Douglas Campbell: Uniting Paul’s Life and Theology

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Okay, so here’s my problem with what
pastors and preachers do with Paul: it’s it’s boring. So they stand up and they
get a little paragraph of text and it’s filled with technical terms like
“justification” and “sanctification” and “election,” and it doesn’t make a lot of
sense. It’s really a little dry. It’s abstract. What they need to do is combine
Paul’s theology with his life, which was incredibly dramatic, I mean, this guy was
in prison, he was flogged, he was fleeing cities, he was showing up and converting
no-names and low-lifes. The Holy Spirit was striking people blind through him. I
mean, he’s a racy guy. There’s a lot of drama, and the letters are actually
emerging out of all this drama. And so what I would really like to see pastors
doing is putting these texts in the middle of the drama so there are other
people in the room, so you’re hearing Paul engaging with other early Christian
leaders who are not getting the gospel quite right, and there’s a really
vigorous to-and-fro going on here, but it’s exciting stuff, and it’s real, and
it’s also very practical. This guy was a practical theologian. He was just a
systematic theologian; he was systematic but he was practical. And so in Paul there’s
all this advice about how you can actually plant churches ,which is
something we need to relearn, and then nurture them. He’s got tons of practical
advice. When you put it in a story: Paul the missionary, Paul the defender of
the gospel against false teachers, all of a sudden it all kind of comes to life so that…
Yeah, I’ve devoted a fair bit of my research agenda to articulating Paul’s
story and then writing books that help people to put the theology into the
story, because even scholars are not very good at that. They tend to be thought
guys or they tend to be life people, and marrying the two together is actually
quite tricky. I hope I’ve got that right. I’ve certainly given it a lot of
thought.

 

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