Paul & the
Whole in His Theology
Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.
1 Cor 8:1
An ongoing challenge for Paulís readers (past and present) is to understand where Paul was coming from in his letters. When he spoke to different situations and in different contexts, it is not always clear whether he was speaking in theological terms, ethical terms or merely to the situation. This understanding is made difficult when the context of his words is limited to the historical Paul in human contextualization. This limited view of Paul is insufficient to grasp his discourse as theological and his language as relational, both of which expressed the whole of Paul and not merely the historical Paul. This critical distinction is necessary to understand where Paul was coming from.
Throughout his letters Paul always engaged in theological dialogue and relational discourse, because he spoke from the whole of Godís relational context and process which constituted the whole of Paul. It was this experiential truth constituting his whole person (notably the relational Paul) which then constituted the whole in his theology (the theological Paul). For Paul, his language could not be separated from his theological experience in Godís relational context and process from which he spoke. Likewise, his conjoint theological dialogue and relational discourse are inseparable and emerge only from his experiential truth of the whole of God in relationship. Accordingly, Paulís theology is indistinguishable from his function since his theology was ongoingly developed by his relational function with God, whose revealed desires are entirely for whole relationship together. Paulís thematic purpose and concern in his letters were always for the function of this relationshipófunction based on theology which emerged from only the experiential truth of whole knowledge and understanding of God.
Paul did not have a theological agenda to promote his theological theories or, as an innovator, to promote models to establish Christianity beyond Jesus. Despite little reference to Jesusí words, his theological cognition was not speculative but the relational outcome of whole function in vulnerable relationship together with the whole of God and Godís communicative action in thematic relational response to the human condition. Therefore, Paulís theological dialogue and relational discourse throughout his letters are indeed good news for the inherent human relational need and human relational problem, which are further quantified by modern neuroscience. Moreover, this functional good news, not theoretical, also informs physics for the quality of life in the cosmos, chastens the development of technology for whole relationships, and makes whole such human efforts as the medicalization to control and extend life by advanced yet fragmented knowledge, as discussed previously. In eschatological progression, Paulís theological dialogue and relational discourse have even further and deeper significance for human ontology and function today, whether in the church, the academy or their surrounding context: "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up" (1 Cor 8:1).
Given the language from the whole of Paul in Godís relational context and process, there are some related questions to address in his pleroma theology.
Eleven Interrelated Questions in Paulís Theology
It would be helpful to read these questions in sequence since they interrelate somewhat in progression.
Part of the answer depends on the focus of what Paul had continuity with and discontinuity from. Related questions implied here involve whether Paul converted to Christianity or remained in Judaism, whether Christianity is a new religion or not, and whether Paulís emphases were innovations about Christ or an extension of Jesus. Paulís continuity or discontinuity varies with the position of each question.
The primary question, however, involves a deeper significance which gives full meaning to the issue of continuity-discontinuity and how important it was to Paul. This issue needs to be framed in the whole of Godís thematic action in relational response to the human condition, and thus be framed by the extent of Godís self-disclosure in this relational purpose for its only relational outcome. Godís self-disclosed action included the incarnation which Christ embodied to fulfill Godís relational purpose. Yet Godís relational response is not limited to the incarnation, thus for Paul both Godís relational context and process were not christocentric and the relational outcome was not just about Christ. This focus on the whole of God is critical to understand in Paul, and with what he has continuity (see previous discussion on continuity in "Paulís Pleroma Christology," chap. 7). The primary question thenówhich signified Paulís direct experiential truth of Godís thematic relational response to himóbecomes the extent of continuity between the OT and the NT of this definitive relational purpose and outcome.
Godís thematic action is a function only of relationship, the nature
of Godís relational involvement necessitates reciprocal human
relational response. The human response compatible to God by
necessity is part of the continuity question, which includes the
extent of continuity existing between Abrahamís faith and NT faith,
specifically as delineated by Paul (see
Therefore, the issue of continuity-discontinuity in Paul needs to be understood in the deeper issues both relational and qualitative: (1) congruity and incongruity with Godís thematic relational action, and (2) compatibility and incompatibility with Godís whole and wholeness. These deeper issues, and their importance for Paul, do not fully emerge from focusing on the historical Paul merely in human contextualization and its related questions, but only from the relational Paul in Godís whole relational context and processóthat is, from the function of the whole of Paul who constituted the theological Paul and the whole in his theology, in continuity with Godís revealed whole and in discontinuity with reductionism, which is anything less and any substitutes. Decisively for him and unequivocally in his thought and theology, continuity in Paul depends functionally on the presence of the whole in Paul, which is contingent on the reality of the wholeness of Paul. And discontinuity in Paul depends conjointly, on the one hand, on the experiential truth of this wholeness and, on the other, on the reality of reductionism and its presence and influence in human life. The latter raises the next question, perhaps already asked by some readers of this Paul study.
2. Is reductionism a straw man in Paulís polemic which becomes reified as his discourse
Partly, the answer depends on understanding Paulís relational language. Mostly, the answer will not be apparent if Paul is just seen in human contextualization, because there is no wholeness present in the historical Paul to illuminate Godís whole needed to identify this reductionism. Reductionism functions only to counter wholeness, thus the function of the whole is necessary to clearly expose the reality of reductionism. The unequivocal existence of reductionism has an ontological source but its primary presence appears in functions (individual and collective) as the alternative of anything less and any substitutes to Godís whole. The appearance of reductionism in human function is indistinguishable without the presence of whole function. Even the contrast between reduced function and whole function is obscure when our interpretive lens does not pay attention to or ignores the difference. This lens becomes part of the issue in answering this question for Paulís readers.
In a sense, this question would be like asking the historical Paul if he existed prior to the Damascus road since thatís when the reality of reductionism had specific existence in his ontology and function. That period of his life had less to do with Judaism and the law and was more about his practice of it. Paul could not and did not deny the reality of his faith-practice. After the Damascus road, reductionism was not a straw man for Paul to justify a new faith and practice. Rather reductionism signified the condition of his faith-practiceóin contrast to the significance of Abrahamís faithófrom which he necessarily was redeemed and was ongoingly transformed in order to be made whole in the ontology and function of Godís new creation family. If anything, reductionism was promoted by those who shaped and constructed alternative practices in the church to this wholeness, which was the nature and focus of Paulís polemic.
Paulís conjoint fight for the gospel of Godís thematic relational response signified the acutely real and present reality of reductionism and its influence to shape and construct alternatives to, or otherwise fragment, Godís relational wholeópervading and prevailing even in churches. Reductionism was never its reification in Paulís polemic but unmistakably the ontological simulations and epistemological illusions engendered by its ontological source, the author and propagator of metaschematizo and deception, as Paul made definitive and exposed (2 Cor 11:13-15; cf. Jn 8:44; Lk 12:1). The source and its reduced ontology and function must be accounted forówhich Peter and Barnabas learned the hard way (Gal 2:13)óand whose influence and alternatives must be exposed, refuted and redeemed by the reciprocal involvement of all of Paulís readers. Or the relational consequence is to be rendered to reductionist practice themselves, whether in the church or academy, individually or collectively, even unintentionally or unknowingly, as Barnabas appeared to function with Peter above.
The question about reductionism then becomes for Paulís readers: On what basis do we ignore or not pay attention to the reality of reductionism and its prevailing presence and pervasive influence on human life, evident even to observations in modern science noted previously? Part of this answer involves the strength and adequacy of our view of sin, notably in its normative character and collective nature.
In Paulís pleroma theology, he is focused unavoidably on a full view of sin, not on moral and ethical issues. This focus is necessary to engage not only the qualitative holy God but also the relational whole of God. Paul never assumes in theological discourse that illuminating the whole of God and the whole gospel are without struggle, the struggle due solely to the sin of reductionism and its source (cf. Col 1:28-2:8). Based on the epistemological clarification and hermeneutic correction from tamiym and Abrahamís faith, Paul grasped the deeper significance of Satanís seduction in the primordial garden to redefine human ontology and function from inner out to outer in. This redefinition was attempted unsuccessfully with Jesus in his temptation to reduce Jesusí ontology and function. What Paul gained from the narratives of othersí lives and his own life was a full view of sin, the strength and adequacy of which is necessary to expose and establish the ongoing presence and influence of reductionism in operational tension and conflict with the wholeness of the whole and holy God. Without this lens of sin, Paulís readers have inadequate relational connection with the definitive basis for understanding the alternatives used for ontology and function, both for God and humans, which signify and constitute anything less and any substitutes of Godís whole and the gospel of wholeness. The relational consequence from this epistemic gap would be, functionally, a different gospel than Paulís experiential truth, and, theologically, an incomplete Christology, a truncated soteriology, an immature pneumatology and a renegotiated ecclesiologyóthat is, reductionism of the pleroma of God, which reduces Paulís function to pleroo the word of God and illuminate pleroma theology. That is the nature of reductionism, reified not by Paul but by its ontological source, for whom all of Paulís readers must account.
