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The Letter to the Romans
Paul among the Ecologists
Sigve K. Tonstad
‘What God has joined together, let no one put asunder’ is a motto for this commentary. Against a prevailing theological tradition that God’s compassion is for human beings only and not also for non-human creation and the earth, Tonstad raises his voice in protest. The ‘sundering’ omissions are so monumental that only a renewed reading of Romans from the ground up can hope to undo them.
If we read Romans through the eyes of Tonstad, Paul will be found to be speaking about the faithfulness of Christ and not only about faith in Christ; he will describe sin in societal terms and not only as a problem of individuals; his enigmatic ‘I’ in Romans 7 will tell the story of Eve and not only rehash his own biography; and Paul will give voice to non-human creation and the earth to a degree that is elsewhere heard in the Bible only in the Old Testament and, of course, hardly ever in the pulpit or the seminary.
The theology of Romans will turn out to be an inclusive theology of divine compassion rather than a theology of divine sovereignty, arbitrarily exercised. On the theological foundation of compassion, Paul outlines an ethical vision of compassion in human community, with regard to citizenship and government, and in the mixed fellowship of Jews and Gentiles in the house churches in Rome. Paul’s ecological bona fides are inseparable from his theological vision and not an imposition from without; his call to mercy blends with the best and most urgent sentiments of contemporary ecologists.
In the striking reciprocity between theology and ecology in Romans, Paul puts on display what God has joined together, and, better still, what God has done to join together all that is asunder.
Sigve K. Tonstad is Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Loma Linda University in Southern California.
|Series: Earth Bible Commentary, 7|
|978-1-910928-02-8 hardback / 978-1-910928-20-2 paperback|
|Publication January 2016|
1. Paul among the Ecologists
2. Romans and its Most Famous Readers
3. The Human Ecology of Romans (Rom. 16.1-27; 1.1-7)
4. ‘Not Ashamed of the Good News’ (Rom. 1.16)
5. Romans by Way of the First Question (Rom. 2.1-3)
6. ‘Their Throats Are Opened Graves’ (Rom. 3.13)
7. ‘He Is the Father of All of Us’ (Rom. 4.16): Abraham as Ecological Role Model
8. The Love of God in Widescreen (Rom. 5.1-21; 8.31-39)
9. ‘Where Sin Kept Increasing’ (Rom. 5.20)
10. ‘I Was Once Alive’ (Rom. 7.9)
11. ‘The Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus’ (Rom. 8.2)
12. ‘The Whole Creation Groans’ (Rom. 8.22)
13. ‘Out of Zion Will Come the Deliverer’ (Rom. 11.26)
[T]his commentary views Romans as a garment lined with the Hebrew scriptures, with their perspectives on human and nonhuman creation; the lining provides ecological substance to the letter, allowing a thick reading of the text; in some places, such as Rom 8:19–23, the lining shows through more clearly. … [A] worthwhile and interesting read. Cherryl Hunt, Review of Biblical Literature.