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Summary: Chapter 04

The title of this chapter is powerful, “The Triune God of Cruciform Love.” Its one of Gorman’s shorter chapters in the book, but not because connecting the Trinity to cruciformity is a small matter. Rather Gorman has explored each members relationship in the first three chapters leading up to this one and has stopped frequently along the way to point out how they share in the labor together. 

Paul’s personal involvement with the reality and power of the cross – his cruciformity – reflects and reveals an experiential or narrative Trinity [aka economic Trinity ft.1] that leads inevitably to the theological conclusion that God is one yet three.” (pg. 63) Gorman opens with this thought because he wants to head off right at the start that while most interpreters have been hesitant to see Trinitarian thought in Paul , but Gorman says this simply won’t do. While of course the Trinitarian formula of the latter church is not directly in Paul the Trinity certainly is. In fact there is a recent interpreter who has explored the Trinity in Paul and is starting to demonstrate why denying its presence in him won’t do (Ulrich Mauser). The rest of Gorman’s chapter is dedicated to exploring the Trinity in Paul as “one Lord in three,” (pg. 65) and seeing how Paul and his communities experienced the Trinity.

Paul consistently reaffirms his Jewish conviction that there is but one God…[however] The early Christian – and Pauline – affirmation “Jesus is Lord” could have posed a threat to the claim of remaining monotheistic [see Phil. 2.10-11 which interpretes Isa. 45.21-23].” (pg. 65) The Spirit is as well shown to be affirmed in categories which in the Hebrew bible were saved for YHWH, for instance see 1 Cor. 12.3 & 1 Cor. 8.6 & 2 Cor. 3.17-18. Does this mean that Paul had a tight theological framework for the Trinitarian like that of the latter church? 

Paul is not so much making tight theological arguments as he is reflecting on the common experience of his communities, in which there is intimate association between Father, Son, and Spirit in the process of transformation into the image of God in Christ (3.18). Paul’s chief interest in affirmations that imply a Trinitarian God is not speculation but transformation. . . His interest in the “Trinity” is first of all in the unity and continuity of the believer’s experience as an experience of the grace and love of the one and only God, revealed climatically on the cross of Christ and discovered in the life of the Spirit-led community. (pgs. 66-67)

This last quote leads into the next section of the chapter where Gorman explores how the Trinity was experienced by Paul and his communities. He says the Trinity was experienced in the essential elements of the spiritual experiences of the Christian life like “baptism  [see Gal. 3.27  as Christocentric but not Christomonistic, 1 Cor. 6.11], confession (of faith) [1 Cor. 12.3], life in God [2 Cor. 1.21-22], prayer [Rom. 13.13] and the moral life (specifically, sexuality).” (pg. 67). Paul also experienced the Trinity in his ministry (Rom. 15.6; 2 Cor. 3.3; 1 Cor. 12.4-6). 

There is an important distinction that Gorman has waited to make, and this distinction helps us see how the Trinitarian experience that Paul and his communities shared connects to cruciform spirituality. 

At this point, we must make an important distinction between Paul’s experience of Father, Son, and Spirit as three-yet-one, as Trinity, and the basis of that experience. For Paul, the basis of all experience is the revelation of God, especially God’s revelation in the cross of Christ, confirmed by the resurrection. That basis, too, is Trinitarian in character. . . [see Gal. 4.4-6] the “work” of the Spirit is to make real and effective the “work” of Christ on the cross, which in turn was the “work” of God the Father. That is, the cross – understood as both apocalyptic event and personally experienced reality – is the united activity of Father, Son, and Spirit [see Rom. 5.1-11]. (pgs. 71-72)

Gorman closes the chapter with a quote worth the purchase of the book itself, discussing how in the cross the Trinitarian drama of love is observed and experienced. He says “. . . ,” sorry you’re going to have to buy the book yourself to find out (click here).

Afterthoughts:

Here are some of the questions and inspirations I’ve been living with after reading this chapter;

  • Do I merely “believe in” the Trinity, or can I say that I experience Him presently at work in my life, in my ministry, in my spiritual longings?
  • Do I treat the sacraments as centered only upon Christ or Trinitarian in form?
  • To believe in the Trinity means to be captivated by the Trinitarian drama of love displayed in the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ for the world. 
  • Does my preaching and teaching exhibit and expound this Trinitarian love drama?