Schweitzer provides an engaging and well thought out analysis of Paul’s thought and those who have written on Paul. His primary strength is seeing the big picture and explaining how the disparate pieces fit together. For AS the key driving force in Paul is eschatology, namely the expected return of Christ to fully establish his Messianic Kingdom. However, it is not fully a future event, because it is the event of Christ’s death and resurrection that has already inaugurated the Messianic Kingdom and which allows believers now to participate in the death/resurrectionof Christ. As a result, Christology and eschatology should be the first two chapters in any work dealing with Paul’s thought because everything else (e.g., key themes in Paul like suffering, ethics, Spirit, sacraments, etc.) will fall into line once these things are understood. Though he didn’t use the specific language, this “already/not yet” worldview has been shown to be an important piece of Paul’s thought.
Another related issue is the precursors to Paul’s view of union with Christ. He does not provide much in the way of supporting evidence to show where may have picked up this idea from. For AS Paul’s eschatological worldview is highly influenced by Second Temple apocalyptic writing rather than Greek philosophy or Mystery Religions. Paul may use some Greek forms or language, but AS is adamant that he does not import their content into his thought. (While I would agree that Paul’s primary source of his thought is that of Judaism, it does seem a little too simplistic to have this either/or mentality.) At the same time AS does not provide the constructs from apocalyptic writings that form the foundation for his thought on union.
In light of his reliance upon Being-in-Christ as the center of Paul’s theology, AS does not have as much need for Paul’s conceptions of righteousness by faith. AS does not fully discount this view as some later writers have done who see union as primary, but he does relegate it a bit. Righteousness by faith is him a valid understanding of Christ’s sacrificial atoning work as a sin offering, but for Paul it is primarily a polemical doctrine used to defeat reliance on the Law for righteousness. As such AS focuses much more heavily on Romans 5-8 rather than 1-4. This bifurcated thought leaves something to be desired. Justification by faith does take up enough room in Paul that it needs more explanation to show its connection to the central hub of Paul’s theology.
1) What is the nature of the union between believers and Christ? AS speaks of it being mystical, real, corporate, physical/quasi-physical, etc. However, the exact nature of the union is not described. We think he used the term “Mysticism” because of Pfleiderer’s previous use, but it doesn’t seem to really fit the type of union described by AS.
2) How would AS’s view have been different if he had a different Christology? AS repeatedly notes that this is an In Christ mysticism not In God mysticism. However, if Paul’s view of Christ is more closely related to God than AS posits, how would that have changed his analysis? AS notes that Paul doesn’t mean deification (theosis) by union and researching this is a key aspect to my thesis.
3) What is the connection between union with Christ and righteousness by faith?