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Romans 8:29

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Book Review: “Conformed to the Image of His Son” by Haley Goranson Jacob

Haley Goranson Jacob’s Conformed to the Image of His Son is a deep, detailed look at the meaning of “conformity with Christ,” specifically in Romans 8:29. Her primary thesis is that this “conformity” is the participation on Christ’s rule over creation as renewed humanity (266).

First, Haley Goranson Jacob outlines the many positions authors have taken on the meaning of Romans 8:29 (“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” [NIV].) These positions are no attempt to explain the meaning, a combination of other meanings, physical conformity to Christ (having the same physical form), spiritual or moral conformity, conformity to the Sons’ eschatological glory (here glory means something like radiance), and a sacrificial conformity in which the believer suffers like Christ (3). After brief engagement with these views–and a longer rebuttal to several of them later in the book–she dives into an analysis of Jewish meanings of glory and glorification. Then, she looks broadly at Romans and what glory and glorification means therein.

Participation in Christ’s glory in several passages is analyzed next, alongside images of who the Son is. The purposing of conformity rounds out the discussion on Romans 8:29 specifically.

From my own perspective, Garonson Jacob’s position seems to be quite correct. There is a kind of unity between her arguments about the conformity to Christ and the meaning of being the image of God in Genesis. If we take that image to mean, as John Walton argues, a kind of surrogate for God in creation, then it makes sense that post-fall, part of God’s plan would be to restore that image through conformity. I must admit to being no expert on this topic, and I found it honestly a little surprising to see how controversial this reading apparently is. Goranson Jacob’s analysis of rival views was particularly helpful here, and it helped me see how some of these other positions would be tied into, as mine is, wider theological commitments.

I recommend Conformed to the Image of His Son to those looking for an in-depth treatment of the meaning of being one with Christ. The study is applicable to a broader view of what it means to be Christian and who Christ is.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

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