h Home h Christology Study  h Wholeness Study  h Spirituality Study  h Essay on Spirituality h Discipleship Study               h Worship Perspectives h Worship Songs  h About Us  h  DISCiple Explained  h Contact Us h

The Whole of Paul & the Whole in His Theology
Theological Interpretation in Relational Epistemic Process

Paul Study

Section II   Paul and Theology                                              printer friendly pdf version of entire study

Chapter 6    Paul's Theological Systemic Framework



Cosmology and God
Anthropology and God
     The Roots
The Heart
The Function
Theology of Wholeness


Table of Contents

Scripture Index



It is God who has made us for this very purpose….

                                                                                                                2 Cor 5:5, NIV




            As a supplement to the statement about human nature from neuroscience introducing Paul’s theology, I turn to physics for the following statement on the current state of human knowledge:



Despite all we have learned in physics—from properties of faraway galaxies to the deep internal structure of the protons and neutrons that make up an atomic nucleus—we still face vexing mysteries…. We know, for example, that all the types of matter we see, that constitute our ordinary existence, are a mere fraction—20%—of the matter in the universe. The remaining 80% apparently is mysterious “dark matter”; though it is all around us, its existence is inferred only via its gravitational pull on visible matter.[1]



            Written in response to the successful test run at the end of 2009 of the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, physicist Steve Giddings is optimistic about the prospects of human knowledge being illuminated by the LHC. He adds rather hopefully:



We should ponder what the value of the LHC could be to the human race. If it performs as anticipated, it will be the cutting edge for years to come in a quest that dates to the ancient Greeks and beyond—to understand what our world is made of, how it came to be and what will become of it. This grand odyssey gives us a chance to rise above the mundane aspects of our lives, and our differences, conflicts and crises, and try to understand where we, as a species, fit in a wondrous universe that seems beyond comprehension, yet is remarkably comprehensible.



            Giddings is hopeful that the vexing mysteries facing human knowledge will be explained if the LHC performs the following: to produce dark-matter particles whose properties can be studied directly and thereby unveil a totally new face of the universe; to shed light on the more prominent “dark energy”, which is causing the universe’s expansion to accelerate, ultimately resulting in fragmenting the universe; to lead to the discovery of the Higgs particle—that others have called the God particle—whose existence is postulated to explain why some matter (notably our bodies) has mass, that is, without which our bodies would not be held together to exist; to reveal extra dimensions of space beyond the three which we see; and to possible discoveries of new forces of nature.

            If Paul were walking in this context today, he would seize the opportunity to enter this conversation—just as he did in Athens when he addressed the vexing mystery of human knowledge facing the Athenians at the Areopagus (Acts 17:16-34). And the light Paul shared to illuminate the gap (dark matter) of human knowledge for the Epicurean (a likely forerunner to physics, tending at best, if at all, to deism) and Stoic (religious materialism which was pantheistic) philosophers would not be an anachronism in the halls of modern science because Paul was addressing the same epistemological and hermeneutic issues. Giddings’ estimate of “20%” of the matter known to humans, of course, is part of his optimism, which is inferred at best by an educated guess. Yet this guesstimate is based on perceiving the universe through the lens of a quantitative interpretive framework from modernism; and this also perceives the same human species in enlarged context yet still from outer in (jointly with neuroscience), and likewise constructs human knowledge from the bottom up (comparable to the tower of Babel, Gen 11:1-4). All of this engages in a process of reductionism, the bias of which is ignored apart from the presence of the whole and thus without the benefit of its illumination. This is a critical process to grasp. The biases of reductionism unify into our mindsets (phroneo), which formalize into worldviews (phronema). At this level of development, these perspectives dominate or control our perceptions and thinking, just as a modernist framework has since the Enlightenment. Thomas Kuhn demonstrated how these form paradigms to shape our perceptions, the influence and bias of which direct even those who formulate scientific theories and models.[2]

            Paul would have felt right at home today in these critical issues of cosmology, anthropology and epistemology. No doubt he would be saddened by how little has changed in these issues and by how much reductionism prevails. Nevertheless, this was the whole of Paul’s relational responsibility (oikonomia) and the functional purpose of the whole in his theology, which urgently continues in compelling relevance for today: to pleroo the word of God’s revelation and to illuminate the mystery of the pleroma of God—God’s whole only from top down. This is the definitive whole in Paul’s theology which sheds light on the mysterious “dark matter” necessary to meet the same inherent human need and problem, both defined from outer in and hoped for from bottom up by neuroscience and physics.

            When Paul highlighted the Athenians’ “unknown god” (Acts 17:23), he went beyond contextualizing the gospel in their culture. This opened the door to their worldview to address their epistemological gap (agnostos) and the related hermeneutic blind spot (agnoeo) in their perceptual-interpretive lens. Paul challenged the framework of their worldview with the whole (top down, inner out, 17:24-30) necessary for epistemological clarification and hermeneutic correction—just as tamiym functioned and the pleroma of God revealed for Paul. Moreover, in this decisive challenge Paul points to the implied yet definitive framework of his theological discourse.

            Paul’s theology did not have a systematic quantity that could be collated for systematic information about God. Likewise, a systematic format to his theological discourse is nonexistent in his letters. I will assert, however, there is a systemic quality to his theology which signifies the systemic framework for the whole in his theology. It is this systemic framework that is necessary in order to understand the coherence of Paul’s thought in his letters and to grasp this whole at the heart of his theology.

            His theological systemic framework is rooted in revelation initiated by God and thus based on whole knowledge from top down in the relational epistemic process, not on fragmented knowledge constructed from bottom up in, at best, a limited epistemic process. It was from this systemic framework that Paul addressed the Athenians definitively about epistemology, cosmology, theological cognition and anthropology, their nature and qualitative-relational significance, and the good news which sheds the Light on their unknown—which otherwise would remain mysterious dark matter without it. The outcome from this systemic framework in Paul’s theological discourse made conclusive the theology of wholeness, without which the human species will remain reduced and fragmented, unable to realize their ontology in God’s relational whole from top down, inner out.




Cosmology and God



            Paul’s address in the midst of the Areopagus challenged the assumptions of the Athenians’ epistemology and their view of the kosmos. He also affirmed part of their knowledge (acknowledging an unknown god), yet Paul strongly implied the insufficiency of their epistemic process in not pursing this course of knowledge further in the kosmos. This implication is understood by the theological clarity Paul made definitive elsewhere.

            Paul provided the theological clarity for the gospel in Romans to be integrated with the gospel’s functional clarity he made definitive in Galatians. In the beginning of this theological dialogue Paul focuses on the physical world and the knowledge to be gained from it. That is, beyond limited observation there is an epistemic dynamic to the universe which involves a communication dimension that observers need to interact with for further understanding (Rom 1:19-20, cf. Ps 19:1-6). The communication dimension is signified in the use of phaneroo (“God had shown…” Rom 1:19) to focus not just on what is revealed (apokalypto) but also to whom it is revealed. Yet, in spite of the communicative dimension of phaneroo, this epistemic process cannot be engaged with a limited quantitative lens, which by its nature limits how much or far can be grasped. These are limits both to the very quantitative matter observed and in the quantitative perceptual-interpretive framework assumed by the observer to interpret the matter observed. Going beyond these limits, deeper in this epistemic process, must also include the qualitative aspect of the physical world and natural forces—engaging even beyond the new forces of nature that Giddings hopes for.

            The epistemic dynamic to the universe reveals also its systemic quality, as it links the communicative dimension to the source intrinsic to and integral for the quantitative with all else that exists (cf. Paul’s address, Acts 17:27-28). It is this source’s qualitative systemic framework by which all things hold together (cf. Col 1:17). The qualitative communicative dimension of the epistemic dynamic to the universe can be responded to, ignored, rejected or denied—which has less to do with what can be observed than how it is observed, namely by the predisposed or biased lens of the observer embedded in a quantitative perceptual-interpretive framework.[3] The implications directly affect the extent and depth of human knowledge, ranging from the universe to the human person, including theological cognition. Paul deeply explained what those implications were.

            The primary implication involves the source intrinsic to and integral for the universe and nature. For Paul, discourse on the kosmos is neither an end in itself merely to expand human knowledge nor a means to feed human interests. To Giddings’ credit as a physicist in anticipation of new discoveries, he points beyond the scientific enterprise to a bigger picture for the meaning and purpose of humankind in the whole of life. In Paul’s systemic framework the big picture is a qualitative issue involving the communicative dimension of the kosmos, which by necessity must be engaged for further knowledge and deeper understanding, that is, whole knowledge and understanding. As noted previously, Paul’s cosmology illuminates the epistemic dynamic to the universe as distinctly relational, in which the intrinsic and integral source is revealed. Thus, his discourse on the kosmos is only a theological function both of the relational epistemic process to this source and of the relational means made accessible by the creator: “what can be known about God is plain…invisible [qualities] though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made” (Rom 1:19-20). This was not a basic revelation (apokalypto) of informational knowledge about God, but only the relational disclosure (phaneroo) for knowing God in the primacy of relationship together. That is to say, God is revealed in this relational process only for the purpose of relationship together—the relational outcome which is irreducible and nonnegotiable (1:21,25, cf. Acts 17:27). Moreover, since relationship together is not unilateral but reciprocal, not responding is inexcusable (1:20, cf. Acts 17:30) and the relational consequence is inescapable (1:24,26,28; Acts 17:31).

            What Paul clearly placed in juxtaposition, and thus in dynamic tension and conflict, signified the critical distinction between an anthropocentric model of the universe and a theocentric model. Paul’s cosmology was unmistakably not of his own shaping or construction, nor defined by surrounding worldviews and mythology in his day. Distinguished from these sources, his cosmology was theological discourse from top down, thus based on God’s revelation with early roots in Judaism (e.g., Ps 19:1-6). Yet his cosmological reflection went further and deeper than Judaism’s theology to involve the whole of God and the systemic framework of God’s thematic relational action. The universe was the work of the Creator alone, who is not the God of deism. God’s creative work is always relational work, which signifies the relational ontology of the whole of the Creator. It is this relational God who is revealed to creation only for relationship together, and whose likeness is created in the human person for relationships together to be whole. The relational work of the whole of the Creator was the functional purpose of Paul’s cosmology; this was how he made known the unknown for the Athenians. Thus, his cosmology also was not about natural theology.

