Saturday, July 21, 2007

Apostle Paul and Missional Church/Planting

This next week I will once again be at the Southwest Unitarian Universalist Summer Institute, i.e. church camp, and will be presenting a four-day hour-plus workshop this year on "The New Paul Perspective." Turning upside down everything you may have learned in Sunday School. And that is important for all trying to turn upside down the kind of church of which "Sunday School" was so typical. On Sunday Jan. 29 I will also be preaching at Tulsa All Souls Church 10 a.m. on "The Revolutionary Paul for the 21st Century." When I think about my model, my inspiration, for organic church planting, it is the Apostle Paul. I think the New Paul Perspective might have been the most important subject-matter kind of thing I took from my seminary education and in the six years since then I have so enjoyed seeing the new understanding of Paul sweep into more and more of religious discourse and into church controversies.

You can find out so much more (than you'd ever want to know ?!) at But the radical nature of this early follower of Jesus (earliest of commentators on Jesus), actually attempting to incarnate and spread Jesus' spirit into the life of communities is where I go for the most scriptural companionship to what I am engaged in both here in Turley and globally through the UU Christian Fellowship. (Speaking of UUCF and Paul, check out for this year's focus on Paul through the work of our keynoter John Dominic Crossan).

Here is the (non-nuanced and overly broad of course) outline for the workshop. I will post the sermon and more when I return.

The New Paul Perspective
SWUUSI Workshop, 2007

Monday: Introductions and “The Old Paul Perspective” and The Historical Paul

Hellenistic—Hebraic mix and convergence and margins of worldviews. Ideal of Divine Power in dominant cultures. Alexander, Augustus Octavia, King David
7 authentic letters (1 Thessalonians, Philippians, Philemon, 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians, Romans), 50-60 b.c.e. pre-Temple destruction. At death some 2,000 followers of Jesus-faith in all Roman Empire. Bits of other letters; others we know of but don’t have, later interpolations. Paul not writing “scripture.” Influence of Greco-Roman Rhetoric for oral presentations of letters. Diatribe Exchanges.
Mission to the Gentiles, the God-Fearers, but born, lived, died a Jew, promoting an extension of God of Israel covenant to Gentiles.
Travels and Travails; controversial then and now because dealing with controversies, and with new communities. Urgency because of apocalyptic beliefs.
5. Untimely born, often sick, Jew in Diaspora, bi-vocational, unmarried, Pharisee (dedicated, spiritual Jew), Roman citizen (?), epiphany leading not to conversion from one religion to another, but from “persecutor” to “persecuted” promoter of Jesus as Messiah faith, Death in Rome?

Tuesday: The Theological Paul

1. Focus is on God’s action--in favoring Abraham, in Jesus, and in near future. A form of Unitarianism/Jewish monotheism ultimately—Jesus is “Christed” by God, adoptionist Christology, Christ Jesus and Christ Community, God’s Holy Spirit go-between. But also Philippian’s “kenotic” hymn (ch. 2) of God’s emptying into form of slave even unto cross then raised up and filled with God again. A core incarnational theology.
2. Crucifixion—Jesus died and was raised by God “for us” (on behalf of, not in place of). To allow Gentiles an entry point into God of Israel’s covenant. A form of universalism. Crucifixion a counter-cultural symbol. A parable of God’s kingdom. S. Stowers on Paul’s belief that Jesus chose not to use his divine powers while living, believing that they would be stronger in life after death, and for Gentiles inclusion as well.
3. Resurrection---uses Greek word “anastasis,” a waking, rising to consciousness. Spiritual Body (not anti-body as Socratic/Platonic were). Community Focus. Not “Rapture.” Tied in With Apocalyptic New Realm Coming. Heaven come to redeem earth, not earth being destroyed and becoming Heaven.
4. Justification, putting into right alignment, through “faithfulness”. Torah does that primarily for those born Jew. Living “in Christ” does that for Gentiles.
5. Anti-Imperial. Radical egalitarian Community and Sacred Meal. Distinctions of culture are not denied, but are superceded by spirit of inclusion, oneness, in “Body of Christ.”
6. Paul and “ongoing revelation”, also the “renewal of your minds” as part of spiritual growth and transformation.

