05 July 2008

'Paul's Gospel'

Graham Stanton has a very helpful little article on Paul's "gospel" in this book, edited by Dunn. He concludes that the gospel is "the glad tidings of God's once for all dynamic salvific act through Christ" (182). That is, "'Christ crucified for our salvation' is the central theme of Paul's gospel." (178).

I call his brief treatment helpful because it avoids some of the puzzling but fashionable expositions of the gospel on market today (N. T. Wright's and Michael Gorman's proposal, for example, that the gospel is "Jesus is Lord"). Stanton rightly fixes on 1 Cor 15:1-8 as a (the?) central text for explicating Paul's gospel, and also rightly makes Paul's gospel vertical first and horizontal derivatively. He also helpfully shows that while "gospel/good news" would be heard against the backdrop of the imperial cult (i.e. "Caesar is Lord"), Paul is mainly contrasting his use of gospel with the secular use, rather than employing it in the same way (i.e. referring mainly to lordship/authority).


Daniel said...

I would agree with Stanton that "'Christ crucified for our salvation' is the central theme of Paul's Gospel." However, I have 2 questions on your mini-exposition of it. First, Why must this come from 1 Cor 15.1-8? I have not read the book, but does Stanton use this text as Pauline Gospel summary? I do not think 1 Cor 15.1-8 was written for the purpose of summarizing the Gospel, but as background context to discuss the resurrection of Jesus. Again, I agree that this is Paul's central theme, but I think it is better seen as coming from his whole canon than from this passage. Second, again I have not read the book, but does Stanton say that this central theme means that "Paul's gospel vertical first and horizontal derivatively" as you say? I think Paul's idea of salvation was a holistic one, one that would include reconciliation to God an the restoration of a perfect creation. Couldn't salvation for Paul be seen as God restoring creation to its intended form as a whole instead of one dependent upon the other?

Dane Ortlund said...

Good points Daniel.

1) It is not an either/or but a both/and - 1 Cor 15 is both a crisp summary of the gospel and provides the background of the resur discussion. (1 Thess 5:9-10 might be a comparable summary) Stanton does not say this is the number one text on the gospel, but he does return to it more than any other text. And yes, I agree that we should use Paul's 'whole canon' - but I think 1 Cor 15 provides a unique statement of precisely that - a statement of how we would put it if we synthesized all Paul says.

2) The vertical/horizontal language is mine, not Stanton's. I don't know him well enough to speak for him, but here is what I would say to your comment: Yes, Paul's gospel was holistic, yes, the new creation is an important theme in his idea of redemption. By horizontal I meant Jew/gentile issues, not so much new creation/cosmos stuff. But I do believe both cosmic redemption and Jew/gentile relations are both results of the gospel, not the gospel itself, because until human guilt is taken care of, no cnew creation or racial reconciliation is possible. God cannot 'restore creation to its intended form' as you say, without dealing with the more fundamental problem of individual human rebellion. Thanks for the insightful comments.