            In his most detailed cosmology, signifying Paul’s further theological development (Col 1:15-20), Paul definitively identified the presence of Christ both before and during creation, directly involved as Creator. This was not just to establish Christ’s preexistence but to constitute the whole of the Creator, and, moreover, to illuminate the whole knowledge and understanding of the deepening relational involvement of God (cf. Eph 4:9-10). Paul’s definitive discourse about the pleroma of God indicated his whole knowledge and understanding based on Gods relational involvement with him by both further revelation from Jesus (Acts 26:16) and the mind of Christ from the Spirit (1 Cor 2:16). This whole knowledge and understanding constituted his theological discourse on the systemic quality and the relational epistemic dynamic in the kosmos, that is, conclusive discourse on the qualitative being and relational nature of Creator-God; this is the whole of God whom Christ vulnerably embodied to also make known and accessible  for direct involvement in relationship together. In Paul’s theological discourse God’s being and nature together is signified by “the glory of God,” initially in creation (Rom 1:23) and ultimately in the face of Christ (2 Cor 4:6). In creation a quantitative breadth of God’s glory is revealed within the systemic framework of the qualitative whole of God’s being and nature. In the incarnation the qualitative depth of God’s glory is revealed by the relationally embodied whole of God—embodying, that is, the qualitative heart of God’s being from inner out and the relational nature of God’s vulnerable involvement from top down. This is the qualitative being and relational nature of God that Paul revealed to the Athenians (Acts 17:24-25, 29).

            Paul’s cosmology is based on these revelations and thus relationally rooted deeply in the whole of God. Therefore, his cosmology is simply theological discourse for the sole purpose to definitively illuminate: the systemic framework of God’s qualitative whole from top down constituting all life and function only on God’s relational terms, that is, for the relationships together necessary to be whole in the image and likeness of the pleroma of God (cf. Acts 17:28-31; 2 Cor 3:18; Col 2:9-10; 3:10-11).

            A corollary implication to the knowledge of God involves how God is perceived and his function is interpreted. Paul not only challenged the theological cognition of the Athenians and his readers but also their epistemic process used to that end. As this was addressed by Paul, his conjoint fight for the whole gospel and against reductionism becomes even more decisive. Moreover, by its nature this implication interacted with the counterpart implication for how the human person is perceived and human function is interpreted.

            Knowledge about God shaped or constructed by human contextualization is no longer excusable, even with the best of intentions (Rom 1:20; Acts 17:30). Paul was unequivocal about the communicative dimension in the kosmos: “For what can be known about God is plain [phaneros, manifest, open, public] to them, because God has shown them [phaneroo, not merely apokalypto]” (Rom 1:19). What God has revealed is irreducible and thus not subject to reshaping, reconstruction (or deconstruction), any other revision or substitute from bottom up as well as outer in. Yet this was how the Athenians perceived God and interpreted how God functioned evidenced in Paul’s critique of their practice: “God…does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is served by human hands…an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals” (Acts 17:24-25, 29). These were reductions and substitutes of God which fragmented the whole of God, thus keeping God in the mysterious unknown and embedding them in the human relational condition disconnected from God’s whole. Likewise, human persons in general functioned in this reductionism with their substitutes: “for though they had knowledge about God, they did not relationally respond to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise…they reduced and substituted the glory [qualitative being and relational nature] of the irreducible God for images shaped or constructed by a mortal human being…they substituted the truth about God for a reductionism based on human terms functioning in the bottom up and outer in of the creature rather than the top down, inner out of the whole of the Creator” (Rom 1:21-24, 25, italics inserted[4]).

            The truth referenced here by Paul was not about propositional truths to give certainty to knowledge but about the truth which constitutes reality (the kosmos)—that is, truth having significance and meaning. For this truth of reality to have significance and meaning to humankind, it ultimately must be about more than knowledge, which is limited to its cognition, becomes just an end in itself without further significance and meaning (cf. Paul’s polemic in 1 Cor 8:1, discussed previously in chap. 3). Most importantly, the truth of reality involves being deeply about relationships and life together, thus it is experiential truth (cf. Eph 3:19). God’s revelations within the systemic framework of the whole of God’s creative and communicative action are about this truth constituting the whole of life and function—that is, the relational truth to experience together to be whole. This whole of life and function also signify the function of wisdom (hokmah, sophia), which is the relational means to understand the whole and to illuminate its source, the whole of God (as discussed in chap. 1). The integrity of this wisdom was established by the Creator antecedent to the kosmos (personified in Prov 8:22-26); and on the basis of its validity wisdom’s function with the Creator crafted (‘amon) the intrinsic qualitative wholeness of the world and of humankind (Prov 8:27-31, cf. 3:19-20). Paul would have been aware from Judaism of this revelation about wisdom, and gives further theological clarity to its function to understand God and God’s whole (cf. Eph 1:17). Wisdom and truth—which the above persons claimed to have (“to be sophos,” Rom 1:22), and for which they substituted (1:25)—are integral to God and thus inseparably integrated in the systemic quality of God’s relational whole. While implicitly interacting with wisdom, then, it is this relational truth of God and God’s relational whole which Paul illuminated in his cosmology to expose human function: (1) that prevented (suppressed, interfered, delayed, katecho, 1:18) seeing, hearing, receiving and responding to this truth for relationship together; and (2) that substituted (exchanged, converted, metallasso, 1:25) the relational significance and qualitative meaning of the whole of this truth from God with mere quantitative alternatives from bottom up and outer in. There was no function of wisdom that could be claimed by these human efforts, that is, neither understanding of the whole nor meaning to be whole.

            Paul exposed the underlying issue of these persons described above with the clarity of his theological discourse fighting for the whole gospel, which then necessarily also amplified his fight to confront how they indeed functioned as inexcusable (1:20) and inescapable of accountability (1:24a, 26a, 28; Acts 17:30-31). In other words, these human persons engaged the reductionism of sin, functioning in the sin of reductionism by reshaping, reconstructing or redefining the qualitative whole of Creator-God, as well as the whole of human persons from inner out created in God’s likeness. Thus, they made substitutes by human shaping, construction and terms from bottom up which function in counter-relational work/practices from outer in—often signifying the ontological simulation and epistemological illusion of prevailing alternatives from reductionism, as Paul theologically clarified in the rest of Romans.

            The kosmos communicates the knowledge and truth of God only for relationship in life together. Therefore, Paul’s cosmology also integrates the gospel in the qualitative systemic framework of the whole of God’s creative and communicative action, which is always in relational response to the inherent human need and problem. His theological discourse is also unequivocal about the relational outcome in response to God’s terms from top down and the relational consequence of acting on human terms from bottom up, and unequivocal about their implications directly affecting the extent and depth of human knowledge and understanding. How God is perceived and how God’s function is interpreted are critical to this epistemic process. Is God seen (if at all) in quantitative terms from outer in, thus only with a fragmented perception and function, then further conceived from bottom up? Or is God seen qualitatively from inner out, thus who is perceived whole and whose function is whole, based only on revelation from top down? The functional implication for the latter is the Creator-God who is relationally involved, or for the former, a vague deity (if only) without relational significance and an unexplained human origin without relational meaning; either creation inherently rooted in relationship, or unknown existence and mysterious dark matter in need of relational connection. Its outcome or consequence is both epistemological and relational.

            Just as Paul demonstrated to the Athenians, the process to deeper knowledge and understanding necessitates first confronting the influence of reductionism in a secondary epistemic dynamic of deconstruction and reconstruction. This secondary epistemic dynamic is conjoined with its counterpart, the primary epistemic dynamic of the universe, in order to vulnerably engage the relational epistemic process for whole knowledge and understanding. As Paul did this for them, and continues to do this for his readers, his theological discourse made definitive the systemic framework within which the relational dynamic of all life is enacted, engaged and thus makes whole, nothing less and no substitutes.

            This also directly involves and ongoingly interacts with the major implication for how the human person is perceived and human function is interpreted, which include the epistemic-hermeneutic issues affecting knowledge and understanding of human life.




Anthropology and God



            Neuroscience has further uncovered that the human species was never self-autonomous or self-determined. What this research, along with many other sources, also reinforces is a human self-consciousness that throughout human history has overestimated its self, and thus that has both misplaced the inherent human need in the scope of self-interests and misguided human efforts to meet this need with the priority of self-concerns. The self (present in individual-oriented settings and collective-oriented contexts) at the center of this process is based on a limited perception of the human person and a secondary interpretation of human function. These reductionist-based assumptions were challenged by Paul, whose theological anthropology continues to challenge such assumptions of the human condition today—not to mention challenging the assumptions of all his readers.

            Perception of the human person is contingent epistemologically on the extent and depth of knowledge about God. Interpretation of human function involves a hermeneutic dependence on how God is perceived and God’s function is interpreted. These epistemic and hermeneutic interactions need to be accounted for both in the perception and interpretation of human life, whether on the macro level (e.g., in physics) or on the micro level (e.g., in neuroscience), and most notably in theological anthropology. This all converges in the systemic framework of Paul’s theology, thus his theological systemic framework is critically necessary for whole knowledge and understanding of anthropology. This makes definitive in Paul’s theological anthropology the roots, the heart and the function of all persons of humankind, both individually and collectively.


The Roots


            When Paul revealed the unknown God to the Athenians, he challenged the assumptions of their theological cognition and their interpretation of how God functions (Acts 17:24-27, 29). This also involved challenging their assumptions about the human person. Their quantitative  perception of God in outer-in terms reflected their perception of the human person defined from the outer in by what they do: “God…does not live in shrines made by human hands,” nor “that the deity is like…an [quantitative] image formed by the [outer-in doings] of mortals.” Furthermore, God does not function on the basis of outer-in doings merely on quantitative terms for a quantitative purpose, which thus should not determine how humans function: the qualitative God is not “served by human hands, as though he needed anything” (perhaps Paul had Psalms 40:6 and 50:8-12 in the back of his mind). The term “serve” (therapeuo, 17:25) means to wait upon, minister to, or to serve as a therapon (servant, attendant, minister). Yet, a therapon needs to be distinguished from a common or domestic servant (oiketes) and a servant-slave (doulos). Therapon denotes a faithful friend to a superior, thus one who is relationally involved with the superior and responds to the desires and concerns of that person. Yet Paul is revealing that God is not therapeuo by a human person defined from the outer in of what one does or has. This exposes the influence of reductionism defining persons by their outer-in doing, which, for Paul, was not the function of a therapon, no matter how dedicated in therapeuo. In this, Paul critically revealed the qualitative God functioning from inner out who, therefore, is therapeuo by only a therapon whose relational involvement as a faithful friend defines a qualitative person functioning from inner out.         Paul was making the connections in his theological systemic framework which interact to make definitive the whole person in the relationships necessary to be whole. In this process he also necessarily exposed that which reduces and fragments God, the kosmos and the human person, and also redefines, reconfigures or simply disconnects their relationships with each other. Paul’s theological systemic framework illuminated the whole, the presence of which is needed to expose reductionism.

