Archive for the ‘Paul’ Category

Inaugural Lecture PLUS a Seminar on Paul Nov. 8-9

Saturday, October 27th, 2012

Nov. 8: Raymond E. Brown Inaugural Lecture and

Nov. 9: A Morning with the Apostle Paul (and Friends)

If you are anywhere near Baltimore, you are cordially invited!!

On Thursday, November 8 I will deliver my inaugural lecture as the first holder of the Raymond E. Brown Chair in Biblical Studies and Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary & University. The topic will be “The Death of the Messiah: Theology, Spirituality, Politics.” A book sale and signing will precede the lecture at 7 p.m., and a period of dialogue will follow. This event, which is also this year’s Dunning Lecture, is free and open to the public.
Click for lecture information.

On the morning after the lecture, the conversation will continue as other biblical scholars and theologians (Richard Hays, Kathy Grieb, Fr. Tom Stegman, and Brent Laytham) will join me for “A Morning with the Apostle Paul (and Friends),” a discussion of some of the themes from my work on Paul and their significance both for understanding Paul and for the life and mission of the church today. Advance registration for this seminar is required, and space is limited.
Click for seminar details and registration form.

Daniel Kirk talks about his new Jesus-Paul Book

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Daniel Kirk of Fuller Seminary talks about his new book, Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul…?, a book I endorsed and called a page-turner. Have a listen and buy the book at your nearest independent Christian/theological bookstore, such as Hearts and Minds in Dallastown, PA.

Update: part 2, part 3, part 4.

Participation and Mission in Paul

Monday, December 12th, 2011

I am in the process of completing a book on participation and mission in Paul. Here is a draft of some paragraphs from the first chapter. I look forward to thoughts and comments.

The Mission of God
What is God up to in the world? What is the missio Dei, the mission of God?

For Paul the answer to that question is clear: to bring salvation to the world. The means of that salvation is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Israel’s Messiah, and the world’s true Lord. This is the gospel, the good news. The mode by which that salvation is conveyed to the world is the preaching of this good news both in word and in deed. And the mode by which that salvation is received is described best not merely as belief in the sense of intellectual assent but as participation in the sense of a comprehensive transformation of conviction, character, and communal affiliation. This is what it means to be “in Christ,” Paul’s most fundamental expression for this participatory life that is, in fact, salvation itself….

We need to examine a bit more closely the missio Dei. What is the nature of this salvation God seeks to bring to the world?

According to Paul, God is on a mission to liberate humanity—and indeed the entire cosmos—from the powers of Sin and Death. The fullness of this liberation is a future reality for which we may, and should, now confidently hope. In the present, however, God is already at work liberating humanity from Sin and Death, through the sin-defeating and life-giving death and resurrection of his Son, as a foretaste of the glorious future that is coming. God is therefore at work creating an international network of multicultural, socio-economically diverse communities (“churches”) that participate in this liberating, transformative reality and power now—even if incompletely and imperfectly. They worship the one true God, confess his Son Jesus as the one true Lord, and live in conformity to the self-giving divine love displayed on the cross by means of the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father and of the Son.

Participation and Mission
The thesis of the book, in a nutshell, is this: that Paul expected the salvation of God to spread throughout the world not only by means of his own gospel ministry (and that of his close colleagues), but also by means of the participation of his converts in the various house churches. They were, in essence, to become the gospel, not merely playing a supportive role by praying for and underwriting Paul’s work, but participating in the advance of the gospel through proclamation, praxis, and persecution (i.e., suffering). In a word, through witness: witness in word, in deed, and in the unpleasant consequences that often attend faithful witness.

But my goal is not principally a historical argument. In fact, if that were the book’s primary goal it would have a quite different shape. Rather, my goal is theological and indeed missional. The burden of the book is to suggest that those of us who read Paul’s letters as Christian Scripture need also to participate in the advance of the gospel by becoming the gospel, in word, in deed, and—if we are faithful—in suffering.

Participation, in other words, is essential not only to salvation, ethics, and eschatology, as many students of Paul have noted, but also to mission. Indeed, to separate these aspects of Pauline theology and spirituality is to commit an egregious act of misinterpretation of the apostle, for all of these are inseparably knit together for him. To be in Christ is to be in mission; to participate in the gospel is to participate in the advance of the gospel.

