The story so far…

In the eighth and final chapter of The God of Israel and Christian Theology, R. Kendall Soulen provides a helpful summary of the argument thus far, which I’m going to quote at length:

The gospel is the story of the God of Israel’s victory in Jesus over powers that destroy. Just so, God’s victory in Jesus is the center but not the totality of Christian faith. Faith in the gospel presupposes the God of Israel’s antecedent purpose for creation, a purpose threatened by destructive powers but vindicated by God in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Christians have almost universally assented to the truth of the previous paragraph. But, as we saw in Part One, they have commonly accounted for its truth by means of a construal of the Bible’s narrative unity that–paradoxically enough–renders God’s identity as the God of Israel and the center of the Hebrew Scriptures almost wholly indecisive for grasping God’s antecedent purpose for human creation. As an alternative to the standard construal, I have sketched in the previous chapters one way in which God’s identity as the God of Israel becomes decisive for grasping God’s antecedent purpose for creation. I have argued that God’s work as the Consummator of creation promises life and the fullness of life to creation and to the human family in and through earthly economies of difference and mutual dependence. In the context of God’s six-days’ blessing, God’s economy is embodied in the distinction and mutual relation of the natural world and the human family, of female and male, of parent and child, of one generation and the next. In the context of God’s crowning Sabbath blessing, God’s economy is irrevocably embodied in the carnal election of the Jewish people and in the consequent distinction between Jew and Gentile, between Israel and the nations. Furthermore, I have argued that God’s work as Consummator is oriented from the outset toward God’s eschatological shalom, where God intends to fulfill the economies of difference and reciprocity…in unsurpassable fashion to the mutual blessing of all in a reign of wholeness, righteousness, and peace. (pp. 156-7)

In the next post I’ll look at how Soulen thinks the story of Jesus fits into this.

Previous posts:

Redemption for the sake of blessing

Reading the Bible after supersessionism

Supersessionism and the “deep grammar” of Christian theology

Supersessionism and the flight from history

Blessing and difference

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8 thoughts on “The story so far…

  1. “God’s economy is irrevocably embodied in the carnal election of the Jewish people and in the consequent distinction between Jew and Gentile…”

    “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him…” Romans 10:12

    This guy makes me very uneasy from what you have posted of him.

  2. I hope to get into this more in a future post, but for now I think he would say that Paul isn’t sayihg that the Jewish people are to be absorbed into the church in such a way as to cease being Jews. In other words, to say “there is no distinction” doesn’t imply that all differences are abolished (similar to male/female, etc.).

  3. Well, sure, and Italians can come into the Church and still eat pizza, and Chinese can still use chopsticks. But Paul does seem to rule out anything fundamentally different about the status of Jews and Greeks in the new Church.

  4. I think it’s a bit more complicated than that. There were clearly Torah-observing members of the early church. The question, at least initially, was whether Gentiles would also be required to follow Torah. The recounting in Acts of the so-called Council fo Jerusalem says it was decided that the wouldn’t, but the implication seems to be that Jewish “followers of the Way” continued to do so, at least for some time.

    And Paul’s view on the status of Israel in Romans is notoriously obscure, particularly once you start trying to tease out where he’s referring to Jews within the church and where he’s referring to Jews within the church.

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