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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

An Amazing Comparison: Why a Biblical Book Couldn't Be More Relevant to Our Time

I have been preaching through the book of 1 Corinthians in my church. I have never had quite as vivid an experience both of how foreign the New Testament world is to us culturally and of how incredibly familiar their values and ways of relating to each other are to ours today.

As I was reflecting on this, I read something in a landmark commentary on 1 Corinthians written by Anthony C. Thiselton (2000) that I’ve consulted at times during my series. He makes an uncontestable case that despite how alien many of the Corinthians’ customs and habits are to us, our values, assumptions, and social dynamics in the West today are probably more like the Corinthians’ than at any time since the 1st century, and therefore Paul’s epistle as it stands has never been more relevant since the time of its original readers. He concludes that argument with this paragraph with his emphasis (because it’s out of context you might not be able to understand or appreciate the weight of what he’s saying, but I’m putting it here because I think it’s awesome):
Given the issues of (1) status inconsistency, (2) religious pluralism, (3) cosmopolitan immigration and trade, (4) priority of market forces not only in business but also in rhetoric, and (5) the emphasis upon recognition and perception of honor or shame within a socially constructed world, Paul would have been surely astonished at either (a) early twenty-first century laments about the problems of having to address a pluralist culture supposedly for the first time; or (b) early twenty-first celebrations over the demise of a transcontextual rationality in favor of a “local,” social construction of truth. With today’s “postmodern” mood we may compare the self-sufficient, self-congratulatory culture of Corinth coupled with an obsession about peer-group prestige, success in competition, their devaluing of tradition and universals, and near contempt for those without standing in some chosen value system. All this provides an embarrassingly close model of a postmodern context for the gospel in our own times, even given the huge historical differences and distances in so many other respects. Quite apart from its rich theology of grace, the cross, the Holy Spirit, the ministry, love, and the resurrection, as an example of communicative action between the gospel and the world of given time, 1 Corinthians stands in a distinctive position of relevance to our own times [16-17].

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Cory. I do enjoy your blog.

    By the way, I finally ordered your book today, from Amazon. Too bad I don't have a Kindle and couldn't just download it! Looking forward to reading it.