Thursday, June 24, 2010

Reading Paul with Michael Gorman 11

Michael J. Gorman is the professor of Sacred Scripture and Dean of the Ecumenical Institute of Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore, Maryland. He has spent much of his career studying, writing about and teaching Paul. He has a unique 'perspective' on Paul and as you read him you will find that he is neither 'old' or 'new' perspective but takes from the best of both worlds. So far I have found his small introduction to Paul to be a very edifying read and here I will offer brief summaries and reflections of his book 'Reading Paul' published by Cascade. Today we are looking at chapter 11.

Conformed to the Image of God's Son

In this chapter Gorman covers the topic of holiness in terms of cruciformity. By this he is referring to "conformity to the crucified Christ" (p.146).

Gorman offers us a fuller explanation: "Cruciformity is cross-shaped existence in Christ. It is letting the cross be the shape, as well as the source, of life in Christ. It is participating in and embodying the cross. It may also be described, more technically, as non-identical repetition, by the power of the Spirit, of the narrative of Christ's self-giving faith and love that was quintessentially expressed in his incarnation and death on the cross" (pp.146-7). The new life that we are raised to takes the form of the cross.

This life looks back at the work of Christ and ahead when Christ will return to fully establish his kingdom. "This means that the experience of dying and rising carries forward from baptism into daily life; each day, each moment becomes an occasion for expressing the resurrection power of God through cross-shaped decisions and actions" (p. 148). Christians should not be power seekers like the world but should have the mind of Christ, seeing power in weakness. Gorman makes the important point that cruciformity is not primarily about suffering, however, but loyalty; this loyalty often results in suffering. They can face this suffering with joy knowing that "shame gives way to honor in the economy of God" (p. 151).

Gorman goes on to discuss three aspects of of this cruciform existence: Faith, hope and love. He includes the ideas of trust and intellectual assent in his definition of faith but goes beyond them as well. Faith can also be seen as something like a pledge of allegiance and is an ongoing reality in the life of the believer. Jesus himself displayed this sort of faith. "Jesus is thus the ultimate paradigm of Christian faith, exemplifying its covenantal significance as trusting obedience, even to the point of death" (p. 155). He even goes beyond these ideas by showing that to have faith is to share in the faithfulness of Jesus (his death and resurrection).

Like faith, Gorman sees "love" as a verb. "Love acts patiently, love does kindness...Like faith, then, for Paul love is an action-word, a covenantal term that describes the fundamental relationship that should exist among God's people and from God's people toward others" (p. 156). Believers are to love just as Christ loved by not acting for selfish gain but for the good of others.

Hope, for Paul, is a "future oriented word". "We might therefore say that hope is the future tense of faith" (p. 160). The gospel itself has a future dimension and hope is the confidence that God will do what he said based on his actions in the past. We can, therefore, count on God's promises, be patient in the present and boast in our sufferings. Hope is grounded in the resurrection of Christ.

"Paul's triad of faith, hope, and love challenges us to the core, calling us to align our loyalties, our dreams, and our affections with the gospel of God, the lordship of Jesus, and the countercultural activity of the Spirit" (p. 163).

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