Recapitulation: The Hermeneutic that Saves

Irenaeus’ doctrine of recapitulation, as soteriology and hermeneutic, is a continuation of focus on the rule of faith or the apostolic preaching (as found, for example, in Justin Martyr). Recapitulation is the summing up that is the Gospel and a soteriological summing up of all things, but to understand its saving work it has to be understood as a way of reading the Bible. The term cannot be separated from its literary application as a means of understanding Scripture, but this in turn cannot be separated from the whole economy of salvation. In other words, the apostolic preaching, or the presentation of Christ in the Gospel according to the Scriptures, is the recapitulation that saves.

The term has its background in rhetorical or literary theory, in which recapitulation is a restatement or compendium aimed at a unified picture. As a briefer and unified summary, it has greater impact. As Irenaeus writes, salvation is not through the “prolixity of the Law, but according to the brevity of faith and love” (Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 87).  He quotes Isaiah as saying: “A word brief and short in righteousness: for a short word will God make in the whole world” (Is. 10:23). Irenaeus references Paul as precedent, as he uses the notion of literary recapitulation in writing that the commandments of Scripture are “summed up in this word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Rom. 13:19). He explains, “On these two commandments, He says, depend all the law and the prophets. So then by our faith in Him He has made our love to God and our neighbor to grow, making us godly and righteous and good” (Dem. 87). The Gospel is this concise Word of recapitulation, apart from which Scripture is obscure, but the epitome or resume of Scripture (recapitulation/Gospel) makes the invisible visible and the incomprehensible comprehensible. This concise Word of recapitulation, summing up Scripture, is the Gospel.

What may be important in understanding Irenaeus is what he is not saying. He is not using the language of prophecy and fulfillment, the notion of old and new covenant, or the idea of separate ages, to explain the singular economy of the Gospel found in Scripture. The Gospel is always present in the Hebrew Scriptures, so that there is nothing new in the Gospel other than Jesus, but Jesus Christ was and is found throughout Scripture. The apostles’ reflection upon Jesus Christ “according to the Scriptures,” John Behr explains, “directs attention back to Scripture, to reflect yet further on the identity of Christ.”[1]  Scripture and Gospel do not exist separately, but neither are they identical. The Gospel unveils Scripture and Scripture informs the Gospel.

Irenaeus concern is to combat the notion that a division or disunity read into Scripture, between the Old and New Testament, results in division that is read into God and salvation. He is combating the sort of plan A plan B understanding that presently predominates in Christian theology. In this understanding, God had a plan, and humans sinned and messed it up, and so now we are on plan B. Law is pitted against grace, creation is pitted against salvation, and there is the supposition that if humans had avoided sin, God’s plan would not have been changed up. Recapitulation establishes a singular economy in Scripture and a unified understanding of God. There is, according to Irenaeus, “one God the Father and one Christ Jesus, who is coming throughout the whole economy, recapitulating all things in himself” (AH 3.16.6). There is a singular continuum between creation and salvation as God’s plan, from the foundation of the world, was to complete creation and the image of the first Adam in that of the second Adam.

Irenaeus pictures salvation as corporate, coming to Adam and his whole race: “we are all from him: and as we are from him, therefore have we all inherited his title. But inasmuch as man is saved, it is fitting that he who was created the original man should be saved” (AH 3.23.2). All are found alike in the first Adam and in the second Adam: “When therefore the Lord vivifies man, that is, Adam, death is at the same time destroyed” (AH 3.23.7). Irenaeus pictures a universal and corporate captivity to death and a universal and corporate deliverance in the second Adam. He speaks of those who are left in death but at the same time speaks of a complete abolition and defeat of death – anything less would be a defeat of God in his estimate:

For if man, who had been created by God that he might live, after losing life, through being injured by the serpent that had corrupted him, should not any more return to life, but should be utterly [and forever] abandoned to death, God would [in that case] have been conquered, and the wickedness of the serpent would have prevailed over the will of God (AH 3.23.1).

