Paul believes in BOTH predestination AND freewill (Kirk and Sanders)

Tucked in his ongoing series of blog thoughts on Douglas A. Campbell’s, The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul, my favorite New Testament scholar says,

…Now I know that on many of these issues you don’t think Ed Sanders has gotten things as straight as needs be. Fair enough. But one thing he said around the seminar table has stuck with me and resonated as true to much of early Jewish literature: “Paul believed both in predestination and free will, and so did the other Jews of the first century. Do you know what the Qumran community called themselves? The elect. You know what else they called themselves? The volunteers!”

It seems more than a little likely to me that what we consider theological contradiction a first century Jew might consider paradox or mystery. This is one reason I’m less than eager to base my assessment of Paul on an idealized reconstruction of theories. I’m not persuaded that our only other option is to relegate Paul to the realm of contradiction and confusion.

Both/and might be an alternative to either/or…

JRD Kirk, More on the Reformed Traditions in Campbell

I’ll just add that my African colleagues tend to have an easier time handling these BOTH/AND paradoxes than my linear Western EITHER/OR friends do. That’s just one more benefit of doing biblical studies in the African context.

No matter how original a scholar’s imagination, . . .

“No matter how original a scholar’s imagination, no matter how penetrating and critical his judgment, society does far more of the writing of any book that lives than the author himself.”[1] However humiliating it may be formulate such a principle, its justification scarcely requires demonstration. We can no more escape the influence of our cultural climate than people at the equator or in the Arctic regions can remain unaffected by their physical conditions. This seems plain enough when pointed out, yet in theological discussion it is rarely thought necessary to take account of the environment in which ideas are formulated and the motives of their sponsors. A book is cited and a name mentioned in connection with an attractive theory; let it be endorsed by a few impressive authorities and it rapidly spreads; in due time it may be regarded as critically orthodox. But how did that theory come to be formulated? What precedents did it have in its own field, and what prompted the author to put it forward. Most significant advance in thought are the product of long processes, brought to an issue by a gifted person…(George Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Last Days, 1998, p. 1)


[1] C. C. McCown, The Search for the Real Jesus (New York, 1940), 18.