13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus. (TNIV)In my last post I summarized what the New Perspective on Paul is. Here I want to briefly look at one aspect of their claim, that Paul did not convert because of a tortured conscience (we will eventually look at the other major claim of the NPP but not for a while).
Commenting on verse 14, Dunn claims that, 'Not least in significance here is the fact that Paul recollects no pangs of conscience or Luther-like agonizings for peace prior to his conversion. The talk of 'my people' confirms that Paul's audience consisted (predominantly) of Gentiles, but confirms a further reminder that he spoke as an insider to those attracted by that status' (59-60). I think that Dunn is exactly right here. If Paul had been a legalist who had been striving to do good works to earn right status before God, you would expect a different spin here in verses 13-17. It seems that Paul's opinion of himself is that he was doing well! It's almost the opposite of a guilty conscience! Verse 15 gives on the impression that Paul would have happily continued along his way if God didn't intervene.
This, though, leaves me with a major question. If Paul wasn't looking for a problem for human sin when Christ revealed himself to him, what are the implications? Was Sanders right in suggesting that Paul worked from 'solution to plight?' Or should we think that Paul did work from plight to solution but from the plight of the people of God to the solution of the people of God? Or is there another perspective that I am overlooking? Does anyone know how Thielman handles this question in From Plight to Solution? It's been a long time since I've read it and I don't own a copy.