Cross-Cultural Paul: Journeys to Others, Journeys to Ourselves

Cross-Cultural Paul: Journeys to Others, Journeys to Ourselves

by Charles H. Cosgrove

The apostle Paul was a cross-cultural missionary, a Hellenistic Jew who sought to be "all things to all people" in order to win them to the gospel.

No other book on the apostle Paul looks at his thought from multiple cultural perspectives in the way that this one does.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Religion
  • Rating: 4.25
  • Pages: 302
  • Publish Date: August 16th 2005 by Eerdmans
  • Isbn10: 0802828434
  • Isbn13: 9780802828439

Read the Book "Cross-Cultural Paul: Journeys to Others, Journeys to Ourselves" Online

Cross Cultural Paul: Journeys to Others, Journeys to Ourselves is not so much a resource on the Pauline corpus as it is an exploration of our interpretive processes (certainly regarding how we read scripture). The title emphasizes Pauls particular place in the movement from a Jewish context to the gentile world (regarding the progression of the Christian mission), and looks to examine his writings from the context of different cultural expressions. The time and attention that each author gives to clarifying their limitations and understanding the tensions and problems that exist in attempting to speak their own preconceptions and tendencies in to a foreign culture shows this entire process to be one that requires a certain humility and grace. The major themes that appear to move across cultures are expressed in what could be considered to be three primary areas: eschatology (having a vision of the future and the depiction of this forward vision in present practice), nationalism (which includes the relationship between personal and communal identity and a discussion of the positive and negative perceptions), and approaches to suffering and blessing. In each particular case the authors speak of the challenge of bridging Pauls own understanding of the Gospel (and his particular Christian worldview) in a way that can fit and make sense from within their own culture. Secondly though, any Christian movement must recognize that discussions of God and theology must also speak directly into (and make sense to) the world in which we live. Aside from challenging our basic tendencies for exercising limited approaches in interpreting theology/scripture (to our own context and the context of others), the book develops an intriguing dialogue about the different cultural approaches themselves. Weiss (a Latin American) engages with a commentary on Russian/Orthodox thinking that highlights the differences in approach, and likewise the impact this has on how this approach deals with the Pauline thought. Weiss writes, In their (Russian/Eastern Orthodox thinking) relationship with God, human beings are free not just in the sense that they can turn toward or against him, but also as being able to co-operate with God, to create the good and produce new values This is contrasted with a Western idealism and Protestant Reformed theology that (for them) confuses Gods hopeful and intentional activity of restorative purpose with an entirely negative view of the created order (including the person). For Russian culture, the Pauline teachings that speak in universal terms and reference the whole of the created order are the pieces that remain as the most important. In a similar fashion, Yeo writes of the Chinese culture as a further expression of this Eastern tendency. As an example of the difficulty in cross cultural movement, one of the challenges that Pauls own theological approach presents (framed from within his mission to bring freedom and identity to the gentile world) is that, in the opinion of Yeo (speaking of the Chinese culture in particular), his system seems to stand somewhat opposed to some worldviews. It is interesting to understand that there are similarities in Eastern tendencies within the Russian and Chinese culture, but there also remains differences in how they interpret the predominating positive and optimistic view of the human person. It was helpful for me to bring this East/West divide in to my understanding of Western tendencies (specifically from within the defining points of American culture), which for Cosgrove is defined as a self reliance dogma. American religious approach has adopted a strong sense of a particular eschatology, one which largely recognizes the corruption of this world, and the future activity of God in destroying and recreating this corrupted created order. Yao chose to comment on the native American culture from his Chinese heritage, and there are a lot of similarities and challenges. One of the final two points of the cross cultural context that the book speaks to is the idea of Nationalism and suffering and blessing. Cosgrove, in his commentary on African American culture, suggests that Pauls place could be to shore up and heal the relations between the Jewish and gentile wings of the church. The long history of failure in cross cultural movement regarding African American culture lies in the interpretation of Pauls theology as a support for slavery, and then in the other direction as a support for freedom. Cosgrove writes, Paul does not give up his cultural identity as a Jew along the way. In Paul, God hardens Israel seemingly so that the Gospel could become a cross cultural process. In the African American example, the story of Black history is one of a people who continue to learn how to keep a firm grasp on a seperatist nationalistic identity that allows them to find strength in their African heritage, but also to assimilate to the American culture at the same time. Whatever culture we are looking at, we can gain comfort in understanding that Pauls grand narrative envisions the unity of Jews and gentiles according to Gods impartiality. In interpreting Paul, cultural expressions to bring to light different approaches. In Russian and Chinese and Native American thought, death is the reality of a sin that can lead us to live in to the possibility of beauty, goodness and creativity. In many ways these cultural views represent Pauls own journey of cross cultural contextualization, a process which saw him growing his own theology in different contexts. The amazing thing in all of this is that despite the divisiveness that has existed throughout history, whether in African American slavery, Native American abuse, or the inconsistent and confusing missions to China, we can still be hopeful that the Pauline teaching can help us find commonality, both in our human expressions and in Christ.