Justice and Nonviolence Lectures at Eastern Mennonite

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

If you happen to live anywhere near Harrisonburg, Virginia, do come to Eastern Mennonite University for the annual Bible and Religion Department Justice Lectures, which I will give on Tuesday, November 8. The two lectures will be as follows:

  • Lecture One: 3:30 p.m. Paul, Apostle of Nonviolence
  • Lecture Two: 7:00 p.m. Paul, Apostle of Justification and Justice

The Ecumenical Apostle

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

I had a delightful time in the hills of Pennsylvania last Thursday giving the annual ecumenical lecture at Mt. Aloysius College in Cresson, PA. It was called “A More Ecumenical Paul: The Jewish, Catholic, Reformed, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Anabaptist (and more) Apostle” (the more was meant to be open-ended, but I ended up focusing on Paul the ecologist). We looked at texts that highlight themes from Paul that have been especially noticed by these various traditions in order to see Paul more as a contributor to Christian unity-in-diversity. We ended with some common, and some not-so-common, themes that emerge from these texts.

Although/because Cresson is super-rural, this small Catholic college draws people for this event from a 50-mile radius or more. Among those in attendance were the current and soon-to-be-appointed Catholic bishops, the Lutheran bishop, the Brethren in Christ Bishop, the Presbyterian presbytery exec, and a whole lot of other really fine people. The spirit of ecumenical openness and cooperation was palpable.

Perhaps the great surprise of the day was being introduced to the college’s ecumenical studies collection in its library, a room full of 18,000 top-notch books and reference materials in theological studies, almost all donated by one retired Lutheran pastor–bought specifically to have a theological library in rural Pennsylvania. I was bowled over by its size and scope. Another grace-filled instance of “bloom where you are planted.”

Paul and the Missio Dei

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

My brief article called “Missional Musings on Paul” is out in the newest issue of the magazine for seminarians called Catalyst.

In the same issue is a fine survey of recent work on Scripture and ethics by Nijay Gupta.

Reimagining Justification Lectures

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

In March I will be giving two sets of lectures on the theme of “Reimagining Justification.” So if you are near Chicago or Washington, DC please come join us!


3225 W Foster Ave, Chicago, IL 60625-4895
“Reimagining Justification”

1. “Justification as Resurrection from the Dead (with Special Reference to Abraham)”–10:30 a.m.

2. “Justification and Justice (with Special Reference to the Corinthians)”–1:00 p.m.


FRI., MARCH 18 (7:00 p.m.) & SAT., MARCH 19 (10:00 a.m.; 3:30 p.m.)
7600 Flower Avenue, Takoma Park, MD 20912

“Reimagining Justification According to St. Paul”

1. “The End of Justification as We Know It”
Friday, March 18 at 7:00 p.m., Richards Hall Chapel
Response by Fr. Frank Matera, Catholic University of America

2. “Justification as Resurrection from the Dead (with Special Reference to Abraham)”
Saturday, March 19 at 10:00 a.m., Sligo Church Fellowship A

3. “Justification and Justice (with Special Reference to the Corinthians)”
Saturday, March 19 at 3:30 p.m., Richards Hall Chapel
Response by Dr. Stephen Fowl, Loyola University in Maryland

For further information, look here.

Paul’s Letter to American Christians, by Dr. M.L. King, Jr.

Monday, January 17th, 2011

In 1956 and again in 1963 Dr. King delivered a powerful sermon in the form of a letter from Paul to American Christians, which can be found here. (Please note that his remarks about the Catholic church, which may offend some, were made pre-Vatican II.) There it can be read or listened to. (Note: the script does not correspond word for word to the audio.) A few excerpts from the written text:

[Concerning general morality:]

“You have made tremendous strides in the area of scientific and technological development.

“But America, as I look at you from afar, I wonder whether your moral and spiritual progress has been commensurate with your scientific progress. It seems to me that your moral progress lags behind your scientific progress. … You have allowed the material means by which you live to outdistance the spiritual ends for which you live. You have allowed your mentality to outrun your morality. You have allowed your civilization to outdistance your culture. Through your scientific genius you have made of the world a neighborhood, but through your moral and spiritual genius you have failed to make of it a brotherhood. So America, I would urge you to keep your moral advances abreast with your scientific advances.”

[Concerning allegiance:]

“I am impelled to write you concerning the responsibilities laid upon you to live as Christians in the midst of an unChristian world. That is what I had to do. That is what every Christian has to do. But I understand that there are many Christians in America who give their ultimate allegiance to man-made systems and customs. They are afraid to be different….

“But American Christians, I must say to you as I said to the Roman Christians years ago, “Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Or, as I said to the Phillipian Christians, “Ye are a colony of heaven.” This means that although you live in the colony of time, your ultimate allegiance is to the empire of eternity. You have a dual citizenry. You live both in time and eternity; both in heaven and earth. Therefore, your ultimate allegiance is not to the government, not to the state, not to nation, not to any man-made institution. The Christian owes his ultimate allegiance to God, and if any earthly institution conflicts with God’s will it is your Christian duty to take a stand against it. You must never allow the transitory evanescent demands of man-made institutions to take precedence over the eternal demands of the Almighty God.”

