Very rarely do I read an academic book from cover to cover. Westerholm’s Perspectives Old and New on Paul is an exception. This work is commendable for numerous reasons. Westerholm manages to highlight the various viewpoints on Justification, from Augustine to Wright. Then, after a convincing critique of the New Perspective, he suggests a fresh and profound explanation of the traditional approach. His work is ideal for both newcomers to the debate and for seasoned interpreters of Paul. What’s more, Westerholm’s style is humorous, engaging, and polished, which is a must if one is going to match the persuasive eloquence of Dunn, Wright, and Sanders. The reader will finish the book with a firm grasp of this often bewildering topic, and with a wonderful example of what academic study and writing can and should be.
August 13, 2011
I’ve been meditating on Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:23 (“But we are preaching Christ crucified”) and have come away with a couple of thoughts:
- Paul continually preached Christ. Is the same true in my life? I’m struck how many times the book of Acts reports that Paul “continued preaching the gospel.” Am I continually preaching the gospel?
- Paul preached the gospel, never as a lone ranger, but always with others. Paul surrounded himself with others who shared the same passion for preaching Christ. I think of the words of Acts 15:35: “But Paul and Barnabas along with many others remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of God.” Shortly afterwards, when Paul and Barnabas split, the first thing Paul did was find someone else to accompany him (Acts 15:40). Am I surrounded by people who preach the gospel? Beware of lone gospel rangers.
- Paul deliberately preached a difficult message — “Christ crucified.” Think with me for a minute about what Paul was doing in Corinth when he says, “but we are preaching Christ crucified.” Paul was focusing on the part of the gospel that the Corinthian culture least wanted to hear: “Jews seeks signs, Greeks seek wisdom . . . but we preach Christ crucified.” Oftentimes there is pressure on those preaching the gospel to contextualize it or to make it palatable to the audience and culture. But think about what Paul was doing. He was choosing to focus on the specific aspect of the gospel that least appealed to the Corinthians. They did not want to hear about some man who died a criminal’s death on the cross. That is so elementary, so foolish! Give us some profundity. Give us something spectacular, then we’ll listen to you. Christ remained the core of Paul’s preaching, no matter what his audience wanted to hear. Am I watering down the gospel message in an attempt to make it appealing to my culture?