This morning I had my final New Testament Theology lecture of the academic year. We’ve spent last term looking at Paul’s ‘theology’, and today JB focused on bringing it all together: Is there a centre to Paul’s theology? What role does the interpreter play in deciding what Paul is going to say? Is a ‘web’ a better metaphor than ‘hubs and spokes’?
Honestly, I found it hard enought trying to remember which of Paul’s books we were ‘supposed’ to count as Paul’s, and which were apparently questionable…
Of course it is worth spending time remembering that Paul was writing letters, and all letters are situational. At the same time though, whilst Paul may not be being systematic, that does not mean he isn’t coherent. In effect he does his theology in dealing with specific churches.
One thing that didn’t crop up, yet has to be a key issue for the Christian theologian, is the fact that Paul’s letters fit into one big message, one phat story. There must be a fine art to balancing between giving each book of the Bible it’s own space to breath – so that we do listen to the message of that author at that time – yet interpreting it in light of what the rest of Scripture tells us.
I suppose one good thing I have realised studying this course is that so much of our Christian thinking, of our ‘theology’, so much of our way of seeing the world, has its roots in Paul’s personal words to a handful of churches and characters who all lived 2000 years ago.
Thank God for Paul, and thank God that his Spirit breathed out through him!