‘Interchange’ in Christ

I recently did a book review for my Paul class on Morna Hooker’s From Adam to Christ: Essays on Paul and thought I’d share my summary of her main argument on ‘interchange’ in Christ.

The book is a collection of Hooker’s essays on Pauline theology, most of which focus on Paul’s understanding of redemption.  She notes early on in her introduction that Paul is distinctively Jewish and “saw redemption primarily in corporate terms,” (p 2-3).  Hooker argues that while Paul’s soteriology is originally situated within a salvation-historical framework, following his encounter with Christ Paul comes to understand salvation as ultimately participatory for God’s covenant promises are “effected through incorporation into Christ,” (3).  Because these covenant promises have become universally available to all through Christ, Paul looks to Adam as “the only figure with universal significance” to draw a link between the old and new (5).  From this connection, or juxtaposition rather, Hooker develops the idea of ‘interchange in Christ‘ and its necessary implications.

What does Hooker mean by ‘interchange’?  The idea of ‘interchange’ in Paul’s theology in that “Christ is identified with the human condition in order that we might be identified with his” (26).  Though Hooker clearly favors the term ‘interchange’ she quickly identifies it’s deficiencies, namely, it is not a simple exchange that takes places between Christ and humanity.  According to Hooker, Christ acts not as humanity’s substitute (as many scholars have argued) but as humanity’s representative.  She argues that the interchange that takes place between Christ and those who are ‘in Christ’ is necessarily participatory–as we participate in Christ everything that is true about Christ is true about us.  In other words, “to be in Christ is to be identified with what he is,” (37).

The cornerstone text for Hooker’s understanding of interchange is Paul’s simple yet perplexing proposition in 2 Corinthians 5:21, Christ was made sin in order that we might become the righteousness of God in him.  Hooker stresses the importance of the reciprocal nature of redemption, albeit unbalanced, arguing that “it is necessary, not only for Christ to identify himself with us, but for us to identify ourselves with him,” (43).  Kenosis and cruciformity (though she doesn’t use that word) are prominent themes in Hooker’s interchange framework as it is ultimately through Christ-like “self-abnegation” that we display pistis Christou, faith in the God who raises the dead, the same faith evidenced in the person and work of Christ (46).

Paul’s idea of participation in Christ is fundamental, not only for his Christology, but for his understanding of salvation, of the nature of the redeemed community, of God’s plan for humanity and the world, and of the way of life appropriate for restored humanity. Those who live ‘in Christ’ depend on him. Being changed into his likeness, they reflect his glory; but the glory of the new humanity is the glory of God’s children, who are obedient to him, responding to him in faith, who share the obedience and faith of Christ himself. (9)

Hooker offers some interesting perspectives and I’m particularly partial to her reading of 2 Corinthians 5.21.  Are you familiar with Morna Hooker’s ‘interchange’ description?  If so, any thoughts?

Kenosis, Cruciformity, and Feminism

When I think about feminism, I refer back to the simplest definition of the movement that I know.  Feminism, as I understand it, is primarily about establishing and defending equal rights for women in the social, economic, and political spheres which in turn leads to the empowerment of women.  There is certainly a lot more that goes into feminism, a rather kaleidoscopic movement with a complex history.  However, at its most basic level, feminism is about affirming the equality of women and men and thus advocating for women and women’s rights so that this equality is actually lived out.

Today, many see feminism as an enemy of the Christian faith, or vice-versa.  In many ways this is downright odd considering many of those involved with the early feminist movement were Christians.  And yet there certainly are variations within feminism that are ardently opposed to the Christian faith and message, as well as those within the Church who are zealous for the eradication of even the mere whisper of the word feminism.  In terms of theology and biblical studies, traditional theologies of the cross and suffering have been found lacking or to be destructive to the lives of the oppressed, women being an historically oppressed people group.

While feminism is largely about empowering women, the Christian life is described by Paul as Christlike suffering and self-denial.  To borrow a term from Michael J. Gorman, the Christian life is one of cruciformity.  Gorman describes cruciformity (as demonstrated in the incarnation and crucifixion of Christ) as “the rejection of selfish exploitation of status in favor of self-giving action” (Michael Gorman, “Paul and the Cruciform Way,” Journal of Moral Theology 2:1, [2013], p. 69)  This cruciformity should then characterize the believer’s participatory life ‘in Christ’.  To be Christ-like is to be “radically self-giving.” (p. 70)  This idea of cruciformity is most evident in Philippians 2.1-11 in which Paul exhorts his readers to be like Christ who ‘emptied’ (εκενωσεν) himself.

