Archive for April 14th, 2009

Summary of Inhabiting the Cruciform God (pt. 2)

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul's Narrative Soteriology

Here’s a summary of the Introduction and the first two chapters, with brief quotes.

Introduction: Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Paul and the Question of Theosis. This considers the renewal of interest in theosis, reasons for raising the question of theosis in Paul, and a working definition.

~ For Paul, theosis is “transformative participation in the kenotic, cruciform character of God through Spirit-enabled conformity to the incarnate, crucified, and resurrected/glorified Christ.” (p. 7)


Chapter 1. Although/Because he was in the Form of God”: The Theological Significance of Paul’s Master Story (Phil 2:6-11). Chapter one examines Phil 2:6-11, which may be called Paul’s master story, to show that Christ’s kenosis (self-emptying) reveals the kenotic, cruciform character of God. The cross as the definitive theophany challenges “the normalcy of imperial divinity” (Crossan/Reid) and summons us to countercultural cruciformity understood as theosis.


~ [T]he Greek phrase en morph? theou hyparch?n in Phil 2:6 (“being in the form of God”) has two levels of meaning, a surface structure and a deep structure (to borrow terms from transformational grammar), one concessive and one causative: “although he was in the form of God” and “because he was in the form of God.” These two translations, which, as we will see, are really two sides of the same coin, correspond to two aspects of Paul’s understanding of the identity of the one true God (or “divine identity”) manifested in this text: its counterintuitive character (“although”) and its cruciform character (“because”).” (p. 10)


~ “[T]he incarnation and cross manifest, and the exaltation recognizes, both Christ’s true divinity and his true humanity, all of which leads us in a Chalcedonian direction, though with a Pauline (cruciform) twist…. To be truly human is to be Christlike, which is to be Godlike, which is to be kenotic and cruciform. Theosis is the process of transformation into the image of this God.” (pp. 38-39)


Chapter 2. “Justified by Faith/Crucified with Christ”: Justification by Co-Crucifixion: The Logic of Paul’s Soteriology.” Chapter two looks at several key texts in Paul, especially Gal 2:15-21 and Rom 6:1–7:6, demonstrating that justification is life with God by means of co-crucifixion with Christ, and is therefore a death-and-resurrection experience. It is participation in the covenantal and cruciform narrative identity of Christ, which is in turn the character of God, and thus justification is itself theosis. This chapter is the book’s longest because justification is such a central aspect of Paul’s theology and spirituality, because justification is currently a matter of significant exegetical and theological debate, and because the proposal being made is bound to be controversial. It is the soul of the book, attempting a holistic reading of Paul that moves beyond the impasse created by the arguments of traditionalists and proponents of the New Perspective.


~ Because justification is an “‘exegesis of the crucifixion,’ which includes a living exegesis of the doctrine in the community of believers growing into the image of the Son, we can once again affirm with conviction and joy both that the doctrine of justification is central to Paul and, indeed, that it is the doctrine by which the church stands or falls. At the same time, we can affirm that justification, precisely as an exegesis of the crucifixion, where God is revealed in the Son as kenotic and cruciform, is theosis. In justification we become the righteousness of God, the embodiment of God’s covenant fidelity and love, God’s generosity and justice.” (p. 104)

Inhabiting the Cruciform God–summary (pt. 1)

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009


Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul's Narrative Soteriology

This book (Eerdmans, April 2009) is the logical continuation of my work on Paul, especially an earlier monograph, Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Spirituality of the Cross (Eerdmans, 2001), with a focus on the implications of the central claim of Cruciformity’s first chapter: that for Paul, God is cruciform. If that is true, then cruciformity is really theoformity or, as the Christian tradition (especially in the East) has sometimes called it, theosis—deification or divinization. It is conformity to Christ, or holiness, understood as participation in the very life of God. The book unpacks the claim that cruciformity is theosis. It also argues that Paul has only one soteriological model, justification by co-crucifixion, which is itself theosis. The book unfolds in four closely connected chapters. Each chapter includes theological reflection on the contemporary meaning of Paul’s participationist soteriology. One major theme of the book is that many of the theological distinctions we make in analyzing Paul (justification-sanctification; declaration-transformation; faith-works; faith-love; spirituality-politics) are foreign to Paul’s way of thinking and maintaining them actually contributes to serious misunderstandings of Paul. A subtext of the book is that Paul has been over-Protestantized and that it is time to re-discover a more ecumenical Paul.


Context (others with similar interests; convergence of themes, trends)

·         Paul and participation: A. Schweitzer, A. Deissmann, E.P. Sanders, R. Hays, M. Hooker (“interchange”), D. Campbell (“Trinitarian participationism”; PPME: “pneumatologically participatory martyrological eschatology”)

·         Paul and narrative: R. Hays, S. Fowl, N.T. Wright, B. Longenecker, K. Grieb, S. Keesmaat

·         Debates about justification: New Perspective, “traditionalist” reactions; question of two soteriological models in Paul (forensic/juridical/legal and participationist); 2009 books on justification (in order of length): Gorman, Wright, Campbell

·         Unity of justification and participation: R. Hays, R. Tannehill

·         Growing interest in reformers and participation; renewed interest in theosis

·         Paul and theosis: R. Hays (we should read Paul via the early Fathers), B. Blackwell (Durham diss.), S. Finlan (theosis in Paul as three-stage process = dying to sin, moral transformation, eschatological transformation), M.D. Litwa (JTI article on 2 Cor 3:18), N.T. Wright