            The roots of the human person go back into the kosmos, and the source of both of them originated with the creative work of God. These connections interact in an integrated process: the relational action of the qualitative God constituted the systemic framework only from which all life and function in general emerged, and only within which all human life and function in particular have understanding and meaning. Human roots, then, only unfolded in the kosmos and must go back beyond the kosmos for the qualitative depth of understanding and meaning of the human person. These are the roots necessary to grasp Paul’s theological anthropology.

            In the process of making known the unknown for the Athenians, Paul made the above connections to provide the basic perception of the human person and the hermeneutic key to human function: In Creator-God “we have our being” (human ontology) and “we live and move” (human function, Acts 17:28). Yet, human ontology and function more than originate from God; they are also “in God,” that is, in God’s image and likeness as “God’s offspring” (genos, kind, family, 17:29). Paul used a metaphor likely taken from their ancient mythology (“your own poets,” 17:28), but not merely to illustrate a point. Being and function as God’s offspring are the integral roots conjointly defining who/what the human person is and determining how the person functions, which are contingent on how God and God’s function are perceived. This emerges from the whole of God’s systemic framework, within which the kosmos and the human person are integrated with God’s whole (cf. Rom 8:19).

            Paul expands his discourse to make more definitive these integral roots for the human person, function and relationships necessary to be God’s whole. In later theological reflection on the redemptive dynamics of the human person from reductionism (Col 3:1-10), Paul defined the ongoing functional tension between the outer-in person in reduced ontology of “the old self” (3:9), and the inner-out person in whole ontology of “the new self” (3:10). This new person being restored to one’s original condition (anakainoo) of ontology and function—defined into (eis) the specific knowledge (epignosis) of and determined by (kata) the image of one’s Creator (3:10). The human person’s ontology and function in the image of the Creator interacts directly with Paul’s cosmology revealing that Christ the Creator “is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15). This connection within Paul’s theological systemic framework makes definitive two vital matters:



1.   It sets in motion Paul’s complete Christology of the embodied “pleroma of God” (Col 1:19) “who is the image of God” vulnerably revealing the whole of God “in the face of Jesus Christ” for relationship together (2 Cor 4:4b-6; Col 1:20).


2.   The face of Christ embodying the image of God also vulnerably demonstrates in his whole person throughout the incarnation the qualitative and relational significance of human ontology and function necessary to be God’s whole family—which Paul clarified theologically (Rom 8:29) and also prayed for (Eph 3:14-19), both congruent with Jesus’ prayer (Jn 17:16-26).



            What, then, was the original human ontology and function, what of its roots unfolded in the kosmos, and what is being restored to its original condition? Human roots were the creative work of the whole of the Creator, the unknown face of whom is constituted by Christ as Creator (Col 1:16), by Christ as God (Col 1:19; 2 Cor 4:6) and by Christ as Son (Rom 4:4, cf. Jn 1:18). The whole of the Creator is vital to human roots because: (1) the human person was created in the qualitative image of the whole Creator, that is, whole from inner out, neither fragmenting the quantitative from the qualitative nor minimalizing the quantitative; and (2) human function was created in the likeness signified by the relational ontology of the whole of God (defined in the creation narrative, Gen 1:26-27), that is, in the relationships together necessary to be God’s whole—namely, as Jesus vulnerably revealed with the Father (Jn 5:19-20; 14:9-11), and for which he intimately prayed to the Father (Jn 17:21-23). Therefore, imago Dei was at the heart of Paul’s theological anthropology, which he illuminated in its original condition, its renegotiated condition to human terms, and its restored condition in Christ. Yet, for Paul, imago Dei was not a theological concept or construction but, by its nature, only the experiential truth of the whole of God’s ontology and function in its full relational significance, without renegotiation and reduction.

            The creation narrative was a familiar antecedent from Judaism for Paul. Creation of human life was integrated with Paul’s cosmology within his systemic framework constituted by God. The relational roots, inherent in imago Dei, constituting human ontology and function were signified further in this creation account from God (Gen 2:18). In this last account, God said “It is not good that man should be alone.” The Hebrew term (bad) rendered “to be alone” can also be rendered “to be apart.” The latter rendering more closely involves being detached from some whole, giving a greater sense of relationship and not being connected to others to be whole. This nuance is significant because for Adam the issue was not just the secondary matter of having no one to share space with, no one to keep him company or to do the work. “To be apart” is not just a situational condition, as “to be alone” tends to be perceived, but most importantly a relational condition. Therefore, the significance of Eve was neither for the importance of male-female relationships nor for the primacy of marriage relationship. This relationship was created by the whole of the Creator only for all human function in likeness to the relational ontology of the whole of God. With the creation of whole persons in the image of the whole Creator integrated with this relationship together necessary to be God’s whole, the roots of the original human ontology and function were completed for all human persons to be the offspring of God.

            Then, reductionism challenged the whole: reducing the whole person (from inner out signified by the qualitative function of the heart) to a “self-autonomous-and-determined” person defined from outer in by the quantitative function of what one does and has, and thus fragmenting human persons and function “to be apart” from the whole constituting the original condition of ontology and function (Gen 3:1-7, cf. 2 Cor 11:3). These are the “human roots unfolded in the kosmos”.

            Paul gave theological clarity to these roots of human ontology and function for the qualitative image and relational likeness necessary for wholeness in theological anthropology and its practice with God, within the church and in the world. By the nature of his conjoint fight for the whole gospel and against reductionism, Paul’s theological discourse characteristically illuminates the whole in tension or conflict with reductionism. He put into juxtaposition “the earthly tent we live in” with “a building from God” (2 Cor 5:1-4). Paul used this imagery and metaphor to describe the human person and function in whole or reductionist terms; and this has direct implications for the inherent human condition and the good news to meet this human need. The interrelated dynamics are important to understand for human roots.

            “The tent” (skenon, or shelter, dwelling) the human person “lives in” (oikia, a house without its contents, 5:1) is just the outer structure built from bottom up; this signifies a quantitative definition of the person reduced to outer in (without one’s inner significance), who functions essentially self-determined in the quantitative course of life (bios). In contrast is “a building from God, not a house made with hands” (i.e., human hands from bottom up, acheiropoietos, 5:1), for a full qualitative dwelling from top down (“eternal in the heavens,” 5:1). While Paul’s imagery has an eschatological sense of ‘not yet’, this ‘already’ signifies the qualitative definition of the person from inner out, that is, “from God” constituting the whole person “from out of” (ek) the image and likeness of God, and thus who functions immersed (katapino, “swallowed up) in the qualitative significance of life (zoe, 5:4). The tension between quantitative bios and qualitative zoe frames the conflict of the reduced human person of outer in versus the whole person of inner out. When Paul applied his theological anthropology to the present context of his own life, he was unmistakably clear that this conflict is between the quantity of human ontology from outer in (“those who boast in outward appearance,” 5:12) and the quality of human ontology from inner out (“in the heart”).

            The relational consequence, on the one hand, is the human relational condition “to be apart,” and thus to be further reduced, fragmented—“to be found naked…to be unclothed” (5:3,4, cf. Gen 3:7) as persons without qualitative meaning and relational significance. On the other hand, the relational outcome is the relational connection together to be whole (“clothed with our heavenly dwelling,” 5:4) in human ontology “from out of” the qualitative image of the whole Creator and in human function “from out of” the relational likeness of the whole of God (cf. 2 Cor 3:18; Col 3:10). For Paul’s life ‘already’ in the present, this involved the ongoing function in the qualitative significance of relationship (“we walk by faith,” 5:7) as opposed to a reductionist function with a quantitative lens (“not by sight”).

            Paul’s theological anthropology makes transparent that all human persons with roots unfolded in the kosmos “groan” (sigh, grumble, stenazo, 5:2,4) in the inherent human need and condition—a groan which neuroscience also identifies in human brain activity—and they “long for” (desire earnestly, crave, epipotheo) to be whole in the relationships together constituting the qualitative zoe of God’s whole family. Moreover, in God’s systemic framework all of creation groans to be whole with God’s offspring, family (Rom 8:19-22). Longing for wholeness and fulfillment of the inherent human relational need are ontological-functional givens for Paul and intuitive for human persons in his theological anthropology. His basis was that the whole of Creator-God has made (katergazomai, to bring about) human persons for this very wholeness in zoe together, which includes the Spirit’s involvement (2 Cor 5:5). This points to the good news for all human persons and for restoration of human ontology and function to their created condition in the qualitative image and relational likeness of the whole of God (cf. 3:18). This whole gospel was the experiential truth ‘already’ for Paul, whose person and function were no longer defined in quantitative terms from outer in nor determined by what he did and had: “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view (according to the flesh, reduced to outer in); even though we once knew (perceived) Christ from a human point of view (in quantitative terms only from outer in), we know him no longer in that way” (5:16, cf. 10:7, 10). Why, how? Because ‘in Christ’, who is the image of the whole Creator (2 Cor 4:4b; Col 1:15) and the pleroma of God (Col 1:19), the original condition of human ontology and function have been recreated from reductionism and restored to wholeness (Col 2:9-10). Thus “in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old in reductionism has been redemptively changed and made whole; see, everything has become new” (2 Cor 5:17, italics inserted, cf. Col 3:10).

            This qualitative new person from inner out, however, still has functional issues in the relational process to wholeness ‘in Christ’, as Paul clarified in his theological anthropology (Col 3:1-11). While the redemptive change to whole ontology and function has begun unequivocally, the ongoing presence of reductionism and its counter-relational work also remain a competing substitute for the human person and function. What Paul clarifies for human ontology and function ‘in Christ’ is that this is not a static condition but rather a dynamic relational condition necessitating reciprocal relational involvement together in the relational context and process of the whole of God: “seek from inner out, not outer in the things that are above—the qualitative of God’s relational context and process, where Christ is present for relational involvement together]. “Set your minds, the lens of your new mindset, [phroneo] on things qualitative from inner out…for your reduced person has died, and the zoe of you as a whole person is hidden [krypto, i.e., intimately involved] with Christ in relationship together participating in the zoe of the whole of God” (3:1-3, italics inserted).

