Scot McKnight on Where to Begin With Paul’s Theology

Scot McKnight is an American New Testament scholar, historian of early Christianity, theologian, and author who has written widely on the historical Jesus, early Christianity and Christian living. He is currently Professor of New Testament at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, IL. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of BCNN1.

In my career in the academy only a few books about Paul really stand out as paradigm-shifting and mind-changing. I think of E.P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, and then flowing out of the well he tapped, one thinks of James D.G. Dunn’s culmination of his work on Paul, The Theology of Paul the Apostle, John Barclay’s Paul and the Gift, N.T. Wright’s massive Paul and the Faithfulness of God, and Douglas Campbell’s The Deliverance of God.[#ads]

But not one of these books does what Douglas Campbell does in his newest (big) book, Pauline Dogmatics: The Triumph of God’s Love. This is nothing less than a (echoing Karl Barth) a theology built on Paul. But there’s even more: it is nothing less than a pastoral theology of Paul, a Barth-shaped theology of Paul that focuses on Paul’s pastoral, missionary ministry of planting churches in Asia Minor and Greece. It’s big but it’s very readable.

He divides his book into the following major divisions: Resurrection, Formation, Mission and Navigation. Those terms are not immediately obvious as to topics discussed, so we will break them down in the blog series that follows. His own summary, however, will serve us today:

“Theology is a series of disciplined acts and practices that is caught up in actual relationships and that expects relationships to be formed and to flourish as a result” (741). Which leads to what is the grand contribution of this book: “Th end point of a proper Pauline theology, then, is a practical manual instructing leaders how to plant and to nurture communities of Jesus followers, and to do so navigating the challenges of any context, including the especially astringent challenges offered by modernity” (741). So, the book is nothing less than a manual for church planting.

The only Pauline scholar today that is so focused on mission is Michael Gorman, whose book Becoming the Gospel takes his decades long projects on Paul into their missional shape.

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Source: Christianity Today