Saturday, 5 December 2015

Rowan Williams: Meeting God in Paul

Meeting God in Paul    Rowan Williams    SPCK 2015

Of late there have been a great many books on Paul and his writings and when I first saw this I found myself in a place where on one side I thought, “Oh no, not another one!” and “Wow, it’s Rowan so it must be good.”

So here it is in my hands and the very first page of introduction has me nodding as the author speaks of the many misunderstandings many in the Church have of Paul regarding women, ‘sex in general and homosexuality in particular and support for slavery’. This struck a chord immediately as these are indeed the very issues I encounter when engaging with many believers.

Paul is portrayed as someone seeking to resolve those things around him with the God within him in the light of Jesus, the Christ and the call upon his (Paul’s) life to live as a believer. We encounter Paul the Roman citizen (by birth), not rich enough not to have to work but secure enough to know who he is because of his identity as a Roman; and as a Jew, another people group which mirrors that of being Roman in so many ways.

In short: Paul is grounded, explained and made real in this book.

Saul (Sha’ul) and Paul (Paulos) - one man, two names, many facets as he is shown being an ‘authentic’ (a popular term at the moment), ‘tactless’ (a common theme with me it seems) and a most ‘passionate’ follower of Jesus, the Christ. I loved the assessment of Paul regarding Onesimus, for the author describes Paul’s writing on the slave’s behalf thus:

‘It’s a vintage piece of Paul: generous, warm and manipulative all at once, and soaked through with a richness of theological understanding.’

This is book is a read rather than a study or a pure commentary. It caused me to reflect on passage already known and to consider facets of that thought familiar through the eyes of another. This will most certainly be something I will read again. I read it in one sitting as I couldn’t put it down and found (unlike some of Rowan’s books) that I didn’t need to go to bed afterwards either!

The final part of the book contains questions for group work and an excellent Lenten reading guide which will be used in a reading group context for sure – a cherry on a most excellent cake which should be considered to be essential reading for all Christians and will certainly be recommended reading for those with whom I engage.

A marriage made on my windowsill bookshelf!

For the newer believer I cannot think of a better companion to Tom Wright’s ‘for everyone’ series of most accessible commentaries nor a better standalone read in itself. An absolute gem that will be appearing in the Christmas stockings of some of my friends this year.

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