Monday, May 25, 2015

The inaugural NT symposium at Syndicate: Evangelical Faith and the Challenge of Historical Criticism

HaysAnd it has just begun, on the delightful book, Evangelical Faith and the Challenge of Historical Criticism ed. by Christopher M. Hays and Christopher B. Ansberry.

You can read my brief introduction, here.

Kent Sparks’ response has just gone live, here, with a response written by Hays et al. Join in the conversation!

I had originally penned a longer intro which summarised the whole book in more depth. So, after you have read my intro, here is what I cut out, namely short summaries of each chapter (the first and last chapters are covered in the introduction over at Syndicate).

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In chapter two, “Adam and the fall”, Hays and Stephen Lane Herring explore modern historical-critical concerns relating to Genesis, not with a view to endorsing it all, but to draw out the most significant point, namely: “most critical scholars deny that there was a historical couple named Adam and Eve who were the sole genetic progenitors of the human race and were responsible for the advent of human sinfulness and mortality” (24). They then examine the theological ramifications of this critical denial. Via analysis of Paul’s Christ-Adam typology, they alight on James 1:13-15 as a “clearer New testament count of sin”, which presents at the same time a “leaner hamartiology” which can be “sustained without Adam” (45).

In chapter three, Ansberry wrestles with questions relating to the historicity of the Exodus ultimately arguing, after summarising maximalist and minimalist scholarly camps and the concerns of branches of historiography and narratology, that the Exodus is a real, remembered event. But it has, in the canonical tradition, developed through re-appropriation, meaning that the Exodus narratives, as presented in scripture, are not straightforward or one-on-one retellings of what happened, true only in the sense that they correspond directly with what happened. They are interpreted, elaborated stories. Ansberry insists that “something of its historical occurrence is essential to Israel’s identity ... as well as Christian orthodoxy” (71), but not in a way that sacrifices integrity when confronted with historical-criticism.

In chapter four, Ansberry and Hwang tackle questions relating to the provenance, composition and development of the Deuteronomic Torah, particularly the claim that it is as “pious fraud” (74). A fascinating overview of contemporary scholarship leads to the question: “Can a fraudulent, pseudepigraphic document function as a reliable repository of theological truth?” (83). By using historical-critical results relating to the development and usage of the Mosaic traditum, they provide reason for answering in the affirmative. Particularly, these critical tools “can make evangelicals more attuned to [Deuteronomy’s] locus of authority as well as to the way in which Deuteronomy’s theological ideas have been received by Israel throughout her history” (93).

In Chapter five, “Problems with prophecy”, Amber Warhurst and Seth Tarrer cameo together with Hays. They lay out those places where prophesied events do not occur as foretold. Once again, rather than retreating into an apologetic stance, they practice critical faith and faithful criticism to set themselves new questions. They use the results of many historical-critics to re-examine the relation between prophecy and fulfillment in the Old Testament. They note, for example, that the goal and fulfillment of prophecy are understood in surprisingly broad terms and are indeed often explicitly conditional upon human response. These issues offer the framework for constructively engaging historical-critical claims in ways that need not threaten a broadly evangelical outlook at all. Examples of prophecy given “after that fact” are then discussed with emphasis on Daniel, of course. In recognizing that this is a particular genre (dating back a long way to the Uruk Prophecy), there is no reason for such occurrences in scripture to cause the kind of mental anxiety that evangelicals in particular feel about many historical-critical assertions. Likewise, also with deferred prophecy, their work in this lengthy chapter suggests that “apparent problems with prophecy in the Bible” need not “jeopardize the Christian faith”. These “‘problems’ stem not from a shortcoming in Scripture itself, but in our preconceptions about what prophecy must be” (123).

Chapter six, co-authored by Ansberry, Casey Strine, Edward Klink III and David Lincicum, delves into the questions relating to pseudepigraphy. Summaries of critical scholarship pertaining to the authorship and the Pentateuch, Isaiah, the Gospel of John and the Pauline corpus, suggest that one’s account of the locus of a text’s authority need to be clarified. Ultimately:

[A]cceptance of pseudepigraphy or pseudonymity in the biblical canon neither undermines the principal tenets of the Christian faith nor operates outside the boundaries of Christian orthodoxy. Rather it refines our understanding of the nature of Scripture, reorients our focus away from the human author’s work to God’s work, and reinforces our trust in the Spirit’s activity through the production of Scripture. (157)