Irenaeus is not concerned to deal with the experience of every individual, and he does not focus on human interiority, but as with Paul in Romans 5, the focus is upon the two representative individuals. The two Adams represent the corporate, embodied experience of the race. Ultimately the second Adam incorporates all of humanity into God: “But in every respect, too, He is man, the formation of God; and thus He took up man into Himself.” Irenaeus poses the sort of oppositional differences which might be linked to the two Testaments or to alternative portrayals of God, and links them to the recapitulation accomplished by Jesus Christ in which absolute difference is overcome: “the invisible becoming visible, the incomprehensible being made comprehensible, the impassible becoming capable of suffering, and the Word being made man, thus summing up all things in Himself” (AH 3.16.6). In the same way that Scripture is recapitulated in Him, so too all things are summed up and recapitulated so that what might have once appeared an impossible difference is bridged. As Behr puts it, “The recapitulation of the whole economy unfolded in Scripture, the subject throughout which is the Gospel of Christ, in a concise epitome makes visible and comprehensible what had previously been hidden in the prolixity of the Law.”[2]  There is the obscurity of the law and the reality of death, but these do not compete or interfere with the economy of salvation, which Irenaeus at various points indicates is all inclusive.  

In countering those who would divide Scripture and God, Irenaeus emphasizes that Jesus Christ is not only the unifying subject of Scripture but its ultimate author, and this unified authorship is the point of entry into understanding the work of the Trinity. The alternative, such as that posed by the Marcionites, is to believe in two gods aligned with the two Testaments (“no god at all” according to Irenaeus). As Irenaeus poses the choice:

shall it be he whom the Marcionites or the others have invented as god (whom I indeed have amply demonstrated to be no god at all); or shall it be (what is really the case) the Maker of heaven and earth, whom also the prophets proclaimed — whom Christ, too, confesses as His Father — whom also the law announces, saying: Hear, O Israel; The Lord your God is one God? Deuteronomy 6:4 (AH 4.2.2).

Irenaeus’ hermeneutic of unification is aimed at establishing that there is one God, the Father of Jesus Christ, and this affirmation is the basis of belief in Christ. As Irenaeus puts it, “the writings of Moses are the words of Christ,” referencing Jesus’ words in John: “If you had believed Moses, you would have believed Me: for he wrote of Me. But if you believe not his writings, neither will you believe My words” (John 5:46-47). Irenaeus extends this understanding to include all of the prophets:

If, then, [this be the case with regard] to Moses, so also, beyond a doubt, the words of the other prophets are His [words], as I have pointed out. And again, the Lord Himself exhibits Abraham as having said to the rich man, with reference to all those who were still alive: If they do not obey Moses and the prophets, neither, if any one were to rise from the dead and go to them, will they believe him. Luke 16:31 (AH 4.2.3).

 The relation between Gospel and Scripture is not here focused on an unfolding history, but on Jesus Christ. The point is not that the Old Testament was simply prophetic or a precursor to Christ, but the Gospel is proclaimed in the Hebrew Scriptures. Irenaeus describes Jesus Christ as being inseminated throughout Scripture: inseminatus est ubique in Scripturis ejus Filius Dei. Behr describes this, not as an unknown Logos, but as the preexistence of Christ: “That is, the preexistence of Christ, the Word of God, is inextricably connected with his seminal presence in Scripture, the word of God.”[3] The crucified and risen Christ is the singular subject of Scripture revealed in the Gospel – the Gospel found throughout Scripture.

Where Marcion pictures a complete break between the old (the old covenant, the Old Testament, the old god) and the new (the new covenant, the New Testament, and the new god), for Irenaeus there is nothing new in the Gospel. The Gospel economy is the singular economy, the singular revelation, the singular God, revealed throughout Scripture. Given this understanding, Irenaeus exhorts Marcion: “read with earnest care that Gospel which has been given to us by the apostles, and read with earnest care the prophets, and you will find that the whole conduct, and all the doctrine and all the sufferings of our Lord, were predicted through them. {AH 4.34.1) “To those who, presented with such a claim, ask, ‘what new thing then did the Lord bring by his advent?’ Irenaeus simply answers, ‘Christ himself!’” [4]