Paulís discourse is nonnegotiable in holding his readers accountable for Godís whole. He grasped fully that the only alternative functionally and theologically is to be rendered to human terms, shaping, construction or fragmentation from reductionism. Perhaps this is the current state in which many church leaders have become embedded and Pauline scholarship has struggled.
3. How much of Paulís claim to have received direct revelation from God can be factored in
to make definitive the whole in his theology, the development of which goes both further
Paul underwent a hermeneutic shift in his understanding of Hebrew Scripture. His interpretive lens changed from an outer-in quantitative view to the qualitative whole from inner out, thus from fragmented knowledge about God and skewed understanding of Godís law to whole knowledge and understanding. This transformation involved the embodied Word who took Paul from a disembodied perception of Scripture to the communicative words from God. Godís words revealed in Scripture are relational communication which cannot be disembodied from their source, or those words lose their relational significance. Paul had been a learned student of Scripture, filled with information about God without its relational significance. That changed with his relational encounter with the embodied Word.
In Paulís theological systemic framework and forest, Godís revelation is Godís communicative act only from top down, implicit in creation and explicit in Godís thematic relational action responding to the human condition. The whole of Godís self-disclosure in relational response was fulfilled by the embodiment of Jesus, the extension of whom Paul experienced face to face on the Damascus road. The whole of Godís communicative action, however, did not end here for Paul, who continued to experience Godís further self-disclosures in the relational epistemic process together both from Christ (Gal 1:11-12) and from the Spirit (1 Cor 2:10,13; Eph 3:3-5). The relational outcome of this relational epistemic process was never diminished by Paul, chastened but never minimalized (2 Cor 12:1-7), because these revelations from God in communicative action were the definitive basis for Paul to fulfill his relational purpose and responsibility (oikonomia) for the pleroma of Godís family to pleroo the word of Godís relational communication in response to the human condition (Col 1:19-22, 24-28; cf. Eph 3:2-12). Therefore, since Paul was not engaged in a conventional theological task from bottom up, his theological focus centered always on subject-theos relationally disclosed from top down; and Paul accounted for all of Godís revelations to him in his pleroma theology because he was accountable for the communicative action of Godís irreducible and nonnegotiable words.
In Paulís conjoint fight for the gospel of wholeness and against reductionism, he presents three sets of contrary approaches to the revelation of Godís communicative word and how itís used:
1. To define and determine ontology and function only to the extent of Godís revelation from top down, thus on the basis solely of the relational word of God; or to disengage from this relational epistemic process and to go "beyond what is written [words from God]" (1 Cor 4:6) to shape ontology and function in human terms (cf. Col 2:8).
2. To relationally share the word of God as a relational extension of Godís communicative action to fulfill only the whole of Godís desires for relationship together (Paulís oikonomia), which necessitates the wholeness of his person presented to others and the relational quality of his communication; or to use it as did the "peddlers of Godís word" for personal gain or profit (kapeleuo, 2 Cor 2:17), which may appear from outer in to be meaningful but has no relational significance to God.
3. To present the totality of Godís revelation as Godís communicative word in its whole (Paulís pleroo), without reductionism, as constituted in the incarnation by the embodied Word in the dynamic of nothing less and no substitutes, thus involving the relational vulnerability from inner out, both to receive the Word and to present it; or to intentionally reduce Godís word and to engage in the ambiguous practice "to falsify Godís word" (doloo, 2 Cor 4:2), that is, to adulterate, dilute, water down and cheapenófor example, as merchants did with wine in Paulís timeówhich may be more agreeable for popular consumption, but lacking in wholeness and thus significance for the inherent human relational need and problem.
These three approaches overlap within their own type of approach and interact together to intensify the conflict with the contrary type of approaches. Each set-type signifies a different phronema that constitutes a different phroneo to interpret Godís word. The first set-type approaches Godís word as a function of relationship together on Godís terms from inner out; the latter set-type disembodies Godís word from the primacy of this relationship and shifts to a reduced function from outer in. Thus, the first set of approaches can emerge only from Godís revelation as the sole determinant for ontology and function, while the latter set can signify no more than human terms, shaping and construction as a substitute.
For Paul, nothing less and no substitutes for the revelation from top down of Godís definitive word constituted the whole in his theology. And the extent of what the whole of God relationally shared with Paul went further than Judaism and deeper than the Jesus tradition. Therefore, Paulís pleroma theology was whole knowledge and understanding, the extent and depth of which Paul could not be puffed up about but could only be in epistemic humility (cf. 2 Cor 12:7) since his synesis was entirely the relational outcome of Godís relational response of grace to build up Godís new creation family (Eph 3:2,7-12).
Moreover, since Godís self-disclosures (more phaneroo than apokalypto) were for the sole purpose of whole relationship together, Paulís theology necessarily involved the reciprocal relational response to complete the relational connection for this wholeness. Before we further discuss this reciprocal response to Godís revelation, however, we need to ask a transitional question.
As discussed in chapter five, Paulís theological engagement cannot be described in conventional terms but is better defined in function as a process of living theologyóin which theology was never separated from function and the priority was always function over theology for Paul. Thus, Paul was involved in communicating Godís story of thematic relational response to the human condition, a story with which Paul earlier had had only historical association. He now, however, has directly experienced the truth of Godís story relationally and continues in that experiential truth to illuminate Godís story theologically. This relational process is vital to theological engagement and was Paulís basis for it.
The theological Paul was able to distinguish the fact of Godís story from fiction, and to grasp Godís definitive relational action without speculation, unequivocally on the basis, and thus to the extent, of Godís direct revelation to him. That is to say, the theological Paul was not wholly constituted by the limited historical Paul but most significantly by the vulnerable relational Paul. Theological engagement, then, involved implicitly a relational "methodology" for Paul. His readers need to understand that this theological process is a function of relationship, not a quantified theological task without that qualitative involvement even if it included biblical exegesis.
In his theological process, Paul made a further claim to "have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor 2:16). If his claim is understood in only epistemological terms, then what Paul possessed was further knowledge (albeit inside) about God. For Paul, however, having the mind of Christ was the relational outcome of reciprocal relationship with the Spirit (1 Cor 2:9-10; cf. Jesusí claim, Jn 14:26; 15:26; 16:12-15). To have the mind of Christ from the Spirit signifies the new phroneo and phronema with the Spirit (Rom 8:5-6), which are necessary for the whole knowledge and understanding (synesis) to engage unequivocally in factual theological discourse of Godís story and definitive theological dialogue of the whole of Godís thematic relational action. This theological engagement for Paul further implies a qualitative "methodology" of having the mind of Christ for the needed interpretive framework and lens, which provide the relational awareness and qualitative sensitivity to wholly grasp the relational extent and qualitative depth of Godís vulnerable revelation (cf. Paulís imperative, Rom 12:2). This qualitative methodology emerges in function entirely from reciprocal relationship with the Spirit, the outcome of which is by its nature a relational outcome and not from a subjective self-consciousness. Therefore, Paulís qualitative methodology is inseparable from and in ongoing interaction with his relational methodology.
Paul never engaged in theological discourse beyond Godís self-disclosure (as he demonstrated, 1 Cor 4:6) in order to construct any fictional parts of Godís story or to speculate about Godís thematic relational response to the human condition. He did not need to be engaged in such theology from bottom up because he was relationally involved with the mind of Christ ongoingly with the Spirit to extend the theological dialogue of the Word from top down. The relational outcome of Paulís reciprocal relational response was from "him whoÖwithin us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can do or imagine by our own theological reflection" (Eph 3:20, my paraphrase): "ĎWhat no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love himíóthose things God has revealed to us through the Spirit" (1 Cor 2:9-10).
Listening to God became a relational function for Paul and not merely a pronouncement of moral obligation from the tradition of Jewish Scripture. Relational connection and involvement with the whole of God was nonnegotiable for Paul and the relational imperative for both his function and his theology. Therefore, Paul was able to pleroo the communicative word from God and to illuminate pleroma theology only on the basis and to the extent of his relational and qualitative methodology; this compatible process clearly signified his reciprocal relational response to Godís vulnerable revelation and Paulís ongoing relational involvement with the whole of God. And by his reciprocal relational involvement in the whole of Godís relational context and process, Paulís theological engagement is paradigmatic for all his readers, notably in Pauline studies.
