One in Christ Who Lives Within: Dispersive Universality and the Pneuma-Somatics of Identity

Derek Woodard-Lehman


This essay emerges at the intersection of theoretical and theological interrogations of Christian accounts of universality, especially as expressed in the Pauline corpus. Drawing on insurgent interpreters, Daniel Boyarin, John David Dawson, Alain Badiou, Giorgio Agamben, and Douglas Campbell, it explicates an account of dispersive universality that avoids the evacuation of difference and elimination of particularity. On the contrary, rather than requiring others to become identical to us, identity is constructed by becoming identified with others. This alternative politics of identification is announced paradigmatically in the baptismal formula of Galatians 3:26-28, and is intrinsically related to Paul’s description of the new life of the Christian in 2:19-20. The unity of Christians in Christ (3:26-28) is constituted by the actuality of Christ living in them (2:19-20). Though as embodied beings the lives of Christians remain in the flesh, such life is now lived in Christ, and by Christ living in them. Individual and social bodies (the life lived in the flesh) are pneumatologically reconfigured within a Christological paradigm (the life lived by faith). Thus, baptism identifies the baptisand with Christ, inaugurates the new life of Christ living within, and initiates ongoing identification with others. The politics of baptismal identification is performative peacemaking; a pneuma-somatics of identity that is simultaneously a body politics and a politics of bodies.


Paul; insurgency; baptism

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Bible and Critical Theory: ISSN 1832-3391