Is Paul’s Gospel Counterimperial? Evaluating The Prospects Of The Fresh Perspective” For Evangelical Theology -- By: Denny Burk

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 51:2 (Jun 2008)
Article: Is Paul’s Gospel Counterimperial? Evaluating The Prospects Of The Fresh Perspective” For Evangelical Theology
Author: Denny Burk


Is Paul’s Gospel Counterimperial?
Evaluating The Prospects Of The Fresh Perspective” For Evangelical Theology

Denny Burk*

* Denny Burk is assistant professor of New Testament at Criswell College, 4010 Gaston Ave., Dallas, TX 75246.

I. Introduction

The release of the new Superman movie in the summer of 2006 brought with it no little controversy when it became known that the new movie changes one of the more well-known descriptors of Superman. The traditional, unredacted description of Superman says that he defends “truth, justice, and the American way.” But in the new movie, Superman fights for “truth, justice,” and “all that stuff.”1 The phrase’s omission in the new movie ignited a political controversy among the usual suspects of the talking-head class of American media—one side celebrating the new Superman’s global appeal, and the other side lamenting the unpatriotic depiction of an American icon. These responses, predictably, reflected the polarization of the right and left wings of the American political spectrum, with the right celebrating American exceptionalism and with the left happy to see it removed from this popular expression.

What was clear in the controversy, however, is that the once-noble ideal of “the American way” has fallen into disrepute among many in America and abroad. Some analysts have argued that the American war in Iraq and President George W. Bush’s so-called “cowboy diplomacy”2 have played no small part in provoking a revival of domestic and foreign opposition to the vaunted “American way.” As Jonah Goldberg of The Los Angeles Times has said, “‘the American way’ now seems to have become code for arrogant

unilateralism that falls somewhere outside truth, justice and all that is good.”3

The truth of the matter is that activists, politicians, and academic elites of both America and Europe have been critical of the so-called “American Way” for quite some time—at least inasmuch as the “American Way” is perceived by them as shorthand for a totalizing and oppressive American Empire. When Hugo Chavez stood before the United Nations and accused America of being an empire and charged President Bush with being the devil incarnate, many Americans wrote off Chavez’s rant as the raving of a crackpot dictator.4 What many people did not realize was that Chavez’s tirade against “American imperialism” reflects a fairly mainstream view amo...

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