"Could it not be that there are conflicting tendencies in Paul's own mind?"Well, no Heikki, just ask any of those nice systematic theologians that plague the Reformed tradition.
Why did the confusion arise anyway? Raisanen suggests the development of Christianity as a separate, detached faith from Judaism was marked by the need for ad hoc decisions from its inception: "As so often, practice probably preceded theory... new experiences seem to have triggered a bold reinterpretation of Jewish tradition... [Paul] is desperately trying to solve a problem which proves to be too difficult."
"Paul first became a missionary sponsored by the congregation of Antioch, the home-base of the Hellenists. But when his views grew more radical, the Antiochians broke with him, and he had to continue his work independently."
"Paul is struggling to make sense of a strong tension between his inherited values and his new convictions."No wonder we have so much difficulty trying to put the pieces back together again today. Humpty Dumpty is, perhaps, beyond the systematising ministrations of the interpreters. Does God, for example, predestine hapless mortals to glory or destruction? Read some of Paul's arguments, and it certainly seems so. But read on and he seems to drop the whole idea. "Future generations of Christians would have been spared a great deal of anxiety and despair, if Paul had not tried it at all."
It's not as though we can just play one book off against another, claiming that Paul's "mature" view is the one to follow.
"... some scholars assume that Paul's theology underwent a substantial development between Galatians and Romans. But the thesis presented at the end of Romans 11 is also quite different from the thesis argued a couple of pages earlier in chapter 9."Darn. Was Paul making it up on the hoof? Isn't it clear that, if not completely incoherent in places, the Apostle was at least embarrassingly inconsistent?
"Paul is found consistent only if the interpreter knows how to tell the coherent kernel from the unimportant husk."And therein lies the trick. A fibre-free gospel? Just ask the All Bran brigade about the pitfalls of that strategy.
"Do not the attempts to find in Paul coherence at all costs betray a kind of docetism?"Docetism, maybe. Or just plain dishonesty and special pleading?
Raisanen concludes with the plea that, instead of deferring to Paul as an authority, a know-it-all to whom (if we can only work out what he's actually saying) we must kow-tow, we should embrace him as a discussion partner. A somewhat befuddled discussion partner it seems.