09 March 2008

Westerholm: Understanding Paul

One of my favorite NT scholars is Steve Westerholm at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario (a school to which I applied for doc. work due to his presence--and was rejected!). Though he's a bit "too Lutheran" for me at points, I find his exegesis careful, his humor refreshing, and his historical breadth rare (for a neutestamentler). His Perspectives Old and New on Paul is probably the first mid-level intro to Paul and the New Perspective I would recommend.

Anyway, I just got his little book Understanding Paul: The Early Christian Worldview of the Letter to the Romans (2004; previously published as Preface to the Study of Paul, 1997). It's a very short intro to Paul that sets as its template Romans. The last paragraph of the book is:

If human existence is an accident, if the functioning of the cosmos is merely mechanical, if the language of right and wrong is rooted in nothing deeper than human convention, if the world is but the indifferent stage on which we give shape to our lives, then we may as well resent any attempt to curtail our freedom and self-determination. If, on the other hand, human existence is a gift of love, if the functioning of the cosmos is providential, if language of right and wrong reflects our appropriate and inappropriate responses to reality, and human existence--indeed, all creation--has been cursed by human self-assertion; and if, moreover, Jesus Christ represents God's refusal to abandon his willful creatures to their sin; if Christ demonstrates the goodness of a life lived in obedience to God, his self-sacrificial death atones for human wrongdoing, and his resurrection makes possible eternal life in communion with God as a member of his redeemed people: if all these basic convictions of Paul are true, then (perhaps even people today would agree) there can be no prouder title than that claimed by the apostle--a "servant of Jesus Christ."

--p. 162

1 comment:

Ray Van Neste said...

This is a great book isn't it!
I just commented on it a week ago or so, as I worked back through it preparing for some teaching.