The Catholic University of America

Final Examination of

Brent A. Kruger

for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy

Thursday, November 8, 2012

2:10 p.m., Caldwell Room 125

If God Is For Us: A Study of Pauline Theodicy in Rom 8:18-39.

Director:  Frank J. Matera, Ph.D.

 

Abstract

When considering Paul’s theodicy in Romans, most scholars limit their investigations to Romans 9–11, chapters in which Paul discusses the future of unbelieving Israel.  In doing so, they ignore Paul’s theodicy—the defense of God’s righteousness that he makes throughout the letter.  The purpose of this study is to demonstrate how Paul already deals with questions of theodicy in Rom 8:18-39 as he prepares for his discussion of God and Israel in Romans 9–11.           

This study first locates Romans within the history and events that surround its composition: the Jewish expulsion from Rome, the reception of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, and Paul’s desire to begin a mission to Spain after delivering the collection he has been taking up among his Gentile congregations for Jerusalem. Then, examining Paul’s apocalyptic eschatology through an intertextual methodology, this study employs a hermeneutic for reading Pauline theodicy that focuses on the metaphors of Exile and Return.  The groaning of creation, of believers, and of the Spirit express present suffering while pointing toward future glory, namely, the bodily resurrection from the dead.  This hope of glory is undergirded by Paul’s experience of the risen Christ.  Suffering and Exile are not outside the scope of God’s plan, which nothing can frustrate.  Instead, suffering is an indispensible part of conformity to Christ, to which God has predestined believers—a conformity which will be complete at their resurrection from the dead.  Consequently, in the scene of the eschatological courtroom, Paul does not defend believers to God the judge, but instead he defends God the judge to believers.  In this passage, Paul ultimately defines theodicy not only in terms of God’s righteousness but also in terms of God’s love.

This study uncovers Paul’s theology—his defense of God—in terms that are not only historical and eschatological but relevant for the present.  Paul reveals that God is the prime agent in salvation history and, in Rom 8:18-39, he demonstrates the necessary but not final role of suffering in the lives of believers.

This study uncovers Paul’s theology—his defense of God—in terms that are not only historical and eschatological but relevant for the present.  Paul reveals that God is the prime agent in salvation history and, in Rom 8:18-39, he demonstrates the necessary but not final role of suffering in the lives of believers.