‘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?

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.

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.

Baptized into Christ’s Death

Last week I asked some questions concerning Paul’s use of συν-compounds and over the next few weeks I am going to unpack those questions. This week I start with “What does it mean to die with Christ?”

I see four themes entangled within this question:

  1. Death’s connection to new life
  2. Our participation in Christ’s death
  3. Christ’s death and reconciliation with God
  4. Death’s connection to suffering

Today – Death’s connection to new life.

We live in a world mortified of death. To grow old, to move towards death, to move into death are sources of shame and embarrassment. In this mindset, death is the enemy who must be fought off at any cost. Thus, we (Western Culture) spend an enormous amount of time, energy, and money seeking to escape death or at least ward off its coming. The sad state of this mentality is that the very thing we are most afraid of controls our thoughts and actions. Our motivation and goal is avoiding death not attaining life. Just don’t let me die!

I believe, however, that Paul sees things very differently. Life is the motivation and life is the goal. That is why he can write, “To live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). Either way for him is life. Death is life with Christ (Phil 1:23) and life is Christ living in you (Gal 2:20). The eternal reality for all in Christ is life but mysteriously for Paul life requires death.

Rom 6:3-4 “Do you know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

A significant, perhaps the most significant, feature of being in Christ is that in him there is a newness of life; new creation (2 Cor 5:17). Yet, the reality revealed by the glow of the cross and the empty tomb is that new life springs forth from death. Paul writes, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him” (Rom 6:8). In other words, life in Christ moves from life towards new life through the doorway of death.

Ironically, it is those in Christ, where life is the motivation and goal, who learn to accept mortal death because the newness of life already experienced in Christ, not our inevitable death, shapes our existence. Death is not feared because we have learned that only by passing through the stench of death do we come to smell the sweetness of new life; in dying with Christ we live in ever-present newness of life.

Paul and συν-compounds: Murray J. Harris

In studying συν Χριστω, I was intrigued by Paul’s use of συν-compounds. Most of these compounds only appear in Paul in the New Testament but they seem to incorporate so much of Paul’s theology – engaging past, present, and future realities for those ‘in Christ. It turns out I am not the only one who finds these terms significant…

Also see James Dunn and Con Campbell.

Murray J. Harris – Prepositions and Theology (204-205)

There are more words formed from συν than from any other preposition…

Of special significance are eleven verbal συν-compounds in Paul that are without an accompaying explicit συν Χριστω (or equivalent), yet with a reference to Christ clearly implied or stated. These eleven verbs may be grouped around two main motifs, two crucial redemptive events, namely, Christ’s death and burial, and his resurrection with all its consequences, events that are reenacted in Christian baptism (cf. Ro 6:3-10)…

At the beginning of their Christian experience, believers

  • have died with Christ
  • were crucified with Christ
  • were buried with Christ
  • were raised with Christ
  • were made alive with Christ

Throughout their earthly Christian experience, believers

  • are being conformed to Christ’s death
  • suffer with Christ
  • are sitting with Christ in the heavenly realms

At the consummation of their Christian experience, believers

  • will live with Christ
  • will be glorified with Christ
  • will reign with Christ

But Christians are not associated with aspects of Christ’s historical life before his passion. For example, Paul never says believers are baptized with Christ, are tempted with Christ or are transfigured with Christ.