R.C. Balfour III graduated Phl Beta Kappa from the University of Georgia with a degree in Political Science. His business career was spent in land management and lumber manufacturing with a strong emphasis on environmental stewardship. He served the Diocese of Georgia as chairman of the Evangelism and Stewardship Commission, and was later elected deputy to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. He served his community as a City Commissioner and later as Chairman of the Board of Archbold Medical Center. His first three books, In Search of the Aucilla, Fishing for the Abundant Life and He Turned the World Upside Down,
were published in 2002, 2003 and 2007. He is married to the former Virginia French, and they are the proud parents of three boys and two girls and grandparents of eight.
While there are many excellent scholarly introductions to Paul’s life, writings and theology, Bob Balfour, in Paul Speaks to Us Today, has given a resource that is available to everyone interested in gaining an appreciation of the man who “is without peer among mortals” (p. xv). I would especially recommend this book to two kinds of people: those who are asking where they should start in getting to know Paul and his writings, and those who are wondering what the hubbub in many denominations concerning the Gospel is all about.
The weaving of the story of Paul’s life with theological reflection on key moments and themes is the great strength of this book. Balfour draws our attention to a wide variety of theological themes: the tendency of human culture to mold the Gospel into something more domesticated; the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer; women in the church; justification and faith. These “pauses” in the story allow us to integrate Paul’s life and message with our own circumstances.
The style of Paul Speaks to Us Today is engaging and informative. The undergirding research for this book always finds its proper place in the background. The reader’s attention stays focused on Paul and his remarkable story rather than being diverted to scholarly wrangling in the footnotes. Balfour keeps the pace brisk, even as he addresses crucial issues surrounding the Gospel. His “spiritual imagination” (p.xiii) allows the book to read more like a novel than a tome.
If this book fulfils the clear intent of the author, then many people will come to a deeper appreciation of Paul as a man of faith and an apostle of Jesus Christ. But even more than that, they will encounter the same Jesus and embrace the same Good News that transformed Paul’s life and turned the world upside down.
This book is an excellent primer on the life of the first-century apostle who influenced the course of human history more than any political figure has. This book contains solid substance, but it is not a cold and formal academic commentary written in a research library. Written in an entertaining narrative format that captures the reader's attention, the book makes Paul and his adventurous story freshly alive. The reader will become better acquainted with Paul's personality, sense his motives, feel his passion for Christ, share his indignation over the corruption of the gospel, and receive inspiration from his uncompromising courage. If you desire a framework for a greater understanding of the life and teachings of Paul that is easy to understand, then this book is for you.
Founding Dean, School of Divinity, Regent University
Former Dean, School of Theology, Oral Roberts University
At it’s heart, Bob’s new book, Paul Speaks To Us Today: Our Culture, Our Churches and Our Salvation
is not what one might assume on first picking it up. It is not “just another book on Pauline theology.” Instead it is really a detective thriller. Through exhaustive research and combining the scriptural text written by the apostle Paul, Bob has managed to bring Paul to life in an astounding way. Not only are the historical settings carefully researched, they are narratively crafted to do three very important things.
First, through its pages, dusty, musty history lives. Paul’s missionary journeys, conflicts and burdens, teaching and revelation become living things. It is easy to see the passion of Paul’s vocation and the possibilities of our own. Second, it is an important book for anyone who wants to make a serious study of Paul. Not many people would have the time or gifts to sift through details and be able to find the gems that are hidden in the Biblical text. To better understand Paul and his life is a great story, but it goes beyond that. It is a magnificent first step in gaining an overview of letters that contain such depth their study can never be finished. What this book does is unlock the door to the setting that surrounded Paul’s life, and how God was working in it. It is abundantly helpful in understanding the depth of what God has given us through the Holy Spirit and Paul’s hand.
The third important thing is that time and again through this book Robert Balfour has served us well in calling us to find the ways in which we are led to live consecrated lives in a way that parallels that of Paul’s life. It is history with a point that seeks to help us conform our lives to Christ and make choices to serve Him regardless of the cost. Chapter after chapter closes with a call to consider how we might live for Him. I’m not only glad to have read it. I’m glad that this book is here.
The Rt. Rev. Dr. Bill Atwood
Bishop of The International Diocese, ACNA
Suffragan Bishop for International Affairs