Monday, May 14, 2018

Moral Teaching of Paul --A Book Review

THE MORAL TEACHING 

OF PAUL

SELECTED ISSUES

3RD EDITION

     BY

VICTOR PAUL FURNISH

Reviewed by

Geoffrey W. Sutton


The Moral Teaching of Paul is one of the books I cited in A House Divided. This third edition comes some 30 years after the first edition and aims to expand our understanding of the sociocultural context of Paul's Ministry related to contemporary moral issues.

Before discussing the moral topics, Furnish reminds readers in Chapter 1 about Paul's authorship, which at this point appears firm for Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galations, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. Disputed works include Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy. The disputed works have been variusly dated in a range from the 70s to the early second century. The importance of identifying Paul's works is a matter of emphasis thus, Furnish focuses attention on the undisputed texts to understand Paul's moral theology.

Furnish advises readers of the problem with a Sacred Cow view of the biblical texts. Such a view leaves readers bound to Paul's words because they are really the words of God given to all people for all time. Furnish argues that the biblical authors addressed situations in their sociohistorical context. Furnish realizes he must deal with those who quote 2 Timothy 3: 16-17. He makes the point, as others have, that the verse about inspired scripture probably referred to the Jewish texts since there was no New Testament at the time Paul wrote. The other point rests on an understanding of the concept, inspiration. As is commonly known, some view inspiration as the very words of God but others interpret the term in various ways (see Chapter 1 for more details).

Following the groundwork in Chapter 1, Furnish begins to address the moral topics that capture our attention. Chapter 2 deals with Sex, Marriage, and Divorce. There is no surprise to see Paul's view of sex as limited to the marriage relationship. Furnish offers background points about marriage during the Roman period. The purpose of marriage was to establish a housefhold where children could be raised and elderly parents receive care. Approved marriages were important to the transfer of property to future generations. Girls married in the age range of 12 to 15 and men married by age 25. Furnish notes Paul's reason for marriage as "good" to meet sexual needs. Paul avoids the reason others have given of marrying to procreate (Gen 1:28).

Divorce was easy to obtain during Roman times, according to Furnish. Adultery was the usual cause of a divorce. Furnish notes Jesus' restrictive stance on divorce and guides readers into a consideration of other reasons beyond infidelity by considering circumstances as does Paul in some of his reasoning.

Chapter 3 is titled, "Homosexuality?" Furnish makes the point early on that there were no ancient words for homosexuality in the biblical languages. Furnish departs from a discussion of Paul's works to provide context from the Jewish laws about same-sex sex. He then proceeds to a discussion of Jewish and Roman cultures in the first century. For Jews, same-sex sex was unnatural and unlawful. He refers to Greek culture and the presence of same-sex relationships. Some practices by people of the time involving sex with boys were condemned by other writers and Furnish thinks these condemned practices may be what Paul had in mind. He offers quotes from ancient extrabiblical texts to make his point about the condemnaiton of exploitation. Furnish closes the chapter by addressing current concerns about same-sex unions. He reminds readers of the limits of what the biblical texts say and do not say when it comes to contemporary notions of sexual orientation and relationships.

In Chapter 4, Furnish addresses Paul's view of "Women in the Church." As in previous chapters, Furnish provides the sociohistorical context applicable to the texts that appear to limit the role of women in ministry. He includes quotes depicting the inferiority of a woman's human nature e.g., seeing women as easily deceived and having poor reasoning powers. Next, Furnish examines the sometimes confusing array of teachings from Paul's letters. On the one hand, there are texts restricting what women can do but on the other hand, there are texts documenting the important role of women in early church ministries--including Paul's work.

The final chapter (5) addresses the moral challenge of "The Church in the World." We see that Paul expects Christians to live as citizens, which suggests an active role in social life. We also see guidance on how to behave; that is, Paul refers to such virtues as love, gentleness, kindness, and so on. Furnish makes a point that Christians are called to honorable conduct without connecting good works to the conversion of unbelievers to Christianity.

