Example Of Theology Handbook Critical Thinking
The Pauline writings present a very distinct theological perspective. Paul’s theology is very evident throughout his multiple letters to churches throughout Asia and Europe. Paul touches on many points that have produced great insights for believers living in the early church and today (Johnson 2010).
What is faith?
Paul addresses the theological concept of faith throughout many of his letters. The big theological issue at stake concerning faith is the balance between faith and works. For Paul, the Christian religion is mostly about faith. Galatians 2:16 says that “A person is justified not by the works of the law but through the faith in Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:16).” Faith is the acceptance of God’s will and salvation through Christ. He also says that justification is based on faith in Romans 3:28. Therefore, for Paul, faith is essential to the Christian faith (Faith & Works).
What is justification?
Justification is the act of God declaring someone innocent of sin because of Jesus’ sacrifice. Justification is to be based on faith, instead of something an individual can do, but this is a theological issue of great importance to Paul. He addresses it throughout the books of Romans and Galatians. Galatians 3:11 says, “The law will not justify anyone in the sight of God, because we are told: the righteous man finds life through faith (Gal 3:11).”
What is Original Sin?
Original sin is the idea that all have inherited sin through Adam, who was the first to sin. No one is blame blameless in the sight of God. Paul addresses this issue many times through his letters and provides references which back this definition (“Original Sin”). Verses such as Romans 5:12 address this issue, and these themes are echoed in 1 Corinthians 15:21.
How important is following the Law?
The law has a somewhat controversial role in Pauline theology. It appears at times he does not advocate for following it, but other times he does show its importance. Paul has a negative view in Galatians 3:19 when he says, “Why then was the law given at all? It was added because of transgression until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come (Gal. 3:19).” The law was simply to highlight sin. Of course in Romans 7, Paul writes that he delights in the law of God, and in Romans 3:31 states that the law is not abolished and Christians are to establish it. Therefore, the law has a dual focus for Paul, both on highlighting sin, and showing the educating nature of it.
What is the nature of the church?
The basic concept of the church for Paul is that of a united community. There are numerous passages throughout his letter on how the church should be united, and live together as a community. The end of Romans and Ephesians really speak to this point. Furthermore, Ephesians 5:25 shows that Christ is the head of the church. Ephesians 2:20-22 show that the church is the dwelling place for the spirit of God.
Is Jesus fully God or fully human?
For Paul, Jesus is fully human and fully divine. Romans, Corinthians, and Timothy each describe Jesus as being a “man.” However, numerous verses throughout the letters speak to Jesus as being God, such as in Phil. 2:6-11, and 2 Cor 4:4. Paul goes out of his way in his epistles to show how Jesus is both God and man, which is necessary to the basic Christian message.
What is the role of Jesus?
Jesus was the central figure to the message of Paul. Paul describes Jesus as being the way to acquire salvation, and this theme is prevalent in every letter. The book of Colossians describes the most detailed picture of Paul’s theology of Jesus. Colossians 1:13-14 describe the saving nature of Christ and redemption through him. These verses highlight the cosmic idea of Jesus, and how he is Lord over the entire universe. Furthermore Colossians 2:13 show how through Christ, all are alive in him, and can take place in triumph over sin (“Pauline Christology”).
What is the role of the Holy Spirit?
For Paul, the Holy Spirit was there to provide evidence as being part of the body of Christ. It was sent in order to show and inspire Christians to live in the way of Christ. Galatians 5:16-24 describe the fruits of the spirit, and the certain behaviors exhibited because of it. Ephesians 1:13-14 speak to the importance of the spirit being a sign of inheritance and eternal life (“The Holy Spirit in Pauline Theology”).
What is predestination?
The theological topic of predestination (and election) is controversial for Christians today, but Paul does directly address this issue. The famous passage in Romans 8:28-30 speaks to how God chooses his people, and Ephesians 1:3-6 echoes this sentiment. There is much discussion about the notion of free will verses election within the church, but Paul appears to present a case that God has a lot to do with choosing his followers.
What is the role of the Bible?