Chapter seven is a bold attempt to confront critical issues relating to the “historical Jesus”. Michael Daling and (once again) Hays “contend that the discipline of historical Jesus scholarship does not lead inevitably to heresy, so much as it engages both believing and non-believing scholars in debates of real significance for the beliefs of the Church” (159). They make this claim by taking firm hold of the nettle, and the thorny questions surrounding Jesus’ self-understanding, miracles, virgin birth and resurrection. Again, having summarized some of the critical issues in play, their concern is to elucidate the theological ramifications of those historical-critical concerns. Ultimately, orthodox Christianity can accommodate both the notion that Jesus was ignorant of certain things, and that this or that miracle story is not historical, even if a wholesale rejection of miracles raises its own problems. Nevertheless, the evangelical may not deny either the virgin birth or the resurrection, even if some flexibility can be allowed for how these are precisely interpreted. Historical-criticism is simply “out of its methodological depth” imperially to adjudicate on these matters.

The final “case study” chapter, penned by Aaron Kuecker and Kelly Liebengood, relates the contradictions between the Paul of Acts and the Paul of the letters, both in matters of chronology and theology. After examining a few scholarly proposals for negotiating these tensions, they present six points for negotiating the theological challenges these issues raise. Ultimately:

The fundamental question, then, in any comparison of Luke’s Paul and the Paul of the epistles is not whether the two portraits paint the same life or theology of the apostle to the nations, but rather whether Luke’s Paul and the Paul of the epistles bear witness to the same Messiah Jesus who pours out the Spirit and makes known the Father. (202, italics theirs)

Monday, March 23, 2015

How does an apocalyptic reading of Paul differ from Wright’s?

A friend asked this question online, so I gave it a stab in the comments.

For me, at the level of methodology, apocalyptic readings do at least four things which are less obvious (though not absent) in Wright. It is late here, so in the morning I may remember that I have left out one or two important points, but indulge me. And of course, I am aware that “apocalyptic” does not designate a unified “school”. It has also developed considerably over the years. So I here think primarily of Martyn, de Boer, Gaventa, Campbell and such like.

1) In apocalyptic readings there is a greater focus on the contingent historical particularity of Pauline communities, and related to this, discussion of the character and theology of Paul’s opponents.

2) They work with a more inductive, letter focused reading of Paul, before they play with wider narratives. Though they certainly do not necessarily discount those narratives, be they Jewish or imperial “backstories”. These matters are, however, read in light of the network of themes and language within Paul’s letters. This is of course related to the next point.

3) An apocalyptic reading endorses a retrospective epistemology. For example, it makes sure that the “problem” addressed by Paul is disclosed by the “solution”, even if its explanation is not exhausted in those terms. Wright sometimes comes close to endorsing apocalyptic concerns in theory, but at least in practice things work differently, and “backstory” themes here dominate his reading of Paul.

4) An apocalyptic reading is likewise subject-matter or ontology orientated. For example, it will claim that historical-critical work is necessary (see point 1), but it is not sufficient. Divine ontology (understood in Trinitarian categories) impinges on the purpose, nature and method of reading Paul. In this way, they are deeply historical in their methods, yet at the same time they resist historicist tendencies. “Revelation is not a predicate of history, but history is a predicate of revelation” (Karl Barth), and this means reading Paul also involves attending to a lively Word of personal address.

To be clear, Wright also works with a trinitarian theological vision, he speaks of Paul “reimagining” and “rethinking” this or that Jewish “backstory” in light of Christ, he details, in hundreds of pages, historically orientated contextual issues, and he exegetes wide swathes of Paul’s letters. I am aware of all this. Nevertheless, this all tends to play into Wright’s main focus, namely wider narrative concerns that are of hermeneutical import.

So, largely irrespective of contingent particularities (1 above), the network of overlapping themes in Paul (2 above), and the implicit ontological claims a reading generates (4 above), Wright will exegete Gal 3:1-5 in terms of a purported "Exodus narrative", and linguistic links at this level will be elevated in his exegesis (and this is where 3 above plays a role).

Naturally, there are other key disagreements concerning specific themes in Paul, though not as many as some might think. Of particular importance in scholarly discussion is the different way both evil and justification language are presented by Wright, on the one hand, and apocalyptic readings on the other.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

My review essay of Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God

In case you’re interested, deGruyter have published my Anvil review essay of Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God.

