Friday, August 27, 2010

Review of Campbell’s Deliverance PART 3

A summary review PART 3

of Campbell, Douglas A. The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2009

Beginning with the Problem (Frank Thielman will at least like this heading)

Imagine going to a doctor with a complaint. You sit down and she asks you about your symptoms - which, it turns out, appear thoroughly varied. Sometimes you have a cold, yet other times it is a tummy upset. Then again, you may suffer with dizziness, or another time from tiredness. In light of all of these symptoms a good doctor will seek to diagnose the underlying causes, or even better the single cause, so that the treatment is better targeted and most effective. In this case, perhaps she will diagnose stress, or something similar, and prescribe time off of work, relaxation techniques, or tablets (please forgive this prospective analogy and subheading for introducing a completely retrospective account of Paul's theology - but imperfect didactic tools are often the most memorable!)

A look at contemporary Pauline scholarship will reveal many problems for the theologian and NT exegete, especially as they relate to soteriology. DC begins his thesis by noting three of these. 
Artwork from
  • First is the tension (I'll wait awhile until we call this a 'contradiction') between forensic justification-related discourse in Paul on the one hand (think of justification in terms of exchanges, creditations [of righteousness or sin], contracts etc.) and the Apostle's mystical (or participatory, or relational) language on the other. One need only recall names such as Wrede and Sanders to recognise this fission in Paul's thought, and much scholarship is concerned with either declaring the fission to be an illusory vision (I'm a poet and you didn't know it), or a divide so great that it cannot be crossed (cf. Räisänen's Paul and the Law [Tübingen: Mohr, 1986]). 
  • The second Pauline 'conundrum' (as DC calls them) concerns the 'Lutheran' (he will soon reject this descriptive title) account of Judaism against which justification by faith makes sense, an account which paints the religion as the negative example of legalism. Sanders, covenantal nomism and the rise of the so-called 'new perspective' is, in many ways, an attempt to rethink Paul, if this account of 'the problem' to which Pauline soteriology is the answer, is faulty. And as yet, this is much debate and little agreement as to the way forward. A conundrum indeed.  
  • Finally, while scholars agree that Paul's letters were responses to contingent circumstances, and not simple deposits of theological maxims detached from their first century context, why is it that the contingent circumstances of Paul's letter to the Romans has not been clarified? More to the point, why, as is so often the case, is Romans effectively treated as if it were a 'theological tractate', merely 'bracketed' by an epistolary opening and conclusion (Cf. e.g., Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996], 32, 39.). Is this not to recapitulate to pre-critical accounts of the nature of ancient epistles? Why the ambiguity about the contingent situation of Romans?
With these symptoms in mind, a good doctor would search for a common cause (and this one may certainly be causing stress as well!), so that an effective treatment can be prescribed. Likewise, and key to the argument of the whole book, DC claims: 
'A single culprit seems to generate our difficulties, namely, a particular individualist - and so possible also rather modern - reading of Paul's justification terminology and argumentation that devolves into a conditional understanding of salvation' (3).
If this diagnosis is correct (and DoG sketches preliminary reasons for this judgment in pp. 3-7), not only will major problems in Pauline scholarship potentially all be resolved at once, but more importantly, the Pauline gospel will be heard again with fresh power, to break the idolatry of a false theology trapped by the spirit of the age, and thus empower it to address our lives again. But because the diagnosis of these problems immediately confronts one with the complexly intertwined matters that orbit the vicious circle of hermeneutical, ideological, theological, argumentative, exegetical etc. concerns that relate to reading a text, we must return to DC's two insights noted in Part 2 of this review summary (think James Torrance and 'a set of preliminary characterizations' and you've got it): Part One of DoG will systematically set out the problems relating to the contractual reading of Paul. The problem thus diagnosed will facilitate the prescription of the treatment: a rhetorical and apocalyptic reading of Paul which is, at bottom, all about Jesus and God's un-contractual, or put slightly more elegantly, God's unconditional love.



At 8/28/2010 8:24 AM, Blogger Steve Walton said...

Thanks Chris. I'm enjoying this set of comments. BTW, do you (or DC?) mean 'fissure' rather than 'fission'?

At 8/28/2010 11:15 AM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

well, I was adopting a bit of poetic license here - Fission is a splitting of something into two parts. Fissure, yes, is what you would expect, but 'fission', the splitting of something into two parts, rhymed better with vision!


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