Saturday, September 25, 2010

Guest Post on the Deliverance Series: Douglas Campbell responds

A qualification about this guest post first: Douglas, of course, does not have the time to engage with all critical points in the comments of these posts. Occasionally, however, he may write a post or two to clarify one or the other point, develop something I have said, or engage with reader comments (e. g. today Daniel Kirk and his comments here and here). I particularly urge readers to study DC's first point below, in response to Francis Watson, which I think will clarify matters considerably. I now hand over to DC:

1. Which major commentator on Romans does not reproduce JT (Justification Theory) when exegeting Romans 1-4? I grant you that Jewett, Dunn, and Wright do not in part. But who else? Stowers? Is that it? Every other major commentator runs JT through Romans 1-4 in a tradition stretching back to the Reformation and now encompassing all major Catholic as well as Protestant commentaries. It almost completely dominates the commentary tradition on Romans 1-4. JT also dominates almost all the minor commentators on Romans, the NT Intros-, the Introductions to Paul's theology, the treatments of Paul's theology when treating justification, etc. etc. Name me a study bible that does not run it. JT is everywhere.

Another way of putting this would be to say, which major commentator does not get to 3:20 and say something like "Paul has just proved that all fall short of God's just requirements, and are under indictment, including Jews, so that the gospel can now be preached to all without distinction..." Even the revisionists turn around and say something like this.

When Francis says that no one attests to JT, he's not really talking accurately about what JT is actually claiming in my book, which is the foregoing. He's saying (presumably) that broader reconstructions of Paul's theology generally don't commit to JT in toto. They find some way to amalgamate it with other views. So do most leading Reformation thinkers. (I don't think that Melanchthon does much other than JT, but even he has some alternative material in play.) But of course they do! You have to. There is so much more in Paul than JT.

But nobody is disputing this.

In fact, I would make a slightly different claim in relation to Francis and others at this point, namely, that these broader syntheses are incoherent. When we press on them we find that they fall apart. The explanations we have been given at such points rest on special pleading and poor exegesis (etc.).

Francis's straw man critique is a clever rhetorical move, because it makes my extended critique look irrelevant. But it's not actually a valid move, and on all sorts of levels. (It's not a true account of my position; it asserts a truism; it isn't a true account of the church--see below; etc.)

2. Now as to JT not existing. In addition to the commentary noted earlier, which parts of the four spiritual laws, the Alpha course's teaching on the atonement, the Navigator B pack's teaching on the atonement, or Billy Graham's model of salvation--to note just a few modern Christian icons--do not reproduce JT? Even more disconcertingly, which part of Bultmann's Theology of the New Testament is not basically committed to a variant of JT?

Which part of John Stott's Basic Christianity does not run JT? Almost every single student I teach at the Divinity School says to me "JT" sums up exactly what they have been taught about the gospel. There are some exceptions, but they are in the minority. Everyone I meet at bible study in prison thinks in terms of JT--every single one (cf. Rom. 3:10-18), although this sample is admittedly not large. Conservative organizations are excluding and firing people for not endorsing key aspects of JT. To not endorse JT is "heretical." JT is, moreover, extremely close to modern political and philosophical Liberalism. So is it really likely that JT does not exist?

You need to do a bit more work, then, if you want to marginalize JT as an interpretative tool than just say "it doesn't exist." There's an awful lot of evidence that says it does, and so you need to deal with it in some other way. I'm open to this, but if you don't actually deal with this material then you risk looking like someone standing in a field at midday with his/her eyes closed saying "the sun doesn't exist" (to wax Wrightian for a moment).

I can understand how Francis might miss this stuff, given his location. Perhaps JT is also less emphasized in hard Reformed circles as well, Daniel. But I suspect that neither of you are in mainstream conservative, or even mainstream church locations and traditions in these respects. All my soundings suggest that JT is ubiquitous. (I wish this wasn't the case; I really do. But I fear that it is.)

All-in-all, my hunch is that if you want to criticize Deliverance--and Francis seems to want to--then you would be better working some other angle. Rejecting the existence of JT risks making you seem a little out of touch. Also, another line of critique might engage with a position that I'm actually committed to arguing. The argument that JT doesn't exist has got no future. Ironically, you have actually set up a straw man.

