Saturday, November 29, 2008

How to organize a theology of Romans...

And now I guess I may eat my words in my last post. We'll see. How would I organize a theology of Romans to be most true to its inner logic? Second question: if one were to extend to a theology of Paul, how would the organization have to be modified?

Here goes:

1. The gospel
... of the Lordship of Jesus Christ (combines questions 1 and 26 from the last post, gospel and Jesus is Lord).

2. The problem
... of God's immanent and impending wrath on the world, including both Jew and Gentile (adds some Rom. 1 stuff to question 5, what is salvation, mention 2, ethnic make-up, universality of judgment material from Rom. 2, what is the parousia, question 28).

3. The solution
... Christ's atoning death, his faithfulness unto death (question 15 and half of 13, atonement and faith of Jesus Christ)

4. All have sinned
... what does Paul mean by this (question 10), how did Paul arrive at this idea in the way he uses it, how does it compare to other Jewish understanding

5. The glory of God
... what was and is the goal for humanity in Paul's understanding (question 11), how does resurrection feature in the plan, Christ's and ours, how are our stories joined together (question 23)?

6. Final justification
... question 8, judgment according to works with allowances for question 9, repentance, and question 12, justification on the basis of Christ.

7. Justification by faith
... Paul's mechanism for the acceptance of the Gentiles on the basis of Jesus' faith (question 13), and our faith (questions 6 and 7), obviously more of question 12.

8. Works of law
... a somewhat nebulous and shifting referent for Paul, question 14.

9. Grace
... a larger category in which to capture the contrast between faith of Jesus and works of Law, question 17, boasting in the fact that one is a Jew is thus right out, question 16

10. The righteousness of God
... His propensity to save His people and the world, question 4.

11. Adam
... Paul moves back to broader meta-questions of sin's origins and causes in the narrative of salvation history, question 18

12. Flesh
... the body under the power of Sin, question 20, an undefeatable cause of Sin apart from the Spirit

13. The Law
... what was the function of the Jewish Law, then (question 21)?

14. Spirit
... the power of righteousness/resurrection in this life, question 22.

15. Sin and Believers
... is thus completely inappropriate, question 19.

16. Predestination
... a postlude in the inner dynamics of Paul's thought, an explanation for God's apparent change of plans, questions 24 and 25

17. Israel
... a question again raised by the nature of Paul's gospel, question 27.

18. The Nature of God
... abstracted from what Paul has said about all the topics thus far, but there are also some fundamental characteristics to be praised, question 29.

19. Strong and Weak
... moving into Romans 14-15, Paul applies some of the generalities of what came before to the particulars of Christians living together, connecting to the abstracted principle of love in Rom. 13.

20. Living in the World
... more general ethics in Romans 12-13, also loosely connected to the abstracted principle of love in Rom. 13.

So that's my first attempt at how I would structure a theology of Romans. You might add a chapter at the beginning and/or end dealing with matters of the letter itself, its situation, its historical setting, etc.

This outline attempts to approach Romans with a kind of archaeology of Paul's thought rather than the abstracted and reshuffled logical outline that the bulk of interpreters can't seem to keep from doing. Our thought, I believe (cf. Metaphors We Live By), largely consists of layers of metaphor on metaphor, or perhaps more appropriate here, of abstraction on abstraction (particularly in modern Western culture). Our logic is largely a metaphorical interplay with the concrete realia of our life, both physical and social. I do think, however, that there is a kind of fundamental grammar that philosophy calls logic and number that reflects reality somewhat absolutely.

When it comes to something like Paul's thinking in Romans, therefore, we have to get at the most fundamental, concrete realities pushing his argument rather than to some desiccated ideological outline. Absolute propositions are not what are driving Paul's argument but concrete social realia. The outline I have created above thus attempts to "dig" into Paul's thought. The earlier parts of the outline above represent some of the most fundamental strata. The further in the outline one goes, the more one gets to areas where Paul is working out the problems with his more fundamental schema, dealing with the "naughty data" of his paradigm.

All of that is to say in more precise terms something like what E. P. Sanders meant when he said that Paul's argument in Romans moves from solution to problem. Paul knows that Christ is the basis for the inclusion of the Gentiles. The rest is working out the details.

Some thoughts on a theology of Paul...


Angie Van De Merwe said...

