Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Romans Book!

I came home last night to find my first print copies of the second of my Paul books: Paul: Solider of Peace.

The first was Paul: Messenger of Grace.

What excites me about this book is that I believe it is the first book that fully embodies the intersection between 1) developments in Pauline studies these last thirty years and 2) Wesleyan-Arminian theology.

This is a book for laypeople and pastors, not a book for scholars, but here are some of its key positions on issues:

1. Paul was a Jew, always remained a Jew, always thought of himself as an Israelite, believed eventually that all ethnic Israel would accept Jesus as Christ.  Believing Gentiles were grafted in to Israel.  The church does not replace Israel.

2. The audience is primarily Gentile in keeping with the fact that Paul is apostle to the Gentiles.  There were "conservative Gentiles" such as we find in Galatians, perhaps Romans to some extent, and perhaps Hebrews.

3. The "righteousness of God" primarily refers to God's propensity to save his people and world, although Paul may very well exploit the polyvalence of the phrase to imply our right standing with God at a couple points.

4. Paul is primarily interested in our faith in God.  Nevertheless, he does at a couple points speak of faith in Christ and I believe he does start off with a sense of the faithfulness of Jesus, his obedience to death.

5. The phrase "works of Law" does primarily focus on those parts of the Law that most separated Jew and Gentile ethnically.  Nevertheless, he does set this concrete debate within a general framework of grace versus earning one's right standing with God.

6. Justification refers to God's declaration of a person being in right standing with him.  This is triggered by faith initially apart from anything a person has done, but final justification will not take place without appropriate deeds following.  The Gentile in Romans 2 who demostrates the Law written on the heart is a Gentile Christian who has the Spirit.

7. Paul does not have a rigid sense of penal substitution.  He has a rather more loose sense that Christ's death demonstrates God's justice, no doubt accompanied with the rather more unarticulated ancient sense that sacrifices satisfy the order of things, including God's wrath.

8. Paul does not have a full blown theology of total depravity, original sin, or the Fall.  Our fuller reading of these things comes more from Augustine and his heirs.  A more careful reading of Paul points to a thorough sinfulness in humanity, a cosmic situation in which Sin has power over our flesh, and that this situation is a result of Adam's sin.

9. Paul does not see sin as compatible with the Spirit inside us.  Romans 7 is not Paul's current struggle with Sin but the situation of a person who might want to keep the Law but who does not have the Spirit.  I further do not think Paul is even remembering his previous struggle.  I don't think Paul ever seriously felt like a moral failure at any point of his life.  The Spirit empowers a person to keep the core of the Jewish Law, the love your neighbor part.

10. Paul does not connect his predestination language with the rest of his theology.  It is a kind of "orphan" in his thought that he does not follow out logically.  It's purpose is to affirm the sovereign right of God to let the Gentiles into the people of God if he wants whether unbelieving Jews like it or not.  Nevertheless, the very ones who he has hardened currently can still be saved.

11. Romans 16 may actually have been a letter of recommendation for Phoebe to go to Ephesus rather than Rome.  I fall off the log on this side.

So there you have it.  The only treatment of Romans I know in existence that will bring a Wesleyan-Arminian up to date with the most recent discussions on Romans by scholars on a popular level in dialog with our faith tradition.  As I've said before, these developments make it a great time to be Wesleyan-Arminian.


Bob MacDonald said...

congratulations - a purpose achieved in a long process. Let's hope it helps understand Paul a little more.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

"Messenger of Grace" and "Soldier of Peace" are two titles that represent a supernaturalists view of "the Gospel".

One has to do with "the law", while the other has to do with "positioning under God".

The first has to do with universalizing "the Gospel", while the latter has to do with a "military organizational model".

The reason this would not be a scholarly approach;
1) a scholarly approach does not separate the "sacred and secular".
because of this;
a.)universalization isn't practical in real life politics and political understanding, which has to do with "the law". Grace is "license" in this scenario, as there are no boundaries to maintain, personal, social, corporate, or national.

b.)The image of "soldier" is a military organization under a "commander-in-chief"! Such a "commander in chief" is "God", whose "Divine Command Theory" is absolute. There is no voluntary service, only obedience or death. This was "Paul/Church's" "commission" to believers. And I believe was the way for the Church to maintain their political power!

