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Posts tagged "Apostle Paul"


Saving Paul from the Academy: A Conference Breakout Preview

Only three days away! This breakout will be led by Professor Todd Brewer.

“The Academy” is a term used by both insiders and outsiders to speak about the world of biblical scholarship. It is a term meant to ascribe prestige and importance to one’s profession and life work. To be a card-carrying member of “the guild” – to use another term of esteem – is to be part of an elite club of professionals trapped by the perpetual need to justify their significance. But to most people, “the academy” is a term of intimidation to create a feeling of inadequacy on the part of the so-called, non-specialist layperson, thus making the Bible and faith itself feel like something you’re not qualified to have an opinion about.

Along the same lines, the last 40+ years of Pauline scholarship – with its almost iconoclastic radicalism – has so thoroughly revised the traditional understanding of Paul that many, if not most, feel unable to understand the Bible at all.

This breakout session has three, related goals. I first hope to offer a pointed critique at recent interpreters of Paul and their overall practice of interpretation, particularly those within what are known as the “New Perspective on Paul,” and the “anti-imperial Paul.” By way of critical-historical inquiry, these scholars ironically offer an allegorical reading of Paul by constantly reconstructing what St. Paul really said and overlooking what he actually said. Secondly, I hope to outline a positive vision for how to read the Bible, one that views it not as a riddle to be solved by the specialist, but as a conversation partner that wants to be charitably heard on its own terms, without being overinterpreted. Finally, I will examine Galatians 3:24-25 to offer some critical self-reflection on how Paul has been understood by Luther (and, by extension, Mockingbird!).

Hopelessly Devoted: 1 Corinthians Chapter Three Verses Six and Seven

This morning’s devotion comes to us from none other than the President of the Mockingboard, Aaron Zimmerman.

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:6-7, ESV)

Here again we see Paul addressing the bickering problems among the Corinthians. But rather than addressing the external behavior, Paul realizes the real problem is internal and theological.

dwight-schrute-the-office-fan-artPaul knows that there are two approaches to life for all human beings. The first approach is human-centered. Men and women in this camp see themselves as in control of their lives. This is like The Office’s Dwight Schrute quoting Billy Zane’s character in Titanic: “A man makes his own luck.” In other words, human beings have the ability to judge people and events, map out their lives, and control their destiny. Students at elite colleges positively ooze with this kind of thinking. This is the human-centered view of life. In the spiritual realm, this view is called justification by works: making oneself acceptable to God through good behavior.

The second approach to life is God-centered. In this view, people are seen as they are, flawed and broken, prone to compulsive acting-out. Like the Harvard student who plays a video game for 10 hours straight, despite the fact that he has a paper due and is already on academic probation. Or like the suburban mother who regularly spends thousands of dollars on clothes she doesn’t need. Or the executive who is a furtive alcoholic. Or the high-achieving honor-roll student who is anorexic and cuts herself. Or the Bible study leader who obsesses over pornography. Thus, unlike in the human-centered view, the clear thinking God-centered man or woman no longer places the burden of “getting better” on the ones who are ill. The God-centered view knows that people need a divine rescuer—like sick people need a doctor—and that this never stops being true, even for “serious” Christians.

The Corinthians are decidedly human-centered. As a result, as we see in this passage, they quarrel about their spiritual leaders. Since they believe their personal growth is their responsibility, they know they better pick the right guru! Paul attacks this view. He steers them back to reality: God is the one who calls, redeems, saves, and continues to heal. Paul says that he and his co-pastor Apollos are nothing. An amazing thing to say! Can you imagine TV preachers saying that? But Paul says conclusively: only God gives the growth.

Do you feel like you control your closeness to God? Is your “walk with Christ,” your “spiritual journey,” all up to you? Paul says only God gives the growth. See the illustration Paul uses to close the argument: God is the gardener, and you are simply a plant in the field. So don’t do something, just sit there!

Paul as a Disciple of Jesus: Part 3 of 3

Paul as a Disciple of Jesus: Part 3 of 3

So where are we now? Part one examined the broad issue of the historical Jesus and Paul, noting their differences and the ways those have been exploited to create present antithesis. Part two looked at three different attempts to overcome this divide between Jesus and Paul, with Johannes Weiss, Ernst Käsemann, and N.T. Wright broadly serving as representatives of different approaches to the historical Jesus and his relation to Paul. Each of these attempts is admirable, but flawed in their results or approach. So now I ask: Is there a different way to construe the relationship between Jesus and Paul?…

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Fear of Flight Attendants, Fear of Death and Why We're All Paul

Fear of Flight Attendants, Fear of Death and Why We’re All Paul

As you may have heard, an American Airlines flight attendant made national headlines as her routine pre-flight intercom schtick devolved into a dire warning to passengers that the plane faced imminent danger and would likely crash after take-off. This prompted passengers to take matters into their own hands and forcibly apprehend the attendant until authorities could defuse the situation and send the travelers on their not-so-merry way.

