Feast upon the Word Blog

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The Life of Holiness, Romans 5:3-11 (pp. 210-237)

Posted by joespencer on April 29, 2013

Jim’s commentary on Romans 1 has made clear again and again that we’d be dealing with the life of holiness in Romans 5-8. For that reason, I’m now reading with a careful eye to what it means to live in a holy way. I’ll pick up a few scattered remarks in the commentary on 5:3-11 that are instructive in a variety of ways, but I think it’d be best if I begin with and spend the bulk of my own time here on one passage in particular—the one from which I learned the most about what it might mean to speak of the life of holiness. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s the discussion of the phrase “his life” from verse 10, found on pages 234-235. I’ll begin there, and then I’ll make a few comments on other points in this week’s reading.

Life As Such

Here’s verse 10 as Jim renders it in his “alternate translation”:

For if, being enemies of God, we were reconciled to him by the death of his Son, how much more certain it is that, having been reconciled, we will be saved by his life.

You can read Jim’s comments on the structure of argumentation (a minori ad maius), on the nature of reconciliation, etc. I’ll focus here just on what Jim has to say about the phrase “his life,” that thing by which we’ll be saved (rather than reconciled, which is accomplished by Christ’s death). (For those serious about understanding this distinction, I’d recommend, in addition to Jim’s comments, Alain Badiou’s very helpful discussion of this theme in his book, Saint Paul, pp. 65-74.) If we’re to live lives of holiness, what can we learn from Christ’s life?

Jim begins where we’d expect him to: “It seems obvious that this phrase ['his life'] could refer to Christ’s mortal ministry and, therefore, to the teachings he gave and the example he set. Or it could refer to his resurrection and his subsequent life with the Father, to the fact that he is not subject to death. Or, of course, it could also refer to both” (p. 234). All this, as Jim says, “seems obvious.” If we’re going to think about what we might learn from the life of Jesus, we automatically think either of His mortal ministry (what might we learn from His example?) or of the manner of living that characterizes Him now (what might we learn from His perfection?). But then Jim gives us this important clarification: “It is significant that Paul uses the word zoe. Greek has two words, zoe and bios, for which we have only one, life. Zoe refers to the physical aspect of being alive. We could translate the word as ‘life force,’ the force in a being that makes it a living, moving thing. . . . As such, it is not the same as bios, for the latter refers to the span of an individual’s life and what fills that span: I am a living person, in other words, I have life (zoe), but during some particular amount of time I live the life (bios) of a son, husband, father, and neighbor; I have a particular profession and particular hobbies and interests” (p. 234). Where’s the surprise? The Greek word for “life” in this text does not refer to a way of life; it refers rather to life as such, to bare life. And it’s that life of Christ that is to save us. Hence Jim’s next line, where the surprise is presented bluntly: “Perhaps Paul uses the word zoe because it suggests that the way Jesus lived, his bios, is not what saves us” (p. 235).

What’s the implication for living lives of holiness? Well, I find myself struck here by a certain connection with a contemporary Italian thinker, Giorgio Agamben. It’d take too much time to go into Agamben’s work in any detail, but it’s worth saying that he emphasizes the way that zoe, in its predicatelessness, has been connected consistently in Western thought with the idea of the holy or the sacred: bare life is sacred life, holy life. And Agamben doesn’t fail to link this idea up with Saint Paul. In a variety of places, he ties the idea of bare/holy life up with Paul’s discussions of God’s call, a call that—according especially to the first letter to the Corinthians—calls human beings into holiness and thus away from every quality or qualification. The life of holiness, on Agamben’s reading, is zoe, a certain imitation of the saving zoe of Christ. Agamben might well say of Christ, like Jim does, that “as his resurrection shows, his is the power of living; he is the source of life, zoe” (p. 235). This is a theme in Paul that deserves a good deal more attention; it’s one I’ve just begun to pursue myself.

To live the life of holiness: “To imitate Christ, then, would not be merely to imitate his bios. It would be to partake in his zoe, something that we can receive from him but that we cannot give ourselves. Presumably, if we partake in his zoe, then we will also live his bios” (p. 235). We should keep an eye, as we work through the rest of Jim’s book, on how this life of holiness unfolds, and not just on what it means to live righteously.

Other Quick Points

Let me just jot down a few quick notes about other points in this week’s reading that deserve mention.

(1) I said a few things last week in my comment on Cheryl’s post about Jim’s discussion of hope. He adds one further clarification in this week’s reading that I think deserves our attention: “Unlike the usual view of happiness, Christian hope does not think that we would be better off if all our suffering were eliminated” (p. 211). There’s much to be learned about from a hope that doesn’t avoid suffering—in fact which, according to Paul, results in part from suffering. How do we understand hope on the Christian model in light of this notion?

