Jim Palmer and John Eldredge both write about getting back to the heart of Christianity. In What Paul Meant, Garry Wills writes about getting back to its theological core. Wills is no apologist for the modern Christian church, nor are the members of that church his intended audience. Wills instead is writing for the postmodern skeptic, the soul who looks at the trappings of many traditional churches and dismisses the entire Christian faith as a result. But Wills, the author of the earlier book What Jesus Meant, is not so easy to dismiss. This time he defends the apostle Paul against the cynics who accuse him of misogyny and anti-Semitism. Wills is Professor Emeritus of History at Northwestern University, and his experienced scholarship shows throughout the book. By focusing primarily on seven of Paul's letters (the only ones which modern scholarship can definitively attribute to Paul), Wills presents a picture of a man far more egalitarian in his views on women, faith and the nature of religion than his critics (and even centuries of followers) have assumed. In the end, Wills suggests, Paul never envisioned Christianity as a new religion, but rather saw Jesus as a fully Jewish Messiah who brings all people Jews and Gentiles alike into a single family of God, a family where, in Wills' words, the only law is love. What Paul Meant is a fascinating read, worth examining by anyone with an open mind and an interest in Christianity and its most prolific early voice.
Howard Shirley is the author of Acts for God: 38 Dramatic Sketches for Contemporary Services. He writes from Franklin, Tennessee.