Your preferred model for understanding Paul’s gospel
I will shortly be publishing here a long overdue review of Douglas A. Campbell's highly stimulating work, The Quest for Paul's Gospel: A Suggested Strategy (London: T & T Clark, 2005). His chapters on homosexual ordination, and the one on the 'justification by faith' in terms of its contractual construal were particularly fascinating!
As I shall explain, he offers three main models for understanding Paul's gospel:
- The 'justification by faith' one
- The 'salvation history' model and
- The pneumatological participatory martyrological eschatology model (which in important ways is similar to what others call an 'apocalyptic' model) – Campbell makes a case that this is the best one to adopt.
What is your preferred model for understanding Paul? Salvation history? Apocalyptic? Justification by faith? Something else?
I think that in order to understand Paul's letters, one must accept a certain amount of salvation historical continuity. This also carries with it the recognition that there is no free-floating object called 'Christ' unrelated to the scriptures and the scriptural story(ies) (a point Watson makes in Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith – another book I will review in the next few weeks). Nevertheless, to understand Paul's letters one must equally accept a degree of discontinuity, novelty and outrageous creativity in Paul's thinking in light of his relation to Christ. If we insist too strongly on one or the other we will misrepresent the Apostle.
With those points in mind, I like to understand Paul's gospel in terms of salvation history (informed at points by the 'justification by faith' approach) and apocalyptic. Indeed, the mysteries God reveals in apocalyptic literature is often the plan of God's saving actions, i.e. salvation history! They do not exist in either/or (a point made beautifully by Wright in Paul: Fresh Perspectives).