(2) Jim points out that the Holy Ghost is mentioned for the first time in Romans 5:5 since its appearance in Romans 1:4. He notes further that “it will become a major theme in Romans 8, where it is the answer to the problem of the conflict between the flesh and the spirit” (p. 218). Because the Holy Ghost plays a crucial role in giving shape to the life of holiness, we ought to keep a careful eye on how Paul develops the role it plays in this stretch of his letter. Jim notes that at this early point in Romans 5-8, Paul discusses the Holy Ghost in order to answer the following question: “How does our Heavenly Father pour out his love on us?” (p. 218).

(3) Jim quotes what may be the most beautiful passage from the Book of Mormon: Mosiah 4:11-12. It’s a helpful cross reference, but it’s a text we ought to dwell on often regardless of how it might clarify Paul’s message. I recommend reading it again and again—and living in light of it! (See p. 221.)

(4) In Romans 5:7, Jim finds occasion to point out the fact that Jesus’ actions are ultimately at odds with the idea of the (Greek) hero. That’s an important point, though it might seem like philosophical quibbling to many. Why is it important? At the very least because there’s nothing actually tragic about the plan of salvation: Christ doesn’t resolve some kind of tragic contradiction, nor does he allow satisfy some kind of cosmic order through His sacrifice. “He is not a hero because what he did transcends heroism” (p. 225). These clarifications may be important in light of how much talk there seems to have been in recent years in the Church’s youth programs concerning the need for “modern heroes,” etc. Perhaps we’re collectively missing the point.

(5) Jim very nicely emphasizes Paul’s “frequent use of verbs that begin with the prefix syn-” (p. 226). Pauling being is almost always being-with. Perhaps I’m particularly struck because I’ve recently been reading Stanislas Breton’s book on Paul, and he similarly emphasizes Paul’s use of prepositions like this. In addition to being-with, Breton highlights being-in (being in Christ, for instance, usually the marker of what’s called Paul’s mysticism), being-of (the communal aspect of Paul’s thought is important), and being-toward (or being-for: purpose and zeal have their place here). There’s much to learn from these prepositions, and Jim’s emphasis on being-with may be particularly important. What happens to being when it’s predicateless (see the discussion of life-as-such above) but prepositional (with, in, of, toward/for)?

Those are my thoughts and some indications for further discussion. I’m interested to see what you all have to say!

8 Responses to “The Life of Holiness, Romans 5:3-11 (pp. 210-237)”

  1. Robert C. said

    Thanks for these thoughts, Joe.

    I think it’s interesting that when we enter into the baptismal covenant, there is no explicitly articulated covenant being made. We are simply baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, but there’s not covenantal content mentioned. Thinking about this in light of the zoe-bios distinction you emphasize, and Agamben’s other work on language (and infancy, and oaths), I find this fascinating. The life that we are baptized into is “explicitly” an unarticulated(/inarticulate?) life….

  2. Stargazer said

    I haven’t read Jim’s material, but first thought is I think I disagree about the idea that Christ hasn’t sacrificed anything in a heroic way. I have imagined that he was a pretty good carpenter and would have liked to start a furniture making company. I have no information about if he ever thought this way, but we know that he CHOSE to align his will to Father’s, and that everything else about his purpose here on the earth was subsumed in that. So, no furniture business. So I believe he gave his purpose over to the Father’s purpose. It may be splitting hairs, but it works best for me to understand the Atonement like that.

    Second thought is that I have always been interested in discussing things that are sort of synonyms in different languages/thought processes. For example, there is much to think about chi/ki in eastern thought combined with breath and the flow of breath, and thinking about our spirits, as well as the influence of the Holy Spirit. This all is interesting to me when I think about the idea of breath being life-giving, as well as references we understand about “the breath of life” and creating “a living soul.”

    In Russian the word (looks like dyxa but pronounced ducha, where ch is like X in Greek) means “breath” and “spirit”, and you have to get which meaning is implied from context. And in many contexts, both meanings are implied.

    SO, thinking about your thoughts about receiving a kind of “life” from Jesus that he can only give us, I agree, and love to follow the connections between other languages and thought systems about this topic.

    • To say that Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t heroic in a Greek way is not to say that he didn’t sacrifice anything. It is to say that his sacrifice didn’t resolve or make obvious the tragedy of life since life taken as a whole isn’t a tragedy. It is important to remember, as Joe points out, that Christ wasn’t a Greek hero because what he did went beyond what Greek heroes are portrayed as doing. Whatever it is that we see them doing, he did more.