Cruciformity, then, is cross-shaped existence in Jesus the Messiah. It is letting the cross of the crucified Messiah be the shape, as well as the source, of life in him. It is participating in and embodying the cross. (p. 67)

If feminism is about empowerment and the establishment and defense of equal rights for women, can it at the same time be cruciform?  If the Christian life is a call to reject “selfish exploitation of status in favor of self-giving action” how does the Christian participate in (what I would argue is) the necessary work of feminism?

For a while now I have been thinking about this question: can feminism be cruciform?  Gorman’s book, Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Spirituality of the Cross (2001), has a section discussing some objections to cruciformity, including those from feminist and womanist theologians.  Gorman explains:

Many feminist and womanist theologians have drawn the conclusion that because the doctrine of atonement and the corollary call to “take up one’s cross” have been used against women, these remnants of an oppressive, patriarchal Christianity need to be abandoned. (p. 373).

Furthermore, feminist theologians have pointed out how the call to imitate Christ-like suffering has been used to force women to endure domestic abuse.  Obviously, this is a valid and important concern.

So, I’m working on a paper for my Paul class in which I aim to describe what a distinctly Christian and cruciform feminism looks like.  I’ve had this (rather broad) question in mind for a while, wondering how I can be actively working for women’s rights while at the same time laying my own rights down.  I’m still working on my thesis but you’ve probably already guessed that I think the answer is “yes.”  Feminism can be cruciform.  In fact, I hope to argue that feminism (namely, a distinctly Christian and thus cruciform feminism) is necessary because the world at large is not (yet) cruciform.

In researching the question, I’m pulling from a number of different topics and authors.  I’ve been reading books and articles from the likes of Sarah Coakley, Beverly Gaventa, Richard Hays, Elsa Tamez, Rosemary R. Ruether, and of course Gorman.  Confession time: though I’ve always considered myself a feminist, until recently I just hadn’t read a lot from authors who specifically identify themselves as feminist theologians.  A few semesters ago I read some articles by Mercy Amba Oduyoye, an African Womanist theologian (whose work I really enjoyed), for a hermeneutics paper but since then I’ve not read much else.  I am learning a lot, which includes discovering areas in which I actually do not identify with other feminist theologians.  Nevertheless, I certainly appreciate their work and find myself asking a lot of the same questions.

I’m particularly interested in what Sarah Coakley, a feminist theologian, has to say in her book Powers and Submissions.  Yesterday I read one of the essays, titled “Kenosis and Subversion”, in which she argues,

kenosis [is] not only compatible with feminism, but vital to a distinctively Christian manifestation of it, a manifestation which does not eschew, but embraces, the spiritual paradoxes of ‘losing one’s life in order to save it’. (p4)

Truth be told, I need to reread the essay a few more times to get a better grasp of her argument but I’m looking forward to learning from her on this subject.  Hopefully it will help me with this paper!

I’m sure some of you out there have thought through this subject before.  Do you have an comments, questions, or helpful insights to share?  Are there any sources you would recommend?  I look forward to sharing more in the next couple of weeks as my paper (hopefully) comes together.  Most of all I look forward to learning more and being challenged in the way I think.  Paper writing is a very strenuous process for me but after all the agony and pain I have always come out on the other side thankful for what I’ve learned.  Godspeed to all you who have papers due this month!  And especially for those who are gearing up for presenting at SBLAAR!!

Paul’s Apocalyptic Imagination: ‘The Martyn School’

I have discussed the apocalyptic imagination several times on this blog…

The ‘Lacking’ Apocalyptic Imagination

Holy Apocalyptic, Batman!

…and in my next several posts I want to continue the discussion by highlighting several different views of Paul’s apocalyptic imagination. This first installment discusses:

‘The Martyn School’

  • known for its inaugurated eschatology
  • drawn significantly from Martyn’s work in Galatians

J. Louis Martyn writes, “Paul’s theological point of departure is…the apocalypse of Christ and the power of that apocalypse to create a history.”[1]

The opening and closing of Paul’s letter to the Galatians frame the whole letter in an apocalyptic manner. Galatians begins with a declaration of deliverance as Paul writes, “the Lord Jesus Christ, ‘who gave up his very life for our sins,’ so that he might snatch us out of the grasp of the present evil age, thus acting in accordance with the intention of God our Father.” (1:3b-4).[2] As the result of Jesus Christ’s death “for our sins,” he liberated “us” from the destructive power of the world. Richard Hays writes, “Paul’s gospel declares God’s gracious invasion of the world.”[3] Thus, Paul’s apocalyptic gospel is evident from the letter’s opening words, as he begins Galatians proclaiming deliverance from this evil world through God’s apocalyptic act in the death (1:3-4) and resurrection (1:1) of Jesus Christ.

