Also, Julie Clawson, who will be blogging on the women chapter next Monday, has an overview post today.
If you haven’t had a chance to peruse the book yet, you can download the introduction and a sample chapter here.
There are two things going on in this book at the same time.
As the title indicates, the book is for everyone who has ever thought to themselves, “Jesus have I loved, but Paul… well… not so much.”
I have been there myself.
One of the first memories I have of reading Paul was going through his “foolishness of boasting” chapters at the end of 2 Corinthians. I thought he did sound foolish, and arrogant, and otherwise unlikeable.
Other folks have had deeper issues with him.
I begin the book with a story about my grandfather, who grew up in Holland in the early part of the 20th century. He is a fan of Jesus’ “true Christianity,” and not so much a fan of “that rascal Paul.” The rise of liberal theology in Europe trickled down to his understanding of who the Jesus of the Bible is, and how that Jesus contrasts with who he understands Paul to be.
So what hope is there for reclaiming Paul for followers of Jesus? The answer to the problem of Paul opens into the second task the book hopes to accomplish.
I hope to show through the book that Paul is, at root, a narrative theologian, reframing the stories of God, Israel, Messiah, and Salvation around Jesus as crucified and risen king.
As I do this, I lay out the story that Jesus enacts in the Gospels and set it side-by-side the story that Paul himself tells. Both are stories of God’s renewal of the cosmos: Jesus using the language of the Kingdom of God, Paul using the category of new creation. Both envision the family of God being reformed around Jesus–so that community is a core component of the salvation Jesus brings. Both summon would-be Jesus followers to obedience–and hold up Jesus’ self-giving love as the heart of Christian faith and practice.
Thus, the book is not only for people who don’t like Paul. It’s for everyone who wants to wrestle with, and learn together about, larger questions of how the Bible as a whole, and the New Testament in particular, hold together.
It is in light of the shared story of the God of Israel redeeming the world to Godself in Jesus Christ that I argue for a Paul who is much closer to Jesus than often imagined. And, Paul is a surprising ally for the mission of Jesus in general, and for important issues such as equal treatment of women and social justice in particular.