      Thank you for reminding us of the connection between spirit and breath. Greek and Hebrew make the same connection. English does too, but the connection between the two was long ago forgotten: spirit is from the Latin word spiritus which means “breathing.” The Latin verb is spirare, “to breathe.”

  3. Jim Siniscalchi said

    Some further thoughts which are certainly not meant to be all inclusive …

    The symbol of both life & death is blood. Blood is the element and symbol of mortal life. I find it interesting that the shedding of man’s blood brings death while the shedding of Christ’s blood brings life. That is, the same blood which assures mortal life will bring eternal life. It is the blood that we live by in mortality that makes life everlastingly possible in the realms above. “It is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” (Lev. 17:10-11) The Lord has chosen blood to symbolize the understanding of passing through mortality [death] and gaining immortality and eternal life. This is a wonderfully perfect similitude.

    Paul says Christ came “to make reconciliation for the sins of the people (Heb. 2:17).” In other words, He is the propitiation [atonement] for our sins” (1 John 2:2).

    We must repent, be baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and keep His commandments. If we do so, we will then become reconciled unto Christ and will have entered into the gate which is narrow and have walked the path which is strait which will lead to life, so long as we do so, even until the end of our mortal days/ probation (2 Ne. 33:9). As Paul expressed it, we are then, in Christ! We have become new creatures. We have been given the charge/ obligation for the ministry of reconciliation. We can see this in Paul’s own ministry where he endured much for the cause of Christ.

    What is this ministry?

    In Paul’s language, it is to let the world know that Christ was God’s son; that the father was in Him. He became the perfect sacrifice and bore the weight and sins of the world upon himself. He is the intermediary between us and the eternal father. He is the door, so to speak, that we must open to get to the father.

    Also, there are legal representatives which are those with the authority to act and believe in His name and we must preach this message for us to gain this blessing of reconciliation, with He whom is called “Man of Holiness” from whom we have become separated because of being unholy ourselves. Basically, we need to bring men unto Christ where salvation must be worked out.

    That life ([spiritual] intelligence or Zoe] associated with element, that part, which is separate from our spirit bodies [finer and more purer than our mortal bodies] is endowed with agency). In other words, our mortal bodies are made up of elements [less fine & pure]; and these elements are separate and distinct from each of the other elements in our bodies. Unlike our spiritual body, which is a single enlivened entity [singular organized intelligence or Zoe] our mortal bodies are not a single enlivened entity, but instead, has perhaps, trillions of transitory and independently enlivened elements. We are seeing new life and watching the death of the old one. For instance, we clip our nails, shave and remove hairs, gaining body weight and reducing that weight, etc… We are constantly saying hello and then goodbye to other intelligence which is a transitory part of our mortal bodies.

    All space is filled with element and all element, has life associated with it. (Discourses of Brigham Young, pg. 369)

    What’s the implication for living lives of holiness?

    The spirit body, unlike all mortal life so far as I know is allowed to exercise its agency in disobedience without instant or prompt justice. If we turn to the scriptures we find that the life of the spirit body was given a time for mortal probation.

    Lucifer, himself had been a Son of Light until his fall to darkness. That fall from spiritual light was substantially connected with the principle of agency.

    ([Spiritual] Intelligence or Zoe) is the combination of truth (things as they were, really are, and really will be) and spiritual light. Spiritual intelligence does not exist without spiritual light.

    Eternal physical laws govern the principle that a person’s righteousness determines the amount of spiritual light possessed by that person.

    As Christ some two millennia ago entered Jerusalem on what is now called Palm Sunday, the multitude of His disciples proclaimed Him to be “the King that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
    Some of these Pharisees said, “Master, rebuke thy disciples.” Jesus replied, If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out” (Luke 19:40)

    How could the stones possibly cry out? It is because of the life associated with every element. (D &C 88:13)

    We don’t have much about this but some concepts we do know: The degrees of glory are stages/states of enlightenment and not merely places or kingdoms and this light continues through the ages and into eternity.

    This is far too in depth for this topic right now but certainly can be expounded upon.
    All this is a subject for another discussion, but the point I want to make… God has the allegiance of most life, and therefore of most element, in a terrestrial, or celestial state.

    We know that Christ was the first fruits of the resurrection and He now inherited and jointly possesses, the Allegiance Due the Father! In other words, He is joint heirs with the Father! His instruction to us was to become even as he is! (Matt. 5:48; D &C 93:17, 3 Nephi 12:48)

    I have to cut this short because I ran out of juice, or rather, energy. This is the long term goal. There is a short term goal in mortality for living a life of holiness and having (zoe) which can serve well and become the fruit of the spirit that can save us! But know this, whatever measure of light we attain in this life will come with us into the next realm of being.

