from "Moral Vision of the New Testament"--
(pp. 4-5) “Even if we should succeed, however, in giving some satisfactory synthetic account of the New Testament’s ethical content, we will still find ourselves perched on the edge of a daunting abyss: the temporal and cultural distance between ourselves and the text. How can we bridge this chasm? This is the hermeneutical task. How do we appropriate the New Testament’s message as a word addressed to us?
“The problem was put to me in a striking way by a Methodist pastor in Kansas. While conducting a three-day class on Romans for a pastors’ school, I had insisted that Paul’s letter to the Romans should not be read as a tract about personal salvation; rather, Paul’s central concern in the letter is to explicate the relation of Jews and Gentiles in God’s redemptive purpose while insisting that the gospel does not abrogate God’s faithfulness to Israel. On that last day, one of the pastors said, ‘Professor Hays, you’ve convinced me that you’re right about Romans, but now I don’t see how I can preach from it anymore. Where I serve out in western Kansas, Israel’s fate isn’t a burning issue for my people, and there’s not a Jew within a hundred miles of my church.’ The objection deserves a thoughtful answer.”
Let me flag up a few things. This quote epitomizes the pastorally weak implications of the New Perspective on Paul. How depressing to think that the Bible must cross a “daunting abyss” before it can reach its current reader! To the extent that people embrace these penunltimate understandings of the Bible (i.e., its context) as foundational, ministry suffers, and (so-called) “Biblical Theology” and “Expository Preaching” rise to the fore.
Please contrast this with Rod Rosenbladt’s penetrating account of biblical ministry “on the ground” (featured below). He seems to have little trouble finding a relevant, universal word – as Fitz Allison calls it: “The Enabling Word”. The best Hays can do is return to ethics in answer to the wonderful pastor from Kansas’s question. The Kansas pastor hilariously draws out the issue: “Where I serve out in western Kansas, Israel’s fate isn’t a burning issue for my people, and there’s not a Jew within a hundred miles of my church.” !!! The New Perspective is a dog that won't hunt (as they say in the South).
Speaking of Western Kansas, Ashley Null, the well-respected and ordained (ECUSA) Cranmer historian, and chaplain to the US Olympic Swim Team, is from Western Kansas. I’ll share his brief and probing essay on the Holy Spirit shortly, which ministers profoundly, despite his being Anglican (har har). I repeat, he is no Lutheran!