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What’s in a Name?

April 8, 2007

“On the one hand, [Paul] believed that humanity renewed in Christ wast the genuine article, explicitly contrasted with the fractured and downgraded humanity which characterized paganism. On the other hand, he believed that humanity renewed in Christ was the fulfilment of the vocation of Israel, which unbelieving Israel was failing to attain…. Paul articulated, in other words, a way of being human which he saw as the true way.” (pg. 136)

“A brief word about love. Paul does not mean that all Christians should feel warm fuzzy feelings for each other. That romantic and existentialist reading of agape does not begin to capture what is really going on. The critical thing is that the church, those who worship God in Christ Jesus, should function as a family in which every member is accepted as an equal member, no matter what their social, cultural or moral background. The very existence of such a community demonstrates to the principalities and powers, the hidden but powerful forces of prejudice and suspicion, that their time is up, that the living God has indeed won the victory over them, that there is now launched upon the world a different way of being human, a way in which the traditional distinctions between human beings are done away with. That is why we find in Ephesians the climactic statement: the purpose of the gospel is that ‘through the church the manifold wisdom of God might be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places’ (Ephesians 3:10). The very existence of a community of love, love where before there was mutual suspicion and distrust, is the crucial piece of evidence that tells Paul that God’s spirit has been at work (Colossians 1:8).” (Pg. 146)

“The doctrine of the image of God in his human creatures was never the belief siimply that humans were meant to reflect God back to God. They were meant to reflect God out into the world.” (Pg. 148)

“Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith impels the churches, in their current fragmented state, into the ecumenical task. It cannot be right that the very doctrine which declares that all who believe in Jesus belong at the same table (Galations 2) should be used as a way of saying that some, who define the doctrine of justification differently, belong at a different table.” (Pg. 158)

“Justification declares that all who believe in Jesus Christ belong at the same table, no matter what their cultural or racial differences (and let’s face it, a good many denominational distinctions, and indeed distinctions within a single denomination, boil down more to culture than to doctrine). Because what matters is believing in Jesus, detailed agreement on justification itself, properly conceived, isn’t the thing which should determine eucharistic fellowship. If Christians could only get this right, they would find that not only would they be believing the gospel, they would be practising it; and that is the best basis for proclaiming it….One is not justified by faith by believing in justification by faith. One is justified by faith by believing in Jesus.” (Pg. 159)

 – the preceding exerpts were taken from N.T. Wright’s What Saint Paul Really Said

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jenn permalink
    April 10, 2007 6:33 am

    NT Wright, eh?

    So, this is probably a question not best asked/answered over a blog comments section, but nonetheless….
    What do you think about Wright’s New Perspective on Paul? I think I’ve heard Joe begin a conversation with you about it, but never really heard the answer.

    PS Tell Denise I said hi!

  2. April 10, 2007 9:18 am

    I think N.T. Wright is “Right” On! (bod ump bum) Seriously, though, he is a brilliant scholar and his New Perspective views are hard to refute. I know many have tried, but I find their arguments weak. Now, that’s not to say that I agree with all his points, but for the most part his arguments are very compelling. What I like most about him , though, is that he argues from Scripture. I know that sounds like it deserves a “well, duh,” but what I mean by that is Wright has such a commanding grasp of covenant – the whole story of the Bible – that he is able to make sense biblically of issues like justification and righteousness. On the other hand, his opponents – at least to me (and others I talk to) – argue more from tradition or theology. Their arguments might have isolated Scripture support, but they don’t quite grasp the “Big Picture.”
    While “What Saint Paul Really Said” does go into New Perspective stuff, that’s not the best part of the book. N.T. Wrights understanding of the church and gospel is amazing and that’s what blew me away. The quotations I posted in my blog are from his chapter on the church and it may just be the best chapter I have ever read! It certainly was the best chapter I read as required reading at seminary. The whole book is good – a little technical sometimes – but always very practical! In a time when evangelical churches and denominations seem to be closing their doors to other denominations over different issues, its refreshing to see a renowned theologian who is throwing the gauntlet down for the evangelical world to be more united. And it’s not just a gooshy “can’t we all just get along” kind of ecumenism – it comes from his view of Christ and the church.
    BTW, the book is only a 180 pages and is a pretty easy read… I think you’ll like it.

    • Katey permalink
      June 4, 2010 11:49 pm

      Hi. Where can I find this book? The way you describe it, it sounds more like a fun, makes-you-think kind of read. ^-^ I love to read, and I can follow most genres, so if it’s as good as you say, I want to read it. 🙂

      • June 5, 2010 8:57 am

        Thanks for your comment Katey. You can find N.T. Wright’s “What Saint Paul Really Said” at practically any on-line book store – I recommend Christianbook.com, but you could probably find a good, used copy on Amazon. I’ve also noticed the book at a few of my local used book stores – which is where I buy most of my books. I live in Nashville, so we have quite a few book stores in the area, but if you have a really good one in your area, check out the theology section. Good Luck!

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