Weakness, the Cross of Christ, and the 'Muscular' American Christian Man: Exploration and Significance of St. Paul's Theme of 'Strength in Weakness' in 2 Corinthians 10-13

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2021

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Abstract

There are American evangelical distortions of ‘muscular’ Christianity influencing the twenty-first century American Christian Church. These distortions unwittingly encourage Christian men to find their identity primarily in ‘being authentic men’ and lead them on inward journeys to discover their inherent masculinity. These pursuits, although well intentioned, can result in Christian men identifying with and embracing firmly human traits of power, strength, courage, and a sense of adventure in a way that eclipses Christ and their ultimate identity as Christian men in the crucified, risen, ascended, and reigning Lord. Such pursuits do not leave men content in Christ.

This thesis presents those distortions and offers one possible remedy by engaging a close reading of the Apostle Paul’s theme of ‘strength in weakness’ in 2 Corinthians 10–13 and bringing it into conversation with Martin Luther’s ‘theology of the cross’. The thesis reveals that the Apostle Paul’s ‘muscular’ Christianity was externally rather than internally focused. Paul’s identity as a Christian man is rooted firmly as one who is ‘in Christ’. Paul did not look inward to himself when confronted with the challenges of his calling as an apostle and the sufferings of the Christian life but always fixed his eyes on the crucified and risen Lord Jesus who was crucified in weakness and was raised by the power of God. For Paul, the crucified and risen Lord Jesus was his ‘strength in weakness’. Paul’s ‘muscular’ Christianity involved embracing, for the sake of the all-sufficient Gospel of Jesus Christ, his own weaknesses, inadequacies, inabilities, and insufficiencies in humility and in suffering. For Paul, being weak in Christ means he is his strongest (2 Corinthians 12:10).

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LaFeve, Joshua Christopher (2021). Weakness, the Cross of Christ, and the 'Muscular' American Christian Man: Exploration and Significance of St. Paul's Theme of 'Strength in Weakness' in 2 Corinthians 10-13. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/24456.

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