Saturday, August 21, 2010

Book Notice: Perriman, The Future of the People of God

Andrew Perriman
The Future of the People of God: Reading Romans Before and After Western Christendom
Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2010.

In this new and provocative book, Andrew Perriman argues that the way forward for the church in the post-Christian, post-postmodern West is to reclaim a historically situated understanding of the Christ faith.

His book is an attempt to read Paul's letter to the Romans fettered, yes incumbered [these are my words not his], by all its historical particularity. While admitting such an approach will "set limits to the dogmatic and pastoral significance of the letter" [and this fact will no doubt concern many], he believes it "opens up interesting possibilities" for solving or at least soothing the church's present self-identity crisis in an age much like that of Paul's when "it is no longer possible (or desirable) to represent the victory of YHWH over the gods of the nations through various forms of political, social, and cultural dominance that made up Christendom" (p. 10).

There is likely much in this book to critically assess and, truth be told, I have not read this book "analytically", in Adler and Van Doren's terminology. The best I've done thus far is a "superficial reading". Still Perriman's hermeneutical intuition is correct in my view and I think the following quote is worth the price of book:
Because the narrative is bounded both geopolitically and temporarlly, because it proceeds the fulfillment that came to be interpreted in accordance with the overweening intellectual self-confidence of Western civilization, we would do well to disable the universalizing assumptions that we bring to the text and, in the interests of exegesis, re-contextualize ourselves--to the point that we come to share Paul's necessarily myopic outlook and limited horizon, to the point that the fate of national Israel matters more to us than the theoretical relationship of the Law to faith, to the point that we are more troubled by the prospect of a pagan backlash than by the suspicion that others have not rightly understood justification theory (p. 9).

Wow! Read that again. And again. Read it several times. Surely wiser words have rarely been spoken in contemporary Pauline studies.


Opening_Doors said...

Please will you clarify what you think Andrew Perriman means by

'the fate of national Israel'

Thank you

Joel Willitts said...

yes. I believe he is referring to what other call "ethnic Israel" and the religio-political temple centered Israel of his day. The Israel what was pummeled by the Romans in the First and Second Jewish revolts.

Jonathan Robinson said...

OK, i'm glad i read your review, even if it was "superficial" and brief, i had read another review and got the impression it wouldn't be worth reading, but just that quote alone has got my mouth watering.

jeff miller said...

sounds great.

Matt Viney said...

It sounds like a great read. However, I'll be interested to see how this will add to our understanding of Paul.
It's easy enough to pontificate on reading Paul in his own context (plenty of people on that wagon), but reconstructing his socio-historical context is always fraught with ambiguities.

louis said...

If the idea is to re-read Romans in a way that helps the church move forward in these "post-postmodern" times, then we will have to be "troubled" by "justification theory" as much as anything else.

Jason B. Hood said...

Reminds me of Kasemann's "history of interp of Paul is the history of the domestication of Paul".

Joel, does he discuss Munck?