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Wheaton Theology Conference - Wright on Paul

In the closing talk we got the pleasure of hearing Wright give a brief summary of his 'big book on Paul' that he's working on and tentatively suggests could hit bookstores in 2012. My summary again will be brief and just hit some highlights I highly encourage you to listen to the talk when it becomes available.

Interestingly Wright states that he is going to take Philemon as his starting point for Pauline theology. I think that this move is absolutely brilliant! Philemon gives us a bird's eye view of something amazing. Paul is embodying the cross. The cross is where the unreconciled become reconciled. Where slave and free come together in the one new man. 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 is the theology underlying Paul's writing of Philemon.

Wright then goes on to look at Paul more broadly. What background do we place him against? He doesn't fit neatly into second temple Judaism, and that's because Jesus has effected a shift. The story of Israel has been fulfilled but the symbols (circumcision, food laws, etc.) are relativized because God's plan is for the whole world. The central symbol for Paul now is the united community, the one people of Abraham for the world. Wright defends this that pointing out that all of Paul's letters are concerned with unity. It's everywhere, where as justification is primarily just in Romans and Galatians.

The unity that we have in Christ is powerful stuff. It shows the world that there's a different and better way of being human. It also shows the powers who the real boss is, King Jesus. Here and elsewhere the was a very strong anti-imperial current running in Wright's paper.

We, as God's people, are the new humanity and we put the world to rights through the empowerment of the Spirit. We are designed to play a key role. This is what we are saved for. We are the people of God in the Messiah, who succeeded where Israel failed.

God's plan is the context of justification. God puts humans to right to qualify them for redeeming all of creation (Romans 8). Justice connects present and future justification. All of this is accomplished by Jesus who launched new creation.

Theology is a Christian invention. Jews didn't really do it. However, Paul took over three central strands of Jewish belief and redefined them in the Messiah. These are monotheism, election, and eschatology.

Wright closed by going back to Philemon. We are to be people who put into effect the exodus that Jesus wrought. In Christ we are reconciled and Philemon gives us a beautiful portrait of putting it into effect.


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