            These functions of wholeness necessitate further relational actions to confront the substitutes from reductionism which diminish and minimalize the whole person and function necessary in the relationships together to be whole, God’s whole family: “do not focus your lens on things reduced to outer in…. Put to death, therefore, whatever parts [melos] in you are reductionist or engaging the sin of reductionism…. These are the ways in human contextualization you also once followed, when you defined your person and function in relationships from outer in with the lens of quantitative bios (3:2b, 5-7). …But now you must get rid of all such reductionism in how you define your person and functions in relationships (3:8) Thus, do not lie by presenting your person in reductionist terms from outer in to represent your whole person [pseudo] to one another keeping distance in your relationships together, seeing that you have stripped off the old reduced person with its fragmented ontology and counter-relational practices and have defined your persons and determined your function with the new whole person who is being renewed—that is,  restored to the person’s original condition [anakainoo] and defined into (eis) the specific knowledge (epignosis) of and determined by (kata) the image of the whole and relational Creator (3:9-10). Therefore, in that restoration to whole ontology and function there is no longer persons defined from outer in embedded in stratified relationships based on what they do and have because Christ the whole Creator, the pleroma of God is all in the whole [pasin], that is, Christ defined the whole and determines the function to be whole 3:11, italics inserted, cf. Gal 3:26-28). Moreover, the functions to be whole cannot be reduced to the mere practice of Christian ethics, as Paul’s readers tend to do with his interpretation of human function.

            In clarifying these human roots, Paul was not advocating a dualistic ontology to function either in a moral spirituality and otherworldliness, or in the worldliness of the flesh (a misreading of Rom 8:1-15). Paul was only focused on the reciprocal process of redemptive change for human persons (both old and even new needing further change) to be restored to whole ontology and function—nothing less and no substitutes from reductionism (cf. Rom 12:1-2). The tension and conflict with reductionism are ongoing; and reductionism’s influence and counter-relational work prevail in the human roots unfolded in the kosmos—continuing its influence on defining human ontology and determining human function in one way or another (cf. 2 Cor 11:13-15), unless counteracted by God’s whole, “so that what is reduced [mortal, thnetos] may be swallowed up by zoe” (2 Cor 5:4). Without qualitative relational action on these functional issues, which Paul made unmistakable in his theological anthropology, restoring human persons and function to God’s whole is frustrated and an ongoing struggle with reductionism. This ongoing issue made theological anthropology critical in Paul’s theology, the basis of which Paul never assumed for his readers and thus always addressed with them. Moreover, Paul ongoingly challenged their assumptions on theological anthropology in order for human ontology and function to be whole.

            Paul made this further definitive for the church to be whole in its own ontology and function as God’s family (Eph 4:11-16). As he described various functions in the church, Paul clearly defined them as a relational outcome from Christ (“he gave,” 4:11). These functions, then, by their whole nature ‘in Christ’ must not be used to define those persons by what they have (“gifts”) and do (roles as “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers,” etc.). If they defined themselves in those ways, they would enact two critical reductionist practices: (1) reduce their person to outer in, and (2) renegotiate to their terms the relational function and the whole purpose Christ gave them. These reductionist practices essentially render these persons less than whole, and thus they would be incapable of fulfilling their function for the church to be whole as the whole of God’s family embodied by Christ (cf. 1:23)—no matter how gifted they were or how dedicated they performed their roles. What is that function and purpose?

            Paul condensed their function and purpose in the phrase “to equip the saints” (4:12), the significance of which has been redefined by Paul’s readers and renegotiated by church leaders ever since. The term for “equip” (katartismos from katartizo) is used only here and can mean either to restore to former condition, to put in order by making complete, or simply to equip, train, prepare. The latter has only secondary meaning, which to Paul had no significance without the former. For Paul, katartismos was only a function of anakainos (being restored to the human person’s original condition, Col 3:9), and it is only this new whole person who can fulfill Christ’s purpose to help restore God’s children to be whole and to live whole “for building up the body of Christ, until all of us function in the relationships together to be teleios [complete, whole to the full extent] of the pleroma of Christ, the whole of God, as God’s whole family” (4:12-13, italics inserted, cf. 1:23).

            Nothing less and no substitutes of the whole ontology and function of both church leadership and church membership can be sufficient for his church to “grow up” (auxano, in Greek subjunctive mood to indicate contingency and merely potential, 4:15). This ontology and function are irreducible and nonnegotiable for any church to be whole, regardless of its situations and circumstances; and Paul challenged any other assumptions about the person and church. Therefore, only whole persons defined from inner out in the qualitative image of God, whose relational function in relationships together is in likeness of the whole of God, can meet this contingency and realize this potential: to “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into the whole of Christ, from whom the whole body [church family] is relationally involved and bonded together by every person made whole from inner out, that is, as each whole person functions whole in the relationships necessary together for the church family’s growth in building itself up in love” (4:15-16, italics inserted). This is the only function and purpose that the whole of Christ gave for his family to be whole. Anything less and any substitutes in the church are ontological simulations and epistemological illusions of wholeness from reductionism.

            These are the necessary roots of the ecclesiology of the whole of God’s family, relationally embodied only by persons of whole ontology (in the image of God embodied by Christ) who are vulnerably involved in the qualitative function of relationships together; that is to say, nonnegotiable function only in likeness of the relational ontology of the whole of God which Christ relationally embodied for his church to live whole together and to make whole in the world (discussed further in chaps. 9 and 10). These are the original human roots created by the whole Creator, whose thematic relational action constituted the qualitative systemic framework integrating the kosmos and all human life. This is the significance of Paul’s systemic framework, by which he made definitive in his theological anthropology these roots as well as the heart and the function of all persons of humankind, both individually and collectively, old and new.



The Heart


            In Judaism, Paul had already been introduced to the importance of the heart (leb, e.g., Deut 6:4; 10:16; 11:13). Yet, Paul had not understood this importance for the ontology either of Israel as God’s people or of his own person. He had not grasped the integrating function of the heart for the person (cf. Prov 4:23; 14:30; 27:19) until his own heart was exposed on the Damascus road, now vulnerable in relationship with the whole of God. I have assumed that this involved the retrospective journey of his person back to the human roots beyond his Jewish roots in Abraham. The original human roots, both for the individual and for the collective, define the heart as the center of human ontology, not the brain of neuroscience or the sub-atomic dynamics of physics. What is the difference of the heart and how is it significant?

            The original human roots with Adam and Eve constituted each of them in their individual self, both with themselves in relationship together and with their Creator. Yet, Adam and Eve made two critical assumptions in the primordial garden: (1) that their ontology was reducible to human shaping, and (2) that their function was negotiable to human terms (Gen 3:6-10). In their ontology created in the image of God, the qualitative whole of their persons “were both naked and were not ashamed” (Gen 2:25). While “naked” denotes not wearing outer clothes, it involves the perception of the person from inner out. Perceiving the inner-out person (both self and other), which included the outer body, does not result in “shame” (bos, to be ashamed, confounded, disappointed, denoting embarrassment, confusion or dismay). Bos emerges from reducing the created human ontology of the whole person from inner out to a person just from outer in. This reduction reflects a shift from qualitative to quantitative without the integrating significance of the heart, thus fragmenting the whole of human ontology down to one’s parts, for example, by perceiving the person (self and other) by their outer body parts resulting in bos. This shift took place in the primordial garden fragmenting the whole of Adam and Eve’s ontology (3:6-7). These are the human roots of ontology and function unfolded in the kosmos.

            Adam and Eve’s assumptions were from reductionism, which Paul later had to face in his own person and in his own faith with Judaism. He grasped that this was unmistakably an issue of the reduction of human ontology from inner out, and thus unequivocally an issue of restoring the heart to his person, to all other persons, and to relationship together with their God. For Paul, this transformation was the relational outcome of having his heart exposed by the whole of Jesus on the Damascus road and being vulnerably involved from inner out with his heart coming together with Jesus’ heart in relationship (cf. 2 Cor 4:6). The experiential truth of having his heart restored to whole ontology and function was the wholeness of Paul’s witness and the wholeness in his theology (cf. Col 2:9-10; 3:10), evidenced in his fight against the reductionist assumptions of human ontology and function, and ongoingly integrated in his fight for the gospel of wholeness.

            From the outset of his corpus, Paul clearly defined his person and function neither on the basis of human contextualization nor determined by human terms, but rather only in God’s relational context and process on God’s terms “to please God who tests our hearts” (1 Thes 2:2b-6). God “tests” (dokimazo, prove, discern, distinguish)--that is, God perceives the human person and function, and determines our significance only from inner out on the qualitative basis of the heart, not in quantitative terms from outer in based on what we do and have (cf. Rom 8:26-27). Paul grasped that God’s people are not distinguished from outer in, for example, by physical circumcision, but only from inner out, by circumcision of the heart (Rom 2:28-29). Faith and ongoing relationship with God, therefore, are nothing less and no substitutes of the qualitative function of our heart (Rom 10:10; Col 3:1, 15-16; Eph 5:19; 6:5-6). For Paul and Saul, this necessarily involved the human heart being restored to whole ontology and function, of which echoes from the past were likely recalled (viz. Ez 11:19; 18:31; 36:26).

            The relational process to the heart (center) of human ontology was fulfilled by the embodied whole of Christ, who vulnerably illuminated the glory of God—the qualitative heart of God’s being and God’s intimate relational nature (2 Cor 4:6). As Paul deeply clarified for the fragmented church in Corinth, the relational outcome was constituted conclusively “by giving us his Spirit in our hearts” (2 Cor 1:22), and thus “being transformed [from inner out, metamorphoo] into the same image” (3:18), such that our ontological identity together is not based on outer-in terms, but “written on our hearts…not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (3:2-3). The qualitative significance of Paul’s own heart was deeply manifest in his most heartfelt letter even beyond his words, for Paul made vulnerable his whole ontology both to share with them and to be affected by them (just as Jesus did in the incarnation and with Paul on the Damascus road). This is the nature and function of the heart. Paul’s involvement with the Corinthians was thus consistently solely from the inner-out whole of his person signified by the qualitative function of his heart: “I wrote you out of much distress and anguish of heart and with many tears…to let you know the abundant love that I have for you” (2:4); “our heart is wide open to you” (6:11). Likewise, he further challenged their assumptions by calling on their whole persons to reciprocate: “There is no restriction in our affection from our heart. In return…open wide your hearts also” (6:12-13). “Make room in your hearts for us” (7:2). For them to be restored to whole ontology and function, they needed to confront the reductionism in their midst of “those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart” (5:12), which reduced their qualitative involvement with Paul to quantitative outer-in terms (10:7,10,12).

