Review of Andrew Root's "Faith Formation in a Secular Age" (Part 8)

10. The Music of Formation

Secular 3 tells us there is no living person as faith’s content. So we focus on the process of faith formation designed to secure greater commitment to our institutions. Faith formation seeks commitment with faith itself the goal. Separating faith from its content is ultimately untenable.

The Music of Ministry

“To have faith is to be in Christ; it is to have the faith of Christ because Christ lives in you. The way into Christ is not through a program, a principle, or even a doctrine. The only way “in” to this union, as Michael Gorman says, is through a death experience (the cross, negation).” (3738)

Substantiation of our death experience as union in the person of Jesus is that divine action enters as ministry.

“Ministry is more than just a generic (natural) relationality; rather, ministry is a form of action that draws spirit into Spirit.” (3753) “Ministry is the deepest form of relationality because in ministry your person is shared in so deeply that the story that gives coherence to your being is completely claimed by the new story of the love, compassion, and mercy of the minister who shares your place.” (3762)

“The cross is, no doubt, the ultimate of death experiences, but it is also simultaneously the ultimate act of ministry that stretches to the deepest of levels (to the very being of God). What makes the cross atoning is not only that Jesus takes our sin but also that he enters death so deeply that now every death experience becomes the concrete locale for Jesus to minister his being to our own, to hide us in his life of ministry, so that we no longer live but Christ lives in us (Gal. 2:20) through the act of ministry that binds our being to his.” (3780)

To be formed in Christ is to be

-to give yourself to the story of Jesus in and through a death experience

-in a community that retells the stories of how the living Jesus came to us and ministered to us through negation

-like Ananias and become another’s minister entering into their death experience and sharing in the being of God.

-“in Christ by being ministered to and ministering to others through the cross of their death experience, allowing our own personhood to be the tangible manifestation of resurrection.” (3794)

Now Back to the Music

Phil.2:6-11 great song of Christian faith.

“Ananias has embodied the hymn in his coming to Paul as a humble minister, embracing Paul through his death experience. The humility of being another’s minister mediates the new reality of God’s own being.” (3827)

Being can be shared if it is wrapped in kenosis because this kenosis is the being of God.

From “Although” to “Because”

Phil.2:6: often take “although he was in the form of God” as if it meant even though he’s really cool, powerful, and mighty, he became less or other than that in the incarnation. This cuts the heart out of kenosis and faith formation. NT scholars of late though have been taking the Greek participle as “because” instead of “although.” Jesus humbles himself “because” not “in spite of” being in the for of God.

“Kenosis, therefore, does not mean Christ’s emptying himself of his divinity (or of anything else), but rather Christ’s exercising his divinity, his equality with God.” (3863).

“Faith formation from Paul’s perspective means linking hypostasis (the personal story of mystical encounter) with kenosis (to be called and sent to persons as minister). To share in the being of God is to live out of the likeness (image) of God, which is to be a person in ministry (which is to be hypostatic in kenosis).” (3863)


Freedom is central for Paul because it is relationship to a person.

Because Jesus comes to us as a person, as a minister, we come to others in the same personal, free, way as ministers. And all this “because” Jesus was in the form of God and came among us in divine freedom.

Keeping “Although” Alongside “Because”

Even with the “because” element of the Greek participle there remains a certain “although” element as well. “Although in freedom Jesus could have opted to be something other than a minister, he conformed to the kenotic being of the Father, becoming a servant, by becoming the minister to humanity by taking on the being of humanity.” (3889)

“This hymn provides a structure where the object and the process of faith are fused in the divine action of the cross itself.” (3889) The song is not only about Christ but about the way of life of his people in the world.

The Pattern of the Disciple

If ministry is not kenotic it is disconnected from the divine being. “Kenosis is what constitutes ministry as a dynamic union of being through act.” (3905)

Paul’s structure of faith formation from Phil.2:6-11: is “although [x] not [y] but [z].” Michael Gorman notes,

“As the obedient suffering servant who behaves in the pattern ‘although [x] not [y] but [z],’ Christ displays not only true divinity but also true humanity. Unlike Adam, he does not exploit his status as God’s image-bearer or disobey God the Father. Rather, he acts in obedience obedience to the Father in a way that serves not himself but others, bringing about their redemption from sin.”[1]

This formula fuses the object and process of faith.

“The process and the object of faith are linked because the ‘although’ is the ‘because’ of the Christ hymn in Philippians 2; the ‘although’ acts of humility are bound in the ‘because’ being of God. This becomes the way to seek divine action through negation, the way of participating in union with Christ through ministry itself. Kenosis can lead to a transcendent sharing in personhood (hypostasis) because it encompasses the fullness of cruciform love.”[2]


Gorman defines theosis: “Theosis is transformative participation in the kenotic, cruciform character and life of God through Spirit-enabled conformity to the incarnate, crucified, and resurrected/glorified Christ, who is the image of God.”[3]

Athanasius: God became humans so humans might become God.

