Book Review: Inhabiting the Cruciform God

Michael J. Gorman Inhabiting the Cruciform God. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009).

Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul's Narrative SoteriologyThis was one of those books that had been recommended to me but I simply added it to the list. That normally means it's years off being actually read because I have so many other things already on the list. That was, until last weekend when I finally bumped this book up to the number one spot. I'm glad that I did because it has made a considerable contribution to a number of discussions going on in both Biblical studies (Pauline) and Holiness theology.

I had been told that Chapter 2 was the one to look out for here, because of Gorman's ability to synthesise the doctrine of justification and sanctification together under the heading of co-crucifixion. This is no mean task, but I think Gorman is successful. This lengthy chapter did live up to expectations, as Gorman shows that Paul does not have two soteriological models (participationist and juridical) but one - what Gorman calls "justification by co-crucifixion".  This he defines comprehensively as:
restoration to right covenant relations with God and others by participation in Christ's quintessential covenantal act of faith and love on the cross; this one act fulfilled bot the "vertical" and "horizontal" requirements of the Law, such that those who participate in it experience the same life-giving fulfilment of the Law and therein begin the paradoxical, christologically grounded process of resurrection through death. (pg 45)
However, it was Chapter 1 which was for me the shining light. Through sustained and thorough exegesis of the Christological hymn found in Philippians 2:6-11 Gorman shows that it is not that Jesus was acting "out of" character as the pre-existent Logos, and second person of the Godhead, in his kenotic movement in the incarnation but rather that he was acting "in" character as God. The key term here is the "although/because" of verse 6. The significance here is that in Christ we actually see who God is and what humanity can actually become. Thus for Christian holiness, to be truly Christlike is to live a self-emptying life, through participation in the self-emptying Christ. In Gorman's words
In Christ's preexistent and incarnate kenosis we see truly what God is truly like, and we simultaneously see truly what Adam/humanity truly should have been, truly was not, and now truly can be in Christ. Kenosis is theosis. To be like Christ crucified is to be both most godly and most human. Christification is divinization, and divinization is humanization. (pg 37)
Chapter 3 has been previously published within Kent Brower and Andy Johnson's Holiness and Ecclesiology in the New Testament, where I had previously read and enjoyed its contribution. However, the logical place within the argument of this present book makes for a good fit here as well.

Gorman grounds his argument in reality well by wrestling with an ethical issue, that being the place of violence. If kenosis is theosis then what is the place of violence in the life of the Christian. The answer: none. Gorman's argument is persuasive and I agree with his conclusions here.

I would suggest adding this text to your book list, but bump it up towards the top soon. It's well worth the read.


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