One such passenger on the flight, theology blogger Sharon Hodde Miller, described her experience while also highlighting something we hold dear here at Mockingbird- her inability to live up to her own professed beliefs….

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Angsty (Everyone) and Walker Percy (Part 3 of 3)

Angsty (Everyone) and Walker Percy (Part 3 of 3)

Earlier in the week we explored the loss of sovereignty over one’s experiences that occurs when we make the opinions of “experts” into a sort of Law, such that they have to certify our experiences as genuine. I can watch Midnight in Paris by myself and love it, but on my second showing with the film buff friends I do not enjoy the movie as something for me to watch. Rather, my highest satisfaction would be a positive review by my friend, which would certify my first experience as valid and authentic.

Not only do we surrender our opinions and experiences…

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Mercedes: The Race to Perfection Has No Finish Line

Mercedes: The Race to Perfection Has No Finish Line

I was struck by the audacity and insight of a Mercedes S-Series commercial, which I saw recently on television. As they touted the sophisticated technology in their new car, including features to regulate automatically the car, if it detects a the driver has fallen asleep, Mercedes makes a proclamation: because the race to perfection has no finish line.

How true, how true. This slogan captures the ultimate root and result of human behavior. People may claim to pursue excellence, peace, fame, wealth, or popularity, but at the bottom of this striving is a need to be perfect. This perfection may be…

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Bound and Determined, Part Two: God on the Hook

Bound and Determined, Part Two: God on the Hook

Part two in our series: Bound and Determined to be Free.

Although it will be argued that the notion of the bound will, the belief that human beings are fundamentally powerless before God, is a wholesome and comforting doctrine, like with the law and gospel, the diagnosis proceeds the cure. In this case, as much as we would want it otherwise, our first problem is with God himself.

In The Limits of the Coded World, David Egginton writes:

Theologians have spent a great deal of time ruminating on the problem of determination. The Catholic response to the theological problem of…

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Debbie Downer

Debbie Downer

I’ve been asked why do we, who like the Reformation and support a Law/Gospel paradigm in theology, always focus on ourselves as sinners? Aren’t we like Debbie Downer from Saturday Night Live who litters every fun conversation with sad and depressing news? When people want to talk about living out a life of love for the glory of God, we talk about our weakness, our need, and our inability. What about intimacy, healing, and fruit in a relationship with Jesus? Intimacy is wonderful; healing is great, and fruit is awesome! The question is not “what” is good (that’s God’s holy…

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325 Days of Lent: "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."

325 Days of Lent: "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."

Like all of the seven last words of Jesus, these have provided Christians comfort throughout the ages. And they should, writes Hauerwas, “but that the words comfort us should not hide from us that these last words of Jesus before his death name his willingness to embrace the ice-cold silence of hell. Accordingly these words, ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,’ are every bit as frightening as Jesus’ prior cry of abandonment. Jesus is not comforting himself; he is gesturing to the Father that he is ready to face the final work that only Jesus can do. ….

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Religious, Not Spiritual

Religious, Not Spiritual

The other day, I listened to an NPR Speaking of Faith interview with the late Jaroslav Pelikan entitled The Need for Creeds. For those of you who don’t know of this radio program, its sort of like the website Beliefnet.com, but with Harris Tweed and allusions to Kafka. This seemed to be one of the more difficult subjects for the host, Krista Tippett, because, as she mentioned throughout the interview, the very nature of a creed—a confession of what is believed—goes against the enlightened sensibilities of “modern people.”

“Isn’t faith, at heart,” she asks Dr. Pelikan at one point, “about mystery,…

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Against Theology? The Holy Spirit as the Thief in the Night

Against Theology? The Holy Spirit as the Thief in the Night

Some fascinating and slightly enigmatic thoughts from Christoph Blumhardt on the Holy Spirit:

“It has now become clear to me that what is decisive in the Kingdom of God is never a single dogmatically fixed and systematized teaching; rather, it is the living God alone that is decisive… But it has also, further, become clear to me that this living intervention of God never repeats itself once and for all according to a certain schema, or is carried out mechanically through means of grace. The intervention of God comes much more like a thief in the night.”

“[In the history of the…

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This weekend in the NYT: Mickey Rourke

This weekend in the NYT: Mickey Rourke

I must confess that (for me, at least) there is something very attractive about Mickey Rourke.

It surely is not his face, which is almost difficult to look at, the mangled product of too much boxing and plastic surgery.
Perhaps it is his brokenness. Rourke is an extermely gifted man who has been completely broken by life, and yet, by facing the pain, seems to have gained a certain peace, wisdom and self-acceptance.

In this weekend’s NYTimes magazine, the director Barry Levinson (with whom Rourke worked in Diner) captures Rourke beautifully, and in powerful Gospel terms:

“It’s often hard for actors to accept…

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