2.)The universalization of "the Gospel" is "moral sentiment" or human feelings that are universalized. The minority is considered "equal". But, in practicality, there is only "function" or "purpose" within an organizational structuring. So, the purpose of "the Gospel"

a.) was to maintain "social control" under Church rule.

b.) was to affirm social "norms" as "Christian value", which was Church "suggested" under Paul.

Therefore, "the Gospel" was a way for the Church to "rule over" society using the methods of social conditioning to provide social norms for form bahavioral standards. Thus, the emphasis on "the minority".

Modernity has brought America into a secularized society where "the sacred" is seen and understood within personal understandings, and not political and organizational power!

Angie Van De Merwe said...

While the Church understood the minority being the social outcast, i.e. the poor, the widow or orphan, the nation state undestood it to be a legal/civil term. Americans are "equal under law", and these laws protect individual rights of conscience and value. And our nation state has evolved as to our understanding of "the human" and rights. Women, blacks, and now, gays are considerd to have civil liberties. The question facing our nation and the West in general, is how to affirm liberty of conscience to those that undermine our basic value of individual conscience!!!

Ken Schenck said...

Angie, there are two key distinctions I hope you can work on:

1. The difference between de-scribing and pre-scribing. A description of Paul can be scholarly because a person is analyzing what Paul thought. That's really what my list is, a description of what I as a scholar think Paul thought. The question of whether we should adopt his positions is a separate one, which you have ever right to answer in the negative.

2. The difference between the world of a text and your world in front of the text. You have great difficulty getting into someone else's text. You take a few words and then define them in your own thought world and then run with them to worlds unknown. It's not that your thoughts are always incoherent. It's just that they rarely have much if anything to do with what anyone else is actually saying.

As I've said before, you are the true heir of Derrida...

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I am not subverting 'government' or society totally, as Derrida or an anarchists would. There has to be some form of structure. But the question is; which comes first, individual or societal rights? I believe that the individual comes first, because of the tendency for "groups" to dominate the individual, which hinders personal development, as well as empowers the empowered class. But, such domination shouldn't occur in our society, even if it is for "the greater good"!

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, therefore, group behavior can be deadly to individuality. Human rights is about the individual, as is our government. And our structure of government is balancing and separation of powers.....accountability to "the people" was the "ideal" of our Founding Fathers. The "empowered class" was to be transparent and ethical in their public position, otherwise corruption and good ole boy systems (non-transparency) would lead to the empowered class "feeding themselves" off the taxpayer!

My primary emphasis, is that the text is conditioned by a certain denominational reading, in the Protestant tradition, which varies on understanding depending on what is emphasized or how that particular sacrament/doctrine/lifestyle is understood. Even the Roman or Orthodox traditions understands the text differently, because of their understanding of "the Holy Spirit". And this is where the "Eastern" church's emphasis on "The Father" correlates easily to monotheism, which could "work" to further the purposes of science in understanding how the early Church understood itself and "Jesus", as a human being, who became the 'Christ of faith' in liberal traditions.

Derrida is post-modern philosophically. His position on power is similar to Marx's position on economic theory, both tended to view equality as an "ultimate" human value, which would serve the interests of the Church in furthering 'empowering the poor" through using non-profits to advantage both Church and the economically disadvantaged...there is nothing wrong with this per se, as long as it is known and a chosen value for one's personal commitment or job description....and not a pre-determined plan for Church growth!

Angie Van De Merwe said...

btw, scholars disagree vastly on what Paul meant or undestood, dont they? Then, how can believers base their life choices on such? Isn't it really about one's presuppositions that are "put into or upon" the text?

Ancient texts aren't reliable foundations for the very reason that these are not known for what they really are, only what they have become....which is a "self-identification" projected onto the lives within the text and understands everything by the text and what it has become through theological conditioning...

Ken Schenck said...

The presuppositions of an original meaning scholar of the Bible should be these:

To choose that interpretive hypothesis that accounts for the greatest amount of evidence in terms of the train of thought, the genre, and what is known of the historical-socio-cultural landscape in the simplest and most elegant way, regardless of one's theological tradition or prior theological presuppositions.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

This is the presupposition of the inductive method, not deductive, as it presupposes faith in the text, as historical evidence and "God's Word"...a supernaturalist account.

