Paul: Apostle of the Free Spirit by F. F. Bruce (Paternoster Press £9.60) Any reader of the Catholic Herald knows that there is much diversity of opinion within the Catholic Church in Great Britain today. At first reflection, the broad division m■ght seem to lie between "conservative" Catholics (who regret most, if' not all, of the post-Conciliar changes in the Church) and "progressives" (who welcome most, if not all of them).
But perhaps the real divergence lies between those who wish to impose by law or by pressure of opinion a particular style of Christian living (whether old or new), and those who think the main thrust of the Second Vatican Council was to encourage and promote genuinely diverse forms of Christian living. All that is essential is unity in faith and an all-embracing charity.
To all interested in these matters, Professor Bruce's work on the life and times and theology of St Paul will prove most timely.
His conclusions on the authorship of the various Epistles arc cautiously conservative; but the scholarship that leads him to such conclusions is profound, and always illuminating. Nor is it in any way difficult to read.
It represents a course of lectures given at Manchester to undergraduates on "The Missionary Career of Paul in its Historical Setting", and can be recommended without reservation as the best treatment of this topic available today.
But Professor Bruce's main interest is, of course, in St Paul's theology.
Above all, Paul spent his life campaigning for true Christian freedom. He more than any other insisted that true religion is not a matter of rules and regulations, but of living up to high principles of charity. Yet he would not allow those who grasped the full import of his teaching to look down on other Christians (mostly converts from Judaism) who still felt the need to have the support of rules and regulations. He pleads with those who understand the difference between essentials and non-essentials not to avail themselves of this freedom if it will hurt someone who does not understand it: for such a person is "the brother for whom Christ died" (1 Corinthians 8:11). St Paul gave Christian freedom precedence over everything except charity.