5. What was the nature of Paulís faith-response to Godís revelation and how did it differ
from OT faith? Was Paulís view of faith (including for justification) any different than
The nature of Godís revelation defined the nature of and determined the terms for the response to the words from God. Since the nature of Godís words is relational communication, the nature of the response can only be relational and must function in the reciprocal relational terms of God to be compatible (see previous discussion on faith in chap. 8). This response becomes equivocal when determined merely by the notion of obedience. That is, obedience is insufficient response by itself and becomes incompatible when this response is only to disembodied words, laws or propositional truths. This type of obedience essentially shifts the nature of the response from Godís relational terms to human terms, even with good intentions or unintentionally, and thus focuses the response more on what we do rather than how to be relationally involved with God. Such obedienceís focus is quantitative from outer in and the response becomes measured, for example, in accordance with a code of behavior or doctrinal purity. The response of Godís relational terms is qualitative from inner out and is increasingly vulnerable to the vulnerable presence and relational involvement of God.
Obedience alone, at best, is an ambiguous response to Godís revelation and can be, at worst, an incompatible response in conflict with Godís wordsóan issue raised even in a response for justification by faith. Moreover, disobedience can even have the appearance of obedience in settings of the normative character and collective nature of the sin of reductionism.
By the definitive nature of Godís words, listening to God is solely a relational function from inner out for Paul, whose response is distinguished by its nature from all reductionist alternatives. Both the nature of Godís relational action and of human relational response are irreducible and nonnegotiable. In the relational language of Paulís discourse, his shorthand term for this reciprocal relational response is faith. Yet, faith in practice is often the notion of what we have and/or do, the possession or act of which is perceived as necessary and also sufficient in itself. James certainly refuted such a redefined view of faith (Jas 1:22; 2:17-20) and Paulís practice did also. While the object of such faith is God, God becomes only an Object in the relationship who intervenes and supports as necessary. Paulís theological discourse is centered also on God as the Subject in whole ontology and function for reciprocal relationship together (cf. 2 Cor 4:6); and compatible response to subject-theos in Paulís theology is with the whole ontology and function of the human person as subject also in Subject-to-subject relational connection (cf. Eph 3:12).
In Paulís own experience, his faith shifted from the tradition of what he had and did back to the nature of Godís revelation and terms. His shift was to the faith constituted by Abraham, which often was not the faith practiced in Judaism throughout the OT narrative. Even further and deeper than Abrahamís experience, Paulís faith-response to Godís vulnerable revelation signified the relational response of being vulnerable with his whole person. Yet, just as Abraham was in tamiym, this vulnerable involvement was constituted by the ongoing relational trust of his person from inner out to the whole of God for reciprocal relationship together, not unilateral relationship or measured involvement. Nothing less and no substitutes of relational trust make a person vulnerable for compatible response to the communicative words from God, significantly and vulnerably embodied by the Word. Paul did not define a new faith-response but extended the original relational response further and deeper into Godís relational context and process in order to intimately participate in the whole of Godís life in whole relationship togetherójust as Jesus embodied, promised and prayed for (Jn 14:6,23; 17:26), and Paul illuminated theologically (Eph 2:8,18,22) and prayed functionally (Eph 3:14-19).
Both Paul and James challenged a faith reduced to practice without relational and functional significance (Gal 5:6; 1 Thes 1:3; 2 Thes 1:11; Jas 2:14,21-24). Both countered a faith that was an end in itself or a means for oneself, even for justification. When justification is seen only in its judicial aspect before God, dikaiosyne has lost the compatible relational function with God necessary for ongoing involvement in relationship together. Justification by faith becomes inadequate when the process is limited solely to being justified before God. This limitation involves a reduced faith, which implies a truncated soteriology focused only on being saved from sinóand that view of sin is limited also. Dikaiosyne, however, also involves righteousness, which is not an attribute but the congruent function of a personís whole ontology in relationship. That is, righteousness is the inner-out function of the personís whole ontology which God and others can count on in relationship together. Being righteous engages the whole person in pleroma soteriology and involves those persons directly in what we are saved toówhole relationship together in Godís new creation family. Righteousness constitutes the compatible involvement needed for relationship with the whole of God, which is an inner-out relational function emerging only from the vulnerable relational response of trust, whole faith. Therefore, the more basic issue underlying the issue of justification by faith is the nature of the faith practiced to claim justification. This basic issue addresses the sin of reductionism and its influence to redefine faith and truncate salvation.
Reductionism in faith-practice has had an ongoing history among Godís people, whether by ancient Jews, Christian Jews, Jewish and Gentile Christians, or modern Christians, whether for identity, ideology or justification. Such faith has the primary focus on oneself, which has no relational significance to God and functional significance to others. The practice of such faith in relationship is outer in, and thus is measured or distant, if not detached. In contrast, the relational response of trust makes one vulnerable from inner out and engages the primacy of relationship, first with God and then with others, for the reciprocal relational involvement necessary for relationship together to be wholeónot measured or distant and thus, simply, fragmented. In other words, for both Paul and James, faith is not static, passive, self-involved and a mere statement of belief. Rather, by the nature of Godís relational action, compatible faith is a relational dynamic, actively responding to God and others in relationship with oneís whole person from inner out as the relational outworking of oneís belief (Gal 5:6; Jas 2:17; cf. Amos 5:21-24). Anything less and any substitutes of this relational response are reduction, the sin of reductionism. The simulations and illusions of faith from reductionism is the underlying issue Paul and James challenged in its function and outcome, both of which they countered with whole faithóthe wholeness of oneís relational response of trust and its relational outcome of whole relationship together with God and Godís family.
Paul and James did not differ in their views of faith and were united in their fight against reductionism in faith. This may be confusing since their discourses on faith and works appear to be in opposition to each otherís, notably in relation to Abraham (cf. Rom 4:2-5; Jas 2:21-24). In truth, each is challenging reductionism in his discourse. Paul challenged reductionism in the practice of works, which became a substitute for faith as the relational response expected by God. James challenged reductionism in the practice of faith, which became a substitute for accountability of faithís conjoint works expected by God (see Jamesí definitive analogy, Jam 2:26). For both James and Paul, the relational outcome of whole faith is the relational function of dikaiosyne, whose ongoing relational work can be counted on by God in relationship together, with nothing less and no substitutes of oneís whole person. They indeed were not in opposition but were fully complementary, fighting for Godís whole and against reductionism.
In the discussion above, works and faith are inseparable, on the one hand, yet Paul also distinguishes works from faith, on the other hand. Paul sees works also as inseparable from Godís law, those desires framed in the torah and created in the human heart (Rom 2:13-15). The works of the law can be further distinguished in its moral aspect and ceremonial aspect (e.g., circumcision, kosher and Sabbath for Jews). While these two distinctions certainly existed in Paulís background to influence his view on works, I suggest that his discourse on works also went beyond these distinctions and thus deeper than their contextual practice involved, notably for the context of Judaism.
Works of the law, whether moral for all persons and/or ceremonial for Jews, in practice reflect an interpretive framework which Paul addressed, challenged and exposed. Paulís roots did not originate in Judaism, thus his discourse on works went beyond his religious tradition and deeper into human origin. That is, Paul is addressing human ontology and how the human person is defined, and what determines human function. Paul knew from the creation narrative that the human person was designated with "work" to accomplish (Gen 2:4-5,15). The term for work (abad) also means to serve, minister and worship. Abad then is not an end in itself by which to define human persons. Abad is a designated function in a broader context than just the individual person, which the Creator established to define human ontology and determine human function. The issue for abad becomes whether this broader context is to serve the physical creation, minister to the human creature or worship the Creator. This is an ongoing problem of interpretive framework which will determine our perception of work, the significance of its context and what will define the human person. Paul was addressing these issues in his discourse on works.
The creation narrative further illuminated the context of abad by defining human persons as created in the image of God and by determining human function as "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it" (Gen 1:27-28). "To fill the earth" (male) denotes to complete what God established and set in motion for all life and function. What makes the broader context definitive, however, was Godís declaration that the human person in Godís image cannot "be alone," or "be apart,"óthat is, be separated from Godís whole with other human personsóbut by the nature of Godís likeness all persons are created for, and therefore must be in, whole relationship together (Gen 2:18).
Relationship in Godís likeness is the deeper context of abad which established the roots for Paulís interpretive framework defining all works, inclusive of all human activity for physical creation, for human creatures or for the Creator. In Paulís deeper framework, therefore, the primary work defining human ontology and determining human function is relational work: namely, the whole person from inner out in the vulnerable relational response of trust with God (faith) and in the vulnerable relational involvement with others in relationship (agape, Gal 5:6). All other works and human activity are secondary to this relational work in the primacy of relationship together. If persons are defined by doing secondary work or activity, for Paul this constitutes a reduction of the person created in Godís qualitative image and relational likeness, a reduction which signifies a quantitative interpretive framework redefining human ontology and function from inner out to outer in. In Paulís polemic, if persons define themselves by this reduced human ontology and by their function in the works of the law, then they are obligated to do "all the things written in the book of the law" (Gal 3:10) and are measured by "the entire law" (Gal 5:3). Without complete and perfect adherence, they can never fully measure up on these terms; therefore they are deficient ("cursed") and must be deemed as less and unacceptable to God, that is, on these redefined terms based on reduced human ontology constituting persons by what they do. Paul is only raising a hypothetical process of works on human terms, not Godís terms. By this polemic, Paul challenges the assumptions about theological anthropology of all his readers.
