Leslie Hardin’s The Spirituality of Paul is in a sense a follow up to his book The Spirituality of Jesus. The book deals with spiritual formation and the work of the Spirit in making believers more like Christ. This discipleship of the Spirit is unpacked from Paul’s writings and experiences in the New Testament.
Hardin deals with the following topics in the book;
- Practice of the Spirit
- Devotion to Scripture
- Proclaiming the Gospel
- Corporate Worship
- Spiritual Gifts
- Building One Another Up in the Faith
- Pauline Spirituality
Each topic/chapter is dealt with from the perspective of Paul. Hardin unpacks the writing and routines of Paul as they relate to the various topics above.
Hardin is blunt and honest in his grappling of these issues as he states “Paul frustrates me” and “often seems to contradict himself” (11). The first chapter expands on this frustration as Hardin wrestles with what “spiritual” means. He views “biblical spirituality as a practical partnership with the Spirit who is already at work (17) and aims to unpack this from the record and writings of Paul in the New Testament.
One aspect of the book I really appreciated was Hardin’s emphasis on saturating yourself with the Scripture. Hardin mentions that in Romans 9-11 alone Paul alludes to over 100 Scripture passages in the Old Testament. This illustrates his point that Paul was so steeped in the Scriptures that he oozed it. He didn’t need to necessarily quote a verse to support some point, his point flowed from his Scripture saturated and Spirit filled life. Hardin lays out the phases of Scripture saturation that occur as disciples immerse themselves in the Word.
- Thinking about Scripture
- Thinking with Scripture
- Thinking from Scripture
At this third stage, Thinking from Scripture, we begin to s”ee all of life through the lens of Scripture” (40).
In the same chapter on Scripture, Hardin interacts with N.T. Wright and the New Perspectives on Paul movement in his discussion of “works and law”. Hardin, with Wright, argue that Paul was referring to a “Jewish-style-holiness works” and with Wright, specifically referring to an “ethnic identity” (37).
Hardin continues his though provoking analysis of Paul on the aforementioned topics throughout the book. Here are just a couple of my other takeaways.
- Though a great man of prayer (he’s praying during conversion in Acts 9:11), saying more on the topic than just about any other topic, there are actually no prayers of Paul’s recorded in Scripture. Though he prayed a lot, there is little evidence of him praying for temporal, daily comforts (Although he did pray to be relieved of the “thorn in his flesh” whatever that was.).
- Paul’s modus operandi for training (disciple-making) was time on task (59).
- For Paul evangelism was about making disciples, not just winning converts. Paul’s modus operandi was to stay in one place long enough (if possible) to convey the teaching of the Christian faith and lifestyle, not just proclaim the death of Jesus and move on (87).
- Regarding holiness, Hardin notes, God took the initiative. We’ve been made holy, worked over from the inside out in ways that we could never accomplish on our own. Our response to God’s initiative is a life of holiness in gratitude (109).
- Of course there is much good material in the rest of the book as well including, thoughts on unity in the congregation, spiritual gifts and suffering.
In all Hardin’s book is a good read, a welcome additional to my library on spiritual formation and has several good gems in each chapter.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.