Paul’s Positive Religious Affections

by Jun 16, 2018Dissertation, NTScholarship, Piety2 comments

Someone recently asked me for an abstract of my dissertation, Paul’s Positive Religious Affections, and I realized I’d never written one up. Here goes.

Six times in the NT the Spirit of the Lord led Paul to tell his readers to imitate him (2 Thess 3:7; 1 Cor 4:16; 11:1; Phil 3:17; 4:9; 2 Tim 1:13), and two times to praise his readers for doing so (1 Thess 1:6; 2 Tim 3:10; cf. 1 Thess 2:14). His emotional life, insofar as the NT reveals it, is a significant but overlooked portion of his divinely inspired example. Paul’s “religious affections,” revealed through narratives and epistles, are needful for Christian obedience today.

In order to properly understand Paul’s emotional life, readers must understand the Bible’s theological anthropology. This dissertation canvasses major Western views of the will, with special attention to intellectualism and voluntarism, landing on an Augustinian voluntarism—one refracted through the views of John Frame and, especially, Jonathan Edwards.

In order to properly understand Paul’s emotional life, readers must also clear away some especially persistent errors of “theological lexicography,” the freighting of Greek and Hebrew words with a theology that they do not and cannot bear. The ἀγάπη word group in particular is said to indicate “a rational choice to do what is best for someone else regardless of how one feels.” The ἐλπίς word group, likewise, is said to indicate a “confident expectation” and not a feeling. The Greek words for gratitude (εὐχαριστία) and joy (χαρά) often receive a similar treatment, one which strips emotion out of their meaning.

An epilogue offers applications for exegesis, preaching, and counseling.

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  1. alxbsrt

    Hi Mark, I hope in the Lord you are doing well, brother. Is there a way to get a printed copy of your dissertation?

    • Mark Ward

      Hmm. I guess I only have it on Kindle right now. I could look into changing that… I used to have it available on LuLu, if that even still exists. Hmm. Looks like it does, but I do believe I took my dissertation off to put it on Amazon. If I get others asking, I may put it up in print form.


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