            Paul did not reduce his whole person (signified by his restored heart) and thus shift back to an ontology of human shaping—despite reductionism in surrounding situations (2 Cor 2:15-17), in prevailing circumstances, in ministry (4:1-2), or even in the quantitative aspects of the outer body (4:16). This did not mean that Paul was never tempted by reductionism to define his person from outer in by quantitative terms of what he did—as evidenced in self-his defense (chaps. 10-12)—and of what he had—most notably a physical weakness Paul even asked God to remove (12:6-12). Despite all of this, the only vital issue for Paul remained wholeness in ontology and function together: “I do not want what is yours, your outer-in things but you from inner out, nothing less and no substitutes” (12:14), so the critical question for you becomes “If I love you more, am I to be loved less by persons of reduced ontology?” (12:15, italics inserted).

            Paul’s prayers for the churches were only to be whole with restored hearts of qualitative ontology from inner out: “I pray…you come to specifically know the whole of God from inner out so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you” (Eph 1:17-18), and “I pray that…you may be strengthened in your inner ontology through his Spirit, and that the whole of Christ may dwell in your hearts…being rooted and grounded in love from inner out…to grasp, with all the saints, what is the qualitative depth and experiential truth of the love of Christ that surpasses conventional epistemology, so that you may be filled from inner out with all the pleroma of God” (Eph 3:16-19, italics inserted)

            Nothing less than the wholeness of God defined Paul’s ontology, thus determined the wholeness of his witness and the wholeness in his theology. This was his only purpose (oikonomia, relational responsibility, Col 1:25) for God’s family: “I want their hearts to be made whole and united in love in their relationships together, so that they may have all the riches of synesis [whole understanding in] the epignosis [specific knowledge] of the whole of God, that is, Christ himself (Col 2:2). And in the systemic framework of Paul’s theological anthropology, the relational outcome is illuminated: “For in him all the pleroma of the theotes [the wholeness of the Godhead] dwells bodily, and you [your ontology] have come to wholeness in him” (Col 2:9-10). For Paul, therefore, and all together ‘in Christ’ of whole ontology, “Let the peace [wholeness] of Christ rule in, that is, be the only determinant for your hearts, the wholeness to which indeed you were called in the one body in relationship together only in likeness of the whole of God” (Col 3:15, italics inserted). Anything less or any substitutes reduces their ontology, the assumptions of which Paul always fought against in his theological anthropology.

            Paul learned from his earlier life in Judaism that when a person(s) shifts to being defined by outer in, then the practice of faith also shifts to outer in. This outer-in definition is also imposed on God by a quantitative interpretive lens which perceives God and God’s function from outer in. This dynamic from reductionism invariably is set in motion by a deficient theological anthropology, as demonstrated in the primordial garden. In his functional fight for wholeness and against reductionism, Paul illuminates for his readers the theological anthropology necessary to make definitive the heart of human ontology and its function in relational significance.



The Function


            Though the heart of human ontology is irreducible, it is not a static condition or attribute in Paul’s theological anthropology that God’s offspring and family can assume to be in operation merely by its presence. The heart is the dynamic quality of human ontology in the image of God that, by its nature, is both irreducible and inseparable from human function. In Paul’s theological anthropology, the whole person from inner out is signified only by the qualitative function of the heart. To assume the operation of the heart without this function is another assumption from reductionism that has essentially renegotiated human function with human terms, even in the church and as the church—just as Paul vulnerably demonstrated to the church at Corinth. What is this function integrated with the heart and constituted by human ontology?

            There is a direct correlation from human ontology to human function in what Paul considered a causal connection (cf. 2 Cor 5:5a; Rom 1:28). Yet there is also a reflexive dynamic between them that is influential, which Paul also noted (cf. Col 3:9-10; Rom 1:21)—and which also neuroscience research indicates in its association between relational connection, brain activity and inherent human need. What defines the human person unmistakably determines human function, though how a person functions can have some secondary influence or further reinforcement on defining the person. In whichever direction human ontology and human function are seen, Paul addressed their irreducible and inseparable relationship, notably challenging assumptions which renegotiate human function.

            In Paul’s theological anthropology there is the ongoing juxtaposition of the whole person’s ontology and function with the reduced person’s ontology and function. This is not a dualistic construct for his anthropology but simply the only two experiential alternatives available for human life. Moreover, while whole ontology is irreducible and whole function is nonnegotiable, neither of them is interchangeable with reduced ontology or function. That is, whole ontology is incompatible with reduced function, and whole function cannot emerge from reduced ontology—distinctions which Paul made definitive (Col 3:9-11; 2 Cor 5:16-17). Reduced ontology may give the appearance of whole function but only from the outer in (“disguises,” metaschematizo) to construct just ontological simulation or epistemological illusion of wholeness (as Paul exposed, 2 Cor 11:13-15). The reality for the human person is either the experiential truth of wholeness or some form of reductionism.

            Human shaping of human ontology and human terms for human function speculate about other alternatives for human life. These were the critical assumptions made by Adam and Eve in the primordial garden: “When [they] saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes thus reshaping their ontology to outer in, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she…and he ate, consequently using their terms for human function. Then the perceptual lens of both was changed to a quantitative interpretive framework, and they knew that their ontology was reduced to outer in, and their function was reduced to quantitative terms of what they did and had outer only from in...” (Gen 3:6-7, italics inserted). Their function emerged clearly from their reduced ontology, inseparably connected. Whether they speculated that whole ontology would be compatible with reduced function, or that whole function could emerge from reduced ontology, their assumptions were based on reductionism and thus only signified reductionist substitutes for whole ontology and function. These are the human roots unfolded in the kosmos constituting the only alternative for human ontology and function—more importantly, constituting the inherent human need and problem. In response to these human antecedents and the precedent of Adam and Eve’s assumptions, Paul challenged the same assumptions in his theological anthropology to restore the heart of human ontology integrated with function to its wholeness.

            What Paul saw in the face of Christ was the glory of the whole of God (2 Cor 4:6; Col 1:19; 2:9). What the face of Christ illuminated was God’s glory jointly in qualitative being, revealing the heart of God from inner out, which included also the nature of God’s glory, revealing the relational nature of the whole of God in vulnerable involvement. God’s glory in the face of Christ was not a static condition or attribute. Jesus vulnerably embodied the relational nature of the pleroma of God, whose relational involvement was the function of God’s heart. Thus, knowing the glory of God in qualitative being and relational nature is to receive the relational function of God’s heart. The functional significance of God’s qualitative being and relational nature were what Paul experienced in the face of Christ—from inner out initially on the Damascus road and ongoingly in vulnerable relationship together to be transformed into the image and likeness of God’s glory embodied by Christ (as Paul made definitive, 2 Cor 3:18). This experiential truth was the conclusive basis for the irreducible, inseparable and integrated connection between ontology and function in Paul’s theological anthropology.

            Experiencing the functional significance of God’s glory in the face of Christ was only relationship between the hearts of persons in qualitative involvement together to be whole (Col 1:20; 2:9-10). This is the function of God’s heart in relationship together with the function of the human heart. Whole function for God and for human persons, therefore, is both qualitative and relational, which can be constituted only from inner out by whole ontology. Reduced function in the human person, then, is anything less than qualitative and relational—the function of which always signifies the shift to outer in by reduced ontology, as witnessed in the primordial garden and in Paul’s life prior to the Damascus road.

            Wholeness and reductionism are by their nature mutually exclusive, yet in function the tension and conflict between them are ongoing. This process will continue unabated in human function to the extent that the false assumption is in practice that human function is negotiable to human terms. Paul confronted this issue notably in Galatians, in which he made definitive the functional clarity for the truth of the whole gospel. In this letter, he quickly distinguished the whole gospel from reductionist substitutes based on human terms (Gal 1:6-12). Then he recounted his confrontation of the latitude Peter exercised to renegotiate the functional significance of the gospel to biased human terms (2:11-14). He continued in Galatians to clarify qualitative whole function and the relationships necessary together to be whole and live whole. In the process he also confronts the Galatians for reducing their ontology by shifting to outer in and renegotiating their function to human terms (1:6; 3:1-5; 4:8-11). Two summary statements by Paul make definitive the qualitative and relational significance of human function which emerges from the whole of the gospel:



1.  “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love” (5:6, cf. 1 Cor 8:1b). “Counts” (ischyo) means to be effective, valid, have significance and thus to be whole. Nothing outer in has ischyo and means anything. Only the qualitative involvement in relationships together from inner out, the relational function of the qualitative human heart, is ischyo.

2.  “For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything” (6:15, cf. 2 Cor 5:16-17). That is, nothing outer in is ontologically whole but exists in its only alternative, reductionism. The only whole ontology is the new creation—the human heart restored to wholeness ‘in Christ’ which is integrated with human function to constitute the person’s function to be whole and live whole in loving involvement together as God’s whole family. Nothing less and no substitutes ischyo.



            Since whole function is both qualitative and relational in Paul’s theological anthropology, he defines it neither as a doctrinal truth nor as a propositional truth but only as experiential truth. This experiential truth is the relational outcome of the whole gospel relationally embodied by the whole of Jesus for qualitative involvement in relationship together to be God’s whole family. By confronting the critical assumptions which reduce human persons to outer in and negotiate human function only by quantitative outer-in terms, Paul also exposed the relational consequences from the counter-relational work intrinsic to reductionism and implicit in its workings: less significant persons in less significant relationships, fragmented persons in fragmented relationships, stereotyped persons in stratified relationships, constrained/enslaved persons in broken/oppressed relationships. His functional exposition of reductionism is put face to face with the functional clarity of the whole of the gospel. The good news for this human relational condition is the relational function of God’s heart in qualitative involvement to restore the human heart in the image and likeness of God for relational function together as family (Gal 4:4-7). The relational outcome of God’s whole function is not a doctrine or a proposition, but only the experiential truth of qualitative and relational function: “For in the relational function of the qualitative whole of Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith—that is, your response from the qualitative and relational function of your heart. As many of you as were relationally involved deeply into Christ have defined yourselves from inner out with Christ, the wholeness of God. There is no longer Jew or Greek to separate you, there is no longer slave or free to stratify you, there is no longer male and female to fragment you; for all of you from inner out are whole together in Christ Jesus” (3:26-29, italics inserted, cf. Col 3:10-11).

