The Paul of Surprises: His vision of the Christian Life

The Paul of Surprises: His vision of the Christian Life
Author: Geoffrey Turner
ISBN: 978-0-232-52892-3
Date: 2012
Price: ?14.99 RRP
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Publisher: Darton, Longman, & Todd

Geoffrey Turner was the Head of Theology for over twenty years at Trinity & All Saints College, University of Leeds, and is a former President of the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain. His scholarly but highly accessible 150-page book is a study on St Paul and his vision of the Christian life. Paul is probably the most important figure in the history of Christianity.

Ethics, spirituality, and theology come together and overlap in Paul. As a pious Jew in a very different culture to our own, some of what Paul said is limited by his time, e.g. his acceptance of slavery. However, most of what Paul the missionary wrote to his small churches offered an incisive picture of what is involved in living the Christian life.

Although his writings are rather obscure for many of us today, Paul?s understanding of the teachings of Jesus are more studied and argued over than those of any other theologian. For Paul, the Christian life is not about slavishly following rules or laws, as we were perhaps taught as children. After all, the Lord Jesus?s approach had been to sum everything up quoting Deuteronomy to the effect that legal observance is all about ?loving God and loving your neighbour? (Mark 12.28-34). Paul teaches that following Christ is about the kind of person that you are striving to become. It is about growing in mindfulness and commitment, and in helping and supporting one another in faithfulness in our families, at work, and at school.

Paul was not a moral philosopher or a moral theologian. He did not preach in an academy or seminary but in houses, synagogues, and the open air. His writings promote a version of ethics, where human being precedes human doing. Virtues are to be practised as ends in themselves and not merely as means to some higher end. After the opening introductions, there is a chapter-by-

chapter review of the virtues ? humility, faithfulness, hope, love, holiness, and unity ? that according to Paul, make up the character of those who aspire to live the Christian life.

Michael D. Phelan, Permanent Deacon,

St Teresa?s, Beaconsfield