 Irenaeus acknowledges that there are a variety of figures and dispensations, but this variety has as its center Jesus Christ and his Gospel. In refuting the Gnostics, who attach a significance to Jesus living to be 30 years old, “that He might show forth the thirty silent Æons of their system, otherwise they must first of all separate and eject [the Saviour] Himself from the Pleroma of all” (AH 2.22.1), Irenaeus argues that Jesus lived closer to age 50, thus fulfilling the Jewish sense of being a Master and providing a coherence to the life course of man. As Behr notes, “The literary coherence of Scripture, and the rhetorical coherence derived by engaging with Scripture to interpret Christ, is the ultimate criterion for Irenaeus’ reflections on the eternal Word of God.”[5] Though his argument as to Jesus’ age may lack evidence, his point is that Jesus is present in every age of man, both the normal growth through infancy to old age but the passage of the ages of history. Adam and Eve represent the age of childhood, and all of human history is part of the process of being brought to maturity. There is not an age before and after Jesus Christ, as in his passage through the various stages of human growth Jesus Christ also recapitulates every age of history, from infancy (on the order of that of Adam and Eve) to the full maturity of the defeat of death.

In this lengthy but key quote he summarizes the all-inclusive recapitulation of Christ:

Being a Master, therefore, He also possessed the age of a Master, not despising or evading any condition of humanity, nor setting aside in Himself that law which He had appointed for the human race, but sanctifying every age, by that period corresponding to it which belonged to Himself He therefore passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, thus sanctifying infants; a child for children, thus sanctifying those who are of this age, being at the same time made to them an example of piety, righteousness, and submission; a youth for youths, becoming an example to youths, and thus sanctifying them for the Lord. So likewise He was an old man for old men, that He might be a perfect Master for all, not merely as respects the setting forth of the truth, but also as regards age, sanctifying at the same time the aged also, and becoming an example to them likewise. Then, at last, He came on to death itself, that He might be the first-born from the dead, that in all things He might have the pre-eminence, Colossians 1:18 the Prince of life, Acts 3:15 existing before all, and going before all. (AH2.22.4).

In summary: the “brief” or “compendium” or “resume” that is recapitulation furnished salvation “so that what we had lost in Adam — namely, to be according to the image and likeness of God — that we might recover in Christ Jesus” (AH 3.18.1). Or as Behr writes, “Recapitulating in himself the exposition of the economy, Jesus Christ furnishes us with salvation through a resume, an epitome, which condenses or concentrates, and so makes visible and comprehensible, what had previously been invisible and incomprehensible.”[6] The key point: the literary recapitulation in which the apostolic preaching sums up Scripture cannot be separated from the entire economy of salvation brought about in Jesus Christ. Or to state it negatively: where Jesus Christ is not the lens through which Scripture is interpreted, the economy of the Gospel of salvation cannot be properly grasped.


[1] John Behr, Formation of Christian Theology: The Way to Nicaea, Vol. 1 (New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2001), 133.

[2] Behr, 127.

[3] Behr, 117.

[4] Behr, 116.

[5] Behr, 131.

[6] Behr, Ibid., 128.

Atonement in the Gospel of John

The atonement theory of John might be described, from the prologue, with its echoes of Genesis, as new creation. “In the beginning” of Genesis repeated in John ties together creation and redemption. The “it is finished,” pronounced from the cross, brackets the ministry of Jesus (his life and death), within the first and final words of creation, so that from the tree of the cross there is a planting of a new tree of life. In chapter 16, Jesus describes this new life springing from death as on the order of birth pangs. He describes the lamenting surrounding his death as giving way to an unending joy (16:22). Throughout the Gospel, the life that is imparted has this same quality – it cannot be disrupted or despoiled by death (darkness cannot overtake this light), as it is a life that has overcome death.

In chapter one, with its depiction of the first week of Jesus’ ministry and the calling of a new humanity, maybe this new creation is more of a recapitulation; something on the order of Paul’s depiction in Romans five of the second Adam becoming the head of a new race, in which life, and not death, is the controlling factor. These two Adams though are not separate but conjoined even in Irenaeus’ description (the originator of recapitulation). What was begun in the Adam of the dust is completed in Adam of the Spirit. As Irenaeus describes it, the two Adams are on a continuum: “For never at any time did Adam escape the hands of God, to whom the Father speaking, said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.’” So what was begun in the first Adam is completed in the second: “And for this reason in the last times, not by the will of the flesh, nor by the will of man, but by the good pleasure of the Father, His hands formed a living man, in order that Adam might be created after the image and likeness of God.”[1] Though Irenaeus describes his theory as recapitulation, this speaks not so much of a redoing as a finishing. Maybe it is best described as creations completion.

