Friday, September 24, 2010

Review of Campbell’s Deliverance PART 6

A summary review PART 6
of Campbell, Douglas A. The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2009

Many of the misunderstandings of DC’s thesis, which have surfaced in the comments to my earlier posts, could perhaps be avoided if one bears in mind that DC never argues that readers of Paul subscribe to JT in toto. He simply does not say that JT completely sums up readings of Paul – even Melanchthon, who is pretty close, doesn’t entirely. DC is well aware that other scholars know there is much more in Paul than JT. The point is this: to say other things about Paul, to make him more palatable, to include pneumatology etc., one has to amalgamate contradictory theologies into one. DC aims to sharpen our appreciation for the actual theological content of Romans 1-4, to clarify what is at stake. This all means that the straw man argument employed by some reviewers is in fact itself a straw man! Have not DC’s critics set up a weak caricature of his position, which ultimately means that they don't have to engage with its substance? The point is this: if you read Paul – which is after all what we are all supposed to be doing – you then end up with a certain argument, and then a certain theory, one that cannot simply be dismissed (i.e. you have to provide an alternative reading of the actual texts).

To clarify matters, I suggest that it is a good idea to treat DC’s theological elucidation of JT as a thought experiment (based mainly on Romans 1-4), to examine the theological content of those chapters. I am thus reminded of Karl Barth’s justified protest at those who wrote ‘merely the first step towards a commentary’ on Romans, and perhaps it will help to quote that great man at length:
‘I have, it is true, protested against recent commentaries on a Epistle to the Romans. The protest was directed not only against those originating in the so-called "critical" school but also, for example, against the commentaries of Zahl and Kühl ... My complaint is that recent commentators confine themselves to an interpretation the text which seems to me to be no commentary at all, but merely the first step towards a commentary. Recent commentaries contain no more than a reconstruction of the text, a rendering of the Greek words and phrases by their precise equivalents, a number of additional notes in which archaeological and philological material is gathered together, and a more or less plausible arrangement of the subject-matter in such a manner that it may be historically and psychologically intelligible from the standpoint of pragmatism ... Jülicher and Lietzmann, not to mention conservative scholars, intend quite clearly to press beyond this preliminary work to an understanding of Paul. Now, this involves more than a mere repetition in Greek or in German of what Paul says: it involves a reconsideration of what is set out in the Epistle, until the actual meaning of it is disclosed ... The conversation between the original record and the reader moves round the subject-matter, until a distinction between yesterday and to-day becomes impossible’ (Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans, trans. Edwyn C. Hoskyns [Oxford: Oxford UP, 1968], 6-7, italics mine).
DC, like Barth, wants to engage us with the ‘subject-matter’ of Romans 1-4 and, according to the conventional reading, these are the theological commitments necessarily involved. Perhaps, in light of the DoG reviews it would have been better, for pedagogical reasons, to order the argument differently. Would it have been better to have begun with his hermeneutical clarifications in Part Two, or at least with his discussion in chapter 7, ‘The Recognition of a Discourse’ – only then to launch into the portrayal and critique of JF? Of course, I must insist that, as I noted above, DC did make himself clear in his preamble in chapter one (pp. 11ff).

We will return, when we examine chapter 7, to the importance of some of the distinctions in play here. Let us press ahead now to DC’s analysis, which builds on J.B Torrance’s analysis of Federal Calvinism.
Indeed, I am tempted to continue this review with his chapter 7 first, before turning to Justification Theory ... what shall I do?!



At 9/24/2010 3:53 PM, Blogger volker said...

It seems to me that there may be an interesting parallel here to Brian McLaren's recent book "A New Kind of Christianity" (which I am currently reading). He also paints a rather strong picture of what DC would call JT and BML calls "Greaco-Roman narrative". Every NT scholar knows that setting up the latter over against a more Jewish narrative is bound to be historically inacurate. However, while I haven't read DoG in in detail, it seems to me that there are not only parallels in rhetorical strategy but also with regard to the content, and a lot of what BML says is thought-provoking and not only destructive but also constructive to my mind.

At 9/24/2010 8:37 PM, Anonymous J. R. Daniel Kirk said...

It seems a bit disingenuous to demand an alternate reading of the actual texts when DAC doesn't engage anyone's alternate readings of the actual texts. That's the point where this strategy falls apart. "Give me a better reading!" "I did, but you chose to dismiss it based on a theory I don't hold to."

At 9/24/2010 8:52 PM, Blogger D. Timothy Goering said...

Although I find DC's book as a whole a profound work of scholarship and would strongly encourage everyone to read it, I nonetheless agree with the wide criticism of DC's 'straw man.' I find M. Gorman's comment at SBL right on, when he noted that it is not necessary to prove the contradictions JT produces, nor need one necessarily attribute Romans 1-4 to "the Teacher" in order to make DC's ultimate reading work.
The problem I have specifically with the 'straw man' is the way DC performs a transcendental deduction of JT. He makes an effort to recreate the total logical structure of JT. In effect DC is saying that EVERYONE, who does not have a participatory understanding of justification, is basically a closet JTist. The JT is like a house and DC has given us the blue print and dug out the foundations. And while many protest and say: "No! I am no JTist because I believe X and not Y on your transcendental deduction", Campbell would reply: "Well, yes, you SAY you are not a JTist, but actually you ARE one, because you are living in the JT and have built on its foundations. I have deduced the entire logical structure of JT. And either you are totally one, or you are totally the other."

I find the Barth quote misleading, because DC is not interested, as was Barth, in breaking through history, to find the existential core of the Pauline message. "Meine ganze Aufmerksamkeit," Barth wrote in the same foreword, "war darauf gerichtet, durch das Historische hindurch zu sehen in den Geist der Bibel, der der ewige Geist ist." DC actually tries to do the exact opposite. He wants to restore the actual, historical meaning of Paul's letter. And in order to make the case that his own reading is accurate, DC argues that JT is a deducible logical construction built inside a big (modernist) ideological framework. I find both steps ('straw man' argument; and his later ideological base-superstructer argument) ultimately unconvincing and unnecessary.

At 9/24/2010 10:46 PM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Hey Volker, great to hear from you. Just e-mailed you! I need to read that BML book - tis on my shelf.

Hi Daniel, I will post the DC response as promised, and perhaps we can continue this discussion in the comments of that post?

Hi Timothy, thanks for your comment.

I don't think you understand DC - for example, when you say "And either you are totally one, or you are totally the other", this is not true. The point of the Barth quote, while it may be misleading in some ways, is I still think basically on the number: Barth wrestles, beyond a simple reconstruction of the semantics of a line of lexems, with the (theologial) subject-matter of the text. Campbell does something similar for Romans 1-4, making sure we realise what the theological content is and implies, as a system. We cannot skirt over the text but must engage its theological subject-matter, so we know what is at stake in the conventional reading. Certainly, of course, there are differences, but does not that bit basically hit the nail?

At 9/25/2010 10:29 AM, Blogger D. Timothy Goering said...

Just to clarify my views, I have published a post on my blog. Here I take a decidedly more irenic stance - especially after reading Campbell's guest post. My criticism remains, but I believe I understand where Campbell is coming from.

At 9/30/2010 9:28 PM, Blogger volker said...

Yeah, Chris, read that BML book - you'll love it!

At 9/30/2010 9:29 PM, Blogger volker said...

Yeah, Chris, read that BML book - you'll love it!


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