Recently, I have been watching a DVD series by Reggie Kidd on Paul’s theology. He has made the point that in order to grasp Paul’s theology, you can not take the themes on the surface of each of his epistles as the constituents of his entire theology. For, his epistles are the pastoral treatment of the various churches. Instead, you must look for what assumptions drive his approach to the various problems. Methodology is one of the clearest indicators of someones beliefs, and so Paul’s treatment of the churches belies a more foundational and multi-faceted understanding of God. When Paul treats the Jew and Gentile problem in Romans, he does so in reference to justification, adoption, and union with the second Adam, the founder of the new creation, Christ.
This is a a happily familiar method of investigation for me. It was in my 20th Century Philosophy class that this way of thinking was first made clear. Much energy was devoted to systematizing our knowledge in such a way as to ground all of our beliefs about the world. If our empirical knowledge of the world could be boiled down to a set of logical axioms, then our knowledge would gain validity since it would fully scientific. So people like Russell, Carnap, Quine, Wittgenstien and the members of the Vienna Circle set out to give a completely objective basis for our knowledge of the world. Their idea was that empirical knowledge is the most basic building block of all our knowledge, and if epistemically justified completely, would demonstrate the validity of our knowledge and demonstrate what beliefs ought to abandoned. Well all was fine and dandy until Quine published an article, the Two Dogmas of Empiricism. This was a provocative title since the premise of empirical (Analytic) philosophy was that every belief was able to be justified, and there existed no unfounded dogma in their system. It was seen as the end of all superstitious epistemology as in Hegel and the rest of the rationalists. Passing over the particulars, the article revealed that there were numerous doctrines involved in any empirical belief. Thus it became clear that the very methodology they employed betrayed the purpose of the investigation. They could not escape the assumptions that guided their investigation. So the underlying beliefs, the foundational assumptions, (hinge beliefs as Wittgenstien called them), became clear after an investigation into the manner of their inquiry.
Now, this is similar to the study of Paul’s Theology only in that Paul’s manner of treating topics is what best demonstrates his theology. There are numerous doctrines which we can glean from a cursory reading of his epistles, but the guiding principles, and the overarching flow and rhythm of his theology will be made known to us by keeping mind of his method. His method is determined by his doctrine. His method belies his ultimate reference point, and basis for all things.
Anyway…. I am excited to dig in and hear what Dr. Kidd will say.