If there is a singular theological point to chapter two, the temple cleansing pointing to Christ as ordering the true cosmic temple, heralded by the wedding supper (of the lamb) and the new wine of a new age, proleptically offered up at Cana, the singular point might fit the theory of Christus Victor (Christ’s defeat of sin death and the devil). There is direct reference to the violent destruction (crucifixion) of Jesus, which inaugurates the new temple/cosmic order: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (2:19). This Christus Victor motif, fits with Jesus’ depiction of “being lifted up” and in the process casting out the prince of this world and dragging all people to himself (12:32). The emphasis though, is not so much on what is defeated, overcome, or set aside, as upon temple construction and a new order of life.

This cosmic vision is made personal, if not individualistic in the next two chapters with the discussion with Nicodemus and the woman at the well. Once again there is direct reference to the death of Christ, but in this instance the cross is depicted as therapeutic or curative. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life (3:14-15). This is not exactly “the hair of the dog that bit you” but it is a reordering of life in which the sting of death is accounted for. The cross, like the bronze serpent, is an antidote to death through trust in the cure or the life that God offers. There is the same lifting up as in chapter 12, but in this instance the focus is upon the individual believer rather than a universal humanity. While Jesus appropriates the sign of Moses, he is also claiming, with his “no one has ascended to the father” (3:13), that he is greater than Moses (as well as Enoch and Elijah, claimants of heavenly ascent) as he says they have not ascended, but only he has ascended. The ascent seems to be only through being lifted up, and none of them qualify. None of them have conquered death and none of them have access to the power of eternal life which defeats death.

The lifting up through death qualifies the nature of the life that Christ offers. This is echoed and stated explicitly in the story of the man by the Sheep Pool in chapter 5. The paralyzed man can find no “human” to help him into the healing waters. Christ tells the man to “rise” (5:8) and to take up his bed, bringing on the condemnation of the authorities, who claim that both Jesus and the man have broken sabbath laws. Though no resurrection has yet occurred in John, Jesus treats the miracle as on the order of resurrection: “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes” (5:21). He is making divine life available through his “work” as he presumes to demonstrate in the miracle unfolding as part of sabbath work. This healing is on a continuum with his rising into new life and in this seventh day of redemptive work (the ongoing completion of creation) the life of God is fully given and death defeated.

Death though, is not a singular thing in John, as it may be the means of access to life – as in the seed that is planted which produces new life through its death (John 12:24) or it may be the wrong kind of death, even if it is of the sacrificial kind. The death of betrayal describes not only Judas’ suicide from despair but Peter’s willingness to betray the way of Christ by killing. The two betrayers are set side by side, and all of the apostles seem to be represented in their respective stories. At the foot washing, the particular dirt which they all share is not simply that of Judas, but of the apostolic spokesman Peter. Their two stories of betrayal unfold from this point. Judas sells out Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, but Peter also involves himself in betrayal.

As he testifies after the foot washing, he is willing to lay down his life (13:37), and as it turns out, he is willing to lay down the life of as many as he can kill in fighting for Jesus. Before this, he is portrayed as attempting to prevent Jesus’ death, and Jesus identifies Peter (as he did Judas) with Satan: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s” (Matt. 16:23). This misdirected following, and misoriented willingness to kill and die, gives rise to Peter’s denial of Christ (18:15-27). Peter’s betrayal may be of a different order than that of Judas but is it somehow more acceptable? Or is his attempted homicide more acceptable due to our sense that killing for Jesus is more socially respectable than betrayal for greed. Isn’t Peter also a potential suicide when Jesus finds him and restores him through his three-fold demand for love displacing his three denials? The point is, there are many ways to die, but there is only one form of dying that is salvific.  

As Jesus had already warned Peter, the one who would prevent him from facing death is the devil, and ultimately, in his manner of death Jesus takes on death and the devil. However, the lifting up on the cross, the lifting up in resurrection and ascension, is also, as explained above, the lifting up associated with his healing. As he describes in the most explicit terms after his healing of the man by the pool, he has life within himself, like the Father: “For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself” (5:26). Resurrection, healing, therapy, making whole, are all facets of the life he gives. As Jesus says in the Apocalypse, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades (Revelation 1:17–18). Christ’s passage through death, his becoming dead, opens up the “risen” quality of life which is divine life. He shares in the quality of life of the Father, in that they both have life in themselves and are the source of life, but this is a life realized through his death.

