Monday, April 16, 2007

Cruciformity: In Christ Mysticism and Pauline Spirituality

Albert Schweitzer’s book The Mysticism of the Apostle Paul dared to argue that ‘justification by faith’ was not the center of Paul’s theology, but rather a subsidiary to the more important mystical doctrine of redemption through being-in-Christ. This point was taken up and modified slightly by E. P. Sanders some 40 years later and propagated as the center of Pauline theology and termed it participationist eschatology; essentially ‘participation in Christ.’ It is Gorman’s task in the second half of this chapter (3) to unpack exactly what Paul meant by the term ‘in Christ.’

The vast majority of the time the ‘in Christ’ phrase, Gorman argues, refers to existence in Christ, a spatial existence within the sphere of influence of Christ. ‘‘In Christ’ means to be under the influence of Christ’s power, especially the power to be conformed to him and his cross, by participation in the life of a community that acknowledges his lordship.’ It is important to note that in this definition spirituality for Paul is not solely a private affair but rather a thoroughly communal one.

This ‘in Christ’ spirituality is further unpacked by adding the narrative elements of the life and self-giving love exemplified in the crucified Christ. Thus Cruciform spirituality is a life-style of love and humility, in fact the ‘narrative of the crucified and exalted Christ is the normative life-narrative within which the community’s own life-narrative takes place and by which it is shaped.’

In this chapter the reader is shown the impact of Paul’s Damascus experience and shown how Paul conceives of life as being ‘in Christ.’ It must be noted that the key to Paul’s conception of ‘in Christ’ spirituality is the exalted Christ. Cruciform spirituality would make little sense if it was not the exalted Christ who indwells or is indwelt.

While I have given you a brief account of this chapter, I must tell you that this brief summation doesn’t really do the chapter justice, you really ought to read it yourself.

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