Given the length of PFG, and particularly that it was split over two books, it seems fitting that my review was likewise too long to contain in one article! It was therefore split into two parts, and by clicking the links below, you will access the “open access” pdfs.

Paul and the Faithfulness of God. A Review Essay (Part 1).” Anvil 31, no. 1 (March 2015): 45–56.

Paul and the Faithfulness of God. A Review Essay (Part 2).” Anvil 31, no. 1 (March 2015): 57–69.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Today if you hear his voice…

…do not harden your heart.

I say this because I’m sending out a powerful faith wave, tonight, which is breaking strongholds even as you read this. Some of you are literally getting up out of wheelchairs just clicking to this webpage announcement.

Inspired by reports of prosperity preacher Creflo Dollar’s audacious call for a donation of $60 million for a new jet, I’m taking a further and even bolder step of faith.

I’m calling on you, my faithful blog readers, to love-gift for Jesus $60 billion to Chris Tilling Really Very Holy Ministries (CTRVHM). I want a better jet than Creflo, obviously, but I could also do with a 6 bedroom property in London, my own golf course, 12 chess lessons with Magnus Carlsen, and an endless book budget. Plus I plan on buying the Nutella company so that I will have plenty of spare jars in my cupboards in case of an apocalypse.

Please don’t feel that your 50 pounds/dollars is an insignificant drop in the ocean of this request. God loves a cheerful giver, and so on.

#worthatry

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Alan Garrow presents the “Matthew Conflator Hypothesis”

It was one of the best papers I have ever heard (perhaps the best) and came as something of a shock to my system. Alan Garrow presented his “Matthew Conflator Hypothesis” at King’s University, in 2014, taking use of multimedia to a new level, filling what I had expected would be a rather dull paper with wit and brilliance. More importantly, he offered an extremely plausible solution to the Synoptic Problem, one I had never taught or even thought much about. I’m delighted that Alan has uploaded 5 videos here, explaining his hypothesis. If you don’t love these, you’re mad, certified, and should probably apologies to all trees everywhere that you are using the valuable oxygen they kindly produce.

image

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Can't remember if I put this up before, but it's worthy of creating a doublette even if I did

Jim West posts…

the-person-the-pew-commentary-series“The Time Is Drawing Nigh…

For the commentary to appear in electronic format.  Logos wishes simply to have a few more interested souls pre-ordering before investing in the effort of electronicizing them”

 

If you enjoy his blog, you know what to do! Buy the crap out of it. Even if you can’t read.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Was Jesus “designated” to be Son of God, implying a change of status?

Ever since I read Daniel Kirk on this (around page 40 of his Unlocking Romans) I have tended towards the translation “designated” – for the reasons Daniel gives (a fact I didn’t see as problematic for a divine Christology in the way I present it). But NTW may have changed my mind!

Tom Wright on ὁρίζω in Rom. 1:4

It is important to stress here, as I have done elsewhere, that though the resurrection thus unveils what was there before, it does not confer or create a new status or identity for Jesus. The key word horisthentos, with its root meaning to do with ‘marking a boundary’, and hence ‘defining’ or ‘determining’, has to do with the public clarification, validation or vindication of a previously made claim, not with a claim or status newly introduced. That is quite clear for three reasons. First, in the passages we studied earlier it is the death of God’s son that reveals God’s love in Romans 5 and 8, and for that to make any sense Jesus must obviously have been ‘God’s son’ when he was crucified. Second, in Romans 1:3–4 itself, the messianic status of ‘son of David’ already, according to Psalm 2 and 2 Samuel 7, implied that this person was ‘son of God’, so that the logical order of verses 3 and 4 has the force of a Davidic messianic claim to divine sonship being then validated in the resurrection. Third, and also in this passage, the whole double clause is introduced by the phrase ‘the gospel of God … concerning his son’: in other words, the ‘son’ is the subject of the whole sequence. If there is anything new about Jesus’ post-resurrection sonship in this verse, it is simply that his sonship, possessed all along, is now ‘in power’

--- Paul and the Faithfulness of God, p. 700

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Reviewing NTW’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God

I’m presently writing a review for Anvil of Wright’s PFG. As I expected, there is much here which has wound me up, much with which I disagree. But equally, and as I expected, there is much to admire, and I have learnt again to appreciate the brilliance and breadth of Wright’s vision and skill. Those who simply dismiss Wright’s massive work—for whatever reason—are deluding themselves! Also, there are nuggets on the way such as this:

