Paul and the Good Life
Transformation and Citizenship in the Commonwealth of God
310 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- ISBN: 9781481313100
- Published: November 2020
Salvation and human flourishing—a life marked by fulfillment and well-being—have often been divorced in the thinking and practice of the church. For the apostle Paul, however, the two were inseparable in the vision for the good life. Drawing on the revolutionary teachings and kingdom proclamation of Jesus, Paul and the early church issued a challenge to the ancient world’s dominant narratives of flourishing. Paul’s conviction of Jesus’ universal Lordship emboldened him to imagine not just another world, but this world as it might be when transformed.
With Paul and the Good Life, Julien Smith introduces us afresh to Paul’s vision for the life of human flourishing under the reign of Jesus. By placing Paul’s letters in conversation with both ancient virtue ethics and kingship discourse, Smith outlines the Apostle’s christologically shaped understanding of the good life. Numerous Hellenistic philosophical traditions situated the individual cultivation of virtue within the larger telos of the flourishing polis. Against this backdrop, Paul regards the church as a heavenly commonwealth whose citizens are being transformed into the character of its king, Jesus. Within this vision, salvation entails both deliverance from the deforming power of sin and the re-forming of the person and the church through embodied allegiance to Jesus. Citizenship within this commonwealth calls for a countercultural set of virtues, ones that foster unity amidst diversity and the care of creation.
Smith concludes by enlisting the help of present-day interlocutors to draw out the implications of Paul’s argument for our own context. The resulting conversation aims to place Paul in engagement with missional hermeneutics, spiritual disciplines, liturgical formation, and agrarianism. Ultimately, Paul and the Good Life invites us to imagine how citizens of this heavenly commonwealth might live in the in-between time, in which Jesus’s reign has been inaugurated but not consummated.
Paul and the Good Life is a highly creative and perceptive study of Paul in his own cultural context and in ours. Julien Smith reveals how Paul sees Jesus as the suffering savior-king, launching a ‘new regime’ that provides an alternative social imaginary and an alternative polis for human flourishing. The good life means cruciform allegiance to Christ, transformed character, liturgical community, and care for both humans and all creation as integral aspects of salvation and mission—both then and now. A critical book for both the academy and the church.~Michael J. Gorman, Raymond E. Brown Professor of Biblical Studies and Theology, St. Mary’s Seminary & University
Julien Smith makes a compelling case that Paul’s gospel centers upon Christ’s kingship and its implications for human flourishing. We need more books like this one—books which combine the best of biblical exegesis and ancient historical context in order to marshal contemporary visions of what it means for us as humans to live ‘the good life.’~Joshua Jipp, Associate Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Headwaters are elusive. So, essential streams are navigated separately: the gospel, spiritual practices, politics, church life, philosophy. But in this exciting and important study, Julien Smith goes farther back and deeper in. He shows that the gospel invites us not merely to trust a savior, but to give allegiance to the ideal king for the sake of human flourishing. The separate streams are joined to the headwaters and mapped afresh.~Matthew W. Bates, author of Gospel Allegiance and Associate Professor of Theology, Quincy University