The Radicality of Grace in Paul

Life moves on, and so attention shifts (momentarily) away from reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5 and on to χάρις language in 2 Corinthians as a whole. Here is John Barclay on Paul's understanding of grace, from an article bringing the Pauline data into dialogue with that of Philo.

'The comparison of Paul with Philo shows that Paul's radical stance would worry any responsible theist … and that the issue between Paul and this particular Jewish contemporary is not whether God acts in grace, but whether it is either possible or helpful to think that God acted in grace in Christ in a way that went beyond reason and surpassed systems of "worth". In sociological terms, Paul's radical and absolute disjuncture between divine grace and human worth clearly carries enormous potential to justify or create a fundamental critique of societal (including ecclesiastical) norms. … If God indeed acts outside the normal criteria of social status, intellectual superiority or moral excellence, this gives scope and encouragement to new, creative and even revolutionary movements in cultural history. But this disjuncture between divine norms and social conventions is also inherently unstable or socially problematic, and in time, with the development of anything approaching a Christian social polity, the radicality of Pauline theology on this point will inevitably become domesticated, sidelined (individualized or relegated to a politically irrelevant 'mystery') or quietly ignored. The Pauline theology of inexplicable grace will thus remain forever a gadfly, an irritant and a potentially explosive ingredient in the theological canon, never fully assimilable, but also never completely excluded'.

John M. G. Barclay, 'Grace Within and Beyond Reason: Philo and Paul in Dialogue', in Paul Middleton, Angus Paddison, and Karen Wenell (eds.), Paul, Grace and Freedom: Essays in Honour of John K. Riches (London: T & T Clark, 2009), 9-21.