‘body’, ‘flesh’, ‘mind’, ‘heart’, ‘spirit’, ‘soul’ and ‘will’. These words sometimes appear to designate different ‘parts’ of a human being, but, as many have pointed out, it is better to see them as each encoding a particular way of looking at the human being as a whole but from one particular angle (491)

Useful. I often hear, in evangelical circles of a more charismatic bent, that a precise analysis of biblical anthropological language is a key for discipleship. But I don’t think we should, properly speaking, talk about an anthropology that the bible is “about” at all (what it is “about” for the church is defined in terms of the Word of God). Either way, Wright’s point here is a useful way of teaching on those issues.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Barthian Actualism in 5 steps

Okay theologian friends, here is my summary of the logic involved in affirming actualistic theology. I've used Nimmo (Being in Action plus his article in the Westminster Handbook to Karl Barth) in the main.

A) is this broadly correct? and
B) if you think this is a faulty theological vision, where does it go wrong?

Actualism, in a nutshell, "conceives of God and Jesus Christ, and (derivatively) of human beings, as beings-in-action" (Nimmo). To get there, it argues (while not pinning anything on the numbering which, to an extent, artificially separates united points):

1. God is who he is in revelation
2.a. This revelation involves events, acts
2.b. This divine "eventfulness" specifically has the name "Jesus"
3.a. So God's being is eventful, active, being-in-action
3.b. As the elect one, and electing God, this divine being-in-action names the event in which God elects to be God for us, and in do doing constitutes himself - his own being - in terms of this particular grace and love.

But actualistic ontology is a christological vision for all of theology, so:

4. This further entails that actualistic theology frames and structures anthropology (which for Barth derives from Christology) —we too are beings-in-action— and thus Barth's theological ethics. It also has ramifications for proclamation and Scripture becoming the Word of God, and the being-in-action of the church.
5. This is to say that actualistic theology resists any being-not-in-action, anything "static", whether it be speech about God, humans, or whatever else. It involves a "Nein", in other words, to substantialistic theology "in which God and human beings would be construed as fixed and determinate quantities in a certain abstraction from their histories, acts, and relationships" (Nimmo in The Westminster Handbook)

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Interview

I was interviewed about my forthcoming Eerdmans book while at SBLAAR couple of weeks ago. The proper video will be released early next year. This was a section responding to questions via Tweets (read: Twits).

Me on "Paul, Evil, and Justification Debates" at St Mary's

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Harvey responds to Leithart on First Things

It’s a great piece, and you can read it here. One haymaker:

“Of course, we cannot deny that God is omnipresent, but we can question whether that presence is flat, so to speak. Incarnation, Pentecost, and the return of Christ, for instance, as well as the consummated form of his presence at the End, invite an account of rich variety-in-presence. And, of course, Christians have dared to identify intensities of presence elsewhere: God speaks through prophets, anoints kings, and heals miraculously on occasion, with thin spaces, sacred spaces and all manner of sacramental spaces being regularly identified. In such accounts, God’s omnipresence is far from uniform. It is perhaps better—as so often the case with the triune God—to speak of unity and distinction here”

Monday, November 17, 2014

Guest Post: TJ Lang on Campbell’s new book, Framing Paul

It’s a treat to have Dr. T.J. Lang, Lecturer in New Testament Studies at Durham University, write a brief book notice about Douglas Campbell’s exciting new book, Framing Paul. Without further ado, I’ll pass the mic to TJ…IMG_0861 

Conventions and perceived consensus on subjects in New Testament scholarship are important for ongoing research. They can be very good things. But they can also become lures to lazy scholarship—and boring scholarship. Do we not all too often find the conclusions of previous eras repeated without remembrance of the arguments that sustained them? Might those arguments depend on claims we would no longer accept and presumptions we should no longer share?