Works based on reduced human ontology and function are never sufficient to complete (male) what God constituted at creation to be whole in relationship together, with God and each other, which is the deeper issue in Paulís polemic. Paul was able to be decisive because no one knew more from personal experience than Paul in his own previous works (Phil 3:4-7). These works are reductions to human terms and shaping, not Godís terms in his image and likeness. These are the ontological simulations and epistemological illusions which Paul exposed to make them whole. That included certain practices in Judaism, among Gentiles, with churches and by church leaders, such as Peter and Barnabas in the incongruity of their outer-in actions (Gal 2:13). Reductionism influences, if not pervades, human ontology and function in all contexts, and works are its most common yet subtle denominator, and thus the most difficult to distinguish and change in Paulís fight for wholeness.
On Godís terms, Paul grasped that works are inseparable from the relational work of faith (Gal 5:6). Faith is the primary relational work which by its nature constitutes the functional significance of the personís involvement in all other works (1 Thes 1:3; 2 Thes 1:11). When Paul talks about "doing good" and "good works" (Rom 2:7,10; 2 Cor 9:8; Gal 6:9; Eph 2:10; Col 1:10; 1 Tim 6:18; 2 Tim 3:17; Tit 2:7,14), he is not creating a new category of Ďgoodí in contrast to Ďbadí which quantifies a different measurement to define human ontology and function. Paul never established a new ethical framework; and what has been perceived as ethical discourse throughout his letters needs to be understood with his lens and language of "doing good" and "good works." This is a critical distinction for Paulís perspective on works and his discourse on observing the law because Paul put all of these practices into their full context and deeper process of Godís wholeójust as Jesus made conclusive about the law (cf. Mt 5:17-48).
While Paul discusses "doing good" based on Godís law (in the torah for Jews and in human conscience for Gentiles, Rom 2:13-15), he uses "good" in a limited sense in his discourse here. The perception of good is again an issue of interpretive framework and lens (cf. Mk 10:17-18), which Paul unfolds in his theology and later makes definitive (Rom 8:5-6). In this context, Paul is both breaking down the barrier between Jews and Gentiles and dissolving the reductionist distinction between "more" and "less." Yet, Paul did not open the door to anyone (Jew or Gentile) who reduces "doing good" to merely moral and/or ceremonial practice based on Godís law. For Paul, good (agathos) is not about what is useful, profitable or even benevolent. He limits good to an inner-out quality of whole ontology which determines whole function (cf. Rom 7:12-13, and Jesusí clarification, Mt 19:16-17). Though good may have a useful, profitable or benevolent result, doing good and good works are a function only of relationship that emerges entirely from the relational work of faithóan inner-out function on Godís relational terms.
Good works are inseparable from relational faith because of the relational nature of Godís communication revealing the law (cf. Num 12:6-7). Godís law, without reduction and disembodiment, expresses Godís desires and terms just for reciprocal relationship together. Observing the law is more accurately described as the relational function of responding to Godís desires for relationship, which for Paul became the experiential truth of his discipleship with Christ in relationship (cf. Acts 26:16b; 1 Cor 11:1)ójust as Jesus made definitive for observing the law (Mk 10:21) and for serving him (Jn 12:26). God did not vulnerably share these desires and terms for the sake of the moral and ethical conformity of persons in doing good. The relational response of God is to redeem persons from such reductionism and to reconcile them to whole relationship together (Gal 4:3-7, pleroma soteriology).
The reciprocal relational response of trust is the vulnerable involvement necessary to be compatible with Godís relational response communicated in the relational message of the law, and to be congruent with the human ontology and function created in relational likeness to the whole of God. Merely doing good and good works, even with good intentions, reduce Godís relational response, Godís law, human ontology and function. Paulís polemic exposes these reductions and illuminates the good to make them whole. His pleroma theological discourse on good defines its determinant relational work by those who function from inner out ongoingly in reciprocal relational response back to God for nothing less than and no substitutes for whole relationship togetherówhat the pleroma of God saves us to, which is indeed the only good news for the inherent human relational need and problem.
This involved his theological cognition of who, what and how God is, and his theological assumptions of human ontology and function.
On the one hand, Godís people were the same for Paul, though, on the other, there was a qualitative and functional difference which needed to be grasped. A Jew was not unclear about the identity of Ďwho God isí. Most Jews in ancient Israel, however, typically had difficulty with the ontology of Ďwhat God isí and often had problems with the nature of Ďhow God isí. These ontological and functional issues certainly influenced and shaped, if not constructed, knowledge and understanding not only of God but also of Godís people. Whether Godís people were the same for Paul or had a difference depended on his theological cognition of Godís ontology and function and his directly related theological anthropology.
Prior to the Damascus road Paul claimed his identity with Godís people through membership in Israel as a nation-state. As a nation-state in Paulís day, Israel was dominated by the Roman state and threatened by the Way in its identity as Godís people. Jewish identity was based on the identity of their God, rooted in the monotheism of the Shema. The identity of Ďwho God isí may have been compromised in Israelís history but never redefined. Only the one God prevailed and would save them from their plight. The issue, however, was not the identity of who the Deliverer is but the insufficiency of both the ontology of the one God and the nature of this God as well as the full significance of Godís salvation. Their God, for example, was also the holy God, yet the full significance of God being uncommon was not grasped in depth (cf. Ez 22:26). This lack equally signified and constituted a reduced ontology and function from outer in by human terms and shaping, which redefined the qualitative being and renegotiated the relational nature of God and of the ontology and function of Godís people in likeness (cf. Mosesí lens, Ex 33:15-16). In the process, Israelís identity as Godís people shifted to nation-state in a truncated soteriology and away from the covenant people of God being saved to whole relationship together as Godís family. Paul had to account for this as a Jew and be accountable as a Christian.
Paul received the needed epistemological clarification and hermeneutic correction to understand the inner-out significance of Godís people (Rom 2:28-29). This further and deeper significance was based on the experiential truth of his whole knowledge and understanding (synesis) of the whole of who, what and how God is, that is, Paulís pleroma theology relationally revealed to him face to face in the embodied face of Christ (2 Cor 4:6). His grasp of the whole of God and Godís relational whole involved his own ontology and function made whole. Having been restored to Godís relational context and reconciled in Godís relational process, as a Jew now from inner out, Paul turned from identity in a nation-state back to the covenant relationship of Godís people; and as a Christian, he experienced the full significance of the relational belonging and ontological identity of Godís people (cf. 2 Cor 6:16; Ti 2:14).
Turning away from nation-state, Paulís discourse partially turned to "the kingdom of God" (e.g., Acts 19:8; 20:25; 28:23,31). This focus for Godís people, however, did not clearly distinguish it from nation-state if it was still perceived with a quantitative lens from outer in. Paulís discourse about the kingdom was an extension of Jesusí kingdom discourse, who made definitive its qualitative ontology from inner out (Lk 17:20-21) and relational function (Lk 11:20; 18:16-17). Paul extended this qualitative ontology and relational function of the kingdom as Godís people (cf. Rom 14:17; 1 Cor 4:20), and he also further distinguished the kingdom and deepened the understanding of Godís people in his pleroma theology (Col 1:12-13; Eph 1:4-14, 22-23).
In the whole of Paulís theology, and in the relational progression with Christ (the pleroma of God) and the Spirit (Christís relational replacement), Godís people became the relational outcome which emerged in the church (the pleroma of Christ). Yet, for Paul the pleroma of Christ (Eph 1:23) is not the institution of the church but the embodiment of the church in the qualitative ontology from inner out and the relational function of agape involvement in the whole relationship together of Godís new creation familyóconjointly in the image of the one Godís qualitative ontology and in the likeness of the whole of Godís relational function. Nothing less and no substitutes of who, what and how God is and Godís people are could signify and can constitute their whole ontology and function. More important than as a Jew and a Christian, Paulís experiential truth as the adopted son in the whole and holy Godís family was Ďwho he isí and Ďwhose he isí, in whole relationship together both intimate and equalized with his sisters and brothers.
This relational outcome raises some further questions about practices (e.g., in culture) and relationships (e.g., for women and slaves), which may result in compromise in the surrounding context and may appear contradictory in Paulís letters, thus diminishing the functional significance of his pleroma theology. The remaining questions address such problems.
