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Australian Biblical Review


ISSN 0045-0308

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. $US 28.00.

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).

Review by
Rev. Prof. (Emer) Nigel M. Watson
10 Chatham Street
Flemington, Victoria