Romans 7:14–25 And The Creation Theology Of Paul -- By: Don B. Garlington

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 11:2 (Fall 1990)
Article: Romans 7:14–25 And The Creation Theology Of Paul
Author: Don B. Garlington

Romans 7:14–25 And The Creation Theology Of Paul

Don B. Garlington


I. Introduction

In his Tyndale lecture of 1974, J. D. G. Dunn prefaced his study of Rom 7:14–25 with the observation:

Rom 7 is one of those key passages in Paul’s writings which offers us an insight into a whole dimension of Paul’s thought and faith. Even more important, it is one of the few really pivotal passages in Paul’s theology; by which I mean that our understanding of it will in large measure determine our understanding of Paul’s theology as a whole, particularly his anthropology and soteriology. As interpretations of Rom 7 differ, so interpretations of Paul’s anthropology and soteriology markedly alter in content and emphasis. Dispute about a tense, a phrase, a half-verse in Rom 7 means in fact dispute about the whole character of Paul’s gospel.1

This statement is methodologically all important, because, at the end of the day, one’s view of Rom 7:14–25 will hinge on one’s assessment of its particular niche within the edifice of the Pauline theology. If, for example, the commentator sees in the passage precisely the same articulation of the letter/Spirit antithesis as in 2 Corinthians 3 (Rom 2:29; 7:6), then that particular aspect of Paul’s teaching will serve as the larger fabric of which Rom 7:14–25 is but a thread. Thus interpreted, the conflict depicted by Paul from the vantage point of a believer-would be that of the person engulfed by the power of sin who has been convicted by the killing letter of the law, who as yet remains within the era of condemnation and has not experienced the liberation of the lifegiving Spirit.

However, a different framework of interpretation will result in a different evaluation of Romans 7. Dunn, for example, links the passage to the eschatological character of the believer’s possession of the Spirit, resulting in a tension between the Already and the

Not Yet and consequent participation in the sufferings of Christ.2 Consequently, Dunn places this portion of Romans 7 squarely within the be...

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