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Summary: Chapter 05

The title of this chapter is “The Word of the Cross.” In this chapter Gorman attempts to consider the full breadth of the meaning of the cross in Paul, specifically exploring how Paul’s expounding of the cross corresponded to the life of the believing community. Gorman points out that Paul only uses the verb crucify twice, instead he likes to mention the death of Christ. In order canvass the material Gorman offers three categories that Paul’s statements about Christ death fit into: texts that have Christ as the subject/actor/protagonist; texts that have God the Father as the subject/actor/protagonist; and the few texts that list them both as the subject/actor/protagonist. In his book Gorman quotes these texts in full taking up several pages. I won’t re-quote them here. 

What the great number of texts show is that there are narrative patterns to the cross in Paul;

Even a cursory reading of these texts reveals that for Paul the death of Christ on the cross is multidimensional, indeed polyvalent. Various interpretations of that death appear, constituting a “dazzling array of colors in the mural of Paul’s theology of the cross,”…” (pg. 82)

What are these narrative patterns in Paul’s theology of the cross? There at least 13 narative patterns: Obedience/Righteousness/Faith(fulness); Love; Grace; Sacrifice; Altruism/Substitution; Self-giving/giving; Voluntary self-humbling/abasement; Culmination of a story that includes “incarnation” and suffering; Paradoxical power and wisdom; Interchange; Apocalyptic victory and liberation for new life and transformation; Reconciliation and justification; Prelude to resurrection/exaltation. The multidimensional reality of the cross for Paul as demonstrated in the different narrative forms it can take up in his writing often coalesces for him in particular passages such as: Rom. 3.21-26, 6.1-11, 8f; 2 Corinth. 5.14-21; Gal. 2.15-21; and Phil. 2.6-11. 

The last passage, Phil. 2.6-11, is what Gorman calls Paul’s master story and I think he’s aptly named it in light of how multidimensional the cross is in Paul’s thought. So many of the narrative forms of the cross that we mentioned above are present in this pre-Pauline hymn that’s its hard not to be reminded of just how central the cross was to Paul’s spiritual theology. Gorman, summarizing this section of Paul’s Master Story, says; 

For Paul, to be in Christ is to be a living exegesis of this narrative of Christ [Master story of Christ], a new performance of  the original drama of exaltation following humiliation, of humiliation as the voluntary renunciation of rights and selfish gain in order to serve and obey.” (pg. 92)

We’ve noted above that there are 13 narrative patterns of the cross in Paul, from these Gorman has comprised four fundamental patterns of the cross in Paul;

  1. The first, taken from the first cross-narrative pattern #1, is cruciformity as faithful obedience, or cruciform faith.
  2. The second, synthesizing the next several patterns #2-8, is cruciformity as voluntary self-emptying and self-giving regard for others, or cruciform love.
  3. The third, corresponding to patterns #9-12, is cruciformity as – paradoxically – life-giving suffering and transformative potency in weakness, or cruciform power.
  4. The fourth, found in the last narrative pattern #13, the pattern of reversal, is cruciformity as requisite prelude to resurrection and exaltation, or cruciform hope.

Gorman closes the chapter summarizing the story of God in the story of Christ cross. You’ll have to purchase the book to find out how he does this: click here. 

Afterthoughts:

So much was surveyed in this chapter its hard to list the afterthoughts its stirred within me. One thing Gorman’s handling did for me was refresh me. Instead of burying himself in the endless debates over atonement he surveyed the cross of Christ as it related to the story Paul himself lived from – deeply refreshing. 

Some questions I’m living with after reading the chapter;

  • Is the story Paul lived from, the story of the cross, the master narrative in my life? 
  • In my preaching, and in my reading of scripture have I magnified the polyvalent/multi-dimensional nature of the cross or have I flattened it due to a prior agenda of staking a claim in polemical debates within the church today?
  • How can I help people see just how majestic the mosaic portrait Christ’s cross casts upon our spirituality is? 
  • Does this picture of Christ cross render suspect any division between word and deed in a believers life? Yes.