Shelf Life Book Review: Moral Formation According to Paul

Elliot Ritzema

Moral Formation According to Paul: The Context and Coherence of Pauline Ethics
Baker Academic, 2011

In an earlier book, Pastoral Ministry According to Paul, James W. Thompson argued that moral formation was at the center of Paul’s pastoral ministry. In this book, he considers the meaning of moral formation as understood by Paul.


Thompson argues that Paul was interested in forming a moral counterculture—a “family” set apart from its surroundings by how its members treat one another. Paul wrote his letters within the context of both Hellenistic Judaism and Graeco-Roman thought. He borrows elements from each, but leaves out the elements not compatible with his message. Although Paul relies on the Law for moral instruction, he does not believe Gentiles should be subject to boundary markers of Jewish identity (such as circumcision and food laws). Unlike both Hellenistic Jewish and Graeco-Roman thought, Paul is pessimistic that humans are able to do good apart from Christ. He believes Christian communities can do good when God empowers them by His Spirit.

Thompson says that Paul’s instructions, addressed to minority communities in a sometimes hostile culture, have particular relevance to churches in a similar situation.

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 4 No. 4