The whole of the book of John may seem to offer too many sides to the saving work of Christ to call each a facet of salvation, but this is the writer’s description of his purpose: “these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (20:31). The life he gives is made evident in his healing ministry. Those paralyzed are raised up, those who are blind are enabled to see.  Jesus heals where life is defective and provides sustenance where life is short. There is a cosmic theme in Jesus’ identity as the Logos behind creation and in his identity as true temple. This cosmic salvation is inclusive of individual orientation, and there is consistent depiction of life, new life, spiritual life, and the accessing of this new life through a specific and individual reorientation to death. Atonement or redemption cleanses of death through life, it heals, it is spiritually therapeutic, and it resolves the problem of desire. At the cosmic and individual level, death is displaced with life. This might be called new creation, recapitulation, Christus Victor, or simply creation completion.


[1] Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5.1.3.

The Lure of Death Defeated in Christ

There is such a vast difference between eastern and western notions of atonement that in the eyes of the west it may sometimes appear that the east is lacking any theory at all, and maybe inasmuch as “theory” presumes to say it all, sum it up, or offer a complete understanding this is true. Recapitulation, for example, pertains to every area of human life and the working out an understanding of its breadth of impact is to be able to describe creation made new. There is no end to the realization of this re-creation. So too with Christus Victor (Christ came to defeat death and the devil) and ransom theory (Christ came to rescue from enslavement to Satan and sin), in that both depict subjection to sin as a disease or corruption called death. Being cured of a disease, freed from the devil, set free from slavery, overcoming death, is the initiation of an unending process of being made new. The western focus on legal guilt, punishment, and payment makes for a neat package of debt (or punishment) owed and paid, but what gets left out of this narrow scheme is the horror and reality of death. So too, what tends to be overlooked is the disease model of sin and death (death is a corruption that infects all of life) and full appreciation of the healing power of Jesus. In a sense, the health and wealth gospel and the focus on physical healing in Pentecostalism may be a demand for something concrete resulting from an atonement theory in which the legal fiction of debt and payment has proven abstractly inadequate. The demand for something concrete on the order of health and wealth, misses both the concrete predicament of death and the healing of resurrection life.

The centrality of death found in the Fall, emphasized in the lie of the serpent, described as the covenant with death in Isaiah, called the last enemy by Paul, described as the enslaving fear under the control of Satan in Hebrews and Romans, depicted as the orientation to sin by Paul, and described as a horror in the eastern fathers, is a predicament which does not figure fully into the western focus on a legal predicament. In turn, salvation from death (as the orientation to sin) through the death of Christ, tends not to register in the western theological emphasis.

The biblical conception of sin and the sinful Subject is built upon a very specific deception, detailed in Genesis, renamed the covenant with death in Isaiah, described as a poisonous lie, a throat shaped sarcophagus, and a bloody path of violence in the Psalms. Paul’s summation of the sin problem calls upon the fulness of this Old Testament depiction, both to describe the problem and Christ’s defeat of the problem. Being baptized into the death of Christ directly confronts the sin condition because sin is entangled with the primordial deception regarding death which amounts to an active taking up of death. Death as a lifestyle speaks not only of outward violence but of an inward destructiveness, and salvation from this orientation to death (death-in-life) is through life in the midst of death.

This focus opens up a new vocabulary that passes beyond the strictures of guilt and payment to a more holistic focus on shame, disease, contamination, alienation, cured, respectively, through fearlessness, wholeness, cleanness, and participation in the Trinity. As described in Genesis and captured in the notion of a sinful desire, there is a lure which draws humans out of or beyond life. There is a pursuit of an unreachable excess that cannot be integrated into the life process. This excess hovers around death in that the beyondess of death seems to hold out fulfillment of the infinite craving – beyond the Garden, beyond life, in which Something is traded for an ontological Nothing. This delusion, which describes the ontological condition of all subjects, makes of the world a horizon or marker of what lies beyond it, so that what is gives body to that which is not. This symbolic fiction or lie, is not a desire for any existing thing, but for that which does not exist. The serpent calls it being like God, in that it seems to open up the realm of experience to the transcendent, but what is beyond life is nothing at all. Thus, it can be understood how God’s prediction is fulfilled, “In the day you eat of it you will die” (Gen 2:7). Shame names the experience of the nothing called death. It describes, in the words of the Psalmist, what it is like to die (Ps 31:17). It describes the nature of the disease, in that it contains within it the entanglement with death, alienation, and corruption. The corruption of death, according to the Psalmist, is the ultimate shame.

