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  • Writer's pictureJohn Caldwell

Redeeming Paul and Rescuing Reformed Christianity

I love the Apostle Paul. If I'm honest, Paul's letters have probably shaped my theology more than any other part of scripture.

This is not surprising given the influence of Reformation theology upon my life and ministry. Reformation theology is very much Pauline theology.

Having acknowledged the place of Paul in my own thinking, I have to confess I'm increasingly troubled by a certain kind of Christian personality that claims to be Biblical but upon reflection, seems to have hijacked Paul in order to weaponise, reinforce and justify its own harshness, lovelessness, and deep-seated anxiety and need for control.

I've become increasingly convinced that some people's reformed theology is nothing more than a hiding place for their own deep-rooted anxieties and mental insecurities. This explains the angry reactions that you witness when this kind of personality encounters individuals who hold to different theologies. You see the hostility, fear and anger begin to surface.

Of course it's all hidden behind zeal, love for truth, and hatred for compromise. But if we are honest, it looks much more like the Pharisee and less like Jesus. And, in the interests of transparency, I confess I've been there. There was a time when I thought I was being faithful to 'truth' but in reality I'd allowed Pharisaic thinking to eclipse the simplicity of Christ.

The Reformation was needed, but we have to be blind not to see the murderous spirit that lurks within the reformation. It is the Reformation that has birthed hostile divisions, ugly church splits, and some of the most vitriolic professing Christians you will ever meet. It shouldn't be a surprise, what else can you expect from a movement that had its beginnings in the assassination of a Cardinal? Whatever spirit was behind that, it wasn't the Spirit of Christ.

We need to read Paul through a new lens. We need to rescue the doctrines of grace, from a religion of disgrace. Saint John is often given the title 'The Apostle of Love' yet Paul could easily be given that title too. It was Paul, afterall who wrote 1 Cor. 13. It was Paul who wrote so eloquently about the love of Christ in Romans 8. Paul is not simply a man of hard truth, he is a man of the Spirit and a man of love. Likewise, the doctrines of grace should produce grace-filled Christians, not angry Pharisees.

We need to Redeem Paul and rediscover the gospel of grace in order to overcome the toxic religious elements within the Reformation churches.

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