            Therefore, Paul’s theological anthropology is definitive discourse entirely on the experiential truth of whole ontology and function, in which Paul’s own person first functioned for the whole of his witness and the whole in his theology.

            The above functional exposition and clarity converge in Paul’s theological systemic framework for the whole knowledge and understanding made definitive in his theological anthropology. Paul’s perception of the human person and interpretation of human function were in direct correlation to how God is perceived and God’s function is interpreted. This perception and interpretation of God are based epistemologically and hermeneutically on the extent and depth of God’s self-revelation—from whom alone whole knowledge of God and whole understanding of God’s function are relationally received (2 Cor 4:6; Col 2:9). God’s vulnerable revelations were the experiential truth relationally received by Paul which he used to make definitive whole human ontology in the image of God and whole human function in the likeness of God (Col 2:10; 3:10). Paul assumes that for his readers not to grasp this irreversible connection between God and the human person in his theological anthropology is not to understand the whole of God.

            This integrating dynamic of the whole of God’s systemic framework was the experiential truth constituting the whole for Paul’s person, for his Creator-God, and for all God’s offspring (as Paul illuminated for the Athenians, Acts 17:28). For the function of the heart to be whole, it must by its nature (dei, not the obligation of opheilo) be indeed qualitative and relational, both for God and for human persons. Likewise by its nature, whole function for both is constituted only by the qualitative being and relational nature of the whole of God—whom the pleroma of God relationally embodied in qualitative involvement to make whole all human persons in ontology irreducibly in the qualitative image of God, and in function nonnegotiable in the relational likeness of the Godhead (2 Cor 3:18). This was just as Paul exposed earlier for the Athenians to be whole (Acts 17:29-30), and integrated later for the church to be whole (Col 2:9-10; 3:9-11). From no other source in no other context except God’s qualitative systemic framework (Paul’s theological systemic framework) do the roots, the heart and the function of human persons emerge for the whole knowledge and understanding necessary for all persons, individually and collectively, to be whole. Paul decisively challenged all other assumptions.

            This convergence to wholeness is what emerged in Paul’s cosmology and is conclusive in his theological anthropology for both the only perception of whole human ontology and the necessary interpretation of whole human function. Paul holds his readers, past and present, accountable clearly for nothing less and no substitutes, notably in the church. And “…for those who will follow this new creation, peace as wholeness be upon them,” which is the relational outcome only from the grace and “mercy [God’s relational love]” that Paul functionally clarified for the whole gospel (Gal 6:15-16).




Theology of Wholeness



            A modern example of the human relational condition pervading human life on a global scale is found not only on the internet but in the internet itself, that is, according to Jaron Lanier, a computer scientist known as the father of virtual reality technology who has worked on the interface between computer science and medicine, physics, and neuroscience.



Something started to go wrong with the digital revolution around the turn of the twenty-first century. The World Wide Web was flooded by a torrent of petty designs sometimes called web 2.0.…


     Communication is now often experienced as a superhuman phenomenon that towers above individuals. A new generation has come of age with a reduced expectation of what a person can be, and of who each person might become.… We make up extensions of your being, like remote eyes and ears (webcams and mobile phones) and expanded memory (the world of details you can search for online). These become the structures by which you connect to the world and other people. These structures in turn can change how you conceive of yourself and the world.


     How so?


The central mistake of recent digital culture is to chop up a network of individuals so finely that you end up with mush. You then start to care about the abstraction of the network more than the real people who are networked, even though the network by itself is meaningless. Only the people were ever meaningful.…


     The new designs on the verge of being locked in, the web 2.0 designs, actively demand that people define themselves downward.… The deep meaning of personhood is being reduced by illusions of bits [b(inary) (dig)its].[5]



            Lanier hasn’t given up on computers but wants the digital revolution to get back to its core “sweet faith in human nature”; and the approach to people he advocates is the perception of the human person and interpretation of human function based on a quantitative epistemic process from science, for example, engaged by neuroscience and physics. This evidences that despite Lanier’s penetrating critique he himself remains locked in to the underlying framework of his digital world, and that he still operates from the reductionist assumptions of the human person and function. Even in its critique, the effort to expose reductionism fully is difficult and, at best, will be insufficient apart from the illumination of the whole. Illuminating the pleroma of God was the function of Paul’s integral witness (Acts 26:16), and making pleroo the word of God was his relational responsibility in God’s family (oikonomia, Col 1:25). These functions were at the heart of his theological discourse integrating the theological dynamics of wholeness, of belonging and of ontological identity for all life and function (cf. Col 2:9-10).

            Discourse focused on the theology of wholeness was constituted “in the beginning” for Paul, just as Paul revealed the theological unknown and thus the mysteries of the kosmos and of human life and function to the Athenians (Acts 17:24-31). The theology of wholeness involves the relational dynamic of God’s creative and communicative action which constitutes the whole knowledge and understanding necessary for the kosmos and the human person. In this theological discourse from above is revealed the systemic framework to all creation which defines and determines its wholeness. Within this systemic framework both the kosmos and human life are integrated to define wholeness for each, thus also establishing their need for this systemic framework in order to determine the function of their wholeness (cf. Col 1:17, synistemi, to consist together). Without this systemic framework there is nothing other than speculation to integrate the parts of creation—leaving the kosmos and human life fragmentary and thus limited only to their fragmented knowledge and understanding, unable to be whole. Left fragmentary and essentially on their own (as were the Athenians), cosmology and physics as well as anthropology and neuroscience can only speculate or, by its own misplaced faith, only hope for what its wholeness is. Moreover, they are confined within this limitation to determine their function just on the basis of human terms, fragmentary as they are.

            In other words, definitive wholeness is constituted entirely within the whole of God’s systemic framework. Paul’s theological discourse on wholeness was unequivocal: Apart from God’s whole is just some form of reductionism which for the human person constitutes the human condition (“to be apart”)—the inherent human need and problem correctly identified by neuroscience research (cf. the “groan” in 2 Cor 5:2,4; Rom 8:19-22). In this human condition there is undeniable (yet misplaced) longing for wholeness and motivated (yet misguided) pursuit for fulfillment of this relational need—both of which are ontological-functional givens for Paul and intuitive for human persons in his theological anthropology. Moreover, Paul can be definitive about the whole and decisive about reductionism because the dynamic of wholeness in his theology was exclusively from above, initiated by God only on God’s terms (cf. Col 2:9-10) and thus not subject to human terms, even Paul’s or Peter’s. Human terms can only, at best, redefine wholeness by epistemological illusion and reconstitute wholeness with ontological simulation from reductionism—which is evidenced in the digital world, not to mention in the globalization of human economy today.

            In the theology of wholeness, Paul purposefully stressed the necessary epistemological clarification and hermeneutic correction by which his own person was confronted to be whole (tamiym), and by which he confronted Peter to be whole. This epistemological clarification and hermeneutic correction were critically signified with the simple address in the beginning of each of his letters: “grace and peace” (both of Timothy’s letters add “mercy”). He also closed most of his letters with a greeting containing these terms. The simplicity and frequency of this greeting should not define its significance as formulaic; these terms are critical to Paul’s thought and theology and basic to his gospel—aspects his closing greeting pointed to or summarized.

            “Grace and peace” were not combined by Paul as mere theological concepts but as a theological paradigm. They are part of his shorthand theological discourse for the functional convergence of the interdependent relational action and relational outcome directly from God the Father and Christ—whom Paul identified as “the God of peace” and “the Lord of peace” (1 Thes 5:23; 2 Thes 3:16; 2 Cor 13:11; Rom 15:33; Phil 4:9). The relational dynamics involved between relational action and outcome was an interaction Paul never separated nor assumed to be in operation.

            Grace is the relational dynamic which signifies the relational action initiated by God the Father and Christ exclusively on the basis of God’s terms, that is, entirely from top down, thus neither defined nor determined from bottom up by any human terms. Grace for Paul was the epistemological clarification of any illusions about human terms. Only on the basis of the relational dynamic of God’s grace did God’s relational response to the human condition emerge, and only on the ongoing base of God’s relational grace does God’s vulnerable involvement enable human persons to function whole (Eph 2:4-10).

            The interpretation of human function is variable and fragmentary in human terms, the assumptions of which Paul always challenged. The conclusive relational outcome of God’s relational action of grace is the peace of God (cf. Phil 4:7), the peace of Christ (cf. Col 3:15), from the God of peace, the Lord of peace. This relational outcome of peace (i.e., as wholeness from a Hebrew understanding) constituted Paul himself to be whole in God’s whole family (cf. Eph 1:23). This then is the qualitative depth of the peace of Christ (thus the peace of God) that the whole of Paul vulnerably experienced from the vulnerable relational action of the Lord of peace (thus the God of peace). For Paul, this was nothing less than “the gospel of peace” (Eph 6:15). Peace, as highlighted by Paul, is the hermeneutic correction of any variable and fragmentary interpretation of human function, which can only be whole from inner out on the basis of the top-down relational action initiated by God’s grace, the epistemological clarification about human terms. Paul began his letters with “wholeness” in conjoint function with “grace” and ended his letters with “wholeness” contingent on “grace” as the theological paradigm to illuminate the functional and relational significance of the gospel of the pleroma of God, the Lord of wholeness. This wholeness was the integrating theme of Paul’s thought and the integrating dynamic of his theology throughout his letters, which pleroo the word of God, the God of wholeness. Thus, Paul’s theology of wholeness from above also constituted shalom further and deeper than Israel and Judaism had experienced—the wholeness in which Paul more deeply constituted “the Israel of God” (Gal 6:16, cf. Rom 2:28-29). This is the epistemological clarification and hermeneutic correction of tamiym and “grace and peace”.

            This unfolding relational dynamic of “grace and peace” establishes the distinct flow which outlines Paul’s theological framework to wholeness:



1.  The relational context of the whole of God and God’s family, only from top down.

2.  The relational process of the whole of God and God’s grace (family love), only from inner out.

3.  The relational progression to the whole of God as God’s whole family, only on God’s qualitative-relational terms.


Paul’s theology of wholeness makes functional the qualitative and relational significance of this relational outcome.

