Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mike Bird on the 'Center' of Paul's Theology

Many of your remember that in the past I have posted a collection of proposals on Paul's theological 'center.' In Mike Bird's latest book, Introducing Paul: The Man, His Mission, and His Message, the author notes how difficult it is to pin down Paul's theological 'center' while being overly specific. After mentioning various options (e.g. 'justification by faith,' 'participation in Christ,' 'salvation history,' etc.; p. 22), Bird offers his own take, writing:

While it is perhaps so general as to be meaningless, it may be better to say that 'Jesus Christ' is the centre of Paul's theology. Christ is central in Paul's religious experience, proclamation and pastoral care. If we wanted to pursue something more specific, we could legitimately suggest that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the main coordinates of his thinking, which would come close to identifying the central theological thread in Paul's gospel (22).

What do you think of Bird's reading? According to Thielman, this view may be too broad to do Paul's thought justice; according to Dunn, this view makes Paul a more of a concrete theologian than an abstract one. So readers what say you?


Anonymous said...

Mike Bird is probably correct! But I still feel that something is lacking. I do wonder, however, why the Spirit is almost 'always' left out when articulating the center of Paul's Gospel, with the exception of Gordon Fee who have given us two monumental works on Pauline Christology and Pneumatology. If Paul is given the due attention he deserves, it seems to me that the center of his Gospel is inevitably the work of God in Christ and in the Spirit, respectively. Paul's gospel is driven by a christo-pneumatological conviction.


jeff miller said...

Hello Matthew,
With an interest in the "center" of Paul's theology, I am reading David Wenham's 1995 book "Paul, follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity". Do you know of any more works which highlight Paul's dependence on, and presumption of, the Gospel as preached by Jesus.
In Christ,

Matthew D. Montonini said...

Hello. The only other book I know along the lines of Wenham's was published by Eerdmans and edited by Todd Still titled "Jesus and Paul Reconnected: Fresh Pathways into an Old Debate."


Thanks for your comments. I have decided to do a subsequent post based upon your point that Paul's Gospel has to also take into account the Spirit, something woefully lacking in most treatments of this topic.