Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism
by Alain Badiou
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When Prof. Ted Jennings lectured at First Central earlier in the month, he spoke of the non-Christian, even atheist and Marxist thinkers, who were drawing upon Paul as the revolutionary figure needed for our age. I was not familiar with this body of work, which surprised me, as I have read a lot in Paul studies the last dozen years and radically altered my views on him. So, I Googled to learn more and discovered a rich literature and even textbooks of selections of such writings on Paul.
I decided to order this one, as I have also never read Badiou, so I could check the box of having read one of his books and thus kill two birds with one stone.
When I began the book, I rolled my eyes, for a sentence like this is what makes contemporary French philosophy almost impossible: "How are we to inscribe this name into the development of our project: to refound a theory of the Subject that subordinates its existence to the aleatory dimension of the event as well as to the pure contingency of multiple-being without sacrificing the theme of freedom?"
I also had to look "aleatory" up.
But as I finished the first chapter, I had to take back some of my snark, for it was quite good. And this was one of those books I stayed up late and got up early to keep reading.
That doesn't mean it was easy, for it had some dense sentences like that one. And I'm certain I did not grasp all of Badiou's meaning. But here I encountered a Paul who is knew to me. Yet, also familiar enough that I could resonate with Badiou's discussion.
Paul centers his thought upon a fabulous event--the resurrection--which opens up the opportunity to create a new, universal humanity, a new creature. Particularity and wisdom, law and difference, are all overcome in this revolution.
When Jennings lectured on these developments in Pauline thought, but ended with an emphasis on resurrection, one of my congregants was puzzled, and we've had follow-up conversations. He felt that if Paul was to be used by atheists and Marxists, surely the resurrection would be cast aside. I enjoyed texting him that for Badiou the resurrection, while fable and as fable, is essential to understanding Paul and his ideas for revolution.
I also commend Badiou's exegesis, which is quite good. I will use some passages in sermons, I'm sure.
Two drawbacks to the book--no bibliography and no index. Puzzling in an intellectual work.
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