            After creation, tamiym reemerged with Noah (Gen 6:9) and was reestablished with Abram in covenant relationship together (Gen 17:1-2). “Blameless” is the common rendering of tamiym but “complete” and “whole” more significantly denote tamiym and its qualitative and relational significance to God. Blameless tends to be measured merely on the basis of adherence to the torah (which Abram didn’t have) or to a further Christian moral and ethical framework (as some perceive in Paul’s letters). Interrelated to “grace and peace” in Paul’s letters is “blameless and holy,” or a variation (1 Thes 3:13; 5:23; 1 Cor 1:8; Col 1:22: Eph 1:4; 5:27; Phil 2:15; 1 Tim 6:14). This is further shorthand discourse by Paul for a functional paradigm to supplement his theological paradigm above. Paul did not emphasize “blameless and holy,” for example, for the church at Thessalonica’s eschatological concerns, merely for the sake of purity when Christ returns. Paul builds on “blameless” (amemptos) only from tamiym and deepens it: (1) what it means for the person to be whole qualitatively from inner out (“holy,” hagios, uncommon function), and (2) what it means for whole persons to live in relationship with the holy (uncommon) God together to be whole, the relational whole of God’s family only on God’s relational terms. Thus, “holy and blameless” signify function only “uncommon and whole”.

            In Paul’s thought and theology, the functional paradigm of “holy and blameless” converged with the theological paradigm of “grace and peace” to signify being whole in relationship together (peace and blameless) only on the ongoing basis of the whole of God’s relational response and terms for the relationship (grace and holy). This is the irreducible gospel of peace for which Paul so lovingly fought, while necessarily fighting against reductionism so rigorously (Col 2:8-10). Even though longing for wholeness was a given and intuitive for the human person in Paul’s theology, the function of wholeness was never a mere assumption by Paul nor left to the interpretation from human terms.

            Paul made definitive this wholeness ‘in Christ’ (both already and not yet) as the integrated function of two inseparable and nonnegotiable aspects of life:

1.  “Let the peace of Christ rule to be the only determinant in your hearts” (Col 3:15a). The first aspect of wholeness involves by necessity the whole person from inner out constituted by the qualitative function of the heart restored to the qualitative image of God (Col 3:10). This whole person is the qualitative function of the new creation (2 Cor 5:17), which Jesus made whole from above (Jn 3:3-7). Thus anything less and any substitutes defining the person and determining one’s function are reductionism (Gal 6:15). Wholeness ‘in Christ’, however, is neither the whole person in isolation nor the whole person merely associated with other persons.

2.  “…to which [peace] indeed you were called in the one body” (Col 3:15b). The second inseparable aspect of wholeness is the integrated function of whole persons from inner out vulnerably involved in the relationships together necessary to be whole. By its very nature, this relational dynamic necessitates the qualitative function of the restored heart opening to one another (“Do not lie to each other…” Col 3:9) and coming together in transformed relationship as one (“In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew…” Col 3:11, cf. Gal 3:26-29), thus constituting the integrated function of equalized persons from inner out in intimate relationships of “love which binds everything together [syndeo], the inseparable and nonnegotiable relational bonds in perfect harmony” (teleitos, completeness, Col 3:14) for definitive wholeness. This integrated function of whole persons in whole relationships together constitutes the qualitative-relational significance of new covenant relationship together, which Paul made further definitive for the ecclesiology necessary for the whole (2 Cor 5:18; 13:11; Eph 2:14-15; Col 2:10; Rom 8:6) in relational likeness to the relational ontology of the whole of God (just as Jesus prayed for his family, Jn 17:20-26).

            Wholeness ‘in Christ’, therefore, by its very nature necessitates the integrated function of both whole persons in the qualitative image of God and whole relationship together in the relational likeness of God in order to constitute being whole. This interdependent dynamic of wholeness also illuminates the interdependence between three crucial issues in human life and function:

1.  The lens we use to perceive the person (from outer in or inner out) determines how we functionally (not ideally) define ourselves and others.

2.  Then, how we function in relationships is generally determined by how we define ourselves and others; and in reflexive interdependence, how our relationships are can determine how we define ourselves.

3.  And thus, how both of the above influence, define, even determine how we actually see church and function in relationships at church, in our gatherings together as church.

Each of these corresponds directly to each of the three relational aspects (the relational context, process and progression) which outline Paul’s theological framework to wholeness, and they interact together by necessity in order to be whole. The main flow of these issues, from (1) how we define ourselves to (2) how we function in relationships, is the primary correlation of ontology as the determinant of function, definitive for both God and human persons. Paul ongoingly addressed these interdependent crucial issues throughout his corpus in order to be God’s whole family, most notably addressed in the churches at Corinth and Galatia and with persons like Peter and Philemon.

            Nothing less than and no substitutes for this wholeness integrated Paul’s person, thought and theology, as well as his relationships and the function of the church. Therefore, for Paul, God’s relational action and the relational outcome of wholeness (peace contingent on grace) is “the mark [semeion, distinguishing his purpose] in every letter of mine” (2 Thes 3:17). This was nonnegotiable and thus irreducible in the theology of wholeness basic to his systemic framework.

            Those readers of Paul with a quantitative interpretive framework will have difficulty seeing or grasping the whole in Paul’s thought and theology; thus they may merely interpret the qualitative aspect of Paul as his mysticism—without being able to go deeper (e.g., than the historical Paul) to understand the whole of Paul and the whole of his God (beyond Judaism and even the Jesus tradition). Other readers (notably postmodernists) may dismiss Paul’s theology of wholeness and systemic framework as just a metanarrative and/or metacriticism that he imposes on human life and function.[6]  This opinion, however, does not address the alternative for knowledge and understanding, which is merely fragmentary, and therefore does not account for what is the only nature of that alternative, which is no more than reductionism.

            Perceiving reductionism is formidable apart from the operation of the whole. Furthermore, acknowledging reductionism—on any level of epistemology, ontology or relationships—essentially has more to do with human transparency, which does not pervade human life and function. What does prevail in human contextualization, however, is the sin of reductionism—that is, the unfolding human roots in the kosmos since the primordial garden. These efforts have not fulfilled the inherent human need and resolved the human problem clearly identified by neuroscience. One of the deepest repercussions of reductionism is diminishing the qualitative uniqueness of personhood from inner out and conforming persons to a minimalized quantitative form and expression from outer in which can only be fragmentary, thus fragmenting persons and relationships. Paul directly confronted the relational consequences of this reductionist dynamic and its underlying deficient theological anthropology in the issue of circumcision at Galatia; and Christian missionaries have historically been guilty of engaging this reductionist dynamic by forcing indigenous peoples to conform to a reductionist form and expression of Christianity. The process of diminishing the person of inner out to conform to outer-in life and function has an ancient history unfolded in the kosmos.

            This reductionist dynamic involves the formation of quantitative templates within which human life is defined and human function is determined. This conforming process constrains the whole person and in practice enslaves persons to fragmentary life and function. These templates generated in the world of human contextualization continue today, which computer scientist Jaron Lanier urgently describes in the digital world.

     Something like missionary reductionism has happened to the internet with the rise of web 2.0. [Uniqueness of persons] is being leached away by the mush-making process [of fragmentation]. Individual web pages as they first appeared in the early 1990s had the flavor of personhood. MySpace preserved some of that flavor, though a process of regularized formatting [i.e., a template] had begun. Facebook went further, organizing people into multiple-choice identities, while Wikipedia seeks to erase point of view entirely.

     If a church or government were doing these things [to impose conformity], it would feel authoritarian, but when technologists are the culprits, we seem hip, fresh, and inventive. People will accept ideas presented in technological form that would be abhorrent in any other form. It is utterly strange to hear my many friends in the world of digital culture claim to be the true sons of the Renaissance without realizing that using computers to reduce individual expression is a primitive, retrograde activity, no matter how sophisticated your tools are.[7]

             Paul fought against this reductionist dynamic and its quantitative templates (e.g., 2 Cor 10:3-6, 12), and their relational consequences on wholeness (Col 2:8-19). Paul’s polemic should not be misconstrued as imposing a template for conformity of ideology, theological cognition and practice, for example, on the Athenians in their religious pluralism, or on the understanding of the gospel (Gal 1:6-9), or on function in the church (1 Cor 1:10-13). Nor was he imposing a constraint on self-autonomy and/or self-determination (e.g., with a doctrine of justification by grace) in order to bring conformity to human life and religious practice (cf. 2 Cor 3:6, 17-18). His polemic was only for wholeness and thus also against reductionism.

            In the systemic framework of Paul’s theology, God’s creative and communicative actions are always relational actions only for whole relationship together. God’s relational action does not impose a template on the human person to reduce human function. By God’s relational nature, relationship is never unilateral but necessitates compatible reciprocal response and involvement. On this relational basis, Paul never assumed that the function of wholeness would simply emerge, nor did he leave wholeness’ function to the interpretation of human terms. Therefore, as Paul made definitive the integrated function necessary for wholeness, he also made imperative the ongoing redemptive change vitally necessary to turn from reductionism to wholeness, and transition to be whole, live whole and make whole—God’s irreducible relational whole on God’s nonnegotiable relational terms (Rom 12:1-2).

            In the first eleven chapters of Romans, Paul provided the theological clarity for the whole of God’s thematic relational response of grace to the human condition. Paul now concentrates on the functional clarity (building on his Galatians letter) necessary to function whole. Based on his theological discourse in the previous chapters, “therefore” (12:1), Paul issues to his family (“brothers and sisters”) a nonnegotiable call (parakaleo) “to present” (paristemi) their persons to God in the necessary reciprocal relational response to God’s relational response of grace (“by the mercies of God”). What is this necessary reciprocal relational response?

            A variation of this call was first issued to Abram: “I am El Shaddai, walk before me and be tamiym” (Gen 17:1). Just as Abraham was not reduced to being defined by the perfection of what he did (“blameless”), paristemi (“to present,” stand before) also should not be reduced to ‘what to do’ (i.e. “sacrifice”) according to religious norms (e.g., torah or a reduced popular gospel). Rather Paul’s call to paristemi was only about ‘how to be involved in relationship’ according to the whole gospel constituted by God’s relational response of grace. Then, “to present, stand before” God in what necessary way? How?

            This involves three basic interrelated issues crucial for determining all practice:

1.  The integrity and significance of the person presented before others.

2.  The quality of what that person communicates to those others in relationship.

3.  The depth level of involvement that person engages with those others in those relationships.

These issues are implied in Paul’s discourse. In his nonnegotiable call, he is making definitive a further functional paradigm to extend his earlier functional paradigm of “holy and blameless.” This added paradigm is necessary both to be whole in reciprocal relationship with God and to live whole in transformed relationships together as God’s church family—which is a functional requisite to make whole in the world, just as Jesus prayed about relational wholeness together (Jn 17:21-23).

