The Shape of Paul’s Theology

Apocalyptic or redemptive-historical? That is the main question most people are debating nowadays when it comes to the shape of Paul’s theology. Certain places – like Galatians (especially the opening chapter) have a sort of apocalyptic feel. But other places like Romans – certainly has a redemptive-historical feel. So what is the primary motif undergirding Paul’s understanding of what God is doing in the world? Is it something that develops over time (redemptive-historical) or is it something that suddenly breaks in (apocalyptic)? I don’t think we have to choose & neither does Michael Bird:

The shape of Paul’s theology depends on whether we understand it as consisting of either apocalyptic themes and patters that focus on the relationship between this age and the new ager or whether it consists principally of the redemptive historical progress of salvation from Israel to the church through the coming of Christ. There is no need to make an either/or decision here, though, since Paul’s apocalyptic eschatology and redemptive historical motifs are linked in the narrative nature of Paul’s theology. In Paul’s letters the implied stories of creation, Adam, Abraham, and Israel find their definitive resolution in Christ. The story of Christ is really a story about the invasion of the future age into the present. This heavenly invasion brings with it a climax to these various substories, which result in the vindication of the covenant God and his new-covenant people. (IP, 21)


Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

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