This dissertation seeks to study the implications of the actual experiences of dying and living with Christ as recorded in the book of Galatians, as well as how it affects ethical living. The study is inspired by how the Galatians understood Paul’s ethical command to live by the Spirit. Evidently, Paul and the Galatians shared the same faith experiences such that they could understand Paul’s command without any further explanation.
Social Scientific research confirms the importance of revelational experience and of religious consequences in religious commitment. It also differentiates between knowledge by description and knowledge by acquaintance and emphasizes the latter’s significance. These constitute the basis of the dissertation’s focus on experience and ethics, with the emphasis on the dynamic aspect of ethics. A phenomenological approach, which emphasizes “back to the thing itself”, is used to illuminate experience and examine all possible perspectives of the phenomena. The narrative approach is also used to induce four aspects of experience in the book of Galatians; namely conversion, suffering, the Holy Spirit and freedom. Using an amended version of Barclay’s mirror-reading technique to analyze Paul’s use of rhetorical questions, the abovementioned four aspects of experience are similarly induced to confirm that Paul appeals to both theology and experience in his discourse.
In order to understand Paul’s ethical command, this dissertation re-examines the problems faced by the churches of Galatia and highlights inadequacies of the Indicative-Imperative framework. It further demonstrates that their desire-related problematic behaviors provided an opportunity for agitators to cunningly introduce the Law into their midst. Therefore Paul appeals to both theology and experience to validate their relationship to the Holy Spirit and prove how that truth is sufficient for them to be victorious in their problems with desire.
Building upon the abovementioned foundations to re-examine the alleged Indicative portion of the book of Galatians, this dissertation seeks to establish that Paul’s experience of dying and living with Christ is key. The four aspects of experience are also comprehensively induced from the study of dying and living with Christ. For ease of discussion and detailed analysis, the study of dying and living with Christ broadly comprises two parts: 1) dying with Christ (conversion and suffering), and 2) living with Christ (the Holy Spirit and freedom). Paul appeals to theology and experience in his discourse regarding these four aspects; this confirms that the Galatians’ experiences were no different from his, thus facilitating the Galatians’ understanding of what it means to live within the sphere of the Holy Spirit (thereby resolving the problem of their returning to the Law). Hence it is not difficult to understand Paul’s command to live by the Holy Spirit (resolving their issue of desire-related problematic behaviors).