Peter Enns: Would Paul Have Made a Good Evangelical?

There has been some good stuff over at Peter Enns’ blog lately, and you will probably be seeing more in the days to come.

The answer:  No.  No self-respecting evangelical seminary would allow Paul on its faculty.  No high-profile evangelical leader would allow Paul to so much as lead a home Bible study.  Three reasons, which Enns sums up as follows:

For Evangelicals, the Old Testament leads to the Gospel story. For Paul, the Old Testament is transformed by the Gospel.

For Evangelicals, the Old Testament, read pretty much at face value, anticipates Jesus. For Paul, the Old Testament is reshaped in order to conform to Jesus.

For Evangelicals, the Bible is God’s final authority. For Paul, Jesus is the final authority to which the Bible must bend.

The underlying theme throughout the Old Testament is the importance of keeping the law of Moses.  These commands are doable, the Old Testament insists:  do them and you Jews will have a long and prosperous life in the land God has given you.  As you prosper, the whole world will notice and be drawn to God through you.

But Paul makes the point over and over again that the law is unattainable and only brings death, that Christ and the Gospel bring life.  The law is all about maintaining a rigid distinction between Jew and Gentile but in the new kingdom that Christ inaugurated, that distinction is irrelevant.  The blessings of Christ and the Gospel are for all people and are not tied to any specific land.  The law was only a temporary measure to hold us over until Christ came.

What’s more, Paul makes the case that the Old Testament itself says these very things.  In order to make this case, he has to get very creative in his handling of the Old Testament.  The ways in which Paul handles several key Old Testament passages to make his case would drive mainstream evangelicals completely and totally over the edge if it were anyone else.

The irony:  Paul, like evangelicals, has a high view of Scripture.  It’s just that his high view of Scripture looks a lot different from what most of evangelicalism would be comfortable with.

Read Peter Enns:  Would Paul Have Made a Good Evangelical?