The author starts with good background on the meaning of the term spirituality. He then asks a series of questions about how it relates to Paul. How does Paul imitate Jesus? What spiritual disciplines did he make use of? Then each following chapter focuses on one of the attributes of Paul’s spirituality.
In speaking of Paul’s use of the Old Testament the author says, “There’s hardly a chapter that doesn't contain a quote, an allusion, or a rhetorical wink in the direction of something from the Old Testament.” (p. 28) The author takes some time to translate (my word) Paul’s oft used phrase, “works of the law” and refers to E. P. Sanders work. I found that very helpful. He sums up Paul’s devotion to scripture as a progression; from learning about scripture, through thinking with scripture, to thinking from scripture.
This little book (182 pages) is not given to a swift read. I made that mistake and had to start again. This book in spite of it’s size is best read slowly. Not because it is difficult but rather because it is compressed. Each paragraph holds much to chew and digest. So don’t make my mistake, read it slowly and allow the author to show you something worth waiting for. For example as I was reading I was a bit irritated that there were so many scriptural references strung into the paragraph. I thought why didn't the author just quote one or two examples? Then I took the time to look them up. Wow, I am glad I did.
Chapter 1 starts the journey of Paul’s spirituality with “Imitate me as I imitate Christ”. Chapter 2 explores Paul’s devotion to scripture. Chapter 3 explores Paul’s prayers. This chapter is rich and where I needed look up all the references the author gives. The most mentioned theme in Paul’s prayers is for others to have “continued growth in the faith” (p. 49) One point which I found odd or perhaps misplaced, was the author’s treatment of Abba. (Rom 8:15, Gal 4:6) He points out that Abba should not be equated with Daddy (he provides footnotes) but he neglects to discuss why Paul would use that term.
The other themes dealt with in the following chapters are Disciple-Making, Proclaiming Christ, Worship, Holiness, Spiritual Gifts, Encouraging Others, Chapter 10 is on Suffering and Hardin definitely saved the best for last. The idea discussed is Paul’s Suffering through the lens of the “Suffering Servant” from Isaiah 42-56. This idea is rich and hopefully the author will develop it further.
One very helpful thought given is about the tension we feel about the origin of suffering. Does God cause it or allow it? Hardin very wisely (IMHO) offers “Sometimes the question of my response to suffering is of more concern to the Father and to my own spiritual development than is the question of its origin. (p. 166)
The 11th and final chapter is sort of an epilogue. Each chapter is densely packed and this one helped to unpack and give pause to meditate and digest. This work deserves careful attention and there are treasures to be gleaned, but as I said before, don’t hurry through this one. The author also includes 8 pages of bibliography. Well done.