Monday, March 20, 2023

Not a self-help/self-improvement program

Paul is, however, hardly an optimist. Indeed, in his view our natural capacities to seek God and do the good—or to quench our thirst for truth and beauty—inevitably lead us away from that which we seek. Sin overpowers us, enslaves us, and makes us sick unto death. And no amount of spiritual exercise or striving against our illness can make us well. Recovery and repair come to us from the outside, from God’s side of the human predicament. Paul’s letters, therefore, are not lessons in self-cultivation or community organizing or social criticism or any such things in themselves. They are rather more like passionate summonses to receive and undergo the disciplines of the free life that only God can grant. Faith, not available knowledge of the immanent world, is the gift—and, subsequently, the virtue—that imparts true vision (Gal 3:15). And church is the name for faith’s “meantime,” reparative pattern of life in the world.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 111

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