Furnish's analysis of Paul's teachings in the context of Jewish and Roman cultures provides a useful backdrop to consider contemporary interpretations of several hot-button issues that continue to divide contemporary Christians. Thus, Furnish's book remains relevant as Christians sincerely seek to appreciate what the Apostle Paul wrote, the traditions of the church, and how one ought to think about contemporary moral issues. The book will likely not be helpful to those who adhere to an interpretation of Pauline texts that does not permit a nuanced view based on cultural contexts and understanding old words and phrases in the ancient languages of scripture. The Moral Teaching of Paul will likely be useful for those in a variety of Christian ministries and students in Christian colleges and seminaries.

Connections

My Page    www.suttong.com

My Books  
 AMAZON     GOOGLE PLAY STORE

FACEBOOK  
 Geoff W. Sutton

TWITTER  @Geoff.W.Sutton

LinkedIN Geoffrey Sutton  PhD

Publications (many free downloads)
     
  Academia   Geoff W Sutton   (PhD)
     
  ResearchGate   Geoffrey W Sutton   (PhD)



References

Furnish, V. P. (2009). The Moral Teaching of Paul: Selected Issues, 3rd Ed. Nashville: Abingdon.

Sutton, G. W. (2016). A House Divided: Sexuality, Morality, and Christian Cultures. Eugene, OR: Pickwick.





Thursday, May 10, 2018

Psychopaths and Leadership - Wisdom of Psychopaths


The Wisdom of
Psychopaths

By Kevin Dutton

Review by

Geoffrey W. Sutton




My mother was sixty-five when she retired. Each month she faithfully wrote a check for $20.00 to Rev. Televangelist whom she loved to watch on her aging blond console TV. She had his special version red leather, red letter edition, of the Holy Bible beside her favorite 1970s orangey fabric chair. Each month she received his newsletter, which she read to learn of God’s blessing on his ministries. She and many others were sending those showers of blessing on him and all who dwelt beneath the roof of his fabulous mansion. After moving to Rev. Televangelist’s community of followers, the scandalous news brought the house down. And she was manifestly depressed.

My encounters with psychopaths began during the early years of my clinical practice. I learned the most during supervision by clinical forensic psychologist, Julianne Lockwood, professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico. Since then I read a lot of books, attended many seminars, and met a lot of folks with psychopathic traits. And I empathized with many victims—of all ages. Psychopathic traits enable leaders to suceed when they harness select characteristics useful in various professions such as law and medicine as well as careers in business, the military, and religion.

Kevin Dutton is a psychological scientist. He provides readers with an insider’s look at the personality traits that enable those we call psychopaths to wreak such havoc in other people’s lives. Sometimes we may be confused when we attempt to size-up a leader who seems a bit too ruthless. Dutton gives us examples of the variation between valued leadership traits and those of the psychopath:

Leader                                    Psychopath
Charismatic                             Superficial charm
Self-confident                         grandiosity
Action oriented                       thrill-seeking

As psychologists, we examine behavioral models that often describe patterns of behavior in a range of values. Sometimes a modest range of select behavior patterns can be of high value in certain circumstances. For example, when under threat, we need leaders who are able to manage a great deal of stress without the interference of emotions that would prevent them from making life and death decisions. Those same leaders might look quite calloused and insensitive in another situation.

 As a society, we can only tolerate such leaders when we are convinced they accept authority and demonstrate loyalty and a strong inclination to avoid harming those in the group they lead. Leaders can lead us astray. Dutton identifies seven core traits, which he artfully calls the Seven Deadly Wins—here’s the list:

Ruthlessness
Charm
Focus
Mental toughness
Fearlessness
Mindfulness
Action

If you have any interest in the psychology of psychopathy, I recommend the book as a good introduction. Dutton is a good writer and he makes sense of several interesting studies. You can find my academic review as a free download.

Sutton, G. W. (2014). [Review of the book The Wisdom of psychopaths: What saints, spies, and serial killers can teach us about success by Kevin Dutton]. Journal of Christianity and Psychology, 35, 281-282. Also published in Vol 33, 265-266. Accepted June 2013 ResearchGate Link  Academia Link



Connections and Links to Resources

My Web Page    www.suttong.com

My Books   AMAZON

Google Play Books

FACEBOOK Pag Geoff W. Sutton

TWITTER  @Geoff.W.Sutton

LinkedIN Geoffrey Sutton  PhD

Publications (many free downloads)
     
  Academia   Geoff W Sutton   (PhD)
    
  ResearchGate   Geoffrey W Sutton   (PhD)