writing things down…

Archive for Harink

Apocalyptic Accounts of Paul

Given the recent discussions of the apocalyptic perspective of Paul, I found interesting the following sentence by Stephen Fowl in Paul, Philosophy, and the Theopolitical Vision (ed. Douglas Harink), a forthcoming volume in our Theopolitical Visions series that I am currently working on.

These apocalyptic accounts of Paul are a persistent reminder that both scholars and Christians have a tendency to domesticate Paul and his writings, gathering supposed conceptual and religious antecedents to central Pauline terminology so that he appears to be little more than a small tremor on the theological terrain, something you can feel, but which does not bring down buildings (Fowl, “A Very Particular Universalism”).

Harink quoting Yoder interpreting Barth

[T]he order of the faith community constitutes a public offer to the entire societyIt is not that first we set about being a proper church and then in a later move go about decising to care prophetically for the rest of the world. To participate in the transforming process of becoming the faith community is itself to speak the prophetic word, is itself the beginning of the transformation of the cosmos.

Yoder, For the Nations, 27–28 (emphasis original; Harink has it at 28–29 [see Harink, Paul among the Postliberals, 133], but as this shows, he’s one page off).

[Note to self: Find a church community to participate in soon.]

[Note to others: We’ve struggled finding a community in which to participate here in Eugene.]

More Harink: Redemption

Two Harink quotes in successive days?  I couldn’t pass this one up:

For what is promised in Christ and the Spirit is not the community’s escape from its enmeshment in the created order, but rather the redemption of the whole created order with the children of God. (121)

The context for this quote is a discussion of Rom 8:12–39.  But, I find it resonates well with Eph 1:3–14.

More Harink: Principalities and Powers

In his chapter on Yoder, Harink writes after a lengthy discussion relating Yoder’s notion of principalities and powers to that of St. Paul:

Exegetes who insist on understanding the principalities and powers as “personal, demonic intelligences” that primarily attack individual human hearts have failed to read seriously enough the apocalyptic context of Paul’s language. (119)

[Thought: The view of principalities criticized by Harink seems to be the flip side of the well-worn notion that Christianity is a personal, individual relationship with Jesus. Both sides of this coin fail to appreciate the systemic and communal aspects of biblical themes.]

More Harink: American Liberal Democracy

I’m still slowly moving through Harink’s book.  I want to remember some of the things I’ve read and I want to share them with the few of you who read this blog.  Here, then, is another brief excerpt:

The churches of America, whether conservative or liberal, are divided in their loyalty; divided between allegiance to American liberal democracy and society on the one hand and to the triune God revealed in Jesus Christ on the other. When it comes to the decisive moments—the apocalyptic, revelatory moments, when America goes to war in the name of “freedom,” “justice,” and “democracy”—the latter loyalty almost always takes second place to the former. … American liberal democracy is the One Great Thing for which most American Christians are prepared to make the costliest sacrifice: the lives of their own and others’ children. Such human sacrifices declare final—apocalyptic—allegiances. (84–85, in the context of discussing Hauerwas’s hatred of idolatry)

Insufficiently Theological

I’ve been slowly making my way through Douglas Harink’s Paul among the Postliberals: Pauline Theology beyond Christendom and Modernity (Brazos, 2003)—slowly, not because I am digesting it deeply, but because I have little time for reading these days and so I can only get at the book in fits and starts.

Harink writes well and clearly. And, his project is impressive, crossing disciplinary boundaries easily. He is able to address issues with both the traditional and the new perspectives on Paul. The criticisms of the traditional perspective are well worn. Harink’s criticism of the New Perspective, on the other hand, is fresh because he does not march out the old soldiers from the traditional view. Instead, he writes things like the following:

Such, I believe, is one of the persistent shortcomings of some of the work from the “new perspective on Paul.” E. P. Sanders, J. D. G. Dunn, N. T. Wright, and others often borrow from the repertoire of historical, sociological, and religious studies to name the terms of Paul’s theological concerns. It is supposed that he is wrestling with questions about the conditions for “getting in and staying in” a certain religious group (i.e., the covenant people of God); or with group “boundary markers” which distinguish and separate groups from one another, but which in Christ are eradicated, making all groups into one; or with “inclusion” and “exclusion,” that is, the difference between “Jewish ethnic nationalism” which is by definition “exclusive” and the new message of God’s gracious “acceptance” of all in Jesus Christ and which is therefore “inclusive.” Without denying the element of truth in these and similar construals, they are insufficiently apocalyptic/theological. They miss the crucial point that in Galatians Paul is concerned to affirm “the singularity of the gospel”—that God’s relationship to and purpose for the nations and all creation is exclusively determined by and through God’s cosmic-eschatological-healing in teh cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit