After Mark Hamilton and Jeff Childers approached me about co-editing a book that would honor Doug Foster’s life and work, we quickly landed on the book’s angle of exploration. We asked authors to explore the intersection of American Christian history, race relations, and unity or division in the church. These topics are at the center of Doug’s life and work in the academy and church. So we proposed chapter topics that focused on specific eras of American history, all with one central question: how did race relations in that era affect unity or division among Christians?
I argue that, while Paul may be the first theologian, he was a pastor most of all. His central concern was the moral formation of his communities, and his persuasive task was to shape communities into the image of Christ. He had basic theological convictions, but he articulated these for persuasive effect.
When I began writing this commentary, two sets of issues had been on my mind for a long time. First, my doctoral dissertation (Yale, 1998) had focused on the rhetoric of youth in the Pastoral Epistles. In that study I had explored ancient stereotypes of youth and philosophical programs for training youth and had applied insights to a few key passages in the letters. So in the commentary, I wanted to apply insights from that study to a reading of the letters in toto.