What A Turkey! Part II: Was Paul a Failure?

Tourists in Turkey cannot help but be amazed by the collected remains of Ephesus. It is of course a place haunted by the apostle Paul who stirred up much opposition from the idol makers who worked for the temple of Demetrius. It is also the place where Timothy received two letters from Paul. Our group was even privileged to visit a cave (according to legend) where Paul lived, possibly to avoid the antagonism of the Ephesians. Ephesus is also the largest archaeological site featuring Greek and Roman remains in Turkey (I think). The reason has something to do with Ephesus being the fourth largest city in the Roman Empire at the time of Paul’s ministry.

What is striking today is how much Ephesus has changed and how little Christian presence is evident. Thoughts about the remains of New York City in 3500 AD come to mind. Will any of the foundations, facades, subways, sewers, or beams remain of the city’s structures for future archaeologists? What happens if global warming floods Manhattan and leaves Harlem as the only point above water? And will the inhabitants of the area we now call New York live there? Will they have moved to Buffalo? And will they be Christian?

The transformationalists don’t seem to think about cultural decay, archaeological ruins, or shifting populations. They seem to think that establishing the kingdom of God here and now means that what they do in the name of Christ in changing a city’s culture will last. But if Paul is any example, the work that he did lasted only to the extent that he proclaimed the gospel and established a pattern for the churches to proclaim that message and disciple believers. Chances are most transformationalists would judge Paul a success. If they ever visited Ephesus they’d likely have a different opinion, unless they changed their minds about the nature of transformation and how the kingdom really grows.

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5 thoughts on “What A Turkey! Part II: Was Paul a Failure?

  1. Thanks for this, DGH. There’s a certain neocalvinist who is fond of quoting Calvin’s comments on 1 Timothy 4:3-5 for alleged proof that Calvin was a transformationalist (and therefore, transformationalism is of the essence of being Reformed?). Your insights are particularly interesting in light of the fact that Timothy was a minister in Ephesus when he received that letter from Paul.

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  2. DGH, what you’re forgetting is that Paul was living at the beginning of the millenium, perhaps maybe even before. Psshh, how can we possibly expect the technology and architecture of 2000 years ago to make it into the New Creation? However, what is being created at this period in the Golden Age is way more suitable for the New Creation! Who can really make the claim that these things—subway system, highways, sewers, good music (especially Christian pop music)—are shakeable?

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  3. James K. A. Smith of Calvin College has an essay in Calvin Theological Journal entitled, “Reforming Public Theology: Two Kingdoms or Two Cities.” —- “Based on voices emerging from some corners of the Reformed tradition, you would think that the future of Calvinism is Lutheran. At just the moment that neo-Calvinism has begun to be absorbed by wider evangelicalism and has become the de facto paradigm for Christian higher education in North America, scholars such as D.G. Hart, Michael Horton, and David Vandrunen argue that the neo-Calvinists are not really Calvinists. Curiously, the basis for this claim is the neo-Calvinist rejection of the Lutheran model of two kingdoms that they see in Calvin and ‘the earlier Reformed tradition.’”

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  4. Actually, isn’t Calvin College-type neo-Calvinism rejecting the Calvinist model of two kingdoms?

    Also a bit of irony that someone at Calvin College pondering the future of Calvinism, considering that the theological and philosophical faculty there have largely rejected classical trinitarianism for social trinitarianism, classical theism for open theism, and Chalcedonian Christology for kenotic Christology. Not to mention a rehabilitation of the Social Gospel (of course, alongside the “spiritual Gospel,” as if no one had tried that before). You don’t have to be a prophet to figure this out: future of Calvinism, thy name is not Calvin College.

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