“The Father of Jesus Christ is emphatically not a god who, after offering two ways, withdraws off stage in order to assure an autonomous decision on the part of the human agent. Precisely the opposite. This God comes invasively and causatively, inciting faith where there was none. We may take the apostle quite literally when we hear him speak of the genesis of the newly moral community, identifying it from its inception forward as God’s new creation, for as God’s new creation this community owes both its birth and its sustained life to God’s powerful act in the gospel and to nothing else.”
– J. Louis Martyn, “The Gospel Invades Philosophy” in Paul, Philosophy, and the Theopolitical Vision, p.33.
I’m teaching a class on the Holy Spirit this Fall, and this week the subject was The Holy Spirit and Prayer. These two quotes from Gordon Fee’s Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God caught my attention:
One of the more remarkable inconsistencies in studies on Paul is that thousands of books exist that search every aspect of Paul’s thinking, while only a few seek to come to terms with his life of prayer. Indeed, most people’s understanding of Paul is limited to Paul the missionary or to Paul the theologian. But what is clear from Paul’s letters is that he was a pray-er before he was a missionary or thinker…Paul did not simply believe in prayer or talk about prayer. He prayed, regularly and continuously, and urged his churches to do the same.
It is probably impossible to understand Paul as a theologian, if one does not take this dimension of his “Spirit-uality” with full seriousness. A prayerless life is one of practical atheism. As one who lived in and by the Spirit, Paul understood prayer in particular to be the special prompting of the Spirit, leading him to thanksgiving for others and petition in the Spirit, even when he did not know for what specifically to pray. Whatever else life in the Spirit meant for Paul, it meant a life devoted to prayer, accompanied by joy and thanksgiving.
In light of the events of this week, a few quotes on God’s making the world right.* I hope this vision captures the church, myself included, and we become God’s people – a people working to make what is wrong right.
In Galatians, the cross is interpreted not primarily as an atoning sacrifice for forgiveness of sins, but as a cataclysmic event that has broken the power of forces that hold humanity captive, brought the old world to an end, and inaugurated a new creation.
Paul takes his bearings from the good news that in Christ – and thus in the act of new creation – God has invaded the cosmos. Paul does not argue, then, on the basis of a cosmos that remains undisturbed but on the emergence of the new cosmos with its new elements.
J. Louis Martyn
In Christ’s death the whole world has been put to death and a new world of possibilities come to birth.
James D. G. Dunn
God’s gracious will is to create life, to call into existence things that do not exist…Far from repairing the old cosmos, God is in the process of replacing it.
J. Louis Martyn (partial summary, partial quote)
The new creation is not, however, merely a dream or a vision it takes on empirical reality in the community of God’s people.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)
*All quotes from commentaries on Galatians.
During the twist and turns of the past couple years of thesis research, I have collected lots of quotes that most likely will not make it into the final product. Some of the most fascinating are summaries of Paul’s gospel by different authors, and I thought I would share some of them periodical. Occasionally, I will even ask a question that points toward an area I find to be a weakness in the summary (or larger proposal). Take note, for the most part I like these summaries but also enjoy asking questions.
What role does the past, the time from creation to Christ, play in either of these summaries?
The Pauline gospel announces a definitive, unsurpassable divine incursion into the world…that both establishes the new axis around which the entire world thereafter revolves and discloses the original meaning of the world as determined in the pretemporal counsel of God. So unlimited is the scope of this divine action that it comprehends not only the end but also the very beginnings – although it takes the highly particular form of an individual human life that reaches its goal not only in death but also in resurrection.
Nothing can be the same again. Both Paul and his fellow Christians are living in a new reality that, in a sense, only they can understand. In the light of this new reality they understand that Christ has rescued them from a tortured previous reality within which they were oppressed by evil powers. Christ and his followers are presently at war with that evil dominion, and to a degree the war extends through the middle of each Christian community and each Christian person in the form of an ongoing conflict between the flesh and the Spirit. Nevertheless, Christ has effected the decisive act of deliverance and victory. Christians are saved, and dramatically! They have been set free and must now resist the temptation to lapse back into the old, evil, but strangely comfortable reality from which they have been delivered.
-Douglas Campbell (summarizing J. Louis Martyn’s interpretation)
Received The Gospel in the Marketplace of Ideas by Paul Copan and Kenneth D. Litwak today from InterVarsity Press. Look for a review in the coming weeks.
Info from InterVarsity:
Our world is multicultural, multireligious, multiphilosophical. It ranges from fundamental monotheism to do-it-yourself spirituality to strident atheism. How can Christians engage in communicating across worldviews in this pluralistic and often relativistic society?
When Paul visited Athens, he found an equally multicultural and multireligious setting. From Jews to Gentiles, elite to poor, slaves to slave owners, from olive-skinned Gentiles to dark-skinned Ethiopians—the Greco-Roman world was a dynamic mixture. Religious practices were also wide and varied, with the imperial cult of emperor worship being the most prominent. Many also frequented the temples for the traditional Greek pantheon, and participated in the secret rituals of the mystery religions.
Seeking to embolden the church’s witness in today’s society, philosopher Paul Copan and New Testament scholar Kenneth Litwak show how Paul’s speech to the Athenians (found in Acts 17) provides a practical model for Christians today. The authors encourage Christians to “be more biblically informed, culturally astute, and creatively engaged to winsomely challenge the idols of our time and to point contemporary Athenians beyond ‘an unknown God’ to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”