With respect to Pauline scholarship the usual conventions are well known. If you want to write on Paul, you best stick to the so-called Hauptbriefe. Philippians is great, too. It’s fine to bring in something from 1 Thessalonians if you can, and even Philemon, but they’re mostly harmless. The other canonical letters, whatever you really think about them, are best left alone; it’s just easier this way. This convention certainly has advantages. It’s clearly more convenient to write on Paul when six or seven or nine of his letters have been cleanly amputated from the data set. But what if the so-called disputed letters aren’t fake, and instead our habit of reasoning on these matters is dubious? Furthermore, even if deemed inauthentic in good faith to critical standards, shouldn’t excluded letters merit some consideration, or even some account for why the Pauline legacy has been taken in a particular direction and why or how the differences matter. Take E.P. Sanders’ magisterial Paul and Palestinian Judaism, arguably the most important book on Paul in the 20th century (it’s surely on the shortlist). No passages from Ephesians and Colossians are ever cited in the main text. Not one. (Although Ephesians does appear in one footnote and Colossians in two.) Texts from the Pastoral Epistles are never referred to at all. (This isn’t a trick, like the famous listing for “Truth, ultimate” in the subject index, which directs the reader to three blank pages.) These “Pauline” letters are denied any role in defining or contributing to the critical analysis of Paul’s thought. It’s no wonder then that people so frequently maintain that the disputed or deuteropauline letters don’t “seem” Pauline to them. Of course they don’t. How could they when they are nearly absent from most major treatments of Paul? Once you stop reading them it’s to be expected that they will seem strange to you. Their marginalization is self-reinforcing.

Alright, enough griping. I come to praise Douglas Campbell’s new book, Framing Paul: An Epistolary Biography, which provides an injection of intellectual energy into the stale conventions described above. After this book the old habits may still persist, but they cannot do so as easily, and all positions will be made sharper by engaging this work. Campbell’s arguments are historically vigorous, bracingly original, and certain to cause offense to dogmatists on any point of any ideological spectrum. Many hackneyed arguments for or against the integrity or authenticity of various letters are finally slain. And the resulting chronology, which is based on critical data not yet considered by previous proposals and conducted on strict internal grounds, is certain to provoke numerous exegetical, biographical, and theological debates. The result is ten authentic letters addressed to seven churches—ten letters which fortuitously correspond to our earliest known edition of the Pauline corpus (that of Marcion) and seven churches reminiscent of those addressed in Revelation 2-3. Perhaps even more interesting is the claim that Paul’s Laodiceans (“Ephesians”), Colossians, and Philemon belong near the beginning of Paul’s letter-writing career, in mid to late 50 CE, and thus reflect the thought of an incarcerated yet optimistic Apostle in Asia Minor not yet embattled in the Judaizing conflicts represented in Galatians, Philippians, and Romans (composed in that sequence in 51-52 CE). This is just a sample of the original theses in the book.

It is, in short, simply thrilling to read (which may say more about me than the book, but still, it’s thrilling!). This will be true whether you find yourself persuaded or not. It’s good for our minds and our critical instincts to reevaluate foundational questions. Books like Framing Paul are all too rare, but when they appear they make the lives of Pauline scholars more interesting. This particular book makes Paul a whole lot more interesting as well.

Priesting your collective Daseins

I like to serve the ecclesial community on this blog. Today, for free, I'm offering some potential strap-lines created for your college or church webpages, aimed to encourage people into ordination. I think they will work. Honouring the whole priestly "ontological change" caboodle:
  • "Feeling a bit droopy in the ontologicals? Go to college / seminary: they offer a three or five year ontic-lift. Give your state of being a priestly kick up the ass (© Chris Tilling, 2014)"
  • "Come to ordination college and get the crap priested out of you, because it's basically the ToysRus for all for your ontological insufficiency needs (© Chris Tilling, 2014)"
  • "You're embarrassed because you've just discovered that you have 'ontic pagans'. At college / seminary, they offer the very best in discrete help. If you've already got a theology degree, come to priesting college for a two year gastrointestinal purge of your complete ontological status (© Chris Tilling, 2014)"
  • "You're the ontological drag factor in your church? Go to college and get yo ass ontologically changed at priest factory (© Chris Tilling, 2014)"

Sunday, November 16, 2014

New Job Opportunity

Required Skills: Experienced chaperone, suspicious face, crowd manager, an affinity for the Russian Orthodox Church, and a holy hat cross folder-over aptitude.

Please submit your CV together with an essay describing your vision for cross folding at: bossbishop@obviouslyIcantfoldmyowncross.com

Russianhatcross

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Athanasius the Universalist

Robin Parry notes a fascinating line of argument in Ramelli's inordinately expensive but astonishingly well researched volume. I'd love to know what experts of Athanasius make if this.

Reforming the “peer review” system. A proposal.