            By defining the significance of the person presented with “your bodies as a living sacrifice,” Paul is expanding on his earlier discourse when he used a slave metaphor (Rom 6:13,16,19). Now he shifts to an offertory metaphor, yet the significance of human ontology from inner out is the same for the person presented, involving the whole person (“present yourselves,” 6:13,16) which includes all the outer parts of the body (“present your members,” 13,19). The relational dynamic is vital to understanding the integrity of the person presented and the quality of what that person communicates by the sacrifice (thysia). The act of sacrificing tends to be perceived as presenting some part of what we have or some aspect of what we do, thus communicating to God some fragmentary quantity from the presentation of our person, that is, whose integrity has been reduced. While this type of thysia is compatible with the conventional servant paradigm prevailing in Christian practice, it is not compatible with the relational paradigm to be whole in reciprocal relationship with God that Paul is making functional (cf. Jesus’ paradigm for serving, Jn 12:26). In Paul’s theology of wholeness, thysia is only a function of whole relationship together and this reciprocal relational act cannot be reduced to a secondary function like sacrifice.

            The depth level of involvement with God in relationship is contingent on who is presented before him and what is communicated to him. Nothing less than the whole person and no substitutes for the qualitative function of the heart are significant to the whole of God or compatible with God’s whole function (“…holy and acceptable to God”). In Paul’s call, this relational dynamic is reasonable, rational and logical (logikos), not a template imposed unilaterally by God for adulation (“worship”). By its very nature, only this dynamic constitutes what is involved and thus necessary in the function of wholeness (cf. Col 3:9-10). A reductionist interpretive framework (old phronema) with a quantitative mindset (old phroneo) turns this thysia into ‘what to do’, signifying the presentation of a person defined from outer in, rather than the call to ‘how to be involved in relationship together’ by the whole person uniquely from inner out, communicating and involved by the qualitative function of the heart. This is the ongoing tension and conflict reductionism generates with being whole and the function of wholeness in order to diminish its significance to fragmentary terms and to substitute ontological simulation and epistemological illusion. Paul also addressed this opposing dynamic in his call.

            The quantitative ‘appearance of things’ (without qualitative substance) conforming to templates of the world is the norm in human contextualization shaped or constructed by human terms on the basis of human ontology from outer in; this essentially signifies the human condition. The limited knowledge and understanding gained from what only appears reasonable, rational and logical for further knowledge and understanding are the ongoing lure of reductionism pervading the epistemic process of theological cognition, the kosmos, and human life and function. By its nature, this reductionist process necessitates God’s whole to expose, deal with and make whole the influence of reductionism on God’s offspring and family (cf. 2 Cor 11:13-15). Paul thus provides the functional key to address reductionism by making it imperative to directly deal with the issue by a two-fold process in conjoint function.

1.  On the one hand, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world” (Rom 12: 2, NIV, emphasis added). The term syschematizo means to conform to the same pattern outwardly, directly linked with metaschematizo (outward change only), as Paul exposed in the primary source of reductionism (2 Cor 11:13-15). This points to the reductionist templates of the world which impose a definition of human ontology and determine human function to be conformed to. Paul is unequivocal that in human contextualization we are exposed to, influenced in and even shaped by the sin of reductionism, which is the essence of the human condition as Paul discussed earlier in Romans. Conforming to reductionist patterns/templates is a common function, determining even function in the church. Paul’s imperative in the Greek passive voice makes further unequivocal the need for the subject (God’ family, individually and collectively) to take action upon itself (the Gk reflexive passive as opposed to passively waiting) for the changes needed. That is, Paul holds God’s family accountable for the reciprocal relational responsibility of functioning in the qualitative significance of who they are (the who presented) and in the relational depth of whose they are (the deep level of involvement with God). This accountability is imperative in order for God’s family not to make choices to engage in the normative/common practice of reductionism by conforming (syschematizo and metaschematizo) intentionally or unintentionally to the patterns/templates of their surrounding human contexts. In cooperative work with the Spirit, this is God’s family’s shared-portion of the relational work necessary for reciprocal relationship together to be whole on the holy (uncommon) God’s terms—that is, relationally compatible to the whole of God’s ontology and function, thus irreducible and nonnegotiable as Paul’s call involved.

2.  The above imperative is in conjoint function with Paul’s second imperative, also in Greek passive voice. At the same time, on the other hand, “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The term metamorphoo means to transform, to alter fundamentally, which involves a change in one’s very nature or an internal change implying the whole person from inner out. Metamorphoo’s change is in direct contrast to change just of appearance or outward forms/practices of a reduced person from outer in, as signified in metaschematizo. The change Paul makes imperative is being restored in human ontology to the qualitative image and in human function to the relational likeness of God’s glory (qualitative being and relational nature) vulnerably embodied in the face of Christ (2 Cor 3:18; 4:6). The change of metamorphoo, however, is not a transformation human persons can enact on themselves (as in Gk reflexive passive); this change is the relational outcome entirely of further receiving God’s ongoing relational action of grace—that is, the imperative in Greek regular passive necessitating deeper involvement with God to receive the change of metamorphoo, not the mere metaschematizo persons enact on themselves. Yet, this imperative necessitating deeper involvement with God is partially contingent on enacting the first imperative, which acts as a functional key to further open the relational door to deeper involvement with God. These imperatives, on the one hand and on the other, interact together always in cooperative reciprocal relationship with the Spirit (whom Paul clarified theologically in Rom 8).

            Furthermore, this inner out change necessarily involves “the renewing of your minds.” The term anakainosis (from anakainoo) involves the process and work of restoring something back to a new condition. This change needs to include the basic change of making new (anakainoo) their mindset (phroneo, i.e., their lens determining what they pay attention to or ignore) and its perceptual-interpretive framework (phronema, i.e., the basis for their lens)—changing from a quantitative phroneo and reduced phronema to the qualitative phroneo and whole phronema of God’s qualitative-relational whole, the phroneo and phronema constituted exclusively by the Spirit (Rom 8:5-6). This signifies the ontological change which turns from the outer in of syschematizo and metaschematizo to the inner out of metamorphoo. In other words, anakainoo is nonnegotiable and cannot be partial, selective or some hybrid because “to make new” is to be made whole in human ontology restored to the qualitative image of God and in human function restored to the relational likeness of God (cf. Col 3:9-10; 2 Cor 5:16-17; Eph 4:23-24).

            Taking this process deeper for God’s family, Paul provides this functional paradigm to engage the relational dynamic necessary for the process of redemptive change to wholeness, the change which he clarified theologically in Romans 6. This integrated functional-relational paradigm in conjoint function fully embodies the involvement of God’s family from inner out to be compatible for the experiential truth of the whole of God’s relational context and process for whole relationship together. One relational outcome of this experiential reality is the relational involvement necessary “to test, discern, distinguish and affirm” (dokimazo) the intimate (“good and well-pleasing”) and complete (teleios) desires (thelema) of God. In no other context and by no other process is the whole of God vulnerably disclosed; thus nothing less and no substitutes than the whole person presented at the depth level of vulnerable involvement in God’s relational context and process can constitute God’s family in the transformed relationships together necessary to be whole. As Paul illuminates this wholeness imperative clearly in relationship with God, he extends his dialogue for this wholeness to be definitive in relationship together in the church, “which is his body, the pleroma of him who completes all in pasin [the whole]” (Eph 1:23, which I will discuss in chap 9). The only existing alternative is reductionism.

            Therefore, Paul’s nonnegotiable call to his family was simply nothing other than the relational call to be whole, just as Jesus called his followers first and foremost to be whole. And just as Jesus prayed for this wholeness for his family (Jn 17:20-26), Paul prayed for the church family (Eph 3:14-19). This was the qualitative significance and relational nature of his theology of wholeness. This theology illuminated from inner out (“has shone in our hearts”) the whole knowledge and understanding of the qualitative being and relational nature of the whole of God (“to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God”) vulnerably revealed relationally “in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6), the pleroma of God (Col 1:19), of whom were created human ontology in the qualitative image and human function in the relational likeness (Acts 17:28; Col 1:15-16), and by whom human persons are restored to whole ontology and function (Col 2: 9-10; 2 Cor 3:18; 5:17), nothing less and no substitutes (Gal 6:15; Col 3:9-11). Thus, what Jesus constituted in the incarnation of his own person and, likewise, constituted for our persons (both individually and collectively) by his incarnation is the irreducible and nonnegotiable dynamic of wholeness: the dynamic of nothing less and no substitutes for all life and function.


            Paul’s paradigm, conjointly theological (“grace and peace”) and functional (“holy and blameless” and “to present…”), make definitive the wholeness and its function for human life in the kosmos. In his systemic framework constituted by God’s creative and communicative action, this theology of wholeness conclusively integrates all knowledge and understanding into the wisdom and experiential truth of the whole, that is, the dynamic of nothing less and no substitutes of God’s qualitative-relational whole—the experiential truth of the whole gospel for the inherent human need and problem. This relational epistemic process and theological discourse do not stop here, however. While Paul’s theological systemic framework always involves an eschatological trajectory, there is much more ‘already’ to unfold further and deeper on this adventure as sojourners to ‘not yet’—as Paul shared intimately of his own journey (Phil 3:10-16, cf. Jn 17:3) and kept praying for the church (Eph 1:17-18; 3:19).

            The dynamic of the theology of wholeness is by its nature also integrated with the theological dynamics of belonging and of ontological identity. This integration process further emerges in Paul’s theological systemic framework, and is even more deeply integrated within his theological forest.





[1] Steve Giddings, “The physics we don’t know”, op-ed, Los Angeles Times, Jan 5, 2010.

[2] Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970).

[3] For an indispensable discussion on this process and development in modern science’s perceptual-interpretive framework, see Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

[4] The italicized insertions in the following pages are used to facilitate the further understanding and deeper meaning of Paul’s words.

[5] Jaron Lanier, You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010), 3-20.

[6] For a discussion on metacriticism, see Anthony C. Thiselton, New Horizons in Hermeneutics: The Theory and Practice of Transforming Biblical Reading (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publ. House, 1992), 48, 316-18, 612-19.

[7] Jaron Lanier, You Are Not a Gadget, 48.




©2010 T. Dave Matsuo, Ph.D.


      back to top    home