Summary of Inhabiting the Cruciform God (pt. 2)

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)

3 Responses to “Summary of Inhabiting the Cruciform God (pt. 2)”

  1. Mike C. says:

    “participationist soteriology”…This is a good kind of disturbing, and I’m glad for the controversy. We SHOULD be shaken to recognize that salvation is no certificate or static creedal affirmation. God is alive, and God’s creation is full of life. Life is a gerund!

    Lesslie Newbigin said it is an epistemic claim to say “Jesus is Lord.” Walter Brueggemann says our faith is epistemically subversive. It is refreshing to reframe the controversy toward living what we know rather than simply rehashing what we know.

    Mike C.

  2. MJG says:

    We had a conversation about this at Duke today, which went very well. I hope that Pauline studies and theology more generally make this shift… soon.

    PS Read your other comments to my class today. Thanks.

  3. Michael:

    What is your exegesis of Colossians 1:24 in terms of a participatory cruciform soteriology for the church?


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