Cruciformity: The Review

Michael J. Gorman, Cruciformity: Paul's Narrative Spirituality of the Cross. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2001. 401 pgs.

Finished. Well, actually I finished a couple of days ago; right about the time I posted this. It's taken me a couple of days to write this because I have been trying to think about what I want to say.

First, let me tell you about the book. This book explores Paul's 'cruciformity.' That is, his desire to "know nothing except Jesus Christ - that is, Jesus Christ crucified." The book focuses on the intersection of the cross with experience in the writing, teaching, and life of Paul. In order to examine this, Gorman spends four chapters (1-4) examining Paul's experience of God (Father, Son, Spirit, Three-in-one). He then moves on to explore and expound upon cruciform faith, love, power, and hope. And if your wondering about that one term stuck in the middle, the one that seems out of place in the nearly so familiar list, it is added in order to completely explore what Gorman considers the narrative patterns about the significance of the cross. Faith, hope, and love are Paul's common triad; power is added because much of what Paul has to say about the cross deals with this subject matter. Gorman then concludes with Paul's vision of a cruciform community, and a brief excursus into modern challenges to, and from, cruciformity.

Now, I have been having trouble finding what to say because for me, with the reading I have already done through school and interest, this is a different kind of book. Whether I have been reading others who have drawn from Gorman, or others who Gorman has drawn from, (I am pretty sure it is a bit of both) there was not a lot of new material here. However, in this case, that was not a bad thing. Instead, this book proved to be a synthesis, and a very well done one at that. Hence, I have had two posts of lists from this book which I found very helpful and though provoking.

This is, like many of the books I read, a library book. I can't afford to pay to keep myself in books, nor do I have the space to store them. However, due to the nature of this book, it has crossed a line which books rarely cross: It has gone from being a book I happened to pick up in the library to a book that is now on my 'to buy' list. Why? Because the synthesis provided in this book is so well done, in fact, that I know I will want to turn to chapters in this book in the future to refresh my memory, find material to help me with lessons, sermons, studies, etc.

That said, I would not recommend this book to someone who is not at least mildly well-versed in Pauline scholarship. This is not, and not meant to be, an introductory volume. The exception I would make is if you are used to reading this kind of academic material, and don't mind that it will take longer if you are unfamiliar with the literature, but you just haven't gotten to the subject yet and would like to. In that case, go nuts! If, on the other hand, you have some background in the subject, then this book is most definitely useful, interesting, and maybe even thought provoking. For me, it was all of these. Though there was not a lot of new material per se, it did remind of much and put it together in ways I had not considered before, which definitely brought up new ideas.

Well worth the read and, having read it, I know it will be well worth the money, whenever I get around to buying it. :)

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