If all things go according to plan, I am set to have a book review published in the upcoming issue of the Stone Campbell Journal. Because the review has not yet been published (to my knowledge), and because I am not 100% certain on the rules of republishing reviews in different venues; I will give only the highlights of my original submission.
The book in question is the newest contribution by Michael J. Gorman–a notable professor at St. Mary’s Seminary & University (Baltimore). The book is, Reading Paul, and it is an excellent introductory work on understanding Paul’s gospel message. What is of primary importance for Gorman, at least at the start of the book, is the need to see Paul as a contemporary “spiritual guide” (p.2)–a guide whose influence is just as relevant today as in his own day. However, just like in his own day, Paul, as a “spiritual guide”, is still a controversial figure and the controversy revolves around the implications of his gospel.
The core of Gorman’s book (chapters 5-12) explores–albeit in condensed form–the main themes that run throughout the gospel message that Paul delivered during his career. What is absolutely commendable about this portion of the book is the recognition of so many distinct theological themes working together to create a unified whole. Two of these themes stand out in my mind: 1) justification by faith, and 2) end-times theology–or, eschatology. Gorman handles both of these themes with incredible clarity and his arguments need to be considered with the respect they deserve. Gorman rightly notes that all of the themes in chapters 5-12 are not meant to be read only within religious settings, for the gospel was not meant to be so confined. The gospel, both in Paul’s day and in the modern world, speaks to the areas of theology, politics, philosophy, sociology, etc.
For those of you who might be interested in getting a broad-brush view of Paul’s gospel, I would highly recommend this book. Even though it is newer, I would also recommend reading this book as a sound introduction to Gorman’s other books. These earlier works expound upon the larger implications of Paul’s gospel with a depth expected from a seasoned scholar and a scholar who is committed to living what he calls a “cruciform life” (p. 146).