Thomas Schreiner - A Reformed View of Paul
recently interviewed Thomas Schreiner about his contribution to Four Views on
the Apostle Paul. In the course of the
interview Schreiner discusses everything from Paul’s understanding of the Old
Testament, to how to handle criticism as an academic.
Below is an excerpt,
and you can read the rest here.
In recent years, there has been a good bit of discussion
on “union with Christ” in an attempt to 1) summarize all the benefits of
salvation under one heading, 2) heal the breach between justification and
sanctification; 3) open a door to ecumenical dialogue with the Eastern Orthodox
doctrine of “theosis.” How would you describe Paul’s doctrine of “union with
That is a huge question, and I don’t think I can do justice
to it in a brief interview. In Rom 5:12-19 Paul argues (I don’t have space here
to defend this reading) that we are either in Adam or in Christ. All believers
are united to Christ as their covenant head. The frequency with which Paul uses
the phrase “in Christ” demonstrates as well how important union with Christ is
in his theology. We have died to sin and enjoy new life because we have died
and risen in Christ (Rom 6; Col 2:11-12). We can think of Eph 1:3-14
where God’s redemptive benefits are given to us “in Christ.” I do believe all
of God’s saving benefits are ours through union with Christ, and that there is
no division between the Christ who justifies and sanctifies us.
Justification certainly seems like a central concern in
Paul’s theology, yet you comment, “one of the common false paths in Pauline
theology is the attempt to derive all of his theology from justification.” How
Here we meet a long-standing debate in Pauline theology. Is
justification the center of Paul’s theology? Nowadays many would say that even
talking about a center is unhelpful. I would want to add, even if there is a
center, that I would not posit justification as the center.
Justification is, of course, crucial in Paul’s thought, for it teaches us the
crucial truth that we stand in the right before God because of Christ crucified
and risen instead of our own work and obedience. Nonetheless, I think it is
better to say that what God has done in Christ is foundational for Paul’s
theology, so that if we speak of a center we should speak of being God and
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