Galatians closes by focusing on the new that has come. Gal. 6:12-15 contains some of Paul’s most striking language as he explains that the old world has been crucified to him and he to the old world through the cross of Jesus Christ. He writes, “As for me, God forbid that I should boast in anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the cosmos has been crucified to me and I to the cosmos.” (6:14). Nevertheless, Paul does not end with crucifixion, instead concluding with an ecstatic cry, “new creation” (6:15). In 2 Cor. 5:17, Paul explicitly connects “new creation” with being “in Christ” saying, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation,” and the image is the same in Galatians. Those who are “in Christ Jesus” (3:26) receive “the Spirit of [God’s] Son” (4:6) thus they “belong to Christ Jesus” (5:24) and with him they die to the old and live in “new creation” (2:20, 6:14-15).

The beginning and ending of Galatians highlights how Paul views the Christ-event as the act that brings about the death of one world and the inauguration of another. Bruce W. Longenecker writes, “[Paul] envisages the establishment of a new realm of existence. It is a sphere of life wholly differentiated from the ‘cosmos’ that has been crucified to Paul a domain where distinctive patterns of life are operative.”[4] Simply stated, Christ in his death and resurrection rescues “us” from the present evil age and inaugurates new creation. God’s sending of his Son to liberate humanity is the axis around which everything revolves. The old defeated. The new inaugurated. The present altered. To quote at length, Douglas A. Campbell writes,

Nothing can be the same again. Both Paul and his fellow Christians are living in a new reality that, in a sense, only they can understand. In the light of this new reality they understand that Christ has rescued them from a tortured previous reality within which they were oppressed by evil powers. Christ and his followers are presently at war with that evil dominion, and to a degree the war extends through the middle of each Christian community and each Christian person in the form of an ongoing conflict between flesh and spirit. Nevertheless, Christ has effected the decisive act of deliverance and victory. Christians are saved and dramatically! They have been set free and must now resist the temptation to lapse back into the old, evil, but strangely comfortable reality from which they have been delivered.[5]

God has transformed the cosmos by creating a history, a new creation, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

[1] J. Louis Martyn, “Events in Galatia: Modified Covenantal Nomism versus God’s Invasion of the Cosmos in the Singular Gospel: A Response to J.D.G. Dunn and B.R. Gaventa,” in Pauline Theology, vol. 1: Thessalonians, Philippians, Galatians, Philemon, ed. Jouette M. Bassler (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991), 164.

[2] Translations of Galatians are from Martyn’s commentary. J. Louis Martyn, Galatians, The Anchor Yale Bible (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997), 3-10. 

[3] Richard B. Hays, Galatians, New Interpreter’s Bible IX (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2000), 202.

[4] Bruce W. Longenecker, The Triumph of Abraham’s God (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1998), 37.

[5] Douglas A. Campbell, The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009), 190.

The Righteousness of God…Three Views

Last week I posted some concluding thoughts from my summer research on ‘in Christ’ in Paul.  I wrote,

“…Paul incorporated three central realities into those found ‘in Christ’: righteousness, baptism into death, and an exalted newness of life.”

As I was writing these, I had to chuckle because each of these three ‘realities’ reside in infested waters in Pauline scholarship. For example, Douglas Campbell writes, “The current debate concerning the meaning of dikaiosune theou in Paul is immense.” Nevertheless, I am going to swim with the sharks to highlight three views on what the righteousness of God means.

The debate concerning dikaiosune theou predominantly centers on whether the ‘righteousness’ of God is retributive/punitive and/or gracious/benevolent in nature. Additionally, scholars dispute as to whether dikaiosune theou describes an attribute of God, the activity of God, or relational aspects of God. The complexity of the issues surrounding the translation and interpretation of dikaiosune theon make it impossible to offer a detailed account of the whole debate, but Douglas Moo, N.T. Wright, and Douglas Campbell’s respective depictions serve as a suitable introduction.

First, Moo represents a conventional interpretation of the phrase. Next, Wright’s reading offers a reframing of the conventional reading, often referred to as a “new perspective.” Finally, Campbell’s apocalyptic reading of the passage demonstrates a “new paradigm” not reframed within the traditional understanding. Each perspective will be evaluated according to three categories – character, activity, and product – to allow for a consistent comparison.*

Douglas Moo defines God’s character, in regards to dikaiosune theou, as one who will always do what is right according to the divine nature. At first glance, this is seemingly a common understanding among the three viewpoints until the term ‘right’ is defined in any particularity. For Moo, ‘what is right’ entails God “always acting in accordance with the norm of his own person and promises.” God’s activity of doing ‘right,’ however, is not limited to saving work, instead it includes both God’s saving actions and God’s justice. Thus, God’s activity is to establish the ‘right’ by vindicating some and judging others based upon a determined standard, which according to Moo is justification by faith in Jesus Christ. Consequently, the product of God’s ‘right’ activity is that those who have been justified by faith receive God’s character; in other words, they attain the moral righteousness required by God.

