Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
April 7th, 2014 by Joel Watts

Was Paul a Calvinist or a Arminian-Wesleyan?

Hagia Sophia ; Empress Zoë mosaic : Christ Pan...

Hagia Sophia ; Empress Zoë mosaic : Christ Pantocrator; Istanbul, Turkey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You have heard what my manner of life was when I was still a practising Jew: how savagely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it; and how in the practice of our national religion I outstripped most of my Jewish contemporaries by my boundless devotion to the traditions of my ancestors. But then in his good pleasure God, who from my birth had set me apart, and who had called me through his grace…(Galatians 1.13-15 REB)

This is not the first time in the canon we read of Paul arguing that he was set a part by God (Romans 1.1). Here, he insists it was from his birth/from before his birth. We must ask, did Paul see himself has having a choice in “choosing” to follow Jesus on the Damascus road? How do we reconcile our supposed notion of “free will” to that of God’s?

Again, I ask: God Paul have refused to follow Christ on Damascus road?

John Wesley did not see this “unconditional predestination” as inconsistent with his theology of a free grace as he writes to this verse in his Explanatory Notes upon the New Testament. Do we then allow that some are predetermined to be conformed to God’s righteousness and others must choose for themselves in some manner?

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Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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