A Pauline Missionary Spirituality



Mark Grima mssp

MA in Pastoral Leadership

June 1998




A Dissertation presented to

All Hallows Missionary College

As part fulfilment of

Masters of Arts in Pastoral Leadership

June 1998




Table of Contents

Chapter One



The Emergence of Specific Spiritualities


The Boundaries of this Study

Chapter Two





Christian Spirituality


The Sources of Christian Spirituality



Chapter Three


Toward a New Understanding of Mission

A Working Definition of Mission


Mission in a Time of Testing


The Trinitarian Foundation


Church in Mission


Missionary by Its Very Nature


God’s Pilgrim People


Sacrament, Sign, and Instrument


In the Midst of Creative Tensions


Spirituality for Mission



Chapter Four


Understanding Paul

The Sources for a Pauline Spirituality


Interpreting Paul


The Missionary Foundation


Toward a Pauline Missionary Spirituality


How to Understand Paul?



Chapter Five


The Dynamics in Paul

First Level: The Jewish Legacy


One God


Israel’s Election




The Temple


Second Level: The Christ Experience


Paul’s Conversion and Call


Third Level: Paul’s Pastoral Experience



Chapter Six


Paul in mission

Paul’s Missionary Strategy


Choosing the Mission Grounds


Paul and His Colleagues


A model to Emulate


Paul and the Church’s Central Authority


Paul’s Missionary Driving Force


Paul’s Apocalyptic Mission


Implications on Paul’s Missionary Paradigm



Chapter Seven


A Pauline Missionary Spirituality for Today.



Resistance to the Pauline Text


Biblical Hermeneutics


Adapting Paul’s Missionary Spirituality in the Church Today


The Coherent Core of Paul’s Missionary Spirituality


The Contingent Context of Paul’s Missionary Spirituality


Paul, Correlating the Message with the Context



Appendix A


Summary of Sources of Information About Paul


The Letters Paul Wrote

1 Tessalonians






1 & 2 Corinthians






Letters Written in Paul’s name.


Acts of Apostles




    Chapter One



Throughout the past centuries of Christianity various forms of Christian living emerged, each originating in a particular context and emerging from a specific era. In time, some of these life styles and spiritualities were adapted to suit the different circumstances in which Christians found themselves. Other forms of Christian living moved into extinction having served their purpose, not being able to adapt to the changing milieu in time. Today we are witnessing the birth of new forms of Christian living catering for our needs and times. It is in the midst of this variety that “a Pauline missionary spirituality” is being proposed.

It will be a rather tentative study, emphasizing the missionary dimension in Paul, which happened to be his motivating factor, and proposing him as a source of inspiration and direction for those involved in the ministry of evangelization. Thus, although we will try to be as comprehensive as possible on the various issues involved, the course of this study will surely effect the picture of the Pauline spirituality presented and understandably leaving room for other interpretations.

Besides the issue of the extensiveness of the Pauline thought, there is also the debate of our understanding of missionary activity today. The debate on current trends in missiology falls short of giving us a definitive direction in the understanding of this ministry of the church. This will effect fundamentally the type of spirituality suitable for this ministry but on the other hand this may not keep us from going forward with our quest. Spirituality is also susceptible to subjective interpretation and living, making our study even more tentative. However neither will stop us from analyzing what Paul is saying to us today at the turn of the millennium.

The Emergence of Specific Spiritualities.

The mention of different traditions within the Christian tradition and our endeavor for a specific missionary spirituality based on Paul prompts us with a fundamental question: “can we speak of Christian spiritualities in the plural?” Louis Bouyer cautions us to use this term in the plural with reservations.[1] Christian spirituality is essentially one, and is based on the gospel. What defines a Christian spirituality is not a particular Christian or group of Christians, but the “one faith, one baptism, one Lord, one Spirit, one God and Savior of all.”[2] It cannot be denied, however, that differences do exist within Christian spirituality, and that there are different patterns of religious conduct and Christian living. There are also definite schools and trends within Christian spirituality. If we call these variations “different spiritualities,” the difference is external and secondary, but nonetheless important. What distinguishes different spiritualities then, is the way and the means they employ in order to attain the common goal towards which all Christians are oriented. With this in mind a Pauline missionary spirituality must share with other Christian spiritualities that which is basic to Christianity itself. On the other hand it may suggest ways and means which may be peculiar to some specific vocations and not necessarily to others.

The Boundaries of this Study.

A Pauline missionary spirituality in particular is an attempt to let Paul speak to us in the current situations which the church is facing today. The thesis proposed here is that Paul can still be a source of inspiration for those in the field of evangelization, and that his motivation, inspiration and spirituality are still valid in the world situation of today.

In this study it is not our intention to go through all of Paul’s theological corpus because it is wide ranging, and next to impossible to exhaust Paul’s thought and energetic life. In fact from the outset of this study our attitude should be a selective one. Without losing sight of the fundamentals in Paul’s life and writings, we will be exploring specific issues in Paul’s writings and ministry related to the church’s missionary activity at that time, and consequently we will try to relate these issues to ministry in this field, namely that of mission. As the title of this study suggests, we shall not limit Paul’s missionary spirituality to a definite, static and rigid system. In the course of this study we will restrict ourselves to particular missionary writings from Paul’s authentic epistles. While keeping the Paul of the acts in the background of our analyzes, we would not avail directly from this source, it being a secondary source compared with Paul’s first hand experience in the letters.

Moreover the spirituality we will be looking at is scriptural spirituality. While Pauline spirituality may be easier to deal with than any of the gospel spiritualities, because one comes to know the man and the communities themselves through the letters, we still cannot reconstruct a full life of Paul in the way that is possible with later spiritual masters. Keeping this in mind and that Paul never intended to give his readers a complete consistent system of theology, we can’t expect to exhaust all of Paul. On the other hand his wide theology is very basic to all Christian traditions and it played an important part in the development of Christian faith.

When one tries to understand the religious sensibilities of a biblical writer, in this case Paul, one needs to be aware of certain pitfalls. Scripture presents to us a blend of both the content of Christian faith and Christian life style. Sometimes it is hard to separate these and the fact that scriptures are termed as “inspired” one may treat the text as normative in a rather narrow sense. In this study while acknowledging that Paul did contribute to the content of Christian faith, I will try to concentrate more on the way he conveyed the message to his communities. Thus it will be a descriptive and analytic study rather than a prescriptive and evaluative one.[3]

From the outset of this study the missionary dimension of the spirituality proposed should not be undervalued. Throughout the many centuries of Christian tradition and its attempts of proselytism, various mission trends were adopted, each highly influenced by the current theological structures. As already indicated, theology and spirituality must go hand in hand, and in the case of any missiological study this is a vital collaboration. We cannot talk about a spirituality for mission without first establishing a sound theology for mission. On the other hand, going through every detail in the current missiological issues is beyond the scope of this study. But the complexity of the current discussions will not be overlooked, and as far as it is possible the current state of affairs will be outlined and discussed.

Finally, although in this study I will try to be as comprehensive as possible I am conscious that the western point of view in all disciplines used will prevail. This is the center from which I will be operating when trying to relate spirituality, scriptural theology and especially missiology. But, I hope that working with a Pauline spirit I will leave other possible avenues open and with a true missionary spirit the spirituality presented will be ready to listen to alternative voices.

Thus this study will lead us through a dialogue between three disciplines in theology, namely spirituality, missiology, and scriptural theology, in particular Pauline theology. The following chapter will discuss the nature of spirituality and the elements which form a particular spirituality. This will clear any ambiguities of this reemerging discipline and will be the tool we will be using to direct our search and analyses in our study. Chapter 3 will deal with current missiological needs and trends and their effect on any missionary spirituality. Chapters 4, 5, and 6 will then make use of Pauline sources to extract a missionary spirituality which may have directed the apostle of the gentiles in his ministry of evangelization. Chapter 7 will then bring into dialogue the Pauline spirituality developed in the previous chapters with the current mission and spiritual theolgy. Hopefully, by the end of this study the basics of a Pauline spirituality for current needs in mission ministry will be presented. The next step would then be the integration in real life situations of this material with concrete historical, cultural and existential realities.



    Chapter Two



Although the term ‘spiritual’ is not a recent term, its meaning is still evolving and today we are witnessing  new definitions of what the field of spirituality entails. Throughout the centuries the term referred to various aspects, which although related and having some religious connotations, were very distinct from one another. Thus in our study of spirituality we have to be very clear as to what we are referring as the object of our analyses. Shadows from the past can still influence our understanding in this field in theology and can lead to all sorts of confusion.

The meaning of the word spirituality not only varied in time but was also subject to different interpretations by the distinct schools of theology.[4] In addition, other terms are used besides spirituality to signify either the same meaning or are closely related to it. Terms such as interior life, inner life, devotion, piety and mysticism are frequently occurring words which some times are used interchangeably. In such circumstances it is very important to be conscious of the state of affairs in spirituality today before attempting to apply this field to any particular context. Joann Wolski Conn points out that presently, spirituality is still an immature discipline, although:

[i]t is past the initial stage in which scholars develop some common vocabulary, basic categories, and journals for publication. Yet it has not reached the mature point at which it has the generalized theory which would enable it to be a developed discipline fully recognized in academic circles. Spirituality is in the fascinating intermediate stage in which it creates its new identity while remaining linked to its family of origin.[5]

The relation between spirituality and other domains in theology such as dogmatic theology and moral theology should be clarified. Further more spirituality is also related to the human and social sciences on the bases that all these disciplines have humans as their common object of study. In recent years spirituality has been engaged in dialogue with psychology, sociology and anthropology. The boundaries may still be unclear and the extent to which they share in common and what each has to contribute as distinct from the other is very debatable. However if this is forgotten, a spirituality runs the danger of becoming defective[6]. Further still, spirituality is caught between two tracks, both of which should be given their due importance, namely the content and function of spirituality. The theoretical and the practical parts of spirituality should be brought into a harmonic balance in order to speak about an authentic spirituality although they may vary in weight from one study of a particular spirituality to an other.[7]

With all this in mind it is clear that when one is studying a particular spirituality, one has to continually make use of what other disciplines are saying. This however does not imply that spirituality has no identity of its own or that it is simply a conglomeration of parts from different disciplines. What I will be trying to do in this chapter is to outline the backbone for any study in spirituality which will serve as a guideline for any further reflections in the following chapters.


Spirituality is an authentic Christian term derived from the Latin spiritualitas, an abstract word related to spiritus and spiritualis both used to translate the Greek words pneuma and pneumatikos as used in the Pauline epistles.[8] For Paul the “pneumatic” or “spiritual” person is one whose whole being and life are ordered, led, or influenced by the “Spirit of God.” In contrast with this stands the “sarkic,“ that is, the “carnal” person whose being and life oppose God’s Spirit. [9] In its original meaning, Paul did not intend a dualism between the spiritual realm and the material realm but rather referred to the opposition between two contrasting ways of life. It was only in the 12th century that the Pauline texts were interpreted as proclaiming a spirit-matter  conflict leading to a widespread belief that confused spirituality with disdain for the body and matter.

Spirituality in its original meaning referred to the common experience of all Christians, yet gradually came to mean that life as the special concern of “souls seeking perfection.”

Seeking perfection became a matter of the individual, interior practice of special spiritual exercises requiring careful guidance by experts. . . . The contemporary theological shift toward a recovery of sources in scripture, history, and liturgy has demonstrated how distorted the previous understanding had become.[10]

Still further meanings appeared later identifying spiritualitas with people exercising ecclesiastical jurisdiction as opposed to those exercising civil jurisdiction.

Until Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae, theology was a reflection upon the experience of faith, thus basically spiritual theology. With his division of theology in dogma, moral and christology, spirituality was pushed in the background. However, many documents on the spiritual life were written outside of formal theology in various literary genres supplying Christian tradition with a rich variety of model life styles. Contemporary spirituality as the interpretation and communication of religious experience is still emerging from this historical ambiguity, and is trying to reaffirm itself as a discipline.


Christian Spirituality

If spirituality refers to the life in the Spirit then it presupposes that the human person is spiritual. Without implying any form of dualism man is able to transcend his biological limitations and become conscious of his consciousness. This self-transcendence motivates man to act and create thus expressing himself in a complexity of forms and symbols. However there is more to spirituality than this.

The second presupposition is that man is religious. From a strictly theological point of view this means the building of a relation with the holy, a relationship with any kind of transcendent deity, real or supposed.[11] To be more exact, borrowing Paul Tillich’s term, it is man’s activities of self-transcendence as they relate to an ultimate concern. And it is through this relationship that man constructs a world view which defines particular ways of acting and interpreting reality.

Spirituality is born from the marriage of such a world view related to the holy or an ultimate concern and the way of living which is in accordance with this world view. [It] is the basic, practical, existential attitude of man which is the consequence and expression of the way in which he understands his existence and the meaning of reality.[12]

This description of spirituality however embraces all forms of religions or ideologies which are determined by an ultimate concern and ethical demands. Christianity, in particular involves a particular world view concerning man and his relationship with God and with his fellow men. It is a world view which stems from scripture and developed through a long history of Christian tradition. Basically it is the Christ-event in human history which Christianity claims to be its essential and distinct characteristic. Christian spirituality thus becomes the personal way in which the Christian lives the daily life style in accordance with his personal assimilation of the mystery of Christ under the direction of the Holy Spirit.[13] This common faith among all Christians does not exclude the personal, concretely historical and culturally bound situations of different believers. Thus Christian spirituality is concretely manifested differently by different persons. Tradition always acknowledged this fact and this is why today we enjoy the richness of a myriad of lives of the saints and outstanding Christians. This practical way however must not obliterate those basic common elements in Christian spirituality which should function as the backbone for all variations in these concrete manifestations.

As a starting point for any study in spirituality one has to look at the content. As indicated above the content should be based on the solid Christian faith as presented to us in scripture and tradition. It is here that we must clarify the position of spirituality in theology. In his four volumes on Christian Spirituality, Pierre Pourrat distinguishes “spiritual theology” from “dogmatic theology which teaches what must be believed” and “moral theology,” which according to him, “teaches what must be done to avoid [sin].”[14] Spirituality deals with Christian perfection and the ways that lead to it. It is above moral and dogmatic theology although it is based on them.

Bouyer, writing more then thirty years later expressed dissatisfaction with Pourrat’s distinctions and pointed out that “the boundaries laid down at the outset [of Pourrat’s work] are constantly transgressed.”[15] By redefining the terms he showed the distinction between, but nonetheless the close relatedness of these three fields in theology. He distinguishes Christian spirituality from dogma by the fact that,

instead of studying or describing the objects of belief in the abstract, Christian spirituality studies the reactions which Christian beliefs produce in the religious consciousness.[16]

Thus, dogmatic theology should always be presupposed as the basis of spirituality.

Furthermore moral theology is more then avoiding sin. Bouyer insists that we cannot take out of moral theology

what is called the perfection of the Christian ideal. . . . Consequently, it is not by its concern with perfection that spirituality is to be distinguished from morality. But, while the latter examines all human acts in reference to their ultimate end, whether this reference is explicit or not, spirituality concentrates on those in which the reference to God is not only explicit but immediate.[17]

This locates spiritual theology at the heart of moral theology. However, Christian spirituality, understood as a theory concerning the life style of the believer, is broader than, although it is based upon, both systematic theology and Christian ethics. Therefore, it is impossible to make clear and watertight distinctions between the three.

Not only should a sound spirituality relate to the diverse areas in theology it must take account also of all those disciplines relevant to the Christian way of living. Sandra Schneiders in her analyses of the study of spirituality argues for spirituality as a distinct discipline, but nonetheless an interdisciplinary one. Besides the relation with theology, biblical studies and other religions, spirituality should consider what the human and social sciences are saying.[18] This would make this discipline an integrative one, which while keeping its own identity, develops a language fit for a dialogue with other disciplines.

The Sources of Christian Spirituality.

We have referred to how Christian spirituality functions with other disciplines, but we still have to look at the source(s) from which it originates and is sustained.

Christian life in the spirit takes place in an ecclesial context, in which the celebration of the word and sacrament [are fundamental]. . . . At the same time this experiential level of Christian spirituality embraces the whole human person (body, soul, spirit), who is part of a constantly changing material created order (physical, plant, animal), a symbolizing, ritualizing being, . . .  an individual and a member of society, who is inculturated in a place and time . . . called to serve others in the social, political, and economic orders.[19]

In every form of Christian spirituality, past or present, we find four sources: Scripture, theology, culture and tradition.[20] Although Christians may not always thematize their lived spirituality in this way, their spirituality does involve these elements.

Scripture is fundamental to the formation of any Christian spirituality, the focal point being Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of God’s promises to man. Thus any spirituality should be Christo-centric, pointing to the way of Christ. It should be based on God’s self revelation through Christ, and man’s response in faith to the Word of God.[21] It is a participation in the paschal mystery of Christ, thus the living of the whole life of Christ.[22] This however does not imply that scripture presents to us a homogeneous spirituality. Most of the texts come to us from different traditions, cultures and sometimes conflicting theological points of view. Thus already from the beginning of Christianity we witness variations in emphasis without however losing sight of the kernel of the Christian message.

By theology we here understand the conscious and methodological explanation of the divine revelation received and grasped in faith. While scripture already presents to us a variety of theological points of view, each trend was developed by different communities according to their needs.[23] Sharp distinctions can be seen when defective theology emphasized one side of the spectrum ignoring the other. The example of the dualism spirit-matter is enough to illustrate this point and its implication for the spiritual life.

Theology and spirituality form and are formed by culture. Jesus’  incarnation is the prime example of how the Christian message was inculturated in a specific place and time. On the other hand this same message was received, understood, and interpreted according to the thought patterns and institutions of the various cultures to which it is presented. Martyrdom[24] and monasticism[25] are two developments in Christian spirituality which reflect this cultural influence.