N.T. Wright works chiefly within these same categories, except he places them within a predominantly covenantal framework.  Simply stated, dikaiosune theou is God’s sure and steadfast love of Israel, which Wright deduces from tying together the interrelated dimensions of covenant, lawcourt, and apocalyptic. The covenantal aspect is that God designed a once for all plan for salvation through Israel to bless the world and God remains exceedingly faithful to this plan. Wright states, “The point of the covenant always was that God would bless the whole world through Abraham’s family.” The lawcourt dimension displays the character of God as that of an impartial judge, who as the creator of the world must rule and judge all creation justly. Thus, God’s activity is focused on a single plan to put the world right, which God established through the covenant with Israel. For Wright, the decisive, apocalyptic act was that God dealt with sin and rebellion through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus, through Jesus Christ, as a faithful representative of Israel, God’s covenant with Israel has been fulfilled and the world has been declared ‘right’ and granted access to the blessings of the covenant. The product of God’s saving action is not, however, that one’s character is changed into the character of God, rather, her status is changed before God. In other words, she is vindicated by the judge, through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, and brought into the family of God.

Douglas Campbell’s understanding of dikaiosune theou draws specifically from Paul’s understanding of Christ as the definitive display of God’s righteousness. He states, “If we know what Christ is, we can infer immediately the content of dikaiosune theou.” Thus, he concludes that the definitive character of God is benevolent because Christ exhibits no retributive characteristics in Paul’s writing. Furthermore, drawing from the Old Testament’s picture of divine kingship, Campbell determines God’s character to be a compassionate king whose sole concern is to act to save an oppressed humanity. God’s kingly activity then is a “saving, liberating, life-giving, eschatological act of God,” which delivers his oppressed people. Campbell defines this activity in the singular work of Jesus Christ whose death and resurrection liberates a captive humanity. The product is “fundamentally liberative” and humanity is ontologically transformed, receiving a new flesh – free from the powers of death and sin.


*Campbell’s methodology for defining dikaiosune theon differs considerably from the other two views. Campbell’s method starts with Christ as the definitive disclosure of dikaiosune theon and from this extrapolates its meaning by referring to how Christ is described in Paul.  he other views draw on the phrases textual history to elucidate Paul’s meaning.  Thus, is a little tenuous to fit Campbell’s definition into these three categories.

**Primary sources for this post: Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans; N.T. Wright, “Romans” New Interpreters Bible; Douglas Campbell; The Deliverance of God.

What does it mean to ‘participate’ in Christ?

As discussed in several earlier posts (see here), I spent most of my research time over the summer concentrated on the phrase ‘in Christ’ in Paul.

I chose to do this for multiple reasons, I will not bore you with them all, but one of the reasons is I find a lot to like in what is called the Participatory School of Pauline Soteriology (also called Apocalyptic, Eschatological, Mystical and even Pneumatologically Participatory Martyrlogical Eschatology by one well-know lover of acronyms).

Yet, one of my main critiques of this school is there is often no clear understanding of what ‘participatory’ means. In other words, it sounds great (and more importantly seems to be a faithful reading of Paul) to say we participate in Christ, but what does that actually entail.

Thus, I was on a quest this summer to find how I would define participatory soteriology in Paul and I returned with five key terms.

  1. Unconditional – given as free gift
  2. Real – a concrete reality
  3. Relational – become fully relational beings
  4. Transformational – produces actual and lasting change
  5. Eternal – once Christ is put on it is forever

Obviously, each of these terms needs to be more fully described and more importantly tied with texts*, but they at least introduce the themes I see orbiting around the phrase ‘in Christ’ in Paul’s letters.

A second idea I found during my quest is the recognition that Paul incorporated three central realities into those found ‘in Christ’: righteousness, baptism into death, and an exalted newness of life. Also, fundamental is Paul found these ideas first in Christ. That is to say, they are realities present in Christ which are then ‘put on’ those ‘in Christ.’ Thus, my understanding of ‘in Christ’ found a referent in Christ. It became a phrase that describes both the cause and effect of Paul’s understanding of salvation.

While I have long way to go to complete my quest, the phrase I continually returned to this summer, in teaching and research, is at least a beginning,

What is real in Christ is real in those now ‘in Christ.’

 

*The central texts for these ideas, and I believe for understanding ‘in Christ’ in Paul, are Rom 3, Rom 6, Gal 3, and Eph 2.