8. As a Jew and a Christian and an adopted son, to what extent did change need to take
It was never sufficient for Paul to change from outer in, either by outward change only, giving the appearance of some inner significance (metaschematizo, 2 Cor 11:13-15), or by change just from conforming outwardly to a surrounding contextís normative influence and terms (syschematizo, Rom 12:2). What only constituted change for Paul, together as a Jew and a Christian and an adopted son, involved a pivotal relational process which by its nature necessitated his whole person from inner out. The relational outcome of whole relationship together in Godís family can emerge just from this pivotal relational process. In Paulís theology, the pivotal relational process is made definitive by being "baptized into Christ" for the redemptive change Ďalreadyí in which the old dies and the new rises with Christ (Rom 6:4-5) by the Spirit (Rom 8:10-11). The old is the reduced human ontology and function entrenched in the sin of reductionism which needs redemption to be conjointly freed and made whole as a person in relationship together. The dynamic of the cross becomes paradigmatic for this ongoing process of the old to die Ďalreadyí and the reality of the new to rise (cf. Paulís desire for further intimate relationship with Christ, Phil 3:10-11).
The wholeness dynamic of redemptive change is the pivotal process of relational involvement with Christ for the inner-out transformation of the whole person by the Spirit (metamorphoo, 2 Cor 3:18; Rom 12:2), which is necessary for the experiential truth Ďalreadyí of the relational outcome for relational belonging and ontological identity in Godís new creation family of transformed relationships together, both intimate and equalized (Rom 8:14-17; Gal 3:26-29; 1 Cor 12:13; Col 3:9-11; Eph 4:22-24). Without full and ongoing engagement in redemptive change, there is no reconciliation to these relationships togetheróthough possibly in appearance from outer in, but not inner out. The inseparable dynamic of redemptive reconciliation is indispensable for relationship with the whole and holy God and for all relationships together to be whole in Godís likeness.
This relational outcome entirely from redemptive reconciliation was the experiential truth of Paul, from inner out as a Jew and a Christian and an adopted son. Therefore, redemptive change is nonnegotiable and its pivotal relational process of baptism into Christ is irreducible in Paulís pleroma theology. And Paulís readers need to understand Ďalreadyí that nothing less and no substitutes are of functional significance both for the whole of Paulís person and the whole in his theology.
9. Since the influence of reduced human ontology and function limits this relational outcome,
what was Paulís position on religio-cultural and sociocultural practices which may appear
The key word in this question is "appear." What appears to be a problem to someone may not be to another, which was an ongoing issue in Paulís surrounding contexts of Judaism and the Mediterranean world as well as within churches. Of course, this issue directly involves oneís interpretive lens, which extends from oneís interpretive framework rooted in religious culture or a worldview rooted in social culture. The bias created from our interpretive framework and lens needs to be understood, accounted for and addressed accordingly. This process was a major part of what Paul engaged in his discourse on religio-cultural and sociocultural practices.
Prior to the Damascus road, Paulís view of Judaism was religious. Yet, what he was unaware of during that time was the sociocultural influence on Judaism which shaped its interpretive framework and determined the significance of its religio-cultural practice. The overlap of Judaismís religio-cultural practice with sociocultural practice in its surrounding context may not be apparent on the surface. Yet, Israelís shift, for example, to nation-state (with its quantitative identity markers) indicated the sociocultural influence surrounding Israel and the implicit interaction taking place between the frameworks of the surrounding sociocultural practice and Judaismís religio-cultural practice. Despite overt differences in behavioral appearance (e.g., circumcision or uncircumcision, kosher or not), these frameworks demonstrate a common quantitative character and concern focused on the outer in to define and determine human ontology and function, whether in relation to God, other persons or nations (e.g., 1 Sam 8:5,19-20). In other words, Israel as Godís so-called people often got embedded in the surrounding context rather than sojourning in covenant relationship together to its apocalyptic end.
After the Damascus road, Paulís view of Judaism was no longer religio-cultural and his view of Israel was not sociocultural. Yet Paul fully grasped their subtle interaction and its effect on ontology and function, because Paulís framework changed from quantitative to qualitative and his lens refocused from outer in to inner out as a follower of Christ made whole in relationship together. Thus, just as Jesus did not condemn the identity that culture promotes but made whole its life and practice (cf. Jn 3:17), Paul did not start condemning the identity of Judaism and Israel as Godís people. Nor did Paul really condemn the circumcision which symbolized that identity. He affirmed that identity (cf. Rom 11:1), and in fact supported the practice of circumcision only as it signified the circumcision of the whole person from inner out necessary to be Godís whole people (Rom 2:28-29). These overlapping aspects of religious culture as a Jew and a Christian, Paul affirmed and had no issue with.
The aspects of a cultureís practice (religious and/or social) which needed to be made whole, however, had to be addressed by Paul, just as Jesus did. Righteousness, for example, could not be measured by conformity to a moral-ethical code or ceremonial observance of behavioróan outer-in framework. Righteousness is, rather, only the congruence of oneís whole person to inner-out ontology and function that others can count on in the context of relationship. This is the critique of reductionist Jews that Jesus made imperative for his followersí righteousness to exceed (Mt 5:20). With this righteousness, along with the significance of the rest of Jesusí critique of reductionist religio-cultural practice (Mt 5-7), Paulís critical basis was established for his position against reductionism both in Judaism and among Christian Jews who imposed conformity to the observance of circumcision, kosher and calendar practices onto Gentiles. This type of religio-cultural practice demonstrated the sociocultural influence of the surrounding context, which signified the terms and shaping of human ontology and function from the outer in of reductionism. The interpretive framework and worldview that defined and determined this reduced human ontology and function is what Paul exposed as the elementary rudiments or basic parts, elements and principles (stoicheion) prevailing in the surrounding context and now pervading religious life and practice to be a prevailing influence shaping its participants (Gal 4:3,9; Col 2:8,16, 20-22).
These religious and church practices in reduced human ontology and function signify the ontological simulations and epistemological illusions constituted only by the influence of reductionism from the surrounding context. In Paulís fight for the gospel of wholeness, reductionism is never tolerable in any form and must be fought against without compromise in all contexts. For Paul, sociocultural practice and its framework are never neutral; and since they are not whole, they are at best fragmentary. While some of their parts may point to Godís whole (cf. Acts 17:23), they are never sufficient to define and determine life and function in the kosmos, much less human ontology and function. Such fragmented knowledge and understanding are reductions and their use to shape and construct the whole is the sin of reductionism. Notably, but not exclusively, in religio-cultural and church practice, Paul exposes, confronts, refutes and seeks the redemption of the sin of reductionism in order to make it whole. And Paul is not fooled by the fact that such fragmented knowledge and understanding "have indeed an appearance of wisdom" because his whole interpretive framework and lens from the Spirit is able to discern that "they are of no value" for wholeness in human ontology and function (Col 2:23; cf. Rom 8:6).
Where Paul is accepting or affirming of religio-cultural and sociocultural practices, it is based on those practices not being incompatible with whole ontology and function. When he is intolerant of their practices, or his critique appears to contradict his acceptance, those are the practices of reductionism which are in conflict with Godís whole. With his synesis from the Spirit, Paul is vulnerably engaged in the relational dynamic of wholeness; therefore, any and all reductionism creates unavoidable problems and must be dealt with directly, whether in Judaism, Christianity, the church or in the world. More than problematic in Paulís theological systemic framework and forest, reductionism is counter-relational to Godís relational whole: diminishing, minimalizing or otherwise fragmenting the relational outcome Ďalreadyí of whole relationship together, thus distancing the intimate relationships and re-stratifying the equalized relationships necessary for constituting the transformed relationships together of Godís new creation family. In his agape relational involvement fighting for the gospel of wholeness and to pleroo the word from God, the pleroma of God and the pleroma of Christ were the whole of Paulís witness and the whole in his theology. For Paul, anything less and any substitutes did not and cannot account for this wholeness.
In Pauline scholarship, both the traditional perspective of Paul and the new Paul perspective, I suggest, fall short of understanding this qualitative and relational whole, and thus focus only on fragmentary aspects (or reductionist fragments) of Godís whole, namely in doctrinal terms or from human contextualization. Yet, Paulís relational language in theological dialogue still redeems his vulnerable readers from reductionism and reconciles them to Godís relational whole.
10. Given Paulís emphasis on the relational outcome Ďalreadyí of Godís relational response
to the human condition, how is Paulís discourse on slaves congruent with this relational
outcome, and his directives for them compatible with its function in transformed
As we discuss slaves in this question, and women in the next question, the issue of freedom and its determinative dynamic of redemption are basic to both. In Paulís pleroma theology, part of the outcome of redemption is to be free, which cannot end here or the outcome becomes fragmentary and reduced in human ontology and function. The full outcome of redemption is a relational outcome. Redemption in Christ is not about just being set free and Christian freedom is not the freedom to be freeóthat is, for self-autonomy, self-determination, or even a variation of self-justification. We are redeemed to be made whole in ontology and function for the primacy of relationship together with the whole of God and with Godís whole family, which is the relationship that the Creator originally created in Godís likeness and that the whole of God redemptively reconciles in the new creation.
