AUSTRALIAN BIBLICAL REVIEW
BOOK REVIEW Published in Volume 51, 2003
M. J. Gorman, Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative
Spirituality of the Cross (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001). Pp. Xi+429.
The word “spirituality” in Michael J. Gorman’s title has been deliberately
chosen as an alternative to “theology”. Most accounts of Paul the theologian
and of Paul’s theology, he argues, pay insufficient attention to religious
experience—his spirituality. Such inattention to religious experience is
particularly odd, in the case of Paul, since the purpose of his letters is
pastoral or spiritual before it is theological. By narrative spirituality,
Gorman means, “a spirituality that tells a story, a dynamic life with God
that corresponds in some way to the divine ‘story’” (p. 4).
The first four chapters following the Introduction examine Paul’s experience
of God—Father, Son, Spirit, and three-in-one—and seek to show how this experience
of God is centred on the cross. Chapter 5 examines the meaning of the cross
for Paul as God’s act and Christ’s act. The bulk of the work is devoted to
Paul’s experience of the cross as faith (chapters 6 and 7), love (chapters
8–10), power (chapter 11) and hope (chapter 12). Chapter 13 considers Paul’s
experience and vision of the Church as a community of cruciformity. A concluding
chapter looks at some contemporary challenges to cruciformity, including
the challenge from those feminist scholars who stigmatise traditional theories
of the atonement as “divine child abuse”, as well as the challenge that cruciformity
presents to church and society today.
It will be already apparent that this is a work of considerable scope. I
find it a most impressive achievement and will be consulting it constantly.
It is a work of formidable scholarship (with 336 entries in the bibliography
and 763 footnotes), but Gorman expresses himself with admirable care and
precision. Gorman’s book contains valuable exegetical insights. Describing
the Christ hymn in Philippians 2, as Paul’s “master narrative”, he draws
out, by means of a series of comparative charts, the parallels between the
hymn and: 1 Corinthians 9 (pp. 186f.); Philemon (p. 197); and Romans 12:16
(p. 249). Other comparative charts highlight the contrast between 1 Corinthians
13 and the actual behaviour of the Corinthian community (pp. 224–26); catalogue
Paul’s sufferings (pp. 286f); and bring out the social and political, as
well as the theological, overtones of a number of his key words (p. 353).
My only quibble with this admirable book is that I am still not convinced
by the arguments of Gorman and other (mainly North American) scholars that
pistis Christou should be translated as the “faith or faithfulness
of Christ” (pp. 110–21).
Rev. Prof. (Emer) Nigel M. Watson
10 Chatham Street