And such understanding is a fundamentalists accounting of the text, because whatever is found to be the correct interpretation is supposed to be applicable to modern society!...

Philosophical understanding of the text would tend to read the text within a naturalistic scheme of understanding the text as man's attempt to understand "God" and an attempt of the Church via Paul to structure society.

Ken Schenck said...

You're quite confused. It is inductive method but this method does not assume that the text applies. That is indeed a presupposition-one that is not inductive but deductive. You're arguing for the opposite position than you think you are.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Faith in the text is the presupposition of a fundamentalist. And such people believe that "God's Word" is applicable to all of life! Such people study the text for application.

Faith in reason in approaching the text as an ancient one, is studying the text for the value of understanding ancient culture or people.

Faith in Tradition is approaching the text as a "conditioning of culture" is another approach...

Faith in experience is really about personal interests in living in a free society.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Faith in a free society does not depend on a particular text, tradition or cultural value. It means that the individual is free to choose his own interests, commitments and values, which may or may not include the text, or any religious tradition.

Atheists, agnostics, as well as believers are welcomed in America. We are "a people" that is not known by our uniformity, but our diversity. And those diverse interests and priority of values, is itself our cultural environment!!

Patrick said...


Concerning #1 of your points.

I would say Paul saw the salvation of all "Israel" as a definite fact, but, what did he mean by "Israel" in Romans 11:25-26?

"Not all descended from Israel, are Israel". 9:6. What????

11:25 seems to be saying that :

"Israel has experienced a hardening in part UNTIL the full number of the Gentiles has come in ( into what? Israel?)

The text states in verse 26 "and so all Israel will be saved".

My pastor thinks the exegesis can say "in THIS way all Israel will be saved".

The influx of the Gentiles along with the remnant of believing Jews = the new creation - authentic Israel. The Israel of God in Galatians 6:16.

Other Pauline verses such as "one is not a Jew who is one outwardly, one is a Jew who is one inwardly, circumsized in the heart w/o hands"

An authentic Jew is a believer?

Rev. 2:9 3:9 - "who say they are Jews but are not"?

There seems to be a dichotomoy between an ethnic Jew and a "New Testament Israel of God Jew".

Does the Church then replace Israel? Not in Paul's theology. The Church IS Israel in Paul's theology.

The authentic Israel of God.

Beyond that, I agree with your entire view on Romans.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

"the Jew" could be understood as ethnic, or religious, can't it.

If the "Jew", is understood as a religious identity, then, the 'ideal" is humantiarianism; no sacred and secular. Humanitarianism would universalize human experience.

But, if Paul meant ethnic Israel, then it dissolves the "modern nation-state" into a supernaturalistic understanding of "the Kingdom of God", which becomes the "universal"...

One is based on reason, the other is based on "faith". Both can be combined to fulfill the political agenda of "global governance"...under the "universal human rights declaration".

I think it is dangerous to dissolve the Nation State, because there is no way to oversee, or hold accountable such a large beauracracy!

Ken Schenck said...

Patrick, interestingly, I wrote this today for the second devotional that accompanies this volume:

"It is hard for many interpreters to hear what Paul is saying in these verses because they are too enamored with what he has said thus far. Thus far, Paul has said that not everyone in Israel is part of true Israel. Even at the beginning of this chapter, he has used Elijah and the idea of a remnant of obedience within broader Israel. But the train of thought in 11:25-26 is unmistakable. A hardness has come over part of Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. Then, all Israel will be saved. The transition is from part of Israel now to all of Israel later. Accordingly, those who are currently hardened will believe and be forgiven."

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Really, taking the context seriously, Israel can't be ethnic as there wasn't a nation-state. Israel was a religious tradition. Therefore, "Universalization" is humanitarianism.

I think we, as a nation has done much for humanitarian aid, but governments that are corrupt are not open to be humane.

Government is the first and foremost hinderance to "liberty" and "justice"!

Nathaniel said...

I like your points, except #10 which I think requires some teasing out of his method for reading the OT. That being said, it requires more space than here to do that. :) I'm glad you've published this book. I'd venture to say it has values for non-Arminians too. Perhaps Armenians? ;)

Patrick said...


I tend to see that as part of the "mystery" Paul mentioned in verse 25.

Mystery being eschatological Israel has believing Jews and Gentiles in it.

The partition wall is gone so to speak.