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6 Comments:

At 9/25/2010 9:33 PM, Blogger Rachel said...

I should probably add to the foregoing that if you think JT is an inadequate summary of Paul's argumentation in Romans 1-4, then please just show where exactly the problems lie. Spell it out for me. And be sure to supply the argumentative articulation that is superior. I'll be happy to modify or abandon JT if someone provides something better. (I actually mean this.)

Michael Gorman does a bit of this in his insightful series of posts on DG, but my response to him is--a little ironically--that he has added an awful lot to the text that just isn't there. The texts don't explicitly deliver what he needs them to. I don't think you can accuse JT of being in that category. But by all means try. Just be specific.

 
At 9/27/2010 12:20 AM, Anonymous J. R. Daniel Kirk said...

I'm not sure I have much more to say. You say the strawman argument doesn't apply, I think it does. This isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

But I will add this: I really actually want you to be right. When you get past this deconstructing of the two chapters where everyone is up in arms about the book, the positive construal of what Paul is actually going for is very much in line with what I think is going on in Romans, as you know.

I thought your bringing of resurrection into Rom 3 was outstanding, and lends further credibility to my own argument about the book.

In addition to this, my own history (lived out before your eyes during the time we overlapped at Duke!) is from a more conservative Reformed setting into a less conservative Reformed setting to where I'm something like a post-conservative Reformed Anabaptist right now.

So I would be quite happy to have the traditional readings of Paul fall more by the wayside than they already have. I don't have the dog in the fight that Watson has; in fact, we have quite different assessments of recent scholarly work on Paul.

All this makes me wish that the engagement with justification was an engagement with exegetes' traditional moves rather than the theory that they will never agree that they ascribe to. Even if you are right, this argumentative strategy hasn't compelled even many of those (such as myself, but others who are by no means conservative readers of Paul) who don't have a dog in that fight. At some point, doesn't it indicate that this was not an effective strategy, even if you're vindicated as correct on that Great Day when All Pauline Mysteries Are Made Known (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2052)?

 
At 9/27/2010 4:36 PM, Blogger Rachel said...

How should we start the conversation that we have to have about how interpreters read Romans 1-4, and then draw certain theological implications from this reading and introduce them into the broader picture of Paul?

All we need to do is show how most interpreters of Romans 1-4 are committing to (a) reading Paul (at this point) forward; (b) doing so on the basis of a retributive notion of justice in God; and (c) correlating this with an individualizing anthropology. This is basically it--and I do say this. I'm not quite sure what is so inaccurate about this.

If people won't talk to me about the fact that this is the theological armature that they get for Paul out of Romans 1-4, then I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do. They can say that they don't do it, but they do. There's a lot of evidence for this.

This set of theological assumptions--I argue--causes a lot of difficulties for us in the rest of our interpretation, on all sorts of levels. It's basically the introduction of the good old western ordo into a broader schema that is really fundamentally trinitarian; it marries a duck to a hare. This is all I'm trying to say at this point.

If you have a better rhetorical strategy for saying this, then I'm all ears. But I'm not sure that I should accept the denials of conservative scholars that they don't do this at face value. They never demonstrate that they don't do it. They never present clearly in their responses what I say about this situation (i.e., they don't present my book in such a way that this is its opening thesis). They never show how my theoretical articulation of what is going on exegetically in Romans 1-4 is wrong. They never refute how this theory underlies many of our major difficulties in Pauline studies.

I think what you end up suggesting is that I supply an account of what traditional Justification types do with the text both exegetically and theoretically. I know that they're not accepting my articulation of their situation. But I did try to do this. They have said that they don't like it, but they haven't supplied any alternatives. (And I don't think they can. Have a quick flick through the relevant parts of Justification and Variegated Nomism. It's all there.)

How would you set up this account differently from the way I set it up?

To be frank, I think some of my critics are having trouble facing the actual consequences of their position. Once they have been laid out clearly, it is equally clear that certain things in it are unpalatable and unPauline. So rather than accept this characterization of the situation, and accept that some serious issues need to be dealt with, it's easier to kick up a lot of dust earlier on in the process and pretend that a serious engagement isn't necessary. (And who can blame them for not wanting to engage with a thousand page book in detail!)