[Concerning capitalism:]

“I understand that you have an economic system in America known as Capitalism. Through this economic system you have been able to do wonders…. But Americans, there is the danger that you will misuse your Capitalism. I still contend that money can be the root of all evil. It can cause one to live a life of gross materialism. I am afraid that many among you are more concerned about making a living than making a life. You are prone to judge the success of your profession by the index of your salary and the size of the wheel base on your automobile, rather than the quality of your service to humanity.

“The misuse of Capitalism can also lead to tragic exploitation. This has so often happened in your nation…. God never intended for one group of people to live in superfluous inordinate wealth, while others live in abject deadening poverty. God intends for all of his children to have the basic necessities of life, and he has left in this universe “enough and to spare” for that purpose. So I call upon you to bridge the gulf between abject poverty and superfluous wealth.”

[Concerning segregation:]

“May I say just a word to those of you who are struggling against this evil. Always be sure that you struggle with Christian methods and Christian weapons. Never succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter. As you press on for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the weapon of love. Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. Always avoid violence. If you succumb to the temptation of using violence in your struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and your chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos.

“In your struggle for justice, let your oppressor know that you are not attempting to defeat or humiliate him, or even to pay him back for injustices that he has heaped upon you. Let him know that you are merely seeking justice for him as well as yourself. Let him know that the festering sore of segregation debilitates the white man as well as the Negro. With this attitude you will be able to keep your struggle on high Christian standards.”

[Concerning the goal of life:]

“I still believe that standing up for the truth of God is the greatest thing in the world. This is the end of life. The end of life is not to be happy. The end of life is not to achieve pleasure and avoid pain. The end of life is to do the will of God, come what may….

What is the summon bonum of life? I think I have an answer America. I think I have discovered the highest good. It is love. This principle stands at the center of the cosmos. As John says, “God is love.” He who loves is a participant in the being of God. He who hates does not know God.”"

[Concerning love, the cross, and power:]

“You may have the gift of prophecy and understanding all mysteries. You may be able to break into the storehouse of nature and bring out many insights that men never dreamed were there. You may ascend to the heights of academic achievement, so that you will have all knowledge. You may boast of your great institutions of learning and the boundless extent of your degrees. But all of this amounts to absolutely nothing devoid of love.

But even more Americans, you may give your goods to feed the poor. You may give great gifts to charity. You may tower high in philanthropy. But if you have not love it means nothing…. Without love benevolence becomes egotism, and martyrdom becomes spiritual pride.

“So the greatest of all virtues is love. It is here that we find the true meaning of the Christian faith. This is at bottom the meaning of the cross. The great event on Calvary signifies more than a meaningless drama that took place on the stage of history. It is a telescope through which we look out into the long vista of eternity and see the love of God breaking forth into time. It is an eternal reminder to a power drunk generation that love is most durable power in the world, and that it is at bottom the heartbeat of the moral cosmos. Only through achieving this love can you expect to matriculate into the university of eternal life.”

Paul: A Pre- and Post-Test

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

Just for fun, I started the semester with some version of the following true/false “pre-test” in my courses on Paul’s letters and theology, one in the (Catholic) seminary and the other in the Ecumenical Institute of Theology. Although I do not give final exams in either course, after a semester of study, it could make for an interesting essay or take-home exam. Each question is meant to be a bit of a trick question, or at least to have a twist or two.

1. Paul was a Christian.

2. Paul was a Jew.

3. Paul was converted after falling off a horse on the road to Damascus.

4. Saul changed his name to Paul after his conversion.

5. Paul wrote Romans.

6. Paul wrote Ephesians.

7. Paul wrote Hebrews.

8. Catholics like Jesus, but Protestants like Paul.

9. Paul was a misogynist.

10. The center of Paul’s thought, and his abiding contribution to Christian theology, is the doctrine of justification by faith.

Each question provoked a few minutes of give and take that made the “obvious” answers look  simplistic and the questions appear–rightly–more complicated than they seem at first.

Justification: An Overview of Recent Proposals

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

My good friend Andy Johnson of Nazarene Seminary has a very helpful overview here of three recent proposals about justification in Paul–those of N.T. Wright, Douglas Campbell, and myself–in contrast to one another and especially to the traditional Protestant view. I recommend it highly.