As promised, I am posting an interview with Mike Gorman about his provocative new book on Pauline soteriology called Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul’s Narrative Soteriology (Eerdmans, 2009). In it he challenges traditional readings of Paul by exploring, among other things, co-crucifixion, theosis, and non-violence. For a three part summary over at his blog, see here: part 1, part 2, part 3. He also has a helpful exchange about an aspect of the book here as well. He’s graciously responded to a variety of questions, and I think we’re in for treat. I’ve broken the interview into four posts to make it a bit more manageable.
1) Could you tell us a little bit about yourself—place of employment, denominational background, etc.?
First, Ben, thanks very much for the opportunity to talk with you and your readers about Inhabiting the Cruciform God. I greatly appreciate it.
About me: I am a native of central Maryland in the States and very blessed to be teaching in the area where I grew up. After my M.Div. and Ph.D. from Princeton Seminary and a few short-term positions there and elsewhere, in 1991 I came to St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore. It is the oldest Catholic Seminary in the U.S. and the only one in the world with a graduate ecumenical division, of which I have been Dean since 1995. I am a Methodist with earlier connections to several other traditions. My conversion to Christ took place in the context of a Methodist church, so I feel at home there, but I am theologically Anabaptist. As my readers will know, I am greatly indebted to the Barth-Yoder-Hauerwas-Hays trajectory, and ecumenical relations and church unity are very important to me.
2) After your work on Cruciformity, what led you to do this book?
Cruciformity grew organically out of the central insights of my dissertation, which compared the role of the self in the theology and ethics of Paul and the Stoic Epictetus. But Cruciformity was not just a revision of the dissertation; rather, it built on one of the dissertation’s central insights about Christ and about us in Christ. Similarly, early in Cruciformity I made the case that the cross does not just tell us about Christ and, by extension, us, but also reveals God. To be Christlike is to be Godlike; cruciformity is really theoformity. (“Theoformity” was in fact the new book’s working title for a while.) But I did not develop that point in Cruciformity. The more I poked around, the more I realized that very few people (present company being part of the exception!) had made this connection or considered that “theosis” might be an appropriate way to characterize what Paul was up to. I put out the basic ideas in some SBL papers and other essays, all deliberately interrelated, as well as in Reading Paul, though less academically there. The book took final shape when I realized that my contribution to the justification debate was unique (and controversial!) and was the center of my arguments about theosis.
3) A central aspect of this book is co-crucifixion. Could you briefly explain it?
Co-crucifixion is of course simply the noun form in English of the Greek verb systauroō. I take it as both the initial act/experience and the ongoing act/experience/practice of complete identification with Christ crucified, by the Spirit (hence the passive voice of the verb), that first effects, and then embodies, a death of the old self and the birth or resurrection of a new self. For Paul, this is what he means by “justifying faith,” as a close reading of Gal 2 and Rom 6 reveals. It is inherently both participatory and transformative. Why?
In chapter two, I also refer to co-crucifixion as “participation in Christ’s act of covenant fulfillment,” by which I mean his act of self-giving, life-giving faithfulness and love. Once we see that Christ’s death is constituted by these two things, much of what is distinctive in my reading of Paul falls quite naturally into place, especially: the inseparability of the “vertical” and the “horizontal,” or justification and justice.