Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 04:2 (Fall 1983)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

Theology in Conflict: Studies in Paulg Understanding of God in Romans, by Halvor Moxnes. Supplements to Novum Testament 53. Leiden: Brill, 1980. xiv + 319 pp. 88 Guilders.

Stimulated in part by post-doctoral studies at Yale in 1973–74, this book breaks a new path toward the understanding of the function and interpretation of God-language in Romans. Rejecting Bultmann’s premise that theology for Paul is anthropology, Halvor Moxnes shows that each reference to God in Romans reflects the controversies surrounding Paul’s mission. Paul’s doctrine of God thus serves the purpose of a unified church containing Jews and Gentiles. Moxnes’ method is to sketch the Hebraic background of pauline usage to indicate the unique contours of the argument, and then to integrate such insights with rhetorical and epistolary insights about the purposes of Romans. Unlike some dissertations written in Europe these days, an exhaustive use of international scholarship is evident in Moxnes’ work. His book ends with reflections concerning the implications of Paul’s theology in a pluralistic and conflict-ridden world. I feel that this book is so important a contribution that its argument deserves to be cited in some detail.

Moxnes’ thesis is that the peculiar emphases in Paul’s discussion about God and his promises fulfilled in Christ reveal concrete issues in pauline congregations concerning the legitimacy of Paul’s doctrine and mission. Charges of blasphemy and resistance to his ideal of a unified church of Jews and Gentiles provide the background essential to understand his doctrine of God. Each theological issue had a sociological setting. “Paul’s use of statements about God is directly related to his defence for a religiously and socially integrated community of Christians. In Paul’s interpretation, traditional statements about God were employed to legitimate his missionary practice as well as the Christian churches that resulted from that practice. When these same expressions were turned against Paul’s Jewish-Christian opponents, however, they took on a critical function. Again, his criticism concerned not only their theories but even more their practice, the way their self-understanding was expressed in religious and social structures. Thus when Paul applied theological statements to a particular situation or structure, it represents in part a sociological description…,, (p. 99).

There is an underlying assumption in Moxnes’ work “that there is a close correspondence between the theological language used and a real situation in the Early Church” (p. 6). I find this compatible because a similar “audience-critical” method has guided my own studies of Paul’s

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