Christian faith is lived in a community, and each community has a past from which tradition is formed. While some elements from tradition are common to all Christians, such as scriptures and liturgical worship, other elements are peculiar to the different forms which Christianity has taken during history; for example, a hierarchical structure, legal traditions, and certain theological positions.


All Christian spiritualities must be rooted in the same foundation, namely the Christ event. The incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ mark a new era in human history for which Christianity is the witness and promoter. This is, however, the beginning of another event for which we are waiting in hope. Christ’s second coming, brings God’s reign to a full completion. Until then, as Christians we are called to live this hope each according to ones own call. It is this living of the Christian message which throughout the centuries of Christian tradition gave us a variety of spiritualities some still relevant today, others passed their age. In this study we will be looking at how Paul, apostle of the church, one of the pillars of Christianity, lived this Christian message. Moreover, we will try to evaluate whether the content and method of his spirituality are still applicable and challenging today for Christianity in general, and for those involved in the ministry of evangelization in particular.



    Chapter Three

Toward a New Understanding of Mission


David J. Bosch in his magisterial work on Christian mission speaks of five historical “paradigms” according to which missionary activity has been carried out in the past. He suggests that today we are undergoing another shift which will lead us into a new “paradigm”, the sixth one - a “postmodern,” “ecumenical” paradigm.[26] Each of these six periods reveals a peculiar understanding of Christian faith, and offers a distinctive understanding of Christian mission. Kenneth Scott Latourette, the great historian of Christian missions, has compared the expansion of Christianity to the ebb and flow of the tides. Like the tides, Christianity has moved forward in waves; and, like the tides, each major wave has been followed by a recession, although the recessions have never brought the movement back to its point of departure.[27]

Both the understanding of Christian mission and the expansion of the Christian faith are very much interrelated. The crisis of identity and direction which have affected the missions throughout the various epochs of Christianity always went hand in hand with a rethinking in the way mission was accomplished. In each of the eras mentioned above and especially in moments of crisis, Christians wrestled with the question of what the Christian faith and, by implication, the Christian mission meant for them. It seems that these moments of crisis are the prime agents of change and to use Thomas Kuhn’s terminology, change in the understanding of mission came by way of “revolutions” rather then by “cumulative growth.”[28]

These “paradigm shifts” in the understanding of the nature of the Church and its mission and ministry in the world would understandably have an impact on how mission would be conducted and on the identity of the persons conducting it. These changes always brought with them new perspectives on the relation between the Church and the reign of God, its relation to the world, to other religious traditions, and to the cause of human promotion.

But it is not only the Church that changes; the world is being reshaped as well. The Church was never (even though there were time sometimes it thought it was) a closed entity, absolutely self-sufficient and unaffected by the environment surrounding it. Thus any study in the field of theology should be accompanied by a reflection on the environment supporting it. Theology does not occur in a vacuum and we must acknowledge that today’s emerging missionary paradigm is determined by several changes in the world. Bosch mentions seven factors challenging the contemporary Church-in-mission: (1) we live in a pluricentric, rather then a western dominated world; (2) structures of oppression and exploitation are today being challenged as never before; (3) a profound feeling of ambiguity exists about the value of western technology and development, and the older idea of “progress”; (4) we inhabit a shrinking global village with finite resources, and this calls for growing mutual interdependence; (5) humans are for the first time aware of their capacity to destroy the earth and make it uninhabitable for future generations; (6) societies now everywhere seek their own local cultural identities and reject slavish imitation of western models; (7) freedom of religion and greater awareness of other faith forces Christians to reevaluate their own earlier attitudes towards other faiths.[29]

These new understandings of the Church and of the world would invariably effect the living faith of the Christian, the way he/she dedicates himself/herself to the needs of the others, and his/her whole understanding of participation in the universal mission and his/her sense of personal mission. As we have seen in Chapter I, spirituality is not a closed discipline but is interrelated to other fields in theology and the human sciences. This means that if we are to propose a model of spirituality, we must take into consideration the milieu in which it finds itself and in which it is to function. What we are suggesting in this chapter is that any endeavor to present a Christian way of living should take into account the state of change experienced by today’s world.

Never before in the history of humankind have scholars in all disciplines (including theology) been so preoccupied as they are today, not with the study of their discipline themselves, but with metaquestions concerning these disciplines. This state of affairs in itself is indicative of the presence of a crisis of major proportions . . .

It was unthinkable that the Christian Church, theology, and mission would remain unscathed. On the one hand the results of a variety of other disciplines - the natural and social sciences, philosophy, history, etc. - have had a profound and lasting influence on theological thinking. On the other hand developments within the Church, mission and theology (often precipitated, no doubt, by the momentous events and revolutions in other disciplines) have had equally far-reaching consequences.[30]

This means that any theology which simply ignores these elements of crisis and which encourages the Church to proceed as if these matters are only of peripheral concern is culpable of blindfolding the faithful. Merely repeating vigorous affirmations of the validity of the Christian mission without seeking to take the full measure of the present crises in mission into account is a misreading of “the signs of the times.”[31] This implies that a contemporary mission spirituality built upon the misreading of the foundation, aim and nature of Church as understood today immediately risks being discarded as a pie in the sky. Thus, while acknowledging the time of shift we find ourselves in today, we should also make full use of the emerging theologies creatively. In this chapter it is not our intention to make an in-depth study of current theological and missiological trends. However we cannot ignore the recommendations of these new trends, and thus, they will and must form part of the basics of any mission spirituality proposed. What follows is an outline of the current understanding of Church mission and the spirituality implied by the various emerging images, symbols and understandings.

A Working Definition of Mission.

If we intend to propose a spirituality for mission it is vital to have a common understanding of what mission is. But first it is important to note that the present theological situation is problematic inasmuch as the theology which forms the basis of mission is in a state of development. 

Bosch suggests several theological considerations to be included in what he calls “an interim definition” of mission. He suggests that the Christian faith by its nature is missionary, in the sense that like several other religions it holds to some great “unveiling” of ultimate truth believed to be of universal import. This is basically summed up in the expectancy of the “coming reign of God.” Missiology thus is not a neutral study but is a particular interpretation of the world from a Christian perspective. This implies that a sharp delineation of mission is not possible.

Christian mission is a continuation of the relationship between God and the world, as it was first portrayed in the history of Israel and then supremely expressed in Jesus Christ. However although there is a continuity between biblical witness and mission today, scriptures should not be considered as a storehouse of truths, accessed through exegesis and providing us with all solutions. On the other hand it is through the universality of the gospel that the Church proclaims, “the Church on earth is by its very nature missionary.”[32] Moreover we have to do away with the “geographical myth” as regards the essence of Christian mission. The Church’s missionary nature does not depend on the situation in which it finds itself but is grounded in the gospel itself.

While distinguishing between missio dei (the Mission: God’s self revelation to the world and God’s involvement in and with the world) and missiones ecclesiae (missions: the missionary ventures of the Church) it is important to acknowledge that they are interrelated and that the latter proceeds from the former one. The missionary task is as coherent, broad and deep as the need and exigencies of human life. This means that the spiritual and personal spheres can never be divorced from the material and social ones. It is an expression of God’s “yes” to the world and is revealed, to a large extent, in the Church’s missionary engagement in respect of the realities of injustice, oppression, poverty, discrimination and violence. On the other hand it is God’s “no” to the world in the sense that there is more than the horizontal dimension. Christianity should resist the temptation of becoming a social or political religion, and keep as its goal God’s reign as that beyond human progress on the horizontal plane. This means that mission will include evangelization as one of its essential dimensions. Evangelisation is an invitation towards Christ and his community. The Church-in-mission will then be a sign, pointing towards the “kingdom”, and a sacrament, mediating for the people. Eventually it is in a state of “creative tension” where it is being called out of the world and sent into the world at the same time.[33]

Mission in a Time of Testing.

With the qualifications mentioned above, we now turn to the elements which today’s theology in general, and Missiology in particular comprise. Our concern here is less with the how of mission than with the why, the whereto, and the what. We could, supposedly, subdivide the theology of mission according to three aspects; the foundation, the motive and the aim of mission.[34] However Bosch rightly points out that in reality

. . . foundation, motive and aim are so intertwined that it would be difficult to treat them completely separately. After all, the motive of mission usually arises from the foundation, whereas both have a decisive influence on the aim.[35]

In this short survey we shall be looking at the fundumental elements concerning the emerging mission theology. In the next section we will then evaluate their effect on a possible mission spirituality.

The Trinitarian Foundation

The missionary task of the Church is rooted theologically in the Trinity. The very origin of the Church is from the missions of the Son and the Holy Spirit as decreed by the Father, “the fountain of love who desires the salvation of the whole human race.”[36] This salvation comprised two directions, that of bringing peace between humankind and God and that of establishing a community among humankind itself. This was primarily achieved through the incarnation followed by Pentecost. However this is still happening through the Church today. Initiated by the Father, unfolding in Christ, and prompted by the Spirit, the Church walks the same road which Christ walked, bringing together humankind with God and with each other. This is a perpetuation of the history of salvation started centuries ago, which reached its apex with Christ and is brought to its fulfillment by the end of time.[37]

This participation in God’s mission is not totally concerned with the other worldly, as God’s mission was always rooted in human history. God desires not only that humankind share in his peace and communion but that humankind may be fashioned into a community of love shaped on the model of the Trinity itself. Thus the Trinity becomes the origin, direction, and end of mission. That is to say that mission is not primarily an activity of the Church, but an attribute of God. God is a missionary God. “It is not the Church that has a mission of salvation to fulfill in the world; it is the mission of the Son and the Spirit through the Father that include the Church.”[38] In other words, God’s mission (missio dei) works through the Church’s missions (missiones ecclesiae), but at the same time is wider than the Church’s missions. This understanding of mission refocuses the theology of mission on a teocentric foundation rather than an ecclesiocentric one.

Church in Mission

Although the Church is not the aim of mission its role should not be underestimated. In the past the purpose and nature of the Church were quite clearly defined. This made theological and pastoral issues quite straight forward and many times clear answers were given to emerging problems. Today, in this era of transformation, the Church is being challenged both from within and from without and as a consequence various modes of how to be “Church” are emerging. Sometimes these models of Church complement each other, while at other  times they challenge each other. Thus in our questioning of “what is mission?”, and “what mission spirituality entails?”, it is mandatory to explore our understanding of the Church today. Although, this study is a brief one, we hope to give a comprehensive overview which will supply us with a basic framework for our understanding of a fitting theology and spirituality of mission.

It is fortunate within the Roman Catholic tradition that Vatican II explicates the nature of the Church in terms of mystery, that is, a reality which cannot be fully captured by human thought and language.[39] Since the Church is mystery in this sense, it can be approached and defined from a variety of directions and in a number of ways. In a perceptive study Avery Dulles[40] has identified five major ecclesial types. The Church, he suggests, can be viewed as institution, as mystical body of Christ, as sacrament, as herald, or as servant. Each of these implies a different interpretation of the relationship between Church and mission. There are of course other images of the Church which can be found in scriptures.[41] They are all, however, more or less reducible to the five major models as subimages.

Because we shall not be studying each model on its own but rather trying to adopt an integrative approach it might be best to propose from the onset how we can integrate these different perspectives on a pastoral level so as not to give the impression of a divided Church. As Dulles suggests, we cannot function from all models at the same time, thus when confronted with a pastoral situation in mission we have to select for our pivotal ecclesiological perspective that particular model of the Church that seems to be most consistent with the given problem, task or society’s underlying set of basic assumptions, attitudes, and goals.[42]

The community model of the Church might be used especially when dealing with problems of communication, ecumenism, cooperation, community development, identity, solidarity, reconciliation, and communal worship. The sacramental model is appropriate for symbolizing the Christian faith in word, creed, and ritual. The kerygmatic or “herald” model might be used for dealing with Christian witness, religious educational programs, seminary education, role of the laity, schools, and Church growth. The diaconal model is suited for dealing with poverty, socioeconomic reform, civil rights, alcoholism, health and illness, abortion, crime, child abuse, care of the aged. Care of the mentally handicapped and homeless, racism, women’s rights or nuclear war. The institutional model can be applied to structural and administrative questions and new ministries.[43]

Having said all this, however, we should keep in mind that each model comes to us with both strengths and weaknesses. While strengths should be capitalized on, weaknesses should be compensated through other models. It is through this openness to the different expressions of the Church that we will now look more deeply at what the Church is and as a consequence what the Church does.

Missionary by Its Very Nature

Although we have seen that primarily God’s mission is wider than the mission of the Church, nevertheless the role of the Church in God’s mission is not to be considered unimportant. In the emerging ecclesiology, the Church is seen as essentially missionary.[44] Its mission (its “being sent”) is not secondary to its being; the Church exists in being sent and in building itself up for the sake of mission. Mission is so essential to Church that Bosch[45] insists that one can no longer talk about Church and mission, but only about the mission of the Church. Without mission, the Church cannot be called catholic.[46]

This does not suggest that the Church is always and everywhere overtly involved in missionary projects. Using Newbigin’s[47] distinction, the missionary dimension of a local Church’s life manifests itself, among other ways, when it is truly a worshipping community; it is able to welcome outsiders, where the pastor does not have the monopoly and its members are equipped for their calling in society. On the other hand the Church’s missionary intention, that is its direct involvement in society, is when it moves beyond the walls of the Church and engages in missionary “points of concentration” such as evangelization and work for justice and peace. Notice that both distinctions have “visibility” in common since the participation of the Church in God’s mission demands that God’s plan be made visible and present to all nations and ages. Particularly three of the models of the Church referred to above carry forward this visible mission.

This is done by word, announcing the good news of the plan of God revealed by Christ (kerygma), by deed, service towards fulfilling this plan (diakonia), and in the community (koinonia) which performs and lives these tasks.[48]

These are the three key elements of the Church’s witness which are related to each other.

God’s Pilgrim People

The image used here may be viewed as the conciliar Church model and the classical conciliar references are Lumen Gentium 48-51 and Ad Gentes 9.[49] It is the biblical archetype of the wandering people of God, very prominent in the letter to the Hebrews. Without denying the more traditional approach to the Church as institution and hierarchy, the Council elaborates on the Church’s nature as community and the people of God. Despite the different gifts and calls, the people of God possesses a common unity in as much as all participate in Christ’s threefold role of priest, prophet, and king.[50] This community of life, love, and truth is God’s instrument for the redemption of humankind, for the unity, hope and salvation of the human race. It is dynamic in nature, moving through the world, transcending the limits of time and race, and extending to all regions of the earth. This implies that

. . . the Church is a pilgrim not simply for the practical reasons that in the modern age it no longer calls the tune and is everywhere finding itself in a diaspora situation; rather to be a pilgrim in the world belongs intrinsically to the Church’s ex-centric position. It is ek-klesia, “called out” of the world, and sent back into the world.[51]

Sacrament, Sign, and Instrument

In contemporary ecclesiology, and predominantly in Catholicism, the Church is increasingly perceived as sacrament, sign, and instrument.[52] It is not sufficient to describe the mystery of the Church solely in terms of community, fellowship, or as people of God, who under the guidance of the Holy Spirit participate in the missio Dei. To do so leaves out the Christological element essential to the nature of Church. Roman Catholic tradition places great importance on the sacramental life and it is perceived as “the face of redemption turned visibly towards the human race so that through material symbols we are able to encounter Christ.”[53] Vatican II elaborates on the sacramental nature of the Church, and explicitly declares that “[s]ince the Church, in Christ, is in the nature of sacrament - a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and unity among all men” then it is its duty to make clear its own nature and mission to all the faithful and the whole world.[54]

If a sacrament is said to be God’s grace and love made present through material form and symbol, then Christ is the primordial sacrament. Moreover relating all this to another biblical image, the Pauline image of Church as Body of Christ, presents the Church as the earthly extension of the body of the Lord. In this way it follows that the Church is a prolongation of the one sacrament who is Christ. As sacrament the Church is an effective, result-producing sign. The Christian community is to be the sign of God’s presence in the world.[55] The mission of the Church is a sign of union among the nations through its sharing of the gospel message with all humankind.[56]

The above statement, reassuring as it is, cannot go without some qualifications. Can the Church be a sign of unity if it stands divided in itself? This sign of oneness is broken by the tensions and divisions in which the Churches are living. However the Church dares make this claim to be a sign or even sacrament of the coming unity of humankind only by virtue of its relationship with Christ, who is the real sign of unity. Words like “sacrament” are, moreover, not attributes the Church arrogates to itself: God has chosen the Church to be in Christ the sign or sacrament of the unity in his kingdom.[57]

However the Church’s concern about being a contradiction to what it signifies cannot be overemphasized. Today we are living in the era of ecumenism, and no wander that David Bosch names the emerging missionary paradigm as the “ecumenical model”. The essentials of an ecumenical attitude are outlined in Vatican II’s decree on ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio. Negatively it demands an elimination of words, judgments, and actions which might be prejudicial to truth, mutual respect, and dialogue between Christians. Positively, Christians are called to give common witness to their faith and hope in God and in Christ.[58]

This brings us up to the relationship between the Church and the kingdom of God. They are related, but in no way should they be identified with each other. The Church, therefore, is a pilgrim between the times on its way to, pointing towards, and partially realizing the end of God’s mission, the kingdom.  

