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On the inseparability of sociology and soteriology

September 10, 2009

buildings and skyIn N. T. Wright’s latest book (at least it was a few days ago), Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision. He says this:

“I hope it is already clear that God’s dealing with sin as the root problem, and God’s purpose to bring Jew and Gentile together in the single family ‘in the Messiah’, are so tightly intertwined through out this passage  so far [Galatians 3:1 – 22] that it would be futile to try to separate them. Here the normal caricatures of the new perspective (which are sometimes, of course, richly deserved) simply break down. It is not either “rescue from sin” or “easy entry, without circumcision, into God’s people.” Nor are these, as is sometimes suggested, merely to be thought of as “verticle” and “horizontal” dimensions, soteriology on the one hand and sociology on the other. Part of the point is that soteriology itself, for Paul, is in that sense “horizontal”, having to do with the ongoing purposes of God within history, while sociology, for Paul, is “vertical,” because the single multiethnic family, constituted in the Messiah and indwelt by the Spirit, is designed as God’s powerful sign to the pagan world that Israel’s God, Abraham’s  God, is its Creator, Lord and judge. In fact what appear to western eyes as two separate issues – salvation from sin on the one hand, a united people of God on the other – seem to have appeared to Paul as part and parcel of the same thing.”

N. T. Wright, Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision (IVP, 09), p. 126-7.

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