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Preaching Romans: Four Perspectives

Scot McKnight and Joseph B. Modica (eds)
Eerdmans Publishing Company 2019, 16.99, ISBN 978-0802875457

Review by Trevor Jamison, Minister, St Columba’s United Reformed Church, North Shields

<strong><em><strong>Preaching Romans: Four Perspectives</strong></em></strong>

Who’s afraid of preaching Romans? Quite a few of us, if the relative dearth of sermons on Paul’s letters is anything to go by. Preaching Romans: Four Perspectives is a helpful guide and resource for preachers who wonder what Paul still has to offer today.

In Part One, drawing upon recent developments in biblical studies, we encounter four theological perspectives on Paul, each given a succinct yet substantial introduction, written by a proponent of that approach.

Stephen Westerholm provides a lucid, engaging account of the traditional, or Lutheran perspective on Paul for today. Scot McKnight explores how the ‘New Perspective on Paul’ (NPP) opens up the social implications of the Apostle’s gospel. Douglas Campbell forcefully presents the apocalyptic reading, where the letter is interpreted in the light of the revelation of God that comes through Jesus Christ, as the only foundation for truth. (Potentially, on this basis, even what Paul writes might be open to criticism). Michael Gorman commends the letter as an invitation to be changed through participating in the cruciform-shaped life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

In Part Two, each perspective is represented by three sermons on Romans. Some, particularly the sermons from the traditional perspective sound rather more at home in the lecture hall than a church congregation. Preaching from an NPP perspective, however, both Knight and Tarra Beth Leach relate Romans to the contemporary world and convincingly apply it to congregational life. Similarly, accomplished sermons by Fleming Rutledge and William Willimon successfully utilise the apocalyptic interpretation to respond to present day concerns. Finally, participationist-perspective sermons, especially those by Timothy Coombis and Suzanne Watts Henderson, demonstrate not only an awareness of what’s involved for us in being Christ-like, but how this must lead to action.

Today, many preachers, believing and accepting that Martin Luther had the last word on Paul, hesitate to preach on Romans. Other enthusiasts, applying theology which arose from sixteenth century concerns to respond to twenty-first century situations, struggle to connect with many of today’s congregations. The sermons in this book demonstrate that other approaches are now possible. The sermons in this book, accompanied by clear explanations of the theologies that underly them, are a positive encouragement to preach on Romans anew.

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