to keep the alliteration going).  Pauline theology is never abstract.  Yet, it maintains its universality. 

For example, the problem of church unity has long bothered me.  While I feel comfortable with my responses to Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy on this point, it's hard to shake the initial challenge.  They seem unified (except to each other!) while Protestantism is fragmented.  What do we say to that?  We say what Paul said, "In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek."  Wait a minute, you respond, that's not answering the question. No, but it's Paul's answer.  If you speak of church unity apart from the blessed reality that Jewish believers and Gentile believers have table fellowship, then you aren't Pauline.  We need to rethink our entire categories. 

Someone will say, "Aren't you New Perspective?"  How do you really respond to that?  I don't think I am.  My formal answer to that question is "no."  But here's the deal:  I am more interested in doing biblical studies and biblical theology than in answering Reformed Shibboleths.  If N.T. Wright helps me solve a problem that's bugged me for over a decade, good for him.  Why must I join sides? 

No comments:

Post a Comment