For Those Who Don’t Like Paul . . .

Because of the way Paul’s letters have been received over the last two millennia, and because the church at times has used his writings to justify violence, oppression, and exploitation, there are many good people who don’t like him.

Other folks believe Paul’s gospel differs from that of Jesus.  Jesus preached discipleship in the kingdom of God, whereas Paul was concerned with individuals cultivating inward piety and a life of private devotion to God.

Daniel Kirk’s excellent new book, Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul? takes on both of these misconceptions, demonstrating that Paul’s gospel is in direct continuity with the preaching of Jesus.

I’ll have more to say about Daniel’s book next week.  For now, I’ll just say that if you’re looking for a fresh, invigorating, gospel vision-enlarging, and hope-generating reading of Paul, this is it. 

Or, if you love how N. T. Wright talks about the big picture of Jesus’s and Paul’s gospel and would like to hear it in other, equally compelling terms, this book’s for you.

Check out the book’s blog tour site during the next week.  I’ll have more to say about the book down the road.  For now, just a taste:

How do we understand Jesus’s story as Paul tells it?  We must understand it as the story of the man who, as Israel’s king and therefore representative of all humanity before God, rules the world on God’s behalf . . .

The story Paul tells is one in which the God who made all things maintained an unshaken commitment to his beloved creation.  It is not a story of escape from a fallen world on which God has given up.  It is a story of God restoring the world and winning a victory over the powers that had supplanted his rule.  Paul’s letters should be read as an attempt to help the young Christian communities of the ancient Mediterranean world figure out how to live under the reign of the resurrected Christ, which is to say, guiding them in how to take hold of the future of the redeemed world and bring it to bear on the present.  Jesus is raised to restore the rule of God, and the churches are the entry points for this restoration project (pp. 20-21).

9 thoughts on “For Those Who Don’t Like Paul . . .

  1. Jason

    I’ve always been curious as to why so many are so opposed to Paul, and even more why they set him against Jesus. Such a result seems to stem from the effort to make the gospel monolithic, at least to some degree..

    1. timgombis

      I think it’s largely (totally, actually) based on misconceptions about him, mainly because he’s been read through the centuries in ways that endorse injustice, oppression, and exploitation. Historically, those in power control interpretations of Paul so that he’s hardly the apostle of the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ. But this is precisely why fresh readings are necessary–re-readings, actually–and this is why people like N.T. Wright are so popular. They’re removing the Western imperial lenses and demonstrating that Paul is seriously the apostle of Jesus Christ, proclaims the gospel of Christ, and, like Jesus, that means life for the dead, sight to the blind, and freedom to the captives.

      1. S Wu

        You have nailed it, Tim. I constantly hear people say that they don’t like Paul, although they like Jesus. And these people are among some of the most wonderful Christian friends I have. I can’t blame them, for their understanding of Paul is based on a misreading that has been passed on to them.

  2. John Thomson

    I do like a fair bit of NT Wright but not all. I enjoy some of what Daniel Kirk writes but find his Christology disturbing and his egalitarianism. How far do these impinge on this book – particularly his reluctance to accept an early identity of deity in Jesus.

    1. timgombis

      His Christology does indeed challenge some contemporary renderings, but it’s thoroughly biblical. I love Daniel’s ability to read Scripture clearly and judge all confessional statements by the light of Scripture. It may upset some comfortable articulations, but that’s where a high conception of Scripture has brought him.

      1. timgombis

        I didn’t say I did.

        Without getting into all the particulars, I think Daniel’s Christological project fills a huge hole left by the neglect of humanity generally and certainly Jesus’ humanity. Western theology’s latent gnosticism hasn’t helped us here!

  3. John Thomson

    ‘it’s thoroughly biblical’ suggested you were with him. Actually, I find not only Kirk’s view of a late deity mistaken but also his understanding of Christ’s humanity. Don’t know if we have discussed this in the past. Kirk (and others) fails to grasp the newness of Christ’s humanity. Humanity can admit various states and still be humanity. Adam’s humanity was initially innocent and then fallen (two states). Christ’s humanity was holy and spirit filled, in two states (humiliation and exaltation). In neither case did he have an innocent or fallen humanity; it was a new kind of humanity signalled by a virgin birth, a humanity invincibly resistant to sin (holy).

    Kirk’s view of Christ’s humanity is philisophically informed and not biblically informed.

    1. timgombis

      I’m not sure what you mean by “late deity.” I’ll let you sort this out with Daniel elsewhere, but I don’t recognize his view in what you’ve written here.

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