Saturday, September 18, 2010

Review of Campbell’s Deliverance PART 5

A summary review PART 5

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

I must now expand on the point made in the previous post, as it seems to be a common misunderstanding of DC’s position. Watson, in his review, writes:
‘Throughout his book, Campbell engages primarily with the full, intact theory as he himself has reconstructed it, normally preferring to debate not with the specific views of an individual scholar but with Justification theory in its totality. In consequence, a number of possible divergences from this Justification theory are downplayed or ignored. Thus, “faith” might be understood theologically as an acknowledgment of divine saving action in Christ engendered by the Holy Spirit, and not at all as the “anthropocentric” product of human volition (as Campbell maintains); and the divine saving action itself might be understood in terms very different from Anselm’s, with an emphasis perhaps on the resurrection alongside the cross ... We note again how dependent Campbell is on his monolithic, undifferentiated Justification theory, which generates problems ... which for many scholars are simply non-existent’ (Francis Watson, “Book Review: Douglas Campbell, The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul,” Early Christianity 1.1 [May 2010]: 181, 183)
Mark Seifrid makes a similar argument:
http://www.sbts.edu/theology/faculty/mark-seifrid/
‘Rather than engaging the traditions in depth, Campbell constructs a straw man with whom he then holds his debate. His relatively brief discussion of Luther, Melanchthon, Calvin, and Augustine (pp. 247–83) does not deflect him from his critique of the model of Protestant thought that he himself has constructed. This abstract and artificial theological “debate” fatally weakens his work’ (Mark A. Seifrid, “Book Review: Douglas Atchison Campbell. The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul,” Themelios 35.2 [July 2010]: 308)
I would suggest, however, that these assertions entirely fail to hit the target. DC’s argument is simply this: that conventional readings of Romans 1-4 (including those which maintain crucial texts in these chapters are representative of Paul’s own theology and not ‘speech-in-character’ – which we will explain later) involve certain theoretical or theological corollaries, and, if Paul is not to be dismissed as hopelessly confused and contradictory at a basic level, then this is the system that follows. DC is well aware that scholars have ways around these theological implications, by reading parts of Romans 2, for example, in light of Romans 5 etc., and he will discuss these strategies later - under titles such as 're-framing' - and offer reasons why they fail. This is not his present point. But a detailed description of the theological commitments involved in a conventional reading of Romans 1-4 is necessary so that clarity may be gained in the task of understanding how Paul’s theology fits together as a whole. Further, arguments against DC, to the effect that the JT ‘construct’ is not found in Luther, Calvin etc. does not refute DC’s thesis at all, but ironically actually proves his point! If Luther and Calvin move away from JT at points, which DC will actively show that they indeed do (!), then all this demonstrates is that they have lost the exegetical witness of Romans 1-4, which, as we shall see, affirms one of DC’s main theses!

In the next post, I will mop up some of these points with reference to Karl Barth's exegesis of Romans.

Labels:

13 Comments:

At 9/19/2010 2:07 AM, Blogger MrErr said...

You make good points. I have also found that DC's portrayal of JT is stereotypical rather than descriptive of any preacher/theologian. But his portrayal is still something that their hermeneutic taken to its logical conclusion would lead anyone to. The only reason Luther or Calvin would not have got that far is because of evidence of scripture. At which point they should have realized that something was wrong with their hermeneutic.

 
At 9/19/2010 9:17 AM, Anonymous Daniel Sladen said...

I don't think that what DC is trying to achieve in approaching the argument this way can really work, regardless of how "right" his view. If you think about it in the framework of Thomas Kuhn, DC's position is radically different enough to constitute the equivalent of a paradigm shift in science. Kuhn will point out how such shifts just aren't achieved by a modificatory development of prevailing views. The example of Kepler and elliptical orbits is the nicest example here (and I hope it isn't tainted by me getting all the details wrong) - if you hold to a view that planets have circular orbits and have got into the habit of including "epicycles" - mathematical variations at points of those orbits - into your predictive astronomical model, then it takes more than an accurate characterisation of your view and a compelling alternative to make you change your mind.

I can't remember how far Kuhn goes with this but it's fair to say that the existing conceptual framework is held because of the commitments that its holders have made, and they are not going to modify that framework (in this case through a new hermeneutic) based on argument. That goes for argument in general, but an argument to absurdity is a particularly difficult way to achieve change; colloquially you'd say that your opponents will always find a way to wriggle out of such an argument because they will always be able to identify an obscure corner of the reasoning you attribute to them, point out that you've not rendered it correctly, and then demonstrate that that inaccuracy renders your view incommensurable with theirs. Selfrid's comments about engaging fully show this. More technically, one could put it that the epistemological and ontological commitments that constitute the I that I function as and the I that you function as necessarily differ which means that your portrayal of my view is never going to map exactly onto your view of it, so there will always be a way out (that's a bit simplistic and Cartesian but hopefully gives the idea).