    Some additional references:
    Lectures on Faith
    (D &C 93:30-31, 36)
    3 Nephi 12:48
    Key to the Science of Theology, pages 45-48
    The Promised Messiah pg. 165
    Doctrinal New testament Commentary, Vol. 1, pages 239-240
    Isa. 57:15
    Hab. 1:12
    Isa. 29:23
    Isa. 45:11

    This not going to the blog but a side note to myself:
    I believe in some ways it is the bios [the way which one lives and occupies time] which may help bring about the zoe, which will save us.

    • Jim Siniscalchi said

      I was particularly struck by Nephi’s faith, obedience and how he responded: “If God had commanded me to do all things I could do them. If he should command me that I should say unto this water, be thou earth, it should be earth; and if I should say it, it would be done.

      “And now, if the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship?” (1 Nephi 17:50-51)

      Although the power of God called faith can operate independently and separately [there are many examples of this] from the priesthood. It can and does operate through the priesthood as well, which is another whole topic.

      It is the Oath & Covenant of the Priesthood that I would like to refer to (D& C 84). As we labor to bring souls to Christ, we are under covenant to do certain things. If we do those things, we bind the Lord (D&C 82:10) to do certain things as well. Also our [spiritual Body] is trapped within our mortal bodies and is subject to the consequences of that ([mortal body], no matter how much it knows or desires or is already on the right side of the law), such as, sickness, accidents, disease, depression, poor choices, physical weaknesses, etc… and must somehow learn to deal and work with the mortal body and the mortal body with the spiritual body.

      l am somewhat of a health conscientious person, and run, swim, bicycle, strength train, and I am into the martial arts, etc… taking as good care of myself physically, which helps me emotionally, and even spiritually. Now if I do not workout at all and do nothing to better myself or worse yet, I develop destructive habits, and fall into iniquity, it could very well cut short the spiritual body.

      The spiritual body is in many ways is subject to the earthly flesh. There must be some kind of a coming together or union to fully maximize this long-term marriage [it would seem that it must become as one; our bios and zoe with our spouses, in the Lord ]. There is action and inter-action going on.

      My point s no matter how much Christ died for us, spilt His blood for us, loves us, etc… He cannot save us (Eternal life that is) no matter how much we know it is because of His life that we become saved. We cannot just wish ourselves into the celestial kingdom based on His merits alone. Saved yes, but to what fate are we saved too, without the bios performing throughout its life, living life, loving, and becoming like Him, increasing in light to the point perhaps, where we may stand His presence or enough light in us that it may be made known to us and to Him that we can dwell with Him and where He is?

      After all, our spirit body will one day, become clothed with our mortal tabernacles of flesh and serve as a fit gloves for all eternity!
      When we understand the character of God, and know how to come to Him [(the bios) the way which one lives and occupies time], he begins to unfold the heavens to us, and to tell us all about it. When we are ready to come to him, he is ready to come to us. (History of the Church, 6:308.)

      • Jim Siniscalchi said

        Correction: come to Him (zoe & the bios). They have learned to work together in perfect harmony!

  4. Jim Siniscalchi said

    addt’l correction: come to Him (zoe & the bios). They have learned to work together and have become one in perfect harmony!
    I’m not sure how to delete and re-post.

  5. I have found Jim’s reflection’s and questions help force us to use our minds and expand our thinking & reasoning capacities, and at times, difficult for those of us not serious scholars in scripture study. Also, I may have been processing too much information at once and it garbled all up. I need to slow down and absorb information to fully get a full or better understanding. After all, Jim wrote an entire book based on Romans, 1, 5-8. Lesson learned.
    I hope for a change in myself? I haven’t finished reading Jim Faulconer’s book, “Life of Holiness”, but have read quite a bit and still pondering and reviewing his material. I came across another one of his books from the late nineties “Scripture Study” while looking through my storage for another book that I found. I will take a refresher in reading that too. For those that may be interested, the initial book that I had searched for and found was “The Power of God” by Mark A. Smith. I had taken many excerpts over the years from it, and had only my notes, but could not remember the book or its author until recently. Much of my information on Faith, God’s power, light, truth, and intelligence came from that excellent book.

    I’d like to make some further clarifications with the following:

    It is the Oath & Covenant of the Priesthood that I would like to refer to (D& C 84). As we labor to bring souls to Christ, we are under covenant to do certain things. If we do those things, we bind the Lord (D&C 82:10) to do certain things as well.

