The Holy Spirit And Ethics In Paul: Transformation And Empowering For Religious-Ethical Life -- By: Volker Rabens

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 60:2 (NA 2009)
Article: The Holy Spirit And Ethics In Paul: Transformation And Empowering For Religious-Ethical Life
Author: Volker Rabens


The Holy Spirit And Ethics In Paul: Transformation And Empowering For Religious-Ethical Life1

Volker Rabens

This dissertation answers the question how, according to the apostle Paul, the Holy Spirit enables religious-ethical life. How does the Spirit transform and empower believers so that they are able to live according to the values set forth by Paul’s gospel? In order to answer this question, we look in the first part of the dissertation at an established approach to the ethical work of the Spirit in Paul. We have named this the ‘infusion-transformation approach’ because it assumes that the Spirit transforms believers substance-ontologically due to its nature as a physical substance. Moral life should be the natural outflow of the transformed nature of the believers which results from this infusion.

We examine every passage from the Hebrew Bible, early Judaism (esp. from the DSS, JosAs and Philo), Hellenism and Paul (esp. 1 Cor. 10:3-4; 12:13; 15:44) that is put forward by the proponents of the infusion-transformation approach. We conclude that the Jewish and Pauline texts which are understood to contain a physical concept of the Spirit have been misinterpreted, partly owing to a misconception of metaphorical and symbolic language. However, while a material concept of the Spirit is discovered in some strands of Hellenism, none of the Jewish, Graeco-Roman or Pauline sources give evidence of a substance-ontological transformation of believers caused by the alleged infusion with a physical Spirit. For this reason we are able to dismiss the ‘infusion-transformation’ approach in chs. 2-3 of the thesis (these chapters further provide an extensive treatment on how to interpret metaphors and an excursus on the alleged Pauline concept of the Spirit as an immaterial substance).

In our programmatic ch. 4 we unfold a new approach to Paul’s theology, understanding the ethical work of the Spirit in particular, as relational. This concept of relational transformation and empowering overcomes the perceived opposition of ‘substantive’ and ‘relational’ change. It is argued that the experience of intimate relationships transforms people both in their being as well as empowering them for moral conduct. Accordingly, we propose that for Paul it is primarily through deeper knowledge of, and an intimate relationship with, God, Jesus Christ and with the community of faith that people are transformed and empowered by the Spirit for religious-ethical life.

Ch. 5 shows that...

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