The apostle Paul will not allow a pact of peace with sin.

Recently i reread the first chapters of Paul’s Letter to the Romans. I was increasingly disturbed to discover how far theology has moved away from the teachings of the apostle. This became obvious first in Paul’s proposal of the primary subject of his letter: the justification of the sinner (1:17). Theology today seems to be in the process of replacing sin and grace with rich and poor as the basic polarity of biblical thought.

In its exclusiveness, this new hermeneutical grid also represents a reduction of the basic antithesis of good and evil, an organic part of the doctrine of justification. Evangelicals, too, have recently begun to interpret the whole of Scripture from the viewpoint of this new hermeneutical principle. With a time lag of some 15 years, they repeat, as it were, that development in the World Council of Churches: we seem to be saying again that political and economic liberation must come first, worship later—a sequence allegedly established by the Book of Exodus.

Saint Paul is no longer in favor. However, in my view, Christ does not create the impression in the Gospels that he is reducing his message to the rich/poor polarity. His call to repentance, in fact, is addressed to everyone, though for the rich it may mean something different than it does for the poor. In the passages on property and riches, the primary concern is the relationship to God. Possessions often become the object of idolatry; therefore, it is God who is robbed of loyalty in the first place, not the poor.

Nevertheless, today we tend to adopt as motto: “At a time of global social crisis the God question should be put on ice for a while.” From a biblical point of view, this is a terribly ...

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