Review by Barry Varney for The Good Bookstall

This relatively brief study, with its intriguing title, of what we usually call Paul’s ‘Second’ Letter to the Corinthians won’t eliminate the need for a fuller commentary on the Epistle, but it is a refreshing look, not at some unreal, ‘bepedestalled’ vision of the Apostle, but at ‘the real Paul’, who Richard Dormandy sees in this letter ‘emerging from some of his darkest days’. There’s no mistaking the distress and turmoil that Paul describes arising in his relations with the Corinthian church, which Dormandy compares, for example, to what Dorothy Rowe has written about the ‘prison of depression’.

The letter really is a testament to Paul’s ‘mid- ministry crisis’, which the author explores in some detail. But this ‘amazing’ letter is not only a ‘testimony to trauma’. It also reveals ‘extraordinary discoveries made by Paul in his darkness, along with practical steps in a strategy for survival’, as he emerges from the crisis. Dormandy devotes chapters to these ‘spiritual treasures’, and to the survival-strategy.

A further chapter shows how such ‘transcendent’ words as we read in Paul’s next letter, the one to the Romans, could never have been written without the trauma reflected by 2 Corinthians and the ‘therapeutic journey of recovery’ that had taken place, ‘an inner journey from turmoil to acceptance, isolation to fellowship, fear to grace’.

This study is written partly with today’s highly pressurised minister in mind. Dormandy asks how Paul’s experience, his ‘personal struggle to make sense of weakness, burnout and failure in ministry’ can feed back into ministry and mission today. When we see Paul as he really is, we find not just a remote and exalted figure from whom we inevitably feel isolated, but ‘a true kinsman from whom to receive encouragement’. I suggest you let this refreshing and liberating study lead you to the real Paul.

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