“Theosis contends that union with Christ is an ontic relation that transforms us, giving us participation in the divine being—making us into God.” In other words, union with Christ is a reality that changes us.

For us to become like God is not to become a superhuman, it is to become fully human. “So theosis is not owning the essence of God but sharing in the energy of God.” (4036) “. . . we share in God’s energy as God’s very act of ministry, that a kenotic transformation of our being, through the Spirit, turns us into ministers.” (4047)

“Theosis, then, is to be drawn into the being of God through the humility of the kenotic, which sends us like Ananias to enter the death experience of our neighbor as the very manifestation of our sharing in the being of God through the ministering humanity of Jesus. Theosis is the ontological transformation of sharing in the being of God by encountering the kenotic energy of God, which seeks to share in hypostasis or personhood through the experience of death (the cross). Theosis means being a minister who shares in hypostasis through kenosis.56 Russell explains that, “as Christians transformed by Christ we become not ‘who’ God is but ‘what’ [God] is, sharing in [God’s] divine plan for the reconciliation and glorification of humankind.” (4069-4078)

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism can be counterpointed by Hypostatic Kenotic Theosis

11: Is God a Favor Bestower or a Gift Giver?

Transformation is required because we are bearing witness to God’s reality in Secular 3 which denies that reality.

“Knocking against the scaffolding of immanence, many people are compelled, ironically, to look for meaning and transformation beyond the transcendentless presumptions of Secular 3. Taylor has called this tendency ‘the nova effect.’” Those echoes of transcendence we met earlier.

Justification, Faith, and a Mad Accountant

Justification by faith is a hallmark of Protestantism. Christ’s righteousness is bestowed on us. Too often, though, this faith turns out to be sedative, tamping down any impetus to action.

Under the influence of Secular 3, faith also becomes little more than a decision to trust. Justification becomes bestowing a status without transformation. “Too see justification outside participation is to forget that the “although” is based in the “because”; in other words, it is to strip kenosis from our visions of justification.” (4527)

“But for Paul, the “although” is indeed the “because,” meaning God takes on the “although” action to justify “because” God is minister.” (4537)

“Faith in relation to justification is not just the trust to believe that our bank account is full. Rather, it is the very experience of receiving the person of Jesus Christ into our being.” (4537)

“Justification is Jesus entering into our death experience so that we might share in the life of God. Justification then signals that faith is ultimately not our own act but is the invitation to share in Jesus’s own faith.” (4546)

“Then who this God is, revealed in justification, is not an accountant or a scorekeeper but a minister who comes to your dying person with a personhood (hypostasis) that enters your death experiences as an act of ministry (kenosis) so that you might be free from serving death and be (not a clairvoyant shaman but) a minister to your neighbor (theosis).” (4554)

Justification as Ministry

Justification means that we are always in need of a minister. And that minister is Jesus for he is the only one who fully lives from the ministry of the Father. We live by his faith, thus we no longer live but he lives in us (Gal.2:20).

From Cross to Resurrection

“Justification by faith, then, is a death-and-resurrection experience.” Without the cross, the ministry of justification that brings the transformation of the real presence of Christ is lost.” (4594)

“Faith is bound in the person of Jesus, because Jesus is the person who has had his death experience so ministered to by the Father that Jesus has become life itself.” (4594)

To be justified is to be co-crucified but also co-resurrected. The transformation that comes with justification is theosis. “theosis is to share in God, not in power and might, but as a minister who shares in the glory of God by experiencing the fusion of the divine with the human through a hypostatic union—by sharing in and ministering to persons.” (4602)

A Body

Personhood cannot be disconnected from embodiment. “Rather, to experience the transformation of theosis is to have your body ministered to and sent to minister to other bodies.” (4609)

Christ is holy because he allows the Spirit to transform him into a minister, sharing in the death experiences of the other. Holiness is the willingness to enter death experiences through kenosis.

“Holiness and theosis are connected, but as such neither can ever be divided from resurrection. It is resurrection manifested in the witness of the act and being of the minister who brings the transformation of theosis.” (4627)

“This, then, is why for Paul faith is contingent on bodily resurrection. If justification is nothing more than the need for innocent blood to pay for my sin and transform God’s attitude toward me, with no transformational impact on my own being, then in the end why the need for bodily resurrection? But if justification leads to the transformation of theosis by bringing to our bodies the resurrected body of Jesus, then our bodies are sent by the justifying action of God to minister to other bodies as Jesus has ministered to ours.” (4634)

Justification and Salvation

“The work of Christ is to give to humanity his very person, so that through his person we might have the salvation of participating in the life of God, breathing eternally the air of life, wholeness, and mercy, having every part of us sustained forever through the Spirit that is the ministry of the Father to the Son.”

[1] Michael J. Gorman, Inhabiting the Cruciform God, 31-32.
[2] Gorman, Inhabiting, 35.
[3] Gorman, Inhabiting, 125.


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