Paul views God’s word in the highest esteem. Reading the Bible is the only way for salvation, and Paul, throughout his teachings on the law, shows the importance of scripture. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 shows Paul’s true beliefs on the Bible. He writes, “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16).” Scripture is be trained in the faith and to live in accordance with God’s word.
The letters of Paul also highlight many issues the early Christian church struggled with in their formative years. He comments on how to deal with these challenges in light of Christ (Johnson 2010).
Dispute over Circumcision
Because the early church was made up of Jews and Gentiles, the Old Testament tradition of circumcision became an issue. Many Jews believed in this practice while the Gentiles did not. Paul showed how circumcision is no longer a requirement for salvation. He shows this in many passages, such as Galatians 6:12-13, Colossians 3:9-11, and Philippians 3:3.
Dispute over Jews and Gentiles
Because the Old Testament mainly referred to the Jews, many thought this would exclude any others. However, Paul resolves this by showing how Gentiles now have a major role to play within the Christian church. Romans 15 points to the importance of Gentiles, as the entire chapter is a description of how God has now chosen them to partake in His mission on earth.
Dispute over unclean food
Because of Old Testament laws over certain foods, this too became an issue with the introduction of Gentiles into the church. Paul addresses this by asking believers to take caution over foods, but nothing was inherently sinful. Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 speak to this message.
Dispute over Christian leaders
Another problem was that there was division over which Christian leaders to follow in the new developing church. Paul was not the only one doing this, so some believers sided with other Christian leaders. 1 Corinthians 3 addresses this issue, and Paul tries to stress unity, despite the fact that there are minor disagreements. Paul reminds them that everyone still has the same overall purpose.
Dispute on sexual immorality
Many of the new developing churches still struggled with sexual sins. Breaking marriage vows, incest, and other sexual sins were all addressed in several of Paul’s letters. 1 Corinthians 5-6 deals with incest and sexual immorality in general. Ephesians 5:5 condemns sexual immorality, as does 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5. Paul is very clear about the dangers of this issue.
Dispute over marriage
Because of the pervasiveness of sexual immorality, Paul also addresses marriage and singleness. Paul shows the importance of marriage. 1 Corinthians 7:1-15 show how Paul holds marriage in high regards, and as a gift from God. However, in 1 Corinthians 7:25-39 he says how he believes singles should not marry. Ephesians 5 likens marriage to Christ and the church, again showing its importance.
Dispute over Women’s authority in the church
Issues arose with certain women in leadership positions within the church, which is why Paul bans them from being in authority over men. 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2 each describe a lesser role for women within the actual leadership structure, at this time in history within the church.
Dispute over the Lord’s Supper
The early church also abused the Lord ’s Supper, and did not take it as sacred as they should have. Paul corrects this in 1 Corinthians 11: 17-33, stressing the great importance this plays in the act of worship.
Dispute over False Teachers
The early church had to deal with many false teaching over a number of doctrines, as this was a newly established religion. The Gentiles had their own pagan cultures, so Paul had to spend much of the letters addressing false teachers. Passages like 1 Thessalonians 2, Romans 16, Titus 1, 1 Timothy 3, and Ephesians 4 all address false teachers and to beware of them.
Dispute over Elders
Because of the new nature of the church, Paul had to ensure good leaders were put in place. This is why he wrote the books of Timothy and Titus, as they explain the roles of elders and deacons and the qualifications they must possess in order to assume these offices.
Johnson, Luke Timothy. The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation. [Pbk. ed. Philadelphia: Fortress, 2010. Print.
Just, Felix. "Faith & Works." Catholic Resources. Web. 3 Mar. 2015. <http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Paul-James.htm>.
"Original Sin." CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA. Web. 3 Mar. 2015. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11312a.htm>.
"Pauline Christology." Pauline Christology. 30 Jan. 2014. Web. 3 Mar. 2015. <http://www.mycrandall.ca/courses/pauline/Jesus.htm#C53>.
"THE HOLY SPIRIT IN PAULINE THEOLOGY." 23 June 2014. Web. 3 Mar. 2015. <http://www.mycrandall.ca/courses/ntintro/spirit7.htm>.
Senior, Donald. The Catholic Study Bible. New York: Oxford UP, 1990. Print.
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