Wednesday: The Paul Controversies

1. Paul and Women. Women were fellow travelers and church leaders. Husbands and wives told to act equally toward one another, both from God (women not to speak an interpolation from later? other later sayings in letters only attributed to Paul.) Women and Men and headcoverings, hair pinned up. Not fighting over some points of culture that will soon be transformed.
2. Paul in the Margins. Paul and other followers of the Torah, over God’s choice of Jesus as Messiah. Paul and other followers of Jesus as Lord, over circumcision. Paul and others in Hellenistic world, over domination practices.
3. Paul and Sexuality. Concern with cultural practices of promiscuous sex. No understanding of the English word “homosexuality” or sexual orientation. Celibacy to help keep orientation on living “in Christ” but marriage also fine.

Thursday: Carry-over Conversation and Paul’s Model For Our Churches and Lives Today
1. Missional living and Church planting and organic church, helping lay foundation for religious movement going from marginal to dominant in 300 years
2. Living in community through self-differentiation and mission-focus
3. Risk and Commitment and Blessings of Fallibility\
4. Incorporating pluralities into self, community, God
5. Counter-cultural, even apocalyptic tendency, against Marketplace/Entertaiment God and affluence, appearance, achievement.

New Translations from having “faith in Jesus” to following the “faithfulness of Jesus”:

“Thus the RSV grossly distorts the Greek of Gal: 3:22: “But scripture consigned all things to sin, that what was promised to faith in Jesus Christ [ek pisteos Iesou Christou] might be given to those who believe.” The phrase ek pisteos Iesou Christou cannot mean ‘to faith in Jesus Christ.” Rather the promise was “on the basis of Jesus Christ’s faithfulness.” Similiarly the RSV, following the KJV, translates Rom: 3:26 as follows: “to prove..that he himself [God] is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.” (ton ek pisteos Iesou). The translation “faith in Jesus” goes against Greek grammar in general, LXX and New Testament usage, and Paul’s own usage elsewhere. ..Thus God “justifies the one who lives on the basis of Jesus’ faithfulness….God’s righteousness has been manifested through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who are faithful (Rom. 3:22).”
Stanley Stowers, A Rereading Of Romans: Justice, Jews, and Gentiles. Yale Univ. Press.

Even the NRSV in Rom 3: 26 makes a footnote that an alternative interpretation is “faith of Jesus.” And the King James Version uses this option too.

A Few Books For Further Study:
---John Buehrens book Understanding the Bible, by former UUA president
---Marcus Borg, Rereading the Bible, Episcopal-Lutheran professor of religion
---UUCF Journal, “A Paul for Unitarian Universalists” by Robin Scroggs, United Church of Christ minister.
---Reinventing Paul by Paul Gager, non-Christian Princeton religious scholar
---A Rereading of Romans by Stanley Stowers, professor of religion.
---In Search of Paul: How Jesus’s Apostle Opposed Rome’s Empire with God’s Kingdom, a new vision of Paul’s Words and World. John Dominic Crossan
---God and Empire by John Dominic Crossan
---Making Sense of Paul by Virginia Miles, professor of religion
---Paul and Empire, ed. By Richard A. Horsley
---Saint Saul: A Skeleton Key to the Historical Jesus, Donald Akenson, professor of History
---Paul Beyond the Judaism/Hellenism Divide, ed. Troels Engberg-Pedersen
---The Letters of Paul with a Preface by John Shelby Spong, Episcopal bishop retired (has the speculation of Paul as homosexual)
---The Gnostic Paul by Elaine Pagels, professor of religion.
---The Good Book, by Peter C. Gomes, Harvard professor
---What Paul Meant by Garry Wills
---Paul: A Jew on the Margins by Calvin Roetzel
---Paul: The Man and the Myth by Calvin Roetzel
---The Misunderstood Jew (section on Paul in this book about Jesus) by Amy-Jill Levine
---What St. Paul Really Said by N.T. Wright (more traditional NPP)
---Paul: A Fresh Perspective by N.T. Wright (more traditional NPP)
---Navigating Paul by Jouette Bassler
--Our Mother St. Paul by Beverly Gaventa (feminine imagery by Paul)
---Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene by Bart Ehrman

Type rest of the post here

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