Saturday, December 06, 2003


Over the years I've had many reasons to be thankful for Chris Rowland, Professor of New Testament at the University of Oxford. He's been a courageous advocate for (and practitioner of) radical contextual theology. He's worked with grassroots organisations and parishes as well as operating as a creative academic. He's collaborated with adult educators like me. He's a dissenting Anglican involved in the UK Anabaptist Network. We both contributed to the Jubilee Group symposium on disestablishment, Setting the Church of England Free. So Chris is no ivory tower theologian. He sticks his neck out. His excellent 'Face to Faith' piece on 'Paul's Letter of Tolerance' is but one example. Here's a brief excerpt:

"Thanks to Paul, Christianity has never really been a religion that used the Bible as a code of law. In his Second Letter To The Corinthians, he writes: "The letter kills, the Spirit gives life." Throughout his writings, he tries to get at what the Bible means, with the central criterion being conformity to Christ. He pioneered an approach to the Bible which also applies to his words in the New Testament. We should not concentrate on the letter of the text, but try to get at the underlying point of his words.

"So, basing one's attitudes towards gay and lesbian people merely on two verses from Romans and Corinthians I runs the risk of ending up with a form of religion which is based on the letter of the text -- something Paul empathically opposes -- rather than on what a loving God is doing in transforming lives in the present. On the Damascus road, Saul's world was turned upside down. He encountered Christ in the outsiders, the heretics, the misfits and aliens, the very people whom he had been commissioned to round up. It was this experience that transformed his life. Such a turnaround was not the result of minute attention to text and precedent."

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