My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Review: Pauline Theology as a Way of Life: A Vision of Human Flourishing in Christ

Pauline Theology as a Way of Life: A Vision of Human Flourishing in Christ Pauline Theology as a Way of Life: A Vision of Human Flourishing in Christ by Joshua W Jipp
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

St Paul, the Apostle to the Nations (Gentiles), whose epistles to the early churches account for nearly all of the New Testament outside of the Gospels has always had a major influence on the theology of Western Christianity (sometimes known as Pauline Christians). Recently there has been a lot of debate about Paul, with some theologians finding his interaction to be very restrictive and conservative while others point to areas where his is radically progressive for his time … all depending on what part of the corpus you emphasize and how you apply context to your interpretation. This book takes a more holistic approach in order to identify the primary concern of Paul … the promotion of human flourishing. Drawing on contemporary (positive psychology) and historical (Stoicism and Epicureanism), the author first works to define what Paul actually means when he talks about happiness and the good … and it is not exactly what most moderns think.

The basic idea here is that we are truly happy (aka flourish) when we are doing what we are supposed to be doing … what we were created to do … and for Paul, the ultimate end goal, or telos, is to share in the divine life of God. In addition to supporting Paul’s concern with how to help “persons-in-Christ” flourish with direct citations from Paul’s letters, the author compares and contrast Paul’s position against these other humanist philosophies to help reveal the nuance of what Paul is saying in a series of theses within an over arching topical chapter using language easily understood by a casual student … progressing from definitions to individual characteristics to social or communal obligations expected from anyone who wants to be like Christ (christian). More importantly, I think this book goes a long way to helping the modern reader understand that Paul’s ultimate goal was to build up the body of Christ (aka the Church) to be a community of sacrificial love of each other where the self is all but invisible (aka dead). It is a fairly quick read and well worth the effort.

1. Pauline Theology as a Quest for Living a good Human Life.

Part 1 - Ancient and Contemporary Visions of Human Flourishing.
2. Ancient Philosophy and the Quest for Human Flourishing
Thesis 1: Human Flourishing Necessitates a Supreme Good That Should Function as the Basis for All Human Activity
Thesis 2: Human Flourishing Is an Undertaking That Requires the Cultivation of Virtue, Good Character, and Self-Integration
Thesis 3: Human Flourishing Requires Cultivating Good Relationships among Friends and Family
Thesis 4: Human Flourishing Requires the Ability to Respond to Adversity and Prepare for One’s Own Death
Thesis 5: Human Flourishing Requires Cultivating Good Practices

3. Positive Psychology and the Quest for Human Flourishing
Thesis 1: Positive Psychology Is Devoted tp Helping People Flourish
Thesis 2: Humans Flourish When They Use and Actualize Character Strengths
Thesis 3: Flourishing Requires Good Relationships in All Spheres of Life
Theiss 4: Adversity Can Make Important Contributions to Human Flourishing
Thesis 5: Flourishing Requires Practices and Exercises

Part 1 - A Pauline Theology of the Good Life
4. Transcendence: Sharing in Christ’s Resurrection Life
Thesis 1: Relation to Christ Is Humanity’s Supreme Good (Phil 3:2-16)
Thesis 2: Death Is the Fundamental Human Predicament
Thesis 3: Christ Shares Divine Life with His People

5. Moral Agency: Sharing the Mind of Christ
Thesis 1: A Debased Mind Is Living Death, but a Transformed Mind is How We Experience Sharing in the Life of God
Thesis 2: Persons-in-Christ Are Divinely Given an Integrated Moral Agency Aiming toward Sharing in the Life of God
Thesis 3: Christ Is the Foundation for a New Epistemology for Persons-in-Christ

6. Love: The Body of Christ
Thesis 1: Persons-in-Christ Are a Sacred Community Related to Christ and to One Another
Thesis 2: Persons-in-Christ Compose One Unified People Despite Diverse Social Identities
Thesis 3: The Church Life Together Is a Visible Embodiment of Christ’s Love and Hospitality

7. Spiritual Practices: Cultivating the Character of Christ
Thesis 1: The Flourishing Life Is One of Active Engagement in the Pursuit of Christlike Character
Thesis 2: Flourishing Requires Generously Sharing Resources with One another
Thesis 3: Flourishing Requires Faithful Endurance and Patient Hope in the Promise of Resurrection Life in the Midst of Adversity
Thesis 4: Flourishing Requires Corporate Worship of the Triune God

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#PaulineTheologyAsAWayOfLife #NetGalley

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My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.