Ken, when we talk about faith integration, then, we must talk outside the box of the text. None of the IBS stuff is really faith integration, is it? And I am sick to my stomach when IBS is used. I do admit that you are right, in regards to my offense to fundamenatlists. I have a real reaction emotionally and physically. It is not healthy, but I did get to a point of acceptance with my family, that I hope to come to terms with in a more broader scale. It really is not so much about their faith, but that they want to impose it upon others. This is what I disagree with and am opposed to.

The Church Fathers used philosophy to understand "faith" and bring reason to bear upon faith.
But, then, we also must concede that the Church Fathers were understanding their faith within the hisotrical frame of Judiasm. And Judiasm itself is a world religion.
World religions are not exclusivistic in their understanding, but are seeking understanding by using reason.

Wim does address how reason (science) is limited in certitude because of its diversity. And he uses, history of science, and the philosophy of science to help the students think deeply about their faith and what it means (sematics). Therefore, faith is the end point of his "faith and society course". But, even though I understood the course and agreed with it, it made me uncomfortable, as it left me hanging with postmodernity and 'no reason"....
Therefore, I have been on this journey of seeking understanding. I guess we just approach things differently.

I do not think that theology should be done without input from all disciplines. It is absurd to think that one human text contains all truth for all time for all people, no matter what John Wesley said about being a "person of one book"...
Faculty need to be honest and open about their convictions, commitments and values in an open forum of academic dialogue. I would love to see this come to fruition at IWU. Not only would it be productive and stimulating for the faculty, it would be educational and of value to each specified discipline.

Bob MacDonald said...

Sorry I do not have more time for this - but here's my sound bite on Romans: theodicy reasoned from love.

Paul's experience of the love of Christ - which he knew 'reasonably' - allows him to extrapolate from God's first love of Israel to God's present in Jesus Christ. For 'present' - read all possible ambiguity from time to gift to glory.

Ken Schenck said...

Angie, I'm still not convinced that you understand what we are talking about when we talk about IBS. You are correct, I believe, that IBS in itself is not about faith integration. It is about inducing from the evidence of a text what its original meaning likely was. It is thus a discipline in itself that can be practiced with or without faith, like physics. Faith can set parameters for how evidence is processed, but the science of original meaning interpretation will be practiced similarly whether one has faith or not.

My observation is, however, that you find it very difficult to think inductively. You tend to impose your categories deductively on every discussion, no matter what the subject at hand is.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

It is true that I am defensive concerning the text. And the way I define IBS is inductive Bible study done by many evangelicals. Take for instance, counselling. There is such a thing as "biblical sounselling", which is done within the confines of the text. This is very short-sighted and I think, can be damaging. As it approaches the text as an end all to "truth" in the disciplines. This is not education, but indoctrination.

But, even observing the text, one does come to it with certain backgrounds, assumptions, hypothesis and must be diligent to understand where one is "biased" or prejuidiced, as I don't know whether we can be completely free of our cultural "baggage". Even after investigating the text, faith is defined by certain hypothesis...the questions concerning when Galatians was written and who the audience was, is a case in point. And the meaning of the text is influenced by that analysis. I do not have faith in the text, so what does it matter when or to whom the text was written? The text is only humans that in their time and with their experiences were evaluating "life". Their faith was not defined by the "Christian theological understanding" that are in the creeds.
So, if one approaches the text with a bias to tradition, then the text will be understood that way. But, if the text is evaluated, as you say by reason, then believer or unbeliever will see the same thing. This is ascertaining the text within a certain hisorical context and not a philosophical one. But,how do we not know that the scribe who wrote the text were not "doing philosophical explaination of the text", i.e. theologizing?
The political realm of the cultures involved in the Middle East are at issue and I'm not so sure that peace will be gained by explaining the text! And this is what you are talking about...?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I forgot to add in my post because you used physics as an example, that any theory in science is "just that", a theory. It is not a comprehensive view of life and when, as has recently been addressed, organizational structuring is done under the umbrella of biological systems theory, where the emergence properties are the "fluid" or spirit part of the organization structure...I think this is a very simplistic view, as social psychologists would understand things differently, as would family systmes theory, etc. etc....all the disciplines are theoretical and cannot gauge all of life within it's confines...that is why a univeral way of understanding faith is futile!