The Church takes its total meaning from this mission which is to further the mission of God by proclaiming the initial manifestation of the kingdom in Jesus (kerygma), by being itself a Spirit-transformed community (koinonia), of faith, hope, and love, and thereby a sign and anticipation of the shalom of the kingdom, and by working in the service (diakonia) to announce and realize the kingdom.[59]

But who is this Church which will be a sign to humanity? This brings us straight into the theology of the “local Church”, a fertile and promising area under investigation in Catholic ecclesiology and missiology today. For many centuries, in Catholicism, the local Churches did not exist, neither in Europe nor on the “mission fields”. The “mission Churches”, in particular, had to resemble the Church in Rome. By the turn of the century, the local Church was rediscovered[60] and ultimately Vatican II (with various limitations) was able to provide the basic understanding for further development. Basing itself on the New Testament model, Lumen Gentium describes the universal Church as finding its existence in the local Churches.[61] The Church is Church because of what happens in the local Churches’ martyria, leitourgia, koinonia, and diakonia. This has important repercussions on mission. In the past, at least in the Roman Catholic tradition, mission was the responsibility of the Church universal, far removed from particular dioceses and parishes, resulting in a simplistic distinction between the pastoral function and the missionary function of the Church. When the local Church is seen to be the full expression of the Church of Christ, mission responsibility falls directly upon it.

In the Midst of Creative Tensions

This emerging ecclesiology and missiology have led to abiding tensions between the different images of Church, the different views of the role played by the Church in the relationship between God and humankind, and consequently the identity of the missionary.

At one end of the spectrum, the Church perceives itself to be the sole bearer of a message of salvation on which it has a monopoly, where it is seen as a partial realization of God’s reign on earth, and mission as that activity through which individual converts are saved. At the other end the Church views itself, at most, as an illustration - in word and deed - of God’s involvement with the world, where mission is viewed as a contribution toward the humanization of society.[62] The question is whether these two images of the Church have to be mutually exclusive. The solution seems to be in perceiving the Church as an ellipse with two foci. In and around the first it acknowledges and enjoys the source of its life; this is where worship and prayer are emphasized. From and through the second focus the Church engages and challenges the world.

Running parallel with the above is the relation of the Church with the world. Particularly in Protestant ecumenical circles it was emphasized that God is primarily related to the world and not, as an older model would have it, to the world through the Church.[63] The truths expressed in both models must be maintained in tension. The action of God cannot be limited to the Church alone; on the other hand, the primacy of the Church as participant in God’s mission is to be maintained. The representations of the Church as sacrament, sign, and pilgrim people of God, is an attempt to emphasize this dedication to a role of service to God and to the world.

With the nature and aim of the mission of the Church developed in such a broad and multidimensional fashion, the question naturally arises concerning the identification of the missionary. Michael C. Reilly rightly insists that first and foremost the missionary should be identified by who he/she is rather than by what he/she does. The missionary

is a Christian, a member of God’s pilgrim people, one who has received the privilege of being called into the community of the people of God, and who has the privilege of participation in the Mission of the Trinity. . . . all Christians are missionaries, and all Christian spirituality must have a missionary dimension.[64]

On the other hand missionary work is multiform. No one task or role can be set down to characterize the missionary.

. . . specialization is inevitable. It is here that personal discernment enters. Some will be full-time preachers of the Word; others will be tent-maker missionaries whose time is divided between worldly work and proclaiming the gospel; others will be totally devoted to God’s worldly work with perhaps little opportunity or even no possibility of speaking of the fullness of God’s plan. In addition [to be taken in consideration are] the needs of the place and the gifts, or in Pauline terms the charisms, which one possesses.[65]

Spirituality for Mission

“Spirituality is purely and simply the actualization of the Spirit of Jesus in our own times.”[66] It is a contemporary expression of a very old endeavor: to live according to Jesus’ spirit and to reflect on that experience of discipleship. Spirituality is principally a response to God’s liberating presence among us, which transforms and challenges the individual and the human community. A spirituality for mission is thus dependent on the times in which we live and the particular problems that we encounter in our modern world. For this reason in the preceding section we have looked at how the Church understands itself today, how it interprets God’s mission for it, and how it relates to the modern world. Without developing this language we cannot speak of any contemporary spirituality. Admittedly, our discourse remains a tentative one, knowing that the emerging theology is still maturing and not devoid of tensions.

If, as we have seen, the theology of mission is founded on the theology of the Trinity, then missionary spirituality must rest on the same foundation. Missionary zeal, for centuries, was motivated from a sincere love of God and fascination with Christ. The Trinitarian foundation will contextualize this same love which is part of the inner life of the Trinity. Moreover, the interrelation between the Trinitarian mission and the mission of the Church, the latter as emerging from the former, shifts our confidence and trust in the divine rather then in any human institution, but acknowledging at the same time that this hope in God’s work does unfold through human history. A spirituality for mission will thus avoid the split between the ‘transcendent’ and the ‘worldly’. It is a spirituality which must take seriously human history and cultures, correlate itself to times without losing its touch with its kernel, God’s dynamic participation in mission.

Our first task in approaching another people, another culture, another religion, is to take off our shoes, for the place we are approaching is holy. Else we find ourselves treading on an other’s dream. More serious still, we may forget that . . .  God was there before our arrival.[67]

This brings us directly to another element in missionary spirituality. The realization that God’s mission is wider than the mission of the Church calls for humility and openness, two constantly recurring missionary qualities. In line with Acts 10: 45-48, as missionaries we must be open enough to look for the signs of God whose spirit has gone before us, and humble enough not to shackle the spirit from expressing itself in modes unknown to us.

If the Church is defined to be missionary by its very nature then every Christian is missionary by vocation, and therefore the spirituality of every Christian must have a missionary dimension. Coextensive with this theological foundation of mission is Vatican II’s insistence on the call to holiness[68] made to all Christians alike.

As members of the living Christ, . . . all faithful have an obligation to collaborate in the expansion and spread of his Body, . . .

. . . let everyone be aware that the primary and most important contribution one can make to the spread of the faith is to lead a profound Christian life.[69]

However the way Christians are called to live this holiness varies. Pluralism in ecclesiological understanding, as we have hinted in the previous section, is one reason which may give rise to a plurality of spiritualities in general, and a multiplicity of missionary spiritualities in particular. On the other hand, although it is not our intention to analyze particular missionary spiritualities in this chapter, still we must emphasize that they do hold specific elements in common, essential to their nature both as Christian and as missionary (if we can separate the two?).

Surely, one of the emphases by Vatican II was the communitarian aspect of the people of God which cautions us against any excessive tendencies towards individualism and interest in one’s personal salvation or that of individuals. Mission spirituality, therefore, must be interpreted from a communitarian dimension where all share in the mission of God through worship and service. This community is far from being a static community pleased with itself. Rather obedient to the great commission it is called to be in the world in various modes, under different circumstances. For this reason, members of this community should work towards the attainment of qualities or virtues required for such an endeavor.

Mission is carried out in hope. . . . The spirit of adaptation, accommodation, and enculturation is also grounded in the wayfaring approach to mission. . . . [M]issionary work demands flexibility and a willingness to adjust both thought and structure to new periods and peoples.[70]

Max Warren gives another list of qualities for those who sincerely seek to bring the good news to the nations, namely that of inquirer, learner, listener, lover, link, disturber, and sign of the end.[71] Whatever list we adopt, missionary spirituality must not trivialize the suffering involved in the process. If the prime model for the Christian and the missionary is to remain Christ, suffering is guaranteed as an essential and inescapable part of the formula.

We have argued that missionary activity occurs through a community, and that this community together with others form up the Church. It is a Church not separated from the world, serving as a mediating sign pointing to something else beyond itself. Where spirituality is concerned, the challenge confronting the missionary is that the visibility of the sign be not obscured and its purity not contaminated. Moreover, besides pointing to the ultimate, mission spirituality is also an efficacious, fulfilling sign, a reality which makes present the kingdom already in the here and now. It becomes a positive endeavor towards peace, unity, and reconciliation, both within humanity and between God and humans. The work, or for a more accurate word the ‘struggle’, for justice is not a marginal issue for a mission spirituality. Solidarity with the poor is an immediate consequence implied by such a spirituality, a readiness to enter in communion with the poor realizing that they are not only the object of evangelization or the promotion of justice, but are above all the subject of their own liberation. It would be foolish to pretend that implementing the praxis implied by this spirituality is without many fears and uncertainties. It calls for a constant move from situations of comparative stability into situations of insecurity through commitment to justice. Again, here we must refer to the above mentioned qualities and virtues that Christians living on this cutting edge of Christianity must appropriate. For these, most situations are not simply black or white, and living and taking decisions in the gray shades of life entails real courage, hope and faith.

A related implication for mission spirituality following from the ecclesiological considerations of a “Church with others”[72] and its call to bring about God’s kingdom here on earth, is the sense of service.

Humble, loving service as the manner of mission is, perhaps, the overarching and all-important virtue demanded for mission spirituality in our times. No matter what motives and attitudes were operative in the past, the present and future manner of one engaged in mission must be of humble service.[73]

Since the basic unit of Church is the local Church, mission is the task and responsibility of the local Church. The missionary flow, then, is primarily in the form of service from one local Church to an other. This view which sees the local Church as the locus of missionary activity gives an added emphasis to the already stated interrelation between mission spirituality and Christian spirituality.


Having analyzed today’s multidimensional understanding of what mission is and after deducing from this understanding the multifaceted implications of a missionary spirituality we may be tempted to ask ourselves the question: with so wide ranging a definition can we really have a specifically missionary spirituality? This is a legitimate question, but on the other hand, implicit behind all this talk lies the fact that all Christian vocations are interrelated and each benefits from the traditions of the others. Surely, the long standing tradition of the Church’s mission, with all its ups and downs, carries with it a rich heritage from which the entire Church benefits. Likewise, the Church in mission today is learning from other traditions which until few decades ago were not considered to belong to a strict missionary dimension.

On the other hand we must not go to the other extreme by claiming that all Christian vocations are the same, and that there is only one spirituality. As we have seen in chapter 1, basically all authentic Christian spiritualities have as their foundation the following of Christ, but the emphasis of each vocation varies according to the orientation of the vocation itself. What we have seen in this chapter was a specific accentuation of realities associated with missionary activity. Without excluding anybody from the living of these realities we must acknowledge the fact that those who chose to live on the edges of the Christian boundaries, and make evangelisation the main intention of their Christian vocation, could not do away with these fundamental dimensions of our faith. They should feel it as their duty to understand better their role in the Church, and the corresponding way of living their call.

Many were the Christians throughout the ages who led a life dedicated to the spreading of the Christian faith. The means they used varied, the theology motivating them differed, and the spirituality they lived and proposed to others was of various forms. Today, because of the change in times not everything which such great people proposed remains valid, but our understanding of them, their way of interpreting the message of Christ and his great commission, and our recognition of their great missionary zeal, may still be a source of missionary inspiration today. Looking backwards upon these people is not simply an archeological enterprise, but a reading of God’s words in these extended scriptures called missionaries. Pinning all this mission theology and spirituality to concrete realities will help us to evaluate better our vocation as missionaries and be injected with the missionary zeal of these people. In fact, in the next chapters, we will be looking at the apostle Paul as a source for our inspiration, for a possible mission spirituality in today’s world.



    Chapter Four

Understanding Paul


The apostle Paul has always had a special fascination for missionaries. The importance of Paul for the foundation of mission theology can hardly be exaggerated. Although Paul was neither the only or the first to proclaim the Gospel to non-Jews, nor was he the creator of missionary preaching of the early Church, still through accident or providence it is Paul’s thought that fills almost a third of the new testament writings. It is in Paul’s letters that we are able to trace the most profound and most systematic presentation of the universal Christian vision of the newly born Church. A vision which was to be carried out and elaborated throughout the centuries, but nonetheless a vision which basically retained Paul as its most eloquent, yet sometimes problematic, exponent. The force of Paul’s words and personality and the energy of his missionary commitment continue to make the Pauline corpus a powerful challenge to the church’s self-understanding. For this reason it is more than appropriate to speak about a Pauline missionary spirituality.

The Sources for a Pauline Spirituality

Spirituality as we have seen in the second chapter can mean different things to different persons, but nonetheless many of the definitions of spirituality overlap. In this chapter and the following ones we will be looking at the religious sensibilities of Paul. By religious sensibilities I mean the result of the interaction between Paul’s own experience of God and Christ, and the Christian tradition to which he came to be committed. We shall be looking at how both Paul’s experience and the Christian tradition were continually engaged in a dialogue, and to a large extent influenced each other. Paul’s own experience not only was influenced and formed by the Christian tradition but also colored and transformed that tradition as he appropriated it in living out his life as a Christian, a theologian, a pastor, and a missionary, in short as an apostle.

Interpreting Paul

In such a study we may be tempted to dissect Paul into different compartments. We can try to deal separately with Paul’s theology, his missionary activity and his personal commitment to the Christian faith. In the Christian tradition spirituality was sometimes distinguished from dogmatic theology: distinguishing the doctrines of the Christian faith from the way in which that faith is to be lived out in everyday life. Such dichotomy should not and need not continue to exist, and there exists no clearer example than the Scriptures where these elements can come together. Paul is no exception to this.

. . . by their very nature, Paul’s letters are highly personal communications, not dispassionate treatises. And in them he is dealing again and again with matters of fundamental significance, which he clearly thought of as issues of life and death for his readers. In one degree or other his letters are all defense and exposition of “the truth of the Gospel” (Gal. 2: 5, 14)[74]

In the case of Paul in particular, there is always the tension between critical disinterestedness and personal involvement with the subject matter.[75] Thus what we must keep in mind when using Paul’s work is that the Pauline corpus are letters written to particular communities with specific backgrounds and needs. Inevitably Paul was writing to these churches from a multiperspective stance, namely that of a theologian, missionary, church founder, and pastor. It is important for our study to acknowledge this fact because otherwise we would be doing an injustice to the spirit through which the apostle ministered to his communities.

On the one hand Paul is one of the easiest and most fascinating biblical authors to study. We have a variety of letters, seven at least, whose authorship by Paul is virtually unquestioned - plus another set belonging to the school of Paul which are still able to tell us something about what went before.[76] They were written to a variety of churches in Asia Minor, Greece, and Rome, thus relating to at least three different regions and so also to a variety of local situations. On the other hand, due to the nature of the writings, Paul never tries to give us a systematic corpus of theology or of how to live the Christian life. In fact it is not an easy job to pin down the kernel of Paul’s spirituality without leaving aside some essential components. These letters are epistles and are neither exclusively dogmatic treatises, nor missionary texts, nor spiritual writings. Paul’s correspondence is pastoral, responding to particular pastoral problems in a specific Christian community. Except in the case of Romans, a community that Paul had not yet evangelized, nor yet visited, the letters are written to churches Paul had established and with whom he had deep ties.

However, these letters are a superb source for us to understand how Paul understood the Christian life and how he dealt with the problems that these various Christian communities were having in living out their commitment.

Our access to the real life of these communities is rather direct; Paul writes directly to them about their problems and their accomplishments. This is in contrast to what can be learned from a reading of the gospels. . . .When one reads Paul’s letters, however one deals directly with Paul’s religious outlook and concerns and the religious outlooks and concerns of the communities to which he wrote.

In addition, one comes to know the man himself through his letters in a way that is impossible when one tries to come to know the authors of the four gospels. One gets a chance to see how Paul practices what he preaches. One also gets a chance to see how Paul lives up to the demands which he makes of the communities with which he deals.[77]

While we can by no means say that it is possible to construct fully Paul’s life, his letters do allow us to get to know the man and his motivations quite deeper than for any other New Testament author.

It should be noted that in dealing with Paul we can make only passing reference to Luke’s portrayal of him in Acts. Although much of the material on Paul in Acts is unquestionably based on reliable tradition, Luke reinterprets these traditions in the service of his own theological agenda. Not that Acts is devoid of value, after all it is our first commentary on Paul, however, it is a secondary source for our study and it is methodologically unsound to mix primary with secondary sources.[78]

The Missionary Foundation

So far we have looked at the sources available for our understanding of Paul’s spirituality. Following is an other fundamental question which we need to ask; what is the fundamental thrust which gave specific direction to Paul’s spirituality? Although today we can promptly answer that it was the missionary motivation which animated him and provided him with the theological constructs, this has not always been recognized. For many years he was primarily regarded as the creator of a dogmatic system. With the rise of the history-of-religions school he was viewed preeminently as a mystic. Later the emphasis shifted on his ecclesiology, and only gradually did biblical scholars discover that Paul was first and foremost to be understood, also in his letters, as apostolic missionary.[79]

Paul’s theology was world-missionary theology designed to initiate the missionary churches of the Empire and particularly his own churches into the source and goal and distinctive character of their common life “in Christ,” to teach them how to appropriate their new relationships to “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2, Rom. 1:7, Phil. 1:2; Phm. 3) and in this light to know what relationships were proper to one another as well as to understand how they stood with reference to the Jews and Greeks, to the past and to the future.[80]

Besides this basic self-orientation in faith emphasized in each of his letters, we find a Paul whose theological thinking and missionary labor conditioned one another. The “Sitz im Leben” of Pauline theology is the mission of the apostle. His theology and his mission do not simply relate to each other as “theory” to “practice” in the sense that his mission “flows” from his theology, but rather in the sense that his theology is a missionary theology and that mission is integrally related to his identity and thought as such.[81] Thus the mission theology Paul operates from was not an abstract construct dangling from a universal principle, “but an analysis of reality triggered by an initial experience that gave Paul a new world-view.”[82]

This inherent missionary trust which we find in Paul is expressed in all of his writings. It had a profound impact on the way he perceived himself and his vocation. It effected the way he perceived God and the role of the three persons of the trinity. It was absolutely a determining factor for his understanding of Church and the roles played by the Jewish and gentile Christians. Basically it effected his way of understanding creation and as a consequence the salvific meaning of the Christ event. This implies that if we are to look at the spirituality from which Paul operated it is next to impossible to entitle it something other than missionary.

Toward a Pauline Missionary Spirituality

As we have seen in the previous chapter, like all other spiritualities a spirituality for mission is one based on the foundations of Christian spirituality. Yet, although the foundation of all spiritualities is one, we can still talk about variations in spiritualities. Going even further, we have to ask the question whether we can speak of different missionary spiritualities.

