Limited and universal salvation : A text-oriented and hermeneutical study of two perspectives in Paul

University dissertation from Stockholm : Almqvist & Wiksell International

Abstract: The purpose of this dissertation is to determine whether the letters of Paul can be said to support or to refute a modern belief in universal salvation. Theoretically many scholars would regard views of limited and universal salvation as mutually exclusive. In practice, however, contemporary theologians - among them liberation theologians - sometimes make use of both. The question is whether there is a similar tension in the letters of Paul. With a particular regard to signs on the textual surface, the ongoing argument of the letters is analysed. Text-internal functions of theological statements are defined in order to distinguish between uniting and dividing perspectives in the letters.The result at this level of investigation is that there are a few statements of final division and a few statements of complete and final unity in Paul's letters. Paul does not use statements about justification by faith to express (final) division, but always employs them within uniting perspectives to emphasise equality between Jewish and Gentile believers. He uses statements about election to express temporary division between true and untrue Israelites. Trying to convince his readers not to take sides with his opponents, but to uphold boundaries and inner unity, Paul sometimes states final division between insiders and outsiders. However, when he argues most emphatically for equality within the group, the difference between all believers and all humanity occasionally disappears. On a second level some conclusions are drawn concerning reconstructions of a Pauline theology. Finally, on a third level, claims to similarity between Pauline theology and contemporary theology are discussed from the vantage point of the perspectives and functions found in Paul's letters. A consequence of the results is thata multidimensional Pauline theology can be said to support contemporary beliefs in universal salvation in the form in which it appears, for example, in liberation theology.

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