But there's nothing substantive or valid going on in this process--just the proverbial heat rather than light. (I have watched this unfolding ad nauseam on US airwaves politically, so it shouldn't surprise us to encounter this approach in church circles.) I expect this sort of rhetorical bluster from the likes of Moo and Seifrid (and Francis is keeping odd company here). But I don't expect it from you, Daniel.

Having said this, I'm sensing a rapprochement, so thanks for your trenchant interactions and comments. I appreciate hearing how I'm being heard, even if the result is that I don't feel entirely heard! And doubtless you feel the same way.

 
At 9/27/2010 4:37 PM, Blogger Rachel said...

How should we start the conversation that we have to have about how interpreters read Romans 1-4, and then draw certain theological implications from this reading and introduce them into the broader picture of Paul?

All I am trying to do is show how most interpreters of Romans 1-4 are committing to (a) reading Paul (at this point) forward; (b) doing so on the basis of a retributive notion of justice in God; and (c) correlating this with an individualizing anthropology. This is basically it--and I do say this. I'm not quite sure what is so inaccurate about this.

If people won't talk to me about the fact that this is the theological armature that they get for Paul out of Romans 1-4, then I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do. They can say that they don't do it, but they do. There's a lot of evidence for this.

This set of theological assumptions--I argue--causes a lot of difficulties for us in the rest of our interpretation, on all sorts of levels. It's basically the introduction of the good old western ordo into a broader schema that is really fundamentally trinitarian; it marries a duck to a hare. This is all I'm trying to say at this point.

If you have a better rhetorical strategy for saying this, then I'm all ears. But I'm not sure that I should accept the denials of conservative scholars that they don't do this at face value. They never demonstrate that they don't do it. They never present clearly in their responses what I say about this situation (i.e., they don't present my book in such a way that this is its opening thesis). They never show how my theoretical articulation of what is going on exegetically in Romans 1-4 is wrong. They never refute how this theory underlies many of our major difficulties in Pauline studies.

[contd.]

 
At 9/27/2010 4:38 PM, Blogger Rachel said...

I think what you end up suggesting is that I supply an account of what traditional Justification types do with the text both exegetically and theoretically. I know that they're not accepting my articulation of their situation. But I did try to do this. They have said that they don't like it, but they haven't supplied any alternatives. (And I don't think they can. Have a quick flick through the relevant parts of Justification and Variegated Nomism. It's all there.)

How would you set up this account differently from the way I set it up?

To be frank, I think some of my critics are having trouble facing the actual consequences of their position. Once they have been laid out clearly, it is equally clear that certain things in it are unpalatable and unPauline. So rather than accept this characterization of the situation, and accept that some serious issues need to be dealt with, it's easier to kick up a lot of dust earlier on in the process and pretend that a serious engagement isn't necessary. (And who can blame them for not wanting to engage with a thousand page book in detail!)

But there's nothing substantive or valid going on in this process--just the proverbial heat rather than light. (I have watched this unfolding ad nauseam on US airwaves politically, so it shouldn't surprise us to encounter this approach in church circles.) I expect this sort of rhetorical bluster from the likes of Moo and Seifrid (and Francis is keeping odd company here). But I don't expect it from you, Daniel.

Having said this, I'm sensing a rapprochement, so thanks for your trenchant interactions and comments. I appreciate hearing how I'm being heard, even if the result is that I don't feel entirely heard! And doubtless you feel the same way.

 
At 9/27/2010 6:15 PM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Thank you both for your interaction here - it helps the rest of us understand what is going on.

As DC has put some very clear questions to you Daniel, the line "I'm not sure I have much more to say. You say the strawman argument doesn't apply, I think it does" does strike me as, effectively, the argumentative equivalent of white flag waving (incidentally, George Lakoff's Metaphors we Live by, which Doug draws on, makes for fascinating reading - he starts his argument by exploring the metaphor "argument is war", hence my reference to a white flag in this context! - which is also a reason why I find Beverly Gaventa's critique of DC and his use of military metaphors very strange. J Louis Martyn's Galatians commentary is full of it! But I digress...). I know you say that “[t]his [discussion] isn't going anywhere anytime soon”, but surely this reasoned and welcome debate is thus exactly what is needed, especially after DC’s clarifications and further detailing of his position. I say this selfishly – I’m hoping to coax you out – as I know I will learn from your responses!

 

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