Throughout the centuries different charismatic people emerged from their Christian community and presented us with different ways of how to live the missionary vocation. While a common denominator for all of them can be found, there were also differences between the way they translated the Christian massage into the praxis of their vocation. This depended on the Christian tradition they were coming from and consequently the theology they were operating from. Also their sense of the world and their understanding of the people outside their community shaped the spirituality they themselves adopted. This applies to Paul himself and in our study of his spirituality we must be aware of what contributes to a specifically Pauline missionary spirituality and what he shares with other missionary spiritualities of his time and later to come.

In a study made by M. C. Reilly of some key figures in the missionary tradition of the Church, he outlines four constants which have been present in missionary spirituality over the ages: (1) the love of God and love of Christ, and awareness of the need humanity has for Christ and the gospel, and a desire to share with others god’s loving plan, and to invite all people to faith in Christ; (2) holiness of life; (3) profound trust and confidence in God’s will and guidance, and the strength, boldness, and joy which follow from this; (4) loving, humble service.[83] Basically all the above constants can be founded in some text from the Pauline corpus. Many of these missionaries have used and elaborated on some aspect of the Paul’s writings, by attuning it to the rhythms of the world in which they were living. Perhaps we can say that Paul contributed a lot in inspiring these missionaries and providing them with the grounds on which to base their spirituality.

On the other hand in our search for a Pauline missionary spirituality we still have to locate the core which makes such spirituality specifically Pauline. This does not mean that we will be disregarding all those elements which he shares with other missionary figures, the more so when we know that he was one of their inspirators. Our intention however is to enter the apostle’s mind and heart, and understand and feel with him the dynamism which was present during his ministry in the early Church. What follows from this is not a direct application of Paul’s ways of living his missionary vocation, but an appreciation of the spirit in which he ministered and how can it be translated in today’s modern world.

How to Understand Paul?

What is available to us as a direct witness of the apostle are his letters. It is impossible to escape their character as letters, communications from a known author to specific people in particular circumstances. They have an intensely personal character which we cannot help not to notice.

One of the principle fascinations of these letters, indeed, is their self-revelatory character - Paul as a persuader of great forcefulness and (judging by the fact that his letters have been preserved) great effectiveness, Paul as an irascible protagonist, and above all  (in his own eyes at least), Paul as apostle commissioned by God through Christ, whose missionary work itself was an embodiment and expression of his Gospel.[84]

On the other hand our endeavor to study Paul’s spirituality as a whole is not a straight forward job. Militating against us are three factors which we should not underestimate, and it is right to acknowledge them as such. First is the fact that the material on Paul at our disposal is very much tied to historical situations. The fact that the letters form part of the scriptural canons does not necessarily mean that we have to look at them as normative in the narrow sense. Their may be similarities between their times, places, and situations and ours but yet they are not the same. Thus a theology of Paul must be conducted through a serious historical analysis and contextualization.

Secondly the letters are not a compendium of Paul’s teachings and life. We know that others have existed but were not preserved. Also Paul never intended to cover with his letters his whole understanding of Christian life and his ministry in the Church. This leaves us with a text where some aspects of Christian teaching are repeated over and over again while others are simply hinted at or not mentioned at all. So while all effort is made to bring together as much as possible what must have been Paul’s thought, we must acknowledge the fact that this can never be carried out to the full.

Finally, the Pauline letters cover only a small part of the apostle’s ministerial activity. The seven letters whose direct author was Paul were written over a very short period of time,[85] and all but one were addressed to a relatively small area. This means that our study of Paul can be limited to only one phase of the apostle’s life and again a complete spirituality is destined to remain hazy.

All these observations, however simply clear the ground for the more challenging issue: when we talk about “Pauline theology”[86] are we talking about the theology of any particular letter as such, or the theology of all the individual letters aggregated into a whole? And if the latter is the case, can we move from “Paul of the letters” to the actual Paul himself with a larger, fuller, richer theology, which we can assume lay behind the letters and from which he drew the particular elements and emphases of each letter.

Various biblical scholars tried to face this dilemma from different perspectives.[87] For some the chief object of search, and perhaps the first to come to our mind, was the organizing center of Paul’s theology. This gave us a myriad of possible centers; Baur suggesting the tension between Jewish and Gentile Christians, Bultmann and E. Kasemann insisting on “justification by faith”, A. Schweitzer opting for “participation in Christ”, and U. Wilckens proposing the theology of the cross.

The problem with the imagery of center is that it is too fixed and gives the impression from the start that Paul’s theology was static and unchanging. A refinement on this method was the image of lens through which Paul’s theology was passed. For E. Krentz “apocalyptic” was the theological lens, while for J. Bassler it was Paul’s experience. Still this method runs the risk of becoming too much labored and artificial.

An alternative is to recognize the changing character of Paul’s theology and to attempt a description of it in terms of its development through Paul’s letters. The example most commonly cited has been that of Paul’s eschatology, the usual assumption being that the delay of the parousia weakened Paul’s immanent expectation or changed his understanding of the process by which transformation into the resurrection body took place. Again the problem with the chronological order of the letters and our lack of knowledge about the circumstances of the letters leave this approach very much open to debate.

A mediating attempt between the static imagery of center and the changing imagery of development was proposed by Jurgen Becker[88]. Attempting to combine a developmental schema with a search for the center, Becker finds three main periods in the apostle’s thought: in the time of Paul’s initial residence in Corinth he presents a theology of election (cf. 1 Thes.); while writing from Ephesus he articulates a theology of the cross (in the letters to Corinth, Philemon and most of Philippians); in the final period of his development and presentation Paul affirms his theology of justification (in Galatians, the remainder of Philippians and Romans). Of these three the theology of the cross is the real center, by which the theology of election is defined and the message of justification being the language expressing this theology.

However, of all the attempts in this area, the most sophisticated and influential has probably been J. C. Beker’s advocacy of a model of coherence within contingency, where for him the coherence of Paul’s gospel is constituted by the apocalyptic interpretation of the death and resurrection of Christ.[89] The strength of this model is precisely that coherence is not reduced to some static formulation which can be easily broken by the shifting currents of contingency. Rather, the coherence is what Paul himself refers to as “the truth of the gospel” (Gal. 2:5,14), a stable constant element which expresses the convictonal basis of Paul’s proclamation.

James D. G. Dunn on the other hand proposes an other method for our understanding of Paul, the method of dialogue. This method should not be restricted only to our study of Paul, but in this case it fits easily and offers a way forward in our understanding of the apostle. Viewing Paul’s theology as a system of substructures, he puts the story of God and creation as the first stratum with the story of Israel superimposed on it. On top of that we have the story of Jesus, and then Paul’s own story, with the initial intertwining of these last two stories as the decisive turning point in Paul’s life  and theology. Finally we have the complex interactions of Paul’s own story with those of the various Christian communities.


Understanding Paul is not a straight forward job. As we have seen it is much easier to speak about the spirituality of a letter rather then going deeper and speak about the spirituality of the apostle. For this reason we have to devise methods which will help us to go deeper then the letters and to meet the man in person. One thing is however for sure, that what ever spirituality will emerge from the study of the person behind the letters it is a missionary spirituality, because the missionary vocation inherent in all the letters leave little doubt that we are dealing with a real apostle to the Gentiles. In the following chapters we will be using some of the methods described above in conjunction with the Pauline text, with the aim of teasing out the specificity of Paul’s spirituality.



    Chapter Five

The Dynamics in Paul


In the preceding chapter we have seen how Paul’s theology can be viewed from different perspectives. In this chapter we shall adopt J. D. G. Dunn’s method of “dialogue” to understand better the apostle, and thus being able to work out his spirituality. However, we must acknowledge that given the nature of our study our analysis will aim towards an outline of the topics and issues related to Paul’s life, because a detailed study of each one will go beyond the scope of this work. Nonetheless we hope that this outline will be clear enough so as to further our understanding of the apostle’s spirituality.

In any effort to write theology, Dunn distinguishes three phases or levels which stay in a constant dialogue throughout the whole process.[90] The deepest level is that of inherited convictions or traditional life patterns. At this level we are dealing with axioms and presuppositions, often hidden and undeclared. In Paul’s case these include particularly the story of God and his creation, and the story of Israel. The second is the sequence of transformative moments in the individual’s (or community’s) growth and development. These experiences usually generate other insights and can shape attitudes and determine important life choices. For the onlooker these are more visible traits and are much easier to associate with the person’s theology. In Paul’s case we would think most immediately of his conversion. Less obvious is his interaction with those who were Christians before him, and particularly his confrontation with Peter in Antioch (Gal. 2:11-18). The third level is that of immediate issues and current reflections. This will be the level nearest the surface and most accessible to the onlooker. In Paul’s case, of course, that is the level of the letters themselves, the level of particular questions addressed and objectives pursued by Paul in his different letters.[91]

To understand Paul’s thought and his way of putting into practice the Christian message we have to understand the interaction between the different stories or levels which his letters evidence. It is this interaction which makes Paul’s theology and life so dynamic. The more we recognize the role played by these different stories within the whole system of Paul’s experience the more hope we can have of coming closer to the spirituality of the apostle. “Not least of value in the talk of different narratives and levels is the likelihood that the interaction among them will help explain the tensions which continually surface in explorations of Paul’s theology.”[92] It is precisely these tensions which constantly moved Paul to evaluate all the three levels, and throughout this process each level of experience was shaped by the others. As a consequence the spirituality from which he operated was bound to be a dynamic one, based on a process of theologizing rather then on a settled state of affairs. On the other hand we must acknowledge that there were certain relatively fixed points[93] amidst other points of transformation and innovation.

First Level: The Jewish Legacy

As we have already indicated the deepest level of Paul’s theology was his inherited convictions, namely that of Saul the Pharisee. This undercurrent for a long time remained hidden and its effect on the totality of Paul’s thought and ministry stayed in the obscure.[94] Paul himself would have not been fully conscious of all the factors implied by the first tradition in which he was nurtured but this does not imply that it had no effects on his theology.

Paul’s faith remained in large measure the faith and religion of his fathers. His new faith in Jesus Christ rather than being a departure from that older faith, although it took very quickly different shapes from its former praxis, was considered as its fulfillment. Even as apostle to the Gentiles, he still remained Paul the Jew.[95] If we are to follow the four foundations of the Second Temple Judaism - monotheism, election, Torah, and Temple - and correlate them to Paul’s writings we find amazing parallels. A brief discussion on each will help us to appreciate better Paul’s starting point which marked deeply his spirituality.

One God

Throughout his ministry Paul never ceased to maintain emphasis on the first two commandments of the Decalogue - to have no other gods besides the one God and to abhor idolatry with all his soul. For him the Christ event rather then undermining his previous belief modified monotheism in a way that God was not simply to be known as “Creator”, “Judge”, “God of Israel” but also “God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:6; 2 Cor. 1:3; 11:31).

When Jesus had been exalted as the one God, God the Father was still to be confessed as one (1 Cor. 8:6). When every knee was to bow to Jesus Christ as Lord, the glory would belong to God the Father (Phil. 2:10-11). When every enemy had been subjected to him, the Son himself was to be subject to the one who subjected everything to him, in order that God might be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28).[96]

In this revised understanding of God, Paul still retained similar features in his experience of God as Spirit, now recognized by reference to Christ (1 Cor. 15:45). While on the other hand he withholds from transferring God’s righteousness to Christ, keeping God as the primary source with Christ as an integral part of the action and process signified by that term.[97] In this way it was not Christ who turned a divine righteousness of judgment into one of justification, but it was through the righteousness of the one God, already displayed towards Israel from the beginning, that Christ’s act became salvific. Such re-presentation of God was not without tensions (as it was to be proved by the debates in the centuries to come), but they were healthy tensions so long as they were based on solid foundations.

Israel’s Election

At a first glance it might seem strange that the self acclaimed “apostle of the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:13) and the one who is mostly credited with breaking Christianity free from the Jewish mold,  was so much concerned about the place of Israel in the whole process of salvation (Rom. 9-11). In fact a comparative reading of his letters with Hebraic thought would immediately testify that in Paul’s thought there is no severe change of direction in any of his anthropological understanding,[98] or analytical tools and categories[99] which he used to express his belief with his communities.

But besides these, Paul perceived Israel as still forming part of God’s divine plan. If Israel and God were so intimately linked from the initial stages of the history of salvation, through the gracious calling of God, then for Paul it followed that this relationship could not be abandoned. However, it was a relationship which had to be rectified through the inclusion of the other nations in the whole formula. This was in itself a challenge for the Jews (yet not one unheard before as Paul rightly remind them in Gal. 3:8 of the blessing of all nations in Abraham) and an invitation to the Gentiles. Paul had to revise the notion of “election” since it could no longer mean simply the designation of a specific people, and was no longer manifested by membership in a chosen people but “in the believing acceptance of the Christ event.”[100] Considering all this, although he clearly believed that the Gentile mission was valid and that Gentile access to salvation apart from the law was central to the very meaning of the gospel, he still maintained that Israel had a unique place in God’s plan. This issue was a real struggle for Paul as one can see in Rom. 9-11, but this reveals that mission for him was not mere recruitment, but a flow from the very center of his Christian vision. “It expresses the very meaning of the gospel as God’s call to salvation. And its strategy is bound up with the mysterious providence of God’s work in history.”[101]


If there is any subplot in Paul’s theology it is his engagement with the law. And because even Paul himself experiences a fundamental problem with much of the understanding of the law in the Judaism of his time it is not easy to establish what precisely was Paul’s position regarding the law. To begin with Paul sometimes is very positive about the law. In Rom. 9:4 he writes about his kinsfolk as the ones to whom belongs the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the law, the worship and the promises, and in Rom 11:29 these assets are referred to as “gifts”. Christ in Rom. 15:8 is called “a servant to the circumcised, and in Rom. 4 and Gal 4 “Israel was meant to be a manifestation among the nations of a people living by promise and grace, as the case of their forefather Abraham shows.”[102] Thus the law does not oppose the gospel but rather bears witness to it (Rom. 3:21). So as far as the law was functioning as defining sin and condemning transgression, Paul found no objection toward it.

On the other hand, there are sayings in which Paul appears to be extremely negative about the law, and even more particularly about Jewish practices, above all circumcision. Primarily the problem with the law is its function as regards the people of God. Before the Christ event the law was there to protect and discipline Israel in particular. However this was a temporary function which was brought to an end by Christ. Moreover, the law fostered Jewish exclusiveness and became “a badge of distinction, and therefore of non-solidarity, between Jew and Gentile.”[103] For Paul “in Christ the dividing wall of the Torah (Eph. 2:14) is broken down”[104] and it was inadmissible to rebuild what has been torn down.

Definitely, no orthodox Jew could see the law the way Paul sees it, unless one looks at it from Paul’s perspective, that is, from his experience of the risen Christ. This clearly indicates the core of Paul’s spirituality (as we shall see in the following section), namely that his encounter with Christ has compelled him to rethink everything from a christocentric perspective.[105]

The Temple

If there was anything which Paul practically abandoned from his traditional religion it was the temple cult. Although categories of temple and priesthood, of holiness and purity remained part of his discourse he moved away from any attachment to holy places (Rom. 12:1). Was this due to a sense of eschatological immediacy which rendered institutions unnecessary or was it a reaction against Israel’s narrow mindedness? In any attempt to answer these questions we should however note that as far as the dialogue with Paul’s Jewish heritage is concerned

. . . Paul continued to think of Jerusalem as an image of salvation and freedom (Gal. 4:26). He continued to affirm the fundamental importance of his churches’ attachment to Jerusalem (the collection). He continued to share his people’s hope of a deliverer to come out of Zion (Rom. 11:26).[106]

Perhaps, the emergence of rabbinic Judaism with its shift of focus from Temple to scripture is a hint to why Paul regarded more essential to build his theology on scriptures rather then temple cult. We must acknowledge that a major feature in Paul’s letters is his constant dialogue with Israel’s scriptures.[107]

In this section we have seen how Paul’s Jewish heritage interacted with Christianity and as a result of this dialogue both partners contributed differently at different time and in different measures. Besides this, to make our study more complete we have to acknowledge the fact that this first level was engaged in other internal dialogues. Paul’s native Judaism was in dialogue with the wider culture of the Hellenistic and Roman world, while his Pharisaism was in dialogue with its religious and national heritage.

Second Level: The Christ Experience

To say that Paul’s theology and praxis was dominated by Christ is surely not an overstatement. Dunn emphases this point by calling Christ the fulcrum point on which the whole mass of Paul’s theology swings.[108] In Paul’s dynamic thought Christ continued to be the central criterion by which he made critical discrimination of what counted and what was of lesser moment. We have already indicated how Christ altered Paul’s perspective on his traditional views about God, Israel’s election, the law, and the temple.

For Paul, God was now to be known definitively by reference to Christ. . . . Christ as Wisdom, Christ as Adam is Christ the image of God, is Christ who in his person and work reveals both what God is like and how his good purpose embraces humankind within creation and with responsibility under God over all created things.[109]

As regards Israel, Gal. 3 can be quoted as an example of Paul’s efforts to express his understanding of Christ as the promise made to Abraham through which all the nations will be blessed. Christ was thus Paul’s justification for his missionary activity to the Gentiles. As regards the Torah, although it still acted as a guide in keeping the commandments of God (1 Cor. 7:19), it had to be “in-lawed” to Christ (1 Cor. 9:21). So too with scripture, Christ’s experience unveiled what laid hidden in the old covenant scriptures.

But Christ for Paul not only illuminated the past, in Him the apostle discovered new energies of which he never ceased to write about in his letters. For Paul, Christ signified, so to speak, a double point in history - Christ’s death and resurrection and the end point of Christ’s parousia - between which all human history hangs suspended. It was this tension which continually animated all the dynamics of his spirituality. In this tension he developed his apocalyptic perspective of humanity moving from one end of history characterized by Christ as the Wisdom of God’s creation, to its end with Christ as the final Judge of all human works.[110] And it is in this tension that he found the energy to embark on his missionary journeys and apostolic activities with various Christian communities.