Paulís relational discourse on slaves (and women) is from this framework within this context, by which his theological dialogue must be interpreted and understood. Otherwise, his readers are left with only the human contexts of Paulís situations to frame his dialogue with slaves, and thus will go no further and deeper into his framework in the context of relationship with God, the primary context into which Paul contextualizes these theological issues and their human shaping.
There are two levels of slavery for Paul:
1. Slavery embedded in social conditions, thus from outer in (cf. 1 Tim 6:1).
2. Slavery embodied in the human condition, thus from inner out (cf. Rom 6:6).
These two levels interact between them, with the first emerging from the second and the first confirming or reinforcing the second. Paul always contextualizes level one in the workings of level two. Thus, Paul always gives greater priority to level two over the first, because two underlies one and is necessary to be redeemed in order for level one to have full redemption. Yet, in what appears contrary to his directives for slaves in level one, Paul neither ignores this level nor accepts it due to its underlying condition in the sin of reductionism.
Paul addressed all sin of reductionism (slavery in both levels, cf. Phlm) while he was focused on being whole, Godís relational whole on Godís relational terms. This conjoint dynamic is critical to Paulís discourse. Redemption is neither an end in itself for slaves nor sufficient to deal with the sin of reductionism in the human condition involved in slavery. Paul is unequivocal that we are not redeemed just to be free but for whole relationships together (Gal 5:1, 13-14; cf. 1 Cor 8:9-13). Relationships together necessitate a process of reconciliation to be in conjoint function with redemption for the redemptive reconciliation required for relationships together to be whole on Godís relational terms from inner out, not shaped by human terms from outer in (cf. Rom 14:13-19). Paul neither pursues redemption over reconciliation nor does he sacrifice reconciliation for the sake of redemption since there cannot be wholeness for slaves and their relationships without this reconciliation.
When Paul directs slaves in the social conditions of slavery, who are also part of the church, to submit to their masters (Col 3:22-24; Eph 6:5-7; 1 Tim 6:1-2; Tit 2:9-10; cf. for masters, Col 4:1; Eph 6:9), he did not define an obligation (or duty, opheilo) or an ethical framework for slaves to conform to. Paul is focused on slaves being whole and the relational outcome of whole relationship together for slaves. That is, he calls for their congruity from inner out with the ontological identity of who they are and whose they are, without outer-in distinctions defining their persons. And he takes them further and deeper into their whole function on Godís relational terms to live whole together and even to make whole in the world, without outer-in terms and circumstances in the surrounding context determining their primary life and function. Paulís implied message to slaves is that freedom does not guarantee their whole ontology and function, nor does being a social-level slave preclude it.
Since Paul defines the ontological identity of Godís new creation family without outer-in distinctions like "slave or free" (Gal 3:28; Col 3:11), and did not determine its function by situations and circumstances, he did not give those matters priority over being Godís relational whole. Thus, as discussed in the previous chapter about Philemon and Onesimus, Paulís primary focus was not on the social conditions of slavery but on the primacy of a slaveís redemptive outcome of relational belonging and ontological identity in Godís family, and on the redemptive reconciliation of slaveryís human condition necessary for persons like Philemon and Onesimus to be equalized brothers in this family. This process of equalization certainly then will have direct relational implications for the social level of slavery, but even more important for Paul was his intended purpose for social-level slaves in whole ontology and function to plant the seeds, cultivate and even grow whole relationships together, first within the church and then in the surrounding context.
11. Equally important, if not more, how are Paulís new creation view of women and his
prescriptions for them in agreement, and how are his directives compatible for the
The above discussion on slaves extends in direct application to women. I have purposefully left this question for last, not since women have traditionally occupied last place. Rather because, in my opinion, women signify the most consistent and widespread presence of reduced human ontology and function in the history of human contextualization, this condition is unavoidable for all persons to address for our wholeness. Theological discourse and pronouncements have not significantly changed the embodiment of this human condition, perhaps due to ignoring its enslavement. Paul has been placed at the center of this human divide which fragments the church and renders Godís family "to be apart" from being whole in likeness of the relational whole of Godóa condition existing knowingly or unknowingly, intentionally or unintentionally. As long as this condition of reduced human ontology and function continues, the relational outcome Ďalreadyí will not be our experiential truth until Ďnot yetí.
Paul would dispute how his relational discourse on women has been interpreted; he would expose and confront the reductionism underlying such interpretation and application for the reduced ontology and function of womenófor example, by both complementarians and egalitarians. Yet, his prescriptions and directives for women will have to be clarified in order for Paul to be vindicated, his theological anthropology affirmed and his pleroma ecclesiology in transformed relationships together to be the experiential truth Ďalreadyí.
The issue of Christian freedom continues in Paulís discourse, which he always frames, defines and determines by the dynamic of redemption and baptism into Christ. Just as Paul defined for slaves, the importance of women having freedom is never about self-autonomy and self-determination or justification but only to be whole in ontology and function, not yoked to reduced ontology and function (Gal 5:1). This also applies to men, and any other classification of persons. The issues of freedom and of wholeness are critically interrelated for Paul; and, as was discussed earlier for slaves, having freedom is no guarantee of whole ontology and function. The dynamic of redemption and baptism into Christ is the functional bridge between freedom and wholeness. Paul makes this link definitive.
From the interpretive lens of his theological framework, Paulís definitive view of women is that "there is no longer male and female" (Gal 3:28). His perception could be taken as contrary to the reality of creation, yet Paul is not implying that there are no physical and biological differences between the genders, and thus that no distinctions should be seen. Paulís view is the definitive declaration: In the dynamic of baptism into Christ, the redemptive outcome is the human ontology freed from being defined and the human function freed from being determined by the gender differences of any kind shaped or constructed by human terms, whether in the surrounding context or even within churches. These human differences are used to create distinctions which reduce the whole human ontology and function of those baptized into Christís death and raised with him by the Spirit in the whole image and likeness of creator God (cf. Col 3:10-11; 2 Cor 3:18).
As Paul makes definitive, the person emerging from baptism is a new creation, whose ontology and function from inner out cannot be defined and determined by any differences and distinctions from outer in, not even by oneís gifts or role in the church. This transformation from inner out in the redemptive change to whole human ontology and function also involves reconciliation to the whole of God in Godís family, which is constituted in the process of redemptive reconciliation to the transformed relationships together both intimate and equalized (Eph 2:14-22). As with slaves, Paulís concern for women is their whole ontology and function and the relational outcome of whole relationship together, of which women are an integral part and whose function women are the key. Yet, it has been difficult for Paulís readers (both women and men) to reconcile his definitive view of women with his prescriptions and directives for them.
In his relational discourse, Paul continues to integrate Christian freedom with redemption, which is inseparably conjoined with reconciliation. Also in his theological dialogue, Paul converges the redemptive-reconciliation dynamic with the creation narrative for the redemptive outcome in the image and likeness of God. His convergence is made deeply in his main directives for women, and this convergence must be accounted for to understand where Paul is coming from in his relational discourse. As discussed previously about hermeneutic factors in interpreting Paul (chaps. 3 and 5), though he speaks in a human context involving women and speaks to their human context, Paul is not speaking from a human context. His prescriptions and directives for women are contextualized beyond those human contexts to his involvement directly in Godís relational context and process. These directives emerged in human contexts, along with his letters, but were constituted from the further and deeper context of the whole of Godówhich is the significance of Paulís convergence I will attempt to account for in this limited discussion.
There are two main directives representative of Paulís relational discourse with women and his theological dialogue for all persons: 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 and 1 Timothy 2:8-15.
1 Corinthians 11:3-16
section of Paulís letter must be read in the full context of his
letter. From the beginning Paul was dealing with the reductionist
practices fragmenting this church (1:10-15). While confronting these
persons in family love throughout the letter, in fairness to them
and for their encouragement Paul puts their context into a larger
picture of Godís people (10:1-11) and their practices into the
deeper process of the dynamic of redemption and baptism into Christ
On this basis, Paulís further relational discourse with women continues, with its convergence with the creation narrative. Earlier in his letter, Paul had made definitive for this fragmented church: "ĎNothing beyond what is written,í so that none of you will be puffed up in favor of one against another" (4:6). The comparative dynamic Paul magnifies here is the natural relational consequence of reduced human ontology and function defined from outer in and determined by human terms, that is, beyond Godís relational terms revealed in Godís communicative word written in Scripture. In this section on women, Paul restores the focus to what is written in the creation narrative in order to illuminate the relational outcome from the dynamic of redemption and baptism into Christ (1 Cor 10:16-17; 12:13). If the creation narrative does not converge with this dynamic in the intended focus of Paulís interpretive lens, then the relational outcome will be different for Paulís readers, and neither compatible with his relational discourse nor congruent with his theological dialogue.
