Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Michael Bird on Gospelization: Cruciformity & Anastasity

Michael Bird's Introducing Paul: The Man, His Mission and His Message (IVP, 2008) really is a helpful and enjoyable introduction to Paul. Bird is young, very well-read, articulate, and witty. This book is not intended to replace some of the larger and more scholarly works on Paul, but rather to introduce the beginner to the broad strokes of Paul's ministry, letters and theology.

This past weekend, as I was studying for a SS lesson introducing 2 Timothy, I picked up Introducing Paul once again and thumbed though it looking to see how he introduced this Pauline letter or to see if he dealt with Pauline ethic. I found that he does, indeed, write about Pauline ethics. This was found in chapter 9 which is titled "Living a Life Worthy of the Gospel: The Ethics of Paul" (pp. 134-60). Although he did not interact with the material in 2 Timothy as I had hoped (primarily because much of this can be dealt with in the larger letters), I found this chapter to be spiritually edifying. After reading this chapter and seeing the title to the final chapter, "Gospelizing 101: Paul's Spirituality," I couldn't resist reading on. I had to find out how he defined "gospelizing."

To my delight this chapter was worth every minute spent in it and every successive minute spent meditating upon its contents. This short chapter is packed and not a word is wasted. According to Bird, gospelization is "beginning to reflect in one's life the realities the gospel endeavours to create" (p. 162). What I appreciated most about this chapter is his introduction to the terms cruciformity and anastasity. Bird borrows cruciformity from M. J. Gorman (see also here and more recently here) and adds to it Paul's emphasis on new life, or as Bird terms it, anastasity. This emphasis accords perfectly with what I had been studying in 2 Timothy. Paul's final "trustworthy saying" begins,
If we have died with him, we will also live with him (italics mine).
Paul beautifully summarizes the gospel in terms of death and resurrection.

I wholeheartedly agree with Bird when he argues that not the cross alone, but the cross and the resurrection of Jesus are central to the gospel. Cruciformity is "to be shaped in accord with the cross of Christ" (p. 162) and anastasity is "to be made alive by the power of Christ's resurrection" (p. 166).

I've not had the opportunity to read Gorman's take on cruciformity, but since I was made aware of his books on this topic I have been very interested in learning more. The term is new and the truth is old, but the beauty of new categories is that they help us to reconsider old truths that may have become obscure to us. I have enjoyed meditating on these new terms! I recommend Bird's book on Paul and especially the use of these two excellent new terms.