I'd be interested to know whether you think this is borne out by experience - how often do you see the mainstream of biblical studies change direction on an issue as fundamental as this one based on a good argument? In my discipline the best you really see is a reluctant synthesis of one or two small elements of the new idea into the prevailing view, which would tend to leave the originator of the new idea banging his head on the desk, as the whole point of the new idea is that it's a fundamental shift, not a small modification to tradition. In your discipline... well, I'm not saying it's been exactly resistant to change, but I guess DC will be grateful that the default reaction to a paradigm challenge no longer starts with bunches of kindling.

Thanks again for taking on the Herculean task of reading this on our behalf.

 
At 9/19/2010 9:18 AM, Anonymous Daniel Sladen said...

I don't think that what DC is trying to achieve in approaching the argument this way can really work, regardless of how "right" his view. If you think about it in the framework of Thomas Kuhn, DC's position is radically different enough to constitute the equivalent of a paradigm shift in science. Kuhn will point out how such shifts just aren't achieved by a modificatory development of prevailing views. The example of Kepler and elliptical orbits is the nicest example here (and I hope it isn't tainted by me getting all the details wrong) - if you hold to a view that planets have circular orbits and have got into the habit of including "epicycles" - mathematical variations at points of those orbits - into your predictive astronomical model, then it takes more than an accurate characterisation of your view and a compelling alternative to make you change your mind.

I can't remember how far Kuhn goes with this but it's fair to say that the existing conceptual framework is held because of the commitments that its holders have made, and they are not going to modify that framework (in this case through a new hermeneutic) based on argument. That goes for argument in general, but an argument to absurdity is a particularly difficult way to achieve change; colloquially you'd say that your opponents will always find a way to wriggle out of such an argument because they will always be able to identify an obscure corner of the reasoning you attribute to them, point out that you've not rendered it correctly, and then demonstrate that that inaccuracy renders your view incommensurable with theirs. Selfrid's comments about engaging fully show this. More technically, one could put it that the epistemological and ontological commitments that constitute the I that I function as and the I that you function as necessarily differ which means that your portrayal of my view is never going to map exactly onto your view of it, so there will always be a way out (that's a bit simplistic and Cartesian but hopefully gives the idea).

I'd be interested to know whether you think this is borne out by experience - how often do you see the mainstream of biblical studies change direction on an issue as fundamental as this one based on a good argument? In my discipline the best you really see is a reluctant synthesis of one or two small elements of the new idea into the prevailing view, which would tend to leave the originator of the new idea banging his head on the desk, as the whole point of the new idea is that it's a fundamental shift, not a small modification to tradition. In your discipline... well, I'm not saying it's been exactly resistant to change, but I guess DC will be grateful that the default reaction to a paradigm challenge no longer starts with bunches of kindling.

Thanks again for taking on the Herculean task of reading this on our behalf.

 
At 9/19/2010 1:26 PM, Anonymous Simon H said...

I wondered when you would get to the Themelios article. I read this the other day. It was a frustrating read.

 
At 9/19/2010 2:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

test

 
At 9/19/2010 2:54 PM, OpenID danielsladen said...

I don't think that what DC is trying to achieve in approaching the argument this way can really work, regardless of how "right" his view. If you think about it in the framework of Thomas Kuhn, DC's position is radically different enough to constitute the equivalent of a paradigm shift in science. Kuhn will point out how such shifts just aren't achieved by a modificatory development of prevailing views. The example of Kepler and elliptical orbits is the nicest example here (and I hope it isn't tainted by me getting all the details wrong) - if you hold to a view that planets have circular orbits and have got into the habit of including "epicycles" - mathematical variations at points of those orbits - into your predictive astronomical model, then it takes more than an accurate characterisation of your view and a compelling alternative to make you change your mind.

I can't remember how far Kuhn goes with this but it's fair to say that the existing conceptual framework is held because of the commitments that its holders have made, and they are not going to modify that framework (in this case through a new hermeneutic) based on argument. That goes for argument in general, but an argument to absurdity is a particularly difficult way to achieve change; colloquially you'd say that your opponents will always find a way to wriggle out of such an argument because they will always be able to identify an obscure corner of the reasoning you attribute to them, point out that you've not rendered it correctly, and then demonstrate that that inaccuracy renders your view incommensurable with theirs. Selfrid's comments about engaging fully show this. More technically, one could put it that the epistemological and ontological commitments that constitute the I that I function as and the I that you function as necessarily differ which means that your portrayal of my view is never going to map exactly onto your view of it, so there will always be a way out (that's a bit simplistic and Cartesian but hopefully gives the idea).

