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“How should we live?” That’s the question so many today want to ask Paul — and about as many answers as the numbers of those who ask him the question! There are tensions when one asks this question of Paul — he was after a Jew and a Jew would say “Obey the commands.” But many think that’s not what Paul would say. This question has been posed in a remarkably sensitive manner by James Thompson, at Abilene Christian University, in a book called Moral Formation according to Paul.
What role does the Torah play in your understanding of spiritual formation? Which of the five approaches (the second listing of five items below) best captures Paul’s ethics? Or do you think it is the Torah?
Here are some of those tensions:
Paul - Instruction - Problem - Doctrine - Justification
“Paul’s moral instruction has been a problem for those who place the doctrine of justification by faith at the center of his thought” (4). Thompson pulls to the fore the classic set of categories from Bultmann: the indicative (who we are in Christ) shaped the imperative (what we are to do), but Thompson says this covers only some of Paul’s commands for his churches. Thompson’s right. Anyone who struggles with why Paul gave commands is failing to understand Paul’s theology.
2. Paul “insists that believers conduct themselves ‘worthily of the gospel’… but he gives no comprehensive ethical theory to guide their conduct” (5).
Paul - Believers - World - Paul - Ethics
3. Paul wants the believers to be different from the world, but what is different about Paul’s ethics? Are there things here not found in Hellenistic Judaism or in the Old Testament?
Paul - Informs - Readers - Law - Rom
Paul both informs his readers they are not under the law (Rom 6:14) but tells them to “keep the commandments” (1 Cor 7:19). Much of what he says, in other words, sounds like Torah.
5. Paul shows extraordinary pessimism for...
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