A New Kind of Freedom

In preparation for a summer class that I took from Tim Geddert called “the Church and God’s Mission in the World,” I did quite a bit of reading related to the New Testament understanding of community. One of the books I read is Robert Banks’ book titled Paul’s Idea of Community. Early on in the book Banks suggests that freedom is an integral part of interpreting Paul’s view of community. This is contra to the common held interpretation that elevates salvation as the central motif for a theology of Christian community. While salvation remains an integral part of Pauline theology, freedom is what Banks’ argues to be the center of interpreting Paul, and in the case of this book, Paul’s view on community.

The vision of community that Banks draws from Paul is a refreshing image of unity and participation that encourages any Christian in the 21st century to continue working towards the realization of true community. Invaluable in maintaining this theme is Banks’ theological basis of the radical freedom that Paul advocates. In our age of extreme individualism, where freedom is almost always understood as the distinct freedom from any binding relationships, Banks presents an interpretation of Paul that challenges any such view. What is important is that freedom is not from something, but for something. In the case of Paul, Banks argues that Christians have freedom for a “new community.” Freedom into community is balanced under the following three headings:

-Independence
: from sin and for Christ
-Dependence: on Christ and the Spirit
-Interdependence:
with others and the world

The reason this is an effective foundation for understanding Paul is that freedom is far more than the personal result of salvation. Freedom is the reality of life lived under the lordship of Christ, in direction from the Spirit, and in ongoing relationships with fellow Christians. Basically, freedom expands our Pauline theology to include so much more just individualized salvation. Therefore, this book for me was an inspiring reminder that the Christian gospel doesn’t end at personal salvation, but reveals a freedom into which people enter into the richness of community!

How exactly does this community look? Well, I’m still working on that one…

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