Paul the Pastor

I’ve been giving some thought to Paul as a pastoral theologian (or maybe a theologically-oriented pastor, or, more likely, a pastor who theologically interprets community conflict and offers counsel in accordance with resurrection realities). At any rate, this passage in N. T. Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God struck a chord:

Wright, Paul

Paul was a pastor. He tells the Thessalonians that he had been like a nurse with them; the Galatians, that he is like a mother going into labour once more. We can safely deduce from these, as we can from 1 Corinthians 13, that Paul really was that sort of person; and, as back-up evidence, we can see his personal concern writ large in the paragraphs about Timothy and Epaphroditus in Philippians, and above all in the letter to Philemon. He was a pastor, and a pastor’s pastor. It shines through: an armchair theologian would have told the Corinthians that it was better to be strong than to be weak, and that the weak should get over it, or get used to it. They should come into line. Paul, the ‘strong’, held all the cards, all the theological high ground. But the pastor’s insight, shaped and informed by the message of the cross, insists that human beings do not change their deep worldview-praxis (such as not eating certain foods) overnight. Conscience matters, and Paul will not squelch it. He might of course have learned that ‘principle’ from a book (which one?). Far more likely that he knew it in his bones, from years on the road, in the market-place, in the little room behind the tentmaker’s shop, agonizing with this person and that about what it meant, in real, practical terms, to follow Jesus the Messiah, to be part of the new monotheistic community, to live within a newly redefined worldview after the disappearance of most of the previous symbols, which would have helped one get one’s bearings (452-53).

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