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Biblical Studies
 You're here » Christian Books Index » Books » Biblical Studies » Paul and the Religious Experience of Reconciliation: Diasporic Community and Creole Consciousness

Paul and the Religious Experience of Reconciliation: Diasporic Community and Creole Consciousness

Author: Gilbert I. Bond
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       In the ancient world as in contemporary times, religion provides a vital context in which people become who they are and establish themselves with a unique identity. The process of constructing the self is not only a psychological process and a phenomenological reality; it can also be a deeply religious experience.

The two primary traditions of interpretation through which Christians have attempted to engage Paul find their roots in Luther--who viewed Paul as a champion of the individual's private struggle before God, who resolves the impasse faithfulness and sin through justification by faith--and Augustine, who found in Paul the image of redemption as the sinner's relinquishment of the struggle between his or her will and God's.

Gilbert Bond, however, suggests that neither of these traditions allows us to see Paul adequately in the context of his religious experience, and thus these traditions, and thus these traditions limit our ability to appreciate Paul's significance for the Christian life of faith.

Here, using the phenomenological tradition of Edmund Husserl and the understanding of religious experience as delineated by William James, Gilbert Bond reaches back to the New Testament to interpret the story of Paul's conversion, paying close attention to Paul's identity and the character of the stunningly diverse community in which he lived. In doing so, Bond reveals that the importance of Paul's mystical transformation is to be found in the dense description of the communities he tried to create. No longer a guardian of the exclusive ritualized space of Pharisaic fellowship, Paul becomes a 'creolizer', assimilating into his identity disparate elements of his society and welcoming slaves, women, Jews, and Greeks into a radically inclusive Christian fellowship. As such, Paul's legacy for Christians is his dramatic example of how the message of Christ should inform the way we live in the world, with the neighbors God has created for us.

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