26 October 2009

The Transcendent Relevance of Paul's Letters

Does the preaching of the forgiveness of sins no longer shock modern man when it touches him personally? Will the crucified Christ which Grunewald painted ever lose its frightfulness? Strangely enough, Christianity has contrived to draw so many pious veils over all this that it has quite ceased to give offense. For Christianity has long told a story of salvation which justifies the institution of the church as the community of 'good' people. The muted colours of our church windows transform the story of the Nazarene into a saint's legend in which the cross is merely an episode, being the transition to the ascension--as if we were dealing with a variation of the Hercules myth. . . .

Our task is to ask: what does the Jewish nomism against which Paul fought really represent? And our answer must be: it represents the community of 'good' people which turns God's promises into their own privileges and God's commandments into the instruments of self-sanctification.

--Ernst Kaesemann, "Justification and Salvation History," in Perspectives on Paul, 71-72

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