This blog post comes on the heals of the last. I read with interest Leithart’s interaction with Campbell’s Justification Theory, but my thoughts ended up in a rather different place. I began reflecting on the need to keep the reviewers reviewed, to keep them on their toes, responsible and accountable.

Certainly Leithart’s post energised my thoughts, as this is not the first time his interaction with scholars on First Things could have been more vigorous and responsible. But I do not mean to point fingers just at him – and for the record, I have greatly enjoyed his own work and scholarship for years! To be honest, I have posted a couple of book reviews here I wish were kinder or at least fairer. Rather, my concern is about the peer review system generally.

For the following reasons, I think the review system at present, especially as represented in journals, is in need of reform. Too many poor reviews are penned which do not do justice to the works with which they interact.

I think there are obvious reasons for this. People want to add to their “publications” list for their CV, and a review, however poor, can simply be added. Editors cannot possibly keep up-to-date with all areas of not just NT studies, but even specific areas such as the Synoptics and Paul. This means that individuals are not well positioned to evaluate all submissions. So almost anything could pass as a review, and because reviewers are not held duly accountable, suitable checks and balances are missing. To take a silly and less important example, one reviewer once chided something I had published for its lack of engagement with German scholarship, a claim so profoundly factually false I wondered whether he had read more than my book title.

Many have experienced something similar. It is indeed easy to forget how much work authors put into their works, and how much thought they usually require (at least the best of them). Then along comes a review and people are led astray by someone who has put in a few minutes (usually mistaken) thought.

The result of all of this for those of us who are cognisant of the problem is a profound distrust in the so-called peer review system. Though not quite as bad as Amazon reviews, or some comments on news item blogs, the academic review system is a community lacking accountability. Nor can one always rely on established voices, respected scholars and such like, as they are often defending their treasured views developed decades ago, and so they can sometimes automatically resist development, even if it be thoroughly legitimate (I think I speak from experience, here!)

So, how can things be improved? Can confidence in the peer review system be restored? I think so. My proposal is simple:

For journal reviews, the author of the reviewed book should be asked to write a couple of paragraphs in response to any given review. Nothing too long, or it would never happen, just a 300-500 words reaction, giving the author the final word. The book author would be given a relatively short period, say 3-5 weeks, to:

a) Note what issues the review has hit upon that will give the reviewed-book author pause for thought. What has the reviewer said that is helpful, whether positive or negative?

b) Offer a brief response to critical points.

That’s it, in a nutshell, hardly rocket science. And I think this would be enough to encourage more accountability and thus reform the entire peer review system, restoring confidence. Why would this work? Simple: if a reviewer writes knowing that his review will be judged by the book author immediately following his or her review, this will surely encourage more care and attention.

Indeed, I call on all journals to adopt such an author-response system. Academia deserves it. 

So “who reviews the reviewers?” is indeed a key question. Over at Syndicate, I think Christian and the team have provided an excellent model for future consideration, and I’m honoured to be involved with a project that provides a pathway into the future.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Campbell’s brief response to Leithart on Justification Theory

Over at First Things, Peter Leithart recently penned a piece on Douglas Campbell’s “Justification Theory”. I asked Douglas to compose a response, and in my next post I will explain why. I will now simply hand the microphone over to Douglas (and add that, for what it’s worth, Douglas didn’t have anything to do with the immature image below. I’ll be having strong words with my CTRVHM media team later about this visual effrontery and misconstrual of the nature of responsible academic interaction).

DCC

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A lot of folk unhappy with the direction of my Deliverance of God's 'apocalyptic rereading of justification in Paul' have used the line Leithart reproduces recently to try to negate it. I haven't responded much to it in the past because it seems to me to be so obviously weak. I always thought that those using it would end up being embarrassed by it. But readers are not apparently picking up on this so maybe a very quick indication of the problems with this critique is in order here.

The basic line is: 'Campbell's account of "justification" in terms of "justification theory" is not found anywhere. He cites no theologians of justification, like Luther, or examples of JT in relation to Paul. So it's a straw man, and his arguments and conclusions can safely be ignored.'

A lot of people have run this defense, and not just from the conservative end of the Christian spectrum. Matlock develops it at some length in a JSNT response. Here's why - at least IMHO - it is a total dud. There are two major problems, just one of which I will detail here: 1. it is false, and grossly so; and 2. it is an incoherent response argumentatively that gets its user into trouble rather than me. (Yes, strange but true.)