    Also our [spiritual Body] is trapped within our mortal bodies and is subject to the consequences of that ([mortal body], such as, poor choices, physical weaknesses, sin, etc… and must somehow learn to deal and work with the mortal body and the mortal body with the spiritual body- it’s called repentance.
    However, “A strong human spirit, with control over appetites of the flesh, is master over emotions, and not a slave to them. That kind of freedom is as vital to the spirit as oxygen is to the body.” -Elder Nelson

    This statement I made was a bit of resistance from something I read from JimF but found that I got it mixed up.
    [no matter how much it knows or desires or is already on the “ right side of the law”… I placed this on a different post],

    l am somewhat of a health conscientious person, and run, swim, bicycle, strength train, and I am into the martial arts, etc… taking as good care of myself physically, which helps me emotionally, and even spiritually. Now if I do not workout at all and do nothing to better myself or worse yet, I develop destructive habits, and fall into iniquity, it could very well cut short the spiritual body.

    The spiritual body in many ways is subject to the earthly flesh. There must be some kind of a coming together or union to fully maximize this long-term marriage [it would seem that it must become as one, our bios and zoe with our spouses, in the Lord]. There is action and inter-action going on. This being a goal, however, if one suffers from mental illness, depression, or other physical limitations, I believe God knows the hearts of his children and as our general authorities taught in this last conference. My point was merely to illustrate our spirit body is somewhat restricted, and the previous paragraph mainly applied to those in sin.
    “Stellar spirits are often housed in imperfect bodies. The gift of such a body can actually strengthen a family as parents and siblings willingly build their lives around that child born with special needs” -Elder Nelson

    My point is no matter how much Christ died for us, spilt His blood for us, loves us, etc… He cannot save us (Eternal life that is) no matter how much we know it is because of His life that we become saved. We cannot just wish ourselves into the celestial kingdom based on His merits alone. Saved yes, but to what fate are we saved too, without the bios performing throughout its life, living life, loving, and becoming like Him, increasing in light to the point perhaps, where we may stand His presence [I wonder if we need to be changed/transformed temporarily as opposed to a lasting enduring presence? Perhaps temporarily during judgment, before being sent to the glory we will ultimately inherit?] or their being enough light in us that it may be made known to us and to Him that we can dwell with Him and where He is [because he recognizes us by our works/light, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works,” but ultimately we are only saved by His grace and tender mercy]?
    [Also, this statement was never meant to suggest that Christ’s grace and mercy is not what saves us, it was just poorly worded. It was meant in some way, perhaps, he may recognizes us by the works we’d done, not that it will save us, presumably, we would be filled with light at least It would be my hope.]

    Although it is grace that saves us, I had felt that works are minimalized, yet, everything we do in this church requires works, service, callings, charity, home teaching, bishop’s storehouse, cannery, going to the temple (and for some this is even more work because of distance, just to name a few. In the end…”Grace Works.” Again, I stress, never meant to take the place of grace, just somehow recognized as His… I take this partly from… and by their fruits ye shall know them.

    I used a concept from Jim Faulconer perhaps he and others took notice. This general conference felt tailored to my own specific needs and challenges. It was almost as if someone wrote the talk thinking of me personally. My understanding has been going through a metamorphosis or transformation?

    Once converted, our spirit body will naturally want to be performing good works throughout its life.
    Jim’s exact quote was, “Presumably, if we partake in his zoe, then we will also live by his bios.” [pp.235]

    Living life, loving, and with it, and our physical body will follow suit; increasing in light becoming like Him, even He who sits on the right hand of the father… the Savior of the world, our Prophet, High Priest, and King.
    “And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son to the Father, being one God, suffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to the temptation, but suffereth himself to be mocked, and scourged, and cast out, and disowned by his people.” – Mosiah 15:5

    without the bios performing throughout its life, living life, loving, and becoming like Him, increasing in light to the point perhaps, where we may stand His presence or enough light in us that it may be made known to us and to Him that we can dwell with Him and where He is?

    Correction: come to Him (zoe & the bios). They have learned to work together and have become one in perfect harmony [the repentant soul]!
    Another point I may have been trying to convey was right under my nose but had not read it in time: “We do the will of the Father as well as our will, for they have become the same –our relation to him can be fruitfully compared to slavery, in which one does the will of another.” [pp.322 The Life of Holiness]

    This has been an enjoyable process and an awesome blog, but I will now focus more on my scripture study and less writing for a time, we will see how that goes.

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