Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Reading Paul with Michael Gorman 9

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 9.

Justified by Faith...Crucified with Christ

Gorman believes that we need to have a 'thick' doctrine of justification; he believes that too often the church has settled for cheap grace: justification without transformation.

According to Gorman, the streams of thought that Paul's doctrine of justification stem from are (see pgs. 114-15):

- the conviction that the God of the covenant is just/righteous;

- the corollary expectation that God's covenant people will be just/righteous;

- the conviction that God's righteousness expresses itself in salvific, transformative action for the covenant people and for all creation;

- the image of the just/righteous God judging the people, like a judge in a courtroom, both now and on the future day of judgment; and

- the vindication of the just/righteous on that day

Gorman notes that the most popular stream of thought places almost all the emphasis on the law-court imagery. The rise of the new perspective has pointed out that justification has to do with covenant membership in the people of God. Gorman offers a definition of justification that takes from the best of both worlds and more (see pgs. 116-17):

"Justification is the establishment of right covenant relations - fidelity to God and love for neighbor - by means of God's grace in Christ's death and our co-crucifixion with him. Justification therefore means co-resurrection with Christ to new life within the people of God now and the certain hope of acquittal, and thus resurrection to eternal life, on the day of judgment."

"Justification, then, is about reconciliation, covenant, community, resurrection, and life."

Gorman shows that justification and reconciliation belong together through Rom. 5.1-11. He says that the two are actually one and, therefore, views that limit justification to a divine declaration are inadequate. Justification is a sort of resurrection from the dead and are related to covenant and life. Gorman also comments that God's way of setting people right is different that the violent form of justice found in Rome and Phineas ways of justification (which is also justification by self). Those whom God justifies, however, cannot help but be transformed by God's alternative way of justice.

Gorman also offers a robust definition of "faith". While not denying the fact that faith means "trust" he also points out that faith needs to be seen as "loyalty". It is like a "pledge of allegiance." It also has to do with our participation in Christ: "Paul sees faith as sharing in the death of Jesus that is so real, so vivid, that it can be described as being crucified with Christ, or co-crucified" (p. 124). This co-crucifixion is not "a matter of human effort". Not only do we die with Christ but we are raised with him. Christ was "raised for our justification" and we are enabled to live in right covenant relations with God in the present. We are made alive to God. At the same time, the resurrected Christ lives in the believer through his Spirit. This is a corporate reality and not just an individual one. The purpose of the indwelling is to enable God's people to live in right covenant relationship with him and with others (i.e. new life). This new life takes a cruciform shape.

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