John Milbank offers an interesting footnote on Harink’s Paul Among the Postliberals in his essay, “Paul against Biopolitics” (from Davis’ Paul’s New Moment) that I’m still attempting to flesh out.

While discussing St. Paul’s use of dikaiosyne pisteos, Milbank favorably references Harink’s work, but adds an important qualification:

“Harink also correctly stresses that ‘justification’ in Paul is the divine action of really making just, not of imputing justice; that ‘the faith of Christ’ is primarily such and not ‘faith in Christ’; and that ekklesia is a political project.  However, he fails to see that Paul criticizes law as such, including the entirety of Jewish law, and he cannot bring himself to admit that Paul is, indeed, albeit subtly, supercessionist in relation to Israel – and correctly so, since Christianity is the the project of a concrete universalism that alone fulfills the ‘promises’ to Israel, outside of which humanity can now see that it has no meaning whatsoever…  Nor can one agree with Harink or with Jennings that Paul is straightforwardly ‘opposed’ to Roman imperialism” (55-6 fn. 69).

This is interesting because Harink has been a champion of the Apocalyptic readings of St. Paul, while Milbank has been something of bete noire, one that the Apocalyptic camp doesn’t really know what to do with, other than just calling him the “c” word.  But Milbank is right here, at least in part: “Christianity is the project of a concrete universalism.”  Again, there are elements of the Nouvelle shinning through: “one does not possess charity if one does not want to spread it universally… If she [the Church] did not try to be everywhere, she would not be anywhere” (de Lubac).

In regards to the latter point about St. Paul’s relationship to Rome, Pauline tension isn’t lost on Neil Elliott.  Like Milbank, Elliott notes that Paul was not “straightforwardly” opposed (The Arrogance of the Nations).  Of course the issue for Elliott is that St. Paul should have been opposed to Rome, but was himself caught within the ideological constraints of an occupying force.  I think Milbank would agree.

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