My latest post on Political Theology Today went online this morning. This post discusses Ephesians 2:11-22—
As contemporary Christians reading these passages, we can fumble for conceptual rationales for the intensity of Paul’s concern to hold Jews and Gentiles together. The principles that most readily present themselves to the consciousness of readers informed by the tradition of Western liberalism are typically those of inclusivity, equality, and non-discrimination, yet these principles have seldom fuelled quite such an intense impulse towards the concrete outworking of unity between people groups as Paul displays in his epistles. They also more typical draw our attention to individuals rather than to concrete historical communities of people.
In focusing upon these categories we risk missing the character of Paul’s concerns and understanding. Paul’s point has less to do with an abstract principle of the equality of individuals and much more to do with the overcoming of divisions between peoples within the arena of history. The ‘oneness’ he declares is not primarily a rejection of the significance of the difference between Jews and Gentiles—note the careful choreography of his chosen pronouns in chapter 2—but his insistence that difference no longer presents a division or obstacle, having been traversed by the grace of Christ’s gospel. Likewise, the unity he proclaims doesn’t straightforwardly underwrite liberal values of inclusivity and non-discrimination. The inclusion and non-discrimination that Paul proclaims is not founded upon absolute moral principle, but upon a historical achievement. It is a unity that is brought forth from a prior situation of divinely-established exclusion and discrimination: God had elected Israel and the Gentiles were excluded. The mystery is that God’s purpose was that this ‘discrimination’ and ‘exclusion’ should one day serve the blessing of all.
Read the whole thing here.