Paul’s spirituality and a cross-shaped Christian life (wisdom from Michael Gorman)

How does crucified Christ and risen Lord shape our lives? How do we understand the apostle Paul’s spirituality in relation to our daily life? These are important questions for every follower of Jesus.

Here are some excerpts from an article written by Prof Michael Gorman, which help to answer the above questions.

Cruciformity is the spiritual-moral dimension of the theology of the death of Jesus by crucifixion found in Paul, in the rest of the New Testament, and throughout much of the Christian tradition. With respect to Paul, at least, this conformity to the crucified Messiah is not an abstract moral principle but a spiritual. Or even mystical, reality. This mystical reality is rooted, paradoxically, in a profoundly this-worldly reality (Jesus’ crucifixion) and produces, no less paradoxically, a variety of very this-worldly results. (p. 66)

For Paul, Jesus is the crucified Messiah whom God raised from the dead, vindicating him as Messiah, validating his path of lifelong, self-giving, faithful obedience that led to the cross, and establishing him as the Lord of all who shares in the divine name, glory, and worship. As the resurrected, glorified, and living Lord, Jesus remains the crucified Messiah. (p. 66)

Cruciformity, then is cross-shaped existence in Jesus the Messiah. It is letting the cross of the crucified Messiah be the shape, as well as the source, of life in him. It is participating in and embodying the cross. Paul himself might put all this together this way (a paraphrase of Gal 2:19-20): “It is no longer I or we who live our own lives, but it is God’s crucified and resurrected Messiah who lives in me and in us by his Spirit, empowering us to embody his kind of faithfulness and love.” Because of the relational quality of this reality, we must be careful (as others have said) not to focus on “the cross” per se but  on “the crucified.” Further, although Paul can use the language of imitation (e.g., 1 Cor 11:1), we must distinguish this Pauline spirituality from a simple ethic of imitation Christi, since Paul’s focus is on the activity of the living, indwelling Messiah, which is at the same time the work of God’s indwelling Spirit. (p. 67)

As we will now see, the events that are repeated are constituted by the narrative of Christ’s self-giving faith and love that were quintessentially expressed in his (incarnation and) death on the cross. Crucifiormity is, therefore, a narrative spirituality, a spirituality that tells a story, the story of Christi crucified. (p. 67)

Source: Michael J. Gorman, “Paul and the Cruciform Way of God in Christ,” Journal of Moral Theology, Vol. 2, No. 1 (2013): 64-83. (The journal article can be accessed here and here.)

Revelation, the Lamb and the reign of God (Michael Gorman)

Many would agree that Michael Gorman’s Reading Revelation Responsibly (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2010) is a good book. Here are few excerpts from the book.

Professor Gorman suggests five concrete strategies to approach the Book of Revelation. Here are two of them.

Recognize that the central and centering image of Revelation is the Lamb that was slaughtered. In Revelation, Christ dies for our sins, but he dies also, even primarily, as the incarnation and paradigm of faithfulness to God in the face of anti-God powers. Christ is Lord, Christ is victorious, and Christ conquers by cruciform faithful resistance… (page 78)

Focus on the book’s call to public worship and discipleship. Revelation calls Christians to a difficult discipleship of discernment – a non-conformist cruciform faithfulness – that may lead to marginalization or even persecution now, but ultimately to a place in God’s new heaven and new earth. Revelation calls believers to nonretaliation and nonviolence, and not to a literal war of any sort, present or future. By its very nature as resistance, faithful nonconformity is not absolute withdrawal but rather critical engagement on very different terms from those of the status quo. This is all birthed and nurtured in worship. (page 79)

Here is something that will cause us to worship the Crucified Christ.

The Throne: The Reign of God and the Lamb [as a theological theme in Revelation]. God the creator reigns! Jesus the redeemer, the slaughtered Lamb, is Lord! The reign of the eternal God, the beginning and the end, is not merely future or past but present, and it is manifested in – of all things – the slaughtered Lamb. God is inseparable from the Lamb, and vice versa. Each can be called the Alpha and Omega, and they rule together on one throne. This is a cruciform (cross-centred and cross-shaped) understanding of divine power. (page 75)

(See Nijay Gupta’s review of the book here.)

Michael Gorman on faith and hope

Professor Michael Gorman’s Reading Paul (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2008) is a great little book on the apostle Paul. Here are Gorman’s description of Paul’s view of faith and hope. 

Faith is a complex human experience, and Paul preserves this complexity while giving it a unique twist. While affirming its character as trust and conviction, Paul connects faith to the experience of Jesus as God’s faithful Son. Faith is more than trust; it is also fidelity, or loyalty. (page 123)

Hope, as the future tense of faith, is the trust-filled conviction that God will soon fulfill all promises and vindicate the faithful; this conviction enables a life of dedication to God (faith) and to others (love) in spite of having to share in the cross of Christ now. (page 166)