Friday, May 25, 2012

"Would Paul Have Made a Good Evangelical?"

 I thought this was pretty awesome.



Even when you account for 2000 years of cultural differences between Paul and Evangelicalism, the answer is no.

Why? Because Paul didn’t treat the Bible the way mainstream Evangelicalism says you need to.
The way Paul handled his Bible–what we call the Old Testament–would keep him off the short list for openings to teach Bible in many Evangelical seminaraies and Christian colleges. Heck, John Piper, John MacArthur, and R. C. Sproul probably wouldn’t let Paul lead a home Bible study, at least not without supervision.

Here is the main reason why:

For Evangelicals, the Old Testament leads to the Gospel story. For Paul, the Old Testament is transformed by the Gospel.

For Evangelicals, the Old Testament, read pretty much at face value, anticipates Jesus. For Paul, the Old Testament is reshaped in order to conform to Jesus.

For Evangelicals, the Bible is God’s final authority. For Paul, Jesus is the final authority to which the Bible must bend.

You see, Paul had a monumental theological and hermeneutical task before him.  The Old Testament is centered on Israel’s need for obedience to the law of Moses in order to stay in God’s favor–what the Old Testament often calls “life.” God’s favor is most clearly demonstrated by Israel’s remaining in the Promised Land–if they obey, they stay; if they disobey, the are cast out (which is what the exile to Babylon was all about). And, as an added benefit, when Israel is faithful to God, the other nations will take notice and also bend the knee to Yahweh, Israel’s God.

Obedience to law; holding onto the land (and along with it worship in the temple); conversion of the Gentiles. All central elements of being an Israelite.

The Gospel of Christ that Paul preached said:
Law was a parenthesis, a temporary measure; holding on to land is now a non-issue; Gentiles can claim Israel’s God as their own as Gentiles.
Clearly something has to give. For Paul, it was the Old Testament.

For the rest, 

Peter Enns.


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