Paulís focus can be misleading due to the explicit aspects he highlights in the creation narrative, namely, chronological or functional order and quantitative significance. Yet, Paulís focus remained on Godís communicative action in the words written, without disembodying those words in the narrative, which would be essentially to go beyond what is written.
In chronological and functional order, Christ participated in the creation of all things and its whole, as Paul later made definitive in the cosmology of his theological systemic framework (Col 1:16-17). Thus, "Christ is the head (kephale, principal or first) of every created man" (1 Cor 11:3). The embodied Christ also became the kephale "over all things for the church" (Eph 1:22) and the first to complete the dynamic of redemptive reconciliation as its functional key (Col 1:18). Whether Paul combines the embodied Christ with creator Christ as the kephale of man is not clear in 1 Cor 11:3. The creator Christ certainly has the qualitative significance of the embodied Christ, conversely, yet highlighting the chronological-functional order has a different emphasis in this context. This quantitative difference is confirmed by "the head of Christ" is God. Since the Creator (the Father and the Son with the Spirit) precedes the creation, creator Christ is obviously first in order before Adam. It follows that Adam came first in the creation narrative before Eve, thus this husband (or man, aner) was created before his wife (or woman, gyne). This is only a quantitative significance Paul is highlighting. If Christ later became God, then there would be a qualitative significance to "God is the head of Christ." Christ as the embodied God was neither less than God nor subordinate to God, yet in functional order the Son followed and fulfilled what the Father initiated (e.g., Jn 6:38-39; Acts 13:32-33).
The quantitative significance of this chronological-functional order has been misinterpreted by a different lens than Paulís and misused apart from his intended purpose by concerns for the sake of self-autonomy and self-determination, even self-justification effortsówhich have reduced human ontology and function and fragment relationships together. Paul expands on the quantitative significance with application to prayer and whether the head should have a covering or not (11:4-7). The quantitative significance of head coverings during prayer is connected by Paul to the chronological-functional order in creation. While such practice is actually secondary (11:16), Paul uses it to illustrate an underlying issue. Apparently, for a man to cover his head was to void or deny that Christ is the head, who created man in the image and glory of God (11:7). For a woman to be uncovered implies her independence from the creative order, implying her self-determination, which in Paulís view she needed to be purified of (11:6; cf. Lev 14:8) because she was created from the qualitative substance of the first human person in the same image and glory of God (11:7). Her glory cannot be reduced to being "the glory of man" but nothing less and no substitutes of the manís glory, that is, in the same image and glory of God. This distinction of glory is critical for understanding the basis used for defining gender ontology and, more likely, for determining gender function in reductionism or wholeness. Yet, it would also be helpful for women to have for themselves a clear basis (exousia) for distinguishing their whole ontology and function to grasp their position and purpose in the created order (as angels needed, 11:10).
A further distinction is also critical to Paulís relational discourse. The glory of God had a more quantitative focus in Hebrew Scripture and quantitative significance for Israel. The focus and significance of Godís glory deepened to its full qualitative and relational depth in the relationally revealed face of Christ (2 Cor 4:6). This qualitative and relational depth is the glory Paul experienced from Christ and the full significance of glory he alludes to. It is this glory in Paulís pleroma theology which is basic to whole ontology and function, both of God and of human persons.
When Paul restates this chronological order (11:8) and its functional order (11:9; cf. Gen 2:18), he is shifting from its outer-in quantitative significance to point to the inner-out qualitative significance of creation: the primacy of whole relationship together (in contrast, "to be apart" as in creation narrative above) constituted by the whole human ontology and function created in the image and likeness of God (11:11-12; cf. Gen 1:26-27; 2:25). In this shift, Paul also engages the dynamic of redemptive reconciliation to converge with the creation narrative. The other quantitative matters are secondary, even if they appear the natural condition (physis, 11:14-15); therefore, they should not define and determine human ontology and function, both for women and men (11:16). To use secondary matters as the basis is to reduce all personsí ontology and function, and thus to go beyond what is written by substituting outer-in practices of ontological simulation and epistemological illusion from reductionismóthat is, ontology and function shaped from outer in by human terms, not Godís relational terms from inner out. The relational consequence is to diminish the primacy of relationships, minimalize their function, and fragment relationships together, which can only be restored in the process of redemptive reconciliation to the transformed relationships together of the new creation (cf. 2 Cor 5:16-18).
This is the ontological and functional condition Paul addressed and the purpose of his relational discourse with the church at Corinth to fight conjointly against their reductionism and for Godís relational wholeówhich Paul makes definitive in the remainder of his letter (11:17ff), notably with the summary declaration: "for God is a God not of fragmentation but of wholeness" (14:33). When Paul adds to this declaration further relational discourse for women, somewhat parenthetically, his only concern is for this wholeness of human and church ontology and function (14:34-35). Paul is not seeking the conformity of women to a behavioral code of silence but rather their congruity to the whole ontology and function in the image and glory of God. Thus, what Paul does not give permission to for women in the church is for them to define their persons by what they do ("to speak") and have (knowledge, position or status) because this would reduce their ontology and function. Certainly, this applies to men equally, whom Paul has been addressing throughout this letter.
How persons define themselves is a major issue basic to how persons engage in relationships, and on this basis how these persons in these relationships then constitute church. The whole of Paul and the whole in his theology challenge the assumptions and theological basis persons have in these three major issues. In his family communication with Timothy, Paul extends his relational discourse for women to provide further clarity to this process to wholeness.
1 Timothy 2:8-15
The letters to Timothy and Titus have been perceived to depict a less intense, more domesticated Paul, with a more generalized focus of faith and an emphasis on the virtue of "godliness" (1 Tim 2:2; 3:16; 4:7,8; 6:3,5,6,11; 2 Tim 3:5; Ti 1:1; cf. 1 Tim 5:4). This milder image and emphasis not found in his undisputed letters are part of the basis for disputing Paulís authorship of these letters. His relational discourse for women, I suggest, helps "restore" the intensity of Paul in his fight, not for having a mere faith and mere virtue, but for wholeness and against reductionism.
In his loving encouragement of Timothy to engage in this fight (1 Tim 1:18), he reminds Timothy that the primary purpose and outcome (telos) of his proclamation (parangelia) for the church is not purity of doctrine and conformity of belief but is only relational: persons in whole ontology from inner out agape-relationally involved by the vulnerable relational response of trust (1:3-5). Paulís intensity of meaning should not be confused with quantitative density, thus not grasping the quality of Paulís intensity in the absence of any quantitative density in his words. The faith and love referenced above by Paul (v.5) were first Paulís experiential truth of vulnerable relationship face to face with Christ (1:12-14). Paulís intensity of meaning is critical for his readers to grasp in order to understand where Paul is coming from. On the basis of his "relational faith and experiential truth" (2:7), Paulís whole function establishes the context of his communication with Timothy and his relational discourse for women.
Paul begins this section with the practice of worship, with the focus first on men (2:8). Based on where Paul is coming from, his deep desire is for men to move beyond any negativity they have from situations and circumstancesónot letting that define and determine themóand to openly participate in worship, not merely observing or being detached (cf. abad, work from the creation narrative, also rendered as worship). Yet, participation was not about being more demonstrative by lifting up their hands outwardly. "Holy hands" signified an inner out action of personal involvement, not as an end in itself but lifted up in relational response to God. This personal relational involvement with God was Paulís deep desire for men to engage further and experience deeper, because the only alternative is a reductionist practice even if the hands were lifted. Paulís focus for men is the focus by which his similar desires for women need to be seen.
Paulís concern for womenís practice in worship may initially appear to be a reverse emphasis than for men, less visible and more in the background as observers (2:9-10). Paulís focus, however, went deeper than outward appearance and further than the common church practice of "good works." This involved the vital issue in all practice about the integrity of the person presented to others, which is directly integrated with how that person defines herself. In other words, Paulís concern is about women who focus on the outer in to define themselves by what they have and do. Defined on this basis, women depend on drawing attention to their appearance and other outer-in aspects of themselves.
