By "Pauline Dogmatics" Doug (if I may so call him, not only because he is a fellow Kiwi, but we shared aspects of Dunedin ministry and mission together in 1984!) means integrating Paul's words (the text by which we determine and debate what is "Pauline") with the fruit of 2000 years of systematic theological study ("dogmatics.") Specifically, Doug's reading of Paul's letters is in conversation in this book with systematic theologians such as Barth (most frequently), Zizioulas and many others, including ancient fathers.
While it is early days - it is a big book and I am only 70 pages or so into it - I sense that "the triumph of God's love" will mean by the end, the power of God's love to permit no obstacles in the way of drawing everyone through the proclaimation of the gospel to God's own self.
In another post for another day, I simply note here that Doug makes Paul's and the most primitive church's great creed, "Jesus is Lord" the starting point for all theological reflection.
But here, in this post, possibly one of many, I draw attention via citation to some important insights Doug shares with the reader in respect of the love of God, God's love, God is love.
God as personal, relational and familial ...
"There has arguably been a predilection for describing God in much theology - and perhaps especially in reflections derived from Latin-speaking traditions - with categories that are fundamentally legal and political. God is viewed at bottom as a monarch or sovereign, and the key analogies for understanding his relationships, both internally and externally with us, are in terms of law and the state. However, careful attention to what God has actually revealed about his nature to us in Jesus, his Son, suggest that these reflections are inaccurate and possibly even quite misleading. They have their place, but only after due correction by the analogies that are primary. God is fundamentally familial and disposed toward us in this way as well - as our heavenly Father." [p. 53]
I think this is critical to our Anglican ecclesiology, incidentally. Do we understand ourselves as family? Or as a body defined by rules and regulations? Actually we are a bit of both ("They have their place") but if God is "fundamentally familial and disposed to us ... as our heavenly Father" then our primary self-identity is as the family of God bound by love and not by constitution.
"If we have grasped the extent to which God is fully familial God composed of persons who are what they are because of one another, then we are in a position to grasp another truth that is equally staggering. ...[noting Paul's reference to the beloved Son of the Father, Romans 8:3; Ephesians 1:6; cf. Romans 3:25] ... The Father dotes on the Son, we might say. The Son is the apple of his eye. And the Son loves his Father, which is why he does what the Father says, even when it involves what seems to us to be extraordinary demands. Here we can be helped, in their best moments, by the astonishing love that often does obtain within our families between spouses, and between parents and their children, situations where people can offer everything for one another. Such situations mediate the critical realization that the persons of the Trinity have a deep and profound love for one another, something that is then also apparent in the life of Jesus. So as the author of 1 John puts it - characteristically a little more compactly than paul, although doubtless the latter would have approved - "God is love" (4:8)." [p. 54]
"Paul says in a statement of near matchless importance - although he is echoing here a strong of similar statements found elsewhere in this and other letter - "God demonstrates his own love for us [in this] - that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom 5:9). He goes on to say immediately in the verses that follow that it is this demonstration of love that eliminates any fear concerning a future angry judgement. ... The nature of God is revealed definitively by the death of the Son on the cross for us at the behest of the Father and the Spirit. There the Father has offered up his beloved only Son to die for us, doing so, moreover, while we, the objects of this costly mission, were rebellious and hostile. Before any response had been offered, then, the Father undertoo this ultimately costly act for us, which the Son obeidently carried out. And this proves that the Father's love for us is utterly fundamental to his character, and limitless, as is the Son's and their Spirit's. This God will stop at nothing in order to reach us and to heal us. God undertook this supremely painful action - the Father's sacrifice of his Son - to save a snarling and ungrateful humanity. Astonishing!" [pp. 55-56]
And our privilege and responsibility - Doug asks "where exactly do we meet Jesus and this overpoweringly benevolent and kind God?" [p. 56]
"We meet God through people like him - that is to say, through the community, and especially through its designated leaders. And we learn from this phenomenon that Jesus's followers mediate God's revelations." [p. 57]
Obviously there are occasions when God directly reveals God's self to some ... Paul is a great example! But more typical is "The Son of God, Jesus Christ, was proclaimed among you by me and Silas and Timothy" (2 Cor 1:19) [p. 57]
With a strong argument anchored into discussion of the human and divine wills at work in Jesus, Doug then works his way through the significance of this insight that the truth of the love of God is mediated to the world by you and me, as "witnesses" (p. 62-65). And there is much here to draw out which I will leav to another occasion, about how we must learn to tell the story of Jesus well. But, drawing this post to a close, this is Doug's conclusion to the chapter and to his thinking within it about our role in mediating the truth:
"Jesus did not write a book; he called disciples." [p. 69]