Perhaps one can say that Christ’s death and resurrection reside in Christianity’s kernel. This was in fact an emphasis which Paul inherited, but nonetheless he made it his own and put it at the core of his christology.[111] Though he firmly believed that salvation history pointed forward, he remained rooted in Christ’s earlier mission, thus the retardation of the parousia did not constitute a fatal flaw in Paul’s thought (as some suggest). “Paul’s theology was eschatological not because of what Christ was still to do, but because of what he had already done.”[112] Paul did not simply call for faith but faith in Christ, because for him it was the story of Christ that made possible a faith that all could exercise.

The number of times Paul uses the phrases “in Christ”, “with Christ”, and “through Christ” is a clear indication of his fascination with Christ. It is like the breath of his letters, a language which could only adequately describe his experience of Christ. The struggle thus to express a quality and character of experience in terms of Christ reminds us that the theological dialogue in Paul has an experiential dimension. To further this Paul speaks of his conformity to Christ, and not least to his death (2 Cor. 4:11-12, 16-17; Rom. 8:17-18). Here Paul evokes the idea of mysticism, and though Paul uses the imagery particularly to make sense of his own apostolic suffering and hardship, he would hardly have welcomed it as purely individual mysticism. For he saw it as part of the process of salvation in which all believers shared, indeed in which the creation as a whole shared.

Paul’s Conversion and Call

It is impossible to envisage Paul, with no personal knowledge of Christ, being persuaded simply from scriptures to look for one like Christ proclaimed by the first Christians. In fact for us to understand Paul’s spirituality we must understand what happened on the road to Damascus, and more significantly its impact on Paul. However we must immediately note that irrespective to its importance for Paul, the apostle seems to be very reluctant to speak about it in his letters, and when he does so (1 Cor. 15:8-11; Gal. 1:15-17; Phil. 3:7-11)[113] he shows no interest in biographical assessment but speaks of this experience basically out of polemical necessity.[114] In fact when he refers to this personal encounter with Christ, he always speaks as if he has in mind the results, that is, what was thereby communicated to him personally and materially as the new order of things.[115]

For our understanding of Paul’s spirituality it is essential to spend some space on this inaugural Christian experience, because what was to develop later was influenced most of all by this experience on the road to Damascus and by faith in the risen Christ which developed from the experience itself.[116] First of all, are we correct to call this experience as “conversion”? Various scholars have argued about the terminology[117] and in fact one of the agreed conclusions is that we should rather talk about Paul’s “call” than referring to his “conversion.”[118] On the other hand, although we have seen that Paul’s Jewish tradition remained in dialogue with his newly embraced Christian tradition, he did undergo radical change in values, self definition, and commitments and with a wider use of the term we can still call Paul’s powerful turning point experience of the risen Christ as “conversion.”

However, the term “call” (or as sometimes it is referred to as “commission”) will help us to appreciate better Paul’s vocation from the Damascus experience onwards. What Paul was convinced of on the Damascus road was not simply the central confessional claim of the Christ event, but also that this Jesus was now to be preached to the Gentiles. It was through this obedient response to the call of God and Christ (Gal. 1:1, 10-12, 15) - a call that held him like a compelling destiny (1 Cor. 9:16), structuring his purposes and filling him with all the necessary energy needed for the fulfillment of his ministry - that Paul undertook as his central task the breaking of the news of salvation to the Gentile world.

We can look at this particular moment in Paul’s life from a threefold perspective - he was simultaneously converted, entrusted with the gospel, and sent to the Gentile world. Here we must however say that even if Paul himself claims  that the call to the Gentile mission coincided with his conversion, it is clear that his Pharisaic past and his contacts with Hellenistic Jews played a role in this. It is also likely that he only gradually embraced the full significance of his call; the most energetic part of his mission to the Gentiles only began some years after his Damascus experience, in the wake of the events described in Gal. 2:1-21 (the apostles’ council in Jerusalem and Peter’s visit to Antioch).[119]

In this manner we can see how Paul’s spirituality and theology are rooted in his own Christian experience. That did not mean that the traditions of the early Church about Jesus were unimportant to Paul. Quite the contrary, he took them quite seriously and frequently made use of them. Nevertheless, he interpreted those traditions in the light of his own experience on the road to Damascus. As we have seen, his emphasis on the universality of Christ, on the end of the Mosaic Law, and on the inclusion of the Gentiles were all rooted in this central experience of his life. This experience, then, did not simply change his life but, in the process, also changed the direction of a significant segment of early Christianity. Paul is, perhaps, the prime example of how religious experience can creatively and permanently change the direction of a religious tradition.

Third Level: Paul’s Pastoral Experience

Of the three levels we are discussing in this chapter, this is the one most accessible because it is Paul’s own dialogue with the various churches by means of his letters. As we already had the occasion to say, Paul’s letters are not a systematic presentation of either his theology or his ministry. Most of the letters were the result of the apostle’s pastoral response to particular situations. Nonetheless we cannot fail to notice the underlying contours shaped by Paul’s experience of the story of Israel and of Christ and their interaction (the two levels described above). But not all the emphases in Paul is tightly tied to his earlier tradition and christology, some innovative features where induced as a result of his interaction with the various communities.

One of the prominent features in Paul’s thought is “justification by faith” (Rom. 4; Gal. 3).[120] Backing his insistence on this innovative Christian reality was Paul’s pastoral and missionary concern with presenting a God who is ready to accept Gentile as well as Jew through faith alone.

That is the extent to which Paul set himself against any racialism or narrow nationalism which confused divinely granted privilege with “divine right” and saw no hope for Gentiles to share in the blessing of Abraham while remaining Gentiles. . . . This dimension of the doctrine of justification by faith has more than a little to say to a world where racialism and antagonistic nationalisms remain a potent factor in international tensions.[121]

As a general note it should be repeated that Paul was not a speculative theologian but a pastoral theologian, drawing the convictions of his theology from incisive thought and genuine religious experience. Not that he set experience over against rationality as 1 Cor. 14 reminds us, but in his speech about “grace”, “love”, “righteousness”, “gift”, and others it is clear that Paul is speaking “not so much with the neutral and extrinsic terminology of a merely subjective decision, as rather with terms that immediately demonstrate the salvific content.”[122]

It was the character of what he and his converts experienced, through faith, in Christ, by the Spirit, which he attempted to articulate and from which he attempted to develop a soteriology and ecclesiology whose existential truth his readers could recognize and live.[123]

Here we must mention also Paul’s realism in his writings. With honesty, he faced the reality of the believers and acknowledged the weakness of the flesh, the continual clashes within the ecclesial communities, and the imperfection of the world we live in. Paul wrestled with these tensions and whose expression we find in the eschatological tension between what has already been accomplished and what has not yet been accomplished. In 1 Cor. 13:13 Paul presents faith, hope, and love as intimately related yet conscious that as long as hope remains unfulfilled, faith and love remain imperfect.

His sense of Church was nonetheless a realistic but challenging one. The term itself ekkl­esia (“church”) is the single most frequent term used by Paul to refer to the groups of those who met in the name of Christ.[124] His letters are specifically addressed to these groups as churches. In Paul’s mind the term itself was related to Israel as the people of God, but more extensive than that, as we can see in Rom. 12 Paul relates the Church to a different image for the sake of the non-Jewish members - that of a body defined by its relation to Christ. The latter image is pregnant with meaning. Primarily it signifies the unity within and between the communities themselves. Moreover he recognizes the importance of diversity in ministry (different parts of the same body) as essential for the health of the Christian communities themselves. One of the striking features of Paul’s understanding of the body of Christ is that he envisages each church as a charismatic community (Rom. 12:4-8, 1 Cor. 12:4-27, Eph 4:7-16), recognizing the roles as gifts from the Spirit but nevertheless requiring the testing and validation of the community’s recognition and affirmation. Paul was conscious that the reality was way back from the vision he was proposing, but he never succumbed in challenging his communities to move towards the ideal.

Finally we cannot help noticing the great sensitivity by which Paul ministered to his communities. Apart from relating to them as Christian and theologian, he was also a teacher and pastor. While availing of his apostolic authority, he counseled his churches in the specific situations in which they lived and instructed them about particular ethical and moral issues. Although Paul does not offer his communities a systematic ethical work, yet running throughout is a fundamental conviction that, through the experience of power through faith in Christ, human beings were transformed in a way that was hitherto impossible.[125] As with all his life, Paul’s presentation of ethical living is not devoid of tensions. Basically, his ethics function from two centers - freedom and community - which should not be viewed as two opposite poles but rather two values which can be put in balance through faith in Christ. Still, tension persists where on one hand Christians through Christ have acquired freedom which was previously not available, while on the other hand as members of the community they were to seek the good of each other.

What underlies Paul’s treatment of both sets of situations is a conviction rooted once again in the contrast of strength and weakness. Christians who claim to be “strong” must be very careful not to impose their will on other, perhaps “weaker,” Christians or to act in a way that would bring ruin on those Christians. Paul’s ethical practice is dominated by the belief that in Christ one can be strong, and that strength allows one to refrain from imposing one’s own convictions on the practice of other Christians. . . . [This is a] freedom that allows one to recognize that God has called different Christians in different ways.[126]

Our endeavor to portray Paul’s thought and spirituality behind his ministry, as we may notice, can prove to be quite a complex task. It is almost impossible to select one single element as the fundamental motif of Paul’s theology. However significant advances in Pauline studies during the last two decades have shown us that apocalyptic in Paul is very near to the center of gravity of his theology. Paul the Christian, still formulates his spirituality in terms of his inherited (Jewish) apocalyptic, but apocalyptic is given a new core, Jesus Christ. The proclamation of Christ’s death and resurrection (and not Jesus’ ministry or God’s reign) forms the center of Paul’s missionary message, and it is through this center that we can understand all we have discussed above. The relationship between Jews and Gentiles, the weaknesses we have to endure as long as we are in this life, the understanding of Church, and the ethics which guide our living of the faith are all shaped by the fundamental struggle of a Messiah that came, yet we are still awaiting his kingdom. This means that Paul’s theology is not unifocal, but bifocal; coming from God’s past act in Christ it moves toward God’s future act. This tension between the “already” and “not yet” is a creative tension which continually animated Paul to proceed with his dynamic ministry. It was Paul’s conviction that God will triumph, notwithstanding our weakness and suffering, but also in the midst of and because of and through our weakness and suffering (cf. Rom. 8:37; 2 Cor. 4:7-10).


In this chapter we have given an overview of Paul’s operational theology. Using J. D. G. Dunn’s notion of dialogue between the different levels of his theology we were able to touch the core of what made Paul an apostle to the Gentiles of such great stature. We have realized that this internal dialogue many times brought tensions which as a consequence pushed Paul to revise his convictions. However, this does not imply that the dynamicity of Paul’s thought was in a complete flux. The second level which characterized his personal encounter with Christ and his call to be an apostle to the Gentile world, continued to function as the core of his convictions. In the following chapter we will be seeing Paul in his missionary activity, thus trying to understand better how this internal dialogue was really expressed in his ministry.



    Chapter Six

Paul in mission


We have seen how Paul’s thought cannot be properly assessed if separated from its missionary character. The core of the apostle’s call was twofold - a call to embrace fully Christ and to preach this new life to the Gentile world. Intrinsic in Paul’s ministry was his concern for those who have not yet heard of the good news and thus not able to live the Christian life. Of interest to our study of Paul’s missionary spirituality would not only be his core belief backing his ministry, which we looked at in the preceding chapter, but also how Paul was able to contextualize this spirituality in the different situations in which he found himself trying to fulfill his call. In this chapter we will concentrate more on the way Paul ministered in the early Church with the intent of shedding more light on this great pillar of Christian thought and life.

Perhaps Beker’s framework in interpreting Paul’s thought explains clearly this relation between what is the coherent core of Paul’s gospel and the contingent situations which he addresses in his letters,[127] or to use the language of missiology, the relation between theological consistency and contextualization.

Paul’s Missionary Strategy

Choosing the Mission Grounds

Paul’s understanding of mission and the living of his call manifest themselves among anything else in what we may call his “missionary strategy.” As we have already stated Paul was evidently not the first missionary of the early Church. In fact we can speak of three main types of missionary enterprises of the early Christian movement.

(1) the wandering preachers who moved from place to place in the Jewish land and proclaimed the imminent reign of God; (2) Greek-speaking Jewish Christians who embarked on a mission to Gentiles, first from Jerusalem (often forced to leave the city because of persecution) and then from Antioch; (3) Judaizing Christian missionaries who . . . went to already existing Christian churches in order to “correct” what they regarded as a false interpretation of the Gospel.[128]

While definitely Paul did not share any elements with the third type, he took over elements from the first two types mentioned above and adapted them for his own purpose. Perhaps the best text which indicates clearly the apostles missionary strategy is Rom. 15: 15-33. This is a text which may have been among the last from Paul’s hands and which puts together both content and process of his missionary enterprise. He reveals his inaugural call “to be minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles” (15:16), “my work for God” (15:17), a mission Paul pursued single-minded “by word and deed, …by the power of the Holy Spirit” (15:18-19), a ministry which had taken him from Jerusalem (the base of Jewish Community) to Illyricum (the western shore of Greece deep into gentile territory).

Paul’s movement from one community to another was very strategic. He frequently speaks of his mission as directed  towards various countries and geographical regions considered to be metropolises at that time,[129] while leaving to the communities themselves and perhaps to other apostolic workers the task of dealing with their non-Christian neighbors.

Paul thinks regionally not ethnically; he chooses cities that have representative character. In each of these he lays the foundations for a Christian community, clearly in the hope that, from these strategic centers, the Gospel will be carried into the surrounding countryside and towns. And apparently this indeed happened, for in his very first letter, written to the believers in Thessalonica less than a year after he arrived there, he says, “The word of the Lord [has] sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia” (1 Thes. 1:8)[130]

While concentrating predominantly on the Greek-speaking parts of the empire, he contemplates paying a visit to Rome (Rom. 15:22-23), the capital of the Roman empire showing clearly his ambition of spreading the Gospel to the entire inhabited world. In the meanwhile Paul keeps founding local churches which he sustains by occasional pastoral visits and letters, and by sending some of his fellow workers to them. “Paul spent considerable effort in pastoral care. The letters we have show that Paul was not content to “plant” and move on, despite some of his comments in this direction. He felt personal responsibility for the communities he had inaugurated and had no hesitation in sending specific directives to them.”[131] He lovingly waits for them to grow in spiritual maturity and stewardship, and to become beacons of light in their environment.

Paul and His Colleagues

One of the Pauline missionary practices is the way he performed his mission in association  with fellow evangelizers. These were considered by Paul not simply as helpers but as colleagues. W. H. Ollrog[132] distinguishes among three categories: (1) the most intimate circle, comprising Barnabas, Silvanus, and Timothy; (2) the independent co-workers, such as Priscilla and Aquila, and Titus; (3) representatives from the local churches, such as Epaphroditus, Epaphras, Aristarchus, Gaius, and Jason. These personages represented in some form the church they were coming form and where thus considered by Paul as that church’s participation in his missionary endeavor. In his fellow-workers Paul embraces the churches and the latter identify with his missionary efforts.

A model to Emulate

In 1 Thes. 1:6 Paul says “you become imitators of us and of the Lord.” Following a widely practiced method of teaching by philosophers at that time, Paul provides himself as a model for Christian life. However, his confidence that his life authenticates the gospel does not reside in himself and his own accomplishments; rather it comes from God’s initiative and power acting in his life. Surely here we must refer back to his initial calling on the Damascus road which continued to act as his source of inspiration and commitment to his life “in Christ.” Paul is very conscious of the possibility of being accused of boasting and pretense but in 1 Cor. 9:27 he makes it quite clear that what he was demanding from others he was practicing himself, and to a further extent.

Paul and the Church’s Central Authority

Paul is many times presented to us as the independent missionary, moving from one community to another, basically involved with communities on the boundaries of an expanding Church. But, what was his relationship with the central authority of the Church, as represented by Peter? We have already mentioned the two important episodes in Paul’s life after the revelation on the Damascus road which gave him the impetus to move forward with his missionary work; I refer here to the Jerusalem council and Peter’s visit to Antioch. Between Paul’s calling in Damascus and the following first mission in northern Syria and Cilicia, on the one hand, and the beginning of the independent missions of the apostle to the Gentiles, on the other, lie about twelve years of activity in Antioch. From this period we still have no letter of Paul, yet from some of the reports to other churches in the later period we can gather testimonies about the major events in the Antiochene period.[133]

It is clear that the Apostolic Council was a significant event for Paul, and it receives its due priority in his letters to the Galatians. Paul and Barnabas have already, by that time, been on their first missionary journey (Acts 13,14) among the non-Jews. The church at Antioch had a much more liberal position on the law then the church in Jerusalem[134] and Paul would have suited them well in their ministry among the potential non-Jewish converts. It was precisely the growing Gentile mission and the creation of Gentile-Christian churches that became a problem for Jewish Christians in their Jerusalem center. Concerned about this growing disagreement between the churches, Paul and Barnabas traveled to Jerusalem heading a delegation ready to give witness about their missionary activity. For them the opposing viewpoint was placing at risk the “truth of the Gospel”, and Paul even calls his opponents “false brethren” (Gal. 2:4). Paul was in no way going to compromise his position, and he determinedly used the authority given to him by Christ to counteract any opposition even from Peter. The outcome of the council proved Paul and the Antiochene church right. It was agreed with a handshake that Paul and Barnabas could continue their Gentile-Christian and law-free mission, whereas the Jerusalemites would continue to devote themselves, as previously, to missions among the Jews (Gal 2:7-10). In this way a formal recognition for a gentile mission was obtained.