The issue for Paul was not about dressing modestly and decently, with appropriateness. Again, Paul was not seeking the conformity of women to a behavioral code. While modesty is not the issue, highlighting oneís self to draw attention to what one has and does is only part of the issue. When Paul added "suitable" (NRSV) or "propriety" (NIV) to this matter and later added "modesty" (NRSV), "propriety" (NIV) to another matter (2:15), the same term, sophrosyne, is more clearly rendered "sound mindset." That is, Paul was qualifying these matters by pointing to the necessary interpretive lens (phroneo) to distinguish reductionist practice from wholenessóthe new interpretive framework (phronema) and lens (phroneo) from the dynamic of redemption and baptism into Christ (Rom 8:5-6). The underlying issue for Paul, therefore, is whole human ontology and function, or the only alternative of reduced human ontology and function. Paulís initial focus on men clearly indicates that this issue equally applies to men.
How a person defines oneís self interacts with the presentation of self, which further extends in interaction with how the person engages relationships. The personís interpretive framework with its lens is critical to this process. Paulís alternative to outer-in function for women is "good works" (2:10), yet this can be perceived still as being defined by what a woman does. With Paulís lens, however, good works must always be defined by and determined from the primary relational work of relational involvement with God from inner outóthe ongoing vulnerable relational response of trust in relationship together, as discussed earlier in question 6 above on good works. This is also the lens and focus of the process of learning for women. Yet, Paul appears to constrain and conform women to keeping quiet (hesychia) as objects in the learning process. Rather, hesychia signifies ceasing from oneís human effortóspecifically engaged in defining oneís self and notably to fill oneself with more knowledge to further define oneís self with what one has (cf. 1 Cor 8:1)óand, with Paulís lens, to submit oneís person from inner out for vulnerable involvement in the relational epistemic process with God (further qualifying 1 Cor 14:35). Certainly, this learning process equally applies to men (cf. 1 Cor 2:13; Gal 1:11-12).
Paulís deep desire and concern for persons are for their whole ontology and function and for their whole relationships together, which can only emerge with these persons transformed from inner out, thus redeemed from life and practice, both individually and collectively as church, which are defined and determined from outer in. He pursues them intensely with family love for their congruence to this wholeness. Yet, his further communication to Timothy about women appears incongruent with Godís relational whole created in relational likeness to the whole of God: "no women to teach or to have authority" (1 Tim 2:12). The lens and focus of the relational epistemic process continued to apply in Paulís directive for women. Information and knowledge about God gained from a conventional epistemic process from outer in do not have the depth of significance to teach in the church, that is, teach to Godís relational whole on the basis of Godís relational terms. Such information and knowledge may have functional significance to define those human persons by what they have but have no relational significance to God and qualitative significance for Godís family. The term for authority (authenteo) denotes one acting by her own authority or power, which in this context is based on the human effort to define oneís self further by the possession of more information and knowledge, even if about God. Therefore, Paul will not allow such women of reduced ontology and function to assume leadership in Godís family. Moreover, he would not advocate for Christian freedom for women to be the means for their self-autonomy and self-determination, because the consequence, at best, would be some form of ontological simulation and epistemological illusion, that is, only reduced ontology and function. He turns to the creation narrative to support this position (2:13-14).
By repeating the chronological order of creation, Paul was not ascribing functional significance to man to establish male priority in the created order. Paul was affirming the whole significance of the human person created in the image and glory of God, just as he affirmed in his previous directive to women (1 Cor 11:7). Yet, Paul appears to define their function differently by blaming Eve for the dysfunction in the primordial garden, as if Adam did not engage in it also and was an innocent bystander. What Paul highlights was not Eveís person but the effort of Eveís self-autonomy to gain more knowledge for self-determination, perhaps even self-justificationóhuman effort based on outer-in terms in reduced ontology and functionówhich she certainly engaged first, followed by the willful engagement of Adam (cf. Gen 3:2-7). Paul uses the chronological order in the creation narrative to magnify, on the one hand, the qualitative and relational significance of the human personís ontology and function and, on the other, the functional and relational consequences of engagement in the sin of reductionism with reduced ontology and function.
At this point Paul converges the creation narrative with the dynamic of redemptive reconciliation and integrates them into the relational outcome of baptism into Christ (2:15). In Paulís pleroma soteriology, sozo (saved) is conjointly deliverance and being made whole. Curiously, Paul declares that women "will be saved through childbearing," which appears to be a human effort at self-determination and justification, limited to certain women. With Paulís lens, he highlights an aspect from the creation narrative, whose quantitative significance is only a secondary function in Godís whole plan (cf. Gen 1:28), to magnify the qualitative significance of the primary function of whole relationship together, both with God and with persons in the image and likeness of God (cf. 2:18)ówhich childbearing certainly supports in function but does not displace as the primary function. Therefore, with Paulís convergence and in his pleroma theology, women will be saved from any reduced ontology and function and saved to wholeness and whole relationship together. That is, women are sozo while they engage in secondary functionsóas identified initially in the creative narrative by childbearing, but not limited solely to this secondary functionóbased not on the extent of their secondary functions but entirely on ongoing involvement in the relational contingency ("if they continue in," Gk active voice, subjunctive mood) of what is primary: the vulnerable relational response of trust ("faith") and the vulnerable relational involvement with others in family love ("agape") only on Godís relational terms from inner out ("holiness") with a sound mindset ("sophrosyne"), the new phronema-framework and phroneo-lens from the dynamic of baptism into Christ and redemptive reconciliation. Womenís ontology and function pivot on this contingency.
The faith in Paulís relational contingency is not the generalized faith of what the church has and proclaims but the specific function only of relationship. The vulnerable relational response of trust signifies the ongoing primary relational work which constitutes the "good works" of Paulís alternative to outer-in function for women, and from which all secondary functions need to emerge to be whole from inner out. Moreover, the agape in Paulís relational contingency is also reflexively contingent on faith. To be agape-relationally involved with others must be integrated with and emerge from the vulnerable relational response of trust; without this, agape becomes a more self-oriented effort at sacrifice, focused on what that person doesófor example, about othersí needs, situations or circumstancesówithout the relational significance of opening oneís person to other persons and focusing on involvement with them in relationship. Paul was definitive that any works without the primacy of relational work are not the outworking of the whole person created in "the image and glory of God" (1 Cor 11:7).
Of course, everything which Paul has directed to women is also necessarily directed to men in Paulís pleroma theology, except perhaps for childbearing. Paul sees both of them beyond their situations and circumstances and defines them as persons from inner out. Yet, I wonder if an Ďunexpected differenceí has emerged in the church, which no one has, or perhaps wants to, seriously address. Whole ontology and function for persons of both genders are defined and determined only as transformed persons from inner out relationally involved in transformed relationships together, both intimate and equalizedóthe relational outcome Ďalreadyí in Paulís pleroma ecclesiology. This relational outcome of the experiential truth of the gospel has been problematic in church history as far back as Peter (cf. the churches in Rev 2:2-4; 3:1-2, 15-17), and which continues to grieve the Spirit. While the situations and circumstances in the church have certainly varied, the underlying issue of reductionism in church ontology and function has remained the common problemówhich may be pointing to an emerging solution needing our attention.
Since Paul was occupied with fragmentation in churches, I doubt if he had any initial awareness of this Ďunexpected differenceí in his early experience with churches. But if the difference between Jesusí relationships with women compared with men during his earthly life has any further significance for the church, it supports what I suggest without apology: Women who are emerging in whole ontology and function are the relational key for the whole function of this relational outcome and the persons most likely to be vulnerable from inner out in order to lead other persons in this process to wholeness in church ontology and function.
The Creator made no inner out distinction between male and female, as Adam and Eve experienced in whole relationship together (Gen 2:25), in contrast to their experience in reduced ontology and function (Gen 3:7). The extent of a personís engagement in reductionism is the key. In Paulís pleroma theology, the righteous are not those who simply possess faithóa common theological notion. The righteous are those in ongoing congruence with their whole ontology and function in relationship with God, whom God can count on to be those persons in their vulnerable relational response of trust. Whom God can count on to be vulnerable in relationship with their whole person is the question at issue; which persons will step forward to be accountable with God and to act from inner out on the challenge in transformed relationships together, conjointly intimate and equalized, as the church is the question before us all. No human distinctions in Paulís lens have any qualitative significance for persons baptized into Christ (Gal 3:27-29), only the primary relational work of trust making persons vulnerable to be agape-relationally involved with others in and for Godís new creation family Ďalreadyí (Gal 5:6; 6:15)ónothing less and no substitutes.
This is the whole of Paul and the whole in Paulís theology, whom he vulnerably presented for the experiential truth for his readersóthe whole of the gospel who fulfills the inherent human relational need and resolves the human relational condition and problem. And Paul holds his readers accountable for the whole of who, what and how God isóvulnerably revealed only for whole relationship together. Therefore, this raises a twelfth question for all of Paulís readers to answer:
The Spirit, indeed the whole of God, waits for our compatible response.
©2010 T. Dave Matsuo, Ph.D.