It is not that the western church is without the analogy of sin as sickness. Billy Graham, for example, demonstrates a profound insight into sin sickness: “Sin is a spiritual virus that invades our whole being. It makes us morally and spiritually weak. It’s a deadly disease that infects every part of us: our body, our mind, our emotions, our relationships, our motives — absolutely everything. We don’t have the strength on our own to overcome its power.”[1]  Graham, however, does not provide any idea of how the disease is generated. He is not able or does not choose to say why sin acts as a deadly disease. The prognosis is on the order of saying you are really sick, but leaving out the name of the disease. Thus, when he points to Christ as cure, it is unclear why or how Christ addresses the illness. In describing the cure, Graham says the Holy Spirit “tugs at our souls” in order to tell us “we are not right with God.” He says sin is the “clogger” and the blood of Christ is the “cleanser.” The blood of Christ is reduced to something like spiritual Liquid Drano. He references I John, which does say his blood cleanses from sin (1:7) but it also adds the explanation as to why. We have fellowship with Him as we walk as he walked. We pass into truth, out of a deception – a deception which would claim we can be in the truth without practicing the truth (see 1:5-10). In other words, Graham’s mistake is the Augustinian mistake and perhaps simply the western mistake, which misses that sin is an orientation to death. Sin is not mysteriously or indirectly related to death; it is an active involvement with the nothingness of death and the grave.

Subsequent to Augustine’s mistaken reading of Romans 5:12, both sin and salvation, disconnected as they are from death, have been mystified. Augustine’s misinterpretation makes nonsense of Paul’s explanation of the propagation of sin through death and, as a result, in the history of the Western church, sin’s propagation is a mystery. In Paul’s explanation, it is the reign of death which accounts for the spread of sin and not vice versa. Interwoven throughout Romans 5 is the universally observable truth that death reigns (“death spread to all men” v. 12; “death reigned” v. 14; “the many died” v. 15; “death reigned through the one” v. 17; “as sin reigned in death” v. 21). As Paul concludes in verse 21, “sin reigned in death” and not the other way around. This then lays the foundation for explaining why the death of Christ addresses the problem of sin. Christ exposes the lie of sin; he exposes the lie of death as empty of the sham promise of transcendence.

The alienating and desirous aspect to death’s reign has to take into account this lying aspect to death: death is taken to be a power for life. Where prior to the fall humans are pictured as existing in harmony with nature and obeying their natural drives, with the fall a sense of disharmony and of shame enter in, but the split evoked by shame and disharmony creates the realization of a possible synthesis. The gap separating man from nature, from himself and from God is precisely the gap in which he imagines he is to be constituted. The dream of closing the gap is the sinner’s dream, which Paul states in various formulas in chapters 6-7 of Romans (equating sin and grace).

In other words, the sinner has joined himself to death as a means to life. But the Subject ‘in Christ’ has been joined to the ontological reality of God in Christ. Romans 8 describes this joining as being ‘in Christ’ (8.1), living in the power of the Spirit (8.5), belonging to Christ through the Spirit (8.9), living now and in the future in the resurrection power of the Spirit (8.10-11), being adopted as a child of God (8.15), and being joined to the love of God (8.37-39). Where the lie of sin is the active taking up of death, being joined to God and entering into communion with God through the Spirit is simultaneously the reception of truth and life. The truth, in this instance, is not an abstraction but is a life-giving truth which specifically counters the death dealing lie. The lie takes up suffering and death (alienation) as primary, but Paul dismisses the power of death in light of God’s love: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (8.35). Where death is the orienting factor in sin, Paul sets out that which trumps death: the love of God in Christ by the Spirit.


[1] Billy Graham, “Sin is a spiritual virus, and Christ is the cure” (Chicago Tribune, June 6, 2019) https://www.chicagotribune.com/sns-201905211906–tms–bgrahamctnym-a20190606-20190606-story.html