In this session, NT Wright did what he does best: provide a broad, sweeping overview of the biblical record to show how it influenced the development of Paul's own theology. He proposes that Paul was thoughtfully and purposefully crafting a new Christian theology centered on a Trinitarian, yet montheistic God. In Christ and through the presence of the Spirit, the mission of God that was begun in his ancient people is fulfilled. The radical nature of this proposal is lost on us today.
Here is what I heard Wright say....
Paul's Trinitarian theology. He never uses the word. He remains a classic Jewish monotheist, but adds Christ and Spirit to the nature of God.
The Shema structures life for the Jew and affirms monotheism as the core of Hebrew faith. "The Lord our God is one...." Not a philosophical analysis, but a confession in the midst of pluralist hostilities. It was a pledge on which one staked his/her life. Monotheism was radically different than competing religious philosophies. This God was not absent or remote, but lived with his people. There is one God and he lives right here. This all changed with the Exile. When 2 or 3 would study the Torah, the Shekinah would be with them as they were away from the temple. The gospel authors engage in presenting a picture of Yahweh returned to his people. Jesus is the new Exodus.
Paul is not concerned with Christ's divinity, that's already assumed. He is trying to define what God is up to in the work of Christ. Paul discovers Jesus in the middle of the monotheistic Shema.
What Paul was saying: Caesar claims to have saved the world, however, you Christians have to work out your faith in the midst of this pluralism as a stark contrast to the Roman Empire, like a star shinning in the night.
Paul's development of monotheism leads to a robust ethic of holiness and a call to unity.
In discussing meat, Paul is calling for a nondualistic way of engaging the world. Nothing is inherently holy or profane. (Ex: J.I. Packer giving up jazz upon conversion and then finding it again.)
Paul argues that this one God has one family not two. There is neither Jew nor Gentile. Now there is one new humanity, all those who believe in Jesus. Paul is telling a new Exodus story, using the Egyptian slavery and Babylonian exile as the backstory.
This is not about an analysis of law versus grace. Paul is consistently making a case for unity and holiness through the doctrine of revised monotheism set against a culture of pluralism.
The gospel was born into a world of radical religious pluralism. The ancient Greco-Roman world had plenty of room for gods and deities. There were many temples, which is why Paul redefines the temple for a new monotheism. Paul is busy establishing communities that declare Jesus as lord under the nose of Cesar who is a competing lord. Cesar is the first and foremost principality and power.
Incarnational theology is the key in which the music is set, but the tune is the coming kingship of God in Christ.
There were two theological problems in Paul's world: Illegitimate power that has taken over God's created order and sin within the people of God.
The death of Christ and the fresh presence of the Spirit are the answer to the problems of evil found in powers and sin that permeates the long history of humanity. If you confess and believe in this (as opposed to Cesar), you will be justified and saved.
Creation initiated by a singular God is a radical alternate narrative to pluralism. Arguing about the details of how that creation happened reduces the monotheistic importance of the narrative.
Speaking on a dualistic, split-level view of supernatural activities: We should not think of a spiritual world out there and a physical world down here. When heaven and earth come together, strange, wonderful and unpredictable things can happen.
A Trinitarian view of prayer: It is the vocation of the church to be in prayer for the pain of the world, standing in the presence of God not always knowing what or how to pray.
Question: How might we best see the pluralism of temples, principalities and powers so pervasive today that we often miss them? What would a radical monotheism look like if lived out in North America? What would Paul say to an entire country that thinks it has a divine mandate to be the people of God and order society both at home and abroad? Is the Trinitarian God a post-resurrection development or is it evidenced in the Old Testament as well?