Andrew Perriman, who was at the Christian Associates gathering last week in Germany, gave me his new book “The Future of the People of God: Reading Romans Before and After Western Christendom.” Thanks Andrew!! I had an enjoyable Sunday reading through the book.
Perriman’s book is great contribution to the current conversation on Romans, in light of the New Perspectives on Paul and the Reformed theologians attempt to defend their territory. At the heart of his book is the argument that Paul writes the letter to the Romans to prepare them for the suffering that is coming upon them, something that is located historically and temporally in the oikoumene of the Grecian-Roman empire, something related directly to the persecution under Roman leaders and the disastrous war of AD 66-73, and Paul writes without the privilege of foresight into a future where Christianity becomes the dominant religion. This special focus on suffering and “living by faith(fulness)” in order to allow the people of God to stay intact through the suffering gives a strong eschatological and martylogical reading to Romans, one more localised than N.T. Wright, distinct from other New Perspective writers, and certainly a long way from Reformed authors, and yet the focus is still on the glory of God and his righteousness in keeping his promise to Abraham to establish and preserve a community that would bless the nations.
One issue that will make good conversation among the Anabaptist crowd is Perriman’s argument that the vindication of God’s righteousness, the remnant that is saved from the Day of the Lord and established because of its faith(fulness), the community of the Son of Man that inherits the nations as prophesied by Daniel, is shown to be Christendom as instituted by Constantine. Yep, Constantine.
Another more important tension that Perriman offers to relieve is that of the identity and status of the church after 1700 years of Christendom, especially when many of our favourite Bible passages are seen to be directed at another time [dispensation?] and cannot be applied directly to the forehead without allowing them to run their course inside a much smaller geographically and historically constricted boundary. This is where the final chapter could use a caffeine injection, or at least something as robust as its earlier arguments, but is actually quite silent in the face of an unforeseen future. But it is here that Perriman has written extensively in another book – Re:Mission: Biblical mission for a post-biblical church – a book that explores ways for the church to live out its mission of being a new creation community.
Interesting: The Future of the People of God is dedicated on the inside cover to “Linus”. Linus (Morris), a founder of Christian Associates, was at the meeting last week and I watched Andrew ceremoniously hand him a copy of the book. What’s interesting to me is that Hal Lindsey, Linus’s friend and one of the early leaders in Christian Associates, had such a huge influence on popular eschatology from his book The Late Great Planet Earth (1970), a book that suggested that the Boomer generation was enjoying the spotlight of ancient Biblical prophecy which was now suddenly coming to life in the arena of global politics in the late twentieth century – something quite the opposite of Perriman’s book – but persuasive enough to launch a movement in popular eschatology, culminating in some really interesting B-grade movies and the Left Behind series of books. Amazing to see how the next generation approaches eschatological texts from such a different stance and finds it easier to admit that they are not the center of the universe.
Anyway, I highly recommend Andrew Perrimans’ new book. It’s well written, well researched, concise, original and brave. Its even better than his earlier books, possibly because of its bounded subject.
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