I'd be interested to know whether you think this is borne out by experience - how often do you see the mainstream of biblical studies change direction on an issue as fundamental as this one based on a good argument? In my discipline the best you really see is a reluctant synthesis of one or two small elements of the new idea into the prevailing view, which would tend to leave the originator of the new idea banging his head on the desk, as the whole point of the new idea is that it's a fundamental shift, not a small modification to tradition. In your discipline... well, I'm not saying it's been exactly resistant to change, but I guess DC will be grateful that the default reaction to a paradigm challenge no longer starts with bunches of kindling.

 
At 9/20/2010 12:58 AM, Anonymous J. R. Daniel Kirk said...

I keep disagreeing with this line of argument.

The fact that he hasn't accurately described any one holder of JN theory is more likely to indicate that his theoretical construct is off the mark somewhere, that he is requiring something due to "theological necessity" that no one else feels" because it's not, actually necessary, than that everyone else in the world is theologically incoherent.

 
At 9/20/2010 12:59 AM, Anonymous J. R. Daniel Kirk said...

In part, I am reacting against this so strongly because this is exactly how the more conservative theological world from which I am emerging deals with folks to their left (Wright, especially, gets treated like this all the time). Such misreading has made me against this method of argumentation entirely. It's not a responsible critique to argue against what someone "should have said" but didn't.

 
At 9/20/2010 9:51 PM, Blogger azk said...

I would venture to say that the "strawman" of JT looks quite a bit like Melanchthon. That said, at some point biblical interpretation needs to move beyond assaulting one another through footnotes to the proof that is in the pudding. Is Francis Watson upset that DC didn't pay more attention to him in his book? Is Seifrid bothered that DC didn't play by established house rules? There comes a time when the good reviewer says "does this make sense of Romans?" instead of "who does this guy think he is?". Chris, thanks for being a reviewer who asks the former.

 
At 9/21/2010 5:29 AM, Anonymous J. R. Daniel Kirk said...

azk, DC isn't asking "does this person make sense of Romans"? He's asking, "Does this hypothetical theory make sense of Romans?" There's an important difference. I'm not a Watsonian by any stretch of the imagination, but his critique of Campbell is on target.

Also, to your point, DAC doesn't make good sense of Romans as a whole, though he adds to the discussion that's been on-going in some important ways. The book could be much more constructive as a "next step," and is less successful as a "contra mundum" piece.

 
At 9/21/2010 6:37 PM, Blogger azk said...

Daniel, it seems clear from the writing of a 1300 page book that DC's judgment is that no one has made adequate sense of Romans. His JT theory (which I said looks a lot like Melanchthon and would therefore venture that it does have basis in reality) is his way of red-lining the history of interpretation that falls in Melanchthon's shadow. Watson and Seifrid's critique seems to be this: "He's not standing in the shadow and therefore he is out-of-bounds." A good reviewer must do better than that. Why not say instead "Romans 1-4 and 5-8 actually say the same thing and here is the proof" or "Romans 1-4 makes sense when retrospectively read in light of 5-8" or "Here is why Campbell's red-lining of centuries of interpretation is incorrect"? Neither of those guys demonstrate that DC's proposal is unworkable. Rather, Watson hints at and Seifrid says in no uncertain terms, "You fail to play by established house rules and therefore are in error"--as if this is a trump card. I plow through DC's book and then pick up Seifrid's review and conclude: "Ah, Campbell, I see exactly what you mean."

 
At 9/21/2010 6:40 PM, Blogger Rachel said...

Daniel,

Two questions (by and large... ).

1. Which major commentator on Romans does not reproduce JT 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 view. 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.)

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.)

I'm not quite sure why these positions are so hard for you to grasp. Am I missing something, or are you just not hearing me? Have I not made my position clear?

Now as to JT not existing.... See my next post.

 
At 9/24/2010 3:09 PM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Thanks, Mr Err, I think you've got it!

Simon, yea, it was extremely frustrating.

Daniel, again my sincere thanks for your engagement here. I don’t pretend to know Romans half as well as you! But I must say that I think that you have simply misunderstood what DC is proposing with JT. Perhaps my next post will clarify matters: and I hope it will resonate well with your own work, especially the “Its about God, dummies” line with which I amuse my students! Actually, Doug has written a piece for me to post, which interacts with your points in more depth. I’ll get to that soon.

AZK,
Thanks for your comment – and you make a very perceptive point about Melanchthon. Like you, I suspect some personal politics will be involved in the nature of the reviews of Doug’s book.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home