Transitions Part 1 Section 8, Goicoechea on Paul’s Romans

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TRANSITIONS: Wrapping Up Scripture Studies Blogging (Part 1, Goicoechea and Paul 1)

TRANSITIONS: Wrapping Up Scripture Studies Blogging (Part 1, Goicoechea and Paul SECTION 2)

TRANSITIONS: Wrapping Up Scripture Studies Blogging (Part 1, Goicoechea and Paul SECTION 3)

TRANSITIONS: Wrapping Up Scripture Studies Blogging (Part 1, Goicoechea and Paul SECTION 4)

Transitions Part 1 Section 5, Goicoechea on Paul’s 1 Corinthians

Transitions Part 1 Section 6, Goicoechea on Paul’s 2 Corinthians

Transitions Part 1 Section 7, Goicoechea on Paul’s Galatians

Part of the difficulty in establishing Jesus’ relation to the law is that there is a popular grace through faith vs works reading going around.  But, Jesus said he didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matt 5:17).  The point of the law was to show you how sinful you are, so Jesus didn’t abolish the law but made it super strict: eg adultery isn’t just the sex act, but even a lustful eye.  The same goes with circumcision.  Circumcision of the penis is made stricter with circumcision of the heart.  This goes beyond the circumcision of the heart from Deuteronomy 10:12-17 because it is aimed at all people, not just the Jews.  Paul says regarding circumcision of the heart that:

  • 25 Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you are a transgressor of the law your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 So, if the uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then the physically uncircumcised person who keeps the law will judge you who, though having the written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law. 28 For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision something external and physical. 29 Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not the written code. Such a person receives praise not from humans but from God. (Rom 2:25-29)

A person can obviously be circumcised but still be a bad Jew, of course, but a heart that has been circumcised to reveal the law of agape (selfless love) is something else entirely.  It is the holy spirit as it conveys the agape (selfless love) of the forgiving crucified Christ that alone can circumcise the heart.  Paul thus says followers of the Jesus movement are seeds of Abraham, not because they are Jewish, but because they had the faith of faithful Abraham (Gal 3:29).  Paul says even gentiles have the law written on their hearts which is shown when they naturally do what is right and is attested to by their conscience, but truly experiencing the forgiving face of the suffering Christ circumcises the heart to reveal the full law written on the heart, the law of agape = loving the other more than yourself (eg parental love; love of enemy, etc).

So everything is rosy?  Paul laments

  • I cannot understand my own behaviour. I fail to carry out the things I want to do, and I find myself doing the very things I hate. In my inmost self I dearly love God’s Law. But I can see that my body follows a different law that battles against the law which my reason dictates. This is what makes me a prisoner of that law of sin which lives inside my body. (Romans 7:15, 22–23)

Goicoechea comments that

  • So until the second coming we are in the flesh and in the body of Christ at the same time and it is our ethical task to live according to the law of love rather than according to the standard of the flesh even though we constantly fall (208-209).  Paul’s anthropology or theory of our human journey is the story of his own life, conversion and mission writ large. He thought of himself as a pious Jew and a Roman citizen. He wanted to kill Christians in order to nip an evil in the bud so that such insurrectionists would not team up with Zionists and provoke further strife with the Romans. In order to reconcile Jews and Romans he wanted to curtail Christian extremists who wanted a revolutionary change of the social order. When Paul was called by the loving face of Jesus in the loving face of Stephen he began to see that he was wrong and to repent his evil ways. He believed that he and others were sinners but that God loved them anyway and Christ’s death for sinners proved that love. Just as Paul experienced a love in Stephen that he could not deny and a love unlike any other he had ever known so he now had to go out and love all others in that way for that was truly mankind’s ideal. (210)

Paul is perplexed because he is unreconciled to those he is supposed to be closest to like Peter and James.  They are his enemy in the sense that they are sinning in his eyes because the are hindering the reconciliation of Jews with gentile, but the peculiar logic of agape selfless love is going to allow Paul to see the new agape law of love the other more than yourself such as in love of enemy. So Jesus doesn’t hate the sinner any more than he hated Paul, but sees fertile soil to create, such as arch persecutor Saul died and was resurrected as apostle Paul who could give a testimony to the faith like no one else because it had the power to transfigure an enemy as evil as Saul.  The world turned on Jesus and he paradoxically made them righteous through his selfless forgiving love for them.  In this regard, in Romans we read about Goicoechea’s theme of reconciliation:

  • What proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. Having died to make us righteous, is it likely that he would now fail to save us from God’s anger? When we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, we were still enemies. Now that we have been reconciled, surely we may count on being saved by the life of his Son? Not merely because we have been reconciled but because we are filled with joyful trust in Christ, through whom we have already gained our reconciliation. (Rom 5:8–11)

Goicoechea comments that:

  • Christ died in the flesh for us that we might all love with him in his new life and as members of his resurrected corporation. Through [Christ’s] weakness on the cross we can all be in his Kingdom (213-214).

Again, there is a lot of superstitious nonsense going on here, but I think we’re bringing out a logic to the New Testament that makes good sense of what Paul is doing.  And clearly, having a life where everything just happens to you, tragedy after tragedy, is clearly inferior to a creative one where you transfigure life the way Jesus transfigured his enemies (the soldier at the cross).  Nietzsche said that which does not kill me makes me stronger.  A successful lawyer can be a miserable alcoholic just as a lowly prisoner can make a fun game of dancing in her chains (consider the Oscar Winning movie “Life is Beautiful”).  Jesus’ philosophy of loving the other more than yourself is thus the foundation for what later would become Cognitive Behavioral Psychology and therapy and really an entire worldview if you can get beyong the superstitious stuff about Satan, etc.

I just have 2 more posts on Paul’s authentic letters, Philemon and Philippians, a short recapitulation of Paul, and then a little bit on Mark and Matthew. So, I’m winding down my Scripture Studies Journey! I hope you are enjoying meeting my old friend and professor the Canadian Postmodern Philosopher David Goicoechea! We differ he and I, sometimes substantially, but I think he makes a helpful analysis that can be transferred over to a secular context.

Want to read more?  Click on the MacDonald clan image below for the Scripture Studies index:


Goicoechea, David. Agape and Personhood: with Kierkegaard, Mother, and Paul (A Logic of Reconciliation from the Shamans to Today) (Postmodern Ethics Book 2). Pickwick Publications, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.