Saturday, February 19, 2005

changing direction

As well as sorting out my fitness regime, I've been reading Andrew Chester's Conversion at Corinth (yes, I know I'm reading Brian McLaren's latest - I'm halfway through that - and contrary to what the Daily mail says women aren't the only gender able to do more than one thing at a time!)

Chester's book is his PhD thesis, so it's pretty demanding. But it is also brilliant. He uses Anthony Giddens' structuration theory as a tool to examine what Paul and his converts understood had happened to them. As I am embarking on doctoral studies hoping to apply Giddens' theory to contemporary conversion, I am very interested to see what Chester makes of this.

So far, so riveting. In the course of his adventure, Chester touches on the New Perspective on Paul, particularly as it affects our understanding of Pauline soteriology before looking at the greek words for call/calling - the terms Paul uses of what happened to him when he met Jesus.

He determines to answer 7 key questions - among them, what's revealed about the God who does the calling, what's the human response and is God's calling for individuals or groups? But the most interesting one is 'if through calling people God changes who they are, how is this change expressed?' (he then goes on to ask about call and task).

It's that question that seems to me to get the hub of what conversion is about: when God calls, do we change? At what level do we change? Perhaps all that changes is that we go to church on Sunday mornings rather than the shopping mall. Or maybe our whole approach to life changes and it results in us treating our families and friends better, changing our jobs to work in areas more compatible with having a relationship with God or consciously bringing our lives into line with how the Bible tells us God wants us to live.

And at the heart of this is the idea of God's power affecting our lives in tangible even measurable ways - all that stuf the New Testament attributes to the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. Indeed the very thing Paul talks about in galatians 5 and 6 where he tries to answer the question that if the Christian faith is not about doing the works of Law, how can we live lives that are pleasing to God? The answer Paul gives is by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit - but is this an individual or a corporate thing, or both?

I'm really hoping that Chester throws light on these areas in the course of his discussion. I'll keep you posted.

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