Thursday, January 7, 2010

Reading Paul with Michael Gorman 1

Michael J. Gorman is the professor of Sacred Scripture and Dean of the Ecumenical Institute of Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore, Maryland. He has spent much of his career studying, writing about and teaching Paul. He has a unique 'perspective' on Paul and as you read him you will find that he is neither 'old' or 'new' perspective but takes from the best of both worlds. So far I have found his small introduction to Paul to be a very edifying read and here I will offer brief summaries and reflections of his book 'Reading Paul' published by Cascade.

Why Paul?

Why should we read Paul? Some suggest that a great part of the world's problems are bound up in religion. Is not Paul a religious figure? Does that not make him part of the problem? In Gorman's view Paul is not part of the problem and his writings need to be read as Scripture.

Too many people treat Paul as if he has no relevance for today. But if Paul's writings are Scripture then they are part of the Bible, the Christian's "primary authority of..knowledge of God and the primary instrument of God's ongoing address to the Christian community." There is only one people of God and, thus, Christians today are part of the same community to which Paul's writings were written. That isn't to say that there aren't difference between us and them that shouldn't be addressed. But if we stress the differences then we are not reading Paul as he is meant to be read.

There are two main reasons why people are wary to accept the idea that Paul's words are God's words. 1) Some think that if we want to know about Jesus then we should turn to the gospels, not Paul; and 2) Some people find Paul offensive. Paul, however, is not as different from Jesus as is often thought. The subject of preaching for both Jesus and Paul was the Kingdom of God. In some cases Paul may be less offensive and in other cases he might be more offensive than is often thought.


What excites me most about reading this book is that Gorman does not make us choose between Jesus and Paul. In recent debates, emergent and reformed, the two can sometimes, perhaps unknowingly, be pitted against one another. However both believed and were passionate about the fact that God's saving reign had become a reality. God was fulfilling all his saving promises that he has made to Israel and they were both calling people to become a part of the restored people of God. Also, both saw the cross and resurrection as central to God's saving promises. If we get to know Paul then we are getting to know Jesus. We ought to follow him as he followed Christ.

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