Sometime after the council Peter visited the Antiochian church (Gal. 2:11-21). During the time of his visit he at first lived without qualms or discussion in a Gentile-Christian fashion, that is in unrestrained living fellowship with the law-free and synagogue-independent church in Antioch composed of Jewish and Gentile Christians. He thereby defiled himself as a Jewish Christian - who until then has certainly lived as one faithful to the law in Jerusalem -  because he apparently valued the unity of the church, in Christ, higher than the law. Everything would have still gone well in Antioch if James’s people[135] had not convinced Peter to return to his previous practices. Again for Paul the “truth of the Gospel” was at stake (Gal. 2:14), but this time neither Barnabas nor the Antiochene church stood by his side. It was a crucial time for Paul, he either had to comply with the rest or move forward with his convictions. The die was cast for his independent missionary work. From now on he would missionize as envoy of Jesus Christ where Christ had not yet been proclaimed (Rom. 15:20). Thus, as he stood up for the Gentile Christians of Antioch in the Council, from now on he would establish Gentile-Christian churches that were founded on faith, love, and hope (1 Thes. 1:3; 5:8), not on the law as a basic prerequisite.

This was the way Paul envisaged his faith and his readiness to suffer for it, even if it called for hard decisions to take within the believing community itself. Incidentally, in time, the law-free solution prevailed even among those who opposed Paul. It even appears that a man like Barnabas later also found his way back to Paul’s position; in any case, Paul can mention him in 1 Cor. 9:6 without rancor. The same may be said about Peter. After the serious disruption in their relationship in Antioch the two apostles probably met no more, but in 1 Corinthians Paul no longer reveals any personal reserve in regard to Peter. Moreover we can say that Paul remained loyal to the mother church in Jerusalem, in charity, if not in legal observance - as witness his continued insistence on contributing to their material needs (1 Cor. 16:1-4).

Paul’s Missionary Driving Force

One is apt to remain amazed when looking at Paul’s missionary activity and may wonder what was behind all this. It was so strong a motivation that it left him restless, all the time seeking to break new boundaries, evangelizing places where Christ had not yet been preached. Bosch describes three missionary motives identifiable in Paul and he elaborates on them.[136]

First it is Paul’s concern for those who have not yet heard the gospel of Christ.

He sees humanity outside Christ as utterly lost, en route to perdition (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18; 2 Cor 2:15), and in dire need of salvation. The idea of imminent judgment on those who “do not obey the truth” (Rom. 2:8) is a recurring theme in Paul. Precisely for this reason he gives himself no relaxation. He has to proclaim, to as many as possible, deliverance “from the wrath to come” (1 Thes. 1:10).[137]

This is not to say, however, that Paul proclaimed a negative message, rather he preached the good news of salvation through Christ, an undeserved liberation through the encounter with the one God and Father of Jesus Christ. Here we cannot miss to notice the great relevance it had for Paul that one encounter the living Christ, which was held supreme over any achievement of one’s natural potential.

Given the fact that Paul was entrusted with the good news, he deeply felt responsible to proclaim it: “woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). He felt indebt to Christ, “and this was transmuted into a debt to those whom Christ wishes to bring salvation.”[138] This meant that Paul was to make himself “slave to all”, that he might win both Jews and Gentiles alike (1 Cor. 9:19-23). His sense of flexibility, sensitivity, and empathy rather then being a cross-cultural missionary accommodation, emerges from the freedom of his service as subordinate to the message of the gospel itself. Acknowledging the variety by which the Christian message can be lived, he encourages his communities not to be a stumbling block to the “outsiders,” and feel responsible to attract and invite them to join the community.

Finally, but perhaps the deepest of his motivations, is his sense of gratitude for all that Jesus Christ had done for him. Paul’s experience of the Lord was real, and he really felt loved personally by God: “The Son of God . . . loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). The only way he could thank God for this abounding love was by being a missionary to both Jews and Gentiles. On the other hand Paul was also grateful because this God who loved him needed not

. . . to be propitiated by people because of their transgressions against him. Rather. God himself pleads to be reconciled to us, his enemies. So low does God bow in partnership with human beings. This is the boundless and inexpressible love that Paul and his communities experience. Is it conceivable that they could respond to it with anything but a profound debt of gratitude?[139]

Paul’s Apocalyptic Mission

If we are to put in a nutshell what we have been discussing so far, we can say that Paul’s spirituality is inherently missionary. The fulcrum on which all his gospel and ministry rotated was his experience of Christ. This experience not only sustained his spiritual life but contributed directly  to his clear commission from Christ to be an apostle to the Gentiles. It is from a missional perspective that he addresses the specific situations of his churches, applying his gospel to the varied challenges of different churches facing diverse problems. Paul’s arguments are shaped by the contingent situations which he addresses in his letters.

But there is more then the missionary dimension which shapes Paul’s spirituality. So far we have referred to Paul’s personal experience of Christ as fundamental and instrumental for in his ministry. However, Paul’s experience of Christ needs some more elaboration if we are to specify more clearly what gives Paul’s spirituality its identity. We need to elaborate deeper on Paul’s understanding of Christ and as a consequence its effects on his mission.

If Christ was at the center of his spirituality, apocalyptic was the framework in which he understood Christ and his salvific actions. One of the most important results of twentieth-century biblical scholarship was the recognition of the importance of the eschatological milieu of New Testament material. Paul was no exception, and it was for this reason that Beker has described the apocalyptic world-view as the “coherent center” of Paul’s thought and rejects those interpretations which dilute Paul’s apocalyptic texture.[140] By apocalyptic we here understand a belief in the future, imminent consummation of the world, an event which is triggered by the future parousia of Jesus Christ. Beker beliefs that Paul’s apocalyptic framework is not only the starting point for Paul’s thought but constitutes “the indispensable framework for his interpretation of the Christ-event.”[141] This shifts the centrality of Paul’s spirituality from what was earlier thought to be Christ mysticism (e.g. Schweitzer) or justification by faith (e.g. Kasemann). As an alternative Beker asserts that “the triumph of God [is] the center of Paul’s thought,”[142] a suggestion which arises directly out of an apocalyptic framework of Paul’s thought. However, all this is not to suggest that Paul’s viewpoint is completely apocalyptic in substance, merely that it lies within an eschatological framework. Clearly there is, at the same time, a dimension of realized eschatology in Paul’s thought which tempers his obviously futuristic teaching. The “now” and the “not yet” in Paul are dynamically interconnected, and this is vital to understand if we hope to make sense out of Paul today.

Thus, it is from an apocalyptic perspective that we must understand Paul’s mission. Mission for Paul formed part of the “age to come” which the Christ event had radically inaugurated. So the contextual nature of Paul’s gospel is limited ultimately by its apocalyptic framework. “Paul understood his mission not only within the context of specific historical and cultural circumstances, but within the broader, overriding retrospect of the new age inaugurated by Christ and consequential prospect of Christ’s return.” [143]

It is through this dual perspective that Paul was able to minister to his communities despite the contradictions and sufferings of life. For him the Christian life is only real when anchored in the sure knowledge of God’s victory. And precisely because of this he sees himself as only a precursor of the completion of God’s mission. Although he had to work hard to promote the Gospel, its completion was beyond his efforts. In the meanwhile, the Church as a new community was to endeavor to be a united body. Paul was conscious that the churches that have come to existence as a consequence of his mission were situated in a world divided culturally (Greeks vs. barbarians), religiously (Jews vs. Gentiles), economically (rich vs. poor), and socially (free vs. save). But despite of all these differences Paul calls the communities to find their identity in Christ who had inaugurated the “new creation” where divisions will no longer exist, rather then in their differences (cf. Gal. 3:27f).

Implications on Paul’s Missionary Paradigm.

Paul’s hermeneutic raises the issue of the relationship between church and world. Before commenting on this issue we must however acknowledge the fact that Christianity in Paul’s time was a fringe religion with practically no powers vis-à-vis society, and to some extent this explains any lack of criticism against unjust social structures by Paul. Nevertheless Paul does not adopt any of the two trends existing in his time, namely pure apocalyptic (a tendency in Jewish apocalyptic) where this age and the next were separated by an unbridgeable gap thus considering the present reality as irredeemable, or extreme enthusiasm (as we find in the community in Corinth) which led to an expectation of an imminent parousia. Both positions led to non-involvement in society which Paul opposes. Precisely because of God’s sure victory Paul emphasizes not ethical passivity but active participation in God’s redemptive will in the here and now. This shows that despite his apocalyptic believes, Paul still had his feet grounded in the “here and now”, however with his eyes fixed on God’s final triumph.

The Christian life is not limited to interior piety and cultic acts, as though salvation is restricted to the Church; rather believers, as a corporate body, are charged to practice bodily obedience (cf. Rom. 12:1) and serve Christ in their daily lives, in the secularity of the world, thus bearing witness - in the “penultimate” - to their faith in Christ’s ultimate victory.[144]

On the other hand for a fuller picture we must say that Paul experienced some hesitancy about stressing too much participation in the world, undoubtedly due to the fact that he was aware of the tension that exists between God’s work and human effort. Thus any combat against the oppressive structures of the powers of sin and death should be done with God’s final triumph in mind if they are to be considered as authentically Christian.

In this context another word about Paul’s view of suffering is befitting. Since Christians still live in a world afflicted by sin, suffering is unavoidable. Applying Paul’s hermeneutics, suffering is not just something that has to be endured passively but primarily it is an expression of the church’s engagement with the world for the sake of the world’s redemption.[145] Suffering, Paul relates it to Christ’s suffering, giving it a redemptive effect. However, as with the Christ event, it is viewed within the apocalyptic framework thus attributing to it the ultimate meaning in God’ final triumph.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.[146]

This passage clearly characterizes the Pauline mission as an eschatological event: only within the horizon of the expectation of the end can the tension between the suffering and glory be sustained. This passage, moreover, set out clearly the essential character of the Church’s mission, and can be easily adopted as Paul’s definition of mission.

Finally, important as the church is, it is, for Paul, not the ultimate aim of mission. The life and work of the Christian community are intimately bound up with God’s cosmic-historical plan for the redemption of the world. In Christ, God has reconciled not only the church but the world to himself (2 Cor. 5:19), and this Paul is called to proclaim. Thus Paul’ mission can be viewed to be universal in the two dimensions: on the spatial diminution, in the sense that it is addressed to all the creation; in the order of time, because it knows its beginning in Christ’s death and resurrection and its ultimate end in God’s ultimate saving victory over His creation.


In Rom. 1:1 Paul sees himself as an apostle “set apart for the gospel” which God had promised long ago to his forefathers. This conviction about his call was based on his personal encounter with the “risen Christ.” It was a conviction which he fully lived, and burning with zeal he was never tired of proclaiming the good news to others. In this chapter we have seen how Paul carried out his mission to the others, who were the others, and what was behind all this missionary activity. Moreover we tried to connect the content of his faith (which we explored in the previous chapter through our analyzes of the various levels) to the practice of his faith (the apostle in mission) with the hope of understanding better Paul’s spirituality. In the final chapter we shall be looking at how Paul’s spirituality can speak to the Christian community today and how it can relate to current missiological trends adopted by the Church.



    Chapter Seven

A Pauline Missionary Spirituality for Today


Paul’s importance for our understanding of the early Christian message can hardly be exaggerated. Although he was not the unique missionary during his time, his writings and his missionary endeavors are the most complete work available for us from that period. Moreover, although his letters were never intended to function as models to guide the Christian church in general, what they proved to be in history had a great impact on the universal Christian vision. There can be no doubt that Paul the theologian cannot be understood unless he is seen primarily as Paul the missionary, and the unity between his theology and his ministry of evangelization must be retained if we are to give Paul a fair hearing. For this reason, our endeavor to reflect on his spirituality led us to the conclusion that Paul’s spirituality was really a missionary one.


What we have been doing in the last three chapters was to move with Paul within his own context. In this way we were trying to understand better the apostle, and the kernel of his spirituality. We realized that this can’t be a straight forward job, as the myriad of different studies on Paul throughout the centuries but most particularly in the last fifty years, show us. Giving a complete picture of Paul’s spirituality is not possible. Paul’s thinking is so complex that at the end of a reflection like this one has the distinct feeling of still standing with a good number of loose ends in ones hands. There are many trailing edges which we did not pursue, and those for which we have opted to enter in some detail, volumes can be written on them. As we already had the occasion to comment, Paul’s letters are not a biography or a spiritual journey of the apostle, but are rather his personality and spirituality as expressed in his ministry. Thus we found ourselves continually moving from effect to cause, from context to inherent beliefs, or to use Beker’s terminology from the contingent to the coherent core. This was further made difficult by the time and cultural gap between the object of study (Paul in our case) and the interpreters (us). No matter how hard we try to understand Paul in his own context, we can never hope to be fully successful, many realities existent of that time elude our cognition.

Resistance to the Pauline Text

Together with these difficulties we must mention the reality of Paul’s reception in the Christian community today. It is very unwise to study Paul in his own context and then totally ignore the context in which we are trying to present him to. Consciousness about today’s reality on Paul within the variety of circles within the Christian community will help us not to undervalue certain problems which militate against the acceptance of Paul’s spirituality today. A large-scale alienation from Paul’s gospel coupled with a widespread dislike for the person of Paul seem to prevail in our churches. Paul’s world seems to be so distant from ours that he actually no longer concern us. Not only is this estrangement due to a dislike for his temperamental and high-strung personality, but also because of the difficulty we have in appropriating his gospel, experiencing its relevance for our lives today. Too often we attribute the unintelligibility of Paul’s message to the unpleasant impression that his person evokes in us, or to the argumentative texture of his letters, or his presumable arrogance and doctrinal stance. Hopefully at this stage of our study we have overcome some or most of these obstacles.

Biblical Hermeneutics

It is with all this in mind that we have to understand any implications of Pauline spirituality for today’s world. It is already a great achievement to come up with a tentative system of Pauline spirituality as lived by the apostle himself, but it is of a much greater pastoral use to provide an adaptation of this spirituality for the church in today’s modern world. As we have noted earlier in our study, we are here dealing with a biblical spirituality and the problem with the adaptation of a renowned “canonical” figure by later generations is the danger of accepting uncritically his “holy” legacy. In other words, grateful reverence for the memory of Paul and his impact on the church history causes us to blur the real portrait of Paul, compelling us to apply dogmatically his teachings. Conversely, the aim of biblical hermeneutics is more of an adequate understanding of the mind of the biblical writer. We must avoid the common temptation of drawing hasty conclusions and apply these to our contemporary situation, forgetting that Paul developed his missionary spirituality and ministry in a very specific context. The only way out of the dilemma is to extrapolate from Paul, to allow him to “fertilize” our imagination and, in dependence on the guidance of the holy spirit, to prolong in a creative way, the logic of Paul’s spiritual core and his mission amid historical circumstances that are in many respects different from his. It is an effort to bring into a dialogue what Paul “meant” in the first century with what Paul “means” on the turn of the millennium. Bridging the gap between the then and the now is not easy, and a lot of errors happened throughout the Christian tradition which we should avoid repeating. In a nutshell, what we are called to do is “to be faithful to the old text in a new situation,”[147] avoiding to use Paul to simply buttress our arguments, and to let his missionary spirit guide us in our ministry.

Beker describes three possible solutions to our problem of bringing Paul back to life today.[148] The first solution would be a simple transliteration of the old text into new situations for which it was not intended. Such a procedure misuses Paul’s language and treats his gospel as a frozen, eternally valid, dogmatic deposit. This is entirely against Paul’s own spirit of dynamicity and contextualization of the message which he firmly believes in. Although this procedure provides us with an easy way of adopting Paul’s spirituality, it lies in sharp conflict with Paul’s own theological purpose, that of interweaving the essence of his belief (coherence) with the specific context in which he lives his belief (contingency).

The second solution would be that of divorcing the text from its original context, imposing a subjective ideological reading that supposedly meet the demands of the present time. This postmodern reading of Paul, although it provides us with new insights and may seem to be pastoraly attractive, does disservice to Paul himself and to us interpreters today. We have seen how important the context was for Paul, and we have noted also that there may be apparent contradictions in the Pauline text as the context varies. For this reason, we cannot evaporate from the text the circumstances for which it was written and apply it blindly to our present day situations.

The third option would be a middle way. While respecting the tradition which gave birth to the old text, we acknowledge the fact that the text is subject to changes in its itinerary through time. This solution offers different levels of adaptation. The most lenient would be to concentrate on Paul’s method instead of his message because the historicity of Paul’s conceptuality makes it impossible to transpose his message to the so different historical circumstances of later times. Applying this to his spirituality we may look at the way Paul ministered to his communities, the way he adapted to the different cultures, traditions, and circumstances, his ethics, the manner he took advantage of the different tensions in his life and the life of the communities and transformed them into creative outcomes, the way he lived suffering, and a myriad of other issues which can be adapted to today’s context. Paul’s method is surely still challenging and inspiring for the church today in its endeavor to make the abiding word of the gospel a word on target for its audience.

However, notwithstanding the attractive features of this form of adapting Paul’s spirituality, it is very dangerous to sever Paul’s method from his message because message and method constitute and inseparable entity. Particularly for Paul, his spirituality was a constant interplay between his core beliefs and hopes, and the ministry in which he was engaged. We have seen how the different levels in Paul, - his inherited tradition, his conversion and call which constituted his core belief, and his ministry - were in a constant dialogue, forming each other, producing a dynamic spirituality. Thus, in our last section, that of suggesting possible adaptations of the Pauline missionary spirituality, we must take into account both poles of Paul’s gospel, his inherent message and his methods of contextualizing the message.

Adapting Paul’s Missionary Spirituality in the Church Today

If we look at Paul’s missionary spirituality from the perspective of message and method, then Beker’s understanding of Pauline theology as that with a coherent core and a contingent target suites our purpose. Following this strategy, in our attempt to propose a Pauline missionary spirituality for the church today, we have to cater for three distinct components which compose its particularity. The first would be Paul’s abiding coherent core of an apocalyptic framework. The second would be the contingent context of this spirituality. While the third would be the correlation between its coherent core and the demands of its contingent target.

The Coherent Core of Paul’s Missionary Spirituality

Appropriate analogies may occur when Paul’s images and symbols are able to appeal directly to the imagination of the interpreter. If we were to say that Christ lays at the center of Paul’s gospel, then it is very easy for us to move forward with a myriad of applications of the Pauline spirituality. However, we do expect a good number of frowns when we say that Paul’s Christ must be viewed in an apocalyptic framework. The Christian church, down to the centuries, has often reacted negatively if not violently to any manifestation of the apocalyptic. Future eschatology was largely pushed out of mainstream Christianity, and the expectation of a “new heaven and a new earth” was spiritualized away. The resurrection of Christ was viewed as a completed event and severed from the hope of a future resurrection of believers, while the Church was increasingly identified with the kingdom of God. It became the dispenser of sacraments and the place where, through the sacraments, souls were won for Christ. There were others who opted for one of the several existentialist positions or for an almost unqualified participation in the world. In any case the tendency was and is to “over-celebrate” the present, and any hope of a fundamental change in the future is silenced and neutralized.[149]

Thus today Paul may be calling us to a rehabilitation of the apocalyptic framework. This does not suggest that today’s church has to follow Paul’s views slavishly, which is also in line with Paul’s own adjustment of his expectations. A direct transfer  of Paul’s formulations of the Gospel to our situation cannot succeed, however Paul’s apocalyptic framework may help us to discern the Church’s mission today.

Involvement in the structures of this world and attempts to change them and make them conform, if only to a very limited degree, to the “blueprint” of God’s reign, make sense precisely because of our hope for a fundamental new future. Paul can contemplate a universal mission and yet think in terms of apocalyptic imminence; eschatology and missionary involvement do not contradict each other.[150]

Mission can be understood only when the risen Christ himself has still a future, a universal future for the nations. Segundo recognizes this and describes it as “the only kind [of eschatology] capable of giving real meaning to human history.”[151] In an authentic eschatology the vision of God’s ultimate reign of justice and peace serves as a powerful magnet - not because the present is empty, but precisely because God’s future has already invaded it.

This ultimately brings us to what we have been discussing in chapter 3 - the relation of the church to the world, to the reign of God, and the spirituality which this relation calls to. The church, which is not the world, is the vanguard of God’s reign. In its mission the church affirms its own preliminariness and contingency. Aware of its provisional character, the church in mission lives and ministers as that force within humanity through which the renewal and community of all people is served. This is Paul’s core spirituality for the church in mission today.

The Contingent Context of Paul’s Missionary Spirituality.

We have been paying close attention to the manner in which Paul brings the core of his gospel to bear upon the contingent needs of his churches. This is of double interest for us studying his spirituality today. First of all it gives us ample room to adapt Paul’s spirituality for our needs today. The apostle himself devised imaginative strategies, which creatively mediated between the abiding truth of the gospel and its contingent relevance. This invites us to continue to use his strategy in our own creative way, and while keeping the essentials of the gospel presented by Paul we acknowledge the freedom to adapt it to our culture and time. In this manner Paul’s message will be kept alive in all its essentials, however vested in today’s contingent needs.

Secondly, the method of contextualization which Paul used to communicate the core of the gospel is very relevant to the many situations which arise in the pluralistic society of today in general, and the cultural, historical and religious differences which one is apt to encounter in the field of evangelization in particular. Paul’s method incorporates a language which functions with a plurality of images, each of which has its own internal logic. In our study we tended to treat issues such as justification by faith, righteousness, reconciliation, freedom, adoption, and other topics which tend to rise there and again in Paul’s letters as issues related to the context in which he was addressing his letters. Rather then choosing one or a group of topics and putting them as the center of his spirituality, we opted for the reverse solution, that is, regarding them as the result of the encounter between Paul’s coherent apocalyptic core and the contingent context of his communities. In fact it is impossible to completely reconcile Paul’s symbols and images into one structure without sometimes ending with inconsistencies. Paul’s aim was to make available his inherited Christian tradition and his personal experience of Christ in creative and innovative metaphors for the new circumstance in which he was finding himself. This kind of dynamic and practical spirituality can lend itself very easily in the context of evangelization, and without abusing the method (namely, without compromising the core of the gospel message) it is very feasible in the current age.

Paul’s spirituality, in the way described above, can still speak to us in a manner that is always fresh and challenging. In our adaptation of Paul we must allow his images and metaphors to become carriers of new meaning for us.

[T]he adaptation of Paul’s gospel by the church today should perhaps more closely resemble that imaginative and creative process undertaken by a composer who takes a theme from a previous era and allows it to speak in the musical idiom of his or her own day - as Bach set the reformation chorales in his cantatas and passions, or as a jazz musician improvises on a classic theme. In each case, a creative and skillful composer or musician maintains the integrity of the original motif yet allows its emotive and communicative power to come through in the hearer’s own musical language.[152]

This is the missionary spirit which accompanied Paul throughout his whole ministry, and may this same spirit be reenacted today so as to transform those who hear it in the same way it did in the past.

Paul, Correlating the Message with the Context

So far we have seen how the core of Paul’s missionary spirituality, and the way he transmitted it to his communities, can speak to us today. Also of interest would be the spirit in which Paul managed to correlate the core of his gospel with the contingent context of his missions. In this study we have seen Paul entertaining a dynamic spirituality, where through the various dialogues occurring between the different dimensions in his life, he developed a personal spirituality which gave the apostle a high degree of respect within his communities and Christianity in general. We have seen how his spirituality was far from being a set of dogmatic, universal statements, but was rather devised to be comprehended by the hearers. Nonetheless, this by no means implies that Paul was ever ready to compromise with the gospel message which he received in his personal encounter with Christ. No one is more realistic than Paul in dealing with the frailties and failures of human relationships and conduct, and yet he continually sets before his communities a vision of what their Christian life should, and one day will, be. In no way the troubles, suffering, tensions, and disagreements he encountered in his mission, were to compel him to dilute his message. Not even his clashes with the central Christian authority and their diverse envisioning of Christianity caused Paul to succumb to the demands of the context, compromising part or the whole of his core belief. The reason was surely not stubbornness, but profound faith and trust in the One who called him. Paul’s spirituality today challenges us to take stock of our coherent core, and in a spirit of humility and trust question its rootedness, its soundness, and our readiness to abide by it. In a postmodern age, more than in any other age, as evangelizers we need to avail of a sound coherent core in our spirituality.

Another reality in Paul’s spirituality is the different tensions which Paul had to endure in the different dimensions of his spiritual and ministerial life. If we mention his constant belief in the Christ event, we realize that it was far from being a harmonious act of faith. Paul’s awareness of the “already but not yet” was enough to keep him busy trying to make sense, creatively, out of this inherent tension in the Christian faith. He did not dispose of it by ignoring the hope to come, or conversely by disvalueing the present reality, but was ready to embrace this tension, and live creatively with it. Moving into his ministry, we realize that this tension is transposed into the daily living of the faithful, and his letters are full of examples how Paul is ready to sail through these rough waters of  human realities, acknowledging the fact that life situations can be complex, yet through hope and communal effort Christians can make some right steps toward what he hoped to be “the new creation.” Most striking is how Paul took fully into account the reality both of living in a hostile world and of living between two worlds. Not least of note were Paul’s repeated attempts to hold together different opinions and factions, conscious that the only real solution laid in a mutual faith. This process of making sense out of the inner and the pastoral tensions was done with an unfaltering spirit of compassion and understanding. Surely, Paul speaks to us today, where the church in mission, although in different contexts, still faces the interior tension of its faith and the external tensions in the praxis of its Christian living.


In chapters 2 and 3 we have seen how the studies of spirituality and missiology are in a state of development. Each is a relatively new field in the domain of theology, but nonetheless contributing towards a more holistic approach in the theological circles. Influenced by postmodern thought, these studies do not offer us one single homogeneous structure of thought, but rather present to us a variety of images and metaphors which try to describe reality from the different perspectives. It is the interpreter’s role to choose from these variety of symbols, and apply them according to the context. It is in this spirit that we have tried to present Paul and his missionary spirituality. We can never claim to have a full grasp of this great personage in the Christian tradition, but this will not stop us from tracing Paul’s basic thought and spirituality.

The central tenet of Christian spirituality and mission theology is the Christ event. It is the fundamental point of contact between God and his creation, and it is through Christ that theology tries to understand both God and creation. Accordingly we have seen how Paul’s basic Christian tenet was Christ, but on the other hand in our study of Paul we have brought to light how Paul appropriated this kernel of the Christian faith and gave it his own distinctive character. It is this particularity which entitles us to speak of a Pauline missionary spirituality, which was very real during Paul’s time and can still speak to us, in the present age. The relevance of this spirituality for today is multi-fold, however as we have already cautioned we must avoid simplistic translations from one context to another without paying attention to the differences. Moreover, we must be constantly aware of the interaction between Paul’s message and method, and thus when applying his spirituality in a current context we should be conscious of the different dynamics of his spirituality.

Yet, apart from these cautionary notes, we have realized that Paul is more then a distant past missionary figure, and that his missionary spirituality can still be relevant and challenging today. It is a spirituality which is first and foremost grounded on God’s personal call for each Christian. It is not a spirituality which originates primarily from a concern for the world’s needs, but rather these needs become a concern once one responds to God’s call. In this way it is a spirituality which resists the temptation of being transformed into a social or political activity, a temptation ever present in the context of struggle for justice and peace. Yet it is a spirituality which is ready to enter this struggle without loosing its focus from its coherent core.

This spirituality can even help us in the ever developing notion of Church, and our understanding of its mission. In chapter 3 we have looked at the various metaphors of church and their corresponding spirituality. If we really want to let Paul speak to us today, we must integrate his thought with the current understanding of the church’s nature, aim, and purpose. The models of church presented indicate that it is not a unifocal system, and this calls for adaptations according to the context in consideration. In Paul’s spirit, we come to realize that this can be done in a creative way, yet not devoid of tensions.

Paul’s spirituality is one which values all the members of the Christian community, and beliefs in the personal mission entrusted by God to each one and which ultimately forms part of God’s universal mission.

In living these central convictions, Paul tried to hold together his own experience and that of other Christians and Christian tradition; he tried to combine a hope for the future consummation of the world in Christ with a clearheaded vision of reality of human suffering, sin, and death; he tried to reconcile Christian freedom with Christian love and responsibility for others. His solutions to these tensions may not in all cases be ours; but in all cases they do challenge us; and in any case our own living out of the Christian faith and its proclamation must deal with these same tensions and be true to these same hopes.



    Appendix A

Summary of Sources of Information About Paul[153]


The Letters Paul Wrote

1 Tessalonians

Written sometime in the early 50’s, it was sent to console a church community upset over the recent deaths of some of its members. Apparently Paul had preached that Christ’s return and the full commencement of God’s Reign would occur very soon. The Tessalonians grieved over their departed loved ones, wondering if their deaths meant their exclusion from the Age to Come. Paul asserts that not only will “those who sleep in Christ” be raised, but that they will actually join the Lord before those who are still alive.


This letter is not addressed to a particular city, but rather a region in Asia Minor. Paul evidently was afflicted with his chronic illness while traveling through Galatia, and, while recuperating, founded a church there. This letter seems to have been occasioned by Paul receiving news that there were people pressuring Gentiles in Christ to become circumcised in order to guarantee their salvation. The impression the letter gives is that Paul immediately sat down and shot off an angry and fiery message to condemn such views. It is very likely that Paul’s opponents were Gentile proselytes to Judaism who had superstitious and magical notions about earning God’s favor. Paul argues that only faith, that only acceptance of God’s grace as an unmerited gift, will incorporate one into the saved community.


It was written to the church of Philippi in the mid-50s, and deals with some of the same issues which concerned Paul in Galatians. He warns his readers to be on guard against the “curs” encouraging circumcision. There is also internal dissension within the Philippian community, and Paul urges that followers of Jesus imitate their Lord who “emptied himself” and was totally in conformity with the will of God.

1 & 2 Corinthians

These letters are in reality fragments of three, four, or even five letters which have been edited into their present form. In Corinth there seems to have been an overly enthusiastic and extreme reaction to Paul’s original teaching. Not only did the Corinthians accepted that the law was not binding on Gentiles, some apparently felt that they were now free to do whatever they wanted. There is evidence of immorality, gluttony, sexual deviations, and involvement with pagan temples and idols. There was fighting over who had the best spiritual gifts, who was the best apostle, and even over the Eucharist. Further more some Corinthians may have believed that they had already been raised to a glorified state of perfect freedom and wisdom. Paul insists that unless one lives in a life rooted in selfless love, everything else is a meaningless sham.


This is the only authentic Pauline letter written to an individual. Philemon, a believer, owns a slave who has joined the church. Paul returns this slave to his master with a letter urging the slave’s treatment as a beloved brother in Christ.


Written in the late 50’s, it is Paul’s only letter to a church he did not personally found and to a church with a mixed Jewish/Gentile membership. He seems to have written this letter to introduce himself to the long-established Roman church since he intended to visit there en route to Spain. He also might be seeking to give an accurate presentation of his preaching, since some foes were spreading distorted versions of what Paul had said. Most important, Paul in this letter makes clear that the Law is something “good and holy and just,” and that he has not been encouraging Jews to become apostates. Rather, he emphasized that through Christ God has done something dramatic and new and “apart from the Law” in order to bring pagan Gentiles to himself. Paul criticizes his kinsfolk for failing to see this confirmation of Torah-promises, but he also warns Gentiles in Christ that they are only accounted righteous because of the Jewish root which makes them holy.

Letters Written in Paul’s name

Many scholars consider that Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, and most certainly the Pastoral Epistles (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus) were written decades after Paul’s death by authors who considered themselves heirs to the Pauline tradition. They all show evidence of other concerns and differing theological perspectives which arose later in the first century. They preserve Pauline views with mixed success. Nevertheless, they are indirect sources of information about Paul.

Acts of Apostles

This companion volume to the gospel of Luke was written by an admirer of Paul sometime in the 80’s. It seeks to describe the emerging Christianity as a natural outgrowth of Judaism which inevitably spread from Jerusalem to Rome. Paul figures predominantly in the second half of the book, but it seems that the author was more familiar with Paul’s travel itinerary then with the content of Paul’s preaching. Where Paul’s letters and Acts disagree, greater weight is placed upon the letters.




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Beker, J. C. Heirs of Paul: Paul’s legacy in the New Testament and in the Church Today. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991.

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Bosch, David J. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. NY:Orbis, 1991.

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Bouyer, Louis. “The Spirituality of the New Testament and the Fathers.” A History of Christian Spirituality. Vol I. Trans. Mary Perkins Ryan. 1968. Kent: Burns & Oates, 1986.

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Branick, Vincent. The House Church in the Writings of Paul. USA:Michael Glazier, 1989.

Brown, Raymond E. & Fitzmyer, Joseph A. & Murphy, Roland E. (Eds.) The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1990.

Byrne, Brendan. Inheriting the Earth: The Pauline Basis of a Spirituality for Our Time. NY: Alba House, 1991.

Comblin, Jose. The Meaning of Mission. NY:Orbis, 1977.

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Hengel, Martin & Schwemer, Anna Maria. Paul Between Damascus and Antioch: The unknown Years. London: SCM Press Ltd, 1997.

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Jones, Cheslyn, Wainwright Geoffrey, Yarnold Edward, SJ (ed). The Study of Spirituality. Great Britain: SPCK, 1986.

Komonchak, Joseph A. & Collins, Mary & Lane Dermot A. (Eds.) The New Dictionary of Theology. Article: Wolski Conn, Joann “Spirituality”; Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1990.

Komonchak, Joseph et al. (eds). The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality. Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1993.

Komonchak, Joseph et al. (eds). The New Dictionary of Theology. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1990.

Luzbetak, Louis J. The Church and Cultures: New Perspectives in Missiological Anthropology. NY:Orbis 1988.

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[1] Louis Bouyer, Introduction to Spirituality, trans.  Mary Perkins Ryan (New York: Desclée, 1961), pp. 20-23; Louis Bouyer, A History of Christian Spirituality, Vol. I, The Spirituality of the New Testament and the Fathers, trans. Mary Perkins Ryan (Kent: Burns & Oates, 1986), pp. ix-xi.

[2] Cf. Eph. 4:4-6.


[3] Sandra M. Schneiders mentions this as one of the features which characterize the discipline of spirituality. See S.M. Schneiders, “Theology and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals, or Partners?”, Horizons 13/1 (Spring 1986).

[4] See Ed. Cheslyn Jones, Geoffrey Wainwrite, Edward Yarnold, S.J., The study of Spirituality, (Great Britain: SPCK, 1986), p. xxiv.

[5] Joann Wolski Conn, “Spirituality,” The New Dictionary Of Theology, (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1990), p. 981.

[6] Michael Collins Reilly, S.J., Spirituality for Mission, (New York: Orbis, 1978), p. 28.

[7] Conn, “Spirituality,” p. 972 & p. 982

[8] Walter H. Principe, C.S.B., “Spirituality, Christian”, The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality, eds. Joseph A. Komonchak et al., (Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1993), p. 931

[9] See 1 Cor2:12, 14-15.

[10] Conn, “Spirituality,” p. 972

[11] Louis Bouyer, Introduction to Spirituality, trans.  Mary Perkins Ryan (New York: Desclée, 1961), p. 4.

[12] Reilly, Spirituality for Mission, p. 24

[13] For similar descriptions see Joseph Sudbrack, “Spirituality,”  Sacramentum Mundi: An Encyclopedia of Theology, eds. Karl Rahner et al., VI (New York: Herder and Herder, 1968), p. 153.

[14] Pierre Pourrat, Christian Spirituality, trans W.H. Mitchell, S.P. Jacques, Donald Attwater, I (Westminister, Md.: Newman, 1953-55), p. v.

[15] Louis Bouyer, A History of Christian Spirituality, Vol. I, The Spirituality of the New Testament and the Fathers, trans. Mary Perkins Ryan (Kent: Burns & Oates, 1986), p. vii.

[16] Ibid. p. viii.

[17] Ibid. pp.viii-ix.

[18] Sandra M. Schneiders, “Spirituality in the Academy,” TS 50 (1989) 676-697, p. 692, 695.

[19] Principe, “Spirituality, Christian”, p. 932. Emphases added.

[20] Reilly, Spirituality for Mission, p. 28.

[21] Bouyer, The Spirituality of the New Testament and the Fathers, p. 35; Introduction to Spirituality, pp. 6-7.

[22] This is a strong echo of Pauline theology as found in his epistles. See Gal 3:27-28, 2 Cor 5:17.

[23] Bouyer, The Spirituality of the New Testament and the Fathers, p. 138.

[24] Ibid.,Ch. VIII; Pourrat, Christian Spirituality, I, pp. 48-59.

[25] Bouyer, The Spirituality of the New Testament and the Fathers, p. 523; Pourrat, Christian Spirituality, I, pp. 74-75.

[26]  Following Hans Kung’s subdivision of the history of Christianity in six epochs, David J. Bosch suggests six major “paradigms” in which mission was carried out. They are 1. The apocalyptic paradigm of primitive Christianity. 2. The Hellenistic paradigm of the patristic period. 3. The medieval Roman Catholic paradigm. 4. The Protestant (Reformation) paradigm. 5. The modern Enlightenment paradigm. 6. The emerging ecumenical paradigm. See David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission, (New York: Orbis, 1991), pp. 181-189

[27] See Kenneth Scott Latourette, The Unquenchable Light, (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1941).

[28] Thomas Kuhn, physicist and historian of science, limits this theory to the natural sciences and explicitly excludes references to the social sciences. However, to a certain extent his theory can be applied in our study as well. Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1970).

[29] Bosch, Transforming Mission, pp. 188-189. Lesslie Newbigin gives very similar historical, sociological, cultural and economical causes which explain this transition from the optimism and confidence of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century to the present state of searching doubt and questioning. See Lesslie Newbigin, “Mission to Six Continents,” The Ecumenical Advance: A History of the Ecumenical Movement, Vol. II, 1948-1968, ed. Harold E. Fey (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1970), pp. 173-176.

[30] Ibid. p.363.

[31] David J. Bosch, Witness to the World: The Christian Mission in Theological Perspective, (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1980), p. 9-10.

[32] Ad Gentes 2.

[33] Bosch devises this definition of “mission” before engaging in his analyses of the six models of Christian missionary activity throughout the different eras and traditions. In his study of the sixth paradigm, the emerging ecumenical model of mission, he develops this framework extensively. See Bosch, Transforming Mission, pp. 8-11, 368-510.

[34] See Michael Collins Reilly, S.J. Spirituality for Mission, (NY: Orbis, 1978), pp. 133-181.

[35] Bosch, Witness to the World, p. 21.

[36] See Evangelii Nuntiandi, 13-15; Ad Gentes, 2-3.

[37] See Lumen Gentium, 1-4.

[38] Jurgen Moltmann, The Church in the Power of the Spirit: A contribution to Messianic Ecclesiology, (London:SCM Press, 1977), p. 64

[39] Lumen Gentium 1

[40] Avery Dulles, Models of the Church, (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1976).

[41] See Paul Minear, Images of the Church in the New Testament, (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960).

[42] Dulles, Models of the Church, p. 200.

[43] Louis J. Luzbetak, S.V.D., The Church and Cultures: New Perspectives in Missiological Anthropology, (New York: Orbis, 1993), p. 376.

[44] Ad Gentes 2, 35.

[45] Bosch, Transforming Mission, p. 372.

[46] Ibid. Here by catholic Bosch refers to the universality of the Church and not specifically to any denomination.

[47] Lesslie Newbigin, One Body, One Gospel, One World, (London & New York: International Missionary Council, 1958) p. 21, 43.

[48] Reilly, Spirituality for Mission, p. 139.

[49] This notion was however previously promoted by Yves Congar since 1937 but found little favor with the hierarchy in the preconciliar period.

[50] Lumen Gentium Chapter II

[51] Bosch, Transforming Mission, p. 373-374.

[52] Lumen Gentium 9, 48; Evangelii Nuntiandi 59; see also Dulles, Models of the Church, p. 58-70.

[53] Edward Schillebeeckx O.P., Christ the Sacrament of the Encounter with God, (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1963) pp. 43-44.

[54] Lumen Genium 1.

[55] Ad Gentes 15.

[56] Gaudium Et Spes 92.

[57] See Gunther Gassmann, The Church as Sacrament, Sign and Instrument: The reception of this Ecclesiological Understanding in Ecumenical Debate, in Limouris, 1986, pp. 1-17.

[58] Unitatis Redintegratio 4,12.

[59] Reilly, Spirituality for Mission, p. 151. The shalom refered to in the quotation is based on Ps 85:10-11

[60] Maximum Illud (1919), Rerum Ecclesiae (1926), and especially Fidei Donum (1957) paved the way for a new understanding of the local Church.

[61] Lumen Gentium 26.

[62] See Bosch, Transforming Mission, p. 381; Edmond J. Dunn, Missionary Theology: Foundations in Development, (Washington: University Press of America, 1980), pp.83-103.

[63] Expressed schematically the tension is between God-World-Church and God-Church-World. See Reilly, Spirituality for Mission, p. 140-141.

[64] Reilly, Spirituality for Mission, p. 173. In his exposition Reilly is quite aware of the lack of specificity attached to the role of the missionary as compared to the past. However there are various advantages also, to mention some; the missionary activity is no longer the monopoly of the few but becomes a possibility for all, this can lead to a greater desire by all to reach out.

[65] Ibid. p.175.

[66] Jon Sobrino, Spirituality of Liberation: Toward Political Holiness, (New York: Maryknoll Orbis, 1988), p. x.

[67] Author unknown.

[68] Lumen Gentium Ch. V.

[69] Ad Gentes, 36.  See also Paul VI, Evangelization in the Modern World, 41, 46.

[70] Reilly, Spirituality for Mission, p. 146.

[71] See Max Warren, I Believe in the Great Commission, (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1976).

[72] Instead of talking about the “Church for others”, we should rather speak about the “Church with others,” thus avoiding the helper syndrome of “pro-existence” which jeopardizes the possibility of true coexistence. This is done also in light of the present efforts in ecumenism and interfaith dialogue. See Bosch, Transforming Mission, p. 375.

[73] Reilly, Spirituality for Mission, p. 157.

[74] James D. G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle, (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1998), p. 8.

[75] Ibid.

[76] There exist a general agreement among biblical scholars that the authentic Pauline letters are seven, namely Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians (two or more letters?), Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. There is a roughly even split among critical commentators on Colossians and 2 Thessalonians, while the majority regard Ephesians and the Pastorals as definitely post-Pauline. The last named should not be wholly disregarded when attempting to describe the spirituality of the apostle whose name they bear.

[77] Thomas H. Tobin, The Spirituality of Paul, (Delaware: Michael Glazier, 1987), p. 13.

[78] Donald Senior and Carroll Stuhlmueller, The Biblical Foundations for Missions. (NY:Orbis, 1983), p. 162. David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. (NY:Orbis, 1991), p. 123.

[79] David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission, p. 124.

[80] Ben F. Meyer, The Early Christians: Their World Mission & Self-Discovery. GNS 16, (Delaware: Michael Glazier Inc., 1986), p. 110.

[81] David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission, p. 124.

[82] Senior and Stuhlmueller, The Biblical Foundations for Missions, p. 171.

[83] See Michael Collins Reilly, S.J. Spirituality for Mission, (NY: Orbis, 1978), pp. 118-123. Although the missionary figures selected in this study belong to the Western Church (Celtic Monasticism, Columban, Boniface, Ramon Lull, Francis Xavier, N. L. Zinzendorf, William Carey, J. H. Taylor, Charles de Foucauld) I find that these constants can be applied in general as regards the domain of Church mission.

[84] Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle, p. 11

[85] For a summary on Paul’s letters see Appendix A.

[86] By implication as I have already argued I am implicitly referring also to “Pauline spirituality”. Spiritual theology is intimately linked to the whole domain of theological studies.

[87] Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle, pp. 13-26.

[88] Jurgen Becker,. Paul: Apostle to the Gentiles, (Louisville: Westminster, 1993), especially pp.373-449.

[89] J. C. Beker, “Paul’s Theology: Consistent or Inconsistent?” NTS 34 (1988), pp. 364-377.

[90] In the following analysis I am very much in debt to James D. G. Dunn’s latest publication on Paul, The Theology of Paul the Apostle, (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1998). Throughout this chapter I will be using his method as the backbone for this section.

[91] Ibid. pp. 18-19, 713-716.

[92] Ibid. p. 19

[93] It would be incorrect to argue for a position where Paul was in a dialogue between positions in constant flux.

[94] It was particularly the publication of E. P. Sander’s Paul and Palestinian Judaism,(Phhiladelphia: Fortress Press, 1977), that marked something like a watershed in Pauline studies, although several earlier studies have made proposals similar to those of Sanders.

[95] Philip A. Cunningham, Jewish Apostle to the Gentiles, (Connecticut: Twenty-Third Publications, 1986), pp. 21-24.

[96] Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle, p. 717. See also pp. 252-255.

[97] See 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:10; 5:21.

[98] The use of s­oma, sarx, nous, kardia, psyche, and pneuma by Paul should be understood in the context of the Jewish tradition. In fact most of the misinterpretations of the Pauline text was due to the application of foreign philosophy (e.g. Greek) on categories and terminologies used from a Hebraic perspective.

[99] This is clearly seen in the Adam narratives especially in the letter to the Romans (Rom. 1:18-32; 5:12-21; 7:7-13; 8:19-22), in the imagery of atoning sacrifice and redemption (Rom. 3:25; 8:3b; 1Cor. 5:7; 2 Cor. 5:21), in the reference to divine Wisdom and its identification with Christ (1 Cor. 8:6; and possibly other allusions Gal.4:4; Rom. 8:3; 10:6-8;1 Cor. 10:4; ), in God’s righteousness (Rom. 3:21-26, 10:3; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9),  in the understanding of history and its apocalyptic disclosure (Gal. 4:4; Col. 1:26-27), and  in the corporate identity of the believing community (Rom. 16:23, 1 Cor. 1:2; 6:4, . . .).

[100] K. Stendahl, Paul Among Jews and Gentiles, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976), p.12.

[101] Donald Senior and Carroll Stuhlmueller, The Biblical Foundations for Missions. (NY:Orbis, 1983), pp. 180-181.

[102] J. C. Beker, Paul the Apostle: The Triumph of God in Life and Thought. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980), p. 336. However as Beker rightly notes this manifestation of Israel among the nations should not be confused with Israel’s mission to the gentiles, which never formed part of the normative traditions in the Old Testament.

[103] David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. (NY:Orbis, 1991), p.157.

[104] Beker, Paul the Apostle, p. 250.

[105] See E. P. Sander, Paul and Palestinian Judaism. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977), pp. 442-447. Here Sanders suggests that Paul worked out his mission theology not from plight to solution but from solution to plight, the solution being Christ.

[106] Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle, pp. 721-722.

[107] Ibid. pp. 169-173.

[108] Ibid. pp. 722-729.

[109] Ibid. pp.723-724.

[110] We will not enter in detail here into Paul’s apocalyptic. Basically in Paul’s theology Christ’s second coming will answer and complete both Jesus’ resurrection and Christ’s preexistence. As the resurrection of Jesus began a new age, a new humanity, so his coming again will bring that age to a climax and completes the work of salvation which was then began (1 Cor. 15:23; Phil. 1:6). Moreover, in the assertion of Christ’s preexistence, God in Christ was also God in creation, so the assertion of Christ’s second coming is a way of saying that God in Christ is also God in final Judgment.

[111] In so far as we can talk of any thought of incarnation in Paul’s theology, the mission of the Son had the saving act of his death and resurrection primarily in view (Rom. 8:3; Gal. 4:4-5; Phil. 2:6-9).

[112] Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle, p. 727.

[113] These are the three classical core texts generally cited on this issue. However there are other passages related to the Damascus experience scattered among his letters, for example in the epistolary opining of Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and Galatians.

[114] This lays in contrast with the Lucan Paul of Acts who recounts this experience in great detail on three occasions: Acts 9:1-19; 22:4-16; 26:9-19.

[115] Jurgen Becker,  Paul: Apostle to the Gentiles, (Louisville: Westminster, 1993), pp. 70-76.

[116] See Joseph A. Fitzmyer, “Pauline Theology,” in New Jerome Biblical Commentary, (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1990); According to Paul: Studies in the Theology of the Apostle, (New York: Paulist Press. 1993), p. 8.

[117] See Stendahl, Paul Among Jews and Gentiles, p. 7; Bosch, Transforming Mission, pp. 125-129; Senior & Stuhlmueller, The Biblical Foundations for Missions, pp. 167-171; Beker, Paul the Apostle, p. 144; Cunningham, Jewish Apostle to the Gentiles, pp. 21-29.

[118] One of the arguments used by Stendahl and other recent interpreters against the use of the term “conversion” is that it implies a change in religion, in this case from Jew to Christian. Paul however saw Christianity as the fulfillment of the Old Covenant. Moreover, the Damascus experience concentrated more on what Paul was called to be rather then what to leave behind.

[119] Bosch, Transforming Mission, p. 127; Senior & Stuhlmueller, The Biblical Foundations for Missions, p. 169.

[120] These are the principal expositions in Paul’s letters on the theme of “justification.” However various references exist related to the theme, such as “faith in Christ”, “works of the Law”, and “righteousness.” See Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle, pp. 335-389.

[121] Ibid. 734-735

[122] Romano Penna, Paul the Apostle: Wisdom and Folly of the Cross. Vol. II, (Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1991) p. 249.

[123] Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle, p. 735.

[124] Ekklesia occurs 62 times in the Pauline corpus and is most frequent in 1 Corinthians.

[125] Thomas H Tobin, The Spirituality of Paul, (USA:Michael Glazier Inc., 1987), pp. 118-119.

[126] Ibid. p. 140. See also Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle, pp. 680-689.

[127] J. C. Beker, Paul the Apostle: The Triumph of God in Life and Thought. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980), p. 23-36. Here Beker uses what he calls coherence-contingency scheme to demonstrate the relation between Paul’s apocalyptic thought to his contextual nature of his gospel, usually related to the pastoral issues of the churches which he established.

[128] David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. (NY: Orbis, 1991), p.129.

[129] Paul concentrated on districts or provincial capitals, each of which stood for a whole region: Philipi for Macedonia, Thessalonica for Macedonia and Achaia, Corinth for Achaia, and Ephesus for Asia.

[130] Bosch, Transforming Mission, p.130.

[131] Donald Senior and Carroll Stuhlmueller, The Biblical Foundations for Missions. (NY: Orbis, 1983), p. 185.

[132] Quoted in Bosch, Transforming Mission, p. 131-132.

[133] Basically we know of four events: (1) Paul’s vision (2. Cor. 12:1-5); (2) Persecutions (2 Cor. 11:25); (3) Apostolic Council (Gal. 2:1-10); (4) Peter visits Antioch (Gal. 2:11-21). Complimenting these testimonies and adding to them are various other accounts found in Acts.

[134] See Martin Hengel and Anna Maria Schwemer, Paul Between Damascus and Antioch: The unknown Years, (London: SCM Press Ltd., 1997), pp. 178-191.

[135] Standing behind James’s people we may assume was James himself who was based in Jerusalem. He was presenr in the Apostolic Council but apparently he must have hardened his stand, considering the Jewish Christians within the synagogue as more authentic Christians.

[136] Bosch, Transforming Mission, p.133-139. Here Bosch applies Michael Green’s categories of the three main missionary motives operative in the early Church - see  Evangelism in the Early Church, (London: Hodder &Stoughton, 1970) pp. 236-255.

[137] Ibid. p. 134

[138] Ibid. p. 135

[139] Ibid. p. 139

[140] Beker, J. C. Paul the Apostle, pp. 135-181.

[141] Ibid. p. 19.

[142] Ibid. p. 355.

[143] See C. Timothy Carriker, “Missiological Hermeneutic and Pauline Apocalyptic Eschatology”, in Charles Van Engen, Dean S. Gilliland, Paul Pierson (eds.), The Good News of the Kingdom: Theology for the Third Millennium, (New York: Orbis, 1993), p. 51

[144] Bosch, Transforming Mission, p. 176.

[145] Paul in various texts expresses his identification with Christ’s suffering, implying that his sufferings and the community’s sufferings do acquire a redemptive effect (cf. Gal. 6:17; 2 Cor. 1:5-6; 4:9, 12; 12:15).

[146] 2 Cor. 4:7-10.

[147] J. C. Beker, Paul’s Apocalyptic Gospel: The Coming Triumph of God, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), p. 106.

[148] J. C. Beker, Heirs of Paul: Paul’s legacy in the New Testament and in the Church Today, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991) pp. 115-122.

[149] J. C. Beker, Paul the Apostle: The Triumph of God in Life and Thought, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980), pp. 345-346.

[150] David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission, (NY:Orbis, 1991), p. 154.

[151] Juan L. Segundo, The Humanist Christology of Paul, (NY: Orbis Books, 1986), p. 179.

[152] J. C. Beker, Heirs of Paul, p. 128.

[153] This summary is reproduced from Philip A. Cunningham, Jewish Apostle to the Gentiles: Paul as He Saw Himself, (Connecticut: Twenty-Third Publications, 1986), pp. 90-92.