1. It is false.

In ch. 10 on pp. 333-37, supported by notes on pp. 1013-1020 (nn. 38-100), the presence of JT is documented in commentary on Romans, technical and more popular, introductions to Paul, NT theologies, and even in study Bibles. (Check the titles of those and then what they say: it's very interesting.)

In ch. 8 on pp. 250-64 supported by notes on pp. 996-99 (nn. 8-49), the presence of JT in Luther, Calvin, Melanchthon, is documented; with a nod toward Augustine on pp. 277-82 supported by notes on pp. 1002-03 (nn. 77-90). (I can now do a lot better with Augustine having worked more closely in the interim with my good friend and highly learned Patristic colleague at Duke Warren Smith.) Note, this discussion of JT in the Reformers is only about one half of the engagement with the Reformers in Deliverance.

In ch. 9 (pp. 284-309), the affinity between JT and the fundamentally liberal discourse of modernity is documented. On pp. 289-99, supported by notes on pp. 1004-08 (nn. 5-34), the presence of JT is documented in various conservative traditions like Campus Crusade and Billy Graham's presentation of the gospel. It is also documented in liberal traditions with particular reference to Bultmann.

That's quite a lot of documentation - 33 pages of analysis, much in small print, and 16 pages of annotation, with 145 footnotes (or thereabouts), in other words a small book, or at least a fairly lengthy article. So when my critics charge that I have not documented JT they are, quite simply, making a false charge.

Furthermore, I am forced to conclude that scholars who make this charge repeatedly are doing one of the following: deliberately misrepresenting my work; unintentionally misrepresenting material that they don't know (i.e., they haven't read all the book), or failing to detect basic metaphors and arguments in source material.

2. It is a bad argument.

I hope enough has been said by this point, so I won't bore readers with any development of problem 2 other than to say that "Justification Theory/JT" is an account of the argument and implicit theory of salvation IN PAUL. And this is not a hard claim for my critics to grasp. It is present in the title of my book - in the final two words to be precise: "An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul."

Moreover, I point out that this really must be drawn from Romans 1-4. Hence no one has directly engaged my derivation of this construct from the text of Romans (and Moo has endorsed it), or has falsified it. So it still stands. JT as I define it is an account of salvation as that is presented by the usual reading (see commentaries above under problem 1) of Romans 1-4.

So… "justification as Campbell defines it cannot be found in later theologians like Luther, Calvin" and so on. (Again, this is false: see Deliverance, ch. 9, § 2.) But I ask you: is this a problem for me, or for my critics, most of whom are conservative Protestants? What my critics are really saying is "justification as Paul in Romans 1-4 presents it cannot be found in later theologians like Luther…" (?!).

It has been a little bizarre watching bloggers like Leithart shoot themselves in the foot and then hop about claiming that I can't walk. And it has been even more bizarre watching scholars who should know better signing off on this ridiculous argument.

Having said this, this behavior is at least a confirmation of one of the major claims of the book, namely, that debate of these issues is next to impossible if the underlying paradigmatic commitments of readers are not clearly identified and faced. And that is why JT is so important and is fronted at such length. People need to be honest enough to admit that they endorse it and that they get it from Paul in Romans 1-4. Without these confessions, I suggested in Deliverance that constructive discussion of textual and interpretative alternatives will be impossible. And the subsequent behavior of many of my critics has proved the truth of this claim.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Power Baptism™

We’ve all heard of John Wimber’s Power Evangelism, “words” on planes, one-by-one discipleship, etc., all well and good.

But that was the 90s and, well, it couldn’t always deliver on the efficient front, which is to say that it was a little bit too slow. So Chris Tilling Really Very Holy Ministries (CTRVHM) is pleased to provide – for free - a new indispensible missional tool for the 21st century. It offers a way to save an entire train of people in a mere few seconds. Read that last sentence again.

How is this possible? CTRVHM is proud to unveil Power Baptism™.

No need for:

  • risky “words” (gulp)
  • follow-up (double gulp)
  • discipleship programmes (which, by the way, should always boil down to the following: read your bible more, pray more, repent more, go to church more. Simples)
  • giving away free dinners to strangers
  • “relationship” evangelism (yawn)

What is more, the secret of Power Baptism